I’ve been meaning to write and publish another episode of my “COVID-19 and Me” blog series, to catch you up on what’s happened since June 2020. There’s so much to tell you about, and I wanted to include some photos, which I didn’t do last time. For those new to this, the first episode covered February to May, 2020. The second episode covered May to June, but wasn’t published until months later, due to an oversight. As I write this, it’s already February 2021, so as you can imagine there’s been a lot of pandemic issues over the past eight months or so.
But they all seem irrelevant now, compared to the biggest news of all, which is the death of my father, Ernest Bradley, due to COVID-19 infection. Mom and Dad both got the virus a few weeks ago. Mom recovered fairly quickly, without very severe symptoms. But Dad’s illness lingered for a couple weeks before he finally went to the hospital. The doctors did all they could, but he never recovered.
Dad passed away on Monday, February 15, 2021. The whole family is full of grief right now. I don’t know exactly what to expect in the grieving process, since I’ve fortunately never had to go through this before. But everyone tells me it’ll take a long time, and to expect many twists and turns along the way.
So, instead of telling you about life during the pandemic in Denver the past few months, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite photos of Dad.
You can read his obituary right here, in case you haven’t seen it. Take a moment to learn a little about my wonderful father.
I regret that I am unable to present this invitation to you in person, but Alderaan has fallen under a planet-wide pandemic, and I’m afraid my mission to plan a more traditional birthday party has failed. I have placed information vital to your attendance at a safe and socially-distanced celebration into the memory systems of this R2 unit, below…
Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan
Event: Todd Bradley’s Birthday Date: Saturday March 20, 2021 Time: Doors at 6:30, film starts at 7:00 Location: Sie Filmcenter, 2510 East Colfax Ave, Denver Film: “Star Wars” 4k77 restoration
This private showing includes a complimentary small popcorn and soda for each guest. No outside food or beverages will be permitted. Additional concessions will be available for purchase.
For safety, we will stay in “pods” of guests from the same household. This private theater rental has a 10 person limit. RSVP as soon as you know you can attend (with no more than two sidekicks, please). I’ll then send you a drink menu to choose from, because I have to provide a list in advance. Afterward, if your plans change, let me know, so I can scratch you off the list and make room for others.
Most important, if you don’t feel comfortable sitting in a movie theater for a couple hours, I totally understand. I won’t feel bad if you can’t or won’t attend.
All “pods” will sit at least 6′ from each other.
Guests are required to wear masks or face coverings in common areas and may take them off once seated in the theater.
Individual “pods” will not be allowed to mingle together. Therefore no hugs, handshakes, or gifts for the birthday boy, please.
All guests will have their temperature taken upon entry to the Sie FilmCenter. Temperatures over 100 degrees will not be allowed in the facility.
If you are not feeling well, stay home.
If you have recently been near someone who is infected, stay home.
If you have health conditions that put you at high risk, stay home.
The entire FilmCenter will be thoroughly sanitized prior to your arrival, and the Sie staff follows all CDC guidelines explicitly to ensure your safety. So grab your complimentary drink and popcorn, kick back, relax, and enjoy having the Sie all to yourselves!
“Star Wars” (aka “Episode IV”, sometimes called “A New Hope”) is my favorite movie of all time. It’s not the best film ever, and most people feel it’s not even the best Star Wars film. But it forever changed the world of film making, and has impacted global pop culture in a way that no other science fiction film has.
Since the 1990s, each time Lucasfilm released the film on a new format (DVD, Blu-ray, streaming video) they changed the film in a variety of ways that take it farther from the film that was seen by millions in theaters. George Lucas felt each of these new versions was slightly better that before. Many fans disagree. A group of unpaid and anonymous film restorers have painstakingly created a 4K (UHD) version that is the closest thing possible to viewing the original film in a top notch theater in the summer of 1977. This is “Project 4K77“.
The version we’ll be watching is the UHD version 1.4, with color correction and without DNR (digital noise reduction). I could go on and on, but this is the best version of my favorite movie, and that’s why I want to share it as my birthday gift with you. Plus, many of us haven’t seen a film in a real theater with real movie popcorn since a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Yeah, I realize it seems like all I do here is post food related stuff every three months. And lately, I can see why you’d think that. I’ve had other things on my mind, including other things I’d like to write about. But putting virtual pen to virtual paper just hasn’t been a high priority, I guess. I don’t know why.
Anyhow, today I’m writing to tell you about…more food! That’s right. In particular, a food called “Manchow soup”. And like so many of my posts, there are a bunch of tangents where you may learn some interesting trivia.
First, let me tell you briefly about the soup. It’s an Indian Chinese dish, meaning it’s a food from India that is meant to imitate food from China. More on that later.
Because it’s popular in India, it’s usually vegetarian. It tastes something like American Chinese “hot and sour soup” but not quite. I discovered this soup when Beth and I were traveling around northern India for a month in December 2015. And since I like soup, I had it just about every time I saw it on a restaurant’s menu.
Let’s talk about the name. “Manchow” sounds like “man chow” in the same sense as “dog chow”. But really, Manchow refers to the idea that the soup is from Manchuria, a region of China. Now Manchuria the word has a weird history of its own, because it’s not a Chinese word at all. It’s an English version of a Dutch corruption of a Japanese word for the region in northeast China where people of a certain ethnicity lived in the 17th century.
According to the Indians – and when I use Indians here, I mean India Indians, of course, not Native Americans – Manchow soup is a dish from Manchuria. But it’s not really. “Although the soup is named after Manchuria it does not resemble any that is normally found in the cuisines of the region,” according to Wikipedia. “The origin of Manchow soup is Meghalaya.” (Meghalaya is a state in northeast India, just north of Bangladesh)
Now, let’s talk a little about Indian Chinese cuisine. You may already know that the “Chinese” food most of us Americans think about isn’t really Chinese food. American Chinese food is a cuisine that Chinese immigrants invented specifically for American tastes. It’s not what real people eat in China. Some dishes are close to real Chinese dishes, but most are total fabrications. Whenever you hear someone talk about a restaurant serving “authentic” General Tso’s chicken or crab rangoons or Mongolian beef, there’s really no such thing. Even the fortune cookie is an American invention, first served in California.
So, in the same way that American Chinese food like almond chicken is an American re-imagining of Chinese food, Indian Chinese (also called Indo-Chinese) food is an Indian re-imagining of Chinese food. And since Indians have different palates and ingredients than Americans, Indian Chinese food is very different than American Chinese food.
And so that brings me back to Manchow soup. In India, as in America, some restaurants serve “Chinese” food, and a popular dish is Manchow soup. I don’t know what it was that made this soup appeal to me when we were traveling around India, but something did. Maybe it was because it was different from the local Indian food and my taste buds wanted something different.
Anyhow, over the five years since I’ve been back, I’ve had a slowly growing craving for Manchow soup. But there’s a problem. How can I get some? “Indian” restaurants don’t serve it, because it’s not Indian food. “Chinese” restaurants don’t serve it, because it’s not Chinese food. After some internet sleuthing, I found that there are some restaurants in the USA that serve Manchow soup, but they’re all in areas that have more Indian immigrants than Denver.
So I kept looking. And then a couple months ago I found an Indian restaurant in the south part of the Denver metro area that had “Veg Hot & Sour” on the menu, with a description of “Soup made with Vegetables and other authentic spices in Indo Chinese style.” This is it! Indo Chinese hot & sour soup must mean Manchow soup. But since hardly anyone in America knows it by the name Manchow soup, they called it generically “hot & sour” soup on the menu, so I thought. So I ordered two orders of it to be delivered. This restaurant is several miles away, and some poor delivery guy spent something like an hour and a half of his life bringing me my long-sought-after soup.
I tipped him well. But there was a problem. Once it arrived, and I dove in, I realized two key things. First, the soup was so spicy as to be inedible, even for me. Second, it didn’t taste at all like the Manchow soup I had in India. What this stuff tasted like was if someone sauteed some veggies and then poured an entire jar of hot sauce into the saucepan, and called that “soup”. I was sad and disappointed, and threw all of both servings out, except for the three spoonfuls I choked down.
Back to the drawing board. I decided I’d just have to figure out how to make Manchow soup on my own. So I looked at a few recipes online, and finally settled on this one.
The ingredients and preparation felt right. And Dassana, the creator of the recipe, seemed legit. So I gathered all the ingredients, took a big chance, doubled everything in the recipe, and made a big pot of it. Fortunately, it came out great. I had to tweak the spices a little – it needed more salt and more vinegar – but it hit the spot. I didn’t make the fried noodles that you get in India, because they’re just empty calories and I’ve been trying to keep off the weight I lost last year.
My pot full of soup ended up being about 15 servings, so I’ve been eating it most days the past week, and just put the rest in the freezer to enjoy in the future since frankly I’m getting a little burned out on it now. It’s weird to go from craving this soup to having too much of this soup in the course of two weeks.
Anyhow, that’s the story of my Manchow soup. And here’s the photo (before adding chopped cilantro).
Yesterday I wrote all about our upcoming Thanksgiving 2020 dinner, before we actually ate. I’m writing this the next day, Friday November 27, and I figure it’s time to share the photos. It was a spectacle!
The first thing we needed was a chef with an apron and a cocktail. The blackberry mule was delicious, and also surprisingly potent.
The salad course was “kale and shredded brussels”. The dressing was a curry vinaigrette. And I’m still not sure what the bit white things were. At first I thought a very mild dry cheese. Then I thought they were slices of mushroom. And then I thought they were slices of very dry tofu. After eating them, I have no idea.
Brooke was very excited to hear that dinner is served.
And now, the whole plated meal. I forgot the cranberry relish that was included. I guess we get to have those today, with the leftovers. Here you can see the sweet potato dauphinoise (a lot more than we needed), turkey, cornbread and chorizo dressing, charred green beans, and of course turkey. The turkey leg confit is on bottom (mostly) and slices of breast on top.
It was delicious, probably better than this photo makes it look.
After dinner, we were too full to eat dessert. But it was time for our online open house anyhow. So we spent the next four hours talking to friends and family on the computer. By the end, we were both tired out from all the talking and listening, and dealing with video problems.
Here’s a photo of the two of us expression our exhaustion at the end of a long Thanksgiving Day.
Good news, though, we did have pie after this photo and rallied enough to watch a pretty good movie, “Uncle Frank” on Amazon Prime.
Hi, readers. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we’re having a bit of a global pandemic at the moment. That means Thanksgiving at home. No travel, no family.
My lovely girlfriend Brooke and I are spending our fourth Thanksgiving together. Give me a moment to reflect on them.
In 2017, Brooke was house- and dog-sitting for some friends of hers who live in Sedalia. I drove down there and made Thanksgiving dinner. I guess I should say I assembled dinner. I bought a smoked turkey breast from Owlbear BBQ (one of the amazing Central Texas style barbecue joints that have cropped up in Denver the past decade), along with some side dishes. I think I made haricots verts amandine from scratch.
In 2018, we flew to Baltimore and had Thanksgiving dinner with one of Brooke’s friends from college, Amy. Amy’s parents invited us all to a home cooked meal, and it was wonderful. Very traditional, like something my grandmother would made.
This year, I made a 180 degree turn and decided to let someone else do all the cooking. After shopping around some, I settled on Root Down. If you’re not aware, that’s a really good restaurant in Denver that has been very popular since they opened a bit over a decade ago. They specialize in upscale healthy food, and like many restaurants were offering a take home Thanksgiving dinner. Once I saw the menu, I just couldn’t pass it up.
I made some choices, added on some pre-mixed cocktails (a quart!), and chose a pie, and here’s what we’re having:
Earl of Blackberry Mule
Kale & Shaved Brussels Salad
Pretzel Crusted Purple Sweet Potato Dauphinoise
Charred Green Beans with Chili Crunch & Shallots
Cornbread & Chorizo Stuffing
Brined Roasted Turkey Breast
Pulled Confit Turkey Leg
The Half & Half: Spiced Pumpkin/Whiskey Pecan Pie
The “mule” is like a Moscow Mule, but blackberry flavored. I had to look up what dauphinoise is; it’s a particular French style of scalloped potatoes. The rest is pretty self-explanatory except for one thing.
I had assumed “The Half & Half” was half of a pumpkin pie and half of a pecan pie. But no! At least not like I imagined. It’s a single pie that has two layers. The bottom is a pumpkin pie, but the top is a pecan pie. It’s like layers of rock and it appeals to my interest in geology.
But wait, you’re probably saying, you’re writing this on Wednesday night, so how could you know what the inside of the pie looks like? Well, I’m saving all the Thanksgiving dinner for Thanksgiving proper except for the pie. We gave in and had to try to a slice early. That’s now I know.
Here’s how the whole spread looked when I got it home from the restaurant and unpacked it onto the counter.
In the lower right is an extra package of turkey I bought, because I wanted to be sure to have some turkey leftovers to make a sandwich. But oops, I forgot to get some bread. Oh well.
And now that I’ve told you all about what’s on the menu for tomorrow, I want to let you know that we are having a pair of virtual gatherings with friends and family. If you’d like to join us by video call using Google Meet, we would love to see you. We’re just gonna leave the computer on, and people can come and go as they please. So consider stopping in to say hi for just a minute or stay to chat for an hour with a glass of wine and some leftovers.
Happy Thanksgiving 2020 from Brooke and Todd
Please join us for a casual and warm gathering of friends and family using Google Meet. Come and go whenever you like.
Thursday 4:00pm to 8:00pm – Thanksgiving dessert and food coma
Friday 5:00pm to 7:30pm – leftovers and cocktails
All times Mountain
I’m leaving the URLs off so we don’t get any random internet weirdos joining us. Only known friendly weirdos, please! Call me at 720-480-4890 if want the instructions for joining.
And if you are busy with your own plans, please have an enjoyable Thanksgiving regardless of what you decide to do. Brooke and I are both thankful to be safe and healthy and together.
Hi, friends. I wrote a long blog article a few weeks back about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected me and my neighborhood. If you haven’t already read it, I invite you to go check it out.
It’s now late June, and things feel a little more normal now. But, as before, there have been a few things I wanted to jot down for posterity. I hope the day will come that we mostly forget what it was like in the early days of the pandemic, so maybe all this will help jog my memory. I don’t know whether people like to read these longer format posts or would prefer more shorter posts. But I’ve got a lot on my mind to share with you.
First, let’s talk about masks. I had no idea it would be like this, but wearing of face coverings has become something of a controversial issue, even political. Over the course of the pandemic so far, we’ve had a weird and confusing mix of orders from government leaders. President Trump said we should all be wearing masks, but then he has refused to do so personally. Governor Polis has been ardently pro-mask, but has left most specific rules up to local governments around the state, to account for the fact that things in small rural towns are very different than things in the center of Denver. Lastly, Mayor Hancock has been pro-mask and has issued the most restrictive orders about wearing them.
We’ve had a mix of directives from the state and city level, sometimes contradicting each other, and changing over time. But right now, here in Denver, it’s the law to wear a face covering inside a business or in line to get into a business, and also at bus stops and on buses. Of people out and about, walking around the city, some wear face coverings and some don’t. Thanks to people mostly wearing masks earlier in the pandemic, the wave of hospitalizations was suppressed, as intended. We avoided overloading hospitals, which was the whole goal of social distancing and face coverings. So I think some people have gotten lazy and stopped wearing face coverings as much on the streets. And maybe that’s not a big deal, since it seems more health professionals are saying the chances of infection are much lower outdoors and in cases where you just pass by someone momentarily.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Brooke and I went down to the town of Elizabeth. Her parents lived there a few years as her mother was dying, and she is now buried in the town cemetery there. So we took the opportunity to get out of town and go see her grave site. It was like stepping into another world, even though Elizabeth is only a 45 minute drive from Denver. Of all the people I saw in town, at the restaurant where we got food, and at the adjacent supermarket, I only saw a single person wearing a face covering other than us. It was the cook at the restaurant. Even though they had a sign asking people to wear masks, the woman taking orders and handling the cash register wasn’t wearing one. But I was even more surprised that not a single person going into or coming out of the supermarket had any kind of face covering. This was during the period where the state orders were that everyone had to wear masks in supermarkets. But many localities refused to enforce that rule, and so people didn’t follow it. It seemed foolish to me, especially on a holiday weekend when there were tourists coming to town (like us).
One precaution that went into effect early on was that face coverings became required in common areas of my condo building. There are signs at every entrance, in very plain language. Masks or face coverings are mandatory in this building. Residents, construction workers, delivery workers, etc. have all complied, which is nice. Also, since the elevators are only about 6′ wide, it’s almost impossible to maintain 6′ distance from other people in the elevator car. So people stopped sharing the elevator with others they don’t live with. A couple weeks later, the management company put up signs to that effect, which is good. It hasn’t been a hassle, and has encouraged me to use the stairs more, which is good.
Another impact of the pandemic is that my gaming group has gone virtual. Early on, before social distancing was mandatory, I asked people what they thought we should do – continue to meet in person or try to play online. About a third of the group said we should continue to meet in person; ironically, the one player who works in the health care field voted for this. About a third said we should switch to online. And a third were on the fence. I’m the ringleader of this gaming group, and I was torn. But then I thought through the implications of meeting in person. One of the gamers has an 82-year-old mother whom he sees weekly, and it would be really dumb if one of us gave her son the virus and then he gave it to Mom, and she died just because we didn’t want to use Zoom for our games. That’s when I decided we’re going virtual. I learned how to use a couple virtual table top (VTT) tools, and moved my own game onto one called Roll20; we use Discord for voice and text chat. Another game uses Fantasy Grounds. But now that we’ve been doing it a couple months, the technical kinks are mostly worked out.
I would still much prefer us to meet in person, since the online experience just isn’t as fun. It’s not as immersive, and doesn’t feel as social. There’s something special about sitting around a big table with other players, sharing munchies or supper, and playing a game in person. But until it’s safe to do that again, virtual games are just the way it is.
I already mentioned the first protest of the Spring 2020 protest series, when people who were fed up with the pandemic restrictions executed “Operation Gridlock” to drive around the state capitol and block traffic on April 19. We later learned that the protest was part of a multi-state political action, and that many of the people supposedly protesting Colorado’s anti-virus policies flew and drove in from surrounding states.
But that protest quickly faded from the limelight as restrictions started being lifted and much bigger issues took over. The protests most will remember from 2020 were the ones centered on the Capitol Building triggered by the police killing of George Floyd. There were protests around the world, but the Denver ones were a nightly occurrence starting May 28. Participation escalated over the first few nights, and it soon became clear that there were two groups of people involved – the protesters and the rioters. I’m particularly proud of the local political leaders and press for recognizing that the bulk of the protests – conducted partially as a Black Lives Matter action – were totally peaceful. The second group – the rioters – took over after the main protests dispersed each night. They’re the ones who broke windows and lit dumpsters and buildings on fire.
That Saturday, the Denver Police Department made the strange decision to “push” the crowd off Colfax down into the residential area to the south, which is where I live. Brooke and I were at my place watching a movie, when we heard a big commotion outside. The protesters/rioters/whatever came down the street behind my building, chanting and shouting. Lots of people came out to their windows and cheered them on, as they passed by. They then stopped at the Governor’s Mansion and shouted there a while before moving on. The governor doesn’t actually live there. He could, but he doesn’t. This governor has his own mansion somewhere near Boulder, and he lives there with his family. No need to relocate from Boulder Denver for 4 years, I guess, especially when you’ve got school aged kids.
I’ve been trying to cook and eat healthier the past few months, to help support Brooke and me losing some weight. It’s been working, and I’ve been continually challenged to make lower-calorie versions of food I like that don’t taste like crap.
So, when my box of pre-selected produce from the farmers market had potatoes, I knew I had a challenge ahead of me. Potatoes are exactly what I should not be eating. They have almost no nutritional value, and are high in carbohydrates, something I should avoid as a diabetic. With Independence Day coming up, I set my thinking toque toward making some potato salad. Here’s the result.
2 cups of diced potatoes
1 dill pickle spear, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 T chopped white onion
1/4 cup yogurt
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 package of fresh dill, chopped
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
After dicing the potatoes, cook them in boiling water for about 10 or 12 minutes. Meanwhile, chop all the veggies.
Throw everything except the potatoes (which are still cooking, duh) into a bowl and stir it all together.
Once the potatoes are done, run them under cold water in a colander.
After they’ve cooled mostly, throw those into the bowl, and stir everything around to coat the potatoes. Put it all in the fridge for an hour to let everything mingle and chill. Stir again, then serve.
This recipe makes three American size servings, perfect for the 4th of July with your sweetheart and some leftovers. Scale it up as needed.
This has about 1/3 the calories as store-bought potato salad for servings that are twice as big. I call that a success.
If you’re a regular reader, you know my employer furloughed me at the start of April. It was due to bad economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I later learned the entire project that I had been working on for a year and a half got canceled. A few people who worked on that project kept their jobs, in order to clean up the mess left behind. But most of us were either completely laid off or furloughed indefinitely. I was in the furlough group.
I took the opportunity to enjoy a much-needed (albeit unpaid) vacation. I caught up on a huge backlog of projects, which I wrote about in my post COVID-19 and Me, Part 1. Springtime would normally be my favorite time to be out of work, and I badly wanted to take a few weeks to go camping and hiking in northern New Mexico and eastern Utah. But travel was restricted by order of the governors, not to mention it being a bad idea. So I stuck around home and had a staycation, of sorts.
I told myself that I’d enjoy myself for six weeks before I start looking for work. With generous unemployment benefits coming in from both the state and federal government, I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get a paycheck again. So I ignored calls and emails from recruiters altogether for a while. But after six weeks, it was time. I put out feelers with people I know in the software test engineering business, and started applying for relevant jobs I saw advertised on LinkedIn and Dice.
It turns out that applying for jobs yielded almost nothing. I got a few calls from recruiters at those companies, but only one or two ever went very far. Most companies that I sent my resume to – somewhere between 50 and 100 of them – never bothered to even reply. Then all of a sudden, a few other leads materialized.
You know the saying “when it rains, it pours”? Well, that’s what happened next. In the course of a week, I got job offers from two companies in the Denver area, plus the company that furloughed me asked me to come back. So I spent a week or so mentally weighing the options. Any of the three would be fun, rewarding, challenging, and interesting to me.
There was no bad choice. I felt very blessed to have so many options. In the end, I chose the job that seemed the most different from things I’d done in the past, in order to get the most opportunity to learn new things. That is important to me. So I accepted their offer by phone while sitting in the passenger seat of Brooke’s car at a take-and-bake pizza shop in Durango. (the pizza later that night was really good, by the way)
It’s a startup company, so who knows whether they’ll even be around in five years. They’ll either be hugely successful or they’ll go out of business. But in the meantime, I’m gonna do what I can to help them do software development smarter, and learn as much as I can while doing so. Plus, hopefully I’ll have some fun along the way.
I started the job this past Monday. My new job title is Test Automation Architect, which means being the technical and spiritual leader of the company’s automated software testing efforts. I’ve never had that title before, though I’ve played that sort of role to a smaller degree a few times. Part of the job will be mentoring more junior development and test engineers, and part of it will be building systems to run tests more reliably and faster. The ultimate goal, as always, is to get new product features into the hands of customers faster.
I’m not gonna mention the company name. I have been talking about the specifics of my employers less and less online over the past few years. But they’re based in Denver and work in the cybersecurity field.
It’s a remote job at the moment, like almost all software engineering jobs. At some point, people will start to work from the office again. But I made it clear that I want to stay remote even after the pandemic isn’t an issue anymore. I want to be able to travel and work at the same time. And depending on how things go in the post-COVID days, I may be moving away from Denver to someplace less expensive in the next few years. Fortunately, my boss is moving from Denver to Arizona this month, so he’s setting the example.
As I write this, it’s Independence Day, Saturday July 4, 2020. One nice thing about starting on Monday this week was that I only had to work a 4-day week and then I got a 3-day weekend! That seems like a great way to start a new job.