Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

Archive for February 2011

That’s all folks

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By now it’s been more than a month since I left the United States, but since we’ve only just closed the book on the year of the yang metal tiger it doesn’t feel entirely inappropriate to conclude the blog at this point in time. For anyone who happens to stumble upon this blog without having followed it, it’s been a recount my adventures and experiences during a year spent working in Baltimore. Some things might not make sense if you don’t know my, but I’m sure you can appreciate my tales and wit. I would recommend that you start from the beginning though, if you plan to make heads and tails of things.

The last few weeks after I returned from the road trip were pretty intense, with a ton of experiments and paperwork to finish up before heading home. There have been good things and bad, but overall it’s been a great experience (why didn’t I go on exchange before I graduated?). Getting all my stuff back was quite a challenge, and one that I only overcame through serendipity, generous assistance from my friends and a good deal of toil during the trip. Well, more or less overcame in any case; Ihad to leave my hobo outfit and Halloween costume behind, sniff.

Not enough space!

So now it’s the year of the yang metal rabbit, which as far as I know should mean a year with lots of beauty and aesthetics. Sounds nice (maybe a good time to get a new girlfriend?), but it comes with a need for calm and safety, a return to things well-known and a departure from adventures, unpredictability and zeal. Appropriate for going back home I suppose, but I can’t say that I like the thought of the cosmos forcing me to turn things down a notch. Good thing I don’t believe in the stuff.


Written by Martin

2011/02/11 at 15:36

Posted in Uncategorized

Road Trip days 22-28: Los Angeles, part IV

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I realize that I left something out of my previous post, something that bears mentioning despite the low-quality iPhone pic that serves as the sole source of photographic evidence. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’d shuffled around our eating days to make the most of LA’s offerings, which meant that when we got back from Sequoia we had literally not eaten for two days. And what better way to break this fast than a visit to the Griddle Cafe for a dinner-plate-sized stack of buttermilk pancakes filled with brown sugar-baked bananas, walnuts, caramel and streusel, topped with yet more caramel, streusel and whipped cream. And yes, I put maple syrup on that. It was obscene, but utterly delectable; the combination worked perfectly, and the gigantism meant that each bite was a different combination of ingredients. My friend had a ‘light’ version with just the bananas, which wasn’t half bad either. The lack of extras may be why he got about two-thirds through the stack while I stopped at the halfway mark, but more likely he was just more stubborn (his agonizing over stomach pains lasted at least three hours after the meal). Either way we both did better than the native at the table next to us, who ate an eighth of his stack and then asked for a box for the rest. I kid you not.

The Golden Ticket

Our days on the West coast were coming to an end, and I find it hard to describe my feelings about it. Relief, melancholy, jaded indifference. We’d been on the road for so long, and then subjected to the laid-back LA atmosphere, that it was hard to relate to the concept of going back to work. So I mustered all my newfound Pacific Vegan Silver Screen superpowers and went with the flow; “bugger this relating to imminent events, let’s just enjoy the city.”


I’m not sure why, but the idea of a cathedral for some undefined matron protector really appeals to me. I guess in part because it reminds me of a great book I read a few years back, but the mysticism and symbolism also just clicks. The place ended up being far more modern than I’d expected, but in light of the city’s young age that’s probably a good thing.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

The last thing my camera saw on our trip was a view from the wonderful (and free) Getty center in the hills above Los Angeles. Not entirely inappropriate, in my opinion. Goodnight, Hollywood boulevard.

Goodnight, Hollywood Boulevard

Written by Martin

2011/02/10 at 05:27

Posted in Food, Places, Road Trip

Road Trip days 22-28: Los Angeles, part III

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I have a potentially superfluous confession to make: it’s been three months since the trip now, and things are starting to get a little bit fuzzy. I still remember the awesome Korean barbecue, the highly shady Russian car mechanic and really really having to pee by the time we left Olmeda street. I just don’t quite recall what happened first, nor my state of mind at the time. So these last posts are a bit heavier on the pictures that I’m increasingly using to organize my memories, and a bit lighter on rambling prolixity. Less philosophy, more photography.

I haven’t lost it completely, however, and remember rather well the evening we spent at the farmer’s market and the adjacent outdoor shopping plaza, which came complete with Christmas decorations (it was early November, after all) and a slightly silly streetcar that could ease the journey from one end of the complex to the other (about 200 meters).

Christmas comes early

How do you spend an evening at the farmer’s market? Well, first you promenade around to check out all the stands. A few butchers and produce-peddlers, a couple of bakers, and a store selling a gazillion different kinds of hot sauce; mostly, though,we saw rows and rows of street food and snack vendors. Then, you buy a snack from one of these stalls (crystallized ginger, in this case) and saunter about while you eat it (or try it and put it in the garbage, in this case). Repeat step 2 until full, bored or out of money.

One little piggy...

We had a lot of fun that night, with Vietnamese appetizers, Brazilian churrasco and that most Californian of desserts, the froyo. We also managed to rectify the fact that we’d failed to find any cornbread for my friend to try. I’d call it a complete success if not for the particularly annoying fellow at one of the bakeries, who flat out refused to sell me one of his rugelachs. “They’re old, I don’t want to sell them,” he said. I told him that I didn’t mind, to no avail. “I don’t want you to get a bad impression,” he said. Grrr, why do you have out for display then?! I toured the area in search of another source of rugelach, but this guy clearly had a monopoly. I eventually returned and settled on some kind of cookie, but would you believe that he unashamedly refused to sell me that one either! Someone needs to teach that guy a thing or two about salesmanship…

Written by Martin

2011/02/08 at 05:24

Posted in Uncategorized

Road trip days 25-26: Sequoia National Park

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After a few days in the city we headed out on the road again, driving North on Highway 1, AKA Pacific Coast highway, towards the giant trees at Sequoia National Park. We got a late start due to some car hassles, and therefore didn’t make to the really gorgeous side-of-a-cliff segments like Big Sur, but nonetheless got a very positive impression of the California landscape. In addition to shaking things up now and then, plate tectonics creates a lovely array of hills and mountains, and the longitudinal layout of the the state teams up with such changes in elevation to produce a very varied climate. To be honest, this last sentence reminds me of the adage “a picture with worth a thousand words”, so here you go:

The Golden State

Speaking of a varied climate, it was pretty weird to have been on the beach the day before, and then suddenly finding yourself in a snow-covered winter wonderland…


The sequoias were unrealistically big. With their striking red bark and mismatched size-scale they reminded me of cartoon trees photoshopped into view. Or, dare I say, Feralas. Cartoonish or not, it was truly astounding.


The largest sequoia, and indeed the largest tree in the world, is General Sherman. I couldn’t quite decide whether to expect something ridonculous or just a marginal increase over the already gargantuan sequoias scattered all over the park. It turned out to be the former… 84 meters tall, 31 meters around at the base and weighing in at more than 6000 tonnes, this thing is a monster. Those are huge pine trees around it in the photo, and little teensy tiny people.

General Sherman was the biggest of the bunch

Written by Martin

2011/02/02 at 06:37

Posted in Road Trip