Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mish-mash

Rahmbo/Rahmulus pulls through.
So Chicago has a new mayor - unsurprisingly, it's Rahm Emanuel, the hard-hitting former Chief of Staff and our former congressman.  Surprisingly, he pulled off a majority win in a six-candidate field, and just stayed on course with his message, despite the distraction of the residency battle (which I believe was an unnecessary waste of time and someone else's money) and questions about whether he'd be "nice enough" to lead the city.  Well, frankly, I'd rather have a tough guy who can get things done, than a "nice" guy who can't.  It's the same kind of bullshit argument that we hear about "elite liberals" who aren't like the "rest of us."  Do I want someone who's smarter, tougher, faster and stronger than me in the role of mayor?  Hell, yes.  So I'm glad Rahm will be our new mayor.  Besides my agreement with much of his platform, he was also the only candidate I saw at my train station (and I shook his hand - which I admit felt physically weird because he's missing a chunk of his middle finger), and even when he was our congressman and would without a doubt be re-elected, he would still be out there greeting people. 

That's not to say I'm not disappointed by the lack of other viable candidates.  It was interesting to see Carol Moseley Braun basically self-implode (so much for the "consensus candidate," who now has no future prospects for any elected position based on her poor fourth-place showing) and her inability to appear anything but ingratiatingly smarmy, and Gery Chico, who, for all his business and politcal sense, just couldn't get a message that would resonate (even that sad attempt to label Emanuel as a "North Shore elite").  And Miguel del Valle, as nice and as ethical as the man may be, just didn't have enough name recognition.

So here's an early welcome to your new digs at City Hall, Mr. Emanuel.  And while I know there are tons of things that need to be done, one thing I'd love to see you do is get blue recycling bins in all wards.  Seriously, it's shameful that those bins are not ubiquitous throughout Chicago, especially when other cities are far more sophisticated at recycling all sorts of materials, including organic waste.

Baking
I'm not usually a fan of scones.  For the most part, I find them dry and crumbly, but that's probably because they've been sitting on a refrigerated shelf at Starbucks a snooty coffee store for far too long.  But, when we visited my family last year, my mom made a batch of buttermilk scones that were out of this world.  She sent me the recipe that languished in my in-box for several months, until last weekend (a long weekend) when I finally had a chance to make my own batch.  And they were so good that I promptly made a second batch the next day (and no, it wasn't because we ate the first batch...at least in its entirety).  I love cranberries, and had stocked up over the holidays to store in the freezer, so I tossed some in with the first batch; I used dried apricots and raisins for the second.

I also made a cake for my boss' birthday, and since she loves pineapple, I found what looked to be an easy recipe online and tried it out - to much success.  It didn't rise as high as I thought it would (the recipe called for baking soda, not baking powder, so maybe my baking soda isn't as fresh as it could be), but it may be that it was weighted down by the 20oz of crushed pineapple the recipe called for.  Still, topped with a cream cheese frosting, the cake went down the gullet well.  One of my colleagues, who apparently likes the consistency of carrot cake, but not carrot cake itself, said: "This is what carrot cake aspires to be."  I took it as a compliment.

And today, I made a two cheese breads (chunks of cheddar in a baking powder dough), a banana bread (I had some over-ripe bananas to use up), and a batch of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, from a recipe that I got from People a high-class gourmet magazine.

Bertie and Lionel, and Nic and Jules (and Paul)
On the eve of the gay superbowl Oscars, I finally saw two of this year's Best Picture contenders: The King's Speech (in the theater) and The Kids Are All Right (on DVD).  (I have Toy Story 3 on DVD - just haven't had a chance to watch it yet, as I'm still getting through my umpteenth run of Buffy and Angel.)

I've never been one of those folks who has to see a movie when it first comes out.  In fact, the last movie I saw in a theater was Eat, Pray, Love - which was last summer.  I much rather prefer being able to watch at home, uninterrupted by the light that shone right on us every time someone opened the theater door yesterday, and being able to access snacks (and the bathroom) by just pressing pause.  Still, it was good to be out and about yesterday.

Colin Firth was excellent in The King's Speech, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wins the Oscar tonight - as widely predicted . While I'm sure it was dramatized, I enjoyed the unfolding of the friendship between the King and his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush as Lionel), but also how down-to-earth the Queen appeared to be (for example, when meeting Lionel's wife for the first time). 

While The Kids was also good, I have some mixed feelings about it.  The performances were great, but I know that the movie has been picking up some flack - particularly from the lesbian community - over one of the lesbian moms (Jules) having an affair...with a man (Paul).  And I have to agree with said flack.  While I understand that - for some people - sexuality is fluid, or on a spectrum, as a gay man who has never been attracted to girly parts (nor ever will), I felt it gave the impression that if you can just find the "right" person, then you can easily change your orientation.  And for me, that ain't happening.  Well, mainly because I've already found the right person, but you already knew that.

That being said, I probably won't be watching the Oscars tonight, because I find award shows to be interminably and insufferably boring.  (Except the Kennedy Center Honors.  And my fantasy version of the Oscars where I win Best Screenplay.)

I think I just lost some gay street cred.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cold

It's an annual ritual for me to get a cold, and I can usually count on it happening around this time of the year.  It usually starts off with a sore throat, which drops my voice even lower than puberty, followed by a phlegmboyant cough and sniffles.  So last night, after having woken myself up several times during the previous night with my oh-my-God-I-think-I'm-going-to-cough-up-a-lung cough, I decided to take some "night-time" cold medication that promptly knocked me out for ten hours. I'm still feeling groggy, so please pardon any speling misstakes.

Thankfully, it's just a cold, and nothing worse.  But, as with most of my postings, it's given me an opportunity to wax poetic about some of my more memorable occasions of being sick.

Helllooooo, Nurse.
When I was two or three years old, I had to be hospitalized for gastroenteritis.  I don't recall for how long, but so far - knock wood - it's been the only time that I've been hospitalized overnight (other than when I was born and had to spend my first Christmas in an incubator).  The funny thing is that I actually have memories from that time, even though I was so young - I remember standing up in the crib at night when things were half-lit by the corridor light, and my mom being in the room.  Of course, I don't remember specifics - it's mainly just flashes of images and shadows - but it is, quite literally, my earliest memory.

Sticks and stones may break my bones...and so will jungle gyms.
When I was six, I was playing on the jungle gym in the park near my house with some friends (in an era when it was okay for six-year-olds to be at the park by themselves), and was trying to cross over by swinging from bar to bar, but I fell on my arm.  I remember knowing that something was wrong and I headed home, where I couldn't reach the doorbell because I was in so much pain, so I ended up crouched down and crying until my mom heard me and came to open the door.  Not realizing that something more serious had happened, she told me to come indoors and set the table.  It wasn't until my dad came home and found me sitting in the living room unable to move that they realized my arm was broken.

My right arm was put into a half cast and a sling, and I went through six weeks of baths with a plastic bag over my arm, and tremendous itching because we couldn't remove the bandages for several weeks.  (Of course, I was miffed because I'm left-handed, so I didn't get out of doing homework.)  I also had to be knocked out when the doctors had to re-break re-set my arm in order for it to heal correctly.  I remember feeling nauseous for an entire day after the operation with a metallic aftertaste from the anesthetic.  Bleh.

My mom being my mom - well, she said that it took her decades (yes, decades) to forgive herself for not recognizing that something was wrong when I first came home after that fall, although I'm sure when she reads this, she'll get twinges of guilt again.  Sigh.  It's okay, Mom - I may not be the right-handed tennis star I was destined to be, but you can let it go.

Speak/sing no evil.
Literally.  I've had laryngitis twice in my life thus far, both with terrible timing.  The first time happened in my freshman year at college, right before a sight-singing exam, which I ended up having to defer until the next academic year because it was right before I was to head off for a summer job, and which meant having to carry an incomplete (gasp) grade.  The second was related to a cold (at this time of the year), when I was supposed to be part of a panel making a presentation to a potential funder.  We ended up not getting the grant, which I simply attribute to the fact that I was relegated to being the mute Asian prop in the corner and couldn't fully participate.

No milk for you.
I have always loved dairy.  Milk, cheese, cream, yogurt - you name it, I love it.  Throughout my first few college years, you could always find my fridge filled with yogurt cups (just like Michael Westen, although I lack the super spy skills).  But in my junior year, I had a bout of what I thought was a bad case of stomach flu, which lasted about three days.  And after that, I found I was unable to process lactose without major crampiness.  My gastroenterologist confirmed that my lactose intolerance had been triggered (as it apparently happens for most people in their early 20s), and I joined the millions of other Asians out there who cannot process dairy.  But, just to be sure that it wasn't something more serious, the gastroenterologist had me endure a colonoscopy at the ripe old age of 22.  Ugh.  (Laugh it up all you want, people - when you hit 50, you're gonna have to get one, too.  And a word of advice - if you're going to mix the phosphates with a drink, make sure it's something that you're not likely to want to drink in the future.  Let's just say that white grape juice has never tasted the same to me again.  And I used to love white grape juice.)  And when those results turned up clear, I had to sit through a three-hour test where you down a batch of almost pure lactose, and breathe into a device that apparently measures whether or not your body is breaking it down.  So if you know what my lactose intolerance does to me after a bowl of ice cream, you can imagine what happened when pure lactose hit my system.  And I got to share the experience with 10 strangers in the same room, taking the same test.

So I guess this year's cold - by comparison - ain't so bad.  Yay, me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kiss

In honor of Valentine's Day, here's a mash-up of some memorable TV kisses.  While I wish they had included Will and Vince from Will and Grace (rather than just the title characters in the last scene from the very first episode, in what was really just a test to see if either of them "felt" anything), the gays are represented by Cameron and Mitchell from Modern Family, and Justin and Brian from Queer as Folk.  No lesbian liplocks on this one.


Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow

Pseudo-Narcolepsy
So I've been burning the midnight oil for the past few days working on a pretty significant personal project (more on that in a few weeks), so I haven't been able to get to the blog for a while.  Sigh.  But it's certainly not for lack of want.  And because I've been pretty tired recently, I've managed to fall asleep in the strangest of places.

Like the dentist.  Seriously, who falls asleep while visiting the dentist?!  Apparently - yours truly.  With my big mouth open.  And not - say, for instance - while the dentist was looking over x-rays, or getting his equipment ready, or the moments between the relentless scratching and the buffing of my not-so-pearly whites.  Oh no - it was literally while he was cleaning my teeth.  Zzzzz....

Or while getting my hair cut last night.  Though this happens pretty much every time (and my stylist knows it and doesn't mind), I think it's pretty funny that I manage to catch some shut-eye while someone is moving around me with a sharp pair of scissors. 

I'm not sure why I manage to fall asleep in these strangest of places.  It's probably because it's a block of time where I can't do anything but sit (or recline) and enjoy the attention.  Can't read, can't watch TV, can't check the Blackberry or e-mail.  And I think everything just shuts down and I fall asleep faster than if I were...watching the Superbowl.  (Which I didn't watch...in case you were wondering.)   

Also, at my semi-annual check-up on Friday, I asked my dentist to check out a tooth that has been giving me some discomfort lately.  Because it's been sensitive to cold, I was worried that I would have to shell out for another root canal (I've only had to endure one thus far), but it turns out it's just an exposed nerve, so I've resigned myself to having to use Sensodyne toothpaste to desensitize the tooth for the next month, and even longer. 

Snow Day...s!
And since everyone in the Midwest seems to be talking about snow and the wind and the cold in their blogs these days, I will do my civic duty and hop on the snowblowing wagon.

My first experience with snow was at 13.  Having spent my childhood years in a fairly moderate climate, I was excited and ready for my first snowfall, with a massive, reversible down jacket (blue on one side, turn it inside out and - voila! - it was red), calf-length black lace-up boots, and massive ski gloves.  So, at the first sign of snow, I got decked out like an abominable blue snowman in all my snow-related paraphernalia, and headed out to school.  But no one told me I didn't need all that stuff when there was only half an inch of snow on the ground.  And it wasn't even that cold.

Ever since, I've always loved winter, and will happily admit to being a snow bunny from the Great White North.  I'll take snow and wind with negative temperatures anytime over a 100-degree day in the summer.  There's something I find tremendously peaceful about snow - the way it just coats everything in clean white flakes, hides the dirt (albeit temporarily), and dampens city noise.  I don't mind shoveling, and you know how butch I feel using the snowblower. 

But I've never had a snow day before - until last week, when the blizzard hit, and we unexpectedly got two snow days in a row.  (Well, let me rephrase that - I've lived through an ice storm that shut down my college for about a week in 1997, but it was due to ice, not snow.  Another posting for another time.) 

Thankfully, my office closed early the afternoon that the storm hit us, so I was able to make it home in good time.  We awoke the next morning to more snow than I've ever seen before.  With the way the wind blew that night, several patches of our backyard were completely clear, but we had five-foot drifts in other places.  The same thing happened in the alley, where we discovered drifts that were higher on our side than our neighbors across the way. 
 

Several manly hours with the snowblower and shovel - decked out in my updated all-black abominable snowman ensemble - and we had cleared the front of the house, and a small pathway to get to the trash cans, at the very least.  And with the clean lines of the snowblower up and down the sidewalk and driveway, it looked liked a little maze running through the piles of snow. 

At the end of it all, the blizzard ranked the third worst in Chicago's weather-recorded history with 20-plus inches.  And I loved every single minute.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Food

I love to eat.  I eat constantly, and with everything I consume, it's a miracle that I'm not as big as a house, especially since I've been pretty much sedentary for the past four weeks waiting for my shin splints to heal and my orthotics to arrive so I can start running again.  I don't eat out of nervousness or boredom - I just like food.  And I'm eating pretty much throughout the day.  Most of my colleagues will agree that they invariably see me munching on something, and those who have seen the inner sanctum of my desk would know that the contents of my bottom left drawer would feed a small country. 

Case in point - let me show you what I brought to work one day last week:

So now that you've picked yourself up off the floor from laughing hysterically at the amount of food in my old-lady-like collection of plastic tubs (one of the reasons why I will probably never own a briefcase - because my lunch won't fit in it), let me add that this doesn't even include my sandwich fixin's which were already in the fridge by the time I decided to amuse you with this photo - ha!  And while this seems like an extraordinary amount of food for one guy to consume in a day (and trust me, sometimes I finish all this and I'm still hungry by the afternoon), when it comes down to it, most of it's pretty good for me.  I suppose.  So let's break it down by the hour.

9:00 a.m.  I don't eat breakfast at home, because I'm usually just rolling out of bed into my pre-selected clothes from the night before, slopping some product in my hair, brushing my teeth so I don't terrify my fellow commuters with morning breath that would slay dragons, and racing to the bus.  So at the office, I get to assemble and chow down on my breakfast, which - on the particular day in question - involved a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and banana slices (I know - so very six-year-old of me, but it's frakkin' awesome); a bowl of Quaker instant apple-cranberry hot cereal (just add water and voila! - a hot breakfast, which is great in the winter), and my morning cup of Earl Grey tea, sweetened with a bit of honey (which I also keep in my drawer stash). 
10:00 a.m. Having had a breakfast that would keep most people going until lunch, an hour later I'm ready for the second course, in this case, a Bartlett pear.  I'm not a huge fan of pears, in general, but this one was pretty good, as you can tell by the piece I had half eaten before I snapped this shot.  And hey, I know I could have gussied up the presentation on my oh-so-fabulous paper plate, but I'm a fundraiser, not a food stylist.  We each have our strengths.


11:00 a.m.  A handful of baby carrots.  Wish I could drench them in a sour cream dip of some sort, but I suppose that would be bad for me.  And I usually try to keep us stocked with hummus (which I know is the easiest thing to make, but I usually just buy it in the store) as a healthier option, but it wasn't on sale last week, so I was SOL.  Or rather, SOH.  And so I crunched on my sad, plain carrots.  Sigh.  But they filled the munchie gap.  For that hour.

12:00 p.m.  Oh thank God, it's lunch time.  Without a toaster at the office, it's unlikely I would even be eating a sandwich on cold, lifeless bread.  Instead, I bring all the sandwich elements (in separate tubs - of course), and put it all together at lunchtime.  And in this instance, it was seafood "salad" (faux crab meat and little shrimp) from Jewel, with baby greens. 

And if I have a vice, it's potato chips.  Sweets?  Meh - I could live without them.  But chips - mmmm...  And don't waste my time with regular chips - this particular lunch included a batch of Cape Cod salt-and-vinegar chips.  If I could, I would eat salt and vinegar chips every day of the year for the rest of my life.  Especially the kind that are so vinegar-y that my tongue curls up and feels funny after a while.

1:00 p.m.  Ah, seedless green grapes, another food I would eat every day if I could.  Especially during the summer, I live on grapes for snacks.  Whenever they're on sale, I usually pick up between six to eight pounds of grapes, and that usually lasts about a week, at most.

2:00 p.m. There are many reasons that I love winter - snow included - but it usually means that citrus season is in full swing.  And on this particular day, I downed one-and-a-half navel oranges, and two clementines.

3:00 p.m.  The only thing wrong with these rice crackers from Trader Joe's is that they're packaged under the description of "Oriental," a word that always gets my goat, no matter if it's being used to describe people (WRONG) or food stuff.  Even rugs.  Just call them Japanese rice crackers, which they are, because I ain't seen no Chinese people eat these things (other than me).  These come in a large bag for only two bucks, which is awesome, and the little white ones have a bit of a wasabi kick.  I particularly love the ones rolled in nori (dried seaweed). 


4:00 p.m.  And into the home stretch, a handful of Trader Joe's honey roasted peanuts provides a stopgap before heading home for dinner.  

So that's pretty much the daily intake for me.  In reality, a good portion of it is fruits and vegetables, so even though it seems like a ton of food, it's fairly healthy.  But it takes time to assemble all of this - at least 30 minutes the night before to pre-wash all the fruit, peel the oranges, and find space in the usually-stuffed fridge to store it overnight.  But it saves time in the morning because I can just grab it and go. 

And that, gentle readers, is a brief window into my daily love affair with food.  I could probably cut back some, but I have a reputation to uphold with my collection of old-lady plastic tubs and the constant munching.  And, if you're ever stranded downtown, and all the restaurants are closed, and you can't find anything to eat....well, don't come a-knockin' at my office, because I've probably eaten everything already.  Sorry.