Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Just a mishmash of things I am finding interesting: Fodder for thought

Taste Envy: I was talking with my co-worker, Rose, who is Chinese, about good restaurants (she's a Tamarind Tree fan too) and the differences between different types of Asian cuisine and in the course of the conversation she mentioned that Asians have a kind of taste bud that non-Asians don't and they can taste a "fifth flavor." I almost drove off the road. She informed me that in addition to the four known flavors (sweet, salty, bitter and sour) Asians are able to taste an additional flavor because they have a type of taste bud that non-Asians don't. I had never heard such a thing. In fact, my first reaction was pure unadulterated envy. I quizzed her up and down: what is this flavor? Well how do you describe a flavor that someone else can't experience. How do you describe color to a blind person? Or sound to a deaf person? She tried to describe this flavor, known as "Umami" which in translation is something like "deliciousness." Well that's helpful! The taste thing is of interest to me. I have a pretty good palate: I like to figure out what ingredients are in the dishes I'm tasting (and I'm pretty good at it). I love to fine-tune seasonings in the kitchen. So learning that I am not able to experience fully what some things have to offer really, well, pisses me off!

Since our conversation I've Googled Umami. It is a recognized "fifth flavor" that is close to "savory," is found in decomposing things (dried mushrooms, seaweed, Parmesan cheese, seafoods) and nowhere did I find anything that said that non-Asians can't taste it. I think that it is probably an old wives tale that Rose bought into. I was relieved, but still wonder. What if I am missing out on a flavor? Just a weird thought. Fodder for some good musing.

(Pet)Parent-Trap: Over the holidays the following story was on the local news. Two black labs who had been boarded at the Petsmart Hotel were mixed up and sent home with the wrong families. It took three weeks before one owner became suspicious enough to check it out. The dogs were swapped back and are still trying to figure out who they are. The story is fascinating. Gotta wonder what those dogs were thinking when they arrived at the new house. Had to figure out where to sleep, what furniture to curl up on, where the back door is, what's in the backyard, what the new food is. And how did the pet-parents feel when they realized they'd been hosting the wrong dog and not realized it? Pretty foolish I guess. But then, if the dog had been away at the pets hotel for a while maybe you credit the change of behavior to that adjustment. Weird. What made this story even more interesting to me is this Pet's Hotel is where I take Satchmo twice a week for "Doggie Day Camp" while I work. This is a wonderful place. I love all the workers there and they love Satchmo. Very much. They are passionate animal lovers. I was so relieved when we went back this Tuesday after the holiday break that none of the employees there have lost their job over the incident. Yet. "Corporate" is reviewing the tapes from cameras within the facility to see if they can find when the animal identities got switched. So there may still be some fallout. Of course the folks there feel terrible about the mess up. But really, if their own owners couldn't tell the difference, how would people doing temporary care be able to. This event reminded me of the hospital's mix up of my sister's second baby: she nursed the wrong baby the morning after his birth. Went through some nice bonding with this new baby. Fortunately Rob was her second child. I imagine the response might have been quite different if it was first baby. The parents of the other infant had to be informed of the mix up. What must have gone through their heads. They didn't know who my sister is. Would you be worried about who nursed your new child? More fodder.

Happiness: I am currently watching a show on PBS about happiness from the series This Emotional Life. "Rethinking Happiness: A look at happiness, what it is and how to attain it." They mix interviews with real people who have learned alot about happiness, people who have spinal cord injuries, a former POW, a woman living with cancer with science and psychology. Fascinating things about how people learn to be happier with what they have when they don't have choices than people who have choices. Impacts of anger. The importance of social connection. People who have been through horrendous things yet if they could go back and take away those horrific experiences they would not. This show is just full of fodder.

Letting Go: I have a work project now that is causing me great grief. The biggest grief is not the project itself but the client. It's taken me a while to figure this guy out. Actually, I haven't fully figured him out but the light is starting to go on. I approached this project in my usual pattern: find out how to get the client what he needs: a permit. I have been especially committed and going the extra mile because it is a project that I really want to see done: a terrific low-income housing project. There are some issues on the project that are really difficult and take some real creativity to figure out what will work for the project that we can get through the City process, and result in a safe outcome. It's been very difficult to find a solution. We've come close so many times. I had been frustrated in trying to explain to my client why some of the things he wanted to do weren't possible. Why the City was rejecting some of the things he was trying to take forward. Etc. I was trying to be his teacher as well as an advocate for the project. The more I tried to get things to work, the more frustrated he got with me and the City and the whole situation. I sensed his dissatisfaction. He actually yelled at me on the phone. We decided to meet face to face so we could look at the plan and he could understand what I was trying to tell him. When we got together, he just took the plan and drew on it what he wanted and directed me to submit. Made it clear that he didn't want to hear anything. And so I did. I turned in what we were told would not be accepted. The City is likely to reject it. Or they may change the way they deal with it and find a way to make it work. There is a lot of pressure on the staff from powers above to get this project through. So it's possible that this will work. I am letting go of this and I'm OK. Recognize that I've done what I can and that this guy is skilled in putting things together, getting things done, getting people to give him what he needs, and for this one that is all I can do. And this may be what is needed to make sure this project happens. Which will be a good thing. For me: it's a chance to learn how to deal with a difficult person. There's lots I can learn from this one. More fodder.

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