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March 29, 2002
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Orchid Pavilion Feast

A very productive work day, today, I got nearly seven hours in, with both of the Rostyki playing happily with Jet. All three had a wonderful time of it, and I had a really great time to concentrate and do things. I really appreciated that, and was able to pursue a programming problem all the way into the ground.

I was very glad of that. I'm learning Perl to apply to a work problem, and figured that a simpler problem to start would be a good thing to simply get familiar with the language and it's capabilities. I had a problem that was uniquely suited to the language as well, in that in both cases it was trying to take a bunch of data in textual form and create an html format that would be much simpler to read for human beings.

I spent the morning cleaning up loose ends for the projects that were finishing up for the release. I then spent the afternoon on the more simple problem of taking a template and filling it in with the information needed to set up a journal entry for this journal here. It's a task that I've done by hand for the last five years, and it was well past time I automated putting together a script that would convert my text entries from my Visor into something that was appropriate for the format I have here.

I thought it would take me days. With Perl, even as a language that was completely new to me, it only took me two hours. I was impressed. I did have a script, already, that converted text to <p> framed paragraphs, which is necessary for my style sheets to work correctly. I also had a template that I could fill in by hand with the previous date, the next date, and today's date. I managed to build a script that could do all that and stuff the body into the frame as well. Hoorah!

I was very pleasantly surprised by how simple file manipulation is and how easy it is to do string manipulation from one file to another. I really enjoyed that and how straightforward something that is as simple as what I wanted to do is to program in Perl. It's stuff that would have taken a whole bunch of shit I didn't really need if I'd done it in C++. I knew that from the language's reputation, but putting into action was a real pleasure.

Plus simply being able to code again was sweet.

By the time evening rolled around I was well pleased with myself. John got a lot done, too, and Jet not only had his grandparents to play with, but he'd gotten to go for a walk with them in his backpack *and* he had two one and a half hour naps. The first was really early, at around 9 am. The second was from 3:30-5, which was perfect as we had to leave at quarter 'til 6 for dinner in Boulder.

Mai really out did herself. She organized a dinner at the Orchid Pavilion for five couples: herself and Bob, Fei and Vivian, Ryan and Francis, George and Isabel, and John and myself. We all met there at 6:30. Jet even had got a high chair, which, it turned out, he refused to use. We then dived into an eleven course dinner, with six appetizers.

For appetizers we had seaweed with sesame sauce, drunken chicken, a jelly fish dish, pickled cucumbers, mushrooms and wheat gluten, and a roll with a soy leather skin. Then came a winter squash soup that was really nicely savory with the squash cooked just tender and really flavorful bits of ham and chicken and shrimp in it. The Beijing Duck was next, with extra crisp skin and meltingly tender meat in machine made pancakes that were still very thin and tender. That was really yummy, and it was presented alone before the flood of dishes.

Jet worried me during the beginning courses, as he was not his usual self. In fact, he was fighting the high chair hard enough that he was crying and screaming for a bit until I put him in my lap. He was squirmy in my lap and kept trying to reach for things or grab things. Finally we figured out that he wanted ice from my glass, so George and I kept feeding him ice from spoon. He ate an enormous amount of ice.

Gradually, after being held for a good long while, he started to settle to the point where he could sit in George's lap for a bit without fussing. Then he went to John's lap for a good long time, and then ended up on the floor under the table. After a while down there, grabbing my toes now and then for reassurance, he went to Francis and had a great time in her lap for quite some time. He eventually burst into tears for no good reason we could see, but I went over and took him and he quieted nearly instantly. He then went to Mei for a while, and then again to me and then wandered about with John after the dinner was over. It was nearly 10 by then, which is a good hour past his usual bed time. So he did extraordinarily well.

I was very happy about that, especially given how he started out.

The next dishes to come were the birds nests, made out of potato strands deep fried into a nest, filled with vegetables and seafood. The scallops in the baskets were nearly hockey puck sized, just huge. There was a deep-fried tofu block dish with lightly breaded and fried scallops. Two lobsters were lightly breaded, deep fried and then sauced nicely and cut into good sized pieces on their platter. So that was a lot of seafood all at once, with a nice balance in a big plate of good fried rice with strands of BBQ pork, chicken, and vegetables and made all golden with plenty of scrambled egg amid the rice.

The second round included a beef dish with scallions and lots of cilantro that was supposed to be pretty spicy but Mei had asked for it to be toned down. It went with some steamed bread disks that people were intrigued by. Dry cooked string beans came with that, and a huge platter of salt and pepper prawns that the chef/owner gave to us free. Yum. The prawns were nearly the size of my palm. Big enough that one was really filling in and of itself.

After all that food came a suitable wait and then small dishes of green tea ice cream. It took a little persuasion on Isabel's part to get him to eat some of that, but he then partook very cheerfully. I think that helped his mood for the latter part of the meal. I was glad he ate something other than off his bottle. He did drink a lot from his bottle and only nibbled a little off people's plates. Jet seemed to prefer his goldfish to all the exotic fair, though he did show enough sense to pick at my duck.

Whew.

It was a really wonderful meal. Mei says that she'll only do this every four months, but I'll see if there's any way we can persuade her to organize one for when my parents come. The owner/chef of the place only took ownership in the last year, and the previous owner wasn't into doing anything authentic, only into providing food for high paying customers who wanted things that sounded exotic but really weren't. The present guy really wants to do good food, sometimes, and he actually took the evening off from all his other duties to only cook our meal. He let his line chefs do everyone else's meals. The meal tasted that way, too, as if it had every attention paid to it.

I was glad of that.

So now I cannot say that there isn't authentic Chinese food in Boulder. You simply have to be Chinese and/or able to speak food in Mandarin enough to get it

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