Friday, August 12, 2005

1000 places to see before you die - #4

Isla Mujeres off of Cancún, México.
My one mistake during my vacation in Cancun was in not visiting Isla Mujeres until the last day. I could have stayed the entire week lounging on the beach or wandering the streets on this tiny island.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

brain freeze

The interviewer sat back in her chair and fired the next question:

“Name two consumer electronics products which have launched in the last three months…” “ummm, let me see here, last three months, hmmm” I tried to delay as I began to feel the panic build – “*&@!” I thought – I should know this…. “Ummm, well there was the….” quick think, think, think, what is hot – Satellite Radio? , no that has been out awhile – “There’s the IPOD SHUFFLE!!!! You wear it around your neck – very very cool!” I blurt out my answer with enthusiasm and then clarify that it wasn’t launched within the time frame but it was a consumer electronic product. Yea! I had done it! - The interviewer stared back in bored anticipation.

“Oh, you wanted two?” “Let’s see there was also the …” “ hmmmm…” “Does it have to be outside of the video game industry,” I asked. “No” she responds. Cool, I think. I should be able to name Video Games that have launched in the last three months. “Let me see… video game product… video game product…” Pictures of Halo 2 flash through my mind … stupid Halo 2 how can that be the only game I remember at a critical moment like this. “Well…” My mind races through visuals of the stores I have visited recently –what did I see??? – DOH! “PSP!!!!” Again, not launched in the last three months but close enough. Crisis adverted.

She smiled politely “I didn’t think you were going to pull that one out…” Yea, I thought. Thank God it wasn’t three.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


How many physicists can you name?

Science, in my opinion, is in need of a good PR campaign manager. We all benefit from scientific discoveries yet because nearly everything (and some may argue EVERYTHING) in our lives is influenced by science, it is difficult to identify one specific discovery and give credit where credit is due. Furthermore, if we can’t easily identify the multitude of ways in which science influences our lives (ie. food, shelter, transportation, health, entertainment, computers, etc….) it is easy to understand why we can’t identify the scientists who have made these discoveries either.

Jay Leno has this great segment on his show called “Jay Walking” in which he asks “average” Americans questions of fact relating to history, science, literature – things we should have learned in school. While the answers are often amusing, they point out a very clear fact about our culture – we only remember what we have been conditioned to remember through entertainment and publicity. Case and point, 9 out of 10 Americans when asked to name a person from China will name Yao Ming. I am not knocking the center for the Houston Rockets but come on people.

So… this leads to the question. I am collecting data on how many physicists people can name. Ask your friends, ask your family, ask the guy sitting next to you on the bus. Then let me know… we have 30 days to collect the information!

At the end of the 30 days I will compile the information and share the results back. GOOD LUCK PHYSICISTS!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

umm chilaquiles

My favorite part of working in Mexico is the food! Tortillas, Mole, Guacamole and Tacos unlike anything you can find in the states – I love it all. The problem is that days after I have returned to the white bread and mayonnaise North West, my stomach still craves the flavors of Mexico.

My addiction to Mexican food is so bad that I have been known to arrive at the airport 2 hours early just so I can have one final meal at my favorite Mexico City airport restaurant. This last trip was no exception. Since my flight was in the morning, my last meal in Mexico was Chilaquiles con Pollo. UMMMMM. For those of you who may not have had the opportunity to taste this amazing dish, there is a restaurant in Fremont called El Camino which has started to serve Chilaquiles as part of their Sunday morning brunch menu. Or, if you are more the adventurous type, here is a recipe for you to try.

½ med. Onion peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. salt
16oz shredded chicken (or chicken breast)
2 tsp. canola oil
¼ cup canola oil (for frying)
1 cup chicken broth
10 ripe plum tomatoes
10 corn tortillas
¼ lb shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
4 canned chipotle chilies – plus 2 tbsp. of the sauce from the can
1 cup crema mexicana (sour cream may be substituted)

Turn the oven to broil and place the tomatoes in an oven-proof casserole. Slide the casserole under the broiler and turn the tomatoes every few minutes until they are black in spots.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies.

Peel and seed the tomatoes and put them along with 2/3 of the onion, the chilies and their sauce, garlic and salt in a food processor.

Heat the oil (2 tsp) in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Puree the tomato mixture.

Add the tomato puree to the hot oil while constantly stirring. Cook and stir for 4 minutes.

The puree will turn a slightly darker color. Add the broth and keep warm.

Assembling the Dish
Heat the remaining oil in a small sauté pan over high heat. Place the tortillas in one stack and cut them into eight wedges.

Fry the tortilla wedges using tongs, until they are just golden and slightly crispy. The tortillas should still be slightly flexible.

Drain the tortillas on a plate lined with paper towels to remove the excess grease. Put a layer of sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Add a single layer of tortilla wedges and then some of the shredded chicken and cheese.

Repeat this process until all of the tortillas, sauce, chicken and cheese are used. Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 15 minues.

Serve with a few onion slices and a little of the cream mexicana drizzled over the top

Monday, August 08, 2005

mom and dad were right

A camping we will go, a camping we will go, hi ho a dairy oh, a camping we will go …

For the last 15 years my idea of roughing it has been a bad night in a cheap hotel. After spending every summer of my childhood in one kind of camping situation or another I had decided as an adult that I was done. No more sleeping on the ground, no more wondering what would constitute as a bathroom, no more days without the pleasure of a hot shower and a strong cup of coffee in the morning. Boy did I miss it!

The itch to spend the night outside has been growing for the past few years. I even borrowed a friend's tent last year in the hopes that maybe just maybe that would be enough to get me back into the swing of things… unfortunately, the tent, sleeping bag and lantern sat in my garage untouched until last weekend!

Friday night I flew into Seattle, after a trip to Mexico City, prepared to hit the woods. After fighting traffic from the airport (and calling everyone I knew to inform them of my plans, and make sure that there would be a search team should I not return) I met my friend Dave and together we loaded up my “gear” and headed to the Olympic Mountains.

First stop: SEATTLE, WA
We made it to the Ferry in time to catch the 7:30 departure to Bremerton or Bainbridge (not sure which - I was too busy trying to learn how to read a map). Not bad, when you consider my flight did not arrive in Seattle until after 5pm. Once on board the Ferry we dove into these awesome sandwiches which Dave had made. I had no idea that you could purchase lettuce pre-shredded. Too Cool!

The Ferry ride was quick and soon we were headed up the highway toward the Hood Canal Bridge. The original plan was to stay at a camp called Deer Something or Other… but by the time we got to the turn off it was getting late so we decided to implement Plan B. Plan B (which was to stay on the beach) soon turned into Plan C, D, and E as campground after campground greeted us with either a full or closed sign. On our third trip through Squim we gave up and bunked down on a patch of grass at the Rainbow’s End RV Park. Not exactly the “getting close to nature” experience we had planned for but nonetheless it provided us with a enough space to pitch the tent and a great story of how we once slept underneath a Shell sign next to the freeway. Having stayed at a Chevron station once when I was “camping” with my family and our van broke down, I felt that sleeping underneath a gas sign and not actually at the gas station was an improvement.

The next morning we packed up the tent in record time and hit the road. The nice lady at the Rainbow’s End wished us well and encouraged us to visit again the next time we were in Squim. Dave responded politely and let me know that we would not be traveling through Squim again any time soon.

Before heading up to Hurricane Ridge for an easy morning hike, we stopped at Jessie’s Diner for Breakfast. The fact that there were neon beer signs in every window did not sway my decision in any way. Coming from a small town, I love eating where the locals eat. These are the kind of places where people talk to each other between tables and the waitress leaves the coffee pot on your table so that you do not have to wait for a refresher.

Jessie’s special was biscuits with country gravy and sausage and eggs on the side – my favorite! However, being that we would be hiking, I decided to go for the safer scrambled eggs instead. As soon as I opened the menu, I noticed that almost all of items had a red mark next to the names. Usually this would indicate some kind of house special. However, in Jessie’s case this red mark (as defined by the warning label at the bottom of the menu) meant the dish contained eggs which might be undercooked and therefore hazardous to your health. I ordered my eggs cooked hard and continued on with the adventure.

Hurricane Ridge was beautiful! From the top you can see the glaciers on the Olympic Mountains to the south and the Victoria, Canada to the north. Getting to the top is a “easy” 1.8 mile hike up a paved trail. I soon discovered that while I have no trouble on flat surfaces, walking up hill pretty much kicks my butt. Note to self – must work out to build cardio system. Next trip I will be ready!

From Hurricane Ridge the plan was to head to the west side of the Olympics. After looking at the map we determined that it would be best to pick up supplies for dinner in Port Angeles before heading out (there aren’t many towns on the west side.) Like the night before we found ourselves driving from one end of town to the other in a desperate search. Once we decided to give up and head out of town we were rewarded with a Safeway. HURRAY! My old camping instincts kicked in and we purchased tinfoil, salmon, a lemon, an onion and a loaf of sourdough.

Not wanting to again fight the crowds for a camping spot, we chose a “primitive camp” located off of Clear Creek. Perfect. Big trees, the sound of a rambling river, a great spot for the tent and a few logs left from the last campers. SWEEET! We put up the tent and then went for the ritualistic hunt for the perfect marshmallow stick.

The key to a great camping experience is a great camp fire. Fortunately, Dave is a master fire builder and within a matter of minutes he had an awesome fire going, and on one match to boot! Once the first logs had burned down we prepared our tinfoil salmon and placed it near the center of the fire like pros. Our moms would be so proud! The meal was fabulous and the smores that followed were made even better by the wine that accompanied them. Ummm marshmallows and red wine – who knew?

The next day was equally as cool – rainforests, tide pools, crashing waves… and as we headed into Seattle it became clear to me. I like to camp! I like being outdoors, I like cooking on an open fire, I like not having to worry about how I am dressed, I like being on the top of a hill and looking down on world below, I like seeing fuzzy little creatures (not rats) scurrying across the path in front of me, and I like the quiet of not hearing the constant noise of the world. So, I guess this is another one of those instances when my parents were right. Thanks mom and dad for taking me camping when I was a kid. It really is much better then staying in a cheap hotel.