Traveling, Cooking, Reading, and Trains

Thank You , Jeeves

Author: P.G. Wodehouse
Published: 1934
Type: Fiction
Finished: July 29, 2020

Rating: ★★★★

Image from Amazon

I adore P.G. Wodehouse’s stories, especially the Jeeves and Wooster series. But it is difficult to convey the joy I find in reading his books. Quoting individual snippets that are hilarious in context may sometimes fall flat on their own. In addition, I’ve seen some 1-star reviews on Amazon that show not everyone “gets” it. Let’s be clear, these are comedies; I compare them to “Screwball Comedies” of the Depression. Interestingly enough, Jeeves and Wooster stories come from that same era. So, to get the most enjoyment of P.G.  Wodehouse’s works you need to apply that same “willing suspension of disbelief” that Coleridge said poetry needs.

Bertram “Bertie” Wooster is a rich, bumbling single man and Jeeves is his valet, or as he calls himself, a “Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman.” Jeeves is as wise and unflappable as Bertie is clueless and panicky. In describing him employer to a woman in this story, Jeeves sums him up:

“‘Mr Wooster, miss’ he said, ‘is perhaps mentally somewhat negligible, but he has a heart of gold.” [p 76]

The novels are told in the first person by Bertram as a reminiscence of the latest close call. Bertie is forever getting in trouble by trying to help someone – usually in a matter of love – and requires Jeeves’ help. In this story – P.G. Wodenouse’s first Jeeves and Wooster novel – Bertie is practising his new banjo in his London flat. The other tenants, Mr. Manglehoffer, the Honourable Mrs Tinkler-Moulke, and Lieutenant-Colnel J.J. Bustard, [OMG THE NAMES!] take issue with the racket, causing Bertie to take a country cottage on the grounds of a friend’s manor house. Along the way he runs into Pauline Stoker – a woman to whom he was once mistakenly engaged – to the outrage of her father and Bertie’s friend who is smitten with Pauline and is jealous. The more Bertie tries to help, the deeper into trouble he gets. The other characters have troubles of their own and eventually Jeeves fixes everything.

Wodehouse is a master of comedy. In addition to the absurd plots, he has the most wonderful touch in the turn of phrase or description of events. The best dialogues are those between Bertie and Jeeves.  I derive joy from reading Wodehouse by putting myself in that time and place and hearing myself reading the passage. Here, Bertie is reacting to a problem.

“‘But, Jeeves, this is frightful.’’

‘Most disturbing, sir.’

If Jeeves has a fault, it is that his demeanour on these occasions too frequently tends to be rather more calm and  unemotional than one could wish. One lodges no protest, as a rule, because he generally has the situation well in hand and loses no time in coming before the Board with one of his ripe solutions. But I have often felt that I could do with a little more leaping about with rolling eyeballs on his part, and I felt it now. At a moment like the present, the adjective ‘disturbing’ seemed to me to miss the facts by about ten parasangs.'” [p 169]

These stories are the perfect antidote today’s doom and gloom.

This book does have one problem when reading it in the 21st century. There is a group of  banjo playing minstrels that figure into the plot and they are referred to using the “N” word. And in order to escape one scrape Bertram has to don black face with shoe polish. I don’t know how wrong this was in 1934 England, but certainly is a problem today. So, you may want to start with another of his novels; maybe “Right Ho, Jeeves” or “The Code of the Woosters.” 

Or you might want a taste of the characters by watching a few episodes of the Jeeves and Wooster comedy series starring the comedy team of Hugh Laurie as Bertie and Stephen Fry as Jeeves. You get a nice view of the characters, but the episodes lack the intricacies of the novels.

Cook date: July 30, 2020

I’ve made this dish many times and blogged about it most of those times; but, for one reason or another I haven’t been able to get good pictures. I was focused on getting my pictures for this cook.

Chicken, rosemary and lemon go together like tuxedos and ball gowns. We have a fall/winter favorite of chicken rosemary stew which includes lemon. Funny I never noticed that until just this past week. We couldn’t get fresh thyme from the grocery store so we settled for using dried but cutting the amount by a third.

Ingredients for Italian Grilled Chicken – so much garlic

Measure, chop, squeeze, zest, and pour…

Italian Chicken Stew mis en place

One quarter cup olive oil, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice and the zest of the lemon, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary leaves – chopped, a teaspoon of dried thyme and a bunch of garlic pushed through a garlic press- I think I used at least 7 cloves.

We use these ingredients in two ways. First we make a beautiful garlic olive oil for a serving sauce with everything but the lemon juice.

Starting the sauce.

Simmer gently for 10 minutes then let cool

Simmering the sauce.

Second, we add separate the solids from the oil. …

Then mix those solids with kosher salt and put under and on the underside of a spatchcocked chicken. Normally, I refrain from including pictures of raw chicken brecause, ew. But you can see how we spread the salted herbs under the skin and over the breast and thigh meat.

Prepared chicken

The chicken goes into the refrigerator for a couple of hours for a dry brine. Then we fire up the grill for indirect cooking at 425°. The chicken goes on the cooler, indirect side skin down with the legs pointed to the direct side so the thighs and legs can cook faster – they are a bit more resilient to high temps. Ideally, you are supposed to wrap 2 brick in aluminum foil to weight down the bird; unfortunately, during last summer’s clean up prior to the kids moving back to town and using our garage for storage for a couple of months, the bricks I use disappeared. Oh well, I have cast iron press I can wrap in foil. It isn’t as heavy as 2 bricks but will do in a pinch.

After 25 minutes we flip the chicken skin side up and continue to cook.

Italian Style Grilled Chicken on the Grill

Let’s get a closer look.

Italian Style Grilled Chicken almost done.

When it’s close to ready we turn it back skin side down – no weight – and put on the direct side to finish browning the chicken.

While the chicken is resting for a few minutes, we whisk the lemon juice and some reserved herbs to finish the sauce.

Italian Grilled Chicken almost ready for dinner.

Carve. The wings never made it to the plate; Carla and I gobbled them up at the counter.

The only difficulty is that the skin is so loosened when applying the rub, it doesn’t stick to the white meat when carving.

I also grilled some corn wrapped in foil and Carla made Couscous. Dinner is served.

Oh, that sauce! So silky, lemony, and garlicky all together. We spooned some over the Couscous as well. I’d put this sauce on almost anything – well not ice cream – probably.

Rating: ★★★★ A solid chicken dish easily good enough for company – when we can have company for dinner again. This was the best version I’ve made in awhile – I don’t know what to attribute it to, but it was great.

The Girl With Seven Names: Escape from North Korea

Author: Hyeonseo Lee with David John
Published: 2015
Type: Biography
Finished: July 27, 2020

Rating: ★★★★

Image from Amazon

I know it’s a cliché to say “it’s too unrealistic to be fiction”; and yet it is a true story. Just before turning 18 and becoming an adult in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee crosses the narrow Yalu River into China on a lark to visit some relatives. While she is gone, the Bowibu – the local security group that enforces loyalty to the regime – notices she is gone. Lee’s mother is able to get notice to her not to return home. A fugitive, even in China, Lee starts a 10 year journey to get to South Korea. She takes on six new names throughout her young life in order to stay hidden in plain sight. She has several narrow escapes from being returned to North Korea where she would be executed or sent to a penal farm to starve to death..

This book is a combination of biography, thriller, and insight into North Korea. The best trait North Korea imprinted on Hyeonseo was to not show her feelings. 

“One of the tragedies of North Korea is that everyone wears a mask, which they let slip at their peril. The mask my mother presented to people outside the family was of a hardened, no-nonsense woman of high songbun [status]. In truth, it hid  a sense of fun and a deep compassion for others.” [p 20] 

This ability to push her emotions down and maintain composure in the face of incredible danger helps her time and time again. 

[Spoiler Alert]

Hyeonseo misses her family and parts of her old life. Through perseverance, grit, and not a little luck, she is able to get her mother and brother into South Korea. But adjustment is difficult:

“Among the 27,000 North Koreans in the South, two kinds of life have been left behind: the wretched life of persecution and hunger, and the manageable life that was not so bad. People in the first group adjust rapidly. Their new life, however challenging, could only be better. For the people in the second group, life in the South is far more daunting. It often makes them yearn for the simpler, nore ordered existence they left behind, where big decisions are taken from them by the state, and where life is not a fierce competition.” [p 281]

[\Spoiler Alert]

Hyeonseo gains a new understanding of North Korean life when she leaves. People ask her why North Koreans put up with this?

“In truth there is no dividing line between cruel leaders and oppressed citizens. The Kims rule by making everyone complicit in a brutal system, implicating all, from the highest to the lowest blurring morals so that no one is blameless. … 

“Ordinary people are made persecutors, denouncers, thieves. They use the fear flowing from the top to win some advantage, or to survive.” [p 150]

This is an excellent book I had to fight between not being able to put it down on one hand, while on the other I’d have to put it down because I couldn’t handle the tension of wondering if she and her family would escape being caught. Which is silly on one hand; we know she makes it because she writes this book about it. But we don’t know about her mother and brother. 

Cook Date: July 24, 2020

To quote Monty Python: “And now for something completely different.”

Last Tuesday we were putting together our menu and shopping list for the next week. Carla suggested a Thai peanut sauce tofu dish we have been kicking around. But I just so happened to be looking at a Tofu Steak Veracruzana dish in the Washington Post at that moment and said “no, I’ll cook this instead.” So the ingredients went on the shopping list. Later I looked more closely at the recipe and thought to myself: “What in the heck was I thinking?” I wasn’t at all sure how this would taste.

While this is a Mexican dish, it isn’t TexMex: no tortillas, meat, red sauce and cheese. This is based on a type of dish served in Central Mexico and is usually made for fish or shrimp.

The stars of the show – fruits and vegetables – looked like a great summer meal.

The stars of tofu steak veracruzana

But, before we get to that we need to start some rice for a side dish. I’ve riffed on a recipe I found on Simply Recipes: adjusting amounts and using the rice cooker. You can find my recipe here.

Most of the Spanish Rice ingredients

Once I realized I didn’t want to make as much rice as the original recipe makes I cut out 1 can of the diced tomatoes and green chilis and omitted the diced green chilis altogether.

Spanish rice ingredients ready to go.

I diced half of a small onion (not shown in the top photo) and sautéd the rice and onion in some olive oil. I then added the salt and garlic and sautéd until fragrant. Don’t make the mistake I made. Normally I rinse my rice thoroughly – until the water runs clear. Stupid me, I thought if i let the rice drain for a while it would be fine adding it to the frying pan with hot oil. It wasn’t terrible, but it sure spattered hot olive oil all over the stove top So either don’t rinse your rice or skip the sauté step and just throw everything into your rice cooker and press “Go”.

Once the rice started I returned to the main course.

Tofu steak Veracruzana ingredients.

The recipe is vegan; I’m not, So I substituted chicken stock for vegetable stock and used real butter instead of vegan butter.

I’m used to pressing tofu to remove the moisture: wrap in paper towels, set on a cooling rack and press with a cast iron press or a plate with a big can of tomatoes on top. Instead, this recipe calls for heating the block of tofu wrapped in paper towels in the microwave for 1 minute, replacing the paper towels and going for another cycle. It worked but I like my method just as well.

Once dry, I sliced the tofu into 4 planks. I placed the tofu on the narrow edge running lengthwise perpendicular to me. I cut it in half, then cut each half in half. I didn’t do a perfect job, but it was passable.

Next we whisk together chicken stock, fresh lime juice, a clove of garlic, some kosher salt, ground black pepper, and a bit of dried oregano. Since I was using homemade chicken stock – which has very little salt – I should have added more than the recipe calls for. Place the tofu planks in a 1 gallon zip top bag, add the marinade, seal, swish, and marinade 30 minutes, flipping every few minutes.

Marinated tofu “steaks”

Why are these called tofu “steaks”? We aren’t fooling anyone; Carla and I shared a grilled ribeye last week and the tofu tastes nothing like it. I see that a lot in vegetarian dishes, giving ingredients names that mimic omnivore recipes. If we are trying to trick someone, they will be onto us in the first bite. Why not call this recipe “Tofu Plank Veracruzana” (like I do)?

Enough ranting; I sliced the vegetables, chopped some pitted green olives and capers, crushed some garlic, and measured out some white wine and butter.

Tofu Plank Vera Cruzana ingredients mise en place.

I seared the tofu in my vintage 10-inch Wagner Ware Sydney cast iron skillet I picked up at a second hand store in Bingen, Washington two summers ago. It’s been sitting around while I debated stripping and re-seasoning it. The only way to tell if it was okay to use was to use it. It worked well.

The tofu planks are a little fragile; I found it worked best to use a fish spatula to turn them.

Searing the tofu in my cast iron skillet

After 10 minutes the planks come off.

Seared tofu planks

In go the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño chil.

Sautéing onion, bell pepper and jalapeño chili

After a few minutes they start to soften and I add the chopped olives and capers.

Finally add the tomatoes and wine and simmer until the wine is partially cooked off. Reduce the heat, add the tofu to heat it through.

Stir in the butter at the last moment and dinner is ready.

Dinner is served

Dinner is served: Tofu plank Veracruzana, Spanish rice, and a green salad.

As I’ve said before about tofu recipes, it’s all about the sauce. Even marinated and seared, the tofu was on the bland side; next time I’ll marinate it longer and with a bit more salt. But the sauce and rice brought the dish to life. Carla and I debated how many stars to give it. Three stars means good but maybe not ready for prime time. Four stars means it’s in the regular rotation and/or good for company. The sauce is really nice; the tomatoes, onions, pepper, and chilis gives it body while the olives and capers give it a nice briny touch. We add kalamata olives to a beans and rice dish we love. Hmm, can’t find a blog post on it, I’d better do that!

If you have friends who turn and run in horror at the idea of tofu, pick something else for company. But if they like tofu, then this would be great. I think my sister-in-law Linda would like it. The Washington Post says this sauce is often used with fish instead of tofu; I think this would be a wonderful use. Or toss the tofu and add some shrimp at the end. And it lends itself to cooking outside on a griddle (yeah, I’m looking into that. Stay tuned.)

Rating: ★★★★

A note on the photography. I lit the pictures with an Aputure HR672S panel and two smaller Aputure H198 panels. Here is the large panel (with brackets for the diffuser).

Aputure HR672S LED Panel.

I diffused the light on the large panel with the Aputure EZ Box+ II Diffuser Softbox. This was my first use of the diffuser.

Aputure EZ Box+ II Diffuser Softbox mounted on the Aputure HR672S LED Panel

I’m not 100% satisfied with the results. If you look at the photos of whole vegetables in the post you’ll see some shiny reflections – in the tomatoes and bell pepper especially. In my test shots I used an 18% gray card to set the white balance. The lights range on the cool side: 4,800 down to 3,500 depending on the shot. And these lights are just not as bright as my Godox flashes. I’m thinking of playing around with some adjustments: including

  • Using the included orange tungsten diffusers instead of the frosted neutral one.
  • Remove the included hard plastic diffuser and shoot into a reflective umbrella.
  • Remove the included hard plastic diffuser and shoot through the EZ Box+. I think that will only make the hot spots hotter.
  • Add another layer of diffusion on the EZ Box+.

Treasure Island

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Published: 1885
Type: Fiction
Finished: July 17, 2020

Rating: ★★★

Image from Amazon

This is it! “X” marks the spot – the canonical pirate story. While there were others before, this 19th century novel is the one which establishes the Romantic pirate folklore we all know. In it we have:

  • A one legged sailor. Sure, the captain of the Pequod in Moby Dick had only one leg; but Ahab did not have
  • A parrot to sit on the sailor’s shoulder
  • Large brimmed hats with one side flopping down.
  • A treasure map, where “X” marks the spot
  • A treasure chest
  • A marooned castaway
  • So much rum
  • That quintessential  song:
    “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest … Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum.”
  • “Shiver my timbers”
  • And more

Young Jim Hawkins is the hero, and narrator, of the story. He helps his mom run the small Admiral Benbow Inn on the English coast. One day a fearsome sailor with a big sea chest checks into the inn. When drinking his rum – which is a lot of the time – Billy Bones regales his audience with tales of the high seas.

“By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever allowed upon the sea; and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described.” [p 7]

Billy Bones spends most of his days on the cliffs above the seashore looking for we know not what. Obviously worried, he enlists Jim’s help in keeping his eye out for a sailor with just one leg. One thing leads to another, Billy Bones dies, Jim finds a package in Bone’s sea chest which turns out to have a treasure map. Yadda, yadda, yadda, and a ship is commissioned, a captain and crew found, and they set off on a treasure hunt. The good guys are Jim, the local doctor Dr. Livesy, the chief landowner of the area John Trelawney, and Captain Smollett. And who is crewing? Long John Silver! Jim meets a one legged man who runs a local tavern; but after talking with him is sure he can’t be that man Billy Bones carried on about.

“Now to tell you the truth, from the very first mention of Long John in Squire Trelawney’s letter, I had taken a fear in my mind that he might prove to be the very one-legged sailor whom I had watched for so long at the old ‘Benbow.’ But one look at the man before me was enough. I had seen the captain, and Black  Dog, and the blind man Pew, and I thought I knew what a buccaneer was like – a very different creature, according to me, from this clean and pleasant-tempered landlord.” [p 31]

“I would have gone bail for the innocence of Long John Silver.” [p 33]

Along the way, Jim learns of the treachery Long John Silver and his fellow pirate shipmates have in mind. Good guys and bad guys split and a deadly contest for the treasure is on. 

Long John Silver is, by far, the most interesting and complex character in the book. Most of the time he is charming but it is obvious that he is always scheming and planning; he is always trying to keep his options open. He is as apt to use his wit and wiles as he is a gun or sword. As for the rest of the characters we see what kind of people they are immediately and they continue to act as you’d expect. Trelawney, the local noble man is an idiot. Against strong warnings from Dr. Livesy he spills the word on the purpose of the voyage and hires Long John and his cohorts to crew the ship.

Of course all the characters are fictionalized, but Jim is the most unrealistic. He takes some chances that no one – especially a child – would take in his position. But of course what is unrealistic also makes for a great hero for the young readers.

Regardless, it is a fun short read – perfect to recapture a bit of your youth this summer.

This novel was written in serial format from 1881 to 1882 and grew from a treasure map Stevenson’s step son had painted. Being almost 140 years old, it is only logical that some of the language is a bit strange and unclear. I had to read a few passages a few times to make sure I understood what was happening, but sometimes I stumbled upon passages like this:

“Have I lived this many years, and a son of a rum-puncheon cock his hat athwart my hawse at the latter end of it?” [p 106]

As a result, it may be difficult for young people to plow through it. Perhaps a parent reading to their children would do better. 

My dad received a 1915 copy of Treasure Island from his father. I never read it though it was around the house and I filled myself up with other books from my dad and mom’s library. In the 1980s my dad inscribed it and passed it along to my boys. I found it in a bookshelf last year and passed it to my youngest son to share with his two boys. So this copy has spanned 5 generations and counting. 

Having said that, I read a Kindle edition. While Kindle editions of classic novels can be hit or miss, I found this Ici-Ebook (see the link above) to be very good. However you read this, get a copy with illustrations. The Kindle edition actually had dual illustrations from different a first. Interestingly enough, they mostly picked the same scenes to illustrate. It was nice to use my tablet to zoom in on the beautiful drawings.

July 20, 2020

A week earlier I took a walk up the hill to Matrix Hill Park to have a look around. The view was nice but I couldn’t see our local volcano, Mt. Hood. Yesterday I headed back a bit earlier in the morning to try again.

Up along the switchback as I climbed the grade, I took a picture or two of the local flora.

Local flora along the trail to Matrix Hil Park

When I got to the top I still couldn’t see the mountain. Maybe there was a glitch in the Matrix. Then I peered a bit harder – aha! there it is, barely.

Looking across Portland to Mt Hood

I got to thinking that trying to grab a picture in the morning wasn’t the best idea as the mountain had the sun behind and beside it. Not the best lighting.

Oh well, I wandered around a couple of trails I hadn’t visited before and found a large solar array. I would say I had no idea it was there, but I had seen it from Google Maps when I planned my walk the week before. Still, I was surprised at how big it is.

Solar Array on Matrix Hill in Beaverton, Oregon

There wasn’t much else new to see and it was getting warm on a day that promised plenty of heat. So I headed back home.

Around 8:00 that night I thought I might have better lighting for my subject so Carla and I drove over to the neighborhood that sits just short of the last bit of trail up to the park. Dang! Still no mountain. Here is a mildly edited photo that shows just how faint the mountain is. I was shooting raw images which means any image would be flat. I brought it into Lightroom and applied the camera standard profile, which would show what the camera saw. I didn’t make any adjustments to the tone. Here is how it looked.

Mt Hood with minimal editing applied.

The sun was close to behind us (you can see my shadow on the lower right) so the light was more beautiful than that picture reveals. I adjusted the tones to bring out what we saw. It definitely shows the trees in the foreground much better; the mountain is just mildly enhanced.

Mt Hood – revealing the better evening light.

We had a cool but dry early late June and early July. I think we need a bit of rain to wash away the crud in the atmosphere. But I can wait.

Mt. Hood can provide a spectacular view when caught in the right light. Here it is on a crystal clear early spring morning (photo taken with my iPhone which loves to make the blues pop).

Mt Hood – mid March 2020.

I grew up in the Mojave Desert of Southern California – just over the San Gabriel Mountains from Los Angeles. We could get to Ventura Beach in about an hour and a half. We could play on the sand, walk along the beach, body surf. It was fantastic. Once my friends and I got our drivers’ licenses we’d make frequent trips during the summers and would even camp out on the beach.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, and I moved to Oregon. One thing I soon noticed is that people call it “The Coast” rather than “The Beach”. That’s because the water is so dang cold! People – mostly kids – may spend a little time in the water, but it is far too chilly to do any serious water play unless you have a wet/dry suit.

Nevertheless, if you read most of my posts about the Oregon Coast, you’d think it is a sunny playground (even in February). And, on a nice day, the Coast is beautiful. But not always.

Our most frequent destination is Canon Beach – or Cannon Beach if I spell it correctly. It is about an hour and a half from home and features a long beach for walking. The most distinctive feature is Haystack Rock. When the tide is low you can visit the tide pools.

Like most of the geologic features on the Oregon Coast it was formed by lava flows 15 to 16 million years ago. You can see – on a clear day – that the rock is an extension of a ridge that comes out of the Coast Range. A big chunk of the earth has washed away in the past 15 or so million years but pieces of the rock remain.

That was the feature I was hoping to show in this post. After parking at the Tolovana wayside, we headed down to the beach and saw this.

Haystack Rock is really out there. I promise

We walked a couple of miles north through a fog bank and could see Haystack Rock when we got close. It was interesting watching it appear then disappear.

As a kid my family went to Morro Bay on the central California coast. It features a similar geologic feature – Morro Rock – also created by lava flows.

Well, that’s a lot of words for one picture. For more pictures of the Oregon Coast check out the links listed above.

July 10&12, 2020

I’ve been looking for a photography project and decided to pull out my LED lighting panels. I have an Aputure HR672S panel and two smaller Aputure H198 panels. I gave up on using these a year or so ago because even using the provided diffusers they give a harsh light that leaves shadows and shiny spots. I even purchased an off brand external diffuser for the HR672S but it didn’t fit well. Then I realized that the light pole adapter I’m using has an umbrella mount. Hmmm.

I mounted the large light shooting through a white umbrella to the front left of the subjects – about the 7 o’clock position. I then put a smaller light at the 3 o’clock position pointing across to the 9 o’clock position to knock light up the back sides of the subjects and knock down shadows. The final smaller panel was at the 9 o’clock position shining toward the back wall at the 12 o’clock position to get some reflective light on the subjects.

I pulled out my lighting subjects and took some pictures.

LED Lighting Sample

Not bad, no discernible shadows and good overall lighting. However, these subjects are all made of wood, so I picked some reflective surfaces.

LED Lighting Sample

The glass and metal lid have a bit of shine on them but, definitely acceptable. Here is another mix with a reflective surface.

LED Lighting Sample

My next go ’round was to use the setup for a regular cooking shoot. I was cooking a dish I made in June: Crispy Tofu with garlic-honey sauce. You can find the I Am A Food Blog post/recipe here. The light in that shoot came from two Godox speedlights shooting through umbrellas.

For this shoot I took off the stock diffuser panel off the 672 but still shot through a white umbrella. Here are some typical shots from one of my cooking posts you can compare with that previous cook. The product shots include two highly reflective surfaces. You can see a bit of sheen but it’s not glary,

Coconut rice ingredients
Crispy Tofu ingredients.

Nice. No big reflections.

Here is my favorite picture of the shoot: I’m pressing the moisture out of the tofu – good light under the overhanging iron weight.

Pressing liquid out of the tofu

Sliced and ready to toss with cornstarch and bake.

We’ll dust the tofu chunks in corn starch for baking

This picture is a little dark on the left side.

I roasted the tofu according to directions, then tossed in a warm sauce of garlic, honey, and soy sauce.

Baked tofu tossed in garlic/honey/soy sauce

In my last post on this dish I wrote that next time I’d serve it directly over rice instead of on the side.

Crispy Tofu with garlic/honey/soy sauce

I baked the tofu a bit longer than last time and they got a bit darker. By the way, if you are a kimchi fan, and you live in Portland, try Choi’s Radish Kimchi. Instead of cabbage you get nice chunks of daikon (?) radish in that spicy kimchi sauce.

When cleaning up, I was struck by the residue on the parchment paper the tofu was baked on. Better here than on the sheet pan where I’d have to scrub it off.

Tofu residue on parchment paper after baking.

I still give it ★★★★ stars – we eat this on the regular.

What are my thoughts on using the LED light panels?

On the Pro side, the lighting was nice. And shooting using permanent lights makes adjusting camera settings for the lighting much easier. I was easily to get the correct white balance using an 18% gray card. When using a flash, I usually adjust the white balance in LightRoom using a picture of the white balance card. And setting exposure parameters using speedlights takes a few pictures to get everything right.

I had two big and one small problems with the lighting. The small problem was that I was using a small (6-inch) Joby multi-node tripod for one of the small H198 panels. Try as I might, it kept tipping over. The panel was too top heavy. On the other side of the counter, the Manfrotto MTPIXI-B performed like a champ. Easy solution: I ordered a small Amazon Basics desktop tri-pod similar to the Manfrotto to replace the Joby.

The light panels just don’t put out the bright light that flashes do. Shooting through the umbrella required me to push the Exposure Compensation ⅓ to 1 stop. That isn’t horrible, even using my light hungry Sony RX100M7, increasing the EC my ISO was low.

Finally, these panels suck the power. The large panel uses 2 large NP-F690/NP-F970 batteries. The small panels use one NP-F770/F750/F730 battery each. Even turning them off between photos, I used 50% – 67% of the batteries. I’d be pushing my luck trying to use these for a long cook. And it takes a few hours to recharge the larger batteries. Maybe I’ll buy some extra batteries if I can find some inexpensive ones.

I’ll also try the Aputure EZ Box+ II Diffuser Softbox. This is a newer model than the model that got such poor reviews a couple of years ago. We’ll see. Apparently I got one of the last ones on Amazon since it is not available now. At least it is still on the Aputure sight. I’ll let you know what I think.

July 13, 2020

At long last I think summer is here. We’ve had a cool drizzly June into July. But today was sunny from the moment we woke up and promised a high in the low 80’s. My buddy Mike T. told me about this spot a few months ago and I’ve been waiting for a sunny day.I decided to walk up to Matrix Hill Park in Beaverton. It is immediately north of the Walmart on Murray Blvd – so not a super long walk for me.

Here is a view from Google Maps.

Matrix Hill Park (Red Pin). Beaverton, Oregon

Like all the walks north from my house, there was a long gradual incline.

I stopped along the way to admire a rose in someone’s garden.

Neighborhood Rose

After going through a neighborhood, I found the trail between a couple of houses and started up a steeper trail with a switchback or two. Matrix Hill is a very small park with a concrete base on top with a couple of benches. Mike was right, the view was amazing. This is a panorama merged from 3 or 4 photos. You can click on it to get a bigger image. The WalMart parking lot is the main feature in the middle and you can see the power line cutting clearing to the south.

Looking Southwest from Matrix Hill Park. Beaverton, Oregon

Unfortunately, there was just enough haze to block the view of our local – and not so local – mountains: Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, Mt Adams; and sometimes Mt Ranier. I’ll have to get up early to capture those.

A little bit north of Matrix Hill Park is Sexton Mountain Meadows Park. I’ve see the path from it hundreds of times driving down Murray Blvd but I never paid much attention to what the park was like. It’s a small park with a couple of playgrounds and a walking track around a green. The view north was a bit better than from Matrix Hill.

Sexton Moutnain Meadows Park Beaverton, Oregon

On my way home I walked through my current favorite neighborhood park: Hyland Forest Park. You can see photos from there and other areas in my Walks In The Time Of COVID-19 album on Flickr.

The Warmth Of Other Suns

Author: Isabel Wilkerson
Copyright: 2010
Type: Non-Fiction
Finished: July 4, 2020

Rating: ★★★

Image from Amazon

Between 1915 and 1970 over 6 million Black southerners escaped Jim Crow by uprooting their lives and moving north and west. 

“They fled as if under a spell or a high fever. ‘They left as though they were fleeing some curse,’ wrote the scholar Emmet J. Scott. ‘They were willing to make almost any sacrifice to obtain a railroad token, and they left with the intention of staying.'”. [p 19]

Isabel Wilkerson tells the story of The Great Migration through the lives of three who left: Ida May Brandon Gladney who left Mississippi for Chicago with her husband George in 1937; George Swanson Starling who left Florida citrus groves for New York  City with his wife Inez in the 1945 with a lynching group at his back; and, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster who left for California in 1953 with plans to bring his wife out soon after.

When the North left the South at the end of Reconstruction, they left the South to their own devices and the South quickly turned back to a neo Slavery through the Jim Crow laws.

“These were the facts of their lives – of Ida Mae’s,  George’s, and Pershing’s existence before they left – carried out with soul-killing efficiency until Jim Crow expired under the weight of the South’s own sectarian violence: bombings, hosing of children, and the killing of dissidents seeking basic human rights. Jim Crow would not get a proper burial until the enactment of federal legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was nonetheless resisted years after its passage as vigorously as Reconstruction had been and would not fully take hold in many parts of the South until well into 1970’s” [p 58]

 The book goes through the lives of its subjects; their youth, the pressures that forced them to join the migration, their actual leaving, their lives and prospects in their new homes. Ida May and her husband left after settling up with the owner/planter on whose land they share cropped. Unlike most sharecroppers, they did not owe the grower any money after working all year so they were free to leave. George left a few hours before a group formed to torture him to death for helping fruit pickers negotiate better pay for their labors. Robert, a doctor and physician chafed under the conditions of his employment in the south. Many who left on the trains to the north had to be secretive about their plans. It wasn’t  uncommon for whites to head Blacks off at the train station platform and simply take the tickets from their hands. 

Arriving in the North and the West, the migrants faced the same discrimination they had in the Southh; although they weren’t at risk of being lynched. Color lines were drawn around the neighborhoods. When a Black family tried to move into a white neighborhood, the neighbors burned the house down. The housing segregation was least successful in New York City – although most Blacks lived in Harlem –  but in Chicago

“The South Side would become almost totally Black and the North Side almost totally white.” [p 313]

Employment discrimination was just as rampant:

“Ida May and George found themselves at the bottom looking up at the layers of immigrants, native-born white people, and even northern-born Black people who were stacked above them in the economic hierarchy of the North.” [p 360]

In every aspect of their lives:

“Even without trying to pass oneself off as anything other than what he or she was, an ethnic  immigrant would not likely be distinguishable from any other white person boarding a train, lining up for a foreman’s job, or waiting for a loan officer at a bank – public situations that opened Black migrants to immediate rejection but that white ethnic immigrants were protected from by virtue of their skin color.” [p 468]

So, Black people have been at a disadvantage at every turn in both the North and South: they could not live where they would like nor have access to the jobs, education, and funding that could improve their lot. It’s really no wonder that riots break out. Originally, race riots, like the one in Tulsa, were started by whites against Blacks. But in 1943 Detroit, Blacks struck back. 

“It was only after Detroit that riots became known as primarily urban phenomena, ultimately centered on inner-city Blacks venting their frustrations on the ghettos that confined them.” [p 155]

While largely non-violent, the latest Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd’s murder at the knee of the police, certainly well up from this reservoir of frustration.

While all 3 of the subjects were admirable, my favorite person in the book is George Starling. With 2 years of college he was by far the most educated picker in the fields. He helped the other pickers discover when they were cheated of their earnings by the growers – though often nothing could come of it, for fear of death. During World War II – when labor was in high demand – George and a couple of other men organized the pickers and told them not to go into the fields until the three leaders could negotiate fair terms for the first time in their lives. He did this at the risk of torture and death. He got word that white people were organizing a party to find him and left town immediately. He and his wife had to escape to another town to board the train north.

 George’s desire for fairness drove him throughout his life. George spent his life working as a passenger car attendant. Early in his career he at least one time had to switch routes with another attendant to escape being ambushed back home. After the Civil  Rights Act of 1964 he risked his job, the wrath of the conductors and perhaps his life, when he whispered to Black passengers that they did not have to move to segregated cars when the train entered the  South no matter what the conductor said.

There has been much debate about The Great MIgration and the problems that grew in the northern cities. Wilkerson maintains

“It is not a question of whether the migrants brought good or ill to the cities they fled to or were pushed or pulled to their destinations, but a question of how they summoned the courage to leave in the first place or how they found the will to press beyond the forces against them and the faith in  a country that had rejected them for so long.” [p 599]

This book had been on my virtual bookshelf for years. With the needed push for the Black Lives Matter movement, I knew this was the time to read it. This is an outstanding biography/history. Wilkerson’s telling of Ida May’s, George’s, and Robert’s stories is compelling. This is the rare non-fiction book that I could not bear to put down. 

The book provided me with the clearest description of white privilege I have read. On the grand scale I understand how Black people have been cornered in both the north and south and continuously  channeled into poor housing and poor jobs. In one particular interaction in Robert Foster’s life, I can see my own blindness. As Robert was planning to leave for California, he was talking with a white storekeeper whom he had known his whole life. When Robert told the store owner he was moving to California, Mr. Massur asked 

” ‘What’s wrong with St. Francis? [the local hospital for whites]’

Pershing shook his head. The man had lived there since before Pershing was born, and a central fact of colored people’s existence hadn’t registered after all these years.

‘You know that colored surgeons can’t operate at St. Francis, Mr. Massur.'” [p 203]

I see myself in Robert’s thinking

“It made no sense to Pershing that one set of people could be in a cage, and the people outside couldn’t see the bars.” [p 204]

I come away from this book with one overriding thought. Black Lives DO Matter. At the most basic, police need to stop killing Black people. But on a larger scale, Blacks have been at a disadvantage for hundreds of years. Society needs to remove the unspoken restrictions so that Blacks can reach their full human condition and no longer be “less than,”.

“It is important for our ;white citizens always to remember that the Negroes alone of all our immigrants came to America against their will by the special compelling invitation of the whites; that teh institution of slavery was introduced, expanded and maintained by the United States by the white people and for their own benefit; and they likewise created the conditions that followed emancipation.” [p 604]”

Read this book.