Journal: 2011

Our Latest War

Americans on both left and right are now criticizing President Obama’s cooperation with the French and the British in bombing military targets in Libya even though some of these critics, most notably Newt Gingrich, were earlier criticizing Obama for not attacking.

The right has taken to comparing Obama’s commitment of US forces to Libya with Bush’s invasion of Iraq.  Oh please.  Obama merely OK’d US tactical support of the rebels rather than mounting an invasion.  What Obama didn’t do is get aides to spend months burrowing through all our intelligence reports in search of any material they could find that would support an attack on Gaddafi.  Nor did Obama publicize intelligence reports, some of which were later revealed to have been based on forged materials, of Gaddafi’s possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

So the fact that Bush got congressional approval for his invasion of Iraq is not so much a credit for Bush as it is a demerit for Congress for allowing itself to be deceived.
The point of comparison i find most interesting between the two military actions is that it took thousands of American lives, trillions of wasted dollars, and several years for the American people to grasp the folly of Bush’s invasion of Iraq; whereas it’s taken zero American lives so far, a relatively tiny amount of money, and only a few days for us to agree that our participation in the air raids over Libya was a bad decision.  
A vast improvement.

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Another Vast Improvement

And speaking of vast improvements, here’s the street bumper that i hit back in January as viewed from the west in its new position.  You can see that the left bolt that would be holding it to the street is sticking up three inches.  Now look closely at the right end and you can see that the bumper has been rotated 180 degrees around the right bolt so that it no longer sticks out into the street a foot beyond the plane of the planters.  If you look closely, you can see the faint outline where it formerly rested and even the little round hole in the street where what is now the left bolt used to fit.

I swear i had nothing to do with the repositioning, but my guess is that enough people hit this thing that one of ’em finally took matters into his own hands.  Note how what is now the left end of the bumper is rounded from multiple impacts, one of them mine, when it was sticking into the street.


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Sorry about the long pause in posting, but there is good news.  Thanks to Olga at the Hand Therapy Clinic i have recovered pretty much full use of my smashed hand/arm, and the turmoil level in my life has been downgraded to Beige, so here i am again.

The word of the day is Strawberries.  They are just gorgeous this year and i’ve made a couple of batches of jam with them.  For the first batch i used the Red Red Strawberry Jam recipe out of Joy of Cooking, but was less than pleased with the outcome.  I started complaining to Olga about the flaws, and her face lit up with delight because i brought back Russian childhood memories of her “helping” her babushka (бабушка) make this jam.  When i mentioned that the whole strawberries in it floated to the top two-thirds of the jar, she exclaimed she loved that about it.  And when she went on to talk about the delicious froth at the top that she would sneak fingerfuls of and that i had been thinking of as some kind of scum, i wisely shut up and handed her a jar.

So guess who’s going to get the lion’s share of that stuff.

Me, i was much more pleased with my first batch of regular strawberry jam that i made with a shredded apple, the juice of a lemon, and half (literally) the sugar of the Joy recipe, especially since i got it to set well.

But the real joy in strawberries this spring started a couple of weeks ago when Poli Yerena handed me a basket of little green strawberries and told me they were the hot new thing in condiments at the trendiest restaurants, a challenge i could not pass up.

So i tried cooking some in a simple syrup and was not impressed, but the rest i mixed with equal parts of chopped Pasilla chile, red onion, and cilantro for a really tasty salsa when moistened with one of my berry vinegars.   Still thinking about how i might jar that and still preserve the fresh taste.

Then he gave me another basket and i tried pickling them by putting them in 8 oz jars, tossing in a spoonful of mustard seeds, and pouring over them a boiling mixture of 2 cups cider vinegar, 3 cups water, and 3 T. salt.  Clap the lids on quickly and they seal.

Popped open a jar for a test this morning, and it wasn’t bad.  Maybe a little too salty, and the berries had softened noticeably, losing their crunch.  Still, encouraging.  So i picked up a couple of baskets and will experiment with replacing a bit of the salt with sugar, adding a tiny little Thai pepper, and to keep them crunchy adding a pinch of alum and pouring in the pickling fluid merely hot rather than boiling.

strawberriesStay tuned.

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More Strawberries

At the Castro Farmers’ Market on Wednesday i was offered a deal i couldn’t refuse – a free flat of yesterday’s strawberries, a bit the worse for wear but still OK for jam, he said.  So of course i said yes, got them home and started to work washing and sorting them and tossing those that had gone off.

I completed the first batch of jam that night, flavoring it with several teaspoons of some Thai red curry paste that had long been occupying precious shelf space in my refrigerator, and while that was cooking down i got the berries for the next batch stemmed.

Thursday morning i awoke early and got the second batch of jam going, this one flavored with some New Mexico chile powder.  Prepped the final batch while that one was cooking, and  finished jarring the final batch (this one without exotic additions) just before noon.  Whew.

Took a break from this by going to the gym, where i encountered a new side effect from the jam making.  See, i go to 24 Hour Fitness, a place so modern and cutting edge that instead of flashing an id card upon entry, you just stick your index finger onto this little reader, whereupon the screen displays “Welcome, Matte”.  Except that this time it didn’t, displaying instead, “See Receptionist”.

Of course i could see her, she was standing right there, and she told me to try it again.  So i did, and she observed that my fingerprint was so faint that it was barely visible, so the machine couldn’t read it.

And then it swept me.  I hadn’t worked my fingers to the bone like our mothers used to, but in snatching three batches worth of hot jars out of the oven, i had seared my fingertips smooth.

So enjoy yer damn jam.  It didn’t hurt that much:-)

easterHere’s some street art celebrating Easter at the corner of Haight and Laguna:

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Art Theft

OK, folks, i took this pic of some street art on Market at Gough, and i just know that figure has been stolen out of a painting by some Great Master that i’m supposed to be able to remember.  What i do seem to remember is that he wasn’t coming out of a window (or a picture frame)  in the original and that it had to do with religion.

greatA free jar of jam or something to whoever can identify the source.  Write me.

Oh, and i don’t know whether thinking about that art triggered it, but for the second time in San Francisco, Matte went to church this morning.

No no, don’t worry.  Just the Unitarians.

And it didn’t take.


Late note:  In March, 2016 i blundered across this painting online.  I was wrong about his not coming out of a frame in the original, which is Pere Borrell del Caso’s most famous work, Escaping Criticism (1874).


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Mission Chinese Food Update

Time i updated the file on Mission Chinese Food.

The chef, Danny Bowein, keeps gathering acclaim.  Before he got involved with Anthony Myint and ended up starting Mission Chinese Food, he worked at Farina and won the Pesto World Championship in Genoa.  Last fall he was named one of San Francisco’s up-and-coming young chefs, and last month Mission Chinese Food made theChronicle’s Bay Area Top 100 list, a great honor when you consider that he’s competing with folks like Thomas Keller.  Here’s an interview with Danny in SF Foodie, back when he was doing Mission Burger.

He keeps updating the menu, and the Eggplant and the Pork Dumpling that i raved about are no more.  They’ve been replaced with dishes that recognize his roots.  No no, not Korean.  Oklahoman.  We’re talking back-country barbecue, falling off the bone and served according to tradition on rafts of white bubble bread sodden with delicious drippings.  Not on the menu but served most days.

officersI hadn’t mentioned in my earlier comments, but the art on the walls is not your usual subjects but rather things like an 8 x 10 foot achingly staged equestrian portrait of a group of very high ranking Chinese military officers in full dress uniform.  It redefines surreal:

For my latest visit, i took three of the most delightful women i know, my good friends Gloria, Sybil, and Carol (in order of acquaintance).  They suggested that i select the food, and since being a food fascist comes readily to me, i quickly acquiesced and ordered as appetizers the Beijing Vinegar Peanuts and the Fresh Tofu.  For entrees, the Lion’s Head Meatball, Thrice Cooked Bacon, and Sizzling Cumin Lamb.

We feasted at leisure, Sybil and i getting the additional enjoyment of watching the astonishment of newcomers Gloria and Carol as they experienced food better than they’d dreamed possible.

You owe it to yourself to eat here.  It’s crowded at night and they don’t take reservations, but so far you can be seated without a wait at lunch, especially if you get there a bit before noon.  The sign outside says “Lung Shan”.  Here are the details.

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Poetry Break

You, Andrew Marvell


And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth’s noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:
To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow
And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change
And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass
And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on
And deepen on Palmyra’s street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown
And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls
And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land
Nor now the long light on the sea:
And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on …

MacLeish wrote this in the aftermath of World War II, so he was a bit premature.  Fewer would call him premature now.

jesusAnd i should have posted this pic back at Easter to demonstrate to the world that San Francisco, contrary to all that propaganda from the right, has not entirely abandoned Christianity:

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Just a Taste

I’ve written before about the male tendency to grab stuff off the ground and put it into our mouths for a taste before the women with us can slap it out of our hands.  I realized that this guy behavior was universal when i was working at Oracle and was talking with an Indian programmer whose wife was a consultant on an assignment back east for a month.  She’d just called him up and ranted about how she did not want to come home and find him dead on the kitchen floor, poisoned from some food he’d let develop pathogens and then eaten anyhow.

This came up again for me recently when i was experimenting with some more green strawberries that Poli Yerena had given me, this time trying for a salsa that i could seal hot in jars so it would keep.  See, i don’t worry about poisoning myself, but i do want to take good care of my friends.  Besides, it’d be harder to give the stuff away if word got out about fatalities.

I’d picked up some first-of-the-season little Thai peppers, thinking i’d use them in the salsa, so i chopped up a couple.  And realizing i needed to test their “hotness”, i picked up one of the disks about a millimeter thick and put it in my mouth.

I did not chew it up.

Oh no, there was not time to chew it.

The instant it hit my tongue, the pain blossomed.  And alas, in order to spit it out, i had to close my mouth around it, which allowed it to contact the roof of my mouth and my gums, spreading the pain.

I leaped to the sink and guzzled water from the tap, and when that didn’t work, i stuck a fingerful of peanut butter in there in hopes of soothing the shrieking tissues, but what that got me was peanut-butter-flavored pain.  So, hell, i just went back to work, trying to focus on making the salsa to take my mind off my mouth.

The next day i was in Star Stream and mentioned this adventure to Remi’s excellent counterman, Alec, who it turns out could sympathize because a few years ago he’d gone to Panama and was sitting out in a lovely garden beneath a cashew tree and noticed that it had fruit on it.  He picked one and sampled it but found it unappetizing, so he fished the nut out and bit into it.  And was in agony from the acid burns from the raw nut, which seared his mouth and left it inflamed for days.

The green strawberry salsa?  It turned out tasty but totally wimpy since i’d made it with Pasilla chiles while my mouth was still burning from the Thai peppers.  Next time i’ll compromise and make it with jalapeños.  We live and learn.  Well, sometimes.

yellowSome posts across the street from Star Stream:

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Rabble Rouser

I am an ineffective organizer.

I had thought it would be so much fun to get together a group of like-minded individuals and march as an anti-religion contingent in the gay parade at the end of this month, so did my homework on how to register a contingent, wrote an eloquent letter soliciting fellow marchers, and sent the letter in an email to every gay male i know who lives in the Bay Area.

OK, admittedly the number of addressees was not all that large since i’ve added hardly any new gay friends in the past twenty years and the great majority of my gay friends died of AIDS in the eighties and nineties, but still, there were twenty-something people on the list.

The majority of addressees did not respond.  Of those who did, only three committed to join me, the others pleading prior commitments.  And no, this was not because my gay friends are deeply religious people.  Oh please.  They all had the sense decades ago to realize that worshiping a god who hated them was a waste of both their time and the god’s.  So no, they’re just apathetic….or cowards.

So i guess i’ll just go by myself as a renegade, unregistered marcher like i did last year.

Last year?  Well, yes.   On Sunday 27 June 2010 for the first time in my life i fought back against my persecutors of the past seventy years.

I marched (or actually rolled on my Segway since i’m too lame to walk very far) in San Francisco’s gay parade carrying a sign reading


Aside from the stink eye from the cops, who we suspected all along were also religious fascists, i basked in the greatest affirmation i’ve ever experienced in my life. Thousands of people lining Market Street gave me thumbs ups, laughed, applauded, shouted encouragement, and filmed me…and that’s just the ones i could see at the front of the crowd lining the street.

The high point was when a couple of young men shouted rhythmically “FUCK THE CHURCH, FUCK THE CHURCH” and were immediately joined by dozens (hundreds?) of bystanders around them.

Thrilling?  You be the judge.

His Lying GraceSo what if i can’t organize a polite, legal contingent in the parade.  Maybe i can incite a spontaneous demonstration instead.  Something like the White Night but without the arson component and focused on St. Mary’s Cathedral and the lying closet fag who runs it.

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Amsterdam Again (Nog een keer)

Last year i’d decided that i had to be honest with myself and admit that i was simply too old and tired to make another trip to the Netherlands.  And then yesterday noon Rina called me up with the news that i could stay with her, which somehow put an entirely different spin on things since my Segway can be left just inside the street door, thus solving the major problem.

So i went online to see about ticket availability and got my friend Jeff to make sure i was doing everything right, and although it was much too late to use frequent flier miles, we managed to find an opening on KLM’s non-stop flight to Amsterdam that was less than i’d paid in 2008.

So i’m going back to Amsterdam 25 July – 25 August.  And this time the focus will be on learning Dutch, so i won’t be carrying an extra suitcase full of locally unavailable food.  Don’t worry, i’ll take the necessary chile powders and such for chile con carne and mole poblano.

The impact on my life is immediate – instead of spending the summer making jams and jellies and chutneys, now i’ll be frantically studying Dutch before i leave.  To begin, i’ll start reading all the Facebook posts of all my Dutch friends, looking up every single damn word i don’t know.

The rest of the good news is that Jeff is between apartments and will stay here while i’m gone, solving problems for both of us.

It’s astonishing to me how, after i’d completely given up on another trip to Amsterdam, one fell into place easily in a matter of hours.  Sometimes things work.  Click on “2011 – Amsterdam Revisited” under the Amsterdam Tales menu in the left gutter.

artichokeHere’s a neighborhood artichoke, working hard on Hartford Street:

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