Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sepia Saturday 353: Stairs and Arches

This week's prompt is a photo of the steps of Inglesia San Tomas, Guatemala. State Library of Florida (1938).

First the stairs: I'll always remember the stairs in Myanmar leading up to the PopaTaungkalat Shrine. There are 777 of them—you have to climb barefoot and there's no railing. Macaques hang around looking for handouts and they can be aggressive. Although we saw them jumping all over the place, they didn't bother us. Hot and sweaty during the climb, I was happy we'd asked for a safe journey from one the 37 Great Nats who live at the bottom of the stairs.

Nats are spirits connected with Buddhism. Most Burmese think of them as a combination of fairies and saints. They don't really believe in them, but just as we don't pass under a ladder unless necessary or avoid a black cat, so do the Burmese make sure, if they really want something, they consult the nats first and leave an offering. The offering is often liquor, coconuts, bananas or small bills. 

The first photo is my straight-forward photo. The second, I fiddled with on LunaPic's free photo software online (spell check wants to change LunaPic to Lunatic). Okay, I'll admit...I may have overdone it....like a lunatic. 

I think this effect "dreaming" makes the photo less threatening. More like a castle and less like a fort. 

Now the arch: This arch-framed view of the Taj Mahal is iconic. The area was more crowded than it looks when we visited last year. I held the camera up over my head to get this shot. The second shot, also run through an effect on LunaPic, I actually like better. 

For more peeks through arches, go to Sepia Saturday sample how others interpret this week's prompt. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Avocado News

Julian Zaal and chef Jamie van Heije are opening The Avocado Show in trendy area De Pijp in Amsterdam. How do you eat these? I guess with a knife and fork. Apparently avocados are trending, whatever that means. 

The below photo is actually credited to Colette Dike, a food stylist but it's all over the web associated with the avocado show. 

Colette's fabulous Instagram feed is here 

Also opening in February in New York is the Avocaderia in Industry City. Takeaway only.
Here's their website: Avocaderia
Photos by Colette Dike, Food Stylist

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weekend Fun 1

Arghhh....the traffic back and forth to LA over the weekend was horrible. But the reward, Emanuel Ax and the LA Philharmonic was worth it, even though it was a short concert due to casual Friday.

On casual Friday, the orchestra is out of uniform.

Emanuel Ax. Played Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major.
We barely made the concert at 8:00 and had no time to change clothes, although we left Fallbrook at 3:15. Our old clothes we wore for the drive had to suffice. Richard had on "grove pants" and I had an old dirty jean jacket. After the concert, we ate a late dinner at Redbird (still in our grungy clothes), the restaurant in the old rectory of the LA cathedral now called Vibiana. In spite of our appearance, the manager gave us a tour of the cathedral, now converted into an event space and various other spectacular rooms you can rent for events, culminating in a visit to Cardinal Mahoney's bathroom— a once in a lifetime experience. We shared a plate of Barbecue smoked tofu with Beluga lentils, swiss chard and a red wine truffle nage; Burrata salad with persimmon, duck prosciutto, pistachio, cress and Rainbow carrots with wild fennel, olives and curry. 

An overnight at the Doubletree downtown was satisfactory as the location is convenient to the Disney Hall...only about 6 blocks away. The main attraction of the place for us is the limo service to the Hall and a Starbuck's right next door. This was the only hotel I've ever stayed in where they charged a deposit on the room—$35.00, which is refunded when you leave. Parking is $35.00. They do give you two chocolate chip cookies and a bag of chocolate covered pretzels to soften the blow?

Next time we go to a concert we're taking the train from Oceanside for about $60.00 each round trip
and eliminating the traffic experience. An Uber ride from Union Station to the Doubletree looks like about $10.00.

Saturday, we had a great and chaotic time at our tiny cousin's 3rd birthday party. There were cupcakes and a birthday cake, a puppeteer, at least twenty kids and their parents, 2 dogs. 

Richard with Liam, the birthday boy, and his older brother Rowan. Lunapic treatments follow. 

My favorite of the artistic effects. 
Wilder the dog and I didn't last all the way through. 💤😴

Jennifer the hostess still going strong.

The birthday cake is served.
The puppeteer letting the kids feel a saber tooth. 

Dino masks were the look of the day. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Photo Effects

Treated a few mediocre photos with Prisma effects which changed the originals dramatically, for
the better in my opinion. The app is very easy to use and fun to play with. 




Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Nigel looked out the window and watched Sammy standing at the bus door, blotting her forehead and counting everyone as they reboarded. The heat and air pollution today seemed worse than usual and she was flummoxed from the laundry accident. Even with plasters covering the blisters, her heels stung and burned; it was difficult to concentrate on the noisy corner amid the honking horns, screeching brakes and ever-present hum of thousands of air conditioners laboring to keep the surrounding skyscrapers cool. 

The two California women were beginning to irritate Sammy. This morning, after she got the group settled in the van, she gave them a short talk about the ghats to help them get the most from their visit. The women talked all throughout the ride, exchanging files and showing each other their phones. The chatter was a distraction to everyone and Sammy struggled to be heard.

Those two lack empathy, she thought. She wondered why they came to Mumbai. So far, they seemed to be interested only in each other. She reminded herself not to judge so quickly. A Christian herself, she tried to follow the Golden Rule. But her husband and daughters were Hindu and encouraged her to follow Krishna’s more specific teachings, seemingly created just for tour guides:
 “Dear to me is the man who neither annoys nor gets annoyed, who is free from excitement, jealousy, fear and worry.
Dear to me is the man who hates no one, who feels for all creatures, who has shed thoughts of "I" and "mine", who is not excited by sorrow or joy, who is patient and serene, steadfast and subdued.” 

An almost lost cause, she tried to keep order, the precursor of calm, in her little slice of Mumbai life. This morning on the train, even though there was a separate compartment for the fisherwomen and their bags and baskets, she’d had to battle them for a spot to stand in. Regardless of the rules, they squatted by the door making getting on and off difficult. All over the city of twenty million people, rules were ignored and you could feel chaos slouched and waiting in the wings as a result. In a flaunting manner, people sold food and goods directly in front of signs warning “no selling.” They posted bills on signs that said “stick no bills.” They ate in front of signs that said “no eating” and smoked in front of signs that said “no smoking.” Most of her tourists found this Mumbain trait amusing and bewildering. They’d chuckle over it and snap off photos to post on-line. If they had to live with it, Sammy thought, they wouldn’t think it was funny.   

But she laughed along with them as though she didn’t worry about her deteriorating city, bulging at the seams, grid-locked and blanketed in air pollution. Nothing about her personal desires, problems or opinions was revealed to her tourists. After ten years as a guide, she had perfected a carefully edited version of her complex personality which she donned in the morning along with her clothes. On the feedback cards, her groups always commented about her enthusiasm and kindness. 

Most of the time, her tourists lack of engagement with her as a human being didn’t bother her. It was just another part of a difficult job and she’d remind herself hourly of the tips, a huge part of her income. Today, the long hot train ride into the city with a fisherwoman’s elbow in her back and the stinky fish under her nose, had started her off badly. Nigel’s fall was a bad omen and the two self-centered women had wounded her. Did these people wonder or care what happened to her after she left them in the evening in their 5-star hotels? They’d complain to her if there wasn’t a spare roll of super-soft toilet paper in their bathroom or if the white wine in the restaurant wasn’t properly chilled. Could they imagine themselves in her place, exhausted after 8 hours of keeping them entertained and comfortable, enduring another 3 hours of travel before arriving home? She’d have to fight the crowds at the station, stand up in the packed train for the 2-hour ride back to her stop, and then walk with her blistered heels for forty-five minutes from the station to her home. No—her life was unimaginable to her tourists. But, despite her bad day, compared to most people struggling to earn a living in Mumbai, Sammy was a lucky woman. 

Patient, serene, steadfast, subdued, she repeated her to herself. Tomorrow she thought, I’m going to tell the California women about my daughter’s wedding planned for next year. 

"India is a pot of gold amidst the potholes"

Sepia Saturday 352: Ella in a Hat

The Sepia Saturday prompt this week is Ella Fitzgerald, wearing a remarkable hat and singing at the Downbeat club in NYC. The year was 1947 and ladies wore hats and gloves in public. At first, I thought it was a feather hat and I was going to use photos I've taken of the neighborhood peacocks who drop in every once in a while to visit our cats. But on closer examination, I concluded that hat was something other than feathers! 
Photo by William Gottlieb. Ella Fitzgerald with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, Timmie Rosenkranz

Peacock and cat, mildly interested in each other

Photo by Herman Leonard,
I found another photo of Ella taken in 1949, without a hat and I like it better. She looks more like a jazz singer and less like part of a church choir. 
Photo by William Gottlieb
The best photo I found of the Downbeat Club was this one above, taken in 1946 outside on the street. I like the view of the sign backward, the man with the bass and the couple in the foreground. It reeks of 1940's cool, the decade I was born in. I do wish I'd been in my twenties for that period. I love the clothes, the films, the music and the energy of those days. Although if I'd gotten to experience that, I would have missed all the madness of our current days. We have a 90-year-old in our writer's group who asserts that 1926 was the best possible year to be born in. He's gradually convincing us he's right. 

I did find a photo I took at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam last year. The resting double cellos (I think) sort of match the outdoor shots at the Downbeat. Admittedly the photo bears little connection to Ella in a Hat. Mea culpa. 

And here's Ella without a hat but with a wonderful guitar.......

Grab a hat and hurry over to Sepia Saturday for more takes on this musical theme.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thank you Danny Kaye!

The speaker had serious difficulties with his AV. He continued speaking as his assistant fiddled with the slide show while we endured watching the screen flashing wifi options and ios settings. Instead of being illuminating, it was at first distracting and then annoying. For the final five minutes of the show, the flummoxed assistant held a laptop up over his head facing it to the audience, which was worse than nothing, as it made the nervous audience laugh. from the ridiculous to the sublime. Nevertheless, we applauded at the end. In all fairness, the material in his presentation was good—only the AV was a disaster.

Watching this show, a chill ran down my back as a 35-year-old memory stirred, yawned and ambled back into my consciousness. "Hey there—remember me?" the memory quipped. I did. It was one of my own presentation disasters. A celebrity chef, booked to do a cooking demonstration at Lawry’s California Center, was taken ill. The trained professionals who could have filled in for the Beverly Hills culinary club were also absent—out of town or sick. With no better options, the event coordinator, scraping the bottom of the barrel came to the lab and asked me if I could pull something together. I told her I couldn’t do a cooking demo...but I did have a presentation on how new products are developed. I’d given this talk to groups interested in learning about manufacturing seasoning and spice blends and it had been well received.

Lawry's California Center
This was long before the internet and there was no Google to answer any questions about ingredient declarations on packages. They were a mystery to most consumers.

We had two hours. The lab people pitched in and made demonstration mixtures for the visitors to taste. A simple beef broth with and without MSG was the one that got me into trouble. “Chinese Food Syndrome” (1) was an issue in those days and many manufacturers, including us, underestimated how negatively the ingredient was regarded. The stuff worked magic for food formulators and our beef broth demonstration was dramatic. I thought these culinary people would enjoy seeing it in action.

The reaction I'd hoped for. Com Stock Photo

Twenty-five people filed in and took their seats. I opened by apologizing and explained about scheduled chef and his sudden illness. A nerdy handout with bullet points listing the ingredients and their functions was passed out. As I blabbed on, I gradually realized the familiar face in the third row was Danny Kaye! Wow, I thought to myself—Danny Kaye is listening to me speak. But the usually smiling Danny Kaye was scowling and sitting with his arms crossed. He looked irritated with me. Then I looked around and realized they were ALL irritated with me. The sick feeling that I'd bombed washed over me like a hot flash.

The reaction I got (well almost). www.wespeaktheworld.com
I tried a few things to get their interest to no avail. Expecting an elaborate cooking demo, they were disappointed when they got MSG and me in a lab coat, looking like I was going to draw blood or ask them to cough. They never warmed to me or the subject matter.  

At the end of the show they all swooped out of the room. Danny didn’t speak to me directly but I heard from the event coordinator that he and most of the group were offended by being asked to taste MSG. And they weren’t impressed with my presentation...too technical, not entertaining enough. At the moment, I was crushed, not only for myself but for the company as I’d managed to leave a bad impression. We would have been better off canceling the demonstration and giving them a tour and free lunch.

Danny Kaye was one of my mother's favorite actors. That evening I called her and said, "Guess what? I really irritated Danny Kaye today!" She wasn't surprised, familiar as she was with how irritating I could be. My only consolation was that at least I hadn't bored them.

Sometimes a lab coat isn't the best choice!
The moral of the story was always to know your audience and their expectations. Spurred on by that failure I worked hard to figure out a more entertaining way to teach technical material. Looking back on what I learned that day, I can thank Danny Kaye for inspiring me to improve. As it turned out, I spent the final ten or twelve years of my career making a living teaching Flavor School, a modified and expanded version of that same material.

But you can rarely satisfy everyone in a given audience. please all of the people all of the time. Even though I’d gather as much advance information about upcoming audiences as I could, I'd still miss things. Once, it was religion.

I was presenting the school (morphed yet again into a roadshow) around the country and after a show for a culinary convention in Dallas, I was admonished for mentioning evolution. I’d stated that Mother Nature rewards success and described how the bloodhound’s ears became long and floppy over years of evolution because this feature enhanced its ability to track scents. Not the wisest comment to make to a Bible-belt audience. From then on I'd say: "Some people believe this is evolution at work, but others disagree."

The magnificent bloodhound.The ears stir up aroma particles from the ground and direct them to the incredibly large area of aroma receptors of the dogs. Their baggy eyelids fall over their eyes when their heads are down tracking and effectively curtail visual perception, protecting the dogs from distractions. photo from vet.com
"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." Oscar Wilde

(1)Chinese restaurant syndrome is an outdated term that was first coined in the 1960s. It refers to a group of symptoms that some people experience after eating food from a Chinese restaurant. These symptoms often include a headache, skin flushing, and sweating. A food additive called monosodium glutamate (MSG) is often blamed for the symptoms some people experience after eating Chinese food. However, there’s minimal scientific evidence showing a link between MSG and these symptoms in humans.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers MSG to be a safe ingredient, and most people can eat foods that contain MSG without experiencing any problems. However, a small percentage of people have short-term adverse reactions to the food additive. Due to the controversy, many restaurants now advertise that they don’t add MSG to their foods. Website: www.healthine.com, Ruth Levi. Chinese Restaurant Syndrome: What the Research Says about MSG. 3/8/2016