Monthly Archives: October 2008

Random bits on literature

I’m almost done reading The Elementary Particles. I started off not liking it, but it’s grown on me a bit. I’ll try to say something more about here after I finish reading. I also started reading Everyday Drinking by Sir Kingsley Amis. The book is essays on drinking and various types of alcohol, I think collected from a magazine column, but I’m not sure. It makes for good bed time reading because the essays are fairly short.

Yesterday I listened to parts II and III of the KCRW podcast Bookworm‘s An American Bookworm in Paris. The host recently went to Paris and recorded interviews with Parisian writers. On part II he talked with Camille de Toledo author of Coming of Age at the End of History, a look at growing up in our post-modern culture.

On part III he spoke with Emmanuel Carrère, a french author who wrote a book called The Mustache. A couple months back I watched a French movie called La Moustache which was based on this book. I hated the movie, it was poorly made in my opinion, but after hearing the author I now want to read the book.

The New Yorker Book Bench blog talked about Literary Halloween costumes. They set up a flickr group for people to upload pictures of their literary costumes. I’ll post pictures of mine next week. I’m not going to mention yet who I’m dressing up as, but I’m pretty excited about it.

Russia! Magazine posted a guide to translations of classic Russian Lit. Sadly they only list six authors and one book by each. Anyone know of any good guides to English translations of popular foreign novels?

Deb Olin Unferth, a short story writer who just published her first novel, was asked by The Week about her favorite books. She included Trout Fish in America by Richard Brautigan (a favorite of mine) on her list, and had this to say about it: “A classic. Better than On the Road. Better than whatever’s better than On the Road.”

Someone recently asked John McCain and Barack Obama to list their favorite books, I’ve seen the lists all over the web. According to NPR, both candidates listed Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. I’ve seen it listed elsewhere that McCain also listed All Quiet on the Western Front. What I haven’t seen and would like to, is a report asked McCain to reconcile the anti-war themes of both novels to his foreign policy views. As well as explain his views on the socialist and fascist concepts in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Personally I don’t think they would reconcile very well with his views.


Western Jalapeno Mac n Cheese with Latkes

This meal started a few weeks ago while grocery shopping. Kinsee asked me to grab some pasta as we were walking past it. Faced with the plethora of ordinary pasta, noddles like spaghetti, farfalla and macaroni, how could I not pick Figuras del Oeste? Adorned with smiling cowboy, a cactus and other images from the wild west, I knew this was the pasta for us.

Figuras del Oeste

Figuras del Oeste

Well, when we got to the checkout line and were unloading the cart, it was obvious Kinsee wasn’t as much of fan of the little boots, cowboy hats and cactus shaped pasta as I was. I knew I’d need to make something really good out of the cowboys to win her over.

I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of macaroni and cheese. Well, I should say I’m not a fan at all of Kraft Dinner, the boxed, powdered cheese-like-stuff that passes for macaroni and cheese far too often. The few times I’ve had home made mac n cheese I’ve loved it. So I thought I’d give it a try, but wanted to spice it up a bit. It was easy to make and turned out great (unfortunately the pictures didn’t. My camera’s batteries were dead so I had to use my cell phone).


1/4 cup butter

minced Jalapenos to taste

half and onion, minced

a few cloves of garlic, minced

black pepper to taste

a sprinkle of cayenne pepper

1/3 cup flour

2 cups milk

200g Western shaped pasta

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Oaxaca cheese

  • Start by melting the butter in a pan. Then saute the onion, garlic and jalapenos for a few minutes.
  • Stir in flour and both peppers, cook for a minute or two.
  • Slowly add milk, mixing as you pour. Simmer while the pasta is cooking, stirring occasionally.
  • Cook the pasta.
  • Add a good amount of cheese to the milk mix. Stir until the cheese is melted.
  • Put the cooked pasta in a casserole dish, mix in the cheese sauce. Top with some shredded cheddar and jalapeno slices.
  • Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, until the cheese on top is slightly crispy.

I think the last time I had Mac n Cheese was from City Deli and we had latkes as well, they went well together so I decided to make those as well.


One large Russet potato

One medium onion

One egg

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying

  • Clean the potato well, I like the skin so I left it on. Using a cheese grater shred the potato.
  • Mince the onion.
  • Combine the two and place in a cheesecloth. Press out as much of the water as possible. You can add the mixture to a colander and press even more water out. It’s important to get out as much water as possible.
  • Beat the egg in a bowl, add some salt and pepper.
  • Combine the egg with the potato and onion, mix well.
  • Heat oil in a deep pan, get it really hot.
  • Using a spoon, put a ball of the potato mixture in the oil, flatten with a metal spatula. Cook for about 2 minutes then turn over. Place on a paper towel to soak up some oil when cooked.
Deep frying latkes

Deep frying latkes

This made about four medium sized latkes. Pressing the liquid out is really important. First, so it doesn’t explode when it hits the hot oil, but also so the latkes hold together better and don’t break apart. As far as the oil goes, you want it to be hot, cooking them in oil that isn’t hot enough will result in greasy latkes (more so than you want, because just look at em, they’re going to be greasy no matter what — thats what makes them so good).

I’m told it’s traditional to serve latkes with applesauce and sour cream. We didn’t have any sour cream but I did get some apple sauce. I seriously considered making homemade apple sauce, it doesn’t seem hard, but it was late so I opted for the stuff in the jar. I’m gonna have to get better at taking pictures of these meals. But her it is.

Western Jalapeno Mac n Cheese with Latkes

Western Jalapeno Mac n Cheese with Latkes

SDBloggers Meetup

Last night I went to the SDBloggers Meetup at Modus Supper Club in Banker’s Hill. I never know what to expect when going to these things, the first one I went to was a Twitter meetup a few weeks ago. Both times I’ve gone with friends so I’ve had someone to talk with as we mingle and meet people. The point behind these meetups is to get people with common interests (blogging and twitter for instance) together to meet and talk.

Last night I talked with a few people, Daniel from a local startup called Pelotonics that makes group collaboration software (which I haven’t had much time to look at). But he was a nice guy.

But as I was leaving a guy came up to us and introduced himself. The easiest way to start a conversation with someone was to just walk up to them, introduce yourself and ask, “So, what do you blog about?” This guy, Dennis, said that he started out with a food blog, which he turned into a restaurant. That sounded pretty cool to me, then he said the restaurant was Sea Rocket Bistro. I recognized the restaurant, it’s on 30th St in North Park near where I used to live, but as a vegetarian I never gave it a second look because it is a seafood restaurant.

We started chatting with him about that, and he told us what vegetarian dishes they do have, there weren’t too many, but they all sounded great. Then he mentioned that their focus is on local sustainable foods. I thought that was really interesting, especially with seafood, it seems like it would be so easy to do here in San Diego.

I took a look at their website today and loved it. I wish every restaurant had this much information as readily available. They have a list of their food sources and even an interactive google map of where specific items come from. And they still blog, I looked at some of the recent posts, and it’s not just filler to draw attention to the restaurant — there is interesting content about local food issues, like this post about Prop 2 and egg farming.

While I can’t comment on how good the food is, and I probably won’t ever become a regular because of their focus on seafood, I do want to check it out sometime.

California’s Prop 8 and other thoughts on this election season

I feel like I’ve done a darn good job of avoiding the typical run-up-to-the-elections-political-bullshit that happens every election year the weeks (and even months) before the elections. I don’t have a television, so I don’t see those repetitive advertisements during commercial breaks. There’s plenty of things to read on the internet other than politics. And until recently I avoided most of the political chatter on radio shows.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to be voting, and I consider myself an informed voter, but rather than following what in my opinion resembles a circus more than politics, I read up on the issues in a few editorials, talked with friends whose opinions I respect and then did a pretty good job of shutting it all out.

That all changed recently when my favorite radio show, KPBS’s These Days (affectionately referred to as “The Tom Fudge Show” around here) started talking politics nearly every segment sometime last week. I started getting annoyed, but kept listening, at least while in the car, segments that I missed when they originally aired I would just delete from the podcast before listening to them.

One segment I did listen to was the debate over Proposition 8, the measure to define marriage in the state constitution as only between a man and a woman. I’ve known how I was going to vote on this since the moment I heard about it. So I started listening to the debate knowing that nothing either side said could sway my opinion, I just wanted to hear what they were saying.

I was half listening when Ron Prentice, (the yes on prop 8, meaning anti-gay marriage) guest on the show, President of the California Family Council and chairman of the Protect Marriage dot-com Coalition said something that totally caught me off guard. As is often the case in these loosely moderated debates they got slightly off topic and started talking about children growing up with gay or lesbian parents, then Ron said:

“I think it would be beneficial to say, lets go back to the reasons that governments and societies over the course of ages have chosen to give a special right to a man and a woman in marriage. And that purpose is not for two people in love, that purpose has been for societies sake for the next generation.”

I couldn’t believe what I just heard. Is this guy arguing marriage isn’t about love but about a duty to society and the next generation? Sure, I understand the societal aspect of marriage. But to me marriage always seemed like something a lot more than that duty to society. I have to wonder, what is the role of marriage in society when the divorce rate is somewhere around 40 percent?

If I felt like that were the purpose of marriage, I would unequivocally say right now that there is now way in hell I’d ever get married. And I would wonder why anyone would want to get married under that definition. That definition seems to lack authenticity, to betray oneself and ones partner, even if the two people getting married are in love, their marriage should be about their love, not for societies sake.

You can listen to the segment on These Days at their website.

Lucha Libre in Tijuana

Last Friday night we went to a Lucha Libre wrestling match in Tijuana. I know very little about Mexican wrestling, but really wanted to check out a match.

We got to the Auditorium pretty early and bought tickets. General admission tickets were 150 Pesos, about $11.50US at the current exchange rate, but as we approached the window a man offered to sell us his tickets. He said his wife was sick so they couldn’t go. He had two front row tickets that he was willing to sell for about half price, just a little more than two general admission tickets. We asked the ticket sellers to verify they were good and bought them.

With some time to kill we went to Carnitas Uruapan, a restaurant across the street. We got some chips and salsa. When I ordered a beer they brought me two, Kinsee pointed out the “Cerveza 2×1” sign hanging on the wall, at the right time it seems like everything in TJ is two for one. We ate some delicious nopales and then went back to the auditorium.On our way back we saw these fans who were more than happy to pose for a picture.

We didn’t realize how close the front row was, until we sat down. We were right there about 5 feet from the ring. We got some beers, 20 Pesos, about $1.50US, sadly not two for one, and waited for the match to start. I don’t think either of us really knew what to expect. This guy was my favorite. He walked around the ring making sure the cables were taut before the match, and then stayed on the sides making sure nothing went wrong the entire time. He seemed like the only person involved that wasn’t an actor.

The first match was two on two and one of the guys wasn’t wearing a mask. I never figured out how they decide to wear masks or not, but at one point in one of the later matches one guy tried to take another’s mask off. Aside from the masks Mexican wrestling doesn’t seem that much different than American professional wrestling. It was silly but fun.

The second match brought out an older guy in white chinos. He seemed to be the Vince McMahon of TJ wrestling — everything he did was over dramatic.

I think the second match was four on four. As the night went on the wrestlers got bigger and better. At one point a guy was thrown into the flimsy railing right in front of us. As they came over you could smell the sweat and mildew of their clothes. It was really disgusting.

A lot of the matches involved silly slapstick humor that the crowd would eat up (myself included). My favorite part of the night was when someone was being pinned and another wrestler held the referee’s hand so he couldn’t count him out. The entire crowd made this laughing noise that (whether he does it or not) I can picture Bumblebee Man on The Simpsons making. It’s not quite a full laugh, but obvious that the person making it is amused.

During the last match one wrestler got thrown over the fence near us and they started fighting and hitting each other with chairs right there. Then someone in the crowd got up and started fighting, it was obvious it was setup, but pretty funny and the crowed loved it.

Speaking of the crowd, there was a man about 10 seats away from us, also in the front row, that was really into it. He would yell at the wrestlers and the ref when he disagreed with what was going on. He would show his approval for things they did. I couldn’t tell if he was somehow involved with it, or if he was just a really excited fan.

It was fun and entertaining. I don’t know how often I’ll go back to Lucha matches, but definetely something to see once.

The joys of technology

Even before I read the book Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering for the 21st Century a few years ago I was weary of technological improvements in voting systems. I have a love-hate relationship with technology it seems, sometimes I love new tech gadgets, other times I think we shouldn’t mess with what works, and reading that book definetely pushed me over the edge from just being concerned about electronic voting, to downright distrustful.

Amy Goodman reported on Democracy Now today that early voters in multiple states have already had problems casting votes on electronic voting machines. Many of these electronic voting systems have no paper trail or verifiability. Once you push the button you just have to trust that your vote gets counted for candidate you intended. There’s no way to ever got back and double check like with paper ballots. Many of these electronic voting systems are closed-source, meaning no one has examined the source code to make sure there are no bugs that can cause votes to not be counted properly, or ensure that there is no malicious code to change votes.

Many states have withdrawn approval for certain electronic voting machines, but other states are still using them.

Wikipedia has good summaries of the controversies surrounding two of the electronic voting machine companies Premier Election Solutions and Sequoia Voting Systems.

Minor league soccer and Tequila in Tijuana

Sunday afternoon we drove over to the Hipodromo to see the Xoloitzcuintles game. They’re the Tijuana team in Mexico’s Primera A league, a minor league of sorts — although teams can be promoted from Primera A to the Primera Division, the major leagues, if they do well enough. They currently play in a small fairly primitive stadium, but they’re building a new stadium which will hold about 30,000 people, and if Mexico wins their bid for the World Cup in 2018 there’s a chance some games could be played in TJ.

We got there a bit late, missing both of the Xoloitzcuintles goals. They played well in the first half, but Leon A.C. played well in the second half, scoring two goals and leaving the game in a tie. Even though Tijuana didn’t win we had a great time drinking beer with chimoy and chili pepper around the rim of the cup, chatting with vendors who tried to tell us the meat he was selling was greyhound from the dog track next door, and watching the amazing half time show with a mechanical bull rolled onto the middle of the field.

After the game we went over to the casino and watched a dog race before heading downtown to the Tequila festival. I’ve been wanting to try some different tequilas for a while now, to find out which I like and what prices they should be in Mexico. We got to taste about twenty tequilas and one mezcal. I found that I liked them a lot more than I expected I would. And a lot more than when I’ve taken Cuervo shots in the past.

My friends made me pose with the cheerleaders.

My friends made me pose with the cheerleaders.

One of my favorite things about futbol games is the cheering, song-singing fans.

One of my favorite things about futbol games is the cheering, song-singing fans.

At halftime the mascot rode the mechanical bull

At halftime the mascot rode the mechanical bull

This is a real life xoloitzquintle

This is a real life xoloitzquintle

I want this t-shirt

I want this t-shirt

The stadium theyre building.

The stadium they're building.

Two dinners!

This was one of those “we haven’t gone grocery shopping in two weeks, lets use everything salvageable left in the fridge” type dinners. Which turned out pretty well.

I wish I would have taken a picture of two of the vegetables before I cut them up and cooked them. One was a squash like I’d never seen before (calabacito). The other I still have no idea what it was. It tasted “fresh but a little dirty” both raw and cooked, but not bad at all.

I added some chipotle peppers in sauce to some refried black beans. I can’t imagine how I used to eat beans without adding any spices to them, it seems so bland to me now. Until recently I had never use a rice cooker, which usually meant I never had rice. It’s so easy now that I want to have brown rice with every meal!

I can’t make a proper burrito to save my life, I get far too over zealous and put too many things inside the tortilla, and then can’t fold it up. So I’ve decided to just pile stuff on top of the tortilla. When you’re all done eating there’s a tasty tortilla that has been soaking up the flavors of all the good food waiting for you.

So I sauteed some onions and garlic, then cubed the mystery vegetable. It was light green, sort of pair shaped with a fold in the bottom. I added the calabacito and let all of it cook for a while with a lid on to soften up the hard vegetables. When they were getting closer to being ready I added some nopales and let those cook. When everything was almost done I added some soyrizo (vegetarian chorizo) which is basically cooked already, it just needs to heat up. We topped it off with some shredded pepper jack cheese, chopped raw tomatoes and some salsa.

Next up is a quick and easy (but delicious) meal Kinsee whipped up.

I realized I don’t eat nearly enough salads. They’re so quick and easy to make, good for ya and pretty cheap. This one was lettuce and delicious cherry tomatoes with a ginger salad dressing.

We found some spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli, but had no sauce. The ravioli was done about 3 minutes after the water boiled. We added a little butter, some fresh black pepper and shredded chimay cheese which was delicious. This “sauce” turned out to be a wonderful compliment to the ravioli, anything else would have overwhelmed it and the flavor would have been lost.

New Music: The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra

A few weeks ago I came across a band from LA called Miniature Soap on Myspace. Nice soft acoustic music. Last week I saw that other band, The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, that the singer plays with was going to be playing at the Ken Club. A couple other bands (Swim Party and Writer) I had been wanted to check out were playing that night also.

I hadn’t even heard the band yet, but decided to go check them out. I got there late, I guess about halfway into their set, but absolutely loved the music. Sometimes I find it hard to listen to a band live without ever hearing their songs before, but this wasn’t the case with the Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, they sounded good. A little bit of pop and a little bit of rock, but not too much of either, I was really enjoying the music. Since I got there late their set ended far too quickly.

I talked to Kelli (the singer in both The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra and Minature Soap) and she said that even though they were from LA it was their first time playing in San Diego. But they loved it and had such a great time they were hoping to come back soon.

Since I only got to hear a few songs at the show I listened to the songs on their myspace page. I liked it so much I decided to buy their EP Escapements and have had the catchy tunes stuck in my head ever since.

So go listen to them on myspace, and if you do decide to buy their album, don’t buy it from the iTunes music store, where you’ll get a restricted copy of the files, for the same price you can get mp3s from Nimbit.

More food…

Another good meal

Another good meal

Last night saw the creation of another good dinner, I don’t think this picture does it justice.

Blue Cheese Quesadillas with Rosemary Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries and PB Style Black Beans.

I was vegan for about five years. I only ate dairy a handful of times, and only missed cheese on a few occasions when I wanted a good slice of pizza. But after I started eating cheese I came across blue cheese and fell in love. I’ve been making blue cheese quesadillas a lot lately as quick meals, but decided to finally throw it all together.

The quesadillas were the easiest part. Crumble blue cheese, put into a tortilla — I chose flour for these, but corn works equally as well, and gives it a bit different taste — fold and heat until the cheese is melted. Some people like to mix in some other cheese, I’ve seen recipes with Mozzarella mixed in to make it a bit more mild. But I love the taste of blue cheese so I don’t do that.

PB Black Beans are a way of preparing black beans my old housemate showed me. To add a little flavor to the beans (and make them compliment this meal a little better) I added a couple whole cloves of garlic and a bit of maple syrup. Let the beans slowly simmer on the stove for the flavors to get absorbed.

The Rosemary Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries turned out surprisingly well for my first time making them. I peeled the sweet potatoes and cut them into fry-sized chunks. I poured olive oil over them and then parmesan cheese, rosemary and salt. Mixed them all together and put them in the oven. It was about 350F, I think it should have been a bit hotter, maybe 400F to crisp them better. Cook them for about 30 minutes, stirring about halfway through. Make sure to use a big enough pan so the fries aren’t on top of each other or else they won’t brown as well. Next time I make them I think I’ll leave out the parmesan, you couldn’t really taste it, the rosemary was good enough on its own.

I paired mine with a Maker’s and water, while my dining companion chose a fine red wine.