Round Up

31 01 2006

BadMemoirs of a Geisha
FuglyMatch Point

Da Vinci Code(teaser)
Mission Impossible: 3
Superman Returns

Saw Peter Jackson's overlong King Kong. I had to leave for a toilet break between the second and third acts. That is something I have not done in decades. At 187 minutes, the film tests bladder reflexes. It did not help that B& I had two cups of lovely Illy coffee and a bergamot tea before we left home. If you hate schmaltz, jump during a romantic scene. The squeamish should dash out during midmovie icky parts (every encounter takes ten minutes with every type of creature). If you don't like schmaltz or icky creatures, why are you even watching this film?

  • 35 minutes in: Ann and jack start flirt interlude. 10 minutes to skull island
  • 101 minutes in: first giant bug scene alert. 120 seconds later, dino brawl begins
  • 114 minutes in: long bug scene. 4 full minutes until the gross out is over
  • 139 minutes in: Driscoll mistily watches his play. Kong is back in 2 minutes

Red – Onyx Priorat 2002
White – Brancott Vineyards 1998 Chardonnay Gisborne Reserve
SparklingScharffenberger NV Brut

Cocktail: Porteno

  • 3/4 ounce bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
  • 1/2 ounce cherry brandy
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce Falernum or simple syrup

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add the all of the ingredients.
Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Sofa Story

30 01 2006

Where do you go to find upholstered sofa units?

High end

Middle of the road

Low End

Rank Desperation

How’s your celebritybingo card holding up?

Dog Yeared

29 01 2006

January 29 is the first day of the new year 4703. The Chinese calendar predates the Gregorian calenar (which goes back only 425 years). There are three ways to name a Chinese years

  • by an animal (like a mascot): the year of the Dog. There are 12 animal names so they are recycled.
  • by its former name. The new year is the year of Yiyou; names are recycled every 60 years
  • by numbers- this is year 4703

Colorful new year’s decoration is popular in front of the house evoking a spring couplet (chun lian) as the new year’s celebration is known as the Spring Festival. It is too windy so I am going to try and get away with a few paper lanterns. A, C, D, M and R are coming to dinner after which L will give a nice talk on his experience in Viet Nam with ORBIS. I am looking foward to that.

Traditional new year’s day foods –

  • a vegetarian dish called “jai” containing root vegetables
    • lotus seed (many male offspring)
    • gingko nut (silver ingots)
    • black moss seaweed (homonymous with exceeding in wealth)
    • dried bean curd (homonymous for fulfiled happiness)
    • bamboo shoots (homonymous with wishing everything well)
    • fresh bean curd or tofu is not included (white – death and misfortune)
  • whole fish (togetherness and abundance)
  • chicken with head, tail and feet (completeness)
  • uncut noodles (long life)
  • in south China – nian gao (sweet steamed glutinous rice pudding) and zong zi (glutinous rice wrapped up in reed leaves)
  • in north China – steamed wheat bread (man tou) and small meat dumplings

Classic foods

  • Nian gao (“sticky”) sounds like “year” and “cake” sounds like “high”. Eating niangao is symbolic o rising higher each year. Also offer niangao to the kitchen god, Zao Jun. He will provide a sweet report on the family as when satisfied it is not easy to criticize. Also his lips will be so sticky from the cakes that he will be unintelligible. That would be me dictating reports at 7 p.m.
  • Fa gao (prosperity cake) is made with wheatflour, sugar and leavened with yeast or baking powder. Batter is steamed until it rises and splits open at the top. “Fa” means to raise, generate or be prosperous.
  • Jiaozi (dumplings) are small mounds of dough dropped into a liquid mixture (soup or stew) and cooked until done, some stuff with meat or vegetables
  • Yusheng, a salad of raw fish and shredded crunchy vegetables (carrots, jicama, picked ginger, pomelo) in a plum sauce dressing was popularized in Singapore and Malaysia.
  • Mandarin oranges (wealth and good fortune) as the word is homonymous with gold
  • Red jujubes to gain prosperity.
  • Whole steamed fish (long life and good fortune) seen in wall decorations of fish themes. “Yu” means fish or surplus so “niannian you yu” means enjoy a surplus of financial security year after year
  • uncut noodles (longevity)
  • Baked goods with seeds (symbol of fertility)

Taboos of the new year

  1. Clean the entire house before New Year’s Eve
  2. All brooms, brushes, dusters and dust pans, and cleaning equipment are put away
  3. Do not sweep (good fortune) away on New Year’s Day
  4. Beginning at the door, dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the 5th day (if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family away)
  5. At no time should you trample upon the rubbish in the corners
  6. Sweep inwards and carry out so no harm will follow – take the rubbish out the back door
  7. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, every door and window is opened to let the old year out with firecrackers
  8. All debts are paid by this time and nothing should be lent on this day (or you will be lending all year)
  9. Do not use foul language or unlucky words. This includes negative terms and the word four (Ssu) which sounds like “death”. So no ghost stories and no references to the past year.
  10. No crying. Tolerate the children and do not spank them. Lovely.
  11. Do not wash your hair, washes away good luck for the new year
  12. Red clothing is preferred – bright and happy like your future
  13. Children and unmarried friends, and close relatives are given lai see (little red envelopes with crisp dollar bills for good fortune)
  14. The first person you meet and first words you hear set the tone for the year. That would be my newspaper boy K.
  15. It is lucky to hear or see songbirds or red birds, or swallows
  16. It is unlucky to greet anyone in their bedroom.
  17. Do not use knives or scissors (cuts off fortune)


  • contemporary Sin-ni khoai-lok (reflects “happy new year”)
  • traditional: Kung hey fat choi (reflects “congratulations and be prosperous”)
  • suisui pingan (immediately after breaking any object or inauspicious activity)


  • decorate living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with 8 varieties of dried sweet fruit
  • on walls and doors are poetic couplets, happy wishes written on red paper sounding better than fortune cookie messages
  • blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth (wealth and high position in career)
  • plum blossoms just starting to bloom are arranged with bamboo and pine sprigs (friends, reliability and perseverance); also, pussy willow, azalea, peony and water lily ornarcissus -without flowers, there will be no fruit!
  • you must bring a bag of oranges and tangerines and enclose a lai see when visiting family or friends during the two week long celebrations. Leaves intact insure that one’s relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, branching of a couple into family with many children. Oranges mean abundant happiness.
  • Candy tray in a circular or octagonal shape is the Tray ofTogetherness to start the new year sweetly. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults place a lai see on the center compartment. Each items is a type of good fortune:

I am trying the new Scharffen Berger champagne, a lovely Riesling and mixing the pomegranate margarita using the E&O recipe.

Salt Lamp

28 01 2006

Rock salt based wellness products are the new black. They allegedly provide healthy ions that purify and energize the air we breathe. Himalayan (halite), Polish and (rarer) Persian Salt Lamp air ionizers are natural produced, cruelty free, ecologically responsible items but I wonder about their touted medical benefit. Iranian blue salt rock crystals can also be used as night lights for children

Crystalline salt is a natural air ionizer that boosts the negative ions in the air. Heated salt crystals pull water molecules from the air (you might see flakes with excessive humidity), the salt goes into solution as water, neutralizing any positive ions (and attached pollution) and emits the neutralized molecule back into its environment. Most common negative ion generators use electrostatic technology to produce ions but stop working becuase of blunting of their fine tipped metallic needles. I am giving the salt lamp a try for a month at least. They do look lovely.

Mostly Mozart

27 01 2006

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 250 years ago today. By age 10, he was famous in Euripe for his prodigious musical talent; his father, Leopold, profited significantly by parading the child genius around Europe where the boy wowed courtesans by playing blindfolded, faultlessly improvising complex pieces, and transcribing difficult works by ear. An iconic whiz kid, he is the go-to archetype for ambitious parents of clever children today.

Week in Wine

26 01 2006

Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
2003 Beauregard Trout Gulch Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($25)
2002 Byington Quennevillle Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($26)
2003 Clos La Chance Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($19)
2002 Mount Eden Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($35)
2003 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($30)
2003 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($25)

2004 Michel Lynch Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc ($9)
2004 Casa Lapostolle Casablanca Valley Chardonnay ($10)
2003 Echelon Central Coast Chardonnay ($10)
2005 Four Emus Western Australia Chardonnay ($10)
2005 Oxford Landing South Australia Viognier ($9)

2003 Laurel Glen Lodi Reds ($10)
2004 Talus Collection Lodi Shiraz ($10)
2004 Red Bicyclette Vin de Pays d'Oc Syrah ($9)
2004 Lindemans South Eastern Australia Bin 55 Shiraz/Cabernet ($8)
2003 Veramonte Casablanca Valley Merlot ($9)

American Life

25 01 2006

At a creche in Germantown, an 8-year-old boy shot a 7-year-old girl with a handgun yesterday, hitting her in the arm but not killing her. The boy, whose father is a convicted felon with a long rap sheet, had bragged that he had access to guns. In the late 1990s, then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s task force on gun violence in Maryland pushed for tougher rules mandating safety devices on handguns. In the following years, the state adopted a number of laws — stronger than most in the nation — including a requirement that handguns sold in Maryland be equipped with a childproof locking device, and another forbidding people from leaving loaded firearms within reach of unsupervised children. But other regulations — potentially more effective ones in preventing accidents such as yesterday’s — went nowhere. Most notable was a proposal that guns be “personalized” by incorporating technology restricting a gun’s use to its owner, for instance by using fingerprint recognition. In a study published in 2003, researchers led by Jon S. Vernick of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health examined 117 unintentional homicide deaths in Maryland from 1991 to 1998, four-fifths of them involving handguns. The conclusion: 37 percent of the deaths could have been prevented by a “personalized” gun.

A third or more U.S. households keep a gun at home, often a loaded one, in the belief that it will protect them from intruders who would do them harm. These guns may furnish some people with a sense of personal security, and at times they do safeguard the lives of innocent homeowners. But the pervasive presence of guns in homes comes with a cost; a substantial body of research suggests that households with guns are more likely to be the scenes of suicides and homicides than those without. More gun safety laws will prevent many incidents, but they won’t protect everyone from lawbreakers such as the father of the Germantown boy. Without stricter federal laws on access to handguns, more of these tragedies will occur.