Breaking Bad in Kathmandu

Sorry, the title was suppose to be “Baking Bread in Kathmandu,” but the typo is a lot more catchy.

Each Monday, my boss asks “Did you have a good weekend? What did you do?” Probably because we both came from jobs that occupied our weekend space, the novelty of weekends is still new to us.

My response is usually, “Went to the market, and baked bread.”

That leaves room for lots of other activities such as exploring Kathmandu, or binge watching “A Handmaid’s Tale”.

Bread making is not labor intensive. It does not require a bread machine, lots of kneading, or lots of time. From start to finish it only takes about 14 hours! Most of the time however is waiting around for the little sourdough beasties to do their job.

I’ve written before about making Sourdough bread in California. This is a little bit better guide from Kathmandu.

I use a sourdough starter that originally came from Breadtopia via Amazon.com. For a couple of years now it has been cultivated here, so it may have acquired some characteristics of the locale.

I store the starter in the fridge in a closed Rubbermaid container. Glass in not a good idea if you have the container sealed as it could crack the glass container. The microbes in the dough thrive in the cold. Here’s what it looks like when I open the container:

Hot mess of primordial bread gooeyness

After stirring the starter it looks more harmless:

Note the viscosity. Not that it is important… just note it.

My recipe calls for a quarter cup of starter. It is not a chemistry class, to paraphrase Jack Sparrow, a recipe is a “guideline, not a rule.”

I pour the starter into one and a half cups of water.

Today I am making two loaves, so I repeated the process for each cup of water and then stirred the water/sourdough mixture.

Now it is time to feed the starter. For each loaf I am making, I add back to the starter one fourth cup of water and one third cup of flour.

Then mix and seal it back up and store it in the fridge.

Now it is time to mix the bread ingredients.

3 cups of flour.

One half cup of whole wheat flour.

One and a half teaspoons of salt:

One third cup of cracked wheat (bulgar is a-ok):

Then I whisked it all together:

Then I added the starter-water mix to the dry ingredients:

I spooned it together and then got my hands dirty making sure it is all mixed together.

 

If I have some dry ingredients not joining the rest of the mess, I might add a few drops of water, which I did it this case:

 

Without too much effort it will look like this:

 

Then it time to throw them into the garbage (just kidding).

I put the bowls into garbage bags and stored them overnight.

The next morning the dough has doubled in size (It’s a live!) and I spread it out on a floured board:

 

I then folded the dough and let it rest (covered) for 15 minutes.

While the dough is resting, I got ready the “proofing” basket. This is where it will do a final rise before baking. I used a colander. I sprayed it with vegetable oil and added sesame seeds to it:

I rolled up the bread after it was done resting. I then added more sesame seeds to the outside of the dough:

Then I added it to the proofing basket:

Then covered:

I set a timer for 90 minutes and played a computer game with my brother.

After 90 minutes, I started up the oven and put in our Dutch oven. There is no temperature gauge on the oven, but if it went to 10, I would set it to eleven. It should be hot.

I set the timer for another 30 minutes.

At the end of that time, I dumped (literally) the dough into the Dutch oven. Covered the pot and put it back into the oven. The heat of the oven caused the dough to rise again.

After 30 minutes, it is time to remove the lid and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, it was time to dump the bread onto the cooling rack:

Time to Eat!

Recipe:

1/4 cup of sourdough starter added to 1 and half cups of water
3 cups of unbleached bread flour
half a cup of whole wheat bread flour.
a third cup of cracked wheat
1 and half teaspoons of salt
Mix the water and starter together.
Then mix the dry ingredients
Then mix the wet and dry ingredients together. The mixture should be damp. Add water or flour as needed.

In the Hood

Spring had arrived and it was a sunny day. Great time for a walk in the neighborhood. I put on my tourist look: shorts, The Exorcist ball-cap my daughter gave me, and my camera with a giant telephoto lens bouncing on my gut that in some cultures would appear as an obvious phlallic display.

One of the first things I noticed was a “weed” growing against our wall. I wondered how tall it would get?

Two years ago this month, this dirt park was filled with make-shift tents when people abandoned their houses after the big earthquake.

My sister and brother. Camp Anza was a WWII mobilization center. You can still see the barracks if you drive down Cypress Avenue in Riverside today.

Really a step-up from where I grew up in Camp Anza (now Riverside, CA). Our ballpark was a corner of the parking lot of a nearby factory. It was only dirt, with a fence backstop. It was also used by the factory workers for softball games that could send hard-hit balls into the toxic waste drain that bordered the field.

Finally after an earthquake, then followed by an economic blockade, construction is in full swing around the valley, including in our neighborhood.

Need a wrench? The window of a hardware store.

 

The next time you complain about your job, think about this poor guy with the load of cane on his back. He probably has the same worries you do. You know, like where is going to sleep tonight and what will he eat, then again, maybe you don’t have those worries.

Here is some trivia for you. What famous movie featured a Lifebuoy quote?

Answer: A Christmas Story – After his mother washes his mouth out with Lifebuoy for swearing, Ralphie dreams that he is blinded and his father cries out, “I told you not to use Lifebuoy!”

Below the min-bus conductor looks for more riders, though I have no idea where he could put one. During the embargo, you would see riders on the roof, no longer though.

Lots of traffic on the road and lots of ways of getting around.

Water tankers are very common as running water is still a pipe dream.

Sometimes it is easy to only see the dust, the pollution and the chaos of life in the valley, but it is also colorful and full of life. Cheers to looking for the later.

My favorite photo of the walk.

 

An Indecent Proposal While Exploring a Tourist Hot Spot

This has been a stay-at-home spring break for us which is easy to do when you live in the middle of a mix of fascinating cultures.

We went shopping in Thamel, the tourist heart of Kathmandu. While Linda bargained with vendors I wandered the streets with my camera. The tourists have returned and the shops were generally busy.

Signs of prosperity

We had lunch at the RoadHouse Pizza where the featured product is baked in a wood oven.

Hot work

On our way back, our driver suggested we stop at a nearby area where a large chariot was being prepared to celebrate the upcoming rains (amongst other things) called Rato Machendranath Jatra. The chariot will be moved to various sacred spots in the city during the next month.

The chariot is that very large “tree-like” structure.

The chariot will be pulled by human power.

Cable service may be disrupted

The yoke of the wagon.

Kids on the chariot. When we were there, no one was climbing up and down the structure. Two years ago, just before the giant earthquake, two people were crushed under the wheels as it was being moved.

While waiting at the intersection a man approached me from behind “Want a massage? Ultimate end, you decided. Great sex.” No, this is not one of those Paul Theroux stories where I will go on to describe in detail a sexual encounter with a prostitute. Nope, not my thing. There are many stories of Nepali girls sold into labor only to end up in prostitution, a sad result of poverty and a lack of respect for humanity. However, I shared the story with someone and they suggested that the guy may have been the masseur, not the pimp! Good point. What a sad life, nothing great about it at all.

Masseur or Pimp?

 

 

Rampaging Gang Invades Our Home in Kathmandu

A loud crash on the patio announced their arrival.

 

We ran to the windows and looked out. We were surrounded! There were at least 8 of them. But not to worry, this is a daily happening for us. The “gang” is a large family of Rhesus Macaque, the temple monkeys of Nepal (and India).

Can you spot the youngster eating the trumpet flowers?
A large adult is watching the young one
Snapdragons are yummy too

Before we moved to Kathmandu I had dreams of growing fruit trees much like Southern California. The climate is very similar. It seems that anything you thrown into the soil here will sprout. But the first time I saw the monkeys demolish our papaya tree I realized dreams of fruit trees at our Kathmandu home would be fool’s errand.

Not every home in Kathmandu is like this, but we seem to be on daily migration route of this particular troop of monkeys. Some say they are part of this group: Gangs of Swayambhu

Years ago when they attacked the papaya tree, I went outside banging a pot and yelling at them. The largest one only paused a moment and barred his teeth at me. At that moment I did not think I was such a great ape and retreated inside.

You can see what effect my growl had on the monkeys who were ripping the branches off our pine tree yesterday.

To the Leaders of the Free World, consider using a “time-out”.

To the Leaders of the Free World, consider using a “time-out”

There were times as a student where I experienced a time-out. Standing in the corner, or my nose to the chalkboard, and the extreme time when my sixth grade teacher sent the whole class outside to march up and down the sidewalk while he got some work done.

But that was so long ago, I needed to refresh my memory, so I “Googled-it”. I found this site in my search:

According to the site: “Time-out means time out from positive reinforcement (rewarding experiences). It is a procedure used to decrease undesirable behaviors. The main principle of this procedure is to ensure that the individual in time-out is not able to receive any reinforcement for a particular period of time.


Dear world leaders, there is a child in charge of the most powerful military in the world and you need to put him in time-out, he has already demonstrated undesirable behaviors and should not be rewarded.

According to the site, you should set up a time-out area, “The time-out area should be easily accessible, and in such a location that the child can be easily monitored while in time-out.” 

Thankfully we already have many towers we can keep him in, easily identified with his name. Please use your sovereign funds to pay for his residence as that would expedite his departure from the world stage through impeachment (see Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution).

The amount of time spent in time-out, is generally based on age. According to the site, “Children from 2 – 5 years old should receive a 2 to 5 minute time-out. A 6 year old child should probably receive about a 5 minute time-out while a 10 year old child would receive a 10 minute time-out. A general guideline can be: 6-8 years of age, 5 minutes; 8-10 years of age, 10 minutes; 10-14 years of age, 10 to 20 minutes.

Generally the amount of time doubles every 5 years. So starting at 5 minutes for a 5 year old, a 70 year old would be 2 to the sixteenth power times 5, divide that by 60 to get the hours,  divide that by 24 to get the days. The answer is 227.5 days.

What would happen if you just ignored him for that time? What would happen if you did not take his phone calls? You and he have ministers and sub-ministers for that, but do not give him the attention he wants. What would happen if you didn’t invite him to your golf courses. What would happen if you did not allow him to meet your queen? What would happen if you did not give him the right time for the G7 or G20 photo? Or better yet, don’t invite him to the Group of 7 with the rest of the cool kids, invite Jerry Brown instead.

It is important that you specify the target behaviors that need to change. According to the site, “It is very important the child be aware of the behaviors that are targeted for reduction.

So phrase your conversations so he understands his errors in judgement:

  • “Donald, breaking trade deals is bad. Sorry, you can no longer visit the queen.”
  • “Donald, denying climate change is wrong. We are going to turn your golf course into a nature preserve.”
  • “Donald, banning refugees is not a good idea. We are going to turn your branded hotels and resorts into refugee centers.”

Dear world leaders, you might also want to consider this from the site:

Reward desirable behavior as much as possible by verbal praise, touch or something tangible such as a toy, food or money.

-just might work in his case

By the way, parents, don’t use any of this advice on your kids. Give them a hug and listen.

Stand Up to the Bully

Stand Up to the Bully

Stand up for your wife, your mother, and your daughter against the threats to their body, minds, and their spirits. Contribute to causes with time and money that support their rights. March with them no matter your gender, for their rights are your own.

Stand up for the first amendment of the constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Read. Be literate about the facts. Not only learn more about current issues, but learn about the constitution and its amendments. Support the press and ask more of the press. Donate to public radio.

Stand up against ignorance. Against those who would abandon our public schools. Against those who failed science and can not accept its conclusions. Demand your supermarkets remove tabloids from the checkout stands. Contribute and volunteer to Greenpeace or the Sierra Club.

Stand up to the bigots. Do not let their lies become the truth in any land. Challenge them.

Two children, two faiths, one message – from CNN

Stand up for anyone not like you. If you get to know them, you will find you have a lot in common. Trust me, somewhere in the world, you are the odd person. Diversity is a strength and that is why America is great.

Stand up for those who chose a life of public service and now face disrespect, including the one hundred and seventeen stars on the memorial wall in Langley, over a thousand dissenting members of the Department of State, and one brave woman lawyer from Georgia.

Stand up and use your wallet to support companies sympathetic to your views, and boycott those that don’t.

Stand up to the public servants you elected. They work for you. Call them, do not email them. Afraid of a long distance call? Get a gmail account and setup a hangout, or get a free Skype account. You can make free calls from anywhere in the world to a US number.

  • Senators can be found here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/senators_cfm.cfm
  • House members can be found here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Stand up and run. Run for a local office, this is where all politics starts. Run for the school board, the local commissions, and the public committees.

Do not sit and fret.

Stand up and make a difference.

Trump School

I was recently at a pep rally at a school in Nepal named for the 16th President of the United States. As a good luck charm, Lincoln’s head is rubbed by each member of the team. It seems to work as the school has a lot of winning teams. But the head rubbing got me thinking, “Will there be a Trump School?”

The famous Republican above, has lent his name to at least 3 schools for expats around the world, and of course many in the USA. Just in Illinois 89 public schools are named for Lincoln.

Already there are schools named for President Obama in at least 6 states in the US.
The name Trump University has already been sullied. No turning the clock back on that one… it has been settled.

So “Will there be another Trump named school?” Without a doubt the answer is “Yes!” Most likely in some other country than the US, for example, Russia. Leaving out the obvious, what other schools might adopt the 45th president’s name?

Here are three schools that could adopt the Trump label tomorrow:
I put forward Trabajo Ya as a clear contender. Not familiar with the school? Currently not a catchy name, but what if it was called the School of Trump Tricks. It is a trade school in Spain. Trabajo Ya means “Work Now,” and reflects Trump’s values of women and employment. Look it up.
Then there is the legendary School of the Seven Bells in the Andes, where thieves and pickpockets learn their trade. Does it not already feel like some of the administration are alums of this school? Renaming the school to the Trump School of the Seven Hells would be an apt testimonial to the importance of the school in shaping the new American carnage.
Even with the recent closing of the Ringling Brothers, The Clown School is thriving. There is something inherently creepy and scary about clowns: No matter what they do, they sincerely expect you to enjoy it. Let’s hear it for TCS, the Trump Clown School!

More fun with the Ricoh Theta S camera

One of the challenges of 360 photography is finding sites that take advantage of the technology. Just uploading the image to Blogger for example makes the image look like it was taken in a fish bowl.

A 360 image embed from Flickr works, but it takes you to Flickr to open the file.
Fortunately I found a great site from Kathy Schrock that covers the “how-to” of displaying these images. That led me to Pannellum. Pannellum will take a spherical image you have hosted on the internet, such as Flickr and give you an embed code that allows you to show the image as it should be seen. Below is this side of Kathmandu from the rooftop at work. The camera was held over the  railing on a tripod.


The temple on the hilltop is Swayambhunath

A larger version of the image can be seen on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/148854208@N08/30696342250/in/dateposted-public/

Halloween Fun and a new Camera

While in Vietnam two weeks ago, I was introduced to a new camera, the Ricoh Theta S. It has a lens on each side and takes 360 degree photos and movies.

The camera is small and extremely light weight. Fits easily into a pocket, or with a small tripod into a purse or backpack.

The camera take selfies to a whole new level. For example, tonight’s Halloween visitors (try rotating the image with your mouse down):

Happy Halloween! From Kathmandu

 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

 

 

Baking sourdough bread in SoCal

Sourdough bread has been around for a long time. Both beer and sourdough bread appeared around the same time in ancient Egypt. Two great uses for grains! Sourdough fermentation also changes how people digest grains. See

I started making sourdough loaves using the instructions from Breadtopia.com. They sell the starter through Amazon. It takes a few days to grow the starter from the small package to make enough to continue growing and give you the 1/4 cup you need to make the bread. There is a great “no knead” recipe and video on Breadtopia. Breadtopia’s recipe is simple:

  • 1/4 cup of starter
  • 1 and half cups of water
  • Two and half cups of bread flour
  • 1 cup of whole wheat
  • 1 and half teaspoons of salt

For my SoCal recipe:

  • 3 and a third cups of unbleached bread flour with a third cup of cracked wheat and no whole wheat (it was not in my cupboard!)
  • Mix the water and starter together.
  • Then mix the dry ingredients
  • Then mix the wet and dry ingredients together. The mixture should be damp. Add water or flour as needed.

Covered the bowl with a plastic bag and let it sit from 8 to 12 hours. The longer you wait, the wetter the mixture gets. The mix will increase in size.

The mixture is dumped on to a floured surface and flattened and rolled (see video on Breadtopia.

The roll is allowed to rest for 15 minutes.

While it is resting for 15 minutes, prep the next surface. I use a colander. Oil it and add sesame seeds or wheat germ.
 Then take the roll of flour, ball it up and put it into the colander.
Leave it covered and turn on the timer to 60 minutes:
After 60 minutes, turn the oven up to 425F. My oven in SoCal burns very hot, so 425 is more like 500F. I set the timer for another 15 minutes. After lining the interior of the Dutch oven with parchment paper, it is put into the oven,  After another 15 minutes, the dough is ready to be dumped into the Dutch oven. The cover of the Dutch oven is removed after 30 minutes. 15 minutes later the bread is ready:
Now we have a loaf of bread to carry in our luggage to use in Kathmandu!
The last act for my sourdough starter is to preserve it for the next visit. The starter is spread-out on parchment paper and dried:
The flakes are stored in a baggie in the freezer, ready to be re-hydrated for our next visit.
5000 years after the first loaf, sourdough bread is still great to eat. Just don’t eat one that is that old!