Sunday, February 26, 2012

Arizona Adventures! (Part I)

In January, our friends invited us to join them in Gold Canyon, Arizona for a brief respite from winter in Western Pennsylvania during the President's Day weekend. Since Pittsburgh only averages about sixty clear days per annum, and that we had been in the cloudy and grey, formerly-Steel City for quite some time, we were pretty stoked about the opportunity to join our friends for a long-weekend respite from Pittsburgh.

The trip out west was very new to me. I have never been able to explore continental United States west of the Mississippi river, and I had never been in the desert, so I really didn't know what to expect.

My mind was filled with random thoughts such as... will I sunburn in the desert sun?

Would I get to ride a horse with no name?

What do people eat in the desert?

Will we encounter any criminals buying pseudoephedrine at CVS and large matches at Home Depot trying to get enough red phosphorous to cook meth in a camper van!?!

So here is a preliminary photo-essay of my findings from Arizona! 

In the desert, the sky is very clear. The moon is very beautiful.
And the evenings are cool and there is very little ambient light pollution.

This is a "cloudy" day in the Sonoran desert. Daytime temperatures while we were there did not exceed 80 °F. However, due to the low humidity, the temperature difference between standing in the sun vs. in the shade felt like at 10 degrees °F. This cactus was probably 25 feet tall and a few hundred years old.

Not a bad view to have in your backyard eh?

Green golf courses in the desert!
Made possible by dams and irrigation canals - open bodies of water is quite a peculiar sight from the air and on the ground. The air surrounding such larger bodies of water also feels cooler due to evaporative cooling.

There are some crazy and amazing geological formations. This little oasis of green and beautiful view is made possible by a small creek/river. I'd imagine after a few centuries, the stranded plant and wildlife will be rather unique.

This is a canyon next to a busy road. Very pretty - but somewhat scary too (I don't think the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a testing protocol for Arizona canyon plunge).

The road follows the canyon through the mountain range. It was a very scenic drive on another "cloudy" day.

Crazy rock formations eh? I don't think two-dimensional pictures do the landscape justice, as it is difficult to capture the depth and sudden rise of the rock formations.

We have many more pictures from our visit, and Part II will focus on all the vegetation and other sights we captured at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I don't understand fans of Andy Warhol.

About a month ago we were cordially invited by the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh to the Member Preview of Warhol and Cars: American Icons.

Being rather ignorant of Andy Warhol, who is apparently one the most iconic American artists and definitely the most recognized one out of Pittsburgh, I decided to go with an open mind.

This is my brief thesis on Andy Warhol. It is titled "Andy Warhol was a talented manipulative modern self-promoting artist who was fortunate enough to live in an age dominated by tasteless art critics and wealthy professional socialites.".

Here is a brief synopsis of my observations to support my thesis:
  1. Andy Warhol likes to wear sunglasses indoors and while working. I think this affected his ability to see the full spectrum of colors, and therefore much of his works lacked a particular spectrum. If he wore polarized lenses, I'd imagine his work would look like something posted behind venetian blinds.
  2. Andy Warhol aged very poorly. I didn't realized he died at a tender age of 58. He looked like he was 70. I think that's what happens when you take meth.
  3. Andy Warhol's screen prints were pleasant to look at, but he was not much of a painter. The primary "show piece" at the event was Andy Warhol's work on a BMW M1 Art Car. His art car was one of the worst of all the BMW Art Cars.
  4. I think he put about as much effort into that car as I hypothetically would on a notepad doodle during a long meeting (I said hypothetically because I always pay 100% attention during meetings and would never waste ink or paper on doodle).
  5. Andy Warhol liked pictures of himself hanging out with celebs. I think Andy Warhol was more about Andy Warhol than Andy Warhol's art. Sort of like the older Picasso, only without Picasso's portfolio of talent.
  6. I'm a people watcher and I observed there were primarily four types of people at the Member Preview.
    • "The Paris Hilton" - These people were dressed and drinking as if they were clubbing. They stayed on the first floor (where the booze was being served), and never ventured up through to the seven floor of the Museum to see the art exhibition. Fortunately, these people are usually very generous with their unearned monies, and are probably what kept and keeps the artist alive and off the streets.
    • "The Elderly Benefactor" - Older gentleman and gentlewoman holding glasses of wine and quietly amused at the scandalous stuff they help fund curate.
    • "The Art Student" - These people were the ones sipping the complimentary bottled water, subtly but stylishly dressed, and  pleasantly conscientious of other people's sight-lines (it is pretty annoying it is for some drunk to walk in front of you while you're standing 2-3 feet away trying to look at something). Art students stand and stare and observe - for a long time.
    • "The Perplexed Plebeian" - This is people like me. I'm admittedly uneducated in the finer things of life. I tried to keep an open mind, but as it gradually got filled with pompous crap created with little effort or skill, I couldn't help but become perplexed at Andy Warhol fans. I'm sorry - I tried, but I just don't get it.
In conclusion, I'm not sure I will be venturing back to the Andy Warhol Museum - I'd rather spend my weekend afternoons in the main Carnegie Museum of Art and marvel at realism paintings. Although in the future, I may bring little spawns to show them why they should not take meth.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Pursuit of Pizza Perfection.

For half a decade, I have been in the pursuit of and been eluded by the perfect pizza crust.

After five long years, I'm happy to report my rather long and at times despairing journey has ended. This recipe is adapted from the fine people at Cook's Illustrated.

  • 1/2 cup of warm activated-charcoal filtered dihydrogen monoxide heated to 43 ° C (110° F).
  •  1 and 1/4 cups of activated-charcoal filtered dihydrogen monoxide at room temperature. 
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast.
  •  2 tsp of olive oil.
  • 4 cups of bread flour.
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp of 97% ~ 99% pure sodium chloride.
Dough Making Protocol:
  1. In a large bowl, add the yeast in the the warm dihydrogen monoxide and stare at mixture for 5 minutes with intense energy.
  2. After you have directed intense energy at the mixture for 5 minutes, add the  room temperature dihydrogen monoxide and olive oil.
  3. Mix the bread flour and relatively pure sodium chloride and combine gently in the mixer (preferably below 120rpm with a dough hook).
  4. With the mixer slowly rotating, gently add the liquids.
  5. Mix dough for until 5 of the first sexagesimal fraction time units have elapsed (or until the dough is smooth and elastic).
  6. Roll the dough into a ball, and place it in an oiled bowl, seal the bowl and let the dough rise for 1/12 of a median Earth day.
  7. After the rising, the dough is more or less ready, form your pizza, use a fork and gently puncture the interior area of the pizza so the crust rises around the center of your pizza.
  8. Let the dough's protein composites relax for a period of approximately 10 of the first sexagesimal fraction time units.
  9. Top the pizza, bake at 260 ° C (500° F).

YAY!!! I swear this is the best home-made pizza dough!