Kiteboarding at Double Bluff Beach

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Chris Evans and I went to take photos of the crazy kiteboarders who were ripping it up on a very windy, chilly January day at Double Bluff Beach on Whidbey Island.

When we first arrived, there were only a few kiteboarders out, but there were a lot of guys setting up. The kites have inflatable leading edge and slats, so they were pumping up their kites and dealing with their lines.
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Pretty quickly there was a whole squadron out there, sailing in a big oval, maybe 45 degrees to the wind (close reach up, broad reach down).
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The wind was blowing steadily and hard, so they were getting a lot of speed.
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I was amazed how much air they were able to get using this speed.
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We were out there for about 45 minutes until we were too cold to keep shooting (even with gloves on). Although the kiteboarders were in dry suits and working hard, I have to believe they were pretty cold too. Still, it was awesome.
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A Comparison of US vs. Chinese News Coverage: Pollution

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I've written twice before, comparing Western and Chinese news coverage of the same story (Obama visit to China and Internet registration). In both cases, it was interesting to see how the reports read very differently despite presenting the same basic facts; differences in tone, emphasis, and inclusion/omission of other facts can really change how the story comes across.

AQI 493 from my office window

Today, I was reading about how Beijing will start reporting a new air pollution measure - PM 2.5 (2.5 micron particulate matter). I've written before several times about the gross Beijing air. We relied on the US Embassy's air quality Twitter feed that showed what we thought was a more accurate view of what we were seeing outside; Chinese official reports measured the larger PM10 particles and would say we were having only minor air pollution even when we couldn't see outside.

The report from China Daily acknowledges the dangers of PM2.5 and how the government is responding to "public criticism". They describe the effort as similar to what other cities in China have been doing and that the government is already taking action to clean up Beijing air. There is no mention of the US Embassy's Twitter feed. There is also a story (higher on the front page) describing how Beijing's PM 2.5 count is down. The story paints a picture of the government taking action and listening to the people. "Beijing to release PM 2.5 data".

The similar story from the New York Times described the actions as a response to "public outcry", "public's anger", and bloggers who "sharply criticized" the government. NYT puts a lot more emphasis on the effect of the US Embassy Twitter feed as well as mentioning how Twitter is blocked in China, and talks about the Chinese complained about the feed as "confusing" and "insulting". This story leaves the reader thinking the people are mad at the government and that the gov't needs outside pressure to change. "China to Release More Data on Air Pollution in Beijing".

Again, both of these stories seem factually correct, and perhaps the "right" interpretation is somewhere in the middle. You'll never know unless you read multiple news sources.

Get Fresher Eggs: Reading Egg Cartons

To find the freshest eggs at the supermarket, you can decode the numbers on the carton. The number we’re looking for is the three digit number (circled in red below). This is the ordinal date (the day of the year) the eggs were packaged (so 1 is January 1, 2 is January 2, etc.) Assuming the eggs were all handled the same way, I think you can assume that eggs packaged more recently are fresher.

Egg carton codes

Interestingly, the “use by” by date (the month/day indicated on the carton) seems less reliable. These two cartons in my refrigerator have the same packing date yet the “use by” dates are more than a week apart. In my local grocery store, I’ve seen packaging dates more than three weeks apart on the shelf. While the eggs are probably all safe to eat, I’m confident there’s a big drop in quality between these eggs. (I look for how thick/runny the whites are.)

In case you’re curious, the Pxxxx number is the plant where the eggs were packed.

Michael’s Snowman Army

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Most kids like making and decorating Christmas cookies. Michael (11) decided he would create an army of snowman cookies instead.

As he was stamping them out, he kept calling, “Rise my minions!”

Once they were baked, he decorated them in red sugar and dubbed them his “Red Snow Corps”. He seems innocent enough in the photo below, but it’s like having our own little Calvin.

Michael decorating his snowman cookie army.

Best Sandwich Ever: Katsu Burger

Michelle and I went with our friend Meng to Katsu Burger this week. Like it’s name implies, this little restaurant in the south part of Seattle (Georgetown) serves a unique katsu sandwich on hamburger buns. If you’re not familiar, katsu is a Japanese dish: pork cutlets in panko coating, deep fried.

They have a bunch of different sandwiches including beef burgers and chicken burgers; they even have a ridiculous “Mt. Fuji” burger with a katsu patty, a beef patty, a chicken breast, ham, bacon, and three types of cheese. I passed on that heart-attack-in-a-bun and had a spicy curry katsu burger. Meng had a katsu burger with bacon (my next trip...) We added fries (mine with curry powder, Michelle’s with nori) and a green tea milkshake.

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It was really an insanely great meal. I’ve had katsu in famous places across Tokyo, but the katsu at Katsu Burger is among the best I’ve ever had. The burger was crazy good as was the shake. The fries were decent too (they could have been crispier to my liking.)

We waited a while for our burgers (definitely worth the wait), and it looked like you could wind up waiting for a table too. The only real bummer is that Katsu Burger is only open on weekdays.

6538 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle
206-762-0752

[Update 12/23/2011: We went back today and learned that after the New Year (2012) they will be open Saturdays 11-4!! Wahoo! Also, I learned their panko coated, deep fried hamburgers are silly good too.]

WTF Michael

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The kids have recently discovered that Michelle's car audio system will read text messages out loud. As you might guess, this has become a source of some amusement.

Andrew (14) has contented himself to making the car say funny things like "blarg" or having it repeat the prompts, but with errors, so it sounds like the car has a problem.

Michael (11), as usual, is more devious. When he sent "LOL" to the car, it said the expanded version "laughing out loud". Without missing a beat, he sent "WTF".

Fortunately, the engineers at Volkswagen had the foresight to handle this case gracefully...

Halloween 2011

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The boys chose their own Halloween costumes this year. I thought their choices were pretty good illustrations of their differences. Andrew (14) chose to be a Dalton Academy Warbler from the TV show Glee. (This is a singing group from an all-boys' school.) Michael (11) chose to be an elite soldier from some unspecified armed service. Both were very pleased with their costumes.

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Incidentally, Michelle made Andrew's jacket (and one for me...). I thought it turned out really well, better than other jackets I've seen on the net. I found the Dalton Academy patch on Etsy (I've also seen people selling them on eBay). The red piping was seam tape ironed on with heat activated tape (I can't remember what you call it, but you can find it in fabric stores.)

The Intergalactic Nemesis

NemesisPoster5webLast weekend, Andrew (14) and I (much older than 14) bought tickets for The Intergalactic Nemesis, self-described as a "live-action graphic novel". It turned out to be a super-fun performance combining a 1930's-style comic book projected onto a large screen with a old-style radio show performed live in front of the screen by three actors, a Foley (sound effects) artist, and a keyboard player. The evening was even nicer since they performed in the Neptune Theater, an lovely old theater near the University of Washington (Andrew was at least as impressed by the Neptune as the show).

The story was fine and the comic book art OK, but the live performance was really the show for me. The three actors did all of the many voices and were physically into it as well; it was super fun just watching them. The Foley artist was really fun to watch too, just seeing how he created all of the sounds from different things, some purpose-built (like a mini-door and frame for open/close door sounds) and some just ordinary things (like a locomotive engine sound made by shaking a box of macaroni and cheese).

This Austin-based group is touring the country. Unfortunately, they only had one night in Seattle (their first stop), but if you're in Fort Worth, Lawrence, Madison, Chicago, Minneapolis, or one of the other cities they're playing, I really recommend going to see them.

(Interestingly, the "book 2" of the project is a Kickstarter project.)

Video sample of their performance
My bad cameraphone shot of the performance
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Andrew taking the mike after the show
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China in Ten Minutes

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Of course, it's ridiculous to think you can understand China, the history, culture, and economy in even ten years, but this video does a pretty good job in ten minutes (with lots of gross generalizations, etc...)

Bacon Salted Bourbon Caramel Apples

How can one recipe have so many of my favorite things in it? Bacon with bourbon, caramel, and apples? Awesome. It's probably too much to ask (and too gross) to add raw oysters, ramen, and jiaozi. Roasted nuts, however... I'll have to try this out.

bacon caramel apple

Ingredients

8 Granny Smith apples

8 wooden sticks

1 (16 ounce) package brown sugar

2/3 cup dark corn syrup

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon Bacon Salt

2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey

Directions

Insert wooden sticks 3/4 of the way into the stem end of each apple. Place apples on a cookie sheet covered with lightly greased aluminum foil.

Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thermometer registers 290 degrees F (143 degrees C). Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon if desired.

Keep the saucepan over low heat to keep the caramel liquid for dipping the apples. Stir the Bacon Salt into the caramel. Working quickly, carefully dip apples in the caramel. Place apples on the greased aluminum foil until coating has cooled and hardened.

From: http://www.jdfoods.net/recipe/1086/Bacon%20Salted%20Bourbon%20Caramel%20Apples