Thursday, June 27, 2019

Summer Cruise Reading

While on a cruise, it's much easier to make time to read, especially when you have three weeks! I brought six small books with us, of which I read four. I found five other books in the ship's library (and many more of interest to my wife). I bought one in a public library we visited on land in Homer, Alaska.

After Daybreak. The Liberation of Bergen-Belsen, 1945
Ben Shephard

From the ship's library. How and why did it took so long to get medical aid for the survivors of the first concentration camp liberated just before the end of World War II in Europe? 

Considers racism, battlefield logistics, medical training, and military bureaucracy. Frankly discusses the condition of the camps and their inhabitants; not for those with weak stomachs. Also discusses the long-term mental health issues faced by the survivors based on interviews taken decades later.

The Fred Factor
Mark Sanborn

Our school gives it to all the teachers. You can go above and beyond expectations with just a little effort. It's a quick read with many examples and anecdotes, but one wonders how many of the stories were invented to make a point.

Our school gives out "Fred awards" at the faculty meetings every month.

Holy Lands: One Place, Three Faiths
Thomas Cahill

The first book I found in the ship's library. It is mostly a pictorial book. It describes what we know of the histories of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Mohammed, and others. Then it discusses the history of the region beginning with Zionist immigration in the late 19th century until the current day.

Reflections of Ireland
Photos by Bernard McCabe and Alain Le Garsmeur
Text by James Joyce

I found this book in the ship's library. It is a picture book with images accompanied by passages from the books of James Joyce. We intend to visit Ireland later this summer. I thought this book might show us a little of the Dublin mindset. Reading Joyce was a bit depressing. It seems his intent is to show how Dubliners act and speak, but they don't seem too happy. We'll soon find out if they are really unhappy or if that's just Joyce projecting his own world view onto everyone.

The Principles of Object-Oriented JavaScript
Nicholas C. Zakas

I brought this short book with us. It's basically JavaScript for those who are used to or prefer the C++ object model. It covers types, functions, objects, constructors, prototypes, inheritance, and object patterns. My own coding doesn't usually need to go that deep into objects, but I did learn a lot.

Messages from Earth. Nature and the human prospect in Alaska
Robert B. Weeden

I bought this book from the public library in Homer, Alaska. I thought I would learn a lot about the Alaska mindset. However, this book, by a professor of ecology retired from University of Alaska at Fairbanks, is written from the standpoint of an ardent environmentalist. So his thoughts aren't necessarily those of many Alaska inhabitants. 

I was put off by two things in this book. First, the writer's vocabulary is huge, and because he's a biologist, much of his vocabulary is unfamiliar to me. Sometimes it seems as if he's in a pissing contest to see how many big words he can use, and will you understand? This was definitely the most difficult book of all that I read, and at sea, I didn't have Google to look up the big words.

Second, the author uses charged language. For example, to describe how the government at Juneau dictates policy in faraway northern Alaska, and how the government in Washington dictates policy in faraway Alaska, Weeden uses the word "colonialism." To describe any business interest at all, Weeden uses the word "capitalism" in a pejorative way. This will not endear him to readers who don't buy unto his ideas 100%.

The History of the New Testament in Plain Language
Clayton Harrop

This book discusses transmission (how the manuscripts were written and copied) and canonicity (how it was decided which documents would go into the New Testament). Although I'm familiar with the topics already, I did learn a few things. I would recommend this book as an easy read for anyone interested in the topic.

If I were to teach a class on this topic (and that may happen soon), I would choose this as a textbook because it is short, accessible, and inexpensive.

Race Across Alaska
Libby Riddles with Tim Jones

I found this book in the ship's library and got it for my wife, who loved it. I didn't intend to at first, but I read it after she was done. Libby Riddles wrote the story of the journey and her preparation. Tim Jones wrote sections where he describes the race rules and history.

The race is a lonely event, one person and their dogs with occasional fleeting human interaction at the checkpoints. It is an excellent introduction to the race, its history and its challenges. 

Oaxaca Journal
Oliver Sacks

From the ship's library. Dr. Sacks delivers his actual journal from a ten-day trip to Oaxaca to study ferns with a group of amateur botanists. It's amazing that he could write this much in just the breaks during a busy trip that lasted little more than a week. 

As always, Dr. Sacks is delightful as he discusses Cortes and the conquistadors; tobacco and smoking; Columbus; the Inquisition; chiles; cacao and the history of chocolate; the amino acids in beans and corn; fern reproduction; crop rotation, nitrogen depletion, and synthetic fertilizers; Benito Juarez and the Mexican war of independence; Zapotec vs. Aztec culture; chemistry jokes; Flatland; castor beans, Castrol, and castor oil; police corruption; and the Catholic church. 

If you are interested in any of these topics, or even if not, this is a quick and insightful read.

Dr. Steve's Almanac of Christian Trivia
Steve Wilkens

Dr. Wilkens is a professor of theology at Azusa. This mad romp carries you through 2000 years of history in no particular order and with tongue in cheek. Sample topics include how to pronounce God's name, snake handling, the Gideons, Henry VIII, St. Patrick, the Serenity Prayer, the Amish, the origins of Sunday School, Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, the Salvation Army, Martin Luther and Katie, and when is Easter.

Every day on the ship, there was a meeting for "Friends of Bill W." In this book, I learned who those friends are. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Little by little and day by day
The Universe fritters itself away
As gases mix, as starlight wanes,
Til randomness alone remains.

As rivers flow, as nations meet,
All order slowly turns to heat.
You can't escape the great decline–
Disorder is the world's design.

So who am I to buck the odds
And flout disorder-loving Gods?
It's for this reason, I confess,
I always leave my desk a mess.

~ Michael Cowan, JIR, 1982

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Pies

My apple and cherry pies. I definitely had no idea what I am doing. They look like they exploded. Let's hope they taste better than they look!

For the apple pie, I didn't have enough apple pie filling, so I just cut up another fresh apple and added it. The cherry pie also seemed to be short on filling but another whole can would have overflowed.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Favorite Piano Music

YouTube playlist:
Total time about 43 minutes

1. At An Old Trysting Place
Edward MacDowell: Woodland Sketches, Op. 51, No. 3
Played by James Barbagallo
2. Couplet Sans Paroles
Emil Sauer
Played by Oleg Marshev
3. The Harmonious Blacksmith
George Frideric Handel: Keyboard Suite No. 5 in E major, HWV 430
Played by Balazs Szokolay
4. Once Upon a Time
Edward Grieg: Lyric Pieces, Book 10, Op. 71, No. 1
Played by Balazs Szokolay
5. Polka Italienne
Sergei Rachmaninov
Played by Balazs Szokolay
6. That Certain Feeling
George Gershwin
Played by George Gershwin on piano roll
7. The Ragtime Nightingale
Joseph Lamb
Played by Joshua Rifkin
8. Kickin' The Clouds Away
George Gershwin
Played by George Gershwin on piano roll
9. Tea For Two
Youmans and Caesar
Arranged and played by Claude Bolling
10. Norwegian Dance Op. 35, No. 2
Edward Grieg
Played by Cyprien Katsaris
11. Death Ray Boogie
Claude Bolling
Played by Claude Bolling
12. At the Cradle
Edward Grieg: Lyric Pieces, Op. 68, No. 5
Played by Balazs Szokolay
13. In Autumn
Edward MacDowell: Woodland Sketches, Op. 51, No. 4
Played by James Barbagallo

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer of Love

At the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. 50-year retrospective of the 1960's and the Summer of Love.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Humor 2013–2016

I, for one, like Roman numerals.

3 logicians walk into a bar. The bartender asks "Do all of you want a drink?"
The first logician says "I don't know."
The second logician says "I don't know."
The third logician says "Yes!"

A Roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers, and says: “Five beers, please.”

Americans spend more on coffee than on education. How do we sleep at night?

Today is that day where anything you read online could be totally made up. Oh, wait, that's every day. – Nick Bilton

Wow. The heads of all major religions (iOS, Android, Windows, and the Catholic Church) have been replaced in a 6 month time period.

What do you call a Pope who resigns? Ex Benedict.

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

About ...

Left over from my days in AWANA around six years ago. Mary does her "Mr. Wilson" imitation before we removed the graphics to re-purpose the foam board.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Gluten Free Burger Project

(Updated May 2, 2017 and Feb 24, 2019)

In 2006, GQ Magazine published "The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die." The restaurants are located everywhere from L.A. to New Haven to Seattle to Florida. We took a road trip that year, and I made a list of all these places. We ate at about half of them.

If we'd bothered to actually read the article, instead of just making the list, we might have noticed that a large part of what makes the burger is the bun. Since we must eat gluten free, and gluten-free hamburger buns were a rarity anywhere in 2006, we had to eat ours without the bun, and we missed half the experience.

Hence, my quest to identify hamburgers you must eat, served by a restaurant on a gluten free bun. Yeah, we can't eat gluten, Yeah, we want to eat our burger on a bun just like you do. Yeah, gluten-free buns are readily available. Yeah, lettuce wraps and corn tortillas do not cut it.

This is a list of restaurants purported to serve a decent burger on a gluten-free bun. We have not eaten at many of them, so now that we've identified a few, we can start checking them out. If you know anything about them, or have an opinion, or know of some that are not in our list, please comment. There is a list of resources at the bottom. I had these criteria for whether or not to list:
  1. They must list the GF bun option on their online menu. 
  2. It is not enough to just be listed on some GF web site.
  3. They must not have bad reviews on any GF web site or any review web site.

We have visited these

1. Smashburger - 300 locations
Our current favorite. A really soft GF bun. Helpful servers. And they have sweet potato fries cooked using a dedicated frier. Good shakes too. It's like fast food, not much ambience.

2. Red Robin - 500 locations
We only had a bad experience once, when they didn't really know how to cook the bun. And they tend to seat us in the bar, when we'd rather watch the children in the larger area. Their sweet potato fries are bottomless but they aren't as crisp as Smashburger's. Our favorites are the bacon guacamole burger and the DBG (with garlic aioli).

3. The Counter Burger - 40 locations, mostly in California
We ate here only once. It was good. We weren't impressed enough to visit again, when there are other places closer.

4. Koa's Seaside Grill - Lahaina, Maui
Many restaurants on Kauai and Maui will work with your gluten allergy. We just asked. The buns aren't on the menu, but they have them. (An exception to the rule.)

5. Gott's Roadside - St. Helena, San Francisco, Napa, Palo Alto
We visited the one in St. Helena when it was known as Taylor's Refresher. It was a lot of fun. The food was all huge. Everyone sits at long tables while the children play on the lawn. Don't know anything about their GF buns.

Update: We visited the Palo Alto location. The burger is big. They made my shake wrong twice before they got it correct.

6.  Armadillo Willy's - 8 locations in the bay area.
I visited the one near Blossom Hill and Almaden one day at lunch time. The burger was huge!

7. The Melt - 18 locations in San Jose, Palo Alto, southern California, Colorado, and Texas.
We went once. It was OK. The burger was nothing to write home about.

8. Scramblz - San Jose. Update 6-6-17: the bun is very soft. You can get side of GF waffles or french toast. Scramblz has a disclaimer that their kitchen is not GF and cross contamination could be a problem. We've never had a problem, but someone more sensitive that we are might get glutened.

9. Lyfe Kitchen - 14 locations in Cupertino, Palo Alto, southern California, Las Vegas, Colorado, Texas, Memphis, and Chicago. We ate at the one in Valencia near Magic Mountain. The bun was crunchy to the touch but soft in the mouth. The Farmhouse Burger is served with bacon and an egg over easy. The meat was cooked to medium, still pink.

10. Manna Cafe in Fresno. We did not have the burger, but the breakfast was wonderful.

11. Hero Certified Burgers in Ontario and Quebec. We ate at the lone outpost in Montreal. This one comes near the top of our list for its locally made gluten free bun with poppy seeds. Most of the other burgers we've eaten use the same off the shelf gluten free bun from a major baker.

12. B Good - 27 locations around Boston. We visited the one on Washington Street, near the State Street T station. The burger and sweet potato fries were tasty. They have some healthy brand of fountain sodas that still met my caffeine needs. Their niche seems to be healthy, locally-sourced food.

13. Mooyah Burger - Los Gatos, Morgan Hill, Walnut Creek, southern California, AL, AR, CO, CT, FL, IL, LA, MA, MT, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, TX, VA, WI, Canada, Mexico, Middle East. Not all locations have gluten free buns, but Los Gatos has it listed.

14. Burgerville - 39 locations in the Portland, Oregon area. We ate at the one in Albany, Oregon. The bun was not toasted.

We visited these before they had GF buns

15. Santa Fe Bite - Santa Fe, NM
This one is owned by the owners of the Bobcat Bite, which closed. Bobcat was one of GQ's 20. Their burger was ok, but the small restaurant made it difficult. They are in a larger location now. Here is a recent review.

These locations are near us in northern California

  1. Moxy Beer Garden - Berkeley
  2. Farm Burger - Berkeley, San Anselmo, North Carolina, and Georgia
  3. Kronnerburger - Oakland
  4. Drake's Brewing Company - Oakland
  5. Fast Food Francais - Sausalito
  6. Saturn Cafe - Berkeley
  7. Bernal Star - San Francisco
  8. BurgerMeister - Daly City, Alameda, San Francisco, Berkeley
  9. Mona's Burgers - Walnut Creek
  10. Broderick Road House - Walnut Creek, Sacramento
  11. Shoreline Coffee Shop - Mill Valley
  12. Moss Beach Distillery - Moss Beach

OK, still on the west coast, at least

  1. Burger Lounge - 20 locations in Los Angeles and San Diego
  2. Blue Moon Burgers - Seattle
  3. Cheeseburger Nation - Las Vegas, 4 on Oahu, 3 on Maui (we saw the one in Lahaina but we did not eat there)
  4. Wahlburgers - Las Vegas, FL, MA, MI, NY, PA, SC, Canada
  5. Blazing Onion - 7 locations in the Seattle area

At least some locations west of the Mississippi?

  1. Burger 21 - 20 locations mostly in Florida and Georgia, but also TX, IL, MI, PA, NY, VA, NC, NJ
  2. Culvers - 600 (?) locations in (in order of frequency) Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, IN, FL, IA, MO AZ, KY, SD, CO, TX, NE, OH, TN, UT, GA, KS, ND, SC, NC, ID, WY
  3. Cheeseburger in Paradise - FL, SC, VA, MD, NJ, IN, NE
  4. Guru Burgers and Crepes - Sugar Land, Texas
  5. Cafe Abiquiu - Abiquiu, NM
  6. Guru Burgers and Crepes - Sugar Land, TX - and it looks like they have gluten free crepes too!

The east coast or somewhere else far away

  1. The Nomad Hotel - New York
  2. The Little Beet Table - New York
  3. Vinsetta Garage - Berkley, Michigan
  4. Bareburger - 25 locations, mostly in NY and NJ
  5. Dakota Blue - Atlanta
  6. Sprig Restaurant - Decatur, GA
  7. South City Kitchen - 2 locations in Atlanta
  8. Yeah Burger - 2 locations in Atlanta
  9. Mainely Burgers - Cambridge, MA

Closed since this list was first created

  1. Four Burgers - Cambridge, MA

Friday, July 29, 2016

Took a walk on a beautiful Maui beach before packing up to head home.

Got breakfast at Hawaiian Moons health food store, then walked across the street to Kamaole Beach. We walked the length of it, about 1/4 mile. This was at the far end where it turns from sand into rocks.