Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Neighbor & Me...

Well, I'm back in school and hopefully I'll be posting more often quite soon- one more week to finish up all the work that is due [too] soon.

On the bright side I now live and learn in beautiful Norman, OK... home of the National Weather Service Severe Storms Laboratory (whee!).  At the moment, we are looking at a nice storm which is currently barely nicking the town, though there have been some pretty spectacular lightning strikes nearby.  And a very interesting storm cluster is even now hitting Bartlesville...

Oh yes, my neighbor.  I met Diego some while back- we'd exchange a nod in passing.  Now it's become the normal thing to sit out on the porch together talking about the weather and what we've been up to of an evening.  Earlier, we were watching the storm pass the town, waiting for lightning bolts, and counting for distance.  There were a few pretty good ones.  I hope the grocery store is still standing tomorrow.

I told Diego he needs a new hat.  And a pair of boots.  All he wants to do is sit around eating fish and shredding my doormat.  Still, it's nice to have met a new friend in the neighborhood.  On the bright side, he's that rarest of critters: a cat to whom I'm not allergic... on the darker side he can jump 4.5 feet straight up.  ...And I'm pretty certain he can teleport.

Diego after snacks.

That lightning bolt just rattled the house!  And I think I heard the TV say something about a tornado warning...  Assuming all is well later, I will resume posting next week- I've a few projects that the WWW may find of slight interest.

~ Tioraidh!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Truth in Advertising

"People have a lot of misconceptions about California.  None of them are true."

Really?  The misconceptions are false, are they?

California's 'Find Yourself Here' Campaign (http://www.visitcalifornia.com) seems nice.  Tell the absolute truth without providing any details.    ...Stay classy CA.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Beginning a new year in an upward beat


And here I sit, several months after deciding that I would update at least onece a week, perhaps on a Thursday...

It has occured to me that the purpose of a blog is to post subjects of interest to at least one other person besides the author (and my last post perhaps did not fit the bill).  I intend to do better in the future, and baring the occasional hiatus caused by vacation or research, hope to continue updating this weblog of eccentric curiosity.


'I have seen the future and it is us.'  Is that really such a horrible misquote?

There are moments I find myself wondering at what we are doing and/or take for granted as normal.  When I was little, cell phones weighed as much -and were the same size as -camcorders, and the phone-of-the-future used video and would be the size of a breifcase.

Right now, I am sitting in a cafe and typing up a review of material from the "12th IEEE International Conference on Mobile Data Management" concerning crowdsourcing scientific data.  There is a woman behind me using a laptop to speak with someone (with video) about medical treatments, and on my other side are a group of students (and laptops) studying computer animation and literature.   ...And this is normal.

Actually, it's old hat.  Some of the research I'm reading is about to be normal.  It will be interesting to see how the future turns out... and how we make use of this stuff in the future.  Just keep in mind that the future is the present, just a little bit later than now.

Tioraidh an'drasta!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On the prowl for Puerh (Poo-er)

I drink a lot of tea.  My favorites run toward the Oolongs, though I prefer Puerh for late-night homework sessions, but you can never go wrong with a nice, comforting cup of sencha.

Now, living in the middle of the US as I do, the best kinds of tea are oft' difficult to find. 
  • The best sencha outside of Japan is Yamamotoyama brand hands down.  You can buy bags of loose leaf or boxes of tea bags- either is great, and thankfully inexpensive.
  • Oolongs are common.  Most are quite good.  My favorite is produced by a Japanese company for domestic use...  Though if you are in the market for something special, or just happen to be in San Francisco, check out Red Blossom Tea Company.  I make a point to visit them when I'm in town.
  • Puerh is something of a mystery to me still.  Leaves often from ancient trees, fermented, dried and compressed, stored away for years, and then brewed using very hot water...  I have a few 'bricks' of this aging on one of my bookshelves.  I tend to find these in old run-down markets in the US, packaging roting away- I'll buy one or two if they're a couple bucks.  If you want to go all out, knowing quite well beforehand what it is you are buying, I'd recommend Tuocha Tea; they're based in china, but have good prices, nice descriptions, and -if you don't mind a bit of a wait- are willing to ship via ship (in the end, my package was dropped off late one night by someone in an odd, yellow jeep).
Happily, Puerh seems to be getting a bit more attention here in the US.  I'm finding it more often in coffee shops- even the little local ones I prefer (y'know, where all the nerds, nuts, and hippies hang out).

This little note brings me neatly to my newest conundrum, and the subject of today's post:

My search for the best Puerh?

I had found some, I think, for the better part of a year, in a shop not too far from home called All About 茶.  This Puerh was awesome.  The liquor brewed a deep brown-red, smelled of peat, was a bit bitter, and tasted very much of earth- it was oddly relaxing.  I learned to stop at one pot; two pots meant I wouldn't be sleeping for the next day or so.  To say that it was strong was an understatement.  But it did not taste like the mildewy tobacco some strong Puerh tries to imitate.

It was a very odd kind of tea.  Very strong, invigorating, but just plain tasty.  I'd order a pot, sit at a corner table with my sketch pad, and work on art homework while my imagination burbled away. 

And then there was an economic downturn, to use the phrase.  All About 茶's prices went up somewhat.  They still serve Puerh, but it isn't the same- the good tea became cost-prohibitive.  The manager won't tell me what the original Puerh's name is or where it is produced.  All he would say is "it's from Korea."  I don't frequent the place as much, anymore.  But they serve a brilliant hot chocolate!

So, the search is on!  The form of my favorite puerh was a mini toucha: a small compressed bulb of tea that is vaguely bowl-shaped.  Does anyone have any leads I could follow?  Please leave leads in the comment box below.   ...Assuming anyone reads this post...

In the meantime, I've tried Chicago Tea Garden's 'Camel's Breath' tuocha.  It is almost everything its reviewers say it is (but doesn't smell bad), as well as a tea I will buy again, but it is not the tea for which I am searching. 
I also found The Tao of Tea's Organic Pu-er Tuocha; though I was surprised to find this Puerh the least tea-like tea of any tea I have ever tried (even after a 3 hour brew, it still tasted like water).

Do any readers out there have any ideas for me?
-Botany Dave

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sakura, Part 1

     Sakura, cherry trees famous in Japan for their beautiful floral displays and organic form, can also be appreciated for their bark.  In northern Honshu, within the area known as Tohoku, craftsmen gather cherry tree bark and use it to carefully craft small household items of beauty.  Often encountered are the canisters used to store tea, tea scoops, and jewelry boxes; prices range from around $5 for simple tea scoops, to over $100 for larger items.
Typical Tea Canister†
The shiny, redish material is the inner bark.

Unpolished Tea Canister ‡
Although the typical horizontal bands found on many cherry species is still visible, this canister was created using the outer bark.

 Picture Sources:

     As a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae), the cherry tree is closely related to apples, hawthorne, pears, and plums.  These plants generally share common features such as terminal end buds and 5-petaled flowers.

Plum tree with typical Rosaceae flowers.

Plum tree showing bark.

     This in one area in which the specially bred Sakura cherry trees can differ with the rest of its family: very showy, multi-petaled flowers.  Sakura are cherry trees that don't produce [edible] fruit, having been selected over the centuries for ornamental purposes.
Full flowers of an ornamental Sakura tree;
horizontally-striated bark also shown.
A close-up of the leaves and flowers of one Sakura, used as landscaping in Virginia.

This sakura, found in Morioka, Japan, is so old and large that it not only
needs supports to keep it standing, it also split the boulder
on which it originally grew (in a small crack on the rock's surface).
     Although useless for fruit production, the iconic Sakura is famous throughout Japan and in many other lands for its flowers and form.  Hopefully, you now appreciate its bark as well. 


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tokyo, you say? Yes... But there is so much, and I never spend any time there.

     I spent a day in Tokyo a few weeks back.  It was my run-around-until-you-drop-to-adjust-yourself-to-the-timezone day.  It was a very long day (VLD), and what few pictures I have will follow.  Think of this as an introduction to the subjects of art and architecture to follow.
Amazing street performer at the Tokyo Dome complex.
   Odaiba, an island created from dumping enough trash into Tokyo Bay to create land, hosts a number of museums, an amusment park, and a couple department stores (latter shown above).  Fort Venus, shown here, is patterned on an Italian market street.
     Also located in Odaiba, is the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Miraikan.  The home of Asimo, this science museum also houses a range of rotating science exhibits that are well worth the train, tram, and walk needed to get there.  My first visit there introduced me to the wide world of magnetic levitation- a subject I now enjoy greatly. 
     This trip, there were exibits of Serendipitous Science, Emerging Innovations, Interactive Electronics, Micro Anthropology through Photographs (difficult to describe), and Closed-system Communities.  I also saw a 1:10 model of the Japanese Quark Detector (Super-Kamiokande Detector).
Interesting idea: Forget wires and wi-fi, just run the signal through the human body.
Ooooo... Algorythmic anime a la photonic projectors, plus pens.

     And just how big is Tokyo?  Well... as seen from the top of Sunshine 60 (home of Namja Town and the Ice Cream Museum), Tokyo seems a never-ending sea:

In urban Japan, buildings are spaced so far apart, a cat could not fit.
And thus ended the Day in Tokyo.  Just made it to bed.   .....zzZZZZzzzZZZZzzz.....

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tsukemono Press

Introducing, the new tsukemono press (and friend)!

1.6 Litre Picre, 1300 yen
Finding your own press seems so much easier than finding a bucket, an appropriately-sized plate, and a weight.  I picked up this little wonder at a store in Yatsushiro.

Having misplaced my Quick & Easy Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes book, I've decided to launch my tsukemono press using a made-up recipe: 3 japanes eggplants, 3 tsp salt, a dash of sake, some seaweed (konbu), and a few hibiscus flowers (they're red, and I don't much care for shiso).

Engage the screw-top press, and presto:

Pickles' first press
I think this one will turn out well!  I'll have to wait until morning, but will post the results shortly...

Tsukemono, japanese for "pickled things," are a big thing in my family; we eat carrot & daikon, mustard greens, cucumbers, and cactus- for the most part buying them at stores and in markets.  Now, with the addition of the Tsukemono press to the household, I look forward to making my own.  I foresee Interesting Tymes.