Locomotoring

Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

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Palo Alto Baylands, Jan 2023

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Benches every quarter mile and plenty bird watching opportunity at this time of the year

This is a six mile hike starting at Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve Trailhead. We walked to South Adobe Creek Loop Trailhead on to Adobe Creek Trail, past the bowl, almost all the way to North Adobe Creek Loop Trailhead and back. We did take a minor detour through the Byxbee Park art installations, the pole field and wind wave. The park is beautiful and located on a sanitary landfill. Apparently, due to the nature of the land and sensitive habitat, there are no impermeable surfaces and all paths are of crushed oyster shells. There are no trees whose roots might pierce the clay cap. There is no irrigation so only native grasses are used! This Bay trail offers a longer walk, a lot more people as well as bird species compared to Bair Island.

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January 10, 2023 at 7:25 am

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Episode 3, Listening to the stars

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Episode 3 of our podcast, Archy and I, is now out. It is titled “No two blackholes sound alike“.

Night sky in Joshua Tree National Park, Same time last year, we were in Joshua Tree National Park. Having spent much of our lives in well lit cities and suburbs, any opportunity to watch the stars is precious.

This episode is an ode to the universe and the amazing human species that lives on this “mote of dust” that we call home. Universe is brilliant, whether we live or die. But the fact that we can explore the universe makes us ultra special. This episode has been swirling in our head for nearly a lifetime, but was made possible during the pandemic years.

First we see a blackhole and then we hear one. And it takes hard work of thousands of amazing scientists to see and hear something that we have theorized mathematically for almost a century. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing! In the coming years, we will see and hear a lot more blackholes. No two of them will be alike. I expect that the frequency of their discoveries will be a bit like the discovery timeline of exoplanets – first there was one, and soon there were many and last year, we surpassed seeing 5000. It is a bit like walking. Once you learn how to walk, you don’t stop, do you? And in the case of blackholes, there are 40 quintillion of them, that is 40 billion billion, waiting to be seen and heard.

The extra good thing in this episode is not one but two items, one is the Universe of Sound project for visually impaired and the second is System Sounds, a sci-art outreach project that translates the rhythm and harmony of the cosmos into music and sound. The common theme between the two is a human, Matt Russo, an astrophysicist and a musician.

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January 4, 2023 at 11:39 am

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2022, the year we took on our first 52 hikes challenge!

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The dogwood bloomed for over a month this year, 3 times its baseline!

After two years of being home bound, we started going out this year. Inertia had kicked in, so it took a lot more effort to get out. And we have a big reason to celebrate. We had decided to hike more frequently this year with a goal to hike new trails and explore new parks. Part way through the year, we realized that we could take on the 52 hikes challenge. And we did!

Highlights of our 52 hikes challenge: 

- Median number of hikes in any month: 3

- Maximum number of hikes in any month: 10 (in Dec)

- Total miles: >200 

- Median number of miles per hike: 4

- Median number of stairs per hike: 30

- Park visited most often: Edgewood (8 times!)

- Number of unique parks visited: >30
Rancho Canada del Oro was perfection itself.

While much has stayed the same – we started a few new habits, and improved upon some old ones. We adapted locomotoring tagline as it turned 16 this year. We added an audio blog (“Archy and I“) that explores and celebrates sounds. We hope that 2023 allows us to live with greater appreciation for good things in an increasingly complex world.

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December 31, 2022 at 7:58 am

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Locomotoring turns 16!

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When we started, in 2006, world was inhabited by 7 billion people. We started with the tagline and during the 16 years, it continued to be “Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …“. Many people think of the number seven as the lucky number. Did you know that seven is a mathematical Happy Number? In fact, it is the smallest Happy Number after the number 1.

Start with the square of the number:
7**2 = 49

Then take each digit of this number, square them and add them together:
4**2 + 9**2 = 16 + 81 = 97

and repeat:
9**2 + 7**2 = 81 + 49 = 130
1**2 + 3**2 + 0**2 = 1 + 9 = 10
1**2 + 0**2 = 1

The starting number that ends in 1 is a Happy Number. 

4 on the other hand is not a happy number (it is a Sad or an Unhappy number!): 
4**2 = 16
1**2 + 6**2 = 1 + 36 = 37
3**2 + 7**2 = 9 + 49 = 58
5**2+8**2 = 25 + 64 = 89
8**2 + 9**2 = 64 + 81 = 145
1**2 + 4**2 + 5**2 = 1+16 + 25 = 42
4**2 + 2**2 = 16 + 4 = 20
2**2+ 0**2 = 4

and so the process continues in an infinite cycle without ever reaching 1. 

So much has happened in last 16 years. The Webb telescope happened. The pandemic happened. The m-RNA vaccines and CRISPR gene editing are fast tracking eradication of some seriously nasty diseases. AirBnB changed how we travel. Podcasts and streaming videos gave us many new artists we now adore. Estimated world population hit 8 billion. The smart phones and social networks have made the world a cozier space.

We also grew a little wiser. We have started appreciating untethering, freeing the mind from strings, and boundaries. We have started appreciating the in-between ideas, the ones that are nebulous, and hard to decode. We have started appreciating the stillness, the lack of fidgets, and the silences. We started appreciating the art of kintsugi, the mindful repairs that embrace the damage. We started appreciating time, a dimension that operates non-linearly, and runs away faster than we notice.

We hope our new tagline reflects who we are today. “Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.”

Written by locomotoring

December 17, 2022 at 6:03 am

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Episode 2, Archy presents the melody of human voices

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Episode 2 of our newly minted podcast, Archy and I, is now available. It is titled “Melody is in the ears of the listener“.

DECEMBER 28
Happy Inspirations

"excuse me if my
writing is out of alignment i
fell into a bowl of
egg nog the other
day at the restaurant down
the street which the doctor
says he is glad to
hear you are keeping away
from and when i
emerged i was full of happy
inspirations alas they
vanished ere the break of 
day i am sure they
were the most brilliant and
witty things that ever
emanated from the mind of
man or cockroach or poet ..."

Page 61, The annotated Archy and Mehitabel, 
Don Marquis
Produced by DALL-E to the instruction, “Draw a line drawing, in the style of Gary Larson, where a cockroach is listening to a man playing a piano”.

Earlier this year, we heard the podcast, The 11th. It left an impact. You may remember, Dear Reader, that we took the concept of Exhausting a Place and applied to a photo in the blogpost “An attempt at exhausting a photo“. Another episode that blew our mind was the The Happiness Project, we heard it in March this year. That was the inspiration behind our second episode. We want to experience all conversations like Charles Spearin does in his Happiness Project. There, we said it. Charles says that all of the melodies from this project are the melodies of every day life. To listen to all of the songs from this 2009 album, visit Charles, founding member of Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think.

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December 15, 2022 at 6:42 pm

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Episode 1, Introducing my co-host Archy

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Episode one of our new podcast, Archy and I, is now available. It is titled, “Archy, the poet, reincarnate has moved in my ear“.

SEPTEMBER 6
Butting These Keys With My Head

say boss its a good
thing for you
that you don't bay me any wages for
the stuff i write
for you if you did
i would have to have them raised all
these strikes are getting
me feverish and excited one of
my long pieces in your column
often costs me twelve or 
fifteen hours of steady
labor and i am drowsy
all the next day butting these
keys with my head is no snap boss
anything i got for it would
be underpaying me i wish you would
buy a pear and leave it under the
metal typewriter case where the rats
can't get to it

Page 42, The annotated Archy and Mehitabel, 
Don Marquis
Archy moved from a newspaper office in New York City to a suburb in sunny California and has since settled in comfortably … this is their sit-think-reflect-write space. Photo credit: Ms Mikiko Kikuyama

Borrowing a term from Ottolenghi’s Test Kitchen, the extra good thing in this episode in Dr. Susan David. She speaks to grief differently . Here is a link to the Ted talk that made me realize that there are alternate narratives to “glass half full or glass half empty” one.

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December 14, 2022 at 9:44 pm

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A new type of journey, one that celebrates sounds

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“Untitled” by Mrs Rajni Ahuja, my other mother. During the pandemic, she took up water coloring on her iPad. She leaves it to our imagination to interpret her art. We have been hiking this year and in this work of art, we experience meditation in the woods.

I am on a new kind of journey, one that celebrates sounds. The medium is podcast. We created a new page on our locomotoring website to share these auditory adventures with you.

You may wonder if this journey is yet another outcome of the pandemic? Perhaps it is. Or perhaps it was a long time coming, two dozen years, give or take a few. This year, I rolled up my pajama bottoms and decided to learn the skills of podcasting. I was inspired by my birth mother, Ratnabali. She is a writer and she has been writing audio plays for her local Durga Pujo. More on her latest tour de force play at a later time. Suffice to say that she inspired me. With help of Kelsey, my teacher from the continuing studies program at Stanford, I started exploring. The introduction to the podcast was a class homework and my very first exercise in creating two minutes of audio content. The Creative Commons community helped me build. My significant other, Sachin, had seeded the idea of jugalbandhi between Archy and I. My personal coach, Antonia, gave me the courage to show up to this jugalbandhi. My other mother, Rajni, is contributing to the cover art (she doesn’t know yet, but she will know soon). In summary, it has taken a number of strangers, friends and family to start this journey.

We are not on podcatchers yet – we are merely learning to put one step in front of other before we break into a run. We hope that we will be able to do so before long.

Written by Som

December 14, 2022 at 3:33 am

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A brief excursion to Chandni Chowk

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A beautiful old door on near Gali Anar

Sunday is quieter at the Chandni Chowk. Mind, quieter is a relative term. It is still the largest market of India. Most shops take the day off. Only the food shops are open. The chor bazaar is open as well. We walked the mile of Chandni Chowk, recently made a pedestrian thoroughfare with allowances for cycle rickshaws. Our destination was Kake di Hatti where we had a sit down meal on Chur chur naan, Amritsari naan and Amritsari chole (chickpea stew). On our way, we sampled fresh baked crispy nankhatai on Parathewali Gali, cauliflower samosa, and bedmi puri with curried chole on the main Chandi Chowk road. Kake the Hatti is located next to the spice market on Khari Baoli road and I found myself looking longingly at massive bags of puffed lotus seeds. Post meal, we hopped on a rickshaw and made our way back to Parathewali Gali and meandered about the narrow alleys.

Narrow is relative too. Sometimes, when you look up, the buildings on two sides touch and you can’t see the sky. It is cool and quiet. The narrow Gali Anar, translated “pomegranate alley”, leading to Haveli Dharampura could not be wider than 3 ft. Some of the old buildings of the haveli complexes were empty, one abandoned courtyard was overrun by young peepul trees. On some of these narrow alleys, you could have stepped into 17th century were it not for the overhead tangle of cables.

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Written by Som

November 29, 2022 at 12:13 am

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Zoppé Circus in Redwood City

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They are on the library lot this year, a photo from this Thanksgiving weekend

I am really glad that the Zoppé Italian Family Circus has been coming to Redwood City since 2008. It is charming and old school. The photos below are from 2017 when they performed at the Red Morton Community Park.

This and remaining images are from Oct 2017
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Written by locomotoring

November 28, 2022 at 1:14 pm

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Finding new in the familiar, Edgewood, Oct 2022

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A temporary rock arrangement near trail marker 9, it lasted one weekend, it disappeared as surprisingly as it had appeared

I wouldn’t recognize a Blueschist or Franciscan greenstone or Greywacke or Serpentinite, but Edgewood has them. I can only see colors and shapes in a rock pile. The blues and greens and sparkles of minerals do look beautiful, don’t they?

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November 7, 2022 at 9:01 pm

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Upper Wunderlich trails, Sep 2022

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Skyline ridge is a service road in Wunderlich

We had intended to hike the Alambique trail, but Wunderlich parking lot was full. So, we decided to hike the Skyline ridge and Alambique loop starting at the lower end of Skyline trail at the intersection of Ranch/Stadler Roads. The trailhead is in a residential area outside the boundaries of the park, so there was no formal parking lot, nor crowd. The first intersection is the crossroads from where we walked the skyline trail service road to the trailhead intersection on Highway 35 and then walked back on Alambique. It was about 5 miles with a gentle grade, perhaps 200-300 ft of climb.

The entire five miles is almost entirely shaded, and occasionally, the clearings through trees offer views of the Bay. The skyline portion of the trail has the aroma of bay leaves. Alambique nearer the skyline intersection catches fog drip and presents an understory of ferns. These portions of Skyline ridge and Alambique trails are service roads and therefore, wide and easy to walk on. A few sections on skyline offer hairpin switchbacks and steep mountain sides, adding to the visual interest. While there was a big crowd at the base of the park, the trails here were quiet. We came across no more than half a dozen hikers along the way. You do hear the traffic noise from Highway 35 from time to time.

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Written by Sachin

September 18, 2022 at 6:41 pm

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Skyline Ridge trail in Sanborn County Park, Sep 2022

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The trail hugs Hwy 35 throughout, but it is easy to immerse yourself in the forest walk

Starting from Sunnyvale Mountain trailhead, this portion of Skyline trail goes to Indian Rock trail and back. Estimated length is approximately 6 miles. For most of the hike, the trail hugs Highway 35 but it wasn’t particularly noisy this particular weekend. We had just come off a major heat wave during the Labor Day weekend. The trail is almost entirely shaded and this particular day, it was rather windy. The treetops danced around creating a gush of sound, but the forest floor was not windy. The trail is mostly packed dirt but stretches of it are quite rocky. One does need to share the trail with bikers. The short Indian Rock trail portion is totally worth it and yes, it is an excellent spot to picnic while watching climbers. On our way back, heavy fog rolled in and we enjoyed the occasional fog drip, after the heat wave, it felt particularly soothing.

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Written by Sachin

September 11, 2022 at 8:56 pm

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Skyline Ridge OSP, a trail through two ponds, Aug 2022

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Light and shadow under the live oak trees, a bench on horseshoe loop trail

From Russian Ridge parking lot on Alpine Road, this 4 mile hike starts by the Alpine pond, takes the Ipiwa trail at David Daniels Nature Center, to Sunny Jim trail, to Horseshoe Loop trail around the Horseshoe Lake to Sunny Jim trail and back on the Ipiwa trail. Had read about the hike, thanks to Jane Huber. The trail is along top of the ridge at about 2200 ft, but the climb and descent is only a couple of hundred feet. Much of the Ipiwa trail needs attention, it is a bit rocky and exposed and the spectacular west views are giddying at times. When the fog lifts, you can see the Pacific Ocean. We noticed deer, turkey and rabbits. The Horseshoe loop between Lambert Creek trail and Tree Farm trail is pretty as a picture. During right times of the year, the ponds offer migratory bird watching opportunities. There are a lot of trail intersections and all well marked.

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Written by Sachin

August 29, 2022 at 6:47 am

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Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Aug 2022

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A redwood tree when standing is a majestic sight, it lives for a thousand years and then when it falls, it continues to nourish the forest floor for another few hundred years. This one lies in the founders grove.

A heat wave passed by during our time in the Humboldt county. Myer’s Flat clocked over 100F. We thought we would spend the hot day walking under the redwood giants. We stopped by the visitor center to pick up a map. We had intended a 8 mile hike through alluvial flats starting from Rockefeller grove – Bull Creek flats south to Big Trees Trail to Bull Creek flats north. First, we nearly missed Rockefeller Grove. Later, after crossing the Bull Creek footbridge, we got off the trail early on, meandered around the forest floor for a mile, hit a dead end and headed back out. On our way back, we stopped by Founder’s Grove. The 2.5 mile walkabout under the redwoods – Rockefeller and Founder’s Grove – had registered 90F.

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Written by locomotoring

August 19, 2022 at 5:57 am

Bear Creek Redwoods, Aug 2022

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A couple of majestic old growth redwoods on the Alma Trail

We followed the POST recommendation for the Bear Creek Redwoods hike. There is a short wheelchair accessible Upper Loop trail near the parking lot that circumnavigates a pond called Upper Lake – there are a number of benches to sit and have lunch afterwards, although none of the benches are shaded. The first mile of the Alma trail and the Madrone Knoll trail are the steepest climbs. The trail is well marked, shaded, broad and well traversed. The last bit of Alma and Madrone Knoll trail are close enough to highways to hear the cars going past. For most part of the hike, the air is fragrant with the smell of bay leaves. We estimated 7.4 miles and 1200 ft in net elevation gain.

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Written by Sachin

August 13, 2022 at 8:13 pm

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Inspired by something I heard on “the 11th” – An attempt at exhausting a photo

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To tell you this story, I have to go back a few weeks. I heard this podcast titled Exhausting A Place, on “the 11th”, and it got me thinking about possibilities of a place. In this episode, three people spend several hours just sitting in one place, observing and recording. A cemetery in Virginia, a cafe in New York and a plaza in Mexico. The episode is inspired by the book An Attempt At Exhausting A Place in Paris, “what happens,” as the author Georges Perec puts it, “when nothing happens.” While I found the idea intriguing, I could not convince myself that I knew how to exhaust a place, not even my little 12×12 patio with a single maple tree and two loungers. Then nothing happened.

Then a few days later, on a busy weekend afternoon at my grocery store parking lot, I noticed a sign I would normally not notice. On top of a familiar sign that threatens towing all unauthorized vehicles, I noticed some stickers. Anthony Bourdain’s face was one of them and it was he who grabbed my attention. I took a photo because I could not make sense of the collection of stickers. And that started a journey. A journey that I am calling An attempt at exhausting a photo.

Aside from Anthony Bourdain’s photo, it had three stickers, one was partially covered up. One said, “FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE AND LET IT KILL YOU.” Another said, “ATTENTION DEFICIT ORDER PODCAST” and the final one that was partially covered up, read, “A FEELING OF SADNESS THAT ONLY BUS STATIONS HAVE”. I did find myself curious. Were they related in any way to each other? Were they related to Bourdain’s photo? If the owners of the stickers were saying something, what was it? This was my neighborhood grocery store, so chances were, these are my neighbors. As I root, I find myself increasingly fascinated by those who are around me.

Find something you love and let it kill you: After some rummaging about the internet, I found that the quote is misattributed to Charles Bukowski, a German-American poet.

“My dear,
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.
For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.
~ Falsely yours
― Charles Bukowski”

Maybe Bukowski didn’t write these few lines, but the words seem to convey the meaning of the line. He appears to be a controversial persona, but apparently Bukowski often spoke of Los Angeles as his favorite subject. LA is my favorite subject too, particularly when discussions focus around film noir or mid century architecture or the golden California light or Mexican food.

It turns out that the quote should be attributed to humorist, novelist, singer, and songwriter Kinky Friedman instead (see link to Quote Investigator). Kinky’s biography is so long that it needs an intermission (bio by Michael Simmons). He loves mysteries by Agatha Christie. I love mysteries by Agatha Christie.

A feeling of sadness that only bus stations have: This is attributed to Jack Kerouac as part of a longer quote “The floors of bus stations are the same all over the country, always covered with butts and spit and they give a feeling of sadness that only bus stations have. – On the Road”

OK, this quote is something I can relate to, or rather, not relate to. When I first came to US, now more than a quarter of a century ago, Greyhound buses felt safe and affordable. An experienced driver would navigate the snow and rain while one took a nap or looked out the window. And it was a chance to see people who you wouldn’t see otherwise. At the bus station, I remember experiencing possibilities of a space shared with strangers. Last time I read Kerouac was decades ago. So, I have decided it is time to reread him again. Exploring around, I found at least one writer who champions the bus as a window into America’s soul (link).

Attention Deficit Order Podcast: Here is how the creators describe the podcast – “This is a free-thinking, pot-smoking, media-loving podcast, based out of California. We watch and rate a ton of movies, tv shows, and video games. We also talk comics, books, technology, and whatever else catches our attention.”

They publish weekly and have over 500 podcasts. I picked “S22E22 Wolf Beatles Moon Party” to listen to – season 22, Episode 22 in Year 22. When they finally get started, they want to talk about the movie Moonfall but instead play Whitey on the Moon, suggesting that the spoken word poem should have been part of the movie. I had to look up the poem and its context and then was reminded by a recent Jon Stewart podcast “Jon talks with Dr. Mae Jemison: The first black woman in space”, where Dr. Jemison talks to Jon about how space is for everyone and not just the billionaire boys’ club. The second movie they talk about is The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert. They played a number of Beatles songs. Their recommendation, if you like Beatles, watch it, otherwise it sucks. A little afterwards, they did a voice over on Halo The Series official trailer, almost made me wish I was an eleven year old boy. Over the course of the hour long podcast, they refer briefly to The 355, The Tender Bar, The Afterparty, The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window and a few more.

Overall, this podcast delivers what is promises, free-thinking stream of consciousness. For the listener, maybe influence of pot will help join the free-thinking spirit.

Anthony Bourdain: And thinking of Bourdain, I only feel gratitude. I really appreciated his comfort on the street, with strangers, with the new.

Written by Som

March 3, 2022 at 6:23 am

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Adapting to the pandemic

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The year 2020 can be best described as being stunned – the political, and social turmoil were bad enough but then a war with the virus started. The year 2021 has been about settling in for the long haul. Now that we are approaching 2022, omicron has raised its ugly head. There is no adapting to the multitude of losses that has happened and will continue to happen. Instead, I wanted to take a moment to remember the good moments.

We were six months into remodeling when the pandemic started. Despite all the challenges, our team brought us to the finish line in a timely manner and we were glad to be back in our own space. The new facets of the old house kept us occupied for most of 2020.

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Written by locomotoring

December 6, 2021 at 12:49 pm

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A Californian saag-paneer

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This saag-paneer recipe is unapologetically Californian. The only thing Indian about this is my homeland. The inspiration came from watching and then making Rick Martinez’s Pozole Verde. If you don’t have access to tomatillo or poblano, or you look at kale with trepidation, I recommend that you look for some other recipe. Like the “Thousand and One Nights”, there are a thousand variations of saag-paneer to dive into.

In this version, we are combining the bitterness, sweetness, savoriness and tartness of the components, to try and create a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts, like a complex mole sauce. There are two distinct stages here, that are independent. The first is making of the fragrant paneer, and once made, you can use it in other recipes. The second is the green sauce, built from roasted vegetables and slow braised leafy vegetables. The sauce needs to be paired with a rich protein source, like the paneer or a slow cooked pork. The final stage is putting it together.

Following makes 4-6 servings.


Stage 1: The paneer

Making paneer is like making fresh ricotta. Essentially, you scald the milk, add acid and take the resulting casein protein coagulate and make that into blocks that you can subsequently cut up. Here are what we are going to need:

  • 2 gallons of whole milk
  • Crushed cardamom seeds, remove the husk and use mortal and pestle to crush
  • Half teaspoon of turmeric powder, you can tell it is fresh from its aroma
  • 2 fat limes, zest and juice, keep separate
  • Salt

You can use any normal whole milk, but I am going to pay homage to Alexandre Milk (6% fat) – the first one I used to make this recipe. I mix the milk with a tsp of salt, zest of a lime or two, a half tsp of turmeric, a half tsp of crushed cardamom pods. Once it reaches boiling point, you put just enough lime juice to curdle the milk and get a clear whey. Then drain the coagulants away from the whey. The whey can be re-purposed if you are not lactose sensitive, it contains whey protein and is traditionally used in lentil soups. The coagulant can be pressed into a block, cooled and chopped into blocks.

I love the yellow paneer blocks in my green saag. Cardamom is a super spice. Its sweet tones go well with complex roasted flavors of the vegetables that will follow in the sauce. Once you make the paneer, you can stash it away for a few days.


Stage 2: Roasting the greens

Before we start, here is what we will need:

  • 2 medium or large poblano peppers
  • 1 head of garlic, wrapped in a foil with a teaspoon of water
  • 2 leeks
  • 6 tomatillo

In a pre-heated 400F oven, shove in poblano, tomatillos, whole head of garlic and leeks for 25-30 minutes. The leeks should be carefully rinsed to remove any dirt, the green parts separated from the whites, the whites cut into half longitudinally for better browning. The poblano peppers can be left whole or cut in half. The tomatillos skin should be taken off and the tomatillo rinsed, but otherwise left intact.

Once done roasting, cool and removed skins from poblanos and tomatillos.


Stage 3: Putting it together

Before you start, here is what you will need:

  • A large bunch of fresh tender spinach leaves, washed
  • A large bunch of fresh tender lacinato kale, washed, separate any hardy stems
  • Stems of a large bunch of cilantro, reserve the leaves for another use
  • 1-2 dried red chili
  • 4 tbsp butter or ghee (aka clarified butter)
  • Salt
  • Previous roasted vegetables from stage 2
  • Paneer from stage 1

Take the roasted leek greens and kale stems, add 6 cups of water and boil gently for 30 minutes. Strain the broth. Add spinach and cook for 30 minutes. If you are not sensitive to the oxalic acid in spinach, you can cook for a shorter time. Add kale and cook for another 15 minutes.

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves and blend together with roasted leek whites, poblano peppers, spinach, kale, cilantro stems. Add as much broth as you would need to make a thick cake batter like consistency for the puree. Add 4 of the tomatillos and taste the puree. Add the remaining two tomatillos if their sourness is not overwhelming. You may want to adjust salt at this stage.

In a large pot, melt 4 tbsp of butter/ghee, break the red chili peppers and toast them lightly. It is possible to modulate their heat down by nicking them instead of breaking them. Add the green puree. Cook for 10-12 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the chopped paneer blocks. Adjust salt to taste. You can keep this for a day or two.


Serving

Serve with cooked parboiled rice. I like to cook my rice like pasta – plenty of water and then draining the water out. This makes for perfectly cooked rice every time. To round this out, you can put together a plate of salad with fresh cucumbers, sliced red onions, and tomatoes. The red onions balance out the rich saag-paneer dish. Sprinkle with lime juice and flaky salt. Also toast some pappadam.

Written by Som

June 9, 2020 at 8:07 am

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2019, the year that flew away

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2019 is the year that I learned that orchids can bloom for an year. It was a seemingly ordinary orchid from the neighborhood Whole Foods. I had brought it home right before mom and dad’s trip in Sep 2018. The photo on the left below, in full bloom, is from Nov 2018, and the one to the right, with a single remaining flower, is from July 2019. Alas, I don’t have the skill to re-bloom my orchid.

We started a remodel of our home this year, and a large part of the design has revolved around maximizing the view of our neighbor’s majestic oak. To me, the process of remodel feels like trimming a tree and grafting new branches. New spaces will presumably create new possibilities.

Prior to the start of the remodel, we snuck in a quick trip to Philo in Anderson Valley. Nothing special, just a get away from the internet. It reminded me of the trip to Tokyo, the trees around the cottage were buzzing with the sound of cicadas. Those of us who live in California are spoiled by our microclimates. We go away for an hour or two, and we might as well be thousands of miles away. The first week that we had moved into our temporary abode, a mere mile from home, we were graced with visit from a curious deer family who live in the abutting hills.

The remodel is a mental tether, so travel is limited. We managed to squeeze in a quick trip to India at the peak of summer heat when mangoes are at their sweetest. My husband enjoyed his first taste of palm fruit, aka Talshansh in Bengal. He has always enjoyed the Bengali mishti version of the fruit called Nolen gurer Jalbhora Sandesh with fresh jaggery liquid on the inside and soft fresh cheese on the outside.

My grandmother’s home has been turned into a vocational training school. Over the last 5 decades, many wonderful memories have been created there. I remember the rangoon creeper (Madhumalati in Bengali) that surrounded the windows of the guest bedroom on the second floor. The intensely scented flowers attracted honey bees by the day and fireflies danced around the bed at night. Intense thunderstorms during monsoon nights were mesmerizing. Grandma would light sandalwood incense, kindled by coconut coir, in a genie lamp and walk about the house in the evening to shoo off mosquitoes. The mosquitoes inevitably came back, but the smell of incense lingered late into the evenings.

Many decades ago, the surrounding land was a charming small village abundant with ponds and trees.  The house was surrounded by beetle nut and coconut trees. And grandma would invariably ask someone to harvest while we were visiting and we would watch with our pounding hearts as the harvesters would free climb the tall trees. Ladies of the house would gather around the freshly harvested beetle nuts and indulge in their addiction before starting coconut grating marathons that would eventually turn into sweets for the kids. The rooftops had their own dedicated activities, from drying clothes to sunning pillows to drying lentil wadis. I remember my mother and grandmother, both drying their long  abundant hair in the warm afternoon sun during winters.

I particularly remember the polished cement floor of her master bedroom. It was a seamless geometric pattern in pink and cream. I try to imagine the skill and patience it would have taken to put together a continuous seamless block of cement with a wonderful geometric pattern. The end product was a floor that was buttery to touch and on hot summer days, we would lie down on the floor and listen to radio plays. We have been eyeing some of the handmade tiles from Heath and Fireclay for our home and I am grateful that these artisan tiles are still around.

When we left for India, we had a lot of green unripe fruits on the plum tree and came back to ripe ones. Based on a recipe from The Noma Guide to Fermentation, husband salt fermented the plums. We put these plums in everywhere we could think of, they turned out to be delightful in sauces – pasta with a hint of warmed and crushed black walnuts, thinly sliced fermented plums, tossed with garlic-y olive oil or truffle oil and lightly showered with lemon zest.

2019 was also special in that we were transported for a day to France. De Young museum organized an exhibition of nearly 50 paintings by Claude Monet, the final phase of his career when he was inspired by his own garden at Giverny. It was nearly as spectacular as a visit to Musée de l’Orangerie. Alas, thinking about Paris reminds me that there will be no more sunsets from the top of Notre Dame.

In 2019, we discovered food from Mexico City at our doorsteps! Since the first tentative taco, we have tried Huarache and Gordita. If you are in Redwood City, don’t forget to pay Los Carnalitos a visit and get cuitlacoche if it is on the menu.

Welcome 2020. I hope it doesn’t fly away like 2019 did.

Written by locomotoring

January 5, 2020 at 10:36 pm

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Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze

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Casteel is an accidental finding. A recent trip to Cantor, where I go for a quick fix when the right half of my brain needs nourishment, revealed the young artist, Jordan Casteel. Cantor is staging her west coast debut and first solo museum show. The collection is eye catching with its larger than life canvases and their vibrant colors. But then you start seeing the loving details in portraits of everyday people. Here are couple of my favorites from the collection.

Fatima 2018

Galen 2 2014

Written by locomotoring

November 30, 2019 at 8:38 pm

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Fruits of Japan

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A single bunch of grapes = $100 USD (approximate)


Pierre Hermé’s rose macaron with whole raspberries and lychees = $10 USD (approximate)

Written by locomotoring

August 7, 2017 at 9:25 am

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Onden Ippo in Harajuku

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Smooth jazz and eclectic “bar meet spa” decor are what you notice when you climb down to this basement restaurant.

Pickled cucumbers, and pickled bamboo shoots as appetizers.

Salad of cabbage, bitter greens, and a pretty little cherry tomato in a tangy mayo sauce.

Grilled mackerel.

Sashimi with sisho buds

The grilled mackerel is where my chopstick skills met its match. The fish was grilled crisp. If I were a cat, I could have just picked it up with my paws and munched it down head, spine and tail! I asked for a fork. To assemble, I picked up some of the grated daikon on my rice bowl and topped with some of the mackerel flakes before adding a dash of soy. Oh, it made me want grilled eel.

The customer next to me had ordered the mackerel as well. He was a dapper looking gentleman, and carried with him at least seventy five years of chopstick wielding experience. I was just a little embarrassed eating mackerel with fork, chopsticks and fingers. But I shouldn’t have been. The demolished  mackerel on our respective plates looked nearly identical. And I noted that both of us used fingers in coordination with our implements.

Written by locomotoring

July 31, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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Sound of summer at the Yoyogi park

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Trees of Yoyogi park

Ikebana at Meiji Shrine

Jetlag in tokyo – Tsukiji market or Yoyogi park. In the end, the park won. It was closer. We headed out from our temporary home in Harujuku towards Meiji shrine. Tokyo has a delightful gadget called pocket wi-fi. So you can boldly go walkabout through narrow lanes without worrying about not leaving breadcrumb trails for the journey back home.

Tokyo is quiet for a big city. Early mornings should have been delightfully devoid of sound except for  an occasional cat prowling about. Instead, we were immersed in an inorganic buzzing sound.  At first, I wasn’t sure what it was,  the sound was localized around trees. Yet, no number of birds can create that racket. And when the sound got amplified in Yoyogi park, I remembered the cicadas. We were indeed hearing the sound of Japanese summer, the cacophony of cicadas. Early in the summer morning, the park wraps you in a wet warm blanket. You notice your breathing because it takes a tad extra effort in that viscous air.  The lack of sunlight on the wet musty ground lends a sense of  suspense. The wide variety of vegetation brings a wondrous quality to the perambulation. Yoyogi park casts a spell like Hayao Miyazaki’s world aided by the cicadas who drown out all thoughts with their cacophony.

Written by locomotoring

July 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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Benu in San Francisco

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San Franciscans are smitten by Benu. Multiple Michelin stars decorate Benu’s crown. When we went to Restaurant Sant Pau a few years ago, Carme Ruscadella said good things about Benu. So we decided to make this the celebration spot for the 25th year of our partnership. It turned out to be a 20 course meal with 23 independent plates – almost one for every year!

Cold starter – chicken jelly (at the bottom) with lime peels in whipped cream layer served with pine-y mountain caviar (cypress pods braised in pork broth)

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Written by locomotoring

March 27, 2017 at 3:57 am

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A few scattered moments …

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Life in Centro Historico.

A clockwork of traffic crossing opposite Bellas Artes – the traffic lights are like dams and when they burst at their seams, a turbulent river of people make across the road.

Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the flyers) in Chapultapec park, opposite Museum of Anthropology – one playing the flute. An incredible ceremonial performance.

A walk down La Condesa neighborhood.

Tianguis Condesa (Tuesday Condesa Market) on Calle Pachuca.

A lazy afternoon watching bubbles

Written by locomotoring

April 18, 2016 at 4:08 am