Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Disgrasian

Or, as Angry Asian Man would put it:  Asians behaving badly - ex-Rutgers edition.

Tyler Clementi was a young gay man, a violinist and student at Rutgers University, when high school friends and fellow Rutgers students Molly Wei and Dharun Ravi used a webcam to record his physical encounter with another man (which was apparently just kissing), and invited others to view the broadcast as a means to publicly humiliate him.  You can read the full story here.

Tyler Clementi

When Tyler found out about what they had done, he was so distraught that he committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.  His death, along with that of several other young men who had been bullied for being (or being perceived as) gay, prompted Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, to initiate the It Gets Better Project, which now has thousands of videos of men and women encouraging young LGBT people to remain strong - and stay alive - in the face of bullying.

Wei and Ravi were both indicted on charges, and rightfully so.  In particular, Ravi has been charged with hate crimes, because he intentionally targeted Tyler because he was gay.  Earlier this month, Wei struck a deal to avoid prison time, and will testify against Ravi: 
Ms. Wei was admitted to a pretrial-intervention program, in which she must perform 300 hours of community service over the next three years, testify at any proceedings, participate in counseling to deter cyberbullying and cooperate with the authorities. If she complies, the charges against her will be dropped.
 

Her attorneys - as to be expected - say that she is not a bully, and that she simply allowed Ravi to use her computer to remotely activate the webcam in the room that Ravi and Tyler shared. 

But the fact is that when she did so, she became an accomplice to Ravi's plan to invade Tyler's privacy and bully him.  She could have said:  "Stop, this isn't right."  But she didn't, because she thought it was fun.  And now Tyler's dead.  And her reputation is mud.  And for the rest of her life, long after Ravi's trial is over, and long after the name of Tyler Clementi may have slipped from people's minds, she will still be that girl who couldn't see past her own selfishness and played a role in someone else's death.  And, thanks to the WWW, potential schools, employers and spouses are going to be able to read about her role in this for what I imagine will be the rest of her life.

Did she drive Tyler to the bridge?  No.  Did she actively tell him to kill himself?  No.  But she didn't have to.  She allowed herself and Ravi to prey on Tyler's fears of exclusion and ridicule, and that was enough - quite literally - to push him over the edge. 

Tyler's family, who knew he was gay, was far more forgiving than I would have been in the same situation:
"Actions have consequences," the Clementi family said in the statement. "We wish Ms. Wei will become a person who will make better decisions, will help people and show kindness to those she comes in contact with."
I only wish she had become that person much, much earlier.

Ravi appears in court on May 23.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wheels

I've never owned a car, and although part of me has always wanted to (including trying to convince my parents to let me have my grandfather's hand-me-down 1987 Chevy Cavalier that went from zero to 60...in about an hour), there are many times that I'm glad I don't, and that I don't have to worry about finding parking, or that I'm going to come back to my car and and find that someone has sidewiped it and driven off, or that I'm going to get hit by a driver who's too frakking busy texting that he's not paying attention to the fact that he's behind the wheel of a car.  And I'm glad not to have to pay upwards of $4.50 a gallon these days. 

But since I live in the spread-out metropolis of the Windy City, it's a little unusual for someone of my age not to have ever owned a car, especially since I don't live downtown or within walking distance of a train station.  Still, public transportation works well for me (when it works), as I get to read the newspaper, or check e-mail (or come up with blog posting ideas), and since there's now a smartphone notification system for our bus and train routes, I'm much better at timing how long I have to wait.  And in the meantime, my bike has its own parking spot in the garage, next to the snow blower and the grill and the firebowl and the garden paraphernalia and the outdoor Christmas decorations...and you get the picture.

Still, every so often, we need a car to run some errands, pick up things that can't be delivered (for a reasonable price) or borne on the bus without embarassment (because the only people who need to know the brand of toilet paper I use are me and the check-out person), make a pit stop at the hallowed Trader Joe's, or head some place in the evening that would make it challenging (and/or expensive) to get home by public transit or cab.  So when the need arises, we head to our local Enterprise - as we did this weekend - and tool around town doing all the things that we don't normally have a chance to do without a car.

This weekend's wheels: a red Chevy Cobalt.  Not exactly my favorite car, but couldn't beat the rental price.

Like visit some of our favorite haunts, including Hoanh Long.  We discovered this Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurant a few years when we lived in the neighborhood (sort of).  We were walking back from a lazy Sunday afternoon in the Borders where we had been hogging a cafe table at Borders while driving them into bankruptcy, and found this little place.  Best. Vietnamese. Food. Ever.  If you go - which I highly recommend you do - you should try numbers 1 (seafood egg rolls), 19 (marinated beef with rice noodles and fresh herbs that you roll up with rice paper wrappers and lettuce - messy to eat, but awesomely delicious), and 54 (squid in the house Hoanh Long sauce, whose heat can be tempered to your liking; we normally ask for mild because of my delicate palate). 

Or do our best impression of surbanites by making a stop at Woodfield Mall.  I hadn't been to Woodfield Mall in about ten years, and I can't say that I would miss it if we didn't go back for another ten years - the place is a mad house, and I cannot begin to imagine how crazy it must be at Christmas time.  But the real reason we went to Woodfield was to try out Todai, a Japanese buffet.  Chinese buffets are pretty common (especially in Toronto where I grew up, and where the competition is cutthroat), but it's rarer to find other Asian buffets, especially in the Chicago area, which doesn't have such a large Asian population.  So when I read about Todai, I knew we had to make the trek to Schaumburg.  Overall, Todai was not bad at all.  A pretty good selection of sushi (including salmon and red tuna sashimi, the ubiquitous California roll, and a surprisingly good "Hawaiian" sushi of pineapple, avocado and grilled salmon), hot foods (including shrimp tempura, pork gyoza, and chicken teriyaki), and - by Asian buffet standards - some wonderful dessert squares (mango mousse cake, tiramisu and cheesecake).  If I had one complaint, it was that the green tea ice cream seemed rather bland.  And then I just about lost my lunch when I had to pay nearly $30 for 5 gallons of gas.

So after a weekend of running around town, shopping, attending a birthday party, a food smorgasbord, and the (relative) freedom that comes from having a car, I was happy to drive the rental back to its home, and relinquish the keys.  And while I know we're going to need a car when we have a child, for the meanwhile, I'm happy to remain four wheels lighter.

Or at least until we run out of toilet paper.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Culture

(Apologies if you have already seen this, but this is actually a re-posting of something I wrote on Wednesday, before Blogger decided to have a complete system-wide brain fart and erased it.)

It was a relatively quiet weekend, the first that neither of us have had to work in a while, so we took advantage of it and went to see "Water for Elephants," which is based on the book of the same title.


 


M'eh. 

It was fine, but nothing extraordinary.  Maybe something got lost in translation from book to screen.  Not having read the book, I can't say.

But what I will say is that I definitely do not see what apparently most of the world sees in Robert Pattinson (or Taylor Lautner, for that matter).  Maybe it's because I'm not a pre-pubescent teenage girl who screams for Team Edward or Team Jacob, because Pattinson don't do nothing for me.  He just seemed kinda one-note to me throughout the entire thing.  And there was a definite lack of on-screen chemistry between him and Reese.  (But certainly not as bad as the cold-fish romance between Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns, even though I love the movie itself.)  But, hey, Rosie the elephant was cool.

And after a dreary Saturday, the sun came out on Sunday, and with it, our first bike ride of the season.  A few miles from us is an extensive bike and running trail through the forest preserves, which goes for about 20 miles each way.   And while it lacks the view - and eye candy - of the Lake Shore bike trail, I enjoy the shaded path and less traffic.  Ten miles round trip wasn't bad for a first-time-for-the-season ride, although I certainly felt the burn in my quads the next day.

And on Monday night, we took in a concert of classical chamber music, put on by the organization for which I used to work.  It was music by French composers, none of whom I was really familiar with, other than the Poulenc trio for trumpet, horn and trombone, which I had heard before, but never played. 

The thing is that I find myself not going for the music.  For me, it's more about the people.  It was my first job out of grad school, and while I had a musical education, I knew nothing about development.  So, I learned everything on the job.  And while it was stressful, and I put in far too many hours for far too little money, I really got to connect with many people, not just colleagues, but also board members and individual audience members.  And every once in a while, I attend a concert because it's like a shot in the arm - still being recognized, despite having left for another job more than four years ago. And though it made a long day even longer, it was still a great way to end it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vegetables

With four green and two yellow zucchini, and two sweet onions in the crisper, this weekend I decided to make a batch of grilled vegetables to accompany whatever I would be cooking for dinner this week.  I've been using this concoction for so long that I don't really even know the measurements anymore, so I'm providing these as guidelines, depending on the volume of vegetables you have.  This recipe works great with sweet peppers (e.g. red, green, or other colors), although you could use any combination of vegetables you'd like (broccoli, asparagrus, etc.).

Balsamic-vinegar grilled vegetables
  • Equal parts of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (1.5 ounces of each was enough for the vegetables on hand)
  • Enough dijon mustard to allow the vinegar and oil to emulsify (or they will just separate when the vegetables are marinating)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Herb seasoning of your choice (I used a combination of two teaspoons each of dried thyme and rosemary, combined and crushed in a mortar and pestle; you could also forego the herbs and add paprika instead)
  • 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic (not minced/sliced) (This depends on the amount of vegetables - and how much you want to be kissed/avoided in the morning)

Combine all marinating ingredients above and whisk until the vinegar and oil are emulsified.  Chop your vegetables into pieces that are still large enough to be skewered, and toss with the marinade.  Allow the vegetables to sit for 30 minutes or so, and toss occasionally to re-distribute the marinade.  Skewer the vegetables, and pour the remaining liquid into a small bowl.  Grill the vegetable skewers on each side for about 4 minutes, basting with the marinade on both sides.

I love how easy it is to crank these vegetables out, and how versatile they are.  They're great on their own as a side dish or salad, or chopped into smaller pieces and tossed with pasta.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Check-up

My office hosts a wellness check-up every two years, which essentially consists of a blood draw and analysis, and a health survey that tells me what I should be doing (exercising, and not surfing the WWW), versus what I shouldn't be doing (snacking on cheese and crackers, rather than carrots and celery).  It's pretty basic stuff, and while it doesn't replace my annual physical, I still participate because it's incredibly convenient (and a hell of a lot easier to get to than my doctor's office), and I get the results in a package that provides a comparison from the prior test two years ago.  Plus, it's covered by my health plan, with no co-pay.  And even though I love my personal doctor, she doesn't always have time to explain the results from my physical. 

So the bad news is that my triglycerides are still out of whack - 159 (rather than below 150) - and my overall fatness body mass index is 27 (rather than between 18-25), and has not changed since the last test.  Yes, ladies and gents, it's no secret that I could stand to lose 20 pounds.  And many, many more.

However, the good news is good on multiple fronts.  First, the guy who drew my blood did so very painlessly and did not go spelunking for a vein.  (This has happened to me in the past - not fun.)  And even though it was painless, I still couldn't watch as he filled up two vials with my red stuff.  And that's why I'm a fundraiser, and not a doctor.

Secondly, I appear to be in relatively good health (and I use the term "relatively" lightly) for someone who doesn't belong to a gym and who doesn't have an active dieting plan.  Well, unless you call "eat what you want until you're full" a dieting plan.  My blood pressure on the day of the test was 108/78 (below the recommended upper limit of 139/89), my good (HDL) cholesterol reading is five points above the lowest limit (yes, this is a good thing), and my total cholesterol reading is almost 40 points below the recommended limit.  And though my triglycerides are still higher than recommended, I've managed to bring them down a full 30 points since the last time the test was taken, which I attribute to actually getting off my butt and doing something.
 
Screw the apple.  Temptation looks good in a bag.

Why the higher-than-regulation triglycerides?  Well, I know I could be better at managing what I eat.  Though I eat a lot - as detailed here, for example - I have been trying to have the "bad" things in moderation.  Still, I'm addicted to salt, and my bad triglycerides can probaby be attributed to my love of chips, a habit which I cannot seem to break.  And though I do not really have a sweet tooth, I don't turn down dessert nearly as often as I should.

But I like to think that these vices are balanced out by the fact that I don't smoke (never have, never will), don't drink alcohol (see last week's post) or coffee (since 1996) or soda (for about three months, which was less of a conscious decision than a we-ran-out decision), and have been curtailing my love of orange juice over the past few years by diluting it almost equally with water to cut down on the sugar intake.  Add to that the 6-10 weekly miles I have been averaging since getting back my running legs a few weeks ago, and I think I will be able to get both triglycerides and BMI under the recommended limits.  

Just give me another year or so.