Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gems of the Web: Fish of Lembeh Strait

Caledonian Devilfish, Lembeh Strait, Sulawese, Indonesia, Asia, Planet Earth
From time to time I'll stumble across absolute treasures on the Internet that aren't made in Silicon Valley and it's these increasingly rare moments that keep me rooting for this grand experiment.

To wit, the link below will take you to a marvelous photo gallery of the most exotic fish in the world presented in a decidedly homegrown website which itself is a wonder as the apparent passion project of a Swiss ex-pat living on the Indonesian island of *Sulawese. So glad we had the opportunity to connect, if only virtually.

Link: Underwater Photos from Lembeh Strait

Almost as much fun as the actual discoveries themselves is the path of curiosity that leads me to these day-making discoveries. In class this evening I met an Indonesian ex-pat who's studying in Philly. He told me that once he leaves Philly, he's going back to Jakarta to run a few product-lines of his parents' polymers business. Mind blowing stuff that alone and it got me thinking of Indonesia, and all the places there I'm curious about including Bali and the scuba diving possibilities of the world's largest archipelago. Soon enough I was Googling the scuba scene in Indonesia and found a refreshing, old-school un-commercialized corner of the Web (messy, awesome and weird like it was in the late '90s early '00s) made up of fan pages about 'muck diving' in Sulawese's Lembeh Strait.

*As upheld by the fish that live there, Sulawese is in fact the most exotic place I can imagine and officially goes in the file of ultimate adventure destinations along with Borneo, the Seychelles, Kamchatka, Tierra Del Fuego, Assam and the Okavango Delta.

Vegemite Sandwich in Philadelphia?

The 'Ex-Pat' is the first sandwich on the list at the new Wedge + Fig in Old City and at first I didn't get it. Ingredients: Quicke's cheddar, Marmite, Avocado, Watercress on a Sesame baguette.

What is marmite? I asked the girl behind the counter. She started to say something about salty yeast extract, and then stopped, said, it's an acquired taste, maybe you'd like a try? At this point the owner stepped out of the kitchen and drew the parallel between Australia's famous Vegemite, which is illegal in the United States, saying Marmite is the America-safe version of this concept, which is, literally, yeast extract only with government-mandated processing for sensitive American gastronomy.

Then an ice cream sample spoon was offered over the counter with a dab of thick, dark syrup on the tip. So this is Marmite? It was opaque, not quite tacky, about as viscous as molasses. The taste was bracingly salty but with a familiar organic tang to it. After processing, I compared it to distilled soy sauce, like the heroin to soy sauce's morphine.

True to stereotype, Australians are apparently, actually crazy about vegemite and as word has spread of the marmite sandwich at Wedge and Fig, the owner has reported Aussies making pilgrimage from around the Philly area to snag a sando with the flavors of home. Now the 'Ex-Pat' part was making sense.

And I was intrigued enough to order one. True to assurances from the staff, the marmite wasn't overwhelming and added delicious saltiness next to the smooth avocado. It was a delicious sandwich.

Most of all it's good to see Wedge + Fig stepping up the game in this promising space. The former tenant and concept-proving, Old City Cheese Shop was decidedly un-cheesy for a cheese shop and a little too laissez faire in terms of knowledge, service and overall business-savvy. The best recommendation I ever got out of the OCCS was 'cheddar.' The Wedge + Fig has outfitted the fridges with a properly exotic roster of cheeses and sent me home with an excellent sheeps-milk cheese called 'ewephoria' in addition to the sandwich that helped me finally understand the Men at Work.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stickin' it to the Man (or his proxy, the Philadelphia Parking Authority)

A lot has happened since last we spoke, back at the end of May, which was literally the last time I felt free to do things that don't pay me or require a high degree of professionalism (like this blog), but the long and short of isthat I'm enrolled in the summer semester at Wharton which is a huge time suck featuring 7 hours of evening class, 2 nights a week plus more homework than you can shake a stick at. Fortunately it's over on June 30, but I didn't want that to let a whole month go buy without a peep.

Also, I'd like to prove I'm still out there setting out crafty, bloggish thought experiments to entertain the masses and have been cataloging them through various digital channels including Facebook mobile uploads, Twitter and emails to myself with notes about things I'd like to write later on. I maintain a list of 'Band Names' on a notepad application on my cellphone and have added a few this month, which I'll sample here:

Big Word Salad
The Nestorian Heresy

So it's still very much on.

To wit, this post, which was motivated by my good friend Dr. W following the trend of moving to town from New York City and doing so in a big UHaul truck which he emptied and parked on the street in Old City last Monday night. Having helped him hump a bed, bookshelf and other heavy items up to his 4th floor apartment, I was clearly in a giving mood and kept on with some advice on the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA, stars of TLC Show 'Parking Wars'): that he'd better get the UHaul out of there lickety-split at 7am or he was in for a world of pain. No problem, he'd set his iPhone to wake himself up and return the UHaul.

715 I get an angry text that Dr. W has slept in a mere 10 minutes and by the time he arrived on the street, the PPA had already called a tow-truck to the scene who couldn't be dissuaded from collecting his rented UHaul the associated $250 release fee. Ouch. But we saw this coming.

On Tuesday night I was over at Penn where I park my car on the street and the PPA collects tolls for this privilege until 8pm at night. You can pay for up to 3 hours at a time, but it increments in 10 minute intervals from the time of your payment so it's often the case when I'm buying big chunks of time that I am forced to increment past the hour of 8pm because I have to stay until 9. Not this time. Claiming an ounce of Dr. W's pound of flesh, I won back $0.25 by paying for parking through 7:59pm rather than 8:09pm just to see if the PPA would be on the scene in the moments of my infraction. I know this sounds lame, but you have to fight the aggrieving forces of creeping bureaucracy in subtle ways or it will overwhelm you. And I'm happy to report that I didn't get a ticket. So take that PPA!