TSA: “Nothing to see here.” [shifty eyes]

“It’s perfectly normal for an employee who makes $9 an hour to be able to steal a 20 ton commercial aircraft,” says representative of government agency that fails at its mission over 90% of the time.

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supersonic will soon be back, but it won’t be big

Sometimes technology seems to go backwards.  For example, the US used to operate the shuttle which was a relatively advanced reusable spaceplane.  Now NASA has nothing, and the replacement vehicle in development has more in common with the Apollo or Soyuz space capsules than it does with the shuttle.

Likewise, Concorde first flew in 1976.  Here we are over 40 years later and every single commercially viable passenger plane of any size is exclusively subsonic.  I’ll save my thoughts pf NASA’s failures for another day.  Today I want to focus on supersonic.  More and more in the news you see that several companies are trying to dive back into supersonic.

But first, what happened after 1976?  In short, supersonic failed for a number of reasons:

– It was never cost effective: Concorde burned a lot of fuel, had a large maintenance footprint, and could never get the cost per seat / seat vacancy ratios correctly to turn a consistent profit.

– Development: Because of the cost considerations, nobody saw a reason to develop a successor to Concorde.  By the end of the 20th Century, Concorde was a 20 year old design and the airframes were reaching the end of usable service.

– 2000: The Air France crash was the end of the road.  Adding up the cost and service life against the reality of a full crash was the end of the program.

And there we’ve sat for decades.  But now folks are willing to try again.  Why:

a) Air travel and airline technology has become so advanced as to be scary in terms of safety. Western airlines have a safety record that’s downright miraculous. Lawnmowers kill more people each year.

b) Modern super fuel efficient engines combined with advanced computing might be close to cracking the code on the cost problem. When you add in the composites that make the newer airframes strong and lighter I think they might cross the threshold on turning a profit per flight.

c) Humanity is more obsessed with time. In the business world, seconds matter whereas when Concorde last flew perhaps only minutes mattered. Think of it, in 2000 smartphones didn’t even exist.  The world has gotten faster, and so I think folks will be far more inclined to put down the cash when they’re staring at the reality of a flight time that gets cut in half.

But will it work?  Well, let’s examine the most realistic commercial supersonic venture.

Boom Supersonic has already booked aircraft orders, 10 from Virgin, and 20 from JAL.  The expectation is they’re flying commercially by 2025.  Its jets will seat 55 passengers, go across the Atlantic in half the current time, and cost approximately $5K per ticket.  Boom claims to have cracked the code on fuel efficiency and subduing the impact of the dreaded sonic boom.

My conclusions:

1) I searched online, trying to book over two months in advance, Heathrow to JFK with a one week dwell.  The cost for an Economy seat is $400.  Boom’s jet is single aisle, single seat each side.  To me, this is an exclusively Business / First Class jet.  Economy does not apply. For a Business flight it’s all over the place.  You can go on TAP Portugal for $2.1K.  Air France is $6K.  United is $7K  To fly BA is $7.5K.

So let’s get something straight.  If Boom states that it’s $5K per seat they either mean the cost to them and/or they’re fibbing on future prices.  When all the major carriers are already charging Atlantic rides for well over $5K for subsonic, then my back of the napkin math says a Boom supersonic seat costs closer to $10K.

So right off the bat you’re looking at a ticket that’s 20 times more expensive between Economy and supersonic.  Thus, to declare that the supersonic ticket is already in the realm of the super-rich is an understatement.  Already it’s the same high-risk niche market Concorde had to struggle with.

2) I don’t care what Boom or others claim, the sonic boom problem is a major problem.  Even if Boom can produce a severely muffled boom, they still can’t break physics, there will still be a boom.   And if there’s a sonic boom, it’s going to be regulated.  If it’s regulated, it’s not going to be easy.

All supersonic has to do is lightly tap one skyscraper apartment window in Manhattan and there will be people up in arms about how the boom is giving them phantom headaches.  Then the lawyers come out of the bushes and it’s a gigantic mess.  Can Boom and other companies get around this by only going supersonic over water, sure.  But in the end as with Concorde, the sonic boom problem is not going to be a rounding error.  It’s a big problem.

3) Think about the turnover rate of a standard subsonic jet.  Take a 737 flying inside the US.  On any given day, one jet is expected to fly over half-a-dozen flights.  They have to turnover at the gate in less than an hour and get back in the air.  They have to not seriously break over hundreds of hours of constant flight.  They have to do it at the safety rate of zero crashes.  Can Boom or other companies crack the code on this, keep the aircraft available enough to fly again and again to generate profit, and do it safely every single fight?  I think they can definitely do it.  But I’m not sure they can do it and consistently make money.  New technology is hard to master.  And going supersonic on a completely new airframe isn’t going to be an easy thing to do.

You need only look at the development hell Airbus and Boeing have gone through with their latest subsonic jets to realize how hard building airplanes is.  Going supersonic is going to generate a whole new level of difficulty.  Plus, Boom is a company that doesn’t have a sustained record of success with previous aircraft models.  Look at what happened with the Bombardier CSeries.  That jet crashed out in development hell because Bombardier made too many mistakes.  They had to sell out the airframe to Airbus for like $1 to avoid bankruptcy.  And the CSeries is a pretty basic modern subsonic jet, and it still was impossible for Bombardier to succeed.  I’m not sure I think companies like Boom truly understand how hard their task will be to develop and build supersonic without going bankrupt in the process.

In closing, I think we’ll see supersonic return and soon.  But given that the passenger market is still only the exclusive rich, the remaining associated problem of profit risk, and my concerns about technology development, I think the end result is supersonic is going to be a very, very small footprint by say 2030.  Only a handful of jets will fly and the companies that run them will be scraping by paycheck to paycheck on cost.  In the end, I don’t think supersonic is going to be viable for major airlines on anything but a small scale.  It’ll be a niche market, or perhaps become a major chunk of the private jet market.  But large scale from major airlines?  I just don’t see it.

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But who knows, maybe I’m wrong?

Alexander Part II: The journey aboard the Memnon

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Years later, we would often debate on who had made such a grave mistake.  With the remains of the previous night’s raki still fogging our brains every memory was clouded by nonsense.  And so each version of events was as different as the personalities in our party.  But I for one, regardless of whose mistake it was, am always reminded of a tenant of life: Never ask a thief to buy something for you.

And so after an expert, hearty breakfast prepared by one of Zeki’s men, we prepared to depart Istanbul bound for our adventure.  Stelios met us at the central terminal having bought the tickets that (somebody) had volunteered him to procure.  With glee, and a slap upon his packet of papers did Stelios state with a flourish, “Granicus.  Let’s go!”

All of us stared at Stelios without comprehension.  Until Mut offered, simply, “Granicus is Ottoman.”

“Yes!” Stelios lit a cigarette and dragged with pleasure.

“We’re going to Greece,” said George wearily.

Stelios waved his lit cigarette, “Why would we…”

“Greece is where Alexander started…”, George implored.

“…but to find Alexander,” Stelios clapped his palms together, “we must of course venture to his first great victory against the Persians!”

Mut shook his head, “Greece first.”

“No, Granicus,” Stelios stabbed his cigarette, “We will let you guide us through the oh so many Moslem worlds that await us, but for the moment, this is my part.  My part, and to Granicus we go.”

Mut again, deadpan, “Granicus is Moslem.”

Either out of frustration or sheer drive, Alianna stepped forward and ripped the tickets from the packet, and with the slightest of whispers did state into Stelios’ ear, “Idiot.”  And she was off toward the ticket office.  The rest of us meekly and with resignation followed.  She returned shortly afterwards with the steamer tickets for Chalcis.

Alexander was born in Pella, in theory.  But at that time he was just a baby, a human, and a reasonable calculation would have termed his political future (and his very life) doomed.  We were bound for Chalcis, and then through the dusty background of the Greek countryside we would edge the outskirts of Attica and then cross over the borders into Boeotia.  Finally we would stumble upon a little hamlet, the place where Alexander was born.  Chaeronea.  Granicus would come, but only later.

We bade goodbye to Istanbul, a place we would remain inexplicably linked to throughout our adventures but would not see for a very long time.  Zeki had left me with a great deal of letters and contacts for our forthcoming journeys.

The docks were a mass of humanity.  Shoulder to shoulder we pushed through the crowds for the steamship piers.  All of Istanbul seemed primed to dispense with most of the day’s business before the afternoon, before the heat returned.  Yet surrounded by traders, hackers, herders, moneymen, longshoremen, one quickly heats up anyways.

As always I was glad for my loose traveling clothes which equally fit a sun scorched mountain as a busy dockside.  George’s apparel quite agreed with my style.  I didn’t know how Mut and Stelios did it, with their tailored and pristine suits, saved from a bath only by the handkerchiefs they repeatedly bore.  Or Alianna, who wore her styled intoxicating garb with grace, but seemed to carry no handkerchief nor any sweat upon her brow.

We plowed our way to the jetty and our ride in Memnon, a coastal steamship whose material condition seemed perfectly suited to safely take us the seven-hundred yards across the Bosporus without incident, but not much further.  I made a note to thank my Uncle for teaching me how to swim the next time I found myself compelled to pray at some point in the forthcoming month.

I observed with pleasure the timetables and that our journey south would likely mirror the routes in which the triremes had sailed these waters.  We would hug Ottoman Europe and the Greek coast until we met Chalcis.  We would stop for passengers by choice.  The Ancient Greeks had to stop most nights and pull their vessels ashore just to remain afloat.  Our journey would take two days, theirs took weeks.  We would eat comfortably amongst our fellow passengers.  They would cook along beaches by the fireside.  Despite Memnon’s condition, I felt safe enough to enjoy the forthcoming ride.  They praised the gods every time their journey ended without them consigned to the deep.

As we pulled from the shore we left behind the heat that emanated from the city like a bird fleeing a warm desert rock.  The cool sea breeze dried the moisture from our faces and we drank it in as energy more powerful than the best of coffee.  Though Alianna had already found a mug of that too, and I began to wonder if she would always have some attached to her hand.

Memnon’s captain helmed her with the skill of a man who has done something thousands of times, effortless and with art.  The Bosporus certainly had all the charm of history, but could have done without the filth that clouded its historic waters.  After five thousand years, civilization had taken its toll on the cliffs, the stark beaches, the fishing settlements, and suburbs of the great Ottoman city.

I found my forearms planted upon the rail until the sun reddened the back of my neck.  Mothers dumped buckets of waste across the shore as children played behind them.  Fisherman plied their trade in thumb sized boats unchanged in their design since Alexander.  Bland villages found their way atop bluffs, astride cliffs, all competing pell-mell for access to the sea.

It was difficult, impossible even, to accurately imagine a time with most of this land as barren countryside between the oasis of villages that dotted the desolate landscape like stars in the night sky.  Much to my sickness, I allowed my mind to wander too far, too beyond usefulness.  And my thoughts turned to the reality that all our ship passed as it strode south was now in service to the maw of one singular man in The Sultan.

So much history, so much progress, and yet a poor fisherman still conducted his life driven by base needs, equipped with the minimalist of technology, and still bound by fate of the same kind of ruler as had been in charge for longer than it took the wind to smooth jagged rocks.

Were my adventures, my efforts any different?  I began to regret ever coming upon this journey.  I suddenly found myself wondering what in God’s name I was thinking.  I felt the need to escape.  My Browning, expertly tucked inside my belt at the small of my back, round chambered, began to feel three times as heavy.  I wanted the adventure, but I felt as if I didn’t want to go through the effort to get it.

Only shame kept me from doing anything other than gutting it out.  And the hope that once we really got started, things would begin to feel better.  Though my companions were all volunteers, and certainly knew the danger, I wondered if they understood just how many of those I’d traveled with in the past were by now but dust and bones.

George seemed much the same, only more so.  It seemed Allah’s sight did not progress beyond the brow of the Ottoman ship, and given the large number of Greek passengers, alcohol was served with abandon.  It wasn’t long before George was drunk, and stayed drunk.

Mut gambled, and gambled.  Then he gambled some more.  Cards, dice, dominoes, what bird would get the next fish, what time we’d make our next port, the fate of his daughter (I don’t believe he had one), and whatever else struck his moment.

Stelios seemed glued to the stern, where he had somehow procured the finest of deck chairs.  There he planted his liberated bare feet upon the rail, his jacket off and sleeves rolled, leaned back and read almost anything he could find.  I did not inquire where he got the chair, one that seemed fit for a king, or perhaps a steamboat captain.

I tried, quite hard, to make myself useful in what became an expedition for Alianna to talk to just about anybody who seemed capable of conversation.  It quickly dawned on me that she either relished it or needed it, constantly, it was her alcohol, her gambling, her reading material.

She seemed to select candidates from among the other passengers.  Once she found her mark, whoever was the most interesting, they became her focus to the exclusion of all others.  The Sultan’s detective from Gallipoli who was on the case but bound for the wrong port, the accountant from Alexandroupoli who had just made his fortune, the graceless Thessalonian grandmother who Mut couldn’t beat at anything, and the Albanian child who wrote poetry in pencil on the margins of discarded newspapers.

I couldn’t keep up with her, much to my disappointment.  I didn’t know yet if I wanted her, but any man in the presence of any such woman would be inhuman not to desire at least some attention.  As it was never forthcoming, I found myself retiring to my meager cabin more and more.  Often with the kicker required to relax and sleep with ease, though not nearly at the levels George seemed to require.

Somewhere along our brief time at sea I once again had that feeling of being watched.  But my mood, the drink, or the benign nature of riding a derelict steamship all combined to force my aspect into one of complete disengagement.  If we were watched, I didn’t care.  It didn’t matter to me.  The adventure had just begun, but perhaps had already lost its edge.

It had never been that way for Alexander.  His adventure took half a decade to lose its steam.  Mine lasted three days.

But as with all things, life can turn at any moment.

And in the dark of my cabin, well into the dead of a silent night, was broken by pounding, a sharply opened door, and a wide-eyed-bare-shirted Stelios who scraped, “George went over the side!”

I was out the door in a blink and darting with Stelios towards the stern.  Our bare feet patted the deck in slaps.  “Why didn’t you go in after him?” I fiercely shouted.

Between breaths, “I can’t swim, by God.”

As we made it to the stern and Stelios’ deck chair I nearly vaulted over the rail but found it nearly impossible to see anything other than the whitewash of the wake against black water and a cloudy night sky.  Within a second I came to the overwhelming calculation that a drunk George was a dead man the second he departed the boat and well before he ever hit the water.

And then my eyes caught up with my nerves, and I realized that Stelios’ deck chair hadn’t been vacant, but very much occupied.  I snapped around and behind me, very much seated, was George.  I then received the unbridled laughter of them both.

Out of relief, and remembering things I had done in my past, I began to smile and chuckle, but fueled by anger I grabbed for Stelios’ collar, but got his neck instead forgetting he was without a shirt, “In God’s name are you insane!”

“His face,” Stelios spit to George, “His face was the payoff.”  More laughter.

George, his eyes barely open but hopeful, “We’re out of fuel, have you got any money?”

I turned about, my palms on my head.  Then came about again and rammed a crunch of bills from my pocket into George’s chest.  He was on his feet and headed forward far faster than he should have been able in his condition.  And I suddenly knew I needed a huge pull of whatever he returned with.

Unconsciously, I began to smile, widely.  Then I laughed, and felt alive, so very alive.  Stelios, now clearly intoxicated to my calmed eyes, clapped me on the shoulder and leaned in, “Just so you know, I really can’t swim.  Not a bit.”

having had some time to think on it

I probably first discovered Bourdain in about 2007.  This was during his time at No Reservations back when I still had cable.  It was well before anybody really knew who he was.  At this point he was just another obscure cable television host.

Sure, those in the food scene knew him and he’d written a relatively famous book.  But most average folks had no idea who he was.  I got immediately hooked on No Reservations and ended up watching most episodes.

It was also at this point that Bourdain began to become a wider part of the food / travel scene and also our wider modern culture.  I remember he gave some interview online and I forwarded it to my brothers.  I think they thought this was weird, and were like, who’s this random guy?

But years after that I remember my brother forwarding me a radio interview he’d done.  Bourdain in a few short years had gone from relative obscurity to being well known across a variety of circles.

I kind of kept in touch with what Bourdain was doing over the years but never really got into Parts Unknown.  Whenever I was at the airport or entirely bored in a hotel, if it was on, I’d watch it.  But I never sought it out.

Part of my issue with Parts Unknown is it had a poor food to travel ratio.  This was also the case with later episodes of No Reservations.  I could be entirely mistaken but it seems as time went on, more and more of each episode was just Tony eating.  Whereas in say 2007 most of the episode was travel focused.

Again I could be wrong, that’s just my impression.  I like food too, but the most compelling parts of No Reservations to me was never the food, but always Bourdain traveling and giving his thoughts on life and the local areas.

Ultimately what drew folks to Bourdain was his ability to to put himself into the shoes of anybody on the planet, understand them, capture that, and then explain it to somebody else not there.

This is not an easy skill to master and employ.  And one that if you spend eight seconds on social media and the news, that most folks don’t even care to learn.  Today’s culture seems to be about conquest, not understanding.

And that was never Bourdain.  And that’s why people like me who are just not into celebrities or modern culture sort of worshiped this guy’s message.

One of the most compelling episodes is where Bourdain spends time with Ted Nugent.  A guy who even his most fervent supporters could not deny is a total lunatic.  Bourdain had his politics too, but he always wore it with a light touch, something other entertainers could learn a lot from.

I forget the line, I’m summarizing, but Bourdain essentially says something like: I don’t have to agree with you, to like you.  If I’m remembering this right, then that line should be tattooed onto everybody’s skull cavity today.

I’ve avoided thus far writing about his death, so I could think on it.  In the end, sadly I believe he’ll be known to many as just another celebrity who killed themselves.  I don’t know why he did it.  Nobody ever will I suppose.  It doesn’t matter though.  Life is sacred, but suicide is all too easy.

My coworkers and I found another coworker at a gas station with a whiskey bottle and a loaded pistol in his lap.  I still get the shakes wondering what if we’d been a half-hour late.  Like most people who’ve been to the darkest of places, once or twice I was probably at very serious risk of suicide.  My family, my friends, my dogs, my coworkers helped me back.  But essentially, suicide is no joke, and it’s everywhere.  Even when somebody seems like they’re okay, you should always be there to help, always be there for somebody, because you never know what’s going on inside somebody’s head.  Nobody can do life alone.

I suppose in the end, all I can say is that there are many, many voices in today’s world.  Most of them are simply not worth listening to.  Anthony Bourdain was a voice to absorb, and to pass on.

We need more people like him.

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Kamakura – Engaku-ji

Lost amidst the fervent nationalism that’s now the norm in the Western Pacific is how longstanding and deep the ties are between peoples.  From 1274 to 1281 the Mongols, alongside their Chinese and Korean vassals, conducted a series of invasions against Japan.  All failed for a variety of reasons, not least of which was a series of typhoons and the emergence of what would become the samurai warrior class.

In 1282 to commemorate the victories, honor the dead on all sides, and to push forward Zen Buddhism in Japan, the then shōgun Hōjō Tokimune ordered the construction of Engaku-ji.  He enlisted the help of a Chinese monk in Mugaku Sogen.  Zen became a huge part of the ruling culture’s psyche and was integral in the emergence of the samurai and what they were.

In the sense, Hōjō got exactly what he’d wanted.  He’s buried there.  And while the days of the Kamakura Shōgunate long passed it remained a key feature in Japanese Buddhism throughout history.  It’s a must see if you’re anywhere near Kamakura and it couldn’t be easier to get to via JR East’s Yokosuka Line which essentially drops you right at the temple entrance.

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The Sanmon, two story main gate, looking from it’s back towards the entrance.  As is typical for just about any ancient Japanese structure, fire constantly requires rebuilding.  The current version was reconstructed in 1785.

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Now walking up from the front of the Sanmon.

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Engaku-ji is still a functioning temple.  I didn’t get too close but there were folks practicing archery.  Note the target in the distance.

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Note the guy on the right with a typical Japanese longbow, as tall as a man (he is kneeling).  Despite the reputation of the katana, I suspect the real killers on most Japanese battlefields were the archers.

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I love the contrast in light on this shot.

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Find the fishy.

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The monk’s quarters.

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The Great Bell, Ogane, cast in 1301.  The largest temple bell in the wider Tokyo area.

cooking in a kitchen that’s not your own

Well, it’s been two months since my employer (dressed as an evil smiling clown) black bagged me in the middle of the night and sent me abroad.  And my precious, precious doggies are doing well with my host family, but I miss them.  I also miss my kitchen.  A lot.

This has ended up being a far bigger issue than I would have expected.  If you cook regularly, we all have our kitchens.  We know them.  It’s downright transparent.  You might make an alteration here and there, but it’s essentially static.  The dynamic factor is the food.

We also have what I guess you can call guest kitchens.  For example I cook at my Ma’s for me Ma all the time.  I know that kitchen like the back of my hand.  It means nothing for me to cook over there as if it was my own.

So I guess I just kind of assumed since work wasn’t sending me to the middle of Vlad’s Siberia wonderland or a tiger filled jungle that I’d have a real kitchen, figure it out, and it would be fine.  Right?  Nope.  But, why?

1) Bare Basics

Because I’m abroad for a limited time I didn’t get to bring my stuff.  Work has a local contract (which wouldn’t pass most Western anti-corruption standards) to provide me the very bare bones basics at my apartment.  This means I’ve got some plates, a few bowls, and six sad water glasses.  I’ve also got some D grade pots and pans manufactured in Yugoslavia Circa 1989.

You can forget the most benign of kitchen items are important to you, until they don’t exist.  Out here I have bowls, but they’re of a shallow nature, and hold only enough liquid for a six year old’s soup  I made curry and the broth was a rather light consistency.  Given the small bowl size I had hardly any food in there.

In frustration, I ended up using a pot as my eating bowl instead.  I’m there eating straight out of the pot and I look over and there’s this Viking ghost sitting next to me doing the same.  He hoists his drinking horn in a toast, I hoist my cheap ass local beer can made of cadmium.  Cheers my Viking brother, I’ve gone back in time.  It burns.  The spicy curry, not the cadmium, not yet anyways.

How about spices?  How about starting from zero, nothing.  At home I might have 50 spices of a variety that would make a 16th Century Portuguese smuggler angry and pull his cutlass.  Out here I had a bare cupboard.  I’ve methodically replenished jar by jar for weeks.

At first I didn’t get new measuring cups because I didn’t want to buy new ones.  I eyed everything.  Then I realized you really can’t write proper recipes without them.  So I had to go buy new measuring cups I didn’t want to purchase.

Remember grating cheese or vegetables?  This is a pretty standard task, right?  But what happens when you don’t have a grater?  You have to make a tactical decision on whether it’s important enough to buy a new grater.  Countless, countless decisions need to be made on how important things and tools are to you.

So you’re probably like, well, whatever man, just go buy all this stuff.  It’ll be fun, right?  But, …

2) Waste

I already have a grater, and spices, and bowls, and whatever back home.  So I’m going to buy new items to satisfy my kitchen needs out here, for what, one year and some change?  I had to buy a new colander because you essentially can’t cook without one.

But I’ve got like five or six different sized colander’s back home.  So this was an unnecessary purchase.  I felt really bad buying it even though I knew I absolutely needed it.  So what do I do with it after I’m done here?  Ship it home?  I need a seventh colander less than a mercenary elf assassin.

So I guess I’ll ship the new one home, and donate one of my older colanders to charity?  I guess?

It’s not that big a deal for these minor tools I suppose.  A colander or a peeler or a wooden spoon are small, relatively cheap, and just not that big of an impact to anything.  But, …

3) Gear

For the first few years of my cooking journey I didn’t really employ gear.  You need good knives, good pans, a large steel mixing bowl, etc.  For a long while I never used things like a food processor, blender, spice grinder, any of that.  But once I did, and learned how to use them well.  They became essential tools.

This is even truer for me because I like to cook and experiment with various cuisines from around the globe.  Now without this gear I feel my powers are reduced.  There’s less magic to be made.  Buying a new colander I don’t need is minor waste.  Buying a new food processor that costs north of three figures?  I haven’t done that.  I won’t do that.

And so in the meantime: I’m in a dark cave, behind me are a bunch of kidnapped urchin children I’m rescuing.  The cursed bear is up on his hind legs, roaring, foaming with delight, urchins are screaming in terror.  “I’ll deal with him,” I firmly state.  I reach for my sorcerer wand, and nothing is there.  Then the urchins are running and screaming as the bear rips me in half.  But, …

4) The Past

I don’t know how my Grandparents did it.  It’s weird to think about.  The number one thing I typically wonder is how they cooked all that delicious food with so little counter space.  The answer is I think they did a ton of prep actually at the kitchen table.  In those days the table was actually right in the kitchen.

My Grandmother had a double stack oven, the kind where you have two whole elements you could set to different temperatures.  So that capability was awesome, and actually in excess of what most kitchens have today.  But they didn’t have fancy tools like food processors or spice grinders.  They probably didn’t let a of lack spice jars bother them as much as it does me.

So it’s tough to know how much of my current kitchen is real legitimate frustration on my part, and how much of it is I’m an amateur cook who’s a spoiled brat.  I’m still cooking and cooking well out here, it’s just a slog at times with these various limitations.  It sucks when you plan a meal, you’re in the zone, and you reach for (x) and you’ve entirely forgotten you don’t have it.

So you flex, and get it done, and the food tastes great.  But it was much harder to do, and so there’s a commensurate lapse in enjoyment.

Not sure how I feel about all this.  But that’s about it.  I miss my dogs.  I really miss my family and friends.  I’ll get the kitchen back too, and that’ll be nice.

In the meantime, it’s been a good long while since I put a recipe up here.  More on that, and soon.  After all, work made me.

enforcing the customs of a land not your own

Learning how other people live is one of the great joys of travel.  It enriches your life and generally makes you understand humanity and appreciate home more.  But it can also get weird, the kind of experience that makes you think deeply.  Or write about it on a garbage blog penned by a closet lunatic.

In America when you get fruits or vegetables at the grocery, the checkout cashier is the one who enters the appropriate code, weighs / counts the produce, and determines the price you pay.  Where I currently live, there is a separate and distinct produce counter that performs this function.

I learned this the hard way when I first showed up at the till and they got mad at me.  I actually kind of like this process a lot better.  Though America will never change to it because we prefer the brute force method.

In America, depending on what caliber of cashier you get, you can spend a long time just sitting there while they confusingly look up the appropriate four digit produce code.  I buy a heroic amount of fruits and vegetables so this is a big deal for me.  When you have a tailored produce cashier, it’s all they do, and so they fly.  They know the codes cold, and it’s nice and quick.

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Anyways, yesterday I get in line at the produce checkout.  I’ve got fifteen or so items.  I’m behind a middle-aged housewife who has more than me.  The checkout lady is doing her thing.  I lay out my items behind the housewife and wait my turn.  Then a guy steps up next to me and puts his one bag on the counter in front of mine.

So essentially this guy has cut in line without saying a word to me.  A foreigner like me, he looks like a bald Jeremy Corbyn (which probably explains his behavior).  Without saying a word, I give this guy the death eyes.  This causes him to mumble something and pick up his bag.  Then a series of thoughts occurred in my simpleton brain in quick succession:

– Why are you making an issue of this?  It really doesn’t matter.  We humans are all just shadows and dust.  Your bleached skeleton status awaits.

– Is there some local custom where since I have like fifteen things, and he has just one, that he can cut in line and it’s just cool, he doesn’t have to say anything?

– Or, even if he’s just a jerk, who cares?  Be the better man.

So after I got two of my produce scanned, I stopped the checkout lady, and motioned to Jeremy to get his one item scanned.  He nodded thank you and moved on.  And I’m left to ponder my thoughts about culture and morality and whatever.

BUT, then I turn around and see there are six people in line behind me.  Some of them have only one or two items too.  And, some of them are elderly.  So it’s not culture, it’s just this guy was a jerk.  He was just probably a guy who takes candy from street urchins on the 1835 Paris streets.

Dude should have gotten in line like everyone else.

That’s it! My Guests and I shall summon our good old friend Enforcement Drone Version 2.09 (ED209) as our assistant in resolving this matter.  We’ll enforce the customs of this foreign land on our own!

1) Guilt

Jeremy wrongly cuts in produce checkout line.  ED209 saunters up and wryly comments to the individual in his stale robot voice.

ED209: ATTENTION SIR, THERE IS A LINE.  CAN YOU NOT SEE THE ELDERLY INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE PATIENTLY WAITING WHILE YOU ARE NOT?  WHY DO YOU HATE THE ELDERLY?  HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?

2) Shame

ED209 walks up, observes Jeremy has cut in line.  ED209 then activates his video streaming device.

ED209: ATTENTION SIR, THIS INCIDENT HAS BEEN RECORDED ON VIDEO, WITH SPECIAL ATTENTION PAID TO THE FACES OF THE ELDERLY THAT YOU CUT AHEAD OF.  COPIES OF THIS INCIDENT WILL BE PROVIDED TO ALL RELEVANT MEMBERS OF YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY.  REPEAT COPIES WILL BE MAILED TO THEM ON ALL YOUR FUTURE BIRTHDAYS.

3) Fear

ED209 walks up and shoots the individual in the kneecap.

ED209: YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF OUR ESTABLISHMENT’S PRODUCE SANITARY STANDARDS.  WE WILL INSIST YOU PAY FULL PRICE FOR YOUR BLOOD SPATTERED FRUIT.  WE WILL DENY ENTRY TO YOUR PERSON IN THE FUTURE TO AVOID FURTHER COMPLICATIONS.

4) Punishment

Jeremy cuts in line.  When he gets back to his car he finds ED209 has combusted it in an orgy of fire and flames.

ED209: YOU WILL NOW BE ASSESSED THE VARIOUS FEES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FORTHCOMING FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE, THE SCRAP STEEL REMOVAL FEES, AND VARIOUS GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL FINES.

5) Morality

ED209 forces him to sit down for a five hour chat on the various moral considerations involved with cutting in line, making a clear case for the values of a balanced ethical society.

6) Apathy

ED209 observes Jeremy, offers no comment or correction, hoping over time the individual in question establishes some type of internal corrective action guided by conscience.

Which ones of these will work? I’ll let you decide.

ed209

“Great work at the produce checkout today.  Fist bump, my brother!”  [ED209 shatters every bone in my hand; my screams are heard in the grocery parking lot]