Sad Meal: Bland Mexican food.

I was out to dinner in a town I visit infrequently. It’s a nice place with some good dining options. I eat at restaurants frequently and have worked in a few, so I have a clue when it comes to getting a decent meal out. I was overwhelmed with the number of Italian joints and frankly there is no lack of those back home so I decided to go for Mexican.

Decor was cute, music was good (if a bit loud), and service was prompt and friendly. Soon after sitting, I was brought the requisite homemade tortilla chips and salsa. The chips were spot on–just the right amount of salt and super-crunchy. The salsa was tomato-heavy and spiceless. “Okay,” I figured, “maybe they’re saving the heat for the main and they don’t start you off with the three-alarm.”

Well, I was wrong and I instantly began to suspect something was off when they brought out a rack of no less than eight types of hot sauce well before my plate hit the table. I really should’ve been tipped off when I was first seated and found an unmarked bottle of orange-brown mystery sauce waiting for me.

In sum: the lime-cilantro rice tasted neither like rice, lime, or cilantro. The chimichanga was only rendered edible with a bath of Cholula Chili Lime sauce (disclaimer: I do not work for the hot sauce company or receive any benefits from them or their subsidiaries).

To add insult to injury, the meal was barely warm.  How does a deep-fried chimichanga arrive to the table with cold spots?  It was precooked and then reheated in a microwave.  This is the only explanation, I reckon.

Which brings me to a biophysics question that has puzzled me for quite a while.  I am not a fan of scalding hot food and drinks, but how is it that one person can eat or drink something at a high temperature and be fine, while other people find their tongues burned and the skin on the roof of their mouth peeling for a week?  I haven’t been able to find a reputable, scientifically based explanation for this phenomenon.  If I find out, I’ll let you know.

Reconnecting.

 

A few weeks back I was spotted by a dear friend from my youth.  I was so surprised as I didn’t even know she was living in my county.  We made plans (which were cancelled and rescheduled a few times) and finally we met up for a perfectly lovely brunch.  Meeting up made me realize how many important friendships can fall by the wayside as we pursue careers and just become busy living our lives.  Also I found that distance is a huge factor in who I keep in touch with most, despite the fact that there aren’t any long-distance phone charges to pay with my phone plan, and email is free.  Once people get married and have children or get involved in Masters, PhD’s and Doctorate programs, even the time for a good phone conversation can be hard to come by.  I now appreciate that if I had trouble making time to meet with a friend who does live very close, it’s a miracle when I do manage to see anyone else who lives more than an hour’s drive.

Nevertheless, when someone does make the effort to reach out, it’s all the more important to reach back.  And if no one is reaching out, maybe it’s your turn.  If you have a friend who pops into your mind but whom you haven’t spoken to in a while, give him or her a call or send an email today, but more importantly, make plans for some face-time.  If you live far apart, that’s all the more reason to do it now so you can make plans for any vacation time you will have this summer.

As they say: Make new friends but keep the old, for one is silver and the other gold.

Snarky Linguist: Words that aren’t words and common errors.

Nother – As in, “a whole nother story,” but that’s a whole other story we shan’t get into. (I am guilty of this one)

Surveil – A back transformation from the word “surveillance,” but the word you really want is “survey.”

Of coarse. – Really?  It’s rough and bumpy?  Of course it’s not spelled right.

I should’ve went. – Maybe you should’ve gone instead.

Yes, maybe I should of gone. – Yes, I think you should have gone and stayed there.

Nucular – I’m not afraid of nucular weapons, but I do believe in nuclear disarmament.

Irregardless – Regardless of whether people use it or not, this isn’t really a word.  Still, people say it, hoping it makes them sound smarter, irrespective of the fact that it betrays their illiteracy.

Utilize – Many like to “utilize” this term when really, they just mean “use.”  Utilize is more about taking something which may or may not otherwise be helpful and making use of it in an effective and efficient manner.  You aren’t utilizing a fork to shovel cheese fries into your gaping maw; you’re just using your fork as it was meant to be.

Very unique, very original. – Unique is “one-of-a-kind” and original is the beginning of something. Things can’t be “very one-of-a-kind.”  Either it was the beginning of something, or it wasn’t.  These words take no modifiers, thank you. On a related note: I have no idea what a “full” or “complete” stop looks like.  Either you’ve stopped, or you’re still in motion.  It’s like saying that regular old “stop” means “I’m partly moving.”

Film Review: Cabin in the Woods

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An enjoyable homage by Drew Goddard (Lost, Alias, Angel, Buffy) and Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Toy Story, Titan A.E., Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) to the classic horror sub-genre of “teens go away for fun weekend of sex, booze and drugs; murderous mayhem ensues.” 

A bit horror, a bit splat-stick (some scenes not for the squeamish), a bit dark comedy, a bit sci-fi, a bit fantasy.  An excellent cast  all around (and surprising– Sigourney Weaver?!  Richard Jenkins?! Jodelle Ferland, I would recognize you anywhere) who treated the script just seriously enough to make it more fun than Scream.  Some aspects reminded me of the “Cube” movies, in a good way.  Nice twist at the end too.  Go see, says I.

Caveat Vendor: The Re-Negotiators.

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When selling a house, beware the “Re-negotiators.”  There is a price set, offers are made, countered, and finally an amount is agreed upon.  A contract is signed.  The mortgage wait begins.

Then, the Re-negotiator brings up concerns (real and/or imagined) in an attempt to get the sellers to agree on a lower price than was initially agreed to.  It makes me so mad that I end sentences on prepositions.

If you want to buy or rent a house but can’t afford it or negotiate it into the realm of reality for you at the outset, accept defeat and walk away.  It was never yours.  If you can afford it and more, but attempt to nickle and dime the owners to death after signing on the dotted line, you are cordially invited to eat a dick.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 (no spoilers)

While I realize that I’m a “Jenny-come-lately,” I just finished devouring Season 2 of AMC’s hit show, The Walking Dead. If they don’t get a whole mess of Emmy wins, they were robbed.  The acting and script are excellent.   This show, like many other great shows happening now, is very much character-driven and can get a bit slow at times, but it’s toally worth the wait to watch as the people on it develop.   Besides, I need a break in the action because when things heat up on this show, people get attacked and I find it stressful to watch.   It took me quite a while to make it through both the first and second seasons since much of the story and events are so horrifying and depressing. Nevertheless, it was a “good hurt” and I’m glad I watched it, after all.

While we may never find out what caused the “plague,” my gut tells me it was some form of biological weapon that accidentally (?) got into the water supply/food chain/air. It traveled quickly and permeated the entire human population too completely to be contained. That level of thoroughness smacks of human engineering.

I was able to enjoy this show at my leisure because I use services such as Netflix, Hulu, Itunes, and can save shows to my hard drive. Watching shows this way is very pleasurable because a) I loathe sitting through commercials, and b) it’s so maddening to have to wait for one measly show per week.   Though, even pay-for-play Hulu Plus now makes us endure a ridiculous number of advertisements. I need to inhale a storyline uninterruptedly. As it is, seasons last maybe ten to fifteen episodes. Are you old enough to recall when programs began in September and seasons typically had over twenty episodes?

When I got hooked on the show Lost, it was already three seasons in and I watched it on DVD until I caught up in about a month and a half (Yes, I know. That’s a heck of a lot of t.v. to watch. I had a month off and was being a recluse). Then I had to wait week to week and season to season, which was further delayed by the dreaded Writers’ Strike of aught-seven. Now that Mad Men is back on, I’m just not as jazzed because of this waiting. The delays are so annoying, I’d rather wait the whole season out and watch it all at once, at my own pace. When a show is gone so long, I’ve lost the momentum of the storyline. I’ve forgotten key character points and events. I’ve forgotten my theories and predictions. It’s just not as fun. That is the ultimate curse of avoiding commercials and time shifting: the eventual catching up to the present.

Bike riding.

For those of you fortunate enough to own one, bike riding is one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities I know.  If you don’t own one, some cities and towns are awesome enough to have a bike rental or co-op to join and get use of one.  It’s worth looking into.

Enjoy the feel of the wind cooling you off as you move past the scenery, and the knowledge that while you’re having fun, you are getting both a good cardio session as well as strength training for your lower body.  Engage your core and make sure to keep your shoulders open and down your back to get even more benefits.  Getting fresh air and sunshine beats pumping away in a dark crowded room smelling the sweat of others in a spin class.

Don’t let machismo or fear of flat hair deter you from wearing a helmet.  Traumatic brain injury is a sure-fire way to ruin everyone’s day.  Whether you’re on a ten-speed, mountain bike, or unicycle (saw a guy rocking one yesterday in town.  It was amazing.), put on your helmet, slap on some sunblock, grease your chain, top off the air in your tires and go for a bike ride.  You’ll feel good.

I love monkeys.

I not only love monkeys, but I love the word “monkeys.” It has the right amount of syllables, it includes a bilabial, velar, and sibilant consonant, and in the plural form, it is one of the rebellious nouns that ignores the rule of changing from “y” to “ies.”  I admit that I use this term improperly, since I love not only monkeys but most species which fall under the Order “Primate,” which includes: monkeys, apes, prosimians, and humans.

But I am certainly not alone in my love of all things simian.  When at a zoo featuring our phylogenetic cousins, I have noticed that the time and attention spent on these guys is rivaled only by time spent with the “big cats.”  They are so like us in so many ways that it’s positively mesmerizing to watch their interactions.

I think we connect with monkeys and apes on a deep level because whether we know it consciously or not, we share over ninety percent of our genetic code with them; more than 95% with our closest relative–the chimpanzee.  Sorry creationists, but DNA don’t lie.

Back in the 1970’s, there was a documentary by Barbet Schroeder that centered on Koko (full name: Hanabiko), a gorilla that was part of a psychological experiment to teach animals a form of American Sign Language to determine if they have intelligence and emotional responses on par with a human’s.  One of the key members of the project, Francine “Penny” Patterson, has devoted her entire life to training Koko and assessing her communicative intent.  Watching the documentary, I was disappointed that Penny was so intent on “humanizing” Koko–asserting physical dominance while acting as Koko’s mother, imbuing her actions with human moralistic value judgements of “good” and “bad,”  and even offering her make-up; telling her it’s to make her “pretty.”  Give us a break, Penny.

While I agree that we don’t afford primates enough protection and we don’t give them credit for their high levels of intelligence, they are not people.  The differences between us are critical and it’s inappropriate to treat monkeys and apes like our children or pets.  That’s how people’s faces get ripped off.  For goodness sake, we share over 90% of our genome with mice, yet we don’t treat them with commensurate respect.  I believe strongly that animals should be allowed to form social bonds with their own species.  If this experiment had given us undeniable, solid results, then I feel we might have been justified in they way we’ve experimented with these animals.  Unfortunately, the studies have fallen prey to the criticism that too much of the evidence is  subjective and there aren’t enough controlled empirical studies.

Koko is now forty years old and she has failed to mate thus far.  This to me, is a great tragedy as her species is dwindling in the wild due to interference from humans.  We clearly don’t know how to encourage mating in captivity, which I believe, should be our number-one focus before teaching them to “talk.”

If this has sparked your interest, check out Readings In Animal Cognition, edited by Marc Bekoff and Dale Jamieson.  In particular, give Chapter 18,  Animal Language: Methodological and Interpretive Issues a read.

A Book Review: The God Delusion

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I recently finished reading Richard Dawkins’ atheist screed which, with many cogent arguments, sound logic, and presentation of plain old facts that can’t be denied by the reasoning mind, has single-handedly turned my wishy-washy, I’m-not-100%-sure shadows of agnostic doubt into full-fledged, unapologetic atheism.  I’ve never felt better.  The weights of fear and superstition have been permanently lifted and leave me free to accept that this world and my place in it are only what I alone make of them.  I am free to determine and define my life’s purpose and value.

Richard is likely  “preaching to the converted” with this book and the devoutly religious will reject his views out of hand.  That’s fine, it’s not for them.  If you find yourself tired of sitting on that fence and getting splinters in your ass, give it a read.

Flashback: QEFTSG

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Queer Eye for the Straight Guy aired on Bravo from 2003-2007 and was the best all-around improvement show aimed at men.  The show was fresh, tight, and funny (I could never believe some of the comments Carson got past the censors!).

The Fab Five specialized in “make-betters” rather than “make-overs.”  The show addressed not only fashion remediation and apartment therapy, but also personal grooming, upgrading and expanding culinary horizons, and infusing people’s lives with art and culture.  Finally, it helped show the men in relationships ways of treating their partners with respect, thoughtfulness, as well as a little pampering.

Even the best men out there can stand to learn a thing or two from this show, and aside from the fashion tips, much of the information can help the ladies as well (we’re not born knowing how to decorate a room, set a beautiful table, or make to-die-for chocolate fondue).  If you never watched while it was on, catch clips online at Hulu, or full episodes on Netflix.