Friday, May 30, 2008

Stuff White People Detect.

With White's Metal Detector! It's my latest favorite really stupid commercial! So much to love: the hilarious brand name in a commercial populated exclusively with White People!, and their marketing is full of bizarre, unintentional double entendres. My admittedly immature favorite is from the homepage: "Go DEEP!"

I'm apparently incapable of writing lengthier posts about anything this week. Maybe you'll get something long about Buffy when I finish the series. Maybe you'll hear some happy news from my world (I effing hope). Maybe you'll get me writing about how I overdosed on cookie dough and have no desire to cook dinner now. You never know.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Coffee and pie.

WHAT. Thank you, Defamer, for the link: freaking Twin Peaks is streaming in its near-entirety (no miniseries) over at CBS.COM. If you like weird shit and good TV and you haven't watched this show, go watch it. If you liked this show already, well, go enjoy it without having to buy or rent anything.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yesterday my sister graduated from college. She got her BFA in animation and visual effects in a lengthy ceremony at the Cow Palace. As with most commencements, two-thirds of the event is taken up with graduates filing in, getting up to wait for their names to be called, walking across the stage, posing for a photo, and filing out at the end. "Pomp and Circumstance" is played for a grand total of at least 45 minutes (pity the musicians). There's some speechifyin', some cliches, some slide shows, and several hundred young adults wearing funny hats. You might expect an art school to be a little more creative, really.

Being the only family able to attend, I brought her some money from our mom and took her out to lunch at a Mexican/Salvadoran place across the street. I found it on Yelp the night before and apparently none of the other graduates knew about it, because we were the only non-Spanish speakers there. I had a couple pupusas stuffed with cheese and something called loroco leaf, pureed black beans, and rice. Margot had carne asada. We both had the horchata. The pupusas and the tortillas that came with Margot's dish were insanely fresh and lovely.

I was so tired yesterday that I ended up driving my sister to a random Caltrain station in South San Francisco after driving around for half an hour when I should've been able to get her to one of the BART stations along Mission in no time. Ridiculous, I am. I hit the early southbound traffic on my way south, and I had to keep going past my usual exit because I had to pick up veggies and strawberries in Los Gatos then go... well, take care of some gatos at my friends' house. I think I'm getting a sinus infection, too.

This was definitely not what I meant to post about, by the way. I was going to write about how I've been--FINALLY--watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that I love it and being unemployed is great for marathon TV-on-DVD suggestions. I just started the sixth season and after I finish the seventh, I am moving on to Angel.

What? It's good to have something to focus on.

Monday, May 19, 2008

You can't just throw 'em away!

As a cheap way of helping me put away some of the piles of crap that prevent our house from looking presentable to the prying eyes of our landlord, I purchased a pack of 10 bag hutches.

When life gives you cherries...

the pits
Originally uploaded by emily ca..

Yesterday we celebrated Kevin's grandfather's birthday with fresh cherries and strawberries, coconut "bliss" ice cream, and delicious Thai food. It was a lovely day.

Today I need to clean my house a bit in case my landlord comes inside tomorrow (there's a mouse in the garage--a detached building--and they're coming over to find it) plus work on that whole employment thing. I have one session left with the coach and I am pushing it back because I just don't feel ready to be done. I'm not done. Plus, I know it's rough out there, and I know my clock is ticking down pretty fast and I still don't know what exactly to do if I don't get a real job soon. (That wasn't a call for suggestions, for the record.)

Wednesday my sister is finally graduating from college, so I'm reppin' for the family and taking pictures. For the remainder of the week I'm also on cat duty at Steve and Jenn's. Hopefully it won't be hot as hell again this week so I'll feel able to do things other than nap and leave to find places with air conditioning that won't tempt me to spend money.

Maybe I'll also find more cool things to blog about besides my life! Let's face it, my life is most bloggable when I don't have time to do it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

To yelp or not to yelp.

I just read a story about online “reputation management” services for restaurants (link via CHOW). As an avid Yelper who is often bored enough to participate in the Talk boards, I can tell you there's lots of discussion among these Internet users/reviewers regarding the response of businesses to non-professional reviews. As you might imagine, most of them think business owners who fail to live and let live with the online crowd are... well, stupid.

The value of individual reviews can be debated for the next decade, but I don't understand why some restaurant owners seem to think that (1) you can control information on the Internet and (2) everyone believes everything some other asshole says online. So why bother getting het up because not everyone who posts an opinion that's not exactly your own marketing copy?

Most people can tell when the reviewer is being unreasonable. Most people are likely to analyze reviews in total in their own, individual ways. And most people are unlikely to respond well to obvious owner meddling. Most people want businesses to earn those rave reviews.

It's one thing if you want your restaurant's own website to show up first in a Google search, but to prevent Yelp, Chowhound, etc. from showing up at all is just kind of... dumb and limiting. People like me, for instance, might think no one cares about your restaurant enough to even review it, so why would I want to go there?

Hey, you three people who read this: how do you use sites like Yelp to determine whether or not to try a place? Do you write reviews?

I don't need to be made beautiful.

Body image, beauty, and what it means to be a woman in America today have been on my mind lately. Sad to say that part of the reason is because I keep watching What Not To Wear and while it makes me covet, it also makes me think. No, really, pretty much any old show brings up class/body image/etc. issues if you're reading it hard enough, and you don't have to look too deeply into WNTW. The entire show is about body image.

In some ways, I appreciate it. They don't tell their makeover subjects that they are fat and ugly—quite the opposite, they tell them their clothes are ugly and if they just changed the clothes they wore, they might stop thinking of themselves that way. It's simplistic, but at least in the show's editing, it seems to be true. I like the notion that looking good, and by extension feeling good, is accessible to everyone, not just those in the fashion industry or with size 2 bodies. What nags at me is that despite their ability to veer away from model beauty, they do have a fairly rigid idea of conventional beauty that must be imposed. They describe their suggested looks as sophisticated feminine. Bad clothes might look like a 12-year-old boy would wear them, or they're homeless, or androgynous. These things are putting up a wall. It's assumed that once a woman feels pretty, that's it, they only want to feel pretty.

In today's culture, there's a shape most women would do well to emulate, just as there's a shape for men, and the two are distinct. Feminine features on a man are faults to be counteracted; masculine aspects of women are de-emphasized. Men are good to go with a short haircut (maybe a little product) and a good moisturizer while women are goaded into cutting off their hair (much as I agree with the suggestion on an aesthetic level) and taught how to do a “five-minute face.”

Maybe I just get too into it, because while I'm down for the shopping (styling advice, $5,000 to buy fabulous clothes, and a free trip to New York sounds awesome) and the hair (I do my own only because I'm cheap), I'm stuck on the makeup. Why do we have to wear makeup?

Ever since my mom took away a green eyeshadow-containing toy when I was a kid, I don't recall being fascinated with the rigors of a daily makeup routine. Sure, I had a large collection of cheap, colorful nail polishes from ages 13 to 15, and there's been at least one tube of some dark red lipstick floating around my room for probably 10 years now, but I never understood the people who were afraid to be seen without a full face of makeup on and never really put it on myself. I have never owned foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara, any of that. And I think my face looks great without it. My skin isn't perfect and it might look better with makeup on it, but to me, smearing gunk on my face just to feel presentable enough to get out of the door seems antithetical to self-esteem. I don't know why I can justify flattering clothes but not makeup, but there it is.

On a related note, here's a couple links:
- The Cho Show, an interview with Margaret Cho, champion of body issues (among other things)
- The Rise of Bodysnarking, which, wow, really? (via Feministing)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More gay marriage links (I am too hot to attempt wit).

I always like reading the discussions on anything court-related over at The Usual Suspects, and today's anti-DOMA ruling is no exception.

As for the state constitutional amendment worming its way onto the ballot this fall, here's what we're up against and here's some people working to defeat it.

Petty things that drive me crazy #4.


That's all.

Wait... wait... there's more:

Why the hell did I move to California, again?

Fight for rights -- the embarrassment approach.

A dude I know online--a fellow Californian voter, married man, and soon-to-be father--is my new hero, and here's why:
[bret] ugghhhh.... constitutional amendments to declare what love is
[bret] jebus fucking shit
[bret] i railed into a guy trying to get me to sign that amendment, cause i did sign the 'increase in alternative energy money' ballot
[bret] he's like, 'while you're here, would you like to petition for a constitutional ban on gay marriage'
[bret] i said 'holy cow! no way! that's probably the worst idea for a law EVER.'
[bret] but i said it really loudly and he got embarassed
[bret] that'll teach him to promote that shit in front of MY grocery store
[bret] Safeway, all gay, all the way

See, guys, it doesn't take much. Just behave as if gay marriage is normal. Put anti-gay rights activists on the defense where they belong.

Let's hear it for good news!

Today the California state supreme court overturned the same-sex marriage ban. Apparently, it's a basic right to form a family relationship, to marry, whomever we choose (provided they're human, of age, and there's only one of them).

That is, until the voters approve a constitutional amendment banning it more permanently. If I have anything to say about it--and, as a registered California voter, I do!--that won't happen. Let's work together to make sure the homophobes don't continue to reign.

The ruling (PDF) was handed down only hours ago, but already a few of the blogs I follow have commented:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

TV Obsession Roundup #1.

Some of you know I have a problem with America's Next Top Model. I've largely broken my addiction to this truly horrible show, but still catch it sometimes if I'm not doing anything else. (Let's face it, how often am I doing something else?) Anyway, I only caught about half of the current cycle, but it was enough to turn up my nose at its "full-figured" winner. Apparently, she was teased by the mean girls in high school for not being a twig. The bitch can still shop at any normal store and doesn't come close to falling into a plus-size category, but Tyra (crazy fucking Tyra) thinks she has a new niche winner with whom to pat herself on the back. She's changing the industry! Good job, Tyra! Sheesh.

On the other hand, I enjoy Top Chef an increasing amount. I love Richard and Stephanie. I used to hate apparent speed freak Andrew, but now I find his spazzy humor endearing. He's more than a little cocky, but isn't any good chef? Dale doesn't look good on reality TV but I bet he's good. I'm watching the episode right now, and Antonia, what the hell is wrong with cooking Asian food all the time? How is that not well-rounded? That covers half the world's most respected cuisines, and he seems well-trained and well-versed in it. This week's focus on healthy eating is rad, by the way. Let's hear it for whole grains and veggies.

The third thing is VH1's Sex: The Revolution documentary series from the same people who made 1996's The Drug Years. I randomly caught the latter in one of its many marathons and found it really interesting, informative, and entertaining. The first two installments of Sex are up there, too, and I'm looking forward to catching the other half. Defamer notes in particular that Danny Glover's insight into the 1960s San Francisco Free Love scene are...enlightening.

Monday, May 12, 2008

On today's menu: deliciousness.

Some days I have just the right touch in the kitchen. Not everything I ever make is heavenly, but sometimes I do the ingredients justice, and then not only do I feel satisfied, I feel full. Mmm.

Late this afternoon I realized I needed some type of lunch, so I whipped up a red lentil and brown rice dahl with a little canned diced tomato, spiced simply with green garlic, red onion, brown mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and hot cayenne. I was quite pleased with it and its recipe-less goodness. I had it with a salad that used up my lettuce, red beet, a carrot, and a scallion with some dijon-apple cider vinaigrette.

After 8, Kevin noted that he was hungry again. I was uninspired, but I pulled out my heads of cauliflower and broccoli, a couple carrots, a tomato, and some small round summer squash, chopped them into big hunks, tossed with a little olive oil and seasoned, then roasted them until just slightly browned. Meanwhile, I cooked up a little batch of long-grain brown rice and mixed up some peanut sauce dressing (peanut butter, red curry paste, lemon juice, and a dash each of agave sweetener and soy sauce, thinned with a little water).

Dude. So good. SO good. I mean, go make it right now good. Takes some time because roasting and rice-cooking take about 45 minutes or so, but pretty low effort. You don't need to drench things with the peanut sauce, either; a little goes a long way. Roasted is the way to go with a lot of veggies; adding a tangy sauce and eating it with rice makes it a complete meal.

Of course, Kevin made his own food anyway, despite my near-heroic efforts of kitchenry. More lentils. Weirdo.

Lesson learned: applying for jobs late at night is a bad idea.

I did that on Thursday night. I don't know what came over me--I just sat there and searched all the job sites and found new ones and applied, applied, applied until about 2 a.m. My body woke me up before 8, so I didn't get my usual seven hours of sleep. I was fine on Friday--two cups of coffee helped--but by Saturday, I was unable to stop myself from napping. I just wanted to sleep all day. Yesterday, I slept until almost 9, which is very late for me, and felt like a zombie all day. Today I slept until 9:30 or so, much to the hungry bunnies' dismay. I feel more awake, though, so maybe I finally caught up.

Maybe someday I can have a real schedule again.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.

I covet. Ever since I made myself unemployed, my yearning for new wearables has grown well beyond my means, which are, naturally, shrinking. I was finally getting used to the ability to buy things just because I wanted them and being able to afford it. I was never a big shopper, but I have to admit I enjoy it. It's a sickness.

I did slip a few weeks ago after seeing one too many episodes of What Not To Wear touting the virtues of the wide-leg trouser and the fitted jacket. I love a jacket and can never get enough, but for job interviews, of course I need more than my existing assortment of crappy black slacks and jeans. So after a lot of Internet window-shopping and receipt of my stimulus check, I went to Kohl's because it's nearby, it seemed to have the type of thing I was looking for, and it was having a massive sale. And I had good luck! I found a few tops that I liked on me, and one pair of pale gray trousers. But my shopping bug was insatiable, so I went to crappy Westgate Mall, home of Target, Old Navy, Nordstrom Rack, and the shittiest Ross you ever did see. I saw nothing worthy at Ross or Old Navy. I didn't have the energy to tackle the piles at Nordstrom Rack and there weren't any cool shoes out. In Target, I found a lightweight cotton jacket in mocha and trousers in a dark chocolate that worked.

Of course, my transgressions were punished almost immediately. As I was making my getaway through the maternity section (FEAR!), I tripped and twisted my goddamn ankle.

And the other thing, my god, one simply cannot wear black oiled clogs to interviews and look polished. I have one pair of pointy-toed black kitten heels that are sufficiently professional, but I need options. I covet shoes. I covet shoes in pretty colors. My feet need more red in their life, and not just on those black-lace-with-red-patent-buckle casual flats I have. And I need to be able to walk in them without looking like a drunk, so no 3-inch slingbacks for me. I bought two pairs online, one of which is about to get sent back because as cute as they are, they run about a half size too small for my giant feet. The other is pointy, red, and basically flat. Fantastic, and cheap!


Preferably a job. Or free money.

Catching more flies with brown rice syrup.

I'm pro-choice. I'm also a vegetarian. In some ways, it feels like pro-lifers and vegetarians have philosophical overlap, and when either side takes that to its dystopic extreme, it seems to do more harm than good to their movement.

At first it might seem unfair to compare the two—though unfair to whom depends on which side you favor. But consider the tactics and imagery used.

Pro-life (anti-abortion activists, really) in its extreme uses blown-up photos of aborted fetuses and the shout the word of their wrathful god to picket abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood offices. Vegetarians—under the auspices of PETA or the Animal Liberation Front—protest with pictures of beakless chickens smothered in overcrowded coops and toss red paint on people wearing fur. Both are doing so in the name of saving lives or ending cruelty to living things. Neither are likely to convince many people to change their beliefs or actions except perhaps in the short term.

I'm the immature person who drives by a Planned Parenthood protest with my middle finger raised, but I haven't got much more respect for the off-putting tactics of PETA/ALF/et al. While I feel the need to respect all their beliefs, I disagree so deeply that it begins to offend me. I don't think it's right to guilt people into major life decisions, be it what god to follow, when to have a child, or what to eat for dinner.

My point here was less to compare and contrast vegetarians and pro-lifers and more to point out what I see as wrong with the vegetarian movement as the public sees it. Maybe it's because my entree into vegetarianism was the environmental aspects (e.g., raising a cow is an inefficient use of resources) and not because I hurt for the poor widdow animals, but I do think people are swayed by the latter too. Just not when people are confronting them about it.

I know a lot of foodies have been changing their meat-eating habits to avoid factory farming and opt for animals raised and slaughtered in more humane, sanitary conditions, and that those meats are more expensive leads some of them to expand their vegetarian repertoire. And, hey, while they're doing that, maybe they discover that there's a hell of a lot you can do without pork, chicken, fish, or beef. Radically changing one's diet is a difficult process and not one that's right for everyone, no matter how many Flash animations you develop featuring sad cows.

For me, vegetarianism is a challenge and an adventure. Sure, it's not adventurous in the sense that you get to eat offal and balut—though I do think people who do eat meat should own that fact and eat all the edible parts of an animal, which is what allows me to enjoy Anthony Bourdain—but in a puzzle sense. How can I make something delicious without using eggs, dairy, or meat?* How can I make it fresh and exciting? What can I learn to do better? What can I learn to make at home that I used to buy at the store (like fakin bacon—homemade tempeh bacon is rad)? Will my non-vegetarian friends think this is as good as I do and ask for the recipe?

That's how it ought to be done: careful personal consideration and a little helpful nudging from those of us on the other side. I'm not trying to convert, I just think that the more reasonable it seems, the more easily people can be won over by the facts. And even then, it's still a big personal decision.

* Note: I am lacto-ovo vegetarian still, but the vast majority of my home cooking is vegan for two reasons: (1) Kevin, (2) even if Kevin doesn't eat the stuff I bake, at least I know it won't be INSANELY unhealthy. Just SORT OF unhealthy, which is good enough for me when I end up eating the whole batch. Of dough. For dinner.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cognitive dissonance and the 5 pm rerun of Gilmore Girls.

I miss this goddamn show so much, I make it a point to be home at 5 pm so I can rewatch every episode. They are coming up on the show's final season, which I have only seen once. I miss this stupid show like I miss my friends back home. Okay, not really, but I still love it.

There's nothing truly wrong with loving/missing a TV show. I mean, it's stupid, but it's not wrong and I don't let it interfere with my life. The cognitive dissonance comes with its home on the ABC Family channel, which, aside from the hilarious "a new kind of family" tagline, has a pretty heavy "family values" bent. "Family values" being code for "overzealous Christian."

Every goddamn night during my precious Gilmore Girls rerun, these assholes have a commercial for the "inspirational" Christian power ballads collection, I Can Only Imagine. Take a moment to look at the Amazon page. It's not a fucking joke.

The commercial involves snippets of several songs -- two by Amy Grant, beloved of 12-year-old girls everywhere circa 1993; one of the song that made me leave the Catholic church, "Awesome God;" "God Is In Control" with a chick who looks kind of like a toned-down Cyndi Lauper (sorry Cyndi); the horrific "Butterfly Kisses;" and "In Christ Alone" by Michael English, who sings with his eyes closed and looks like a child molester. It sicks me out every single time I see this thing and fail to get to the mute button on my remote in time.

This commercial is slowly driving me insane.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Maker Faire 2008

fashion show
Originally uploaded by emily ca..

I was looking through my photos of this illustrious event and thinking, "If someone saw this, would it confuse them, yet make them want to attend?" This best fits the bill, I'd wager.

Yes, as part of a fashion show, there were people wearing bike tires and rolling around the runway on unicycles. And it wasn't even the weirdest costume (that would be the teddy bear suits).

In its third year, the Maker Faire has attaracted all kinds of media attention and been featured on many a local newscast/front page/radio report. The traffic was backed up onto the offramp from 101 and well down the ramp off Highway 92 onto Delaware St. I mean, stopped dead. The cars that could were pulling out into traffic and swerving around to take another exit. I did the same, knowing there was more than one way into this damn thing, and got off at El Camino Real, parked for a few minutes to orient myself, and eventually made it over to the fairgrounds, where my car and I sat in a long parking line for, oh, probably half an hour. That was the time to get from the turn onto Saratoga St. until I gave someone my $8 highway robbery fee and then had my car waved over to the Choose Your Own Adventure lot, where people were just parking haphazardly and I'm amazed no cars were apparently harmed in the debacle. Oh, and this was at 10:30 (to sometime after 11) in the morning, half hour after it opened. It was a freaking cluster.

Once inside, I met up with my sister and a friend of hers I hadn't met before, Tara, who is a fellow veggie and works for the only manufacturer of non-shitty frozen food, and we began our wanderings. First we took a walk around the food court, where we were plied with delicious, free chocolates. I told them we should buy our lunches now to avoid crowds later, but they were distracted by the allure of soft serve, so I went to investigate a place advertising Vietnamese sandwiches. They did not have the sandwiches yet. I do not know if they ever got the sandwiches, because the second time I tried they still weren't there so I got a veggie burger.

We wandered around all the buildings and areas, sometimes in a group and sometimes not, sometimes stopping to talk to people in booths. I talked to the woman manning The Onion's booth and she told me a bit about how they work. I picked up a copy of Edible San Francisco from their booth and tried to chat with the publisher but he didn't seem interested. The Bay Area Vegetarians caught me eyeballing their booth and called out, "Are you ready to make a change?" and then tried to make me feel like a jerk because I'm not a vegan. And that whole scene is a rant unto itself, but I'm babbling enough already.

I enjoyed a demonstration by this guy on how to make carrot caviar using the science of molecular gastronomy, then another from this lady on how to make your own shampoo from garden clippings. The latter also discussed her series of eco-friendly travel guides for cities less traveled and afterwards let me flip through her brand-new one on Olympia (!). Both the demonstrations were something I now actually want to try at home.

To cap it off, I watched belly dancing, tightrope walking, and fire eating with my sister, then we caught up with her friend's fashion show and watched that. And that is where I took most of my pictures, because it was fun to play photographer, even with a POS.

Kevin is going today with his fellow coder friend from Australia. I am sure they will find completely different adventures. That's the beautiful thing about the Maker Faire -- there's something for every geek.