Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Forty Days of Foliage: Day 34

Sorry for the lack of updates, folks; it turns out things get busy as you near the end of your graduate education. I realized, though, that I haven't updated ya'll on the status of my vegetarianism for a while. I have accomplished the following vegetarian feats since my last post:

- I made a dish with tofu! Yes, it was a stir fry and basically impossible to screw up, but it tasted good and therefore represented a major coup for me. Next, I intend to try this dish that Nanc TWoP recommended/commented on. (On a side note, someone from TWoP found my blog and felt the urge to comment? Awesome.)
- I also made a cabbage and potato soup, representing the second time in my life I've made a soup from scratch. Unfortunately, I only had chicken bouillon cubes, so I had to cheat a little bit when making it (I didn't even have other veggies with which I could have made stock), but I'm not going to count it as a major failure on my part. It was quite good and fed me for several days.
- However, my biggest adventure recently was when I made kale chips. Yes, I had an abundance of kale and needed creative ways to use it beyond things like "kale rice," so I gave this a go. I used balsamic vinegar instead of the apple cider vinegar the recipe calls for, but I have to say, they turned out very well. They have a very potato chip-like texture, but with a greener flavor, obviously. It's worth a go if you have more kale than you can handle.

I've realized my self-imposed vegetarianism is soon coming to a close (Easter is two weeks from this last Sunday), and honestly, it hasn't been that difficult. Yes, there have been times I've really craved meat, but the occasional fish tends to ward that sensation off quite handily. Also, I'm pretty sure I've lost some weight; now, those of you who know me know that I have no need to lose weight, but I also don't mind the thought of losing unnecessary meat pockets. Now I just need to develop some muscle. Next Lent: giving up sedentary-ness.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

In case you haven't heard, Michelle Obama has given us yet another reason to love her: she's planting a vegetable garden at the White House! Some choice quotes from the NYT article:

“A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” she said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things.

“I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House?”

“You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.”


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Life's A Drag

I've been thinking about drag a lot lately.

No, not that kind.

Not that drag either.

Yes, that's the one.

Yes, I've recently spent a lot of time ruminating about drag queens. This has mostly been spurred on by the superb reality show RuPaul's Drag Race, which is sort of the drag queen version of America's Next Top Model, but 100x better. (If you haven't seen it, all the episodes are online at the offical site.) While watching, I've come to realize the extent to which I think drag is an important part of gay culture, although I'm still having a hard time articulating why.

I think what I like about drag is that it's still something very "other" for our community. The gay movement is becoming more and more about gaining equal rights and assimilating into society as a whole, and while I think this is an admirable goal, I still like the idea of having something for ourselves. Drag fits that niche for me; it's something fabulous and strange and wonderful that many straight people just don't get. For example, when the drag episode of Project Runway aired last year, my mom expressed her concern at the preview, saying that the queens were "sort of scary." (She ended up enjoying it, though.) I like that notion of maintaining something important to gay history (Legend has it that a drag queen threw the first stone at Stonewall) as we move forward, even if I'm possibly being deliberately separatist from the larger heterosexual community.

Of course, lest I get too weighed down by lofty rhetoric about the virtues of drag, I also have to point out that it's just really fun. There's nothing quite like a really good drag performance; it's hilarious, entertaining, interesting and makes you want to give the performer your money. Plus, drag queens are some of the wittiest folks around. For example, observe this interaction between a Canadian drag queen named Fahren Heit and a patron in the crowd who was wearing a pink plaid shirt:

Fahren: Are you a top or a bottom?
Guy: Um, I can do either.
Fahren: Honey, you don't wear a gay tablecloth to the bar and pretend like you're a top.

All this thinking has led me to consider the obvious question: would I be a good drag queen? I like to think I can be rather wittily caustic when I need to be and I'm pretty good in heels, but that's about where it ends. I don't think I'd make a very attractive queen, and I'd probably want to lip-sync Kate Bush or Adult. or something else entirely drag-inappropriate. (Although when I dance to "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga, it gets pretty draggy.) Plus, when you're a queen, everyone comes after you. Straight society thinks you're crazy and bitchy patrons think you're not doing a good enough job. (I speak as a bitchy patron, although I've never told a queen she wasn't good.) I wouldn't be able to handle the pressure. (However, the Rupaul's Drag Race Drag Name Generator on Facebook told me that if I were to be a queen, my drag name would be Barbara Seville. I like it.)

In conclusion, I encourage you to show your appreciation for your neighborhood drag queen. Shout "WORK!" at her when she does something great. Tell her she looks fabulous. Give her air kisses, and if she's feeling touchy, a light hug. She'll appreciate the attention.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tobias Funke Moment of the Day

Guy in my Class:

I think sustainability is going to have to hurt, you know? It's not going to be easy. We're just going to have to suck it up and take one in the face.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

For St. Patrick's Day, I would like to share with you the greatest thing ever. Enjoy this video of the Swedish Chef, Animal, and Beaker singing "Danny Boy." It's amazing.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Forty Days of Foliage: Day 18

Vegetarianism continues to be both difficult and not much of a problem at all. My main concern is that I'm not being terribly inventive about what I eat. My most common dish seems to follow this pattern:

- Find what vegetables are in the fridge.
- Chop them up.
- Saute them.
- Put them over rice/pasta.

While this is often tasty, I can't help feeling like I could be more creative about this. I'm going to make a big cabbage soup soon, so that'll be something new, and I still have to try and cook tofu, which I'm somewhat afraid of. (It just seems so... tricky.) Restaurants continue to be somewhat obnoxious; salads are good, but other dishes are less satisfying. (Example: Veggie sub.)

Overall, though, this has been not very difficult, and I'm considering it extending it past Lent in slightly modified fashion. Perhaps just meat once a week?

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Heavy Rotation: Electroladies

As promised, here is the second of the two playlists I recently created. I like to call it Electroladies. Yes, my other way of coping with sadness is by listening to angry/sassy women set to dance/electronic music.

A few thoughts: Although I wouldn't really call these happy songs (Well, "Hey Mami" is pretty fun), I tried to make less bleak selections as compared to my pouty list. Also, I opted for a couple remixes instead of the originals due to the need for increased danceability. (Plus, Fred Falke makes everything better.) What I really like about this list is that I would absolutely listen to it while feeling down, but I would just as easily rock it while getting ready to go out. Woo multi-purpose.

And yes, "Poker Face" is everywhere these days. I still love it.

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The Big 1-0-0

I'm surprised to have gotten here, but this is my HUNDREDTH POST. I got myself a card:

I thought the best way to commemorate this big event would be to highlight some of my favorite of the last 100 posts. Here they are, in chronological order:

AaOF: It's Here! - posted 7/31/2008
My first post! Although it's nothing too special, it does have a picture of Rahm Emanuel and John Dingell awkwardly posing with paczkis.

Brian in the Hot Dog Joint with the Crossword Puzzle
- posted 8/26/2008
My first (and perhaps only?) truly great post, if I do say so myself. It contains three of my favorite things: greasy food, crossword puzzles, and Clue.

How Tina Fey is Saving America - posted 10/14/2008
In which I irrefutably prove that Tina Fey is responsible for Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election.

Got You Pegged - posted 1/5/2009
In which I irrefutably prove that Usher likes it up the butt.

There's No Place Like Home (two parter) - posted 3/6/2009
Sure, this one just happened, but I'd like to think that something good came out of that trek.

Anyway, thanks for those of you who have been reading, and hopefully, I'll make it to the next hundred a bit more quickly.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

In Heavy Rotation: Pouts

So, as I mentioned in my last posts, one of the ways I passed my time in the Providence airport was by making a couple playlists. Given that I was (and still sort of am) feeling rather down at the time, they each reflect a different way I cope with my pouty moods. The first, which I'm going to share with you today, is what you would probably expect: mostly downtempo, mostly sad, pretty much a wallowfest. I tried to at least cover a wide range of sadness, though, so we have breakups, mourning, poverty, loneliness... but I swear, it's still good music.

A few thoughts on this list: All of these songs are a bit bleaker than I actually feel, but some do feel more directly applicable than others (It's sort of like Nina is singing on my behalf). I tried to throw in some stuff that's at least uptempo so as to not get too miserable, but I still went for melancholy throughout. Anyway, check back tomorrow for a very special double dose of In Heavy Rotation, which should be significantly less emo. (At least, less emo in spirit; none of this music could be called emo genre-wise, thank God. I'm not that upset.)

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Friday, March 6, 2009

There's No Place Like Home: Act III

If you haven't read Part I yet, you can find it here.

Act III – Tuesday, March 3, 2009

“How the fuck am I not home yet?” – Me, that morning

Scene I – Cincinnati Holiday Inn/Cincinnati Airport

I managed to get some sleep, having a strange dream about my cousin’s children that involved spilled donuts, before waking up at 4:35 to catch the 5:30 shuttle to the airport. I’m glad I gave myself all that time, because I’m pretty sure I fell asleep for a few 2-3 minute snatches while in the shower. I made my way downstairs to check out, and on the way, after a piece of muzak heard the Rae & Christian remix of Dinah Washington’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” which kind of made my morning. (Listen here.) The airport was largely empty, which made sense when I learned that our flight was the first of the day. (I know there’s no reason for that to be a source of pride, but in my semi-delirious state, I did in fact puff up a bit upon hearing this.) As I walked down the stretch to my gate, that awful James Taylor song where he’s all, “Shower the people you love with love/show them the way that you feel,” played, and it took me back to childhood car rides where my parents would play that tape, and for a bit, I was almost comforted. But then Foo Fighters came on, and moment ruined.

Scene II. Flight from Cincinnati to Detroit

On the plane, I sat next to a nice hospital administrator named Mohammed who had an even worse travel story than me; he had been trapped in Denver the night before, and then Cincinnati, all in an effort to get from Las Vegas to Buffalo. We chatted briefly, and it struck me as odd that he seemed reluctant to say the word Detroit; instead, he kept calling it “Motown.” (Ex: "I would sure hate to get stuck in Motown. Not much to do in Motown.") For the first time in a while (I’m generally not awake in time for such events), I saw a sunrise, and while it was through streaks of de-icing fluid, it was still quite beautiful. As we neared Detroit, the sunlight reflected off of factories directly on Lake Michigan spewing large plumes of smoke, and although still horrified, I took some solace in knowing I was home.

Scene III. Detroit Airport/Bus to Ann Arbor/HOME

At the airport, I had to wait a couple hours before I could catch my bus back to Ann Arbor, so I deliberately took it slow as a test of my patience. (I’ll usually walk as fast as I can even when I have no destination.) I had to walk through this large tunnel at the airport I wasn’t aware existed; strange music played while lights on the wall flashed in time with various musical occurrences, which was rather trippy in my overtired state. I remember thinking it was like a demented Space Mountain fun house.

Someone else's video of the tunnel:

I then sat, called several friends trying to find someone to pick me up in Ann Arbor, and tried not to pass out. The bus arrived, I got on, I fell asleep, I got dropped off, a friend picked me up, and then I was home. Never had I been so excited to be back in Michigan.

In the process of traveling home, I used the following forms of transit: subway, commuter train, airport shuttle (three times!), airplane, charter bus, and private vehicle. Not to mention all the walking. And now, I will never travel again. Ya'll are gonna have to come to me.

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There's No Place Like Home: Acts I and II

So I had a hell of a time getting home from my spring break. I decided to type up an excessively prolix travel diary of sorts, which I've broken up into two parts due to length. Enjoy!

There’s No Place Like Home: A Tragicomedy in Three Acts

Act I – Sunday, March 1, 2009

“Home is where I want to be; pick me up and turn me ‘round.” – Talking Heads, “This Must Be the Place (Na├»ve Melody)”

Our story begins in Boston (well, Cambridge, to be precise), where I was visiting a friend on spring break before things went terribly awry. It should be made clear: Sunday wasn’t a great day. Things with a romantic interest of mine became deromanticized over the course of the weekend, and then my laptop refused to turn on (just after being repaired). This was enough to cause something of a meltdown on my part, but of course, my flight home was then canceled due to an impending snowstorm. After a couple of maddening hours on the phone with a few different Delta agents, I managed to secure a new series of flights home. I would have to take a train to Providence, where I would catch a flight to Cincinnati, and then to my home airport of Detroit, arriving around 9:30 pm. “Well… I’ve never been to Rhode Island, I guess,” I thought, reaching for something positive.

Act II – Monday, March 2, 2009

“We’ve been on planes and on trains ‘til we think we might die.” – LCD Soundsystem, “North American Scum”

Scene I – Subway from Cambridge to Boston/Commuter Train from Boston to Providence

I trudged my way through the fresh snow, cursing it as I went for causing me both to lose my original, much simpler flight and get my jeans wet. Thankfully, the subway and commuter train were easy to find and use, and I even had time for an unsatisfying mozzarella sandwich at the Boston train station. (It was quite the inopportune time to have given up meat, I must say.) I had hoped the train ride would be scenic, but as it turns out, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, at least along the train tracks, just have lots of snow-covered trees with no leaves. Knowing that I would be returning to a similar environment in Michigan, I opted to sleep a bit. Upon arriving, I had to rush to catch a shuttle to the airport and almost ran over a bird in the train station with my rolling luggage. Although I thought I was hallucinating at first, I then noticed several other birds waddling around the station. Had I not been in a hurry, I might have investigated this phenomenon further, but home was more urgent than birds.

Scene II – Shuttle to Providence Airport/Loafing in Providence Airport/Flight from Providence to Cincinnati

I caught the van shuttle to the airport just in time, where I was able to listen to a man who apparently was some sort of weather deity rattle off information about the snowfalls in various northeastern cities. We quickly arrived at the rather beautiful Providence airport, where I settled in to wait for my flight. (I had a couple of hours still; I had given myself lots of time since it was all unfamiliar territory for me.) I called my brother, I read for a bit, I made a couple of playlists (which I will share with you soon!), I almost ate a burger before catching myself; it was actually almost relaxing. There was a brief moment of tension when I beat out an older gentleman for a wall outlet, but hey, my phone needed to charge. Sorry, Pops.

Of course, my relative serenity was not to last, as our flight became more and more delayed. I had about an hour between the original landing time and my connection, so I knew I had some time to give, but I was still nervous, and the old crazy lady behind me who gave occasional shouts of “THAT’S NOT OUR PLANE” every time a plane landed steadily increased my anxiety as we waited. We finally took off about an hour after our original departure time, and while on the plane, I had a brief Zen moment of things being out of my hands and feeling alright about it.

Scene III – Cincinnati Airport/Cincinnati Holiday Inn

I sprinted through the airport upon arrival, finding my gate quite deserted. I was given a new plane ticket for 6:40 am and hotel and meal vouchers by very kind Delta employees before being shuttled (again with the shuttles) off to the Cincinnati Holiday Inn (although apparently I was in Kentucky), where they put me up for the night. After a brief sob of frustration in my room, I went to use my meal vouchers on dinner, where for the third time in a very trying day, I did not succumb to my cravings for meat. (Well, not entirely. I ordered the very unsatisfying grilled salmon salad, since I’m allowing myself fish once a week. Sorry veggie friends, but this was necessary. It was almost a steak.) I called various friends to share my tale of horror, took a hot bath while blasting my brand new “Pouts” playlist on my iPod, watched some MSNBC (I’m sorry, but I just can’t get into Rachel Maddow), and went to bed. Despite my extreme exhaustion, I couldn’t sleep; my mind was still in overdrive, and beyond that, knowing I could only sleep for about 4 hours didn’t really comfort me.

Click here for part two.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Forty Days of Foliage: Day 8

I have to apologize for the infrequent posting lately; last week was my spring break (and it was neither of those things), so I've been busyish. However, thanks to break, I have plenty to post about now (including a particularly traumatic traveling experience!) so be on the lookout for new content.

To begin, though, I want to say that yes, I am sticking with my attempted Lent vegetarianism! (And it lasted through the most singularly stressful experience of my recent life, which I assure you, will soon be blogged about in a most extraordinary fashion.) I'm not going to eat meat until April 12, which is Easter Sunday. My only exception is that I'm allowing myself 6 times that I eat fish, which averages out to just over one time a week. I've had fish once already, so I have five more allowances.

So far, I've mainly been eating at restaurants since I was not at home, so the difficulty has been dealing with the fact that at most places, I only have a handful of choices. In one way, this is sort of a relief, as I don't spend as much time agonizing, but it's also sort of cruel to have so many options that I want but can't have. I'm generally finding the vegetarian dishes to not be all that satisfying, but to use an exercise metaphor, I think I'm still in my initial soreness that comes when you start to work out, and then as I get more adjusted, it won't be as hard.

However, I think things will be tough all over again for a bit, because I just got home and I will now be mostly cooking for myself. I'm afraid I'm going to eat the same things over and over with not enough regard for nutrition, but I'm really going to try to diversify and (gasp!) try new things. Mainly, I need to learn how to consistently cook tofu well, because while I like it, it continues to somewhat mystify me.

So yes, I'm a week-old vegetarian. Applaud me!

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