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Dec 29 18

Food geek shopping spree bonanza

by vmbrasseur

I’ve been freelancing for the past few years. It was overall good, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some lean times. Clients who didn’t pay on time, prospects who lost their budgets, things like that.

During those years, I accumulated a short stack of Amazon gift cards. They just piled up, gathering dust. Eventually I realised that I subconsciously had been saving them in case of emergency. What if clients are late in paying but the cats are almost out of kibble? Amazon cards to the rescue! I still didn’t need to use them, but it was good knowing that they were there.

Now that I’m comfortably settled in a new full time job I no longer need that gift card safety net, so the past few days I’ve gone on a little shopping spree. Since I want to encourage myself to continue my trend of eating better, and since I love cooking, I decided to spend all of the cards on cooking-related stuff. I’m so excited for things to start arriving; it’s almost like Xmas! (oh, wait, it *is* Xmas time…) The imminent arrivals:

Aug 5 15


by vmbrasseur

This year my folks got me The Art of Fermentation for my birthday. Ever since then I’ve found myself fermenting all the things. It’s a fascinating (and delicious) process. I’ve made sauerkraut, yogurt, hard ciders, and kimchi. While all of them have turned out brilliantly so far, it’s the kimchi of which I’m currently most proud.

A friend on Twitter asked whether I could post my recipe. It follows, but it’s more of a method than a recipe per se. Ingredients and proportions are quite flexible, and the time required to complete the process is (quite literally) as variable as the weather. Still, here are the notes I took from my most recent batch. For more information (about this and so many other things), check out the Fermentation book I linked above.


  • A larger container, for brining (I use and recommend one of these in an 8qt size)
  • A smaller container, for fermenting (I use and recommend one of these in an 4qt size)
  • A gallon zip-top bag, for weighing down the ferment


  • Whole Napa cabbage
  • Daikon (I used one ~25cm long and ~5cm in diameter)
  • Scallions (I used 2 bunches)
  • Kosher salt
  • 50g Brown rice flour
  • 1 head of Garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and roughly chopped (I used 44g)
  • 1 Ginger root, peeled and roughly grated or finely chopped (I used 117g)
  • Gochugaru (pepper flakes) to taste (I used 60g)


  1. Prepare the vegetables:
    • Cut the Napa cabbage into pieces ~3cm square
    • Cut the daikon in half lengthwise, then cut into 3mm slices (I use my mandoline for this)
    • Cut the scallions–greens and all–into 3cm pieces

    When I completed this process, I had 1.841kg of vegetables.

  2. Create ~2-3 liters of a 15% brine (weigh the water, then add 15% of that weight in salt, mix to dissolve)
  3. Place the vegetables in the larger container, cover with the brine, weigh down with a plate or some such, and allow to sit for 3 hours.
  4. Drain and rinse the vegetables.
  5. Mix the rice flour and 200g of water in a small saucepan. Heat until the mixture starts to thicken, then cool to below 60C.
  6. Mix the garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes into the cooled rice flour paste.
  7. Using your hands, mix the spice paste and the vegetables in a large bowl.
  8. Put the mixture into the smaller container, pressing the mixture down and making sure there are no large air bubbles (which might foster mold growth).
  9. Create a 3% brine solution and half-fill the gallon zip-top bag with it. Place this bag on top of the mixture, making sure to cover the entire surface. This weighs down the mixture and prevents it from getting too much air contact.
  10. Cover the entire thing with a kitchen towel and place it out of the way for many days. The number of days will depend upon the weather. Fermentation will occur more quickly in warmer weather, more slowly in cooler. This last batch was ready in a week, but we also had many days in a row of temperatures around 35C.
  11. Every few days, remove the brine bag then stir and taste the mixture. When it reaches desired acidity, pack into screw-top jars and place in the refrigerator to stop fermentation.


  • The first time I tried this, I brined the vegetables for five hours and did not rinse them well. The end result was great, but ever so slightly too salty. This second time, I brined for only three hours and rinsed well. This worked brilliantly. My only complaint with this second batch is that it may be a little more heavily gingered than I’d have preferred, but that’s hardly a complaint. Overall, it once again turned out great.

The batch made approximately two liters of kimchi. How much you get out of it will depend entirely on how many vegetables you use. The entire recipe can be scaled up/down as you see fit. Use different vegetables. Use more pepper flakes. Add shrimp paste to the spice mixture. Do what you gotta do to make a kimchi you love.

May 3 15

Cafflano Klassic

by vmbrasseur

(Click on all pics to embiggen.)

A couple months ago a friend tweeted about the Cafflano Klassic portable coffee maker. Apparently it had a successful Kickstarter which I somehow missed. The Cafflano Klassic claims to be a system for the perfect pour-over while on the road. Just add beans and hot water and: POOF! Amazing coffee.

This almost seemed too good to be true, but since it’s a manual coffee gadget I felt nigh on obligated to give it a try. If it worked then it could be a candidate to replace my Aeropress + Porlex Grinder as my go-to coffee solution while on the road.

What most appealed to me about the Cafflano Klassic (henceforth CK) was how compact the entire setup was. The CK packs a burr mill grinder, a metal filter, a drip kettle, and a tumbler all in one neat and well-contained package. The grinder and filter nest inside the tumbler with the dripper forming the top of the entire lot. This would make it very easy to grab, fill with beans, toss into your luggage, and then leave for travel and adventures (or, in my case, conferences).

(See close-ups of each of these grinds here: Cafflano, Porlex, Hario Skerton)

After it arrived, I used the CK to make all my morning coffee for an entire week. All tests were performed using a Congo Kivu Bukavu-Beni from Sweet Maria’s home-roasted to a City+ roast. The roast was approximately three days old when I started the tests. Each test used 18 grams of beans.

Aside from just giving it the time for a fair test, this was also how long it took me to confirm I’d dialed in the appropriate grind for this brewer.

I started with a grind of the fineness I use for my Aeropress (aka: my Porlex setting). This was a terrible idea, as the grinds very quickly clogged the fine mesh of the strainer. No amount of stirring would clear it up, so I was forced to scrap half of the batch.

Next I tried a coarser grind, something more akin to the setting I use on my Hario Skerton for my Clever Dripper. That grind was a bit better in the CK, but there were still a lot of clogging problems.

The third day I tried a grind which I thought would be far too coarse and would never result in a decent coffee (the Cafflano grind pictured above). Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While a little stirring was necessary, this grind was otherwise perfect for the brewer. The filter did not get clogged and it resulted in a full-bodied brew with excellent mouth feel.

When I first saw the drip kettle I wasn’t sure whether to be amused. It’s…just a cup with a hole in it. How well could this actually work? Pretty damn well, it turns out. Even in an early-morning-pre-coffee state it’s quite easy to use the kettle to get a nice, even drip stream going. However, once I did pick up the full drip kettle with wet hands and ended up spilling just-off-the-boil water all over the countertop and myself, so a bit more grippiness would be nice on the thing.

Despite the fineness of the filter, the resulting brew does contain some sediment. This is only part of the reason that I recommend that you decant the final coffee out of the tumbler into another vessel before drinking. The other (and actual more important to me) reason is the stainless steel lip on the tumbler. I found it added an unpleasant metallic flavor/feeling when drinking directly from the tumbler. But as I always travel with an OXO Good Grips Travel Mug, decanting won’t be that big of a deal for me. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Cleanup of the system is quite easy, assuming you have access to adequate running water and a sponge or some other wiping item. Perhaps it was the beans that I used, but I found that a simple rinse wasn’t enough to clean the filter and tumbler. A rinse plus a wipe with a sponge or paper towel, however, did quite well. I never did more cleanup than this the entire week of daily use.

Aside from the stainless steel tumbler lip and the lack of grippiness of the drip kettle, this is a great little system. I really enjoyed not only using it but–more importantly–drinking the coffee which it generated. Even with the coarse grind I was consistently getting quite good cups of coffee. The brew was, naturally, different from that I get from my Aeropress so I won’t compare them. Both are very good, just in their own special ways. My next conference is in June and I’m looking forward to taking my CK and giving it its first road test. I’ll be very happy to enjoy the coffee it creates and eschew that pitiful stuff offered in the hotel room.

May 5 14

A Toast

by vmbrasseur

This past weekend I attended the wedding of my friends Ben and Stacey. I was asked to give a toast during the reception and prepared a few words in advance. Being who I am, I put my toast into an index card app on my iPhone. This would have worked brilliantly…had my phone not rang right in the middle of my toast (even worse: it was a wrong number). As you can imagine, that rather disturbed the flow of my presentation. It turns out I missed presenting two or three of the cards. Oops.

So here, for posterity and for the on-going celebration of Ben and Stacey, is the full text of my toast to them:

In some ways I’m am an unlucky person.

For instance, unlike most of you here, I’ve only had the joy of knowing these two for 2 or 3 years now.

Yet, with Ben and Stacey, this doesn’t matter.

The moment they meet you they each make you feel as though you’ve known them your entire life.

In a large part, this is due to their immense generosity.

These two give wholly, not only of their stuff and their time and their home (though they certainly do that), but also and primarily of themselves.

You would be very hard pressed indeed to find even one person so caring, so giving, so loving, so understanding, so supportive…

And yet here we have TWO such people.

Together, they form the Wonder Twins of love and empathy.

The marriage we are here to celebrate is them publicly bumping their fists together and activating their super powers.

I don’t know which one gets to be the eagle and which the bucket of water, but I do know that together they are stronger than apart and that together they make the world a better place for us all.

So please, raise a glass and toast our super friends and, if I might be allowed to mix my comics universes, “Excelsior!”

Mar 1 14

Culinary Experiment: Thai-Inspired Braised Beef Cheeks

by vmbrasseur

This is going to be a quick post. Mostly I just want to capture what I did so I can tweak it next time.


  • oil
  • ~1 lb beef cheeks (~1 large cheek)
  • 1/2 lb turnips, in 1/2″ chunks (baby spring turnips preferred)
  • 1/2 lb carrots, in 1/2″ chunks
  • 4 baby leeks, whites parts only, well-cleaned & in 1″ chunks
  • 6 kumquats, sliced crosswise into ~4 bits (seeds removed)
  • 3 Tbl tomato paste
  • 2″ chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed somewhat
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed slightly
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, dry part removed, in 2″ chunks
  • ~5 star anise
  • 1 lg sprig fresh thyme
  • 8 whole hot red peppers
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred)


  • Heat oil to shimmering. Then brown the beef cheek very well on both sides. Remove it from the pan and set aside.
  • Pour off the oil to 1 Tbl remains. Add smashed ginger and allow to brown well (move very little in the pan). Remove the ginger & place w/other ingredients (it’s coming back).
  • Add tomato paste, cook for ~3min.
  • Add beef cheek back to the pot, then all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  • Simmer for ~4hr.
  • Remove beef cheek, thyme stems, ginger, lemongrass, star anise, whole red peppers. Discard all EXCEPT the beef.
  • Turn pot to high and reduce by at least half.
  • When cooled, pull the beef cheek into bite-sized bits.
  • When the sauce is reduced, season to taste w/salt and add the beef back. Cook until heated through.
  • Serve over starch of your choice. I chose fresh pappardelle.

Corrections for next time

  • Overall: Very good! But it needs better balance.
  • Reduce kumquats by 1 or 2.
  • Reduce red peppers by half. I like heat, but I prefer balance.
  • I think the ginger could use a good blackening (broiler?) rather than a mere browning. It’d add a nice depth.
Jan 11 14

Running Songs

by vmbrasseur

Since just before the prior post, I’ve been using the couch to 5K iPhone app. Despite tendon and knee problems (which I probably shouldn’t be ignoring), I’ve just finished week 4 of the program. It’s not that I’m looking to complete a 5K (been there; done that). It’s just that this program does a good job of preventing me from getting excited, pushing myself harder than my body is ready for, and damaging myself (more than I already am). I’m not in this to go far or to go fast. I’m just in this to go.

I find it impossible to run or work out without music. My workout playlist has been evolving for years. It’s currently 382 tracks totaling 22 hours and 51 minutes, so there’s no lack of variety. While all the songs meet the general criteria of “upbeat and fun,” there are some which are always more welcome when they get their turn in the randomized list. Here are a few of them:

“Under the Radar” by Abney Park

“Effington” by Ben Folds (a cappella version)

“Mister Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra

“Let Me Go” by Enter the Haggis

“Company of Fools” by Great Big Sea

“Late in the Evening” by Paul Simon

“Get the Party Started” performed by Shirley Bassey

“Doctor Worm” by They Might Be Giants

Dec 19 13

The Pause That Refreshes

by vmbrasseur

Rather than beating about the bush, let’s just get right to the point:

Despite living in one of the most soused and alcohol-friendly cities in America, I have decided to quit drinking. This may only be a temporary condition, lasting a few months or so. Or it may become permanent. Time will tell. All that’s important is that at the moment I’m no longer drinking alcohol.

“Why on earth,” do you ask, “would you do such a thing?” The reasons are two:

  • Expense: Finances are a bit snug here right now. When looking around for unnecessary expenses to put on the chopping block, “alcohol” is a very obvious (and not insignificant) candidate. I won’t get into just how insignificant, but let’s just say I don’t buy cheap crap. So cutting alcohol from the shopping list will save enough money to make a difference.
  • Health: “Hey, did you know that alcohol has calories in it? I know, right? Crazy!” Lately I’ve allowed my weight to creep up higher than it’s been in almost fifteen years. As well, I took my blood pressure the other day and realized it was higher than it’s ever been. Not nearly to a dangerous level, but high enough to set off warning bells alerting me that I need to take action now before things start to spiral. I’m just starting to heal up from an injury and am ramping back up on the exercise once again. I’m also cutting empty calories out of my diet. Thus: farewell alcohol.

What does this mean for you? Well, probably nothing. It’s not like I’m going to stop going to the pub with you or that you have to stop drinking around me or anything silly or drastic like that. I’m just taking care of myself, not entering AA, for crying out loud. All it means is that when we do go out we’re going to end up with a much lower bar tab at the end of the night.

Some of you might be wondering why I’ve chosen now, mere days before Christmas and New Year’s Day, to go off the sauce. Do you remember that quote from When Harry Met Sally? The I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. one? This is kinda like that. I recognized that I need to make a change and that it was going to be difficult (because: change), but that starting now would get me on the right path with fewest excuses. Just tear off that band-aid.

So here I am. Dry as a bone and looking forward to feeling healthier with each passing day. Woo, and might I say, hoo.

Sep 16 13

Cold Brew Comparison: The Tasting and the Conclusions

by vmbrasseur

Please see yesterday’s post, Cold Brew Comparison: The Madness and the Method, for the introduction to this cold brew coffee experiment.

The Tasting

I successfully enlisted three other coffee-loving friends—Eric, Jen, and Josh—to come over and be taste testers, bribing them with promises of brunch and abundant coffee. Two other friends (Chrissy and Kris) attended as non-coffee-drinking spectators.

The tasting setupOnce the tasters arrived they were given a choice: Taste blind? Or would they prefer to know what they’re drinking? It’s a testament to the culinary adventureness of my friends (my Culinauts!) that they unanimously agreed to the blind tasting. To make it a little more interesting, I told them that whoever guessed the most secret ingredients would win a bag of BrewPony coffee.

All coffees were tasted at room temperature and undiluted. There are far too many ways to enjoy cold brew and there was no way we could (or should) try them all. Instead we would taste them in as pure and unadulterated a state as possible. We all agreed that several of the brews would likely perform significantly differently if served hot.

Here are the tasters’ comments for each brew, summarized:

Tasting notes

  1. (cinnamon) What is this flavor? We know this one. What is it? Whatever it is, there’s too much of it. It’s way too strong and almost overwhelms the coffee.
  2. (orange peel) There’s nothing else in this. It tastes like it’s just a different coffee variety, something brighter and more acidic. If there’s anything else in here it’s subtle. It’s like bitter hiding behind sour.
  3. (mint) Toothpastey! BAD! HULK SMASH! It’s like there’s an evolution of flavors here.
  4. (lemon peel) This one’s really nice. It’s balanced. Whatever this is really softens the bittnerness. It’s the only one I like more than the plain coffee. It tastes like Lemon Pledge.
  5. (vanilla) Can’t place this one. What is this? There’s way too much of whatever it is. Not subtle or balanced. It’s overwhelming the coffee. Is this molasses? This flavor isn’t integrated with the coffee at all. This really needs some sugar.
  6. (soy sauce) This tastes really good. Tones down the bitterness. It’s a little over-done, whatever it is, but it’s nice. Tastes very roasty. Chickory-esque. Cocoa nibs? Kinda smokey-ish. Slightly nutty.

When asked which was their favorite, three out of four tasters selected Brew #4 (lemon peel). The fourth taster selected Brew #3 (mint). Everyone agreed that Brew #6 (soy sauce) was a solid second place.

Oh, and Eric successfully guessed four of the six ingredients. As he’s already a happy BrewPony subscriber he gifted his prize coffee to Josh.

The Conclusions

So, what have I learned? Well, for one thing mint is a very polarizing flavor where coffee is concerned. My tasters either (predominantly) loathed it or (one) loved it, saying it was very refreshing. Despite that, I think it’s safe to say that the blanket statement that the addition of mint makes for the best cup of cold brew is a busted myth.

Regardless, this experiment has opened up new horizons of cold brew. Some of the brews (vanilla, for instance) could be improved by altering the amount of flavoring ingredient. Others, like the lemon peel, were quite lovely as is. After the tasting we brainstormed additional ingredients we could try. Cardamom was a popular suggestion. Buddha’s Hand Citron was another. One taster suggested doing a vertical of brews made with several different kinds of soy sauce, just to see what happens. Frankly, I’m stunned that no one suggested bacon. That one kinda seems like a no brainer to me. There’s really no limit to the options we could try.

The Epilogue

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that after the official tasting we did try several of the brews diluted with boiling water. I’ve since tried the remaining ones the same way. I learned that:

Cold brew topped with plain soda water, served in a wine glass

  • Heat super-activates the Lemon Pledge-ness of the lemon peel brew. It should only be served cold.
  • Diluting the soy sauce brew did lovely things. It opened up the coffee nicely, making it more, um, coffee-like. It also enhanced the chickory-ness of the cup.
  • I personally think the cinnamon is quite pleasant when hot. It’s a very warming brew.
  • The orange peel does as much hot as it did cold: Diddly squat.
  • Too much vanilla is too much vanilla, even when diluted.
  • The mint is somehow nastier when hot.

As you can see, serving method can have a large effect on the end result.

Sep 16 13

Cold Brew Comparison: The Madness and the Method

by vmbrasseur

Cross-posted from a post I authored for BrewPony.

The Plan

A couple of weeks ago I read an article on Slate which claimed that the best cold brewed coffee is attained by adding some fresh mint while brewing.

The best? REALLY? Well, let’s find out.

My Coffee MinionsI resolved right then and there that the next shipment of coffee I received from BrewPony would be dedicated to testing out this claim. I would make a batch of plain cold brew and a batch which includes some fresh mint and then do a head to head taste test.

But then I got to thinking… If I’m going to go through all the effort of doing a taste test, why don’t I just take that sucker to eleven? Sure, it could be possible that a mint cold brew is better than plain, but in order to tell whether it’s absolutely the best shouldn’t I compare it to other cold brews which include a non-coffee ingredient in the infusion? I mean, if mint really is the best then it should beat any brew, right?

I shared my plan with the BrewPonies, who agreed that it was the right sort of crazy and vowed to do whatever they could to enable my madness. A week later a large box of coffee arrived in the mail. The game was afoot.

The Method

The general idea of my expanded plan was:

  1. Create several identical batches of cold brew
  2. Add one additional ingredient to each batch but one, reserving that plain batch as a control
  3. Enlist friends to come over to taste and rate each batch
  4. Determine once and for all which is the best cold brew

I sat down and brainstormed possible ingredients, eventually coming up with a list of six:

Before you freak out about that final ingredient, please remember that there is a long tradition of people adding a pinch of salt to a cup of coffee. It’s said to soften the bitterness of a bad or dark brew. I wanted to see how it would affect cold brew, but I also wanted something a little more complex than a basic kosher salt. Soy sauce fit the bill perfectly.

Immense thanks are due to Ben Hengst for collaborating with me to experiment and find the correct proportion of soy sauce to use in the cold brew. He and I both drank some absolutely dreadful concoctions so you wouldn’t have to. Oh, the things we do in the name of science…

Ingredients selected, it was time to figure out the all important coffee portion of the brews. All batches must use exactly the same amount of exactly the same coffee. Reviewing the trove of goodies shipped to me from BrewPony HQ, I determined that I had enough to create eight batches of cold brew using 125g each of Schondecken air roasted Guatemalan from Rose City Roasters.

There are those who say that a cold brew should be a 1:2 or even a 1:1 proportion of coffee to water. I have never enjoyed brews of that sort. They’re thick and unappealingly bitter, even for me. In addition, I was pretty sure that a brew that coffee-forward would entirely overwhelm any additional ingredient.

Therefore I opted for a 1:5 proportion of coffee to water. This would put me at 625g (aka 625ml) of water for each batch. At those proportions I should be able to do each batch in a single one quart Mason jar and have enough brew of each type to allow my tasters adequate portions.

Capresso burr mill grinderThe coffee was ground moments before adding water. I used my old electric Capresso burr mill grinder (well-cleaned and -detailed before starting), since my madness did not extend to hand grinding a kilogram of bean in my usual (but small) Hario Skerton. I used setting 4.5 on my Capresso, generating a grind of medium coarseness. Much finer and I feared it would never make it through the filter when straining it the next day.

Each special ingredient was added just prior to the water. I nestled each nice and cozy in a bed of tasty, tasty coffee grounds.

The water used was my normal San Francisco tap water. No other treatment was applied to it. Our municipal water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite and, on its own, is pure enough that it passes all water quality tests without need for treatment. It’s fine stuff and brews a nice cup.

Completed batches, all in a rowImmediately after adding water for a batch, I screwed the cap onto the Mason jar and shook the crap out of it to make sure everything was nicely incorporated. However, afterward I loosened the cap again. This was very fresh coffee, and while it wasn’t generating much of a crema foam it undoubtedly was still putting out a fair bit of carbon dioxide. By the time I finished preparing eight batches, my kitchen was already quite covered enough with coffee. I didn’t need to add exploding Mason jars of cold brew to that chaos.

The brews sat for almost exactly 24 hours before they were strained. Four times during that day I picked up each batch and shook it to distribute the grounds in the water.

Straining the brewsStraining all eight batches took several hours the following morning, even when using two separate filtering setups. I used both my large Chemex as well as my Clever Dripper. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to measure the resulting brew for each batch. That’s a shame, because judging by the levels in the jars of strained brews it appeared as though the Chemex was straining out several more milliliters than the Clever Dripper was. Without metrics to prove that I’m left only with an anecdote and a question: Why would the Chemex do a better job of straining?

In the end I was left with six jars of nearly half a quart each of “ingredient” brews and one jar almost three quarters full of the two batches of plain brew.

The tasters would arrive in an hour.

Next up: The tasting results and conclusions drawn from the experiment!

Jul 31 13

Requiem for a Science Museum

by vmbrasseur

Madagascar Day GeckoSoon after I moved to San Francisco I purchased a basic membership to California Academy of Sciences.

A year later I renewed my membership, but because of my love for the Academy and the work they do I increased my membership to the Friends of the Academy level. If someone’s doing good work, you should do what you can to support it.

That happened to coincide with my leaving my most recent “real” job to work on my own projects. The timing couldn’t have been better. When cooped up at home, researching/thinking/writing your brains out all day, what could be a better escape than a trip to see the fishies at Cal Academy? Sure, I could’ve done the same with a basic membership. But with the Friends membership I knew I was helping them do science to things. And I liked that. I liked that a lot. Yay for science!

Cal Academy Friend ButtonsOver the past year I’ve visited Cal Academy twenty-one times. More than 80% of those visits were me accompanying a friend—mostly from out of town, if not from another country—and his or her kid(s). I’ve honestly lost count of the number of people whom I’ve introduced to the Academy over the past year.

Today, July 31st, my membership expires. I planned in advance and took the day off so I would have plenty of time to visit and say goodbye. I’m grateful that a friend was in town from NYC to accompany me. It turns out I really needed the company. This was a very difficult visit for me and I needed the support (and distraction) of another person. I didn’t get to do everything I’d have liked (no visit to the planetarium for me), but I did get to visit the exhibits which have meaning to me and for that I’m thankful.

Claude the Albino AlligatorI’d drastically underestimated what Cal Academy had come to mean to me over the past year or so. It was freedom. It was escape. On a bad day I could always run to see Claude and his snapping turtle friends, then wander down to The Moss Room for a drink and a bite and a chat with the friendly staff. Problems do not exist when you’re watching the cuttlefish. You cannot remain upset when you have a butterfly on your hand. When a tiger tree snake looks you in the eye, a lot of things come into perspective. There is the “real” world. The world outside. The world of meetings and obligations and concerns and deadlines. And then there is the world of Cal Academy. Snakes and frogs and fishes and stars and the magic of the world.

For many (currently unimportant) reasons, I’m unable to renew my Cal Academy membership. I now know just how much I will miss the place. The peace I found there, despite the throngs of children shouting about how they’d “Found Nemo!1!” at the coral reef. The delight I felt when they released some orb weavers to build their webs in a small area of the rainforest. The wonder the first time the coconut octopus reached back when I touched the glass of its tank.

Thank you, Cal Academy. You’ve been a good and dear friend and will always be close to my heart.