Friday, August 31, 2007
Totally delirious today. Welcoming the new school year as I always have, with utter sleeplessness. Lay in bed trying not to wake Stephanie with extremely foul gasses escaping my body at extremely loud volumes, then puttered around cleaning, then ate a bowl of oatmeal while reading old magazines. School school school I'm turning 27 in three weeks and too old to sit in a big room and get talked at by 2520s. I have also decided to write a treatise about how the wide reach of "free speech protection" hurts people of color. 'Cause you know what? Imus deserved to be fired. Let's see if I can say this without pissing off my employer.
("Urine...you've abandoned it! Nobody wants it back!" says the prof, re: searches and seizures of urinanalysis without consent.)
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
School is in its first two hours for me. Already I have exhausted my websurfing options. I have eaten my plum and drank my Emergen-C. I read and rejected an article for Social Change. Yet this man in front of the room continues to talk. Please god, let it end.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
*Zongzi is what Marco Polo stole when he came to China and then the Spanish stole from the Italians and brought them over to Mexico, where they became tamales.**
**If you are not Chinese and did not grow up being told every time Italian food was mentioned or ordered that the Italians stole the idea of spaghetti from Chinese chow mein and the idea for pizza from Chinese da bing, then this joke will make no sense to you.
Grandma Hu's Zongzi Recipe (makes 16)
7 cups sticky rice (little plastic rice cups, not big cups!)
Lots (1/2 cup?) of soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine
salt to taste
1 lb. boneless pork cut into 1.5" cubes***
4 T dried tiny shrimp
4 T dried fried shallots
One polyethelene bag filled with (16) chestnuts
Peanuts or pinto beans or some other bean-shaped thing of your choice
8-10 dried Chinese mushrooms
guai pi (which might be cinnamon)
cotton string cut to 3' lengths
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
Since my memory for Chinese names is terrible, I took pictures of everything we did so that I could reconstruct the ingredients when I go hunting around for them in Flushing.
***Once I was vegetarian, but this summer I have become a very poor vegetarian, to the point where I advise the web public on making pork zhong zhi. My excuse is that I am living with my family and the demands of culture outweigh the environmentalism/guilt of Byron****, though that doesn't explain why I stuffed my piehole with a very non-Chinese rotisserie chicken this afternoon while ostensibly "feeding Boo." Anyway, we hunted around for the proper slab of pork to cook and settled for the boneless pork butt, which the handy reference chart above the butcher's station taught me is not from where you and I would consider a pig's butt, but actually from what you and I would call a shoulder. Apparently you can also use wu hua pork, but we didn't.
****Only the Mandarin-speaking among you will understand what "Byron" (say it aloud) refers to.Star anise, an integral spice. I think given how strong star anise and the earthy taste of the bamboo leaves are, one might be able to make this recipe vegetarian without losing too much of the flavor. Star anise is called "eight feet" in Chinese because it is an octopod! Not pictured is what my grandma kept calling "guai pi," which a sniff test revealed to be some form of sweet bark, like cinnamon, perhaps cinnamon, but I can't be sure.
(1) Soak the bamboo leaves overnight in water to make them pliable. You might want to change the water a few times so all of the panda excrement is washed off.
(2) Wash the mushrooms and then soak them in hot water until they are soft. Save the water to add flavor when cooking the pork. Same with the dried tiny shrimps.
Step 2: Prepare the Rice
(15) Bring it all to a boil, then cover and simmer at medium high heat for 35-45 more minutes. You can poke the cubes with a chopstick and if blood squirts all over your face, then the meat is not yet ready. (I'm learning a lot about how to cook meat!) While this is happening, you should watch a very slow-talking Buddhist monk on television read quotes from some offscreen book and try not to fall asleep as your grandma tells you that even though we are Catholic we can learn something from the slow talking Buddhist.
Note: while you are cooking the meat, give the rice a few stirs so that the soy sauce is evenly distributed. The rice should soak up most of the liquid, giving it a nice, even brown color.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Here we are in front of the otherworldly Lake Aloha, a shallow giant puddle dotted with tiny granite islands. We passed five lakes during our trip - there are seven within eight miles of the Glen Alpine trailhead! - and spent most of the time not hiking or tending to camp swimming in the frigid water.
The top of Tallac, looking out toward Tahoe. Apparently there were big wildfires right by Fallen Leaf Lake, which is where we were, but we didn't see anything, even from here.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
What I have been thinking is that mathematics professors, who are notorious for never having sex, should not try to correct statistics that people know, intuitively and empirically, to be true. Because the statistics that these professors dispute are stated as medians, whereas the professors put forth corrections as averages. All it takes is one flooze in a population of prudes to create a situation where men and women average the same amount of partners but actually have very different sexual behaviors.
Take as an example Mathland, a population of exactly ten men and ten women, all perfectly heterosexual. Each man pairs with one woman, so M1 + W1, M2 + W2, M3 + W3, etc. Then it turns out that W10 has a clitoris at the back of her throat, and she is insatiably hungry, so one by one M1 through M10 accompany her down the sneeze guard at the buffet. M1 through M10 now each have had 2 partners; W1 through W9 all have 1 partner each; W10 has 10. The average amount of sexual partners that the Mathland men have had is two, and for the women the average is the same. But if you look at the medians, the men have had twice as many partners as the women.
Am I missing something here? Isn't this simple maff?
Also, these statistics totally don't take into account the fact that men have sex with each other all the time, in secret, scared of the implications, and then pretend like those partners have been girls. I rest my case.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I only got home from Los Angeles six hours ago, but have somehow managed to acquire a brand new pair of skateboard shoes already, which is a sign that my SoCal brain infection is much more serious than I thought it was. I had a great time, notwithstanding my attitudinous previous post about improv comedy, so thank you Reena, Sonia, Navneet, Bubba, and Ray!! Since I was too sleepy to do too much yesterday, Bubba and I spent the day singeing our whiskers by her pool, taking Soda for walks, playing with her and Raymond's hisnhers berimbaus, eating things, lifting very light weights at the gym, and talky talky talking. It conjured the image of my dentist standing above me holding metal lances against my gums and telling me that the cure for my teeth-grinding problem is to go somewhere and relax for a while - he'd be so proud of me!
Here's Reena and Sonia laying in a blue bed on Sunday morning talking about immigration law. Reena is about to scold me for failing, for the 12th consecutive hour, to say anything funny.
Navneet buying a spinach torte. (I just Googled "spinach torte" and "spinach tart" and there is no difference.) She looks relaxed and happy because everything we cherish has not yet been insulted by a troupe of hack improv comedians. Happy birthday! Right after this picture was taken, we had to sprint down the block into the theater, where Ray's gigantic friends were holding five seats for us in the theather where hack improv comedians perform.
I took about 70 photos in L.A., and Bubba is doing this in 75% of the pictures I have of her. Here is everyone in a bar that was playing a Bob Dylan album all the way through. I felt my heart flutter at the prospect of kismet/the impossibility of free will when Sonia said that she knew my friend Deepa, but that feeling was quickly smothered when Bubba and Ray - cruel, athletic, popular bullies - pretended to push glasses up on their noses when I said something incredibly nerdy about Reihan Salam's highly-trafficked blog.
The cover of a free magazine I found somewhere in Burbank.
Here I am instructing Bubba to photograph my stomach in a way that minimizes it and adds pigmentation. Bubba was a V.E.S. concentrator in college, so she did a fine job with the visual effects here. Viva SoCal!
Monday, August 13, 2007
For hours, Sonia and I showered Navneet with hopelessly naive questions about southern California, because unlike the Bay Area, it is very warm and nearly impossible to inhabit without a car. The question "What is this place really like?" was asked at least a dozen times, often in rapid succession, and I decided it was getting ridiculous when Sonia inquired, very earnestly, how one was to determine if one was eating the fruit and the yogurt in a medium Pinkberry in the appropriate proportions. Navneet was kind to navigate our curiousity. Sonia's sense, induced by Joan Didion, that California is a place of serene beauty and sudden, manic outbursts of violence made me worry as I munched my poorly-constructed vegetarian sub (a kilogram of sprouts and wheat bun with one frugal sliver of avocado and no salt) that one of the leathery iguanas cruise-biking on the Santa Monica street was going to spray us with a hail of gunfire. Driving around made me nervous also, not because poor Bubba has developed a bloodspot on her retina and is therefore partially blind in her right eye and left-turned into oncoming traffic, but because I am afraid to look at people in their cars because cars are treated like private spaces. So unlike New York, where you can glance briefly at other commuters to pass time or to si ves algo di algo, and then return to your music or chain maille-making or whatever else you want to do on the subway, in Los Angeles I'm concerned that I've invaded someone's privacy by glancing at the other cars around me and that the next guy I look at will level a pistol in my face. There is certainly a lot of car-to-car shouting of epithets.
There is also, however, a great deal of natural beauty and good weather, which makes it hard to do anything at all. I was perfectly content today to have hours of lazy conversation about vulvar pigmentation and ICE detention on the beach and at a cafe with Navneet, Sonia, and Jean, and couldn't be bothered at any point in the day to decide whether one thing or another was more preferable to do. Why decide when the weather is so nice and we have a parking spot? Sonia and I bobbed in the Santa Monica sewage for half an hour getting sunburnt and probably could have done it for hours, or days, or possibly months more. Last night, Sonia, Reena and I parked behind a Mervyn's in Burbank and had Hawaiian barbecue and sampled seven beers and then returned to Reena's sublet to watch Aishwarya Rai shake her ginomous bazooms in Bunty aur Babli. I grabbed all the prime sleeping real estate and got a long, comfy couch (albeit in the room with the gas leaking, which was alarming but not enough for me to not sleep in) and a fleece blanket while Sonia slept on the ground, on a gathering of oddly-shaped pillows and underneath a towel. But this is Sonia's summer of youthful recklessness, so I justified my greed by thinking of all the oceanic feelings of self-confidence that she would develop by surviving an uncomfortable night of floor-sleeping, which were put into good use hours later when we boldly set forth upon the carnicerias of Santa Monica Boulevard to find conchas and stale rolls for the breakfast spread. We spent the day eating and cruising, and my mermaid friend Bubba joined us with Soda in the afternoon.
If not for the feeling that something here is deeply, violently, unforgiveably awry - like that we've built over a potter's field and the ground is unsettled - it's been paradisical. I might just be too angry at the world to make my sense of disquiet go away. We talked at some length today about our most charming friends and I proposed that it would be great to flirt effortlessly, not libidinously but affably, to make people like you; i.e., I don't mean the "nice shoes, wannafuck?" kind of flirtation, but more like winky-smiley, at everyone, not just the people you already like. The very prospect of smiling at a stranger makes me unhappy. Watching an improv comedy troupe at the Upright Citizens' Brigade Theater tonight made me revise my earlier desire to be a flirt - I realized that it wasn't the charm skills that I wanted, but a less highly developed sense of justice, so that I wouldn't feel offended by 90% of things said to me and would feel more okay with suffering a few fools to win the war of persuasion - like I can't change hearts and minds unless I'm willing to talk to people, and I'm not willing to talk to people because their hearts and minds need to be changed first. It was just that the improv comedy troupe was so, so incredibly unfunny. Stern warned me that it would be offensive and cringe-inducing, and I knew better, but regardless I sat with my warm pale ale through jokes like "How long does a rape take to happen anyway? Five minutes? Forty-five minutes? Twenty!" and jokes about how funny it was to call people "faggots." I kid you not! Halfway through the faggot skit, which lasted a good long while, I was considering either storming out or booing or heckling loudly, but I was stupidly, womanly concerned with the mirth of other people, and sat on my hands while my slow brain balanced the harm done by the interruption of everyone else's good times and the harm done by the sexist, homophobic, mainstream-values-in-the-guise-of-curse-words set, and ended up doing nothing but fuming while everyone's wild applause signaled the end of the show.
Hence I came to the realization that what I want is not to flirt better with people, but that I wish that I was carefree enough to think that all these stupid, offensive, entitled, empowered, oppressive people might somehow connect with me as long as I smile and act nice. I don't wish that I was less easily offended, since I think I'm offended by the right things, but I wish that people would clean their acts up and stop giving me so much shit to be offended by. Which is really to say, fewer rape and faggot jokes, SVP.
Okay, I've gotten myself into yet another huff and now I'm exhausted and its eight a.m. and fully bright out in this stretch of Wilshire. I miss my cynical and brilliant and sensitive and phenotypically perfect girlfriend and am reading New York Times articles on couples counseling in order that our union be more conflict-free, so we can find better shelter in each other from all this oppression. I'm gonna have a shower and learn to stop worrying again, at least until the next lengthy entry on this blog.
Friday, August 10, 2007
I bought this Rubik's Cube ("the conbinelion of gix gides") in Vietnam and finally solved it today, with the heavy lifting done by a website that taught me the five little algorithms you need to memorize in order to impress your friends. I got acupunture done on me a few days ago at a place in Sunnyvale - if you let an intern practice on you, it only costs $25 per session, so I paid a clam per needle to look like Hellraiser. (But psychosomatic or not, it feels like it's working. I'm doing it again today.) I went up the hot east peak of Mt. Tamalpais with Boo and my pal Handle yesterday, tonight I'm going to Santa Cruz to eat food other people will cook for me, and tomorrow I'm getting on a plane to take me to friends in Burbank and downtown L.A. In five days I'm going backpacking in Desolation Wilderness with high school friends, and then four days after that I'm going back to Brooklyn. I'm still debating whether or not I can squeeze in a solo hike of the Skyline-to-Sea trail.
With Diarmuid O'Scannlain laying dolefully untouched in my giant book of things to put off, I sort of feel like the grasshopper in that Aesop's fable about the lazy grasshopper and the industrious ant - but what a wonderful summer that grasshopper had! I'm fatter and tanner and there are a stack of informative news and culture magazines gathering dust in Brooklyn, where I declined to forward those magazines from. I spent an hour in the sun brushing Boo and massaging bag balm into his paw pads today. It's been approximately three months since I've been asked by anyone to do anything.
That is why, your honor, I am qualified to work in your chambers. Also this:
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
We sang duets and made fun of sleeping Germans to make the bus rides go by faster, swapped deep tissue massages, ate seven meals (and then some ice cream bars) per day, endured monsoon saturation, hid from/braved flying cockroaches, patiently explained to curious people how we might be phenotypically familiar but dressed like aliens (because are families are in East Asia but we were raised in America - aha!), avoided teamed nab and morning logry, and chatted with the chatty together. We were pathologically parsimonious - Bunnadine spent the last day in Saigon literally pinching, I mean with thumb and forefinger, her pennies - and both really happy when mistaken for Vietnamese. I couldn't have asked for a better, more sympatico traveling partner and can't wait for the next time we travel together! But I must wait, because she has flown off to Maharashtra to spend the next year curing the ill. Don't worry, Dr. Hand, I won't tell anyone what you said about chimpanzees and our masseuses!
Second, Vietnam...is it presumptuous to say that I'm not surprised by Asia? Moped traffic, litter, cheap labor, markets, monsoons, long histories of war and displacement, tiled sidewalks, throwing toilet paper away instead of flushing it, etc. I appreciated what I saw but feel no pressing urge to write about it. Vietnam is a very easy and cheap place to travel, but as always when I go somewhere where I don't have family/friends or a job I don't trust that I can know the place from the vistas and UNESCO sites I've seen. So this time around, the fact of travel is more important to me than the details of the place I'm in - I know this is problematic and my roommate David, a Korean national whose citizenship status will not allow him to leave America to travel, would have a lot to say about how young westerners travel like it's some special privileged rite of passage and would allude, deservedly, to my being a banana.
And finally, related to the fact of travel, I don't think I can pull off the backpacker thing for much longer, for lots of reasons, not least of which is that it is incredibly inconvenient to travel with a backpack. It's antithetical because backpackers think they're survivalist but actually that 5000 cubic inch carapace just takes up room and knocks people over on buses and immediately profiles the owner as an 18-30 year old American, Israeli, European, or Australian, probably some college-educated, probably uses Lonely Planet, probably white, probably wears some "ethnic" item or some patch back in home country to signify traveling adventures, probably likes to Get Off The Beaten TrackTM, probably likes to be just uncomfortable enough to have good stories to tell at home. I'm guilty, of course, and in fact spent months working as a budget travel guide writer so in fact I enabled some of these unwashed souls that I am now deriding, but self-righteousness, not -reflection, is the raison d'etre of this blog. I traveled with just my school backpack this time and felt that even that was too much. Just a purse next time, to get both the advantages of light travel and gender conformity. Also, other reasons to stop backpackering is that backpackers live in the shittiest hovels in each town and so you leave Delhi thinking everything is like Paharganj, and also that when you travel with young westerners they can't resist the urge to talk talk talk talk at you. Two pale girls in Dalat with matching stringy dreadlocks - we called them the Matrix twins - complaining about the cold weather...did I ask to be complained to? Shut up!
Okay, I don't even know what I'm writing about I'm so tired. If this blog is disappointing low on details, like the smooth beards of ceramic garden gnomes fresh from the plaster mold, then check out the Picasa page linked to above for more of a sense of what I did/saw (and also for an explanation of the garden gnome thing). Naptime!
*Emphasis mine. I couldn't believe my luck - the engine broke on my train and we were stalled outside the San Mateo station until another train came by and pushed mine slowly the rest of the way to Palo Alto. Always mature, I cried and banged my head against the window because I was so uncomfortably sleep deprived, hungry, thirsty, and needing to have explosive diarrhea everywhere.