My New Tattoo

Last Friday I got my first tattoo. It was done by my favorite artist here in Portland, Pony Reinhardt. It took me 7 months and a lot of luck to get the appointment.

Once I got approved for a time slot I wrote her a lengthy and nerdy email to explain what I wanted. Here is what I said:

I remember saying I wanted an amphibian life cycle in the proposal I sent in early January, but I think I wasn’t sure which amphibian. I’ve decided on the Eastern Red Spotted Newt (Notophthalmus Viridescens).

I grew up in rural Western Massachusetts in short walking distance to a pond, stream, vernal pool, and swamp. I spent my childhood exploring these areas and was obsessed with salamanders and newts and frogs, and watching the life cycles of each.

I’d like this tattoo to represent my early (and continued) fascination with nature, and also life cycles/changing seasons/time/growth.

I especially love the “eft” stage of the Eastern Newt when they come out of the water and have a really bright orange skin color, but all stages are really cool. And unlike a frog, the newt goes through a second metamorphosis later in life which is pretty neat. I have the lifecycle below, and some photos and info about these creatures, in case you don’t know much about them.


The lifecycle is as follows:

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1) The eggs are laid in early spring, April usually. They are laid singularly, under leaves of plants. Here are some pictures of the eggs just laid.

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2) The eggs develop over a period of about 2-6 weeks, depending on the temp of the water.

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3) Once they hatch, they’re in the larvae stage, with external gills. They’re in this stage most of the summer while they slowly grow their legs and get a bit bigger.

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4) In late summer/early fall they finish the larvae stage, and their fin-like tail changes to become smaller, their skin becomes more rough and bright orange, and their gills become lungs. Once their lungs are fully developed, they emerge from the water and live 2-3 years on land. This stage is called “eft”. They’re teeny when they come out of the water (see first two pics). They grow over the next couple years to be about 4-5” long. They live in wet places like under leaves or in mossy spots, usually pretty near the water they were born in, and they hibernate in winter.

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5) Their final stage is an aquatic adult. After the eft stage their skin goes back to that brownish color, with yellowish bellies, their tails get more fin like again, and their skin becomes more smooth. They go back to living in water, but their lungs remain (they come up for air every now and then). They can live another 10-12 years as adults.

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I was trying to think of another element in the tattoo to represent seasons changing and time passing.

Perhaps some local plants (ferns/wildflowers/laurel) going through their life cycles and/or moon cycles or… ?

Or just maybe some local plants as just nice elements because the newt stages are enough to represent that part? I really like the flowers and plants you draw.

Plants I like and remember from where I grew up are bracken fern (and fiddlehead), maidenhair fern, queen anne’s lace, wild blueberry, and mountain laurel.

I’m also open to just the newts, or any other suggestions. I really like everything you do, so I trust your ideas.

 

She then sent me back this sketch:

Which I loved! I signed off on the idea and waited until the appointment.

This was the final design she printed out to see and also for scale:

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We tried a few sizes, but the original one she chose was the best. She then printed it out on a thermal printer, and then stuck it to my back and peeled it off, leaving an ink outline behind to work off of.

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The whole process took about 5 1/2 hours, with some breaks in between, with about 4 1/2 hours of actual inking.

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The final piece:

 

Ginger Cookies

ginger cookies

This is a recipe I’ve been using for ginger cookies for over 10 years. The vegetable oil keeps the cookies soft for days.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use rice bran oil, but any mild flavored oil is fine)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup white sugar

Directions

  1. Place a rack in the center of your oven and pre-heat to 175°C/350°F. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. Mix the flour, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Peel the skin from the ginger. If you have a food processor, you can combine the peeled fresh ginger with the oil and process until well blended, then strain. Or, use a grater to grate the ginger to a paste and then mix with the oil.
  4. Add the ginger oil to a large bowl, then add the egg, molasses and sugar. Mix well.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix well.
  6. Take the dough into teaspoon-size lumps and roll into a ball with your hands. Flatten a bit with your fingers. You can either place directly on the sheet, or sprinkle a bit of white sugar on top first to create a crunchy sugar coated cookie.
  7. Bake 8-12 minutes until the tops crack and the cookies flatten out. Cool completely.

Makes 24 cookies. If the dough sticks to your hands while forming the cookies, try refrigerating the dough for 20 minutes first.

Mosquitoes

Living in Thailand has taught me a lot about these nefarious insects. Listening to common misconceptions from tourists inspired me to write this post.

Misconception 1: Mosquitoes are attracted to light

This is incorrect. Many bugs like moths are attracted to lights, but the opposite is true for mosquitoes. They prefer night time (especially dusk) and they will land on darker things. Wearing light color clothes does actually help keep them away a little.

Misconception 2: All types of mosquitoes carry disease

There are different types of mosquitoes, and different ones carry different things. Some don’t carry anything.

These small black and white mosquitoes can carry dengue.

These small black and white mosquitoes can carry dengue.

The small brown ones can carry malaria.

The small brown ones can carry malaria.

Misconception 3: You’re at a high risk of getting malaria in Thailand.

Totally untrue. Leave your anti-malarials at home unless you plan months camping in the jungle border regions. The risk of getting malaria here is almost zero. HOWEVER the risk of dengue is much higher, even in the cities. And dengue sucks.

How to not get bitten

  • I’m not a huge fan of covering myself with DEET, and the natural hippy bug spray really is useless in the tropics. The best way to not get bitten is to be inside at the mosquito happy hour (dusk) and wear long pants and covered shoes at night.
  • Thais will often sit cross legged while dining outside at night. I’ve also seen people fidget or swing their legs so that it’s harder for the bugs to land.
  • If eating out, ask the restaurant for a mosquito coil and put it upwind under your table. Make sure not to breathe in the smoke if possible. Some restaurants will provide you with a fan which makes it too hard for them to fly.
  • Be extremely careful in garden type restaurants at night. Mosquitoes love the dark damp gardens, and you will be feasted on.
  • At night, check your room’s screens for holes, etc, and shake out any dark colored clothing or bedding to check for mosquitoes. A cheap bug net can be purchased here to hang in your room if the screens are not working so well.
  • Do not leave your door or windows open in the evening or night.
  • Don’t wear perfume or use heavily perfumed soaps. I use lemongrass scented everything which does help a little to repel them.
  • Remember: mosquitoes like dark, damp and still environments. Combat that with light (colors/daytime), dry (stay away from water/dampness/gardens at night) and movement (fans, breeze).

Do you have any suggestions to add? Put them in the comments!

Maple Iced Pumpkin Cookies

Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached sugar
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin *
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla **

* I used Japanese pumpkin (kabocha), skinned and chopped into 1″ cubes and steamed until soft. I then mashed with a fork.

** I use vanilla sugar – take old vanilla pods and add to an air tight glass jar with unbleached sugar. The sugar will take on the flavor of the vanilla. Use as much as you want.

Maple Icing

  • Some confectioners’ sugar (1 1/2 cups?)
  • A few tablespoons of maple syrup
  • Some water to make it the right consistency

Aaaand Go!

  1. Mix the flour, rising agents and spices together in a bowl. I use a whisk. Set aside.
  2. Cream the softened butter with the sugar until soft and fluffy
  3. Add the egg and mix well
  4. Add the pumpkin and mix well again
  5. Add the vanilla (or vanilla sugar) and the dry ingredients. Mix.
  6. Roll into 1″ balls and flatten slightly (you may need to flour your hands). Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 350°F for 15-18 mins.
  7. Cool completely before glazing ***

*** Sorry I didn’t measure this part. Essentially you want to add enough maple syrup to make it flavored, and then enough water to make it thin enough to drizzle on top of the cookies. But not so thin it doesn’t set. Try icing one cookie first and throwing it in the fridge for a few mins. If it’s hardened up a bit to the touch you’re good.

Also, stacking these cookies is a really bad idea. Don’t even bother putting them into a container because it’ll be a mess. But you won’t need to anyway because these cookies have magical softening properties so leaving them on the counter top for days actually makes them softer and better over time.

Lilac

iPhone vs. Android

I’m often asked which phone I prefer: Android or iPhone. To be honest, there are things I love about both, and things which drive me nuts about both. I figured the best way to describe them would be to make a list. Because I love lists!

Iphone Android
Feels integrated & More Intuitive – Better UI/UX Feels clunky and awkward. Menus and options are all over the place and not consistant.
Better Camera Shittier Camera – but depends on the phone
Better Text Editor. It’s not great, but it’s better. Really annoying that there’s no decent text editor for Android
Better Mail Client Low quality mail clients which can’t seem to figure out IMAP. I hear the gmail client is better. Surprise
Reasonable battery life ANDROID FIX YOUR FUCKING BATTERY PROBLEMS! My current phone has the same amount of juice as an iphone and it lasts 1/3 the amount of time as an iPhone. And yes I’ve turned everything off.
Not open source Runs the linux!
ITUNES effing sucks I can mount Android as a drive! So easy and logical.
Annoyingly hard to use with Linux See above
no 4g 4g!
How well does it work with Google? Nice integration with Google shit – calendar/contacts/etc. syncing is nice.
Not much room for customization shortcuts and widgets and customization is nice
iphone doesn’t crash as much android does
can you multitask yet? multitasking is easy
does iphone have turn-by-turn driving navigation? driving navigation
One phone. Nice for consistency and auto-updates. Different phones (and bad quality control). Many phones don’t get updated. And as an end user, you can’t update without rooting? Lame.
Not many apps you can’t get rid of SO MUCH bloatware
Have to plug in (with EFFING ITUNES!) to sync contacts. (Is this still true?) Syncs contacts and shit via the air! Like magic!

Shitty about both:

  • Carrier lockdown
  • Expensive plans with two year contracts
  • You can’t have full control over your phone without unlocking/jailbreaking/rooting/whatever.

Some of this info may be wrong – I had a first gen iPhone so it’s been awhile since I used it full time. Any comments are welcome. I’m thinking about switching back to iPhone.

Khao Soi

here’s what i did:

mash together:

  • 1 can red or kua curry paste
  • about 3 tablespoons cubed dry roasted ginger
  • about 2 tablespoons dry roasted shallots
  • about 1 teaspoon dry roasted coriander seeds
  • about 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • about 1 tablespoon curry powder

(if you’ve never made curry paste, the general rule is start with the dry/hard first and work to the wet. i started with grinding up the coriander seeds in my mortar first, then the ginger, shallots, added the curry paste (cheating, i know), then the turmeric and curry powder)

fry the paste in oil on medium heat until darker colored and fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. add 1 can of chao koh coconut milk and simmer for about 5 more mins. add oyster mushrooms and/or pre fried tofu, and about 2 can’s worth of water to thin it. i also added a mushroom buillion cube. season with a few dashes of dark and light soy sauce and about a tablespoon of palm sugar.

deep fry some bah-mi noodles (chinese wheat noodles) in oil and dry on a cookie cooling rack to keep crisp (don’t use paper towels!). boil more bah mi noodles and set into a bowl. cover with the curry and place some fried noodles on top. garnish with chinese pickled mustard greens, chopped shallots and season with homemade chili oil.

homemade chili oil: dry roast dried prik kee nuu chilies (the little thai ones) until brown. grind up. throw 1/2 cup oil in your pan and heat it up, then add the chili powder back in and cook it until it starts to brown a bit more. you don’t want to burn it, just light brown. warning: this shit is spicy.

Dogwood

Hydrant and tree

Crocuses are up!

Sunrise this morning

Roses in december

Snowshoeing

Water bottles, coava coffee

Large Waterfall