Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm grateful for...

Just a random list of things I'm grateful for. Because I felt like it. Order is probably determined by what is affecting me at this moment. Don't expect anything deep.

  1. people that care
  2. milk of magnesia
  3. my therapist
  4. vacation
  5. the WWW
  6. Animal Planet
  7. forgiveness
  8. deep breathing
  9. freedom
  10. acceptance

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Earl tries to be a Babel fish

Earl has been sent to his room and the door taped shut!

Earl, the jerk. I bet he was just having the time of his life and didn't intend to cause mental and emotional trauma to us humans who love and adore him.

What happened a few nights ago is a fish owner's third to worst nightmare (the boiling fish event would be a close second, I'd say). I attribute it to my good luck and occasional light-sleeping skills that he's even alive today.

I believe it was around 3am (i.e. after midnight) that I was woken by a clattering somewhere in the apartment. I lay there in bed suspecting if it was just something that had fallen off a shelf because of bad placement, or an invisible breeze, or if someone was trying to break in, or . . . I eventually figured we'd find out what fell in the morning, so I let my eyes drift closed. . . .

And what seemed like 10 minutes later was again woken by a muffled crash and multiple involuntary thuds and shuffling. Wouldn't you figure, this thing making all the noise was alive. I was convinced it had to be none other than Earl leaping up beyond his world and straight into destruction. The typical Babel story. It took me three tries to shake my boy awake (he sleeps deep, man!). "Did you hear that??" "No." "I think it was Earl!" "No it wasn't." "What else could it have been?" "I don't know." So I screwed up my courage for the sake of my oscar fish and said, "I'm going to go check it out."

So I edged my feet to the office where the fishtank is (didn't want to accidentally step on anything remotely wet or slimy), flashed on the lights, and peered into the room expecting the worst. I have to say, seeing your favorite fish's 10-inch body like a slab embedded in the carpet is a very sad thing. Even from afar. My heart leaped in my chest, and like a normal girlfriend, I yell "Earl is on the FLOOR." and wait for Pete to drag his butt out of bed and fix it.

It was especially tough because I couldn't figure out when he had jumped. My mind was racing -- was it the first time I heard the clatter? Or the second time when I heard the shuffles? And how long has he been out of water? 1 minute? 10 minutes? Oh god, is . . . he . . . d-e-a-d-?? Pete pokes Earl's body a couple times with a fish net. He's a goner, I know it. "Little buddy's dead. Get me a plastic bag."

I double bag it.

After sliding Earl's body around on the carpet (apparently he's one heavy s.o.b.), Pete reels back as Earl starts flipping around like crazy -- one last attempt at omnisciency? "He's alive!!" Pete grabs the bucket, gets Earl to flip directly into it, and dumps him back into the tank, carpet fluffs attached and all.

We immediately duct tape the lid shut and that was that.

I lay in bed on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and Pete was out for the count again. So much for support.

Earl didn't eat for a day or two, but he's almost back to his usual self, chasing Monty and Succubus around, attacking his reflection, and poking his mouth out of the water during feeding time.

Every now and then, I succumb to the great urge to yell "JERK YOU AIN'T NEVER COMIN' OUT AGAIN" at him for scaring us like that. Honestly.

The jerk.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Loving you was so easy.

Today, I cried about a dog. Maybe it was the carcinogenic seasoning affecting my brain, or maybe I connected with a bit of life that hits me in precious moments too few and far between.

There was a guide dog that was helping a blind lady on a crowded bus on my way home. He was a medium-sized dog, with shiny black hair. What caught my attention, besides the fact that he was a cute animal, was that he crossed one of his front paws over the other while he sat. From my perspective, he looked so sad lying with his belly on the bus floor next to his owner's feet, surrounded by a cage of swaying legs and shoes, trying not to skid around while the bus lurched forward and ground to way too many unnecessary halts, meanwhile making himself as immobile as possible to avoid being stepped on. Oh well, the bus lurched again and his tail was stepped on by a lady who lost her balance. The poor dog didn't make a sound, just tucked its tail forward and kept its head down.

I've seen a few guide dogs on the subway, but this one really moved me. I felt sorry for the dog, not for the blind human. I felt bad that the dog was forced into a life of servitude, destined to lead a human around and not enjoy its own freedom. I was amazed at the dog's courage to confront human rush hour on public transportation every day, heed what his owner wanted to do. I leave for work either at 7:45am or 9am just to miss the masses, because I have a choice.

I felt a lump grow in my throat and tears start forming. Luckily, it was a few minutes before my stop. Tears flowed free on my walk home, though!

While I'm relieved that I am still able to feel spontaneous emotion, I'm concerned that I felt more compassion for this dog than for the human. Is that just me?

I hearted fries.

I don't know if it's all the pro-organic, pro-vegetarian, sustainability books I've been reading recently ("The Food Revolution" by John Robbins and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan), but it may be affecting the way I taste (food, not me personally).

For the past year, I've generally tried to avoid fast food as much as possible. No temptatious nuggets, no pungent hamburgers, well, the occasional grilled chicken sandwich because it must be healthier than the other stuff on the combo menu! But there's no way around the fries. I crave fries every day. I love Burger King fries, they always seem to be fresh.

But today, I got Wendy's. It honestly tasted like there was a slimy coating of melted plastic wrapped around each fry. The more I chewed, the more it "crunched" between my teeth, but not in a good way. No fry has ever tasted like this to me before. . . . I imagined my stomach being assaulted by carcinogenic seasoning and butane-laced grease. In disgust, I slowly and regretfully stopped eating, and ended up throwing the majority of it out. And I had made it a medium! $1.55.

I hope this change is for the good cause I thought fries and I had a beautiful relationship. . . .

Gonna go watch Fast Food Nation now. What a coincidence it came in the mail.

Monday, September 17, 2007

More notable Sinfest!

Helps you breathe and remember to smile!

Sinfest, September 17, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Deep Relaxation Response

I've become an avid fan of mental and physical stress reduction brought on by racing thoughts, constant sitting posture, life pressures, and social stressors. I go about this in several ways. They include massage (once a week), acupuncture (once a month), and meditation (daily, when I remember). I'm hoping to incorporate yoga, exercise, and other regular hobbies to have a more varied routine (and to reduce the financial output -- massages run about $90/hour...).

I've noticed a pattern in the deep relaxation response that occurs when I'm "undergoing" stress reduction that I thought would be interesting to share, and to inquire if others experience similar -- or different -- effects.

During Massage:

  • Increased salivation
  • Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Tingling up the base of the head, and throughout the crown of the head, especially when another part of the body is being treated
  • Tingling throughout body
  • Muscle "jerking"/sudden release of tension
  • Automatic smiling
During Acupuncture:
  • Transition of color spectrum in vision (green tint to red to green, blue tint to red to blue, and so on)
  • Muscle "jerking"/sudden release of tension
During Meditation:
  • Increased salivation
  • Warmth spreading throughout body, especially in the extremities
  • Tingling/buzzing in area between eyebrows
  • Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Overall muscle relaxation
  • Even breathing
  • Decrease in racing thoughts
  • A feeling of stability and security
Looking at the list, it's amazing to notice how the body responds naturally and consistently throughout different types of sessions, and to ponder the reasons it does so.

OM Restaurant, Harvard Square, II

Promptly at 6, we were led up to the second floor, the second "level of enlightenment," according to the restaurant's website. A quieter, more private setting.

[Continued from previous post, OM Restaurant, Harvard Square.]

We were led up the rich wooden stairs and emerged on the second floor. It had a very earthy, but sparse decor, with small clay and stone sculptures in nooks and crannies in the walls on, and a nicely lit centerpiece painting on the ceiling.

As we were seated at a clean, clothed table for two, the service started immediately. A bowl of herb-and-cheese seasoned popcorn, and warm bread were placed between us. It was refreshing to be attended to by a respectful, mature, well-dressed, and alert group of servers, some with the role of simply clearing the table when we had finished a course. A very smooth operation.

After ordering, we were given a complimentary amuse bouche, a bite-sized hors d'oeuvre to whet the appetite in anticipation of the main courses. Now, I had never had an amuse bouche, but had learned about them in a Top Chef episode, the cooking competition show on Bravo. I was excited to try one and see what the glamorous fuss was all about. I was expecting an amuse bouche to be a single bite of tasty solid food (as they were in Top Chef), but it came as a frothy light-green liquid in a shot glass. Described to us as a puree of cucumbers, Thai curry, basil, and other things I can't remember, we hesitantly sniffed, sipped, and smacked... the cucumbers made it oddly refreshing and light, the Thai Curry introduced a playful and sensual aroma into the back of the mouth and nose, and overall, the extreme saltiness curled the stomach and prickled the salivatory glands into second gear. I admit that it was beyond anything I had ever experienced because it was such a daring combination of completely separate ingredients (drinking a cucumber and curry shake, who wudda thunk??). A+ for originality.

After the majority of the amuse bouche was cleared away, without reproach from the staff I might add gratefully, the two starter courses came. The young greens salad with shallots and herbal "Banyuls" dressing, and fried cucumbers (notice a theme?) were delectable in their own unique way. I'm a fan of fried foods, although I am advised to stay away from them due to a particularly sensitive digestive system, and I can say that I am a huge fan of the fried cucumbers -- the batter was crispy on the outside, light on the inside, and the cucumber was juicy and soft. To top it off, the mayonnaise sauce was a stimulating compliment to the subtle flavors of the cucumber. I would go back again just for that!

The young greens salad was a bit more challenging in that the dressing was, again, infused with exotic herbal flavors that I had not experienced before. Had I been a little more fearless, I may have enjoyed it for its uniqueness and divergence from the standard "balsamic vinaigrette," but honestly, it left me feeling like I was eating from an aromatherapy garden. Soothing at first, but feeling drugged towards the halfway point. I gave it up for my sister to devour, while I finished off the fried cucumbers. Good deal.

Then the main course. Elephant Trunk Sea Scallops was presented in an artistic flourish of sweet English pea puree with basil and mint, luxuriating in a bed of smoked bacon, red onion, and mushrooms. What an unexpected combination of flavors, you say! Yes indeed. This was a thrilling plate because scallops are one of my comfort foods, and dipping the soft body into the thickness of the puree was grand. The contrast of seared scallop and sweet pea/sweet basil/refreshing mint was not so intimidating as one would expect. In contrast, there was balance and everything seemed to melt in your mouth. The aggressive flavors of bacon, onion, and mushroom served well to refresh the palate between bites of scallop, just to keep the party going, so to speak.

And indeed, it was a party. Stuffed and no room for dessert. I'll let my sister talk about that!

Overall, a positive dinner experience with many firsts. The next time I feel exploratory, I'll be sure to come back for new eats, and to meditate on the Buddha god.

For more information:
OM Restaurant
92 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sinfest Faves

I read Sinfest every day. It's been my ichi-ban suki-na online comic (number-one favorite) since I discovered it 7 years ago when I was studying Japanese in the Cornell FALCON program (no connection between the two besides the aforementioned). Here are four strips that I particularly like.


Everything's Gonna Be All Right

Day in the Life 5

Messed Up Life

I'm striving to be like the Buddha character. Peace within and happiness in life sound good to me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

OM Restaurant, Harvard Square

My sister and I tried "OM," a restaurant offering modern American cuisine by Chef Rachel F. Klein. Located on the inner skirts of Harvard Square, it is a regal and exotic treasure amidst the flurry of Hahvad students, crazies, homeless, and the rest of academic civilization.

I had known of its existence since the beginning of my stint in Cambridge two years ago, but had always assumed that it was an overfluffed Indian restaurant judging from the name and symbol of "OM" emblazoned on the large sign lit brightly enough for all to see.

I suppose I should have been more interested in/open about it before last week when I actually went in and tried it for the first time. I was missing a bonding place.

Immediately upon entering, I was attracted by the cleanliness of the interior. We were greeted by a running wall-fountain that spanned the entire entrance, wrapping me in a blanket of comfort and protection. Until the dining floor opened at 6pm, we were directed to enjoy the lounge whose windowed walls were was open (unfortunately) to the ground-level mini-quad that is also shared by Pete's Coffee, ex-Tower Records, and Grendel's Patio outdoor diners. Sounds quaint until you realize that the green grass is littered with trash, and the air smells faintly of dumpster trash, littered cigarette butts, and unwashed wandering bodies. And if you enjoy your privacy, the loads of people walking by isn't particularly helpful. Such is the current situation in good ol' Harvard Square.

The waitresses/hostesses were beautifully made-up and smiling. The cocktails were beautiful and appetizing. The lounge was beautiful, the sofas were sleek and I wanted to lean all the way back and fall asleep on them.

The most dominant and impressive feature of the lounge is the wall to wall Thangka painting of Kali, perhaps; the goddess of creation and destruction. Ironically, it was a truly enlightening experience to observe the looming image and see the hope pervading the surface amidst the chaos and existence of death and suffering. It was an experience true to the vision of the locale for sure.

Promptly at 6, we were led up to the second floor, the second "level of enlightenment," according to the restaurant's website. A quieter, more private setting.

[to be continued when it's not past my bedtime]

Coolio cups!

Thanks to the positive review and pretty pictures in Wired Magazine, I gave in to the consumer temptation to purchase the new Bodum Canteen cups: the double glass wall thermo cup with handle.

It's after 10pm and I'm sitting here drinking a steamy cup of decaf green tea, enchanted by the hovering inner sanctum. I can't help but smile spontaneously every time I glance at the shiny liquid encased in a layer of air. I don't usually drink tea at night ever. Or during the day. Except at Asian restaurants. What a cool cup.

How ingenious. How magnificent. It makes me really wish I could drink lattes. Creamy, rich lattes would look really good in those glasses. I might have to bust out my rice milk now.