To be sure, the new year looks much like the old. Pandemic still raging, all activities still online, etc etc.
Still, the days are getting longer again, and we have a few new lab members to add to the People page. Nationwide vaccination campaigns are underway, and who knows? Maybe we’ll all be vaccinated in time for observing in Chile in 2021A. (Or 2021B. Or… you know what? Let’s not jinx it.)
One of the last shows I went to last year was a triple feature: The Exbats, Tacocat, and AJJ. (AJJ played a rather grim song called Normalization Blues that seems oddly prescient considering it was only released in January of that year.)
However, in a more upbeat spirit, your song of the day / week / moment is “New World” by Tacocat.
Wow, it’s December already! As These Unprecedented Times continue, our 2020B telescope observation plans are sadly canceled. Still, how ever you celebrate the end of year holiday season, whether it’s winter (like us norteamericanos) or summer (like our colleagues in Chile), whether you observe religious traditions or merely a secular prayer to the S-I-R model this year, we wish you all the best.
Lab tradition dictates the hanging of stockings by the P.I.’s office, though after months of remote work I’ve heard doubts that he is real.
Let there be no doubt: he is real, and he knows if you’ve been bad or good.
As this is the only observational data in hand from MagAO-Xmas 2020B, I would like to share some observations of MagAO-Xmas 2019B. Last year, Jhen and Lauren placed the prints on Jared’s office door as ornaments for his return.
But until now these observations have been circulated internally as (Long, Lumbres, Schatz, in prep.). Finally, we can share them with a wider audience!
We present for your enjoyment some MagAO-Xmas holiday snaps from 2019B.
It’s been a strange and stressful year, but maybe the true meaning of MagAO-Xmas is not telescope time or conference presentations. Maybe MagAO-Xmas is really about the friends we share it with*!
*Over Zoom or whatever. We’re responsible that way.
Your song of the day
What could be more appropriate than a band called The Decemberists singing something called “Calamity Song”?
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.
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.
And some behind-the-scenes of the craftmanship:
The song of the day is Oh Klahoma by Jack Stauber. If you know you know.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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: