Monday, March 31, 2008

Sweden makes NJ news

Some big news in Sweden made it in the US news today, despite primary elections, Iraq war and now over 4000 dead American soldiers, and Britney's latest mishaps. I was stuck in a waiting room for 3.5 hours today at the Federal Building in Newark, and the TV with channel 12 NJ news was on. At the bottom it suddenly said: "French Pernod buys Vin & Spirit". They meant government-owned Vin & Sprit in Sweden, makers of Absolut, which now will become a French company. I of course already knew this since I read Aftonbladet online religiously (wink, wink). I wonder why they thought this was important to New Jersey TV viewers. Absolut is famous for their advertising, one of the best marketing ideas ever. Below are some of the old ads. My favorite? Absolut Origin of course. There is even two New Jersey Absolut ads (one of a diner!). More great ads here.

I also learned that this is the National Peanut month, that there was 55% chance for rain outside (while the rain was already pouring down), a body has been found in Sayreville, and that they were looking for a missing mom with baby triplets but didn't show a photo. Maybe she is just resting in a hotel somewhere? I hope so.

Right of way

The following is the transcript of an actual radio conversation in October 1995, between a US Navy ship and the British authorities off the north coast of Scotland. The transcript was released by the MoD on the 10/10/95.

BRITISH: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid collision.

US Navy : Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the North to avoid collision.

BRITISH: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid collision.

US Navy: This is the Captain of US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

BRITISH: Negative I say again divert your course.


BRITISH: We are a lighthouse. Buzz Off!!!

(found here, but the story is false, even if funny and maybe even possible)

Dreary Day flower

A celebration flower for LS's citizenship test today! What is the 4th amendment again?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stamp of the Day: Lab in Africa

Man's best friend is bringing home dinner!
Remember our Lina that brought home prize after prize in her retrieving competitions and finally became a hunting champion? She is the best dog I have ever met. Thanks Mom for making her into the best and nicest dog ever with your expert training. I still miss her, and she died when I was 12 I think. A long time ago.

Need a new home?

I came across these unconventional homes, pretty inspiring! How about that Ralph Lauren Airstream with antlers inside? Or the inside-out treehouse in Colorado?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A piece of a shipwreck

At Spurn head we saw a bit of a stranded ship. The iron had been corroded and sanded into a smooth black object, nearly organic in shape.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Green shots from the rainforest

This Bactris palm is not something I would like to climb up!''

A local hibiscus, from the bottom up.

Below are some closeups of a mimosa-type flower. The pink and white parts are the stamens, fresh with the morning dew.

, an orchid with very tiny flowers, about 2-3 mm in diameter, and many hundreds of species.

Another leaf is on the way - circinate vernation in a fern leaf, like the top of a fiddle.

911 in the old meaning

Swedish police used to have some really fancy cars!

Planetary thoughts

Guess what this is? Yep, Saturn and the little moon Titan below it, taken from Cassini. This reminds me of the science fiction books by Heinlein, Asimov and others I used to borrow from the library as a teenager and read late at night (when my parents thought I should be asleep). There are more cool pictures at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. Photo credit: NASA.

Oyster eating at Coquette

Go to a nice French bistro in Philadelphia such as Coquette for lunch and order oysters.

Add condiments, if wanted. Eat! I used to dislike oysters but now I love them. It is all PP's fault, he made me eat them again. And O.K. too, he helped in the convincing.

A moist close-up, before it is gone. My favorites are Blue points and Kumamotos, and I like to have lemon, tabasco, or that shallot-vinegar mix on them, but not all at once. I like the oysters to be small and not to 'wet', not full of seashore liquid.

While eating you can enjoy the nice surroundings, and you can nearly think you are in Paris if you ignore the language, cars, and views out the windows. But nice! I love the floor, even if it is the same kind as in our old bathroom in the Bronx apartment where I used to live. Those little tiles are historical.

Their FRENCH fries are amazing, dusted with parsley and crispy and not too salty. PP had shrimp and grits and I had smoked trout sandwich with horseradish mayo. This is a great little lunch place in Philadelphia.
By the way, apparently Congress has gone back to serving French Fries in their lunch room, after calling them Freedom Fries since some republicans got mad at the French for not supporting the Iraq war. How silly can people be? They should have been more concerned about the people dying in Iraq. I prefer the word Pommes Frites, which simply means fried potatoes.

The website for the restaurant seems to be non-functional at the moment, which doesn't surprise me after reading the review below. The people running this place seem to do it the French way. Service was great, and the food was delicious. They had really nicely designed menus, very Parisian in style. There is an informative review of Coquette here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Like a mass of people

Doesn't it look like a gravestone demonstration, all eagerly listening to their leader up front? In Philadelphia of course, home of Independence Hall.

Exit 16A

This sign speaks for itself.

Snapshot: Not quite spring yet

In Sweden, to be more specific.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ships on the Delaware

Only a few ships are left at Penn's landing by the piers on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, and most can't even sail or move anymore. . Penn's landing used to be settled by Swedes and Dutch and Indians, before it became a city. Here is the largest 4-masted sailing ship still in existence, Moshulu, that has been transformed into a fancy restaurant. It is from the late 1800s and rounded Cape Horn no less than 56 times, and was kept in Finland for many years until it was sold to the owner in Philadelphia. I liked the restaurant, and you could imagine the leaning and creaking as if it was sailing outside of Africa.

Next to Moshulu are two military ships, the WWI ship U. S. S. Olympia (white) and a WWII submarine called U.S.S. Becuna (after a fish). Both are museums now. PP and I had a discussion here of what would be most tolerable - being underwater in the submarine or on the surface of the water on a sailing ship in a storm. I voted for the sailing ship, I think the submarine would be too claustrophobic. I have seen too many submarine movies...

The "New Market" is very old, and no longer used as the market. Imagine this place bustling with fishmongers and sailors a hundred years ago. I like all the old brick buildings with their wooden doors and window shutters.

Three entrances to a house - door, window, and coal shoot (?) to the basement. This is also an old museum building in the Old City.

Monday, March 24, 2008

On the streets of Philadelphia...

Great "Development Opportunity" about 2 blocks from the Amada restaurant, on the same street. Philadelphia is a study in contrasts. How much do you think they are asking for the building? A couple of million dollars?

Tapas in Philadelphia, a great experience!

Our night at the rather new Spanish restaurant AMADA was a great experience. It is located in the Old City of Philadelphia, close to many cobblestone streets that Washington, Jefferson and the others walked on among horse dung, sewer water, and merchants only a little over 220 years ago. This is the neighborhood that housed the people that wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for many months while they were weighing all the words very carefully. Of course they didn't have AMADA, just the local inns and taverns. I bet they would have liked AMADA's tapas-filled menu.

This was the view from our seats. We had special seats along the counter towards the kitchen where most of the tapas were assembled. See those wineglasses? The waiters didn't drink a bit from them, but when they came to pick up orders from the chefs they often took a sniff - sniffing alcohol up the nose. Or more properly, wine aroma, I guess.
We ordered about 8 tapas I think, and this probably was PP's favorite, at least from what I could judge from his facial expressions. This is 5 different kinds of coldcuts, cured meats such as salami-like sausages, serrano ham, and cured porkloin. (from the menu: CHORIZO-CANTIMPALO/ SERRANO HAM / LOMO EMBUCHADO / CHORIZO-BLANCO / SALCHICHÓN / JAMON DE CAMPO /)
They weren't as red as the photo suggest, something must have gone wrong in the low light. All photos were taken without flash, mostly with an exposure of 1/4 second or so, so they quality is not the best. I tried to be discreet.
This was a strange but interesting dish. Raw oysters, out of their shells and each placed on a ceramic spoon, topped with " green apple effervescent" (=looks like foamy toothpaste, tastes like apple), and a little fennel leaf. Chrunchy, applyish and oysterish at the same time. Interesting and good, but I like regular raw oysters with Tabasco or lemon better. This was more for people that can't handle the real thing.
This was my favorite, a mound of fried baby anchovy with a fried egg on top. Ah, they were so good. Crunchy here too, looked like french fries, but these whole baby fish was delicious.
More seafood - to the left is grilled octopus tentacles (PULPO A LA GALLEGA), sliced into small rounds, and to the right is squid with basil oil (CHIPIRÓNES). Very, very good!
All gone!
Not on the photos but also delicious was TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA
And cheese, espresso and cappuccino afterwards. We drank a really good Spanish wine from a nearly extinct grape variety that is only grown in Spain with our meal. PP can probably remember the name, since I can't. Conclusion - go to Amada, bring a large packet of bills, and eat in delight!
Oh, one more thing - we probably had one of the best waiters I have ever met, and I can't remember his name. But he was from Trenton and had worked at Harvest Moon in New Brunswick. He told me to not trust the quality of the food there, but at Amada everything was perfect. And no, Dad, I didn't practice my non-existing Spanish. Muy bien cucina, gracias!
Now I want to travel to Spain to try the real thing.
(another review here)

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Finally spring!

A scene from Old City in Philadelphia - magnolia blossoms in an old graveyard from this weekend. More Philadelphia photos are coming soon.

Painted Easter Eggs

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The stoker

I found this poem about a occupation now long gone, a job my granddad had in that era. The poem was published about a month before the at the time worlds largest steam powered ship Titanic sank, in the march issue of "Technical World Magazine" of 1912.

(Click on the pictures to see them larger).