Baby’s first Halloween – or – have we lost our minds?

What’s up my witches. It’s Rona-ween and Lauren and I introduced baby Star to costumes and dressing for success. Hold on to your hats and prepare to loose your freakin’ mind as the cutest pics you’ve ever seen are about to hit your eyes.

Star, what do your hedge eyes see?
Thinking of spells to cast in retaliation for this torture.
She forgot the hat was on her head.
Star demanded we make this one, she was jealous of Alexander’s hat. She wanted to be just like him!
Bzzz
Sweeter than honey (vomit)

She makes modeling look easy. But as always with your insta, you only share the good ones. To give you a sense of what a photoshoot with a hedgehog looks like, here are some outtakes.

Floompf
Tears fallin’ down at the party. Saddest little baby in the room.
She hide.
The tongue! Just not in focus….

And some behind-the-scenes of the craftmanship:

Beer helps the craftsmanship.

The song of the day is Oh Klahoma by Jack Stauber. If you know you know.

‘Rona got you down? Try rocks!

This sure has been a year of hoo-DON’Ts, but for two XWCL members this weekend was full of hoo-DOs!

Lauren and I, plus our friend Zuzana, spent the weekend camping and hiking in the Chiricahua Mountains, about 2 hours east of Tucson near the NM border. Chiricahua is characterized by acres of tall rock pillars and spires, formed from the ash of an ancient volcanic eruption, cracked by uplift, and eroded by the forces of nature and time. It’s truly litho-tastic!

We scrammed outta Tucson just after the morning group meeting Friday with a car full of nonsense for a true glamping experience.

Three glampers only can fit in one car.

After roaring through the Arizona desert and hitting up the Visitors Center (must buy chotchkies!) we selected the Echo Canyon loop trail. It’s a 3 mile loop down into the canyon and among the rock spires, and was the perfect amount of time and strenousness to get the blood really going. I’ll let the pics speak for themselves.

We glamped in the Bonita Canyon campground, which was maybe the best quality campground I’ve seen at a national parks facility. The bathrooms have TP, running water, and lights, such luxury.

The next day we packed up, hit up a few more scenic views, then headed home. We hit up some really meh barbecue in a train dining car in Willcox AZ, then sat for an hour on the interstate due to a wreck outside Benson.

Leaving Tucson even for a day is such a treat these days. Being in nature almost makes you forget about the ‘rona. Almost.


For the song of the day I selected a classic in honor of spending some time in the sun this weekend.

The World in a Chip

If there’s one thing that I do without fail while coding, studying, or writing, it’s definitely snacking. As a proud snacker, one of the things I like to explore are international flavor versions of chips from big American brand companies. Today, I am going to take you, dear readers, through some stories about my adventures in consuming chips.

Where it all began: Japanese Doritos

Royal Garlic Shrimp

One of my all-time favorites is a Japanese version of Doritos chips that was flavored as garlic shrimp. I clearly remember when I encountered these chips. I had just passed my PhD qualifier exam. I was back home in LA for Aldo’s brother’s wedding. I was with my mom at a Japanese market (Marukai) to buy some arm warmers to keep me warm while at LCO to help drive MagAO. I saw these chips at the cashier line and bought 3 bags of them on a whim. When I sampled them, let me tell you: it tasted just like garlic shrimp. I’ve eaten a vast variety of shrimp chips throughout my life and these Doritos clearly tasted like them.

I was so impressed with these chips that I gave one bag to Aldo to help him sober up post-wedding (to which he shared with no one after tasting how great they were). I kept the third bag with me for Chile, except it never made it out of the US. I consumed the bag at DFW while waiting for my flight to Santiago. I greatly apologize, Jared, for denying you the opportunity to consume these chips in Chile. Even though you’re only finding out 3 years later.

More Exploration: Chinese Lays

My experience with eating Japanese Doritos chips has led me through sampling other international versions of chips. A year ago, at a neighborhood Asian market in LA, I saw by the cashier area a huge bin of Lays chips. Believe it or not, the pink bag was labeled, “Mexican Tomato Chicken Flavor” and the blue bag was labeled “Italian Red Meat Flavor”**.

**Note: I don’t believe that these labels are intentionally offensive. If anything, they’re a marketing ploy to convince people to buy them because of exotic sounding flavors. Logan once told me a story how she encountered “French cheese” chips during one of her deployments, yet the chips didn’t taste any exotic. However, I do believe the strange names are direct Chinese->English translations where the Chinese names are the best the marketing team came up with from localization.

Chinese Lays chips with “exotic” flavors

I bought them to try out, believing I may have a similar experience with the garlic shrimp Japanese Doritos. I brought them to the office and had some members of XWCL sample them with me. Unfortunately, it was very underwhelming. The tomato chicken flavor was akin to a weak ketchup. The red meat flavor tasted like BBQ sauce missing some key spice flavors. I firmly believe that we did not enjoy the chips because here in the US, we have magnitudes of experience with authentic (and unauthentic) versions of these foods. It’s entirely possible that it’s very popular in Asia and this interpretation was adjusted to adapt it to local flavor palates.

I also managed to find Hot Pot flavored and Grilled Squid Chinese Lays chips during a previous visit to this same market. I’ve included photographic proof of their existence. However, I was not quite smart enough to buy them when I bought the other two chips. I visited this same market later in the week and the inventory had run out. Maybe someday I will find these chips and find out how they taste. Will the Hot Pot flavor live up to its name of being “numb and spicy”? Will the grilled squid flavor have that umami taste mixed with smoky tones? These chips have become my unicorn.

Reuniting with Japanese Doritos

Recently, I was at a small neighborhood Japanese market and spotted this bag of Doritos on the shelf. There wasn’t any English on the bag to identify the flavor, so I asked the cashier aunty if she can translate the flavor to me. (The staff at this market are all fluent in Japanese) She couldn’t quite figure it out either, so she asked one of the other staff members. The best they could tell me was “little salty”. Nonetheless, I bought the chips. My experience with the garlic shrimp Japanese Doritos was I’m bound for greatness. My missed connection with the Chinese Lays chips reminded me to buy the chips as if it’ll never be available again.

Mysterious Japanese Doritos

When I got home, I messaged some of my friends about it and they couldn’t come up with a better translation either. Not consommé, not umami, not seaweed – just “salt”. With all avenues exhausted, the last option was for me to open the bag and sample it. Lovers of the blog, I regret to inform you all that these chips were literally slightly salted regular corn tortilla chips. The kind you would dip into salsa.

I’m flabbergasted, speechless! This is not what Doritos stands for! Doritos is about that corn chip coated with a flavor powder that brainwashes you to consume the whole bag and be too ashamed to admit it did not survive one sitting. I’m offended on so many levels. To add insult to injury, the salsa I had available just expired.

This is Doritos: love and devotion. Step aside Cool Ranch, Spicy Sweet Chili is the reigning Doritos of my heart. Also, rumor has it these chips are vegan.

Come on Japan, you were supposed to be the chosen one – for excellent, unusually flavored snacks! There’s over 300 flavors of KitKats sold exclusively in Japan! Those garlic shrimp Doritos of memories past were so good, full of promises. What happened that caused you to go for boring salted corn tortilla chips?

Japan, I trusted you

Although my feelings were definitely shattered by these experiences, this was not a show-stopper moment. I’m still going to keep trying international flavor chips as I can find them. The world is big enough for both big and small flavors. I’m going to snack my way through as many as possible, troubleshooting one line of code at a time. When I find these chips, I’ll make sure to share my experiences with you as well, dear readers.

Song of the Day

I mentioned unicorn and it reminded me of Robot Unicorn Attack. Does anyone remember it? I played it a ton back when I was in undergrad. Ah, the good ol’ days of Adobe Flash games. Therefore, today’s song will be the main soundtrack from the game:

Erasure – Always (2009 Mix)

Things My Cat Hates

Every cat is unique. Much like human individuals. And, much like human individuals, you don’t necessarily want to hear about the quirky behaviors of ones that you’re not taking care of. If that’s how you feel, you might want to skip this post. (Of course, if that’s really how you feel, you’ve probably already unsubscribed from this blog.)

Mr. Alexander the Great has his likes (regular mealtimes, burrowing under carpets, laser pointers, cuddling) and they mostly make sense.

His dislikes, however, are harder to explain.

My Cat Hates Linear Algebra

He may have been objecting specifically to the mathematical contents of Brand (2006) “Fast low-rank modifications of the thin singular value decomposition” but I have no way of knowing for sure.

My Cat Hates Café Bustelo

Can’t blame him, Tucson has much better options for coffee.

My Cat Hates Feet

Right there with you on that one buddy

My Cat Hates People Outside of Windows

Cat physics cannot explain how humans pass through solid walls, and prescribes but one acceptable reaction: a good hiss.

Let you think this is a fluke, he reliably hisses at anyone who approaches his window nook. Here’s another.

Most of all, My Cat Hates Cameras

Bad experiences with the paparazzi?

Of course I haven’t got the photo and video material to cover his dislike of:

  • any and all cleaning implements with handles
  • the Roomba™
  • crinkly bags (except when he crinkles them himself)
  • sudden noises
  • sudden silences, and
  • being asked to leave the bathtub so that I may use it.

You’ll just have to take my word for it on those.

Song of the Day

This cover of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” seems appropriate. Somehow the horn part alone makes it more compelling than the original synthpop.

Make your own “Bad Guy” at home from simple household ingredients, courtesy YouTube Person Seth Everman:

(There’s always The Original, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid hearing it before. Here you go.)