Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Baking The Devil's Dogs: How To Celebrate Your 90-Year-Old War-Hero Grandpa

I just wanted to post some pictures from my grandpa's 90th Birthday Celebration.

I also wanted to show off what my mom and I made for his birthday.

It's a selfish post this week.


My grandpa, you may or may not know, is one of Those Guys who did amazing things in his life.  He even has a book on it:

His biography, "Conversations with Marco Polo: The Remarkable Life of Eugene C. Haderlie" is for sale on amazon.com, if you're interested in reading more.  Or you could just ask me for my copy.  I've already read it and have had my fill of feeling inadequate.

Anyway, mom wanted to do something special for his 90th birthday since he did the whole War-Hero, Scientist-Extraordinaire thing.  I recently got her hooked on the online cook/blogger/photographer/gardener/allthingsdomesticgoddess The Pioneer Woman.

So, we decided to tackle her recipe for Devil Dogs for my grandpa.  He has the sweetest sweet tooth--even at 90.  And personally, I feel as though if you've arrived at the ages that are multiples of both 9 and 10, you're allowed to eat as many sweets as you like.

If you haven't clicked on the above link that will take you to that recipe, be prepared for a picture-documentation of the party's festivities starting now.

Thick, thick (not Thich Nhat Hanh) frosting
That was a bad buddhist monk pun, if you hadn't caught on.  Then again, this recipe certainly made me live in the moment.

Anyway, skipping past the process of mixing and baking the cake batter, mom and I were delighted at our success in re-creating Ree Drummond's recipe.

We began piling them on, and I had the brilliant--alright, alright it was cheesy--idea to frost his initials on the mini cakes

Note:  the very necessary glass of wine next to the baking site.  When baking for family events, it's good to be prepared.

Even Woo had a problem staying away from the packed food and goods readied to be taken down to Monterey.

Either she's pulling a new yoga pose for pugs that I don't know about, or she's snooping.

"What?  I wasn't...I mean...what? I'm CUTE."
I think grandpa enjoyed the cakes.  At least, I made sure to bombard him with it.  He had no escape.  You might think that it was because he was in a wheelchair but honestly I doubt it--he can move fast in that thing and it's frightening trying to outrun him.  I just know a man with a sweet-tooth is easy to bamboozle with a tray filled with cake.

My Grandpa (aka Hell on Wheels), the Devil Dogs, Joanna and Me
Anyway, we celebrated, we ate, we laughed, we cringed when he got grumpy and didn't like us fussing over him and we went home.

Ah, family.

One last thing, though.  I got to hang out on my grandma's memorial bench.  

Why is it when you try to wear black to minimize the boobs they just get bigger?

If you're ever hanging out around Hopkin's beach in Monterey (basically right across the way from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the many things my grandpa has had a hand in oi...) you should come on by and say hi to Aileen Elizabeth Watson's bench.  It's got a great view.  

No, I don't mean me.

Although I'm pretty schnazzy.


I think that's enough self-exhibition.  For now.


WOO UPDATE: Remember how I mentioned Woo was running amuck (for once) in the local dog park?  Normally she's an anti-social dog, who prefers the company of humans.  We were so excited to see her run, which again looked like a strangled attempt and double-dutch jump rope for dogs.

Anyway, mom decided to take her back to the park and let her "run wild" again.

But, mom made a mistake.  It was raining and Woo wasn't having it. 

Mom decided to walk forward, yelling encouraging words back to the dog she thought was right behind her.  Several minutes later she looked back and saw this:

I'm not sure exactly what she's trying to convey with this look...but perhaps....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Moment of Silence: Photos From Japan

In case you haven't seen the levels of destruction in Japan, here are the images I came across earlier today.  It is unreal.

I don't know how else to convey this other than just not talk about it and re-post the photographs.  I've given credit to the photographers, so I hope I'm not infringing.  But, please let me know if this is a no-no in online land.  It's always good to know the rules I'm breaking.

Ship Asia Symphony breached, Kamaishi. EPA/STEPHEN MORRISON

Rikuzentakata, SHIHO FUKADA for The New York Times
Otsuchi, YOMIURI SHIMBUN via Associated Press

Kesennuma, SHIHO FUKADA for The International Herald Tribune
Natori, KYODO NEWS via Associated Press

I am very aware that California is due for a big earthquake and also located on the Ring of Fire, and not just in the cool Johnny-Cash-Song kind of way.

This week, if you haven't already, please take the time to arrange for yourself and your family a simple earthquake-kit.  We all learned as kids growing up in California to duck and cover, stay away from windows in case of glass shards breaking over you, etc.  But, I also know that it's easy to forget the basics.

My family keeps a supply of earthquake food, batteries, water and medicine just in case of emergency.  So, for those of you who don't know what an Earthquake Kit looks like here are the basics, as laid out by Ready America's kit recommendations:

Water, one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and/or sanitation.
Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
Radio, battery-powered or hand crank 
Flashlights and extra batteries
First Aid Kit
Dust Mask, to help filter contaminated air 
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (if auto-gas-lock is not placed on household gas lines)
Can opener for food (if non-perishable food is canned)
Local road maps
Cell phone, with chargers, inverter or solar

Also, here is a more in-depth article on how to use your cell phone as a tool during an emergency:


p.s. For those in need of a laugh after all of the heavy news, here is a WOO UPDATE:

Mom took her on a walk a few days ago over on the Navy Base of Alameda, which if you didn't know existed, please feel free to brush up on your Alameda geography with the last post concerning the abandoned Navy Base.

It was deserted and quite lovely with the green clover everywhere.

Woo also apparently loved that she had the space and freedom to roam around without any other pesky dogs trying to socialize with her.

So she went galloping--and I mean that in the pug-sense; i.e., it was not so much as a gallop but more of a lolloping-circular movement akin to a potato rolling down a steep hill.

I don't know why but this picture just makes me laugh out loud.  I think it's because running just looks so wrong when she does it.  But, she was enjoying herself, which makes all the difference.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Is Africa

The other day I went and saw a Pulitzer-prize winning play entitled "Ruined," which is set during the Civil War of the Congo.  Then I was watching Blood Diamond, with Leonardo DiCaprio, which takes place during the Sierra Leone Civil War.

I was looking into watching Hotel Rwanda or possibly The Last King of Scotland and that's about when I heard about the Somalian Pirates hijacking more tourist boats off the coast of Oman.  Meanwhile, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are going through the biggest political upheavals in recent history.

And then all of a sudden I felt very, very American.

Ig. No. Rant.
As a child of the Bay Area Bubble I felt absolutely utterly at a loss as to where in the world ANY of these things were happening.

I knew they were happening somewhere "out there" over in Yonder African Continent, but the geography, the layout, and the physical cultures that I hear about in wisps of hollywood movies, or strands of NY Times articles kind of blur together.

So, this week I decided to review my geography and the latest bits of history that are connected to what I do know (pop culture and buzz words) and finally placing them visually on a map to help me understand more.

My understanding of Africa's history is limited.  Even after researching for several days straight, I am still very ignorant.  So, I want to make it clear:  I am not trying to say only bad things happen in Africa.  I am also highly aware of the fact that the majority of the bad things that are occurring in Africa right now and for the past hundred yeas are due to colonization; i.e., this discussion is not meant to "blame the victim" of a land that's been wrenched apart by the greed of others.

However, this is not a post about the history of colonization in Africa. There just isn't enough room to cover It All in one week, let alone one blog.  So, all I am aiming to do is to give a visual of where exactly so many of these things I hear about day in and day out are happening, if not for me then for anyone else that needs a review but feels silly asking for one.  

All clear?

First, Africa Is Big. Like. REALLY Big.
Ok, so it's no wonder that everything became a blur in my head.  There are a lot of countries in Africa.  I know it's a cheap shot, but I think the mere size of some of these countries is what makes me, the average American, just get glaze-eyed.  It gets too big to comprehend.

So, I googled "Africa Big" and got this:

Yea, it's big.  Bigger than big.  I thought Texas was big.  I thought Denny's Breakfast Slams were big.  I was wrong.

Africa is big.

What's strange is the paradoxical nature of my ignorance; I still have this image of a "3rd World" Africa, in which everything is less developed, smaller, insignificant, etc.  Yet, paradoxically Africa's entire landmass is so huge, so vastly changeable.  It's made up of sovereign state countries, island nations and the territories left over from the Scramble For Africa.  It is one of the largest masses of land in the world, seconded only by the entire Asian continent, both in population and regional size.

Second, I Really Love Maps. 

As a kid I loved maps and loved to practice basic geography; one of my favorite games was trying to use as few colors as possible in my coloring map books to fill in all the states of the US or the nations of Europe.  Anyway, it seemed appropriate that the best way to re-educate myself on Africa was to draw it.  So, here goes.

Africa is officially split up into four regions in general; North, West, East, South and Middle.

I want to say I live in Middle California from now on.

Each area is filled with its own countries, territories and island nations.

Btws, drawing different Africas using MS Paint = a completely understandable hobby, and not at all obsessive. I'm not going to say how long it took to find these flags, but I will say that Wikipedia Portal: Africa had a huge part in my research this week. 

But that's just it.  HOW many flags do you see on there?  And how fast are your eyes already glazing over?

Too bad.  Your eyes are going to have to get readjusted.  Because it's now time for

Rapid Fire African Pop Culture History Lesson!

I mentioned a few mainstream titles previously.  Here's a handy-dandy map to get you up to speed on where those things are taking place: 

You  might have noticed most of those movies aren't doing the happy-color-schemes of soft blues, dreamy eyed lovers and high-flying hilarity.  No, no.  Those images and fonts all say the same thing:  blood.  pain.  strife.  struggle through absolutely dehumanizing and debilitating odds.  hope through having found love that there will be a way out.  monstrous people who prey on the powerless. no way out.  

Well, except for The Gods Must Be Crazy.  That movie is the black sheep of the African Films Family, I guess.  But, it was made in the 1980's.  For some reason, that feels like a good explanation.

So Where Does All The Stuff I Hear About Happen?

There is so much happening in the countries that make up Africa.  All the information I have held in my head are buzz words and they aren't good ones:  rape, genital mutilation, genocide, HIV/AIDS, children soldiers, conflict diamonds, slave trade, apartheid, poachers, colonization,  civil war, starvation, malnutrition, etc.

But, this is what occurred to me over the weekend after reading the billionth article on the muslim uprisings in Northern Africa:  If Libya is about to implode on itself due to the people rebelling against a ridiculous dictator I really DO want to know whether its close to Egypt or if it's closer to the Sudan.  I don't want these places to become meaningless blobs in my head (I almost wrote "meaningless blogs"--Freudian slip, right there). 

To all those other ignorant average Americans out there, does this help?


Monday, March 7, 2011

The Meaning of Life: A Function

So, you might have noticed the above header icon for this blog.  A while ago, when I had first been exposed to CalculusandI'velostyoualreadyhaven'tI? I was delighted by the visual that math can provide   for patterns.

You might have noticed that I love visuals.

You might have also noticed that I love patterns.

You might have also also noticed that I use patterns and visuals to create comedy.

You can see why math was an obvious route when I first got to college: Why not learn the official rule book for patterns?  There is a "rate" to comic timing.  Why not learn the rule book for comedy?

My Love for Humorous Visual Patterns Didn't Quite Make It Into the Third Dimension

Well, when I got into Multi-Variable Calculus (i.e., 3D Calculus) that failed.  It failed because the patterns became more or less like any other in-depth study; so wide-spread and detailed that my basic understanding and desire to only understand it in a basic way kind of thwarted my goal.

Anyway, while flitting out of math and feeling all blue about it, I remember someone telling me that the meaning of life is the summation of all your experiences, not just about hitting pointed markers in life.

I've never quite forgotten it.  And as a sort of joke I decided to take that theory literally and put it into mathematical terms.

That's when I came up with this.

This Is Your Life On Math

It's ok if you're not following this.

Really, I am not going to test you on it.

I just wonder if I have actually found a way to mathematically describe the meaning of life.  A while ago I had been working hard on a function for sense of humor and then comic timing by taking the derivative  of a sense of humor, but apparently some Swiss Mathematician had already beaten me to it.  I will say this, though--mine was pretty close to his, in a sort of I-used-the-letter-B-and-you-used-the-letter-H-to-describe-the-same-variable" kind of way.

I'm still bummed about that.

I Don't Want to Calculate The Meaning of My Life

Anyway, if we were to graph a life using the above formula for the function of life, then this is mine up until Summer, 2009.  It is because of this that I have decided to not take the next step and "add" up my life experiences thus far.  

Intriguing, no?  

Next week:  The Buddhism and the Four Golden Rules of Buddha!


Woo Update:  There are no words.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

To start off, I got a lot of responses/questions over last week's post.

And to give you an idea on where we stand on the issue of our dog loving her stuffed animal dog toy too much, here is a photo slideshow.

*Before anyone jumps to conclusions I'd like to confirm that these were taken candidly. You'll have to take my word for it that I did no posing; I would just walk by and notice a trend.

10:18am.  You will notice toy and dog are laying separately.  But, it was almost as if she knew it was a guilty-pleasure to have her companion and her in the same bed.  So she slowly, just so slightly, kept pushing that boundary, whenever she thought I wasn't looking.

10:45am. Note that the stuffed animal dog has mysteriously made its way into her bed.

11:13am.  I return to find this.


Backstreet Boys And Buffy The Vampire Slayer Fanfic

I was about to get all accusatory on her, but then I realized I have my own guilty pleasures in life.  I'd say those are my top two biggest ones.

I love the Spice Girls as well but for some reason that 90s pop music quintet sensation doesn't feel wrong to love.  If anything, I feel proud to be a Spice Girls fan because they are oddly in vogue again now that they've come back.

If the Backstreet Boys tried to come back--again--it would just be sad and awkward.  I think it's because they'd want to be taken seriously.  Spice Girls never asked you to take them seriously.  For that, I can respect them.  Also before you ask:  Baby Spice.  She had the funniest lines in the movie.  And the biggest shoes.

Going back to the fanfic, yes.  It's true.  I wrote two full-length fanfic novels as a teenager.  One had Lesbian Amazons in it.  I even made up my own "Amazonian" language.  Tolkien, eat your Linguistics Heart out.

Man that was hard to admit publicly.  But, I feel better.


Almost as if I finally let go of the pressure to keep that in.

Don't Act Like You Don't Have One

I'm not necessarily asking you to participate in a random survey of Guilty Pleasures.  Mostly because anytime I open up a forum on the human mind the results are usually frightening, if not overwhelming.

But, I guess what I'm asking is, if you have a pop culture/musical/food guilty pleasure, then by all means think about why it's a guilty pleasure.  Seriously.  Who is going to judge?  Who is going to call you up in the middle of the night and laugh at you?  Your mom?

My mom already laughs at me.  She did it earlier tonight.  She does it almost every time I see her, actually.  Hm.

Anyway, we all have them.  We all secretly enjoy something.  And perhaps I've just answered my own question; what makes something fun sometimes is the fact that only you know about it.  Kind of like how I love to watch BBC Soap Opera Period Dramas while eating cheesepuffs at 2am.


Well, aside from the fact that I now have to find a new secret pleasure, I'm curious what ranks as a guilty pleasure out in the wide world currently.  There are so many things we do today that we wouldn't if it weren't for the sake of the internet, alone.

So, if you have a guilty pleasure and are willing to share, please do.

If you're not willing to fork over the dirt, then please enjoy it at least once this week.

Because, I'll remind you again guilt or no guilt,

 even a dog won't stop loving what she loves.


p.s. One of you asked me how I go about writing the blog each week.  Here is my visual answer:

Woo falls asleep while I write.  That pretty much sums up our creative team effort, I'd say.