Sunday, March 30, 2008

Springtime for Crumpet

A few weeks ago we got some unseasonably nice weather (it has since decided to snow) so Crumpet & mom spent some quality time on the back porch.

In totally unrelated news - here is a video of Crumpet doing water painting.

Bringing down the house

Baby Crumpet teaches everyone the game Mexican dominoes

Mr Hatfill visits Crumpet

Scott & his son Evan visited Baby Crumpet at her home in Seattle and was treated to cedar plank halibut.

They spent the next 3 days up in Mount Baker where they snowboarded to deep, deep powder.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Book reviews

SEE NO EVIL: Memoir of Robert Baer, retired CIA field officer. George Clooney's character in SYRIANA is loosely based on his life. A fascinating look inside a man's life dedicated to protecting our nation's security. In the book Baer clearly recounts what his #1 mission was - to turn the enemy into informants, or, as he puts it, to ask another man to commit treason against his/her own country. What follows is a memoir of extraordinary history as he spends 20+ years in Europe, Russia, Iraq, Asia and the Middle-east. Of particular interest the author left all the CIA edited areas in the book (you can see specific passages, dates, location & names blacked out by the CIA). Towards the end Baer was disillusioned by Washington politics and our reliance on technology rather than human assets. The book was written before the current Iraq war but the author offers a damning critique where he was essentially told to come up with evidence that fit Bush's war plans. Baer, a hero to this nation, left the CIA in disgust and bitter (note: author was also very critical of Bill Clinton, he is clearly a conservative)

CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT-MAN by John Perkins: A very fun read, but perhaps scary if the stories told inside are true. Perkins speaks about being recruited by the CIA to work as a ''contractor economist'' who would go and advice nations to produce outcomes favorable to the US. Example - Perkins would go to a 3rd world country, say, Panama. He would produce a fake ''economic'' report that concludes Panama's GDP would go up & sustain at certain % if only they would build certain hydro-electric power dams. Once Panama is convinced, wheels would be set in motion with loans from the US-controlled IMF and World Bank and contracts steered toward US corporations such as Bechtel and Haliburton. The said dams would be built at the cost of billions and, voila, does noting to Panama's economy. Panama would eventually default on their loan, and all of a sudden the benevolent US government would send in the ''economic hit-man'' to extract their pound of flesh such as to pressure Panama into allowing a US military base (to be built with more contracts to Haliburton) and/or a secret consent to vote a certain way at the UN. This book documents countless stories like this over 20 years and many administrations left & right alike. The government has come out & denied everything in this book, calling the author a fraud. Interesting side note: author went to the same alma matter of Adrian - Middlebury College in Vermont.

I highly recommend both books if you like political history without any idealogical bent (common theme is both authors hate Washington politicians)

Mr Rhodes comes to town

Our good friend (and Adrian's bride's man at our wedding) Chris Rhodes came to town for a few days to visit (from Texas).

His grandmother + aunts drove up from Oregon for brunch at sunny Pike Place Market (a refreshing meal French bistro Maximillan)

We then jetted up to Mount Baker for some snow shoeing, sledding and fish tacos. Here is a VIDEO of Crumpet sledding with mom.

Crumpet turns two!

On January 19th Baby Crumpet turned two! We celebrated with a rousing dinner party. Pictures of the cake event with pals Lilly and Nathan.

The theme was ''Italy'' and I made a few dishes from Marcella Hazan's bible Essential Italian Cooking: Roast crown pork rib chops (garlic, lemon, orange juice, cardoman, peppercorn, cumin & caynne); Roast tomatoes ragu with chorizo and mild italian sausage; salad of cremini mushroom, shaved parmessan, celery with truffle oil; smoked salmon foam (smoked salmon folded into whipped cream). Desserts were lemon tart + apple pie (Adrian). McQuinn provided a homemade rosemary bread.

This also doubled as our annual food fund-raiser. Thanks to everyone's contributions were we able to deliver 5 full bags of dry food to the local food shelter.

Party guests were: Desiree, Masa, Don, Carol, Pierce, Braden, Lilly, Leah, Nathan, Jim, Jenni, Mei Chi, Noel and Sylvia.

Here is a VIDEO of the event

Crumpet does Vegas

As As our plane descend into Las Vegas, the pilot tells us to look outside the left side window where we could see the Monte Carlo burning. Wow. Quite a fiery start to an exciting trip!

Our primary goal in Vegas is to try as many buffets as possible for, er, scientific purposes. On our previous trips we had tried Bellagio (favorite), Paris (2nd favorite), Ceasars, New York New York and Ballys. On this trip my personal favorite was Rio - a stupendous array of selections. A's favortie was the Wynn, who may had the best quality. Palm wasn't bad. Stratosphere, not so much.

Rio stood out for me because of the number of selections plus some creativity in buffeting. For example at their Asian noodle bar you get to choose from a selection of noodles (udon, vermicelli, lo-mein...etc.), soup stock (pho, tom yum, ramen...etc.), toppings (fish balls. mushroom...) and seasonings. Two elderly Chinese women were behind me and asked in a loud voice ''can you please make it very spicy?''

We saw two shows that capitalizes on our appetitie for nostalgia but at the same time craving for ''newness''

The first was Cirque de Solei's paen to Beattles LOVE at the Mirage. A departure from the more acrobatic and multi-cultural shows of the past, LOVE very specifically recalls 60s and 70s London fashion and design. The show was essentially 20+ set pieces to showcase each song and we loved every minute of it. Our viewing/lisenting experience were enhanced by a gaggle of young Paris Hilton look-alikes sitting in front of us and 3, quite drunk, middle-age women who knew all the words and occasionally sloshing their cocktails around. Highly recommended.

The 2nd show was a concert by Richard Cheese which was being filmed for a live concert film at the Hard Rock Cafe. We discovered Mr. Cheese years ago through John & Kate, who in turns discovered this ''punk rock lounge singer'' while going to Vanessa's wedding. The schtick is simple - lounge versions of popular songs such as Beastie Boys, Radiohead and Dead Kennedys. It works because Richard Cheese is a terrific performer who nails each song perfectly. Highlight of the concert included an audience participation of Sponge Bob Square Pants and Cheese doing an imitation of Pussycat Dolls as Bob Dylan, Bjork and Michael MacDonald (it made sense if you were there). The filming for the concert added a certain sense of a moment in history, but it also meant the show was more staged and it slowed the actions down. If Cheese is coming to your town definitely go see them!

Experience only in Vegas #1: I had some business outside of the strip so I decided to take the local bus. This adventure was immediately met by a kid peeing in the back of the bus and the 300 lbs+ Samoan driver going Hulk, then resolved because an Hispanic women who just happens to be a hotel cleaning lady (stereotype alert!) and she had an entire bag of cleaning supplies with her.

Only in Vegas #2: Walking by a sign advertising a restaurant that said ''Italian food so authentic it's like it came from New York''