Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2015 memories

Whew, 2015 was a big year, moving to Colorado and all.

What else do you want to know?

Now that it is 2016 these Colorado photos might help place us in your mental imagery.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tamarindus Indica

Thank you, Marco Polo, for bringing back the tamarind to Europe, where later it would make its way to Mexico, where later it would make it to the United States and to my tastebuds.

I remember my first taste of kiwi fruit, and also my first taste of Tamarind.  The kiwi fruit was at my piano teacher's house, but my first taste of tamarind paste was in Mr Wright's math class in high school.  I learned a lot in those classes, but one thing that has stuck with me over the years as much as matrix transformations or trigonometric functions was the taste of these chili suckers I would get from Nico.  The chili suckers, and I still don't really know what they were called (Indeed I didn't until very recently realize what they were made of), were green appley suckers gooped with tamarind paste and smothered with a chili powder.  I am realizing even now that I'm not so sure about the green appley part--just sure about the tamarind and chili part.

The chili part I have been reliving lately in my discovery of Tajin.  It is a sort of "chili salt" infused with dehydrated lime juice, and it is good.  Devilishly good.  As in, try some of it, and your tastebuds will probably tell you in Spanish that they would like you to continue giving them that sort of attention.

The tamarind paste I found in stores around these parts at this time of year for making chili apples.  When I googled it I suspected that it was, at long last, the long lost taste of 20 years ago.  The funny thing is, years ago, I had found tamarindo candy and had decided that it was the long lost taste and the case was closed, I thought, as far as my taste bud nostalgia would go.   But no.  I bought some tamarind paste and took it home, and ate it with apple slices and Tajin, and Kazam!, just like an out of date Shaq reference, there my tastebuds were, back in 1993, and they were speaking to me.  In Spanish.

The thing is, tamarind paste is so sour as to be almost unbearable.  I experimented on all of my fmaily members, and none of them liked it at all.  Even with Tajin (Their tastebuds are delaying their satisfaction, I am sure, because the taste was literally too much for their minds to process.).  But this is the thing.  I also didn't like it at first.  It was so horrible, and spicy, I probably was pretty sure I wouldn't ever eat one of those again.  But then, you know, a while later and the weirdness of it and the novelty, and I was sucking down another one with my sour face.  But after that I liked them.  And then 20 years years later, and my tastebuds are having a real fiesta.

I experienced the dislike-like food novelty aspect with natto in Japan.  It is something you wouldn't think is a foodstuff.  but after a couple times of forcing it down, you found the novelty has grown into a weird fondeness and then even something you sort of crave.  I wonder if in 5 more years I'm not going to be reliving my days of Japanese school lunches and getting natto at the local import store to experiment on my Japanese family members to see if the taste (and texture!) of fermenting beans is literally too much for their minds to process.

But back to the current troydanielbecker.  Happy November!

Tamarind trees are devilishly interesting.  Read here if you want to get sucked in.  The take away facts? Tamarind is a main ingredient in Coke and in Worcestershire Sauce.  Lots of medicinal properties.  It is African, like coffee and the origins of humanity.

Apparently it made its way into Asia before Marco Polo got his hands on it.

3 day old tamarind sprout

Monday, August 5, 2013

current, or not current....

If I let an entire year go by without posting, than I can hardly maintain that this blog brings you the current troydanielbecker!  Let us take stock.

We are still living in our charming country home in Richmond Texas.  I am still an assistant principal at our charter school where Orry goes and where Isaac will be starting this fall. 

We have bees now.  We were mulling over goats yesterday but that just isn't going to happen.... yet.

I am now 35.5 (+ 1 day) in years of age.  Time isn't slowing for my offspring or for me either.  Yet Time has been so kind to my beautiful wife, who doesn't look a day over 30.5.

Our favorite toilet paper deal is Scott Extra Soft.  We stocked up yesterday.

Our latest new animals of interest have been the vicuña, the owlfly, and the desert rain frog.  We also lately perused true facts about various animals, thanks to the hilarious Ze Frank.

This year we were back and forth to Louisiana a lot.  We lost great grandpa Hideo this Winter but by the time of his passing we welcomed it as a relief and wish to celebrate our years with him.

We also entertained welcome guests this year and also had the opportunity to travel around on a mega roadtrip last month, touring through some national parks and various states, visiting some dear friends and family.  Bonnie and I went on a trip to Turkey in March (could you call it a Turkish March?) so I would say we got our share of traveling this past year. 

I see facebook has become a sort of reporting ground for goings-on, but that's no fun, as I know everybody loves a good weblog.  I'll see if I can't keep this blog more current this school year.  We shall see!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

more updates, and cute

So much for catching you up!  Here I am again.

In June, Evan's wedding was a big deal.  I was delighted to join in on celebrating that special day.

Teaching teachers is always good fun.  I did that.  And then there was July.  We spent a lot of it in Houma, helping out with Donna and Jeffery's Kitchen, and then also redoing a bathroom to be more accomodating at the end of the month.  It was fun.

I took an assistant principal position across town, actually in Katy, which is just west of Houston.  So we moved.  We found a charming country home in Richmond, which is a nice little drive to work (20 min).  We collected all of our belongings and moved them, and lately we've been spending many hours unpacking our treasured and not so treasured things.

Orry will come to school with me--our school is K-9.  He is excited about 1st grade.  I don't know what he's going to learn though--he already knows it all, just like me.  At home we're going to focus on piano and astronomy along with the usual.

Isaac is going to have a big year at home with mommy.  There are dozens of toads and geckos, dragonflies and butterflies to count.  There are flowers to plant.  Letters to read.  Dirt to play in.

Annie too.  She can tell you anything.  It might be hard for you to understand her, but we can translate.  We have bunk beds now.  They like to climb on them and play "firetruck".  Annie wants help when she climbs, and she asks for it, but "climb" sounds like "fwine".  Her r-vowels she uses dipthongs so that "more" sounds a little like "moy".  It's cute, and so is her face.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Venus, and la Légion d'Honneur

I used to think that with the right outlook--with a positive attitude and the correct approach--I could live well past the life expectancy rate determined by statistics.  I was thinking not just 100 years, but why not 200?  But even before my hair started thinning over the superior frontal gyrus of the frontal lobe of my brain, I recognized that while I didn't have to give up entirely the possibility of living for so long, and reading so many books, it wouldn't hurt to believe that the odds would play out for me physically the way they play out for other men.  I decided that with all likelihood I would indeed age in a way similar to humans around me.  It might make you giggle a little to see in my thinking such delusions of grandeur, but I will remind you that until quite recently, the frontal lobe of my brain was not yet fully developed.  And even now I wonder if I have quite grown up, and good for me if I live to be over 100 and am able to be like a child in exactly the right way.

Anyway, I will have to live to be well over 100 to see the next transit of Venus.  We got some good footage of the kids seeing it (except for you, Gonzo--you'll have to use your siblings' photos to plead your case), in case they live so long that they will be able to view the next transit in 105 years.

In case you were wondering if the transit of Mercury and the transit of Venus ever coincide, I don't think so. At least not in our historical timescale.  It would appear that Mercury crosses in May and November while Venus crosses in June and December.

When we arrived at the Sugarland Museum of Natural Science for the viewing party on June 5th, there was no shortage of nerdy excitement.  I promptly asked to borrow a man's solar shades and viewed the dot of Venus in front of the sun with my naked (but shielded) eyes.  Later in the evening as the sun was setting and slightly adumbrated with haze, clouds, and extra atmosphere--you know, when you're pretty sure you can look at the sun even though you're not supposed to--we inspected the golden orb with our naked and unshielded eyes and found the dark dot of Love upon it.

More clear and impactful was seeing it "up close" in the telescopes, and the best show of all was a sort of light box that with a series of reflections and magnification showed the image of the sun about 5 or 6 inches across on a white placard for all around to see.  The sun has been going through a phase of numerous sunspots lately, and I was delighted to see four such sunspots on the sun as well.

Here are our photos:
cardboard is technology.

because of the reflection, these images are not oriented the same as in the sky.  

looking down instead of up

well, we did have a picture of you with us, little one.

this last one is a picture of Orry helping Isaac with his math.

June has been a great month so far, but I've been keeping so busy I haven't kept you up to date with it.  I ended the school year, started up with the summer program teaching ESL, and since it's a six day work week I haven't made time for recording the off-time on this weblog.  This is the first of my catching you up, and keeping thecurrenttroydanielbecker current.

In light of my earlier comments on long life, I just finished another book by another favorite lesserknown author of mine, Julian Barnes.  In his book The Sense of an Ending, the reader thinks about our memories over the span of our lifetime, and how we evaluate our actions and our lives, both know, and in the future as we think of them in the past.

The jacket of his book touts Barnes' status of commander in the French order of the art of letters, so I thought, oh, yeah, naturally Julian Barnes and Theodore Zeldin must know each other.  Zeldin is 13 years older, but he actually got the same award almost 30 years ago.  And then I found that Zeldin was just last month or so awarded the rank of Commandeur in France's Legion of Honor.  I recently did a rundown of British status titles, but I today I was also curious about the French.  Technically, they do not admit foreigners into the Legion, but they bestow on foreigners a distinction which seems just about the same.  Notable heads of state are in the Legion, as are people like Schwarzenegger and Toni Morrison and Ralph Lauren.  The last three are Chaveliers, though, and not Commandeurs, like our Professor Zeldin, whose Honneur is more seasoned, it is fair to say.

Look at me go on.  But enough!  Thank you for reading.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

lightning and activities

I am learning to start my blogs with a delightful image:

We rode some lightning the other day, on the way home from the Williams Tower and Lego store.  It was very stormy, the kind that issues deadly lightning (they said on the radio, after the  urnhhhhhh test signal that wasn't jsut a test) and quarter sized hail (again reported on the radio).  We saw some lightning close by, while it was pouring rain, but then we saw some strike in the road right in front of us, as if we would have driven into it if it would have lasted any longer at all.  And the large boom that we heard simultaneously sounded like a large blowout and I felt it in my feet.

The video I found is about the closest approximation I could find on line.  The flash of the electricity appeared quite thick to my eyes.  It goes without saying but I'll say that I'm thankful we didn't crash or get hurt.


In other news today, we saw some of Houston's art cars.  In the following video from 2010, you'll see a few examples of cars we also saw today.  We got there towards the end of the lineup, but we saw a few notables.  One you'll see in this video that we saw is the dragon at the end.

Ones I didn't catch in the above video that we saw:  a car with two front ends and no back end.  a guy with a one wheel mobile that he rode around like a merry-go-round.  Orry says that our favorites are the wacky ones.

Speaking of Orry, he was a little under the weather today.  He still went around with us and had some fun, but he also ran a fever and had less energy than usual.  The rest of us had enough energy to get home, and then the two little ones sacked out until just after bedtime, ensuring that we will have a fun filled night as well.

Other things we did today:  celebrated two terrific birthdays at a birthday party.  fed the ducks.  flew some kites.  went to the museum.  made some homemade ice cream.  went grocery shopping.  sang along with We Are Young:

And I think at the end of the day, we're pleased.  And here's to making the most of our days!  Afterall, you never know if lightning or anything else will terminate the beating of your heart.

Monday, May 7, 2012

stop and look at the hammerhead worms.

My people stop and look at the hammerhead worms and other fascinations of life as it exists all around us.  Smelling the roses, looking at the clouds or rainbows, and even driving through the puddles, are appreciations of beauty that shouldn't go unlived.  A recent example was Bonnie and the tots finding a hammerhead worm by Isaac's day school.  You faithful readers might remember March 6, 2008, when I first blogged about worms and knowledge:
While showing Orry some more bugs, I found something I had never seen before.  It is a type of worm, but what struck me is that it wasn't wiggly, like the earthworms we know, and its body was more like a slug's, except very long and skinny.  Well, what I didn't notice was that the head was a peculiar shape, but these photos I found look exactly like the body I saw, so I am identifying it as the land planarian, or hammerhead worm.
Readers, when I saw this worm, I was fascinated with seeing something new.  For curiosity's sake, I googled to find out what it is.  And what delights me is seeing so many other notes from curious people who have had similar experiences.  
And a photo of the worm, of course:

land planarian

Bonnie and I commented on the curiosity and joy in engaging the world around us, and how some people seem to go by such marvels without a moment's notice.  Well, I can understand a slimy worm not speaking out to the nature lover within, but I hope you all are keen to look at the moon, a rainbow, or a new bird.

Kimbo Slice entered my life again.  This time it was at school during testing days.  The students were done testing, so after showing them some Napoleon Dynamite cartoons, we found some David Blaine magic clips, and David Blaine, in the spirit of Houdini, wanted Kimbo Slice to punch him the flexed stomach as hard as possible.  Which he did, and then did again to really give it the old college try.

We have been talking a lot lately at the Becker household about television shows.  Well, we don't watch tv at all, but we do get online and watch select television programs from time to time.  And as those of you who follow Bonnie on facebook probably know, we have sidestepped into the serial drama Mad Men.  After a few episodes, which of course sucked us in, an ongoing dialogue ensued about the value or lack of value in watching such programming.  The dialogue was brought to another level by the new assistant rector at our church who justifies for the critical couch potato that our souls do well to watch these programs.  I am assuming that he is assuming that we watch these programs with the heart of humanity, and our hearts, in mind.  And the conversation still continues.

I decided that this serial drama is not unlike Updike's Rabbit books, and that television programming is like literature, afterall.  Indulging in reading is something I enjoy and value.  But it is true that even with that indulgence I think what we *do* with our lives is very important, and reading and watching doesn't count as doing unless we actively critique it or somehow work hard with it to better our lives or the lives of others.  For me, personally, I will not continue watching Mad Men, at least not in active pursuit of watching them all.  Watching them here and there and keeping up on them through Bonnie (since she will probably continue through the series) is preferable to me.

Consider Walden.  There is the living of the life.  The reflecting and writing of the life.  The reading about the life.  The watching of the life.  And now, also the video game.

A bigger issue in my life and the life of my family is where to live.  We are looking for job options that will be in a place where we can dig our roots into some soil and stay put for a number of years.  This is no small task.  We have not crossed Houston off the list, but we are heavily considering elsewhere.  No solid job offers yet, but I think I need to finish applying to places first, right?

I know you're checking out how much more blog there is and considering how much time you have to read about thecurrenttroydanielbecker, but it's not the end yet, and maybe you should come back a little later when you have another minute.  By the way, if you find that there is a glitch and you can't view the end of my blogs or comments, you can switch to classic mode in the upper left, and also, if that doesn't work, mess with the maximize window or demaximize window functions to get to see all the way to the bottom.

We were headed back from the Children's Museum on Thursday when we saw the now familiar bat action of the swooping circling and often flitting and darting bug snatchers, but embodied in a more birdlike form.  Swifts!  And so we did our best to watch them, which involved us pulling over into a parking lot.  Isaac wouldn't have it, once he spotted them:

They look like bats, but those are birds.  They are swifts.  And they act like bats because they catch mosquitoes like bats...
Oh, bats!
No, birds.  They fly like bats and they are a similar size, but try to see the wing shape and the tail if you can.
Okay, look at the bats!  Look at all the bats!

On Saturday we went to the beach, and it's seaweed season.  We saw quite a few tiny crabs in the shallow surf.  No shovels this time, we just played in the sand, water, and waves.  When it got a little too cool (we went in the evening), we headed out and for once drove along the beach further instead of heading straight out of town like usual.  We later learned that our friends from church with boys in our family's age range also had a Cinco de Mayo beach day in Galveston, and so we were, like ships passing silent in the night, unaware of each other while away from our Houston home base.

And finally, we are to yesterday, where we were able to give double reds in the morning, and accidentally miss having the boys sing in the children choir even though we go every week to practice on Wednesdays and were actually there at church at the right service, except late.  And we were able to get our grocery shopping in and visit our cousins from Washington who are down to see our cousins that live in The Woodlands which is near Houston.  We hadn't yet met our Houston cousins, so this convergence, unlike ships passing silent, gave us a good opportunity to meet up and say hi.  What fun, and I am generally heartened to meet up with family and experience nostalgia of the yesteryears.

On our way back from that excursion, we came across a couple of scissortailed flycatchers.  Of course we had to stop the car (in traffic somewhat) because it's worth it.  It was again thanks to Bonnie's keen eyes that we got that avian treat.  We were going home "the back way" because it turns out we don't live too far away from the Houston cousins at all, but there is a slight maze of roads getting from here to there or back again and not taking the freeway up there.