Starting Over

It was two years ago yesterday. The twenty-seventh of May.

How do you rekindle a friendship, when it seems that everything is ready for it? How do you approach it all again, when you have happy memories of that past, but remember that it went sour? How do you come face to face with that person, when you feel an uneasy guilt that you might never be forgiven for? How do you establish yourselves as friends, when you still feel like you could bring that person so close to you, and share with them all the things you missed in the meantime?

How do you start over, when you're afraid you'll so easily be drawn in more than you should? Am I really afraid of it, or denying to myself that I'm actually hoping for it?

Damned, Filthy Liars

My phone received my daily weather SMS this morning.

rain rain rainThu: Scattered showers. High 22, Low 13.
Fri: Partly cloudy. High 20, Low 11.
Sat: Mostly sunny. High 23, Low 12.

Then I looked out the window to a beautifully sunny sky.

sun sun sunWhy do weather people bother making predictions if they're just going to lie or guess randomly? I mean, I can guess randomly. And I can definitely do better on my own by looking out the window.

All Torn Up

Consider, for example, one of those soy sauce packets from the local Chinese takeout place.

When you tear a package open, you generally put your thumbs and forefingers together somewhere along the serrated edge in the packaging. (If you're lucky, your packet might have that little cut in it that's pre-started for your convenience.)

Now imagine yourself tearing that packet open, by gripping and separating your hands. Which hand tore backwards (towards your body) and which tore forward (away from you)?

Unintentional Arm Workout

I remember back when I had my Civic, all the windows were manual. You had to roll them down with your arm, each one at a time. I remember how the only window I could adjust on the fly was the driver side one; that was it. If I wanted I would have to wait until my car was stopped at a light, lean and reach way over to the right side, and frantically roll the passenger side window down to the desired height for air flow. Because if I got it wrong, I got blustering wind, or had to endure more summer heat, since I had no air conditioning.

And I'd have to put up with it until the next red light.

I quickly found the "settings" for an optimum summer driving breeze: driver side halfway down, and the passenger side all open, with the sunroof completely open. On my Civic, that was where cool winds, warm sun, and good music met and mixed in the perfect blend.

Heck, do they even make cars with manual windows anymore??

35mi South of Fresno

There they were, in all their glory. It was the second time I had visited, and they offered themselves to me freely, beautiful in the gentle morning sun. I couldn't wait to take them home and run my lips over their taut skin, and enjoy the sweetness of their presence.

fresh from the farmer's marketLocally grown, organic strawberries will be the death of me, I tell you. And at $5 for three little baskets, my wallet isn't too appreciative either. But I will never, ever go back to those "giant California strawberries". The ones that are a different species bred for ship-ability, size, and shelf-life, which make them cheaper in the supermarkets. But those features come at a different cost: taste, juicyness, and overall strawberry-ness.

Try it. You'll know what I mean.

Unexpected in a Commercial

Companies (or their ad agencies) are getting more and more creative with their commercials. KFee, for instance, has employed a very interesting use of sound to couple with the visual of the auto (car). You'll see what I mean.

Ogres & Donkeys

onions have layers, ogres have layers
Shrek 2 has moved their opening date around repeatedly, from June 18 to May 21, to whatever. Special engagement was last night, we discovered and we set out to watch the sequel to an endearing film. Not more than 80 people joined us for our 9:55pm showing.

The overall story didn't seem to engage me quite as much as the first one, but the characters and situations are hilarious. (I was pretty proud in being able to identify the actors behind the voices. They did a great job.) Extremely entertaining, with all of the little "easter egg" allusions to other movies, brands, and lines. And, of course, the progress of animation realism never ceases to amaze me.

Haven't yet decided if this will make the cut to join my DVD collection.

Travelling Light

I pack a lot of stuff in my car when I go places -- bottled waters, protein bars, my cooler, sweater, etc. But for things I carry in my pockets or on me, I really prefer to travel light. Very light: keys, lip balm, wallet, cellphone, and maybe a digital camera.

My dad carries a wallet the size of a small brick -- it's literally 2" thick and chalk full of receipts, slips of papers/notes, cards, etc. I carry a "wallet" that holds maybe 8 cards and is under 0.5" thickness. But this wallet is getting old, and I need to replace it.

simple, elegantI've seen some wallets (card cases) that have a maximum capacity of 4-6 cards plus money. (Coach one pictured here, but Kenneth Cole has a similar one for considerably less.)

Could you make do with just 6 cards? (I know some of you could, and do.) What would carry if you could only bring 6 cards with you? Driver's license is a given, as is (at least) one credit card.

And how would you deal with not having the rest? For instance, Safeway lets you key in your phone number instead of swiping your Safeway card, and Banana Republic can look your BR Card based on your SSN, so you don't really need either of those cards.

Train (Wreck) of Thought

[ ed. note. Warning: this is long. You can tell, just by looking below and seeing it. I shouldn't have to be telling you this kind of thing. ]

My CEO has a yellow Hummer H2.

It's a nice yellow that makes it look like a real-life Tonka truck; it's not faded pastel like a candy. I mean, the faded kind would look pansy on a ruff-n-tuff truck like the H2, but looks great on my friend's Z3. I guess you wouldn't want the roadster too bold of a shade anyway, or else you'd be easily targeted by the police. And you know those cops: they target based on profiling.

Red is one of those targeted colours too, because it stands out. Like on the ski slopes, it's easy to spot a red jacket amidst those khakis and dark shades nowadays. Shades. Do they still call them shades, or is the hip term "sunglasses" now? I think someone poked fun at me for calling them shades, but we all know what I'm talking about, right? Those plastic, polycarbonate, or glass lenses that go over your eyes to shield against bright light. In a city, the lights are mostly buildings, lampposts, and traffic lights. Lots of whites, yellow, red, and greens. I guess the human eye really picks up on that range of visible light, which makes sense why traffic lights have red for "stop". But I wonder how it was decided so readily that green could be "go" -- seems like it's accepted the world over, doesn't it? It could just as easily have been blue, for instance. But then, blue is so overdone these days: phones, lights, bedsheets, gizmos, gadgets, everything is blue. But not a lot of things are naturally blue. Barely any foods. Just blueberries, really, and they're only blue on the outside and kind of an ugly yellow on the inside. And anyway, they're not even in season right now; we should be enjoying strawberries as much as we can. Especially those organic kind. They're small, sweet, and extremely saturated with that strawberry flavour -- I'll never go back to buying supermarket strawberries regularly again. And they're red. Not blue.

Even the sky and the ocean aren't really blue, except that it has something to do with wavelengths of light coming back at us, and some physical optical law of refraction or whatever with the atmosphere. But in the sky, I'm glad when there are nice fluffy white clouds in it, to provide some contrast to the vast openness, some kind of sense of scale against such a grandiose backdrop. I guess that affinity to clouds comes from growing up in Vancouver, except that back then, we saw too many clouds all the time. And mostly they were carrying large loads of water with them to dump on us. I also remember not wanting to wear rain boots as a child because they looked lame and they were made of rubber, which made my feet uncomfortable when I sweat; I opted to get soaked to the bone (and feet) instead of looking stupid. Funny, because when I look back on those pictures of me as a kid, I looked stupid anyway. I suppose I should have just worn the boots and looked stupid while being dry and catching fewer colds.

Hmm, I wonder if not getting sick so often when younger would have helped me grow another inch or two in height, so that I could be 5'10" or taller? Then maybe it would give me more raw power for working out and playing sports. I mean, right now, I barely play any sports, let alone team sports. Still, I consider myself a team player, just not in the active sport sense. I guess if I were taller, I would want to be more active to take advantage of that. And I would look better driving a bigger car, instead of being dwarfed out like a midget in a semi. I mean, I'm not a tiny guy, and I fit my GTI nicely, thank you very much. But I don't think it would look right if I wanted to drive an SUV.

Especially not a Tonka-yellow H2, like my CEO has.

She's Ain't Worth It

Troy is a long movie. Go and pee before it starts -- I like to go during the trailers, since those can take up to 20 minutes anyway. And Brad Pitt was really buff for this film -- rather inspiring for me to be more disciplined in my lifestyle. The chick, she's pretty, but she's definitely not worth a thousand ships. And is Orlando Bloom in any films without a bow and arrow or a sword in his hand?

Mixing It Up, 18/10 Style

My recent trek to Costco was great -- I would even go as far to say it was successful. Sometimes they're not, you see. Sometimes they run out of the highly-prized rotisserie chicken. Sometimes they have no more turkey croissant sandwiches boxed with caesar salad. Sometimes I only find one thing on my mental list, and then find myself in a long line-up at the cash register.

But today, today was different. It was efficient and fruitful: I got my deli selections, a chicken, and my 18/10 stainless steel mixing bowls! Costco stopped carrying them, and after a month of searching to no avail, I was afraid I would have to fork out big bucks in a regular store.

But lo and behold, as I strolled down the cookware aisle with my last shred of faint hope, there she sat. Waiting to be picked up and examined, by eager young gentlemen like me; she was so gorgeous, I was happy to do so. Plus seven of her younger sisters. A set of eight (with lids) for $24.99, the best deal I could possibly ask for.

I love Costco. And clearly, Costco loves me.

Shouldn't Oughtta Done That

Regret. ri·GRET. n.

1 : sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one's control or power to repair
2 : an expression of distressing emotion (as sorrow or disappointment)
3 : what happened yesterday when I returned to the office after lunch time, where I had a craving for some Korean BBQ, and I walked by a place in the complex, and proceeded to stuff myself full of all-you-can-eat BBQ goodness for 90 straight minutes
4 : what I were reminded of as I spent the rest of the afternoon smelling like smoky meats (the chopstick-hand more so than the other)
5 : the feeling I got when I remembered how much carbs and fat (not to mention sodium) must have been in that food, all 3 million calories of it that I consumed at said lunch

Creative Freedom Reborn

So Blogger goes and changes the interface, which dictates how I get to write to all of you (and likely how many of you are also updating your blogs). The new design definitely has some advantages, but also has a lot of points that I don't like.

Well, it turns out Blogger has also updated their templates. So I just spent a good part of my evening (and my workday) creating a new look for you, my devoted audience. I borrowed a pre-set template called TicTac Blue and made tons of tweaks to my liking (basically to kind of resemble my older look a little).

Please let me know what you think of it, and if anything doesn't work!

Only Skin Deep?

Beauty is only skin deep, they say. Girls go to the ends of the earth to find products to help them keep it, enhance it, modify it, all that. I remember one girl in high school who avoided smiling or laughing, hoping it would slow the crow's feet! Me, I started out like any other guy, just soap -- yeah, the same soap we scrub our asses with.

And then I started caring more.

I dunno why. I guess it helps to look decent, right? I tried some Anthony glycolic acid cleanser but it felt acidic and harsh. I tried Anthony algae facial wash, but it smelled like ocean -- and not the clean, refreshing kind of ocean either. So I'm still using my Biotherm detox facial wash.

such lovely skin you have, my dearBut my friend recently started offering the Dermatics premier line on Princess Skincare. He's been lucky, because Dermatics has very exclusive distribution right now; not even available in salons! And they are apparently made to treat all sorts of skin conditions I never heard of! We all know of age spots, acne and acne scars, clogged and enlarged pores, wrinkles, sagging skin, etc.

What about melasma, and hyperpigmentation marks? I don't know what they are, but they don't sound fun. And what are hyperactive sebaceous glands? Do I have those glands? I suppose if I did, I wouldn't want them to be hyperactive; I'd rather them be just the-perfect-amount active.

I've seen some positive reviews for Dermatics, and though I haven't tried it yet, maybe I'll have to. So I don't get melasma, because I dunno if my company medical plan covers that. But I do floss regularly. Does that help?

Park It There, Buddy!

In the Bay Area, drivers spend a considerable amount of time parking (or looking for it). And I always wonder how parking experts study the most efficient way to pack parking spots into a certain space.

wait, where did i park my car again?At what angle should those parking spots be? How narrow can they get that aisle? And why is it that no matter how much space there is between stalls, your neighbouring car always parks right on the line next to your car and leaves your vehicle riddled with dents and dings, while you're still sitting in it and then looks at you like you're invading their privacy?

I digress.

But I do wonder why the front of those angled parking spots aren't angled as well. Instead, most lots have a straight line that runs parallel to the aisle, so that you have to judge the distance based on the car's corner, not overall front bumper. You're just asking for it, because both cars might overshoot that corner, or undershoot it, leaving wasted space.

And don't tell me that you're assuming intelligence on the part of the driver. I think we can safely rule that out. Anywhere in the world.

Well, evidently, someone has made some design notes on the topic. I mean, this parking lot traffic flow issue is really a science, with visibility issues and car turning radii, and the whole shebang. And then it gets more complicated as you add multiple levels!

Heck, I didn't even know there was an international parking design standard. I'll bet those are a fun bunch of people to hang with at a party -- they're the ones rearranging where all the potluck dishes are, so that people can quickly and easily get their food, condiments, utensils, and napkins in the right order.

(Wait. That's me.)

Commonly Found

I've always wondered what the difference was between "perverse" and "perverted". (That is, so I know which to be offended from more, when someone called me one of those.) In my search, I came across an interesting site presented by Paul Brian that lists some common errors in English. (In many cases, you can find these exhibited by AOL users.)

His website shows a bunch of examples of how people today make mistakes in the language, even when they seem educated and comfortable with extended diction. For instance, lay/lie, myriad of, assure/ensure/insure, and complement/compliment (complementary/complimentary). Even conversate is covered there, which is so commonly used on a local radio station that it drives me up the wall. And though we've been programmed to believe that gotten is not proper English, it actually is!

After all, this, I still question the difference between perverse and perverted -- it wasn't there. I believe I'm neither, but ya never know.

Nuke It

Nothing has revolutionized modern cooking the way microwaves have.

It used to be that we had to punch in the time we wanted to nuke our food: 2 (minutes) ... 2 (twenty) ... 7 (seconds). But most microwaves nowadays have an easy one-minute button; with just one press, your food instantly warms for 60 seconds. Some (like mine) even have a +30s button. And adapting to this convenience, a lot of people now just round their cook times up/down to the nearest minute and repeatedly press the button to that amount.

But what if you want to warm something for an odd or exact amount of time? Like making 3tbsp of melted butter, or softening up a flour tortilla? Only takes 10s or so. I find that I always press the +30s and figure, "I'll stop it at 0:20." and I have to keep an eye on that time while I tend to other kitchen work in the meantime. More often than not, I get carried away and end up cooking the stuff for 15s, or even completely letting the 30s lapse! And yet, I don't know why I still insist on doing it this way (besides the fact that I'm stubborn in my ways).

But this got me to thinking about how "convenient" these buttons really are. I mean, how many people have overcooked foods in the microwave (or cooked longer than they intended, even if the food didn't come out overcooked), because they opted to save on keypresses in the beginning, and didn't watch their nuclear edibles?

Hella-Smelly Yellow-Pee

Last Wednesday night, I had some people over for steaks, sided with some beautifully seared asparagus (thank you, thank you). This sprouted a conversation on the wonders of this vegetable -- after all, a scene of Austin Powers in Goldmember really spears the point. Questions begged.

the root of all evilWhy does it make our pee smell?
Why does it make our pee so yellow?
Can this be used as some kind of territory-marking liquid around our homes, like wolves do in the wilderness?

I went to ask Greenworks to get the straight dope on this local harvest, and understand generally how stuff works with asparagus. Here's a 15-second summary.

Asparagus has six sulfur-containing compounds in it. The smell is caused by S-Methyl Thioesters, which are compounds that result from the reaction of an acid with one of those sulfur-containing alcohols. But not everyone gets it: about 40% notice the smell, and the rest don't. Why? The jury's still out. Some think the 40% have an enzyme that lets us to break down the sulfurous amino acids to produce the smellier components, while others believe those 40% have a gene that gives the ability to smell those odours. (I personally believe the former reasoning, though this should be easy to sort out by experiment: just have them smell each other's pee.)

Either way, it's a small price (for others) to pay for such a delicious vegetable (for you). And aside from the pee smell, it has very good nutritional value and taste. (I mean the asparagus, not the asparagus urine.)

Sit, Ubu, Sit. Good Dog.

What's that, Lassie? You really like dancing with Olivia Newton John? (Warning, large video file, but worth watching.) Oh, and by the way, happy Cinco de Mayo.

I Didn't Know (Flap) Jack

As I tried my hand at making some Good Eats pancakes this past weekend, I sure learned a few things. First of all, the order of mixing all the ingredients in the recipe is

[ (butter + egg yolks) + (buttermilk + egg whites) ] + [ all dry ingredients ]

- Make sure the buttermilk/whites mixture isn't too cold when you add the butter/yolk mixture, or the butter will solidify and you'll have to start over. (Uh, hypothetically speaking.)
- On my large burner, around 4.5 is the right temperature (350F) where water dances without bubbling violently.
- Your griddle must be ready before you mix the dry ingredients with the wet, because you want to make the pancakes immediately after mixing.
lumpy batter- When you mix in the dry with the wet, whisk and fold quickly, 10 seconds maximum (or else your pancakes will get tough and chewy instead of light and fluffy).
- Leave the lumps; they'll disappear during cooking!
- I desperately need to buy a set of mixing bowls instead of doing it in eating bowls, ghetto-style. But at least I have a whisk.
- My 4" spatula means I can flip 5" or 6" pancakes nicely, which means a 3oz ladle for batter.
- None of my ladles have labels on them, so I can't tell how much they hold. And I need to buy a bigger spatula to make bigger pancakes.
- Putting a small pat of butter on a paper towel, and using that to wipe up the pan is the perfect amount of butter.
- If you try to pour more batter on one side to make the pancake rounder, the browned side shows obvious signs of how you tried to cheat. Just leave it alone.
- In the beginning, you won't see bubbles. Wait for that 120F point, where they start releasing, and then wait for the bubbles to set.
flipped and nicely browned- You have to flip swiftly and lightly.
- Frozen blueberries have too much liquid in them to make good blueberry pancakes. And there are no fresh blueberries to be found in the summertime.
- I sure make a big mess for just 6 delicious pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. (Product of Maine, USA. I'm saving my Ontario maple syrup for special occasions.)
- I could probably have folded in some finely chopped apples and cinnamon to make a few of those.
- If I ever invite friends over for a pancake breakfast, I'll need two more griddles to get enough "bandwidth".

Now that I have the "instant" pancake mix (those dry ingredients), I can make about 35 more pancakes with ease (just need butter, buttermilk, eggs) within the next 3 months. Sweet. :-) What else can I eat with / in pancakes??

1 + 1 = 2

She's in a flurry, running around the apartment, getting ready to go out with her friends. Late again, I imagine. I continue casually stirfrying some ground pork with vegetables. She approaches me hurriedly, pulling a $20 bill halfway out of her purse.

"Do you have change for a $20? Two 10's?"
"Hmmm ... let me go check."

I leave the pan on simmer, wipe my hands and get my wallet. A $10 bill, some wrinkly $1's, and a few $20 bills. I reach the end of the folded bills without finding enough to make another $10 for her.

a ten dollar bill. just one."Nope, sorry, I just have this $10."
"Okay, never mind then."
"Well, do you just need the ten for now? You can borrow this and pay me back later. No big deal."

She pondered whether that might help her cause.

"Um, maybe. Do you have another $10?"

I look at her with the single $10 still clutched in my hand. I couldn't decide whether to just stare at her incredulously, or to laugh out loud. I chose the latter.

Twist of Fate

I woke up like I did any other Saturday morning, and hit the treadmill to the soothing sounds of FoodTV, got lazy, and cut my run about 5 minutes short. And eggs and ham for breakfast. Yeah, nothing special.

oh, this is gonna be a doozy of a storm!But what was unusual was the contact made to me nearer noon. Someone unexpectedly messaged me, with an unsaid purpose -- but only small talk began. I braced for the news, bunkering against the pending lightning and thunder, expecting the worst.

Strangely, no such storm came. No heavy rains to drench me to the bone, no torrents of winds to slam me against walls and rid me slowly of my will to live. Instead, pleasant news. Ironically, it was an announcement that the worst of the storms were indeed over, and that the skies would eventually clear up, allowing the sun to shine once again.

I was ecstatically relieved. And pleased. A shadow of doom had been lifted.

It was like ... when you're showering with the curtain drawn, and you hear that creak of a door opening and you see the outline of a person holding some kind of sharp object in their hand in that scary stabbing position, and suddenly in your head is that repetitive screeching violin chord that means someone in the movie is going to die. And when you thrust the shower curtain open, ready to meet thy doom, you discover it's a huge, happy, furry rabbit offering you a bag of delicious candies that you loved as a child.

It was like that.

Like when there's this Tupperware in the back corner of your fridge with old food in it, and you've known that it's been there for quite a while, but somehow never get around to cleaning it out, and it just gets older and has that menacing feeling hanging over you. When you finally have the guts to open it and throw out its contents, you're scared that what you open will bubble up at you with nasty stenches and multi-coloured furry mold, but when you finally tear the cover up, there's a perfectly medium-rare filet mignon slathered in a beautiful red wine reduction over top.

Yeah, like that. Kind of a nice way to start the weekend.

Blonde, Hot and Bothered

After some initial pondering, I've concluded that California is definitely not the best place to have a convertible, especially in the unseasonably hot weather we've been having of late (30+ degrees).

is that license plate legal?But you certainly wouldn't know it from those gorgeous, Hollywood-glorified blondes from Los Angeles. With their shiny manes and sun-golden tans, TV and movies would have you believe that they are commonly found driving around SoCal in a sporty luxury convertible on a hot summer's day! (These ladies are also typically single, carefree, and openly flirtatious with any boys along the drive. Supposedly.)

But when the mercury rises, leather seats get hot. I mean hot, like egg-frying hot. So you can imagine the impossibility of girls jumping into their cars without searing their booty roasts (lightly brushed in suntan oil). And the sun bearing down with its broiling heat makes being in direct sunlight almost unbearable -- how do you stand it, when people are continually seeking shade? The movies / shows also don't show you the next day, when they're red as lobsters, skin starting to peel off their noses and foreheads. Or even twenty years later, when you see the leathery sun-damaged skin of such ex-beauties.

But I digress. The point is, I'll bet that Vancouver and Seattle are more ideal for convertible driving than SF or LA. Yeah. That's all I have to say about that.