Bolsa Chica Sunset

bolsa_chica_sunset.JPG
Bolsa Chica is a great place to watch the sun set into the West. The bright, golden glow of the fading light is something I never tire of, especially if I’m barbecuing with friends and family.
bolsa_chica_wake.JPG
Walking along a channel, I followed a mysterious wake that seemed to defy the current. The murky water prevented a positive identification, but I would guess that the school of large fish that threw this wake were either carp or tilapia. They were too big to be the mullet native to this area.
bolsa_chica_palms.JPG
There palm trees remind me of driving through Miyazaki with my father. I would have loved to have spent some time on those beautiful beaches. But today, I am looking forward to swimming in the Pacific Ocean off of Huntington Beach. It’s been hot and humid lately, not unlike the summers I remember spending in Japan.

Giant Rats

possum.JPG
As I was feeding the cats, I noticed an animal looking down from our guava tree. This guy looks like he’s taken some abuse in the face. Maybe he was trying to eat Yoda’s food, and got clawed instead.
The opossum looks a lot like the killer rodents of unusual size that attacked the Man in Black in The Princess Bride, and makes a loud hissing noise if molested. I’ve never heard of them attacking, and used to catch them by the tail when I was a kid.
Another interesting thing about possums is that when they “play dead”, they actually pass out from being overwhelmed by terror. I’ve never seen them do this though. The ones around here must be pretty used to encounters with humans and their pets.

The Avila Coast

avila_otters01.JPG
There are so many sea otters off of the coast of Avila Beach that I can’t remember exactly how many I saw. Anyone who doubts that otters are a keystone species need only go fishing up here to see first hand the relationship between otters and a healthy kelp forest, full of fish and other marine organisms. In order to get an understanding of just how rich a kelp forest is I went diving.
mbamaintank.JPG
As you can see, a proliferation of kelp acts as a magnet for predators, a source of food, a nursery for juviniles, protective cover, and a home for many different creatures. By the way, this picture is actually from the main tank in Monterey Bay Aquarium, in case the way I posted this was misleading, heh. I have yet to dive this section of coastline.
My older sister, who volunteers at the aquarium, tells me the population of otters on the Pacific Coast is not doing too well right now, in general. A feline disease gets into sea water when people flush their kitty litter down the toilet instead of throwing it away, and otters contract this and die.
Another problem with otters is that they like to live where they grew up, so it is hard to reintroduce them into areas where they should do well. Otters that are dropped onto the Channel Islands have often swam all the way back across the channel, driven by their homing instinct to return to their points of origin to the frustruation of the marine biologist who worked so hard to put them there.
avila_otters02.JPG
Here’s a crop of a juvinile and an adult, chillin’ by the kelp.
avila_guano.JPG
Snowy white islands look pretty, but tell a different tale when you’re downwind. We were upwind, and even then the stench of guano was overpowering.

Tonkotsu Blues

I miss really good Japanese food, the kind you can’t get in the states. I miss the doteyaki and kushi katsu found in the seedier parts of Osaka, the fresh tsukuri, sushi, agemono, okonomi and monjayaki, dagojiru and butajiru, assorted nabe, goya champuru, yakiniku, kushiyaki, takoyaki, katsudon and katsukare, basashi, soba, udon, and the wild combinations found at tabehodai/nomihodai joints. But most of all, I miss the tonkotsu. Good ramen is hard to find over here, and good tonkotsu is all of unheard of.
Some of the recipes found at The Official Ramen Homepage are actually starting to make me a bit hungry. Here’s my contributions to instant ramen recipes of the same vein:
Korean-American Style Instant Ramen
Ingredients
1 package of ramen
1/2 cup of the kimchee of your choice
2 hot dogs, chopped
1 egg, scrambled
korean beansprouts
korean seaweed
green onions
Directions
Cook the noodles for a few minutes while boiling some hot water for the broth in another vessel. Discard the nasty oily water. Add the hot dogs, kimchee, and egg to the new water, and then the noodles. Serve in a bowl and top with korean beansprouts, seaweed, and green onions. Serve with a tall glass of Jinro (for real men) or an ice cold bottle of Hite.
Instant Chow RaMen
Ingredients
1 package of ramen
chopped onion
chopped garlic
chopped red or yellow bell pepper
chopped mushrooms
sesame oil
oyster sauce
shoyu
salt and pepper.
chopped beef or chicken
oyster sauce
chicken broth (or use the soup base from the packet to keep it ghetto)
corn starch
Directions
Marinate the meat in shoyu and oyster sauce for a half an hour. Cook the noodles for a few minutes, discard the nasty oily water, and set aside. Stir fry all of the ingredients, then add a bit of chicken stock and corn starch to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fry the noodles in sesame oil until they crisp. Top the noodles with the finished sauce, and serve with a nice, cold Tsingtao.
Ah, the joys of low income cooking.
But they do nothing to ease my Tonkotsu Blues. This website kind of helps.

Taking a leak while pondering Rudyard Kipling

One day, after a long, hard couple of weeks in the office, Huw and I went to have a few pints at an English pub. Our contracts were almost up and we were ready to move with our lives. Adding salt to the earth, many of our co-workers were discontent to the point of staging their own little mutiny and making the working atmosphere uncomfortable to put it mildly.
It was between pints that we happened upon a poem, that was hung in front of the urinals. It read:

IF
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream- and not make dreams your master,
If you can think- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And- which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!
-Rudyard Kipling

It put everything in perspective. Work no longer seemed so stressful anymore, just another common chore not to be given any more thought than necessary to get the job done. The poem gave me a swift kick in the ass, yet again reminding me that I can always do better, or be more mindful of people, things, and events occuring around me.
It seems that time passed quickly after this night. Our contracts expired, the mutiny resolved itself, and we were off- Huw to travel across China, Mongolia, and Russia by planes, trains, and automobiles, and I on my Kyushu road trip. After that, it was time for us to return to our points of origin and slip into the lives waiting for us.