Sunday, September 7, 2014

Greg visits a cemetery and thinks deeply about it

We live in Colma, a sleepy suburb south of San Francisco, famous for its many cemeteries. There are 1,000 times as many dead people as alive people here (really), inspiring the slogan "It's Great to Be Alive in Colma."

I had some time to kill today, so I headed across the street to Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery.

I saw a surprising amount of gravestones intended for couples, yet the second person is missing.

Adeline Marsh here died in 1956, so it's highly unlikely that her husband is still living. What could be the possible reasons that he's missing? Maybe Adeline's beloved moved on, remarried, and was buried with his new wife, leaving the First Mrs. Marsh to rest eternally alone. Maybe it's something boring, like the second half is reserved for a still-alive child. Or maybe by the time the husband died, no one was around who cared enough to make sure they were buried together.

It seems like people with Asian-sounding names lived much longer than those with Hispanic-sounding names.

The cemetery is sort of segmented into rough eras of death. I always am intrigued by the died-in-the-1800s crowd. When someone dies, people visit them for a while as long as the memory is still fresh, then on their birthdays, and then eventually everyone who ever knew or loved them is also gone. If you are in the middle of one of these ancient sections, it's likely that years have passed since anyone has so much as read your headstone, much less known who you were. Many of the headstones lack critical details like names and dates, seemingly destined to obscurity. Take the one below (there's no writing on the back).

Some of the gravestones were literally covered in shit, presumably from the Canadian geese that I saw loitering around.

To set yourself apart, it pays to have a Google-able name.

I was wondering why Miss Qaqish met her demise at age 17, and I was able to find out.

This got me to wondering whether millennial graves will be graffiti-ed with URLs or QR codes, so that passers-by can easily get details beyond the names and dates. But sadly, URLs and QR codes will someday be obsolete, and eventually the content linked to them will no longer be maintained (I'm betting against and the like existing in 500 years). Not many of us can keep pace with an ever-spinning world and changing technology.

After about an hour, I found myself deep into the cemetery and surrounded by graves as far as the eye could see.

This is just an inconsequential subset of the dead: people who have died in my metropolitan area in the last hundred years or so. Many throughout history were not so lucky, and you even see famous people on Wikipedia who have unknown exact birth year or places.

If this has you depressed, I'll leave you with a guy not worth writing home about ...

... and an aptronym.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

San Diego cooking, part 3 (featuring chicken parisienne and shrimp chilie quiche)

(See part 1 here and part 2 here).

I finished the final leg of my San Diego journey at Grandma and Papa's house. This corresponded with my last day working remote for my old job. I spent Friday morning in their garage wrapping up my projects, typing farewell emails, and saying goodbye to everyone.

I emerged around noon to Grandma's simple yet comforting lunch of tuna sandwiches, pickles, Pringles, and chicken noodle soup. This was a staple meal at Grandma's house when I was a child, along with rocky road ice cream drizzled in chocolate syrup.

Nostalgia was a big theme of the visit. Papa showed me a broiler pan he bought for 35 cents 30 years ago at a garage sale, one that has been trusty ever since. He also bought me one of my own to take home.

After looking at some slides of my mom and my Aunt Kelly from high school, including a few of Mom in her famous drum major outfit, it was off to the kitchen to make a recipe for chicken parisienne that came with Grandma's first crock-pot (although we made it in the oven to save time).

Mom came over for dinner. She's in the middle of moving between houses and handling the action items from the home inspection, but I was glad that I was able to see her. The chicken parisienne was great; it's amazing how a little chopping, mixing, and baking can go a long way.

The next day for lunch, we tried our hands at a quiche.

Some things I learned:
  • While I've been learning that it's useful / fun to substitute ingredients as your tastes allow, some things really do need to be precisely right. Grandma said to pay attention about whether the recipe calls for condensed versus evaporated milk, because it can really make a pivotal difference. Also, she said she once accidentally put in a can of jalapenos instead of a can of green chilies; you can imagine the consequences.
  • Grating cheese really isn't that hard. We always have been buying the pre-grated.
My time in San Diego will hopefully open up my culinary prowess. I've already bought ingredients for two more recipes. For now, it's back home and to the real world, as I start my new job and get back in the swing of things up here.


6 medium chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine, vermouth, (optional)
1/2 onion
1 10 1/2-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 4-ounce can slice mushrooms, drained (1/2 cup)
1 cup dairy sour cream

Sprinkle chicken breasts lightly with salt, pepper, and paprika. Place chicken breasts in crock-pot.

Mix white wine, soup, sour cream, onion, and mushrooms until well combined. Pour over chicken breasts in crock-pot. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. Serve sauce over chicken with rice or noodles.


1 regular pie crust shell, thawed
2 eggs
1 small can (5.33 fl oz) evaporated milk
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can chopped green chilies
1 can deveined medium (or small) shrimp, drained

Preheat oven and cookie sheet to 450 F. Partially bake pie shell about 6 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Beat together eggs, evaporated milk, flour and garlic salt. (Mixture need not be smooth.) Stir in cheese, onion and chilies. Pour into pie shell. Spread shrimp on top of custard mixture. Bake on preheated cookie sheet, until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before serving.