Sunday, August 10, 2008

barefoot bluefoot

Because they propagate through spores instead of by seeds, certain varieties are hard to grow commercially and can only be foraged in the wild. This is a job best left to the professionals(or absolute nut bag bikers of the southern Oregon variety) because many types of mushrooms are inedible and sometimes poisonous…………
Polenta:2 cups whole milk2 cups low-salt chicken broth1 bay leaf1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated Comté cheese2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butterfor the ragout:3 tablespoons butter, divided4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided1 1/2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms (hen of the woods and blue foot are my favorite), thickly sliced1/4 cup finely chopped shallots2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar1/4 cup low-salt chicken broth1/3 cup crème fraîche or cream1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided1/3 cup (packed) coarsely grated Comté cheese

Pressure Cooker of Death

On a daily basis, we receive reports that warn us about dangerous situations anywhere in Afghanistan. Generally, these reports are things like attacks on fuel tankers, explosions, firefights between the Afghan police and insurgents, demonstrations that may turn ugly... You get the idea. (Disclaimer: Rarely do these dangerous events take place anywhere near me.)

The Crow
Before I arrived, one such email contained a typo. The email was reporting a demonstration taking place in downtown Kabul. The participants were becoming rowdy and moving towards government buildings, and the Afghan National Police (ANP) were doing their best to get the situation under control. But, in attempting to refer to the demonstrators as a "crowd," our security update people had forgotten the 'd'. As a result, my colleagues got a series of high priority emails about "a big crow approaching the presidential palace" and "the ANP is struggling to disperse the crow; in the meantime, the situation should be avoided." The resolution of the situation: "the big crow is now under control."

The Pressure Cooker
This weekend, I received a vague email about a possible improvised exposive device (IED) found in a village square on the other side of the country. The email said, essentially, that nothing could be ascertained, but that the appropriate authorities were working on the problem. A couple of hours or so later, we received the following follow-up information:

Updated Information: It now appears that the device originally thought to be an IED was actually just a pressure cooker bought as a wedding present and left on the street while the owner went looking for a friend. The area is now clear.

The Morals of the Story
  1. The Afghan National Police are competent, and have effectively cleared the village square of a very intimidating pressure cooker.
  2. Never leave your pressure cooker on the street while searching for your friends unless it's an ugly color and you wish it would just get blown up.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

In case your day needs lightening...

I don't know if you remember this, but I got a grant to study some howling monkey locomotion in the field, in Costa Rica. So I've been in Costa Rica... over 3 weeks now, closer to 4. The howling monkeys have been awesome, except for that week period where the two troops I was watching disappeared, which means I had to go far distances to try to find other groups... and either resoundly failed, or they weren't moving. Which doesn't help when you study locomotion. Luckily, I discovered there were two rather odd monkeys who hang out together in this one spot after 4:30pm when the other monkeys aren't around. I call them odd, because they are quite the odd couple. One is a capuchin, and one is a howling monkey. Capuchins are very mean, howling monkeys... are just lazy. I called the capuchin Bonkers and the howling monkey Buddy. I have no idea how they got to be friends or what not, but I have some awesome nightshot footage of them playing together, when I download the video I'll try to upload it to youtube so you can see it.

Anyhoo, the reason I am writing to you tonight is for a much less important reason. I thought it was kind of funny that I was super bored tonight, and decided to learn the Soulja boy dance for Crank that. That's right, the superman song.

So, let's recap: I am in Costa Rica, by myself (and have been for over 2 weeks, what can I say not having people to talk to does things to you), am learning the superman dance by soulja boy in my geeky Keen sandals. You read that right. I have some hard stone flooring that started hurting my feet, so I had to put on some shoes that would operate for dancing.

Just thought you might appreciate my ridiculousness. And I don't think you ever expected a label for a post on this blog to be "Soulja boy." That is all. Love your email updates :).