Sunday, December 31, 2017

Blogging in the Indian Ocean

It's humid and hot asea cruising between Mozambique and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Beginning tomorrow we can't be on the decks after sunset - a shame because that's when the warm tropical air feels best. But we're moving into piracy country and we have new rules. There's a special emergency code that will be broadcast over the speakers. All we have to do is head to the interior of the ship, out of our cabins and off the decks. The captain has announced that he might have to make an evasive move. There's little chance of anything happening but we know what to do.

Last night everyone was in their best "bibs and tuckers" for New Year's Eve. For some that means their T-shirt with the least offensive printing on it. Overall, the crowd looked good. We're an old bunch —I've seen one child, a couple of teenagers and a handful of people in their twenties. Most of us are between 50 and 80. We are behaving ourselves. Sort of. Everyday there's a new bulletin and the admonishments are listed: no reserving deck chairs all day (the Europeans are champs at this), no sandals in the gym, only three books out of the library at a time—the infractions are minor, but some people are infuriated easily by their fellow man.

Blogging has been impossible. Most of my posts vanished or are stall somewhere in cyberspace. The photos I've posted are gigantic even though I've sized them at 600 x 400. As a result of this frustration, I've had three weeks away from the keyboard, reading instead of writing. A good thing. I hope I've shaken off some of the confinement of writing class rules and regs and can regress back to my own style, such as it was. I'm not worrying about having too many "ing" words in a sentence or about eliminating adverbs. After feeling frozen creatively for months, I'm thawing out and feeling fine here on the Indian Ocean.

Happy New Year!

Maputo, Mozambique

The last four cruise ships with Maputo on their schedules were unable to dock there. Beurocratic screw-ups, like the people with the stamps were unavailable. And other ridiculous reasons. Maputo is poor, terribly poor. Cruise ship, full of tourists with fat wallets, are essential to the economy. Thousands make a living selling trinkets, driving buses, guiding tours.

We were lucky. We docked without incident. Despite the stats on Maputo, it's a pleasant looking town with old colonial buildings, good cuisine, interesting history and surprisingly clean. But the AIDS rate is sky high, birth rate is 5/woman, the government is screwed. The Chinese are a presence, as they are all over Africa, building bridges and other infrastructure; hauling out minerals and other natural resources in payment.

In spite of it being one of the poorest countries of the world I saw a billboard advertising liposuction. The last thing you'd expect to see.

The only two flags in the world which feature guns are Mozambique and Guatemala.


In the Natural History museum there's a display of elephant fetuses preserved after hundreds of the animals were killed. They've been preserved for more than a century.

In a colourful artists market scarves and art were blowing in the wind.

Beautiful women in Mozambique.

Richard buying a trinket.



Durban, South Africa

In the Victoria Market

The delightful Botanical garden.








Sunday, December 10, 2017


We, collectively, lost a lot of trees in the Lilac fire. I watched on TV as palms lit up like torches,
sprayed embers over roofs and began attic fires. I've always loved the look of tall palms lining driveways 
or in clusters around homes. Now, I'd never live in S. California with such a fire hazard
near my home. 

With those flaming palms featured in my dreams last night, I was bleary eyed when I opened
Brain Pickings by Maria Popova this morning, a Sunday morning pleasure.
I was enchanted by these Arthur Rockam tree illustrations.









Saturday, December 09, 2017

New England Lobster Market and eatery

We stayed overnight in SFO before boarding Emirates for Dubai. Within walking distance of the hotel was the New England Lobster Market and Eatery.
Lobster rolls were good. Coleslaw okay. The crab sandwich was a big disappointment. The place is lively and energetic. Fun.







Friday, December 08, 2017

Swinging




I don't know what I'd do without Google Photos. Thousands and thousands of photos are floating around on my computer. Despite my best intentions they pile up and pile up, but— I can use the search feature on Google Photos to sift through the mess and pluck out an image that might be relevant to the Sepia prompt. This week I searched "swing"—how clever was that? 

I have nothing remotely sepia. Here's what Google found for me. 


My friend Debra helping swinging in a fish net in India
Debra jumps right into things. These men offered her a rope to tug. She gleefully joined in.

In Costa Rica we visited a sloth sanctuary. I knew nothing of these animals, but an interest was awakened. Remarkably adapted creatures.
 A sloth swinging in its hammock in Costa Rica
My balance is permanently impaired. I never thought I'd be able to walk on a swinging bridge again.  I did open my eyes for the experience even though at the moment of the photograph my eye were shut.  My friends following were encouraging me and my husband was ahead taking the photo.
Navigating a swinging bridge in Ghana
Just after my sister died, my husband and I went to Myanmar—an escape really from the grips of grieving. I died my hair red and cut it off because every time I looked in the mirror I saw my sister looking back at me.
A swinging bridge in Myanmar


Swing over to www.sepiasaturday.blogspot.com for more nostalgic tales.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Sepia Saturday #397: What's in a Name?

Sepia Saturday

What's in a Name?



I recently wrote a Sepia post about my fishing memories and find myself out of fishy material to match this week's prompt. Here's a re-post of myself at eleven years old with a string of good-looking fish.

I've had to dig deep for fish related material and decided to use a recipe. A couple of years ago, I worked on a cookbook with my Vietnamese friend, Diep. From her, I learned to make Cha Ca La Vong, a dish famous in Hanoi, her hometown. The recipe calls for a firm white fish; in the States we usually use sea bass or catfish. Even more specific, I read today that the species Hemibagrus Wyckii (the crystal-eyed catfish for those in the know) is the best fish to use.


With Diep...ready to eat!

Diep loves avocados. She enjoyed our grove—picked and ate and ate and ate.
Occasionally I find the dish on Vietnamese restaurant menus here in Southern California. It's always good no matter if there's more of this, and less of that. The ingredients are all delicious alone; together, in any proportions, they work. One thing to remember concerns the dill. You cannot use too much.

Here's a recipe for Cha Ca, not Diep's and not mine, but one I've tested and find delicious and easy to make. It's especially useful if you have an excess of dill bolting in the summer garden and you can't use it up making pickles. Pickles, you ask? Personally, I like fried fish of any kinds with vinegar or pickles—the vinegary notes enhance and balance the fatty fish.

And, on the subject of catfish, years ago (it seems every memory now is from decades ago) I worked with a consulting group for an industry association which promoted the consumption of domestic catfish. The first thing we suggested (based on consumer research) was that they change the name, following the example of many other fish varieties burdened with undesirable monikers:

Goosefish became Monkfish
Slimehead became Orange Roughy
Toothfish became Chilean Seabass
Whore's Egg became Sea Urchin
Mud Bugs became Crawfish
Hog Fish became King Mackerel
Archibald Leach became Cary Grant


"What??" the Catfish Commission (I made the name up to protect the innocent) responded. "People love catfish and they love the name." End of conversation. Why did they hire us? The customer is always right. We tore up our long lists of potential names. "Chat de Mer" was my favorite and the nom the Francophiles among us preferred. I could see the name becoming Chademer very quickly—like Chere Reine (Dear Queen) Cross in England became Charing Cross, an etymology I like. You can take your pick of alternate explanations, equally unsubstantiated. Another favorite is Purgatoire, Arizona (Purgatory in French) which became Picket Wire. Say Purgatoire fast with the French accent and you can imagine how it morphed into Picket Wire after being passed from ear to ear to ear.

With no stories and a borrowed recipe, the only original thing I can contribute this week is my drawing below of a catfish surfing on a pickle. I know it looks like a lily pad, but it's not...it's a dill pickle. You can tell by the warts on the surface. Trust me. Why the spots are called warts on a cucumber and eyes on a potato, I don't know. The Cucumber Commission should hire a consulting group to rename the spots....call them "Lucky" something. Maybe "Lucky Dots."

All's fair in love and marketing. I acquired a Fitbit recently and learned that 10,000 steps is an ideal activity level. Googling this tidbit, I found out there is no scientific evidence to support this assertion. From the website, Live Science.

Pedometers sold in Japan in the 1960s were marketed under the name "manpo-kei," which translates to "10,000 steps meter," said Catrine Tudor-Locke, director of the Walking Behavior Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. The idea resonated with people, and gained popularity with Japanese walking groups, Tudor-Locke said.

My composition could be called "Chat de Mer lounging on a Pickle with Lucky Dots"



Catfish catching a ride on a dill pickle




FROM "DELICIOUS VIETNAM"

Chả Cá Thăng Long (Vietnamese Style Fish with Turmeric & Dill)
Serves 4
Ingredients:

For Fish:
1 Pound Firm White Fish ( I use sea bass or catfish), cut into 2-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons Vietnamese Fish Sauce or
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 Tablespoons rice vinegar if you don't like fish sauce
1 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, finely minced
½ Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, finely grated
2 Tablespoons Shallots, finely diced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Dill Fronds, chopped (for marinade)
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Small White Onion, sliced thinly
1 Large Bunch of Dill (there cannot be too much), sliced into two-inch pieces
6 scallions, sliced into two-inch segments
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil, divided
1 Cup Flour
Accompaniments:
½ Cup Peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Fresh Dill Fronds, chopped
Red Thai Chiles, diced, optional
Dill pickles, optional
Optional: Thai Basil, chopped
Optional: Cilantro, chopped
Nước Chấm (fish dipping sauce) or Mắm Nêm (fermented anchovy dipping sauce)
1 Package Vermicelli Noodles, boiled according to package directions
In a medium bowl, mix fish sauce, turmeric, garlic, ginger, shallots, dill fronds, and black pepper. Add fish and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook the white onions until lightly golden. Add half the dill and half the sliced scallions. Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes. Plate the onions, scallions and dill on a serving platter.
Remove fish from the refrigerator and drain off the marinade. Using paper towels, pat off any excess liquid. Shake the fish in a bag with the flour or dredge it lightly on a plate. Use rice flour if you have it. Using the same skillet, heat the remaining oil to medium-high. Pan fry the fish—about 3-4 minutes on each side—until the fish is browned with a little crust. Place the fish on top of the bed of cooked onions, scallions and dill. Top with the remaining fresh dill and scallions. Sprinkle peanuts on top and serve immediately with vermicelli noodles, herbs (basil, mint) and
sauces. Offer the pickles in a side dish...not everybody likes them.

Note: In Vietnam, they pre-fry the fish. When it's presented at the table, all you do is heat it up with the dill and onions.

And here's a video showing the real restaurant experience in Hanoi. I included it so you can see the amount of dill. I'm not telling a fish story....you really use a LOT!




Think there's something fishy about this tale? Check out Sepia Saturday for more whoppers. 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sepia Saturday 396: Looking forward and Looking back

On The Road
Looking forward and looking back


Although the prompt this week is a cheerful scene in a market, it reminded me of the photo below. We were traveling in Syria and I'm standing with our guide Abdul, our backs to the camera.


Abdul was plagued by bad luck. He told us a story one evening as we dined at Naranj, the finest restaurant in Damascus, if not all of Syria. The meal was splendid and while we drank our coffee and lingered over a delicious tray of fruit and pastries, Abdul mused, teary-eyed, about an incident, he explained, which epitomized his life…

I headed for home one night, cutting through the alley behind Naranj where I almost stepped on a skinny, mewling kitten. I picked up the little thing and looked into its green eyes. It needed rescuing; it needed me. From the restaurant, I got a saucer of milk and some flakes of fish, sat down in the alley and fed the little thing. Pushing up against my hand, it purred so hard little bubbles came out of its nose. I'd never seen that before. “Where’s your mom?” I asked, hoping the mother would appear from behind the trash cans—hoping she might catch the fishy scent and join her baby at the banquet. I scratched the tiny ears a little more, petted it and thought the impossible—could I take it to my room? And find someone to care for it tomorrow? No, that would be foolish if the mother was nearby. I decided to bet on the mother showing up. As I stood and picked up the saucer to return it, I felt a sense of peace, rare for me at that stage of life. The kitten ran toward the end of the alley to the street and disappeared behind trash cans. I felt good. Ten minutes with the purring kitten revived me and for a moment I escaped my own troubled soul to rescue another living thing. I turned to step into the restaurant kitchen when I heard brakes squealing from the road. I knew what had happened.”

Abdul's company was called “Driving Tourists Happy.” We hired him based on the excellent recommendations of his customers on Fodor’s forums. His bad luck wasn’t mentioned in his promotional material. In the photo, we’re looking at a stall in the famous souk in Aleppo, centuries old, destined for destruction in a few years.

For Abdul, then working to build a business in tourism in Syria, the future didn't turn out well. Ahead lay chaos and destruction nobody predicted. Behind him, it was the same kind of scene.
Aleppo souk before and after.

"If I'm happy," Abdul said "something horrible is bound to happen."

The list of his bad luck episodes was long. He’d lived in the U.S. for years on a work visa as the marketing director for a company that sold an Arabic language program. After 911, he was deported and had to return to Syria with his ex-wife and U.S. born children. He was given two weeks to get out of the country–not enough time to sell his home and a business. The family landed in Damascus with almost nothing. In the U.S., his trusted friend, to whom he gave power of attorney, sold his house and business and stole his money. What else?

Abdul's family home in Aleppo was eventually destroyed and his siblings scattered around the world. The last we heard, Abdul was in Brazil. I hope his luck improved.



Friday, December 01, 2017

T-R-O-U-B-L-E

Older, unattractive men apparently think women want to see them naked. (Charlie Rose, Conyers, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK). Some of these men mistakenly believe women will be driven into sexual frenzy by viewing their aged penises, droopy, half-buried in fat and dangling in mid-air.

The cover of this week's New Yorker says it all.

Some men think their sexual apparatus so gorgeous, it should be photographed and posted on Facebook, a la Mr. Weiner. Being irresistible to themselves, they are deluded that the rest of the world, at least the females, share their enthusiasm for their own sad members.

I've been flashed a few times as have all of my female friends. Once, a man who worked for me came into my office, shut the door and pulled off his shirt exposing his bare puffed-up chest. My mouth fell open in shock. He flexed his muscles and before I could say anything, he pulled the shirt back on. Granted it's not as bad as the classic pants drop, but it was a flash.

I know the man had problems with working for a woman...this was 35 years ago. I'd seen a book on his desk entitled something like "Working for a Bitch." He'd left it where I could see it. During this incident, once I collected myself, I said nothing, mostly because I was speechless. This was probably, by accident, the smartest thing I could have done, looking back. If I'd tried to have him fired (he was a minority) there would have been a mess. The incident would have been aired in public to no good end for me. In a predominantly male environment, I would have looked like an oversensitive sissy, a bitch, a trouble-maker.

Few women had management jobs in my industry in those days. The male HR people would likely have concluded that hiring a woman was, as they'd anticipated, trouble, spelled with a T. It never occurred to me before writing this that perhaps my denigration, via officialdom, might have been what my flasher wanted. Was he that smart and scheming? Perhaps it was sexual harassment, even though he was my subordinate. In the game, at that time, everyone would have been on his side. He would have denied the incident or said that I'd misinterpreted his action. You couldn't look to your few women colleagues for support. In those days, the lower the profile you could maintain, the better off you were.

I'm so thrilled the worm has turned and women may no longer have to endure this kind of childish, churlish stupidity.






Sunday, November 26, 2017

N. California Family Thanksgiving Photos

The big Friday celebration

Deb, Zuzu, me
Nephews, Grandnephews with Doug. From left: Khalil, Doug, Luke, Bill, Rand. 
Breakfast at Doug and Jans

Admiring the new iPhone 10

Joey, Colette, Zuzu. 3 generation photo. Kimo photographer

Quinn, media star, and Michelle