Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vietnamese Lady Shouting On the Cell Phone While Squatting in the Rice Position in Front of the Pet Food Store, We Miss You

About a mile from the house at a nearby strip mall, there is a pet store that we like to go to get food for the cat and the dog. The first few times that we had gone we had noticed an unusual site. To begin with, Chandler, Arizona is not a terribly diverse place. It’s not like Los Angeles. So much to our surprise every time we would visit the pet food store to stock up, we would see this lady squatting, shouting in Vietnamese with cell phone in one hand while balancing a cigarette with a large ash tipping off the end in the other. So each time we would go in to the store, we’d ask the cashier, “where is that lady from?” I wasn’t complaining, just curious. Turns out that we were not the only person that would ask that question. Seems as if most people that would pass by would say the same thing. On other errands to the nearby supermarket you could pretty much be assured that you see her out there. She dressed pretty well, noting that her clothes were cleaned and even pressed. Further investigation revealed that she was the manager of the nail salon three doors down from the pet food place in the sam strip mall.
Seeing as so many people would ask about the lady, the owner of the pet food store essentially gave her a “talking to” and let her know not to hang out in front of the store. Vietnamese lady was now ostracized, banished.
Before Jill actually saw her, I told her what I saw. Jill then told me from what she learned in yoga class about the health benefits of “squatting”

It’s good for your knees

It’s good for your back

It’s good for your hips

It’s good for your joints

You are supposed to be in the position for 5 minutes a day (for 6 years my daughter interjects)

So, Vietnamese lady might be on to something after all.

The real issue is the cultural divide between west and the real east. I say real east in that Vietnamese lady represents what is real from a different world rather that what we are presented neatly and distantly on television.

In asia squatting in public is not a unusual site. A childhood friend who traveled and lived in Bangkok said it was not unusual to see a businessman attired in a suit, squatting, and smoking a cigarette at the airport.

For some reason, the squat just never made it into western culture. The squat fell from grace with the invention of the chamber pot and the chair. The squat was banished from the occidental thus remaining separate.

As Americans we tend to be xenophobic, we fear that which is different. In this case I think our curiosity, xenophobia and hyper fear of those that smoke relegated Vietnamese lady to the back alley next to the supermarket dumpsters. In a small way it’s a shame.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Legend of the Worry Man

When I first heard it I thought the story was absolutely fascinating. I was in an import shop looking at various curios and found a very small carving of a weeping man.

The clerk walked up to me and explained that this was the “worry man,” you simply hold the carving in your hand and roll it around during times of anxiety and stress. If you continue to work it eventually it will become smooth. Once that happens all of your worries will be gone.

At that time I did not purchase the palm sized statue and since that time (I’ve had many worries) regretted that I did not. Several years had passed and during that time I had searched high and low for a carving of the same size. Over the years I had found several that were a foot in diameter or so, but nothing like the small one that I had encountered

I was lucky enough to find one this morning in a Tibetan curio shop in downtown Boulder, Colorado.

The owner of the shop corrected me on my story and told me that the carving was of the weeping buddha. It turns out that Buddha is sometimes depicted as weeping because “the world is joy and the world is pain.” Perhaps this depiction is before his enlightenment.

I still like the story about the worry man. As a high anxiety type it works for me as a sort of asian medieval stress ball. The convenient size makes it so that I can work it during meetings, on flights (and landings) or other times of high stress.

My daughter observed the depth of the carving and said “that will take forever to rub that into a smooth ball.”

I replied, “that is because during your life your worries will never really go away.”

Monday, September 07, 2009

Yoonie's 40th

Last weekend one of our friends had her 40th birthday party. Her husband conspired along with my wife and other friends to make it a surprise party.

Photos of Recent Meals

Jill went out of town for a couple of days so I decided to live big. I had the butcher make up a couple of burgers made out of angus beef. That along with a side of grilled asparagus and a couple of Bohemia beers it wasn't a bad meal.

Last week was a really busy week so I ended up eating at my's a sandwich that I made.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Santa’s Incubus Demon from Hell: The Krampus and the Possible Origin of the Term, Going to Hell in a Hand-basket

As we all know when we were growing up we were told that if we were good Santa will bring us toys as children.

We were told that if we were bad the worst thing that could happen is that we would be taken off the “nice” list and put on the “naughty” list resulting in not receiving any toys, but a lump of coal instead.

Turns out that in several of the Eastern European countries that something much worse would happen instead. If you were bad throughout the year, you would not be receiving a visit or much less gifts from Santa. You’d be receiving a visit from the incubus demon from hell, the Krampus.

The Krampus is essentially the Devil incarnate in form. Bipedal, horned, covered in fur and with cloven hooves the Christmas demon wanders about looking for children who have been deemed bad throughout the year. With him he carries two accouterments, a bundle of sticks or switches that he uses to beat children with and a wicker basket on his back to carry those children with him on the sleigh ride to hell.

A couple of months ago I discovered a book that had a collection of Krampus postcards from Christmas seasons over the years in Europe coming from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary.

It turns out that the wrath of the Krampus was not limited to children but to young men and women as well. Young couples that were out and that were unchaperoned were particularly vulnerable to the fangs, teeth and beatings from the yuletide beast.

I once heard an evangelical minister say. “Heaven without hell is like the news, one with out the other and it’s just news. Just add hell and good news becomes really good news.” In comparison Santa is really a saint.

Even today during Christmas festivals in Europe the Krampus makes his appearance in holiday parades alongside the Father of Christmas to serve as a reminder that it more that just pays to be good, lest you end up going to hell, in a hand-basket.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Quick Sketch

Watercolor, ink & pencil on Moleskine paper

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tastes Like Chicken

On my last night in Orlando while driving around looking for a place to eat, friend and coworker Larry Guinn got a call from one of his employees telling him that he had to try a restaurant that was very different from the normal chain.

After driving 45 minutes out of town past 8 toll booths and well out of the Orlando city limits we drove down several winding trails until we reached the Black Hammock Recreational Area. Once there we saw that there were two bars, one restaurant and an airboat tour company.

We sat down in the covered, screened in patio of the Black Hammock restaurant and ordered some of the local samplings. We ordered a half-pound of alligator tail in buffalo wing sauce. Larry ordered the Florida Sampler consisting of a whole fried catfish, alligator and several frog legs. I thought that the legs would be miniscule, but it turned out that they were the size of a small drumstick.

I ordered a half-pound of blackened alligator. The consistency was tender, the meat flavorful, but the first thing I noticed was that it tasted like chicken. Upon asking I found out that the restaurant procures their alligator two different ways. They either get it from local hunters and in that case the meat ends up tasting pretty gamey, like fish seeing as that is the larger part of the animals diet in the wild. The "free range" meat that I was eating was farm raised and was fed chicken hence the flavor.

Upon telling Jill what I had for dinner and what it tasted like, her response was, "why just not eat Chicken?"

Only in Phoenix

It is 109 degrees today and it's going to be over 105 for the next 7 days. This sign at the public pool caught my eye in that it bought up a couple of dichotomies:

1. It's so hot, that you have to be warned to seek shade like some sort of duck and cover warning.

2. There are not a lot of shade trees like that here in the desert, maybe they should have used an image of a saguaro cactus instead.

The Holy Grail

After years of searching, I have finally found it. It's been a good 20 years since I've had a decent cup a cappuccino. Seems like every time you ask for one you end up getting some oversize latte in a Jacuzzi size mug or some type of caffeine shake with whip cream and chocolate syrup. Turns out that just across the street from Joe's BBQ in Gilbert is the Market City Cafe (also owned by Joe) makes the best espresso in the greater Phoenix area. Now if I could just figure out how to get there and back in time for work in the morning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fun with TypeDrawing

Aimee had some fun with a new app that I loaded onto the iPhone

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Activity - Swim Team

To add to the other sports that Aimee participates in (Aikido, archery, Kendo and rock climbing) she is now on the local Parks and Recreation swim team. After her first practice she declared that it is the hardest workout among the sports that she already participates in.

Random Photos - Downtown Gilbert, AZ

I love Joe's BBQ, that have such fantastic food there. If you are ever in the neighborhood, eat at Joe's.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A First Time for Everything

Today was my first day in bogu. Needless to say, it was pretty rough. I’ve come to the conclusion that Kendo is like sword fighting in a spacesuit. I was able to wear the tare (waist and hip protector) and the do (the chest protector) last Thursday’s practice. Today I was able to put on the whole enchalada. I added the kote (the glove-like hand and wrist protector) and the men (head and face protection, sort of).

Swinging the shinai (the bamboo sword) is completely different. The initial position that you start out in and transition to in the swing feel completely different. Even how you grip the shinai is somewhat challenging in the cumbersome kote.
While the bogu is made to protect, it does not completely isolate the wearers completely from the strikes. There is some pain involved. I took a couple of shots to the top of the head that have left a sore spot from today’s practice. While practicing strikes to the wrist or kote I was feeling a sort of an electrical jolt fly up my arm each time after I was struck. I then realized that I had the extra pad for protecting the wrist that is worn under the kote was on the wrong arm.

Seeing, hearing and breathing are greatly restricted while wearing the headpiece or men. The men is also somewhat heavy so on occasion you find your head bobbing around from the weight of the metal mask in the front.
I know that even though I had been exposed to Kendo throughout my life and had understood many of the basics and principles I now know that I know nothing at all. I know that despite the fact that I have spent the past 10 months to get to this point of getting beyond the basics of strikes, swinging, control and foot work that I am again starting all over again...from day one.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Visit to Lee Lee's Asian Supermarket

Once you walk in, it becomes very clear that you are not in your average supermarket.
It is not what you expect from your average visit to Ralph's or the Piggly Wiggly. One step in to Lee Lee's Asian supermarket and you can see that you are in a different world.

Unfortunately you won't find Wonder bread or Skippy peanut butter, buy you will find at least find 20 different types of rice, 15 different types of choi (more than just the Bok type) and more tea...well, almost more types that can be found in China. While many supermarkets dedicate one or two portions of an aisle to international foods, Lee Lee's contains nothing but selections from all around the world.

While western markets appear very sterile and very removed from where food comes from making a some what surreal experience, this market makes it very clear where animal protein comes from. In the fish department you get to pull your choice live from the tank. Ducks are roasted with the head on.

Just walking through the aisles alone can be overwhelming. I had heard of Vietnamese fish sauce, the infamous nuac mam, but in one row alone I counted 37 different types of it.

Try that instead of peanut butter.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

So Shines a Good Deed Upon a Weary World

Aimee decided to go for her Bronze Award with the Girl Scouts this year. For her project she decided collect food donations for the Chandler Food Bank for the homeless. To get the award she was required to come up with an idea and to work 17 hours of community service. She organized her idea, wrote letters and created a flier and went door to door to 108 houses in the community. My initial thought that we’d get 5 donations from neighbors that we knew. I turned out to be way wrong.

We got donations from about 60 houses and filled the back of the Honda Pilot with bags and bags of food.

I estimate that we got about 300 pounds of food in one day. An amazing feat by an 11 year-old.

It was great to see the outpouring of support from our neighbors. It was great to hear from them in the notes that they left Aimee saying what a great thing she was doing. It was amazing to see that my daughter has managed to make a small, positive impact on the world.

That’s “Fu-Ro-Re-Tzu” to You

One of the things that one is required to do in Kendo is to get an identifying panel that is attached to the middle of the waist protector or “tare” on the armor section of the Bogu.
The Zekken is like a nametag of sorts in that it identifies the practitionier seeing as they are not easily identifiable once the headpiece or “men” is worn.
The Zekken usually lists the school or dojo that the person is from, their last name in English and in Japanese. Seeing as many westerners are practicing kendo they must have their names translated into a pronouncable form of Japanese. In Katakana each character represents a consonant and a vowel. Using this type of format just about any word or name can be utilized by Japanese speakers so that it could be more easily used.
Some examples of this are:
Hot Dog = ho tu do gu
California = ca ri fo ni an nu
Ice Cream = Aei su ku re mu
Maruice White (the lead singer of Earth Wind and Fire) = Morisu Howaito
In our case, since we have the infamous “L” in our name and with no “L” in the Japanese language we had to have our names spelled out the long way ‘round.
Four characters, Fu, Ro, Re & Tzu

Pocket Dump

“What’s in your pockets?”

Capturing An Essence

I saw this commercial and had to laugh out loud. It was a combination of the characters of Charleton Heston and the legend of Chuck Norris in a Latin format to create this new spokesperson for Dos Exquis. I too shall drink the elixir of the two X’s and perhaps become more interesting.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Aimee Gets Armor

It was a pretty big deal for her, but on Sunday our instructors brought over a set of bogu for Aimee to borrow. It was like Christmas day for her. It was a wonderful sight.