Escape from Winter 2015

This winter was dragging on and on and on. Fortunately we’d foreseen a need for a break from it far in advance and planned a trip to Mexico to visit mis padres.

Some highlights, in no particular order:

  • pal Rachel did her own escape from Boston’s relentless winter by meeting us down there
  • Sarah and my dad did a duet at the BVG Open Mic session
  • picked up a replacement stone for my ring (onyx had cracked; got a nice blue/green fire opal in there now)
  • tried out Sonora Grill Prime at Plaza Neptuno (it was a great meal!)
  • took in a live music concert downtown
  • saw folk dancing representing regions all over Mexico at a free outdoor exhibition (get downtown early if you want to snag a seat)
  • admired the requisite sunrises and sunsets
  • clocked some pool time, recharging our solar cells

My beard’s gone; bring on the Spring

I’m over this winter stuff!

beard_no_beard

A couple weeks ago, I departed for a business trip to Romania. Upon my return, I headed to a local barbershop for a shave and a haircut1. This was the longest and thickest and most luxurious my beard has ever become, and knowing we were about to leave Germany for a week of warmer climes, I thought a professional shave might be a good way to kick off a sunny vacation. Plus, thinking of all the border control measures, I look a lot more like the picture in my passport now.

This was my first-ever paid shave. A tiny Southeast Asian barber lady at the mall took good care of my face during the whole process.

  • multiple confirmations before we got started: yes, really, please shave it all off
  • lots of creams, oils, and salves before, during, and after
  • warm towels, hot towels, cool towels
  • gentle stretching of my face during the scrapey-scrape-scraping away of four and a half months of beard growth

I hold the record for the number of straight razor blades dulled during one shave job: 3 She never encountered a beard which dulled three razors before. I am oddly proud of that, somehow.

After the shave was completed, my skin was a little irritated, but she was very careful not to cut me, and after a few hours the redness disappeared.

On the way home, I noticed how cold the wind was for the first time this winter. I’m ready for Spring now.

  1. “Two bits!” []

More thoughts on consumer privacy and electronic communication

The Guardian and NDR are reporting allegations that Google handed over journalists’ private personal data en masse in response to “catch-all” warrants against WikiLeaks’ employees, and then was not allowed to inform its clients, the journalists, that it did so for more than two years. On the NDR article page you can watch an interview in English with Sarah Harrison, an editor at WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks’ founder asserts that Google was complicit in the USA’s violation of its own constitution. I am not a lawyer, journalist, spy, political agitator, or hacker1. But the slippery slope facilitating that hand-over of data, irrespective of its legality, creeps me out. Continue reading More thoughts on consumer privacy and electronic communication

  1. in the criminal sense. But I do try to make software do what I want it to do where I am allowed to, so I guess I am a hacker in that sense. []

Atmospheric Conditions

The weather has been mighty weird around here lately. We’re down in the South, so we’re not getting battered by hurricane-force storms like the North is, but we’re still feeling its effects. The clouds, when not sprinkling rain, freezing rain, or (less recently) dumping big soft fluffy snowflakes onto us, are racing across the sky, bringing dynamic shadows to our town. The Danube is overflowing its banks on the islands, but not quite yet on the city side. It’s not far off, either.

Once in a while, when the clouds and sun play nice together, we get a rosy sky at dusk around 16:45:
Pink Sky

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

I’m sick of cooking. Yeah, I didn’t think it would ever happen, either, but the recently wrapped-up holiday season kinda tested my limits. Mostly because I’m tired of doing dishes, but at least part of it is a lack of inspiration. As much as I wanted to go out last night, I didn’t feel like spending the money, so I looked inward…to my pantry. It had to be something made from staples that wasn’t boring. The technique came from one recipe and the flavor profile from another and it yielded delicious results: subtly sweet and smoky, with a salty punch from cheese and some half & half to ease the acidic edges. And it came together in the amount of time it took to boil the pasta.

Maybe my mojo’s not entirely gone.

1 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T tomato paste
1/4 c white wine
1/2 t basil
1/2 t oregano
large pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 jar (3-4 peppers) roasted red peppers, drained, lightly rinsed and roughly chopped
2/3 c half & half
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
salt to taste*

In a small saucepan, heat oil and butter to medium-low. Sauté shallots and garlic until just tender, then stir in tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes. Add wine, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes, stir to combine and allow wine to reduce to 1/3 (the boozy smell the should be gone). Reduce heat to low, add the red peppers and half & half and stir until everything is combined. Allow to heat to a bare simmer, then blend with a stick blender until very smooth. Stir in the cheese and bring sauce to a simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, but do not allow it to get to a full boil. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Toss with pasta and serve with more cheese for sprinkling.

*The peppers I used had a little salt in them, as part of the preservation process. Combined with the cheese, that was salty enough for us. Plus, be careful not to blot out the peppers’ sweetness – I think that’s where the interest comes from.