Sep 12, 2016

Recurrence

I've had this dream before, that I had to save a bunch of civilians from a mafioso style attack coming in from the streets into some kind of scientific/technical building with grand staircases and boiler rooms and silos. I was supposed to take them to the furthest point away from the gunfire, some dark room with a heavy steel door, and just as the bad guys open it up, backup arrives and the cops save the day.

It was supposed to be the same dream, but this time before I can take the civilians to the dark room to hide, the bad guy finds us early and corrals everyone into a large auditorium. I'm trying to negotiate that they let the hostages go. I can't fight because I'm outnumbered, and I don't want innocents caught in the crossfire. The second in command henchman is using some kind of high tech scanner to figure out where the ladychief of police is, whether she's gotten into the building yet. The scanner pings, she's nearby. Very nearby. In front of us. She's been under a cloaking device masquerading as the head of the mafia. He smiles and it's not his smile, it's the smile of righteous victory. The illusion is revealed and all the cops under her watch drop their cloaks as well, taking on the bad guys. They are in disarray and shock, can't cohesively fight back against us. I'm fighting too. I chase. I web-sling. I capture. Whipping through yellow-gold corridors and balconies, backwards on the path I took to hide the civilians. I'm a masked superhero. I'm Spider-girl. I keep fighting long into the night and quietly slip away when I know the cops have things under control. I swing on webs to a hotel room where my husband is staying. It's the middle of the night and he's been up worried where I am. I have to shower and sleep and get up in 5 hours for my regular day job. I take the mask off and realize that someone has followed me, now my family is in danger...

I'm walking next to what once was a field. Now it's being excavated for land development. An office building, a condo, whatever. I keep walking. Forests. Thin trees that offer a multitude of paths to weave through. I keep walking. A beach, a lake. A boardwalk with quaint jewelry and art shops. I know exactly where to go if I want to find the most beautiful turquoise necklace. I've had this dream before. I've always had this dream before.

Jul 7, 2016

Dreams I've Had Recently

Lots of travelling. Sneaking through high tech facilities. Just... walking on my own.

Once it was summer, then it turned into winter, a sort of nuclear winter, as war erupted across the earth thanks to some kind of supernatural threat that had only been alluded to in an indie viral podcast. I remember embers, tanks, creeping through ashy burnt buildings. Then I was on the moon, on a research facility, and they had turned James Franco into a lethal lizard-monster determined to wipe out humanity.

Not everything is so fantastical. I've been dreaming about being downtown a lot lately. It's not Toronto, never quite Toronto, more like Toronto of the future. The shops are bigger, the traffic is busier, the subways are more complicated (more like The Tube), the PATH is even grander than before. But there's still endless construction that drives us all nuts, and the street meat tastes just as delicious.

Reality affects my dreams. Right after Pride weekend, I dreamed that my straight BFF had decided to date a girl instead. I was judgey, not for the obvious reason one would suspect, but because this other girl was an interloper to our circle and quite frankly not good enough for my BFF.

I still dream about going back to school, but after so many years and due to unflappable logic, my brain has realized that I can't seriously buy into being in high school when I am 35+ years old. So I've started dreaming that I am a teacher at the school, or a teacher's aide. I'm wandering halls keeping the peace, or I'm helping the school band, or I'm coaching the kids in the school play. Sometimes I go back to university, which is a lot more reasonable, except for the part that in reality I wouldn't physically go to the school, not when we've got online classes and continuing ed.

Sometimes it's just fragments of scenes. I'm getting dressed for a party, shoved into a tiny little stall. I'm trawling through white wedding gowns, hoping no one notices my nostalgia. I'm trying to navigate of maze of escalators in a building that's on fire.

It's harder for me to remember my dreams as I get older, they fade away faster, the details aren't as bold and bright when I wake up. But just trying helps, being aware helps. Here's to hoping there's more compelling tales to come.

Jun 15, 2016

The Importance of Being Kind

When I was in grade 8, a new family moved into the house around the corner. They had three girls, one a grade younger than me, one two grades younger than me, and one in grade 4. The oldest daughter was super nice and fun to be around, and quickly became a good friend of mine. Not only did we hang out on our street, we hung out at school as well, when we could. At school, her middle sister had her own friends and social life so I didn’t interact with her much. But the youngest sister, for some reason, fixated on me in a not-very-nice kind of way.

In some ways, this child bullied me, replete with physical attacks, stealing my stuff, and generally a disrespectful attitude. But she was just a child, my friend’s little sister, and I was older than her, so calling it bullying doesn’t feel entirely accurate because there was still a power differential between us. She picked on me because she saw that I wouldn’t retaliate. I didn’t retaliate because you can’t roundhouse kick a nine year old in the face. But mostly, I didn’t retaliate because she didn’t really have any power over me. Her actions were cruel, but she was more like an awful little sister than a bully.

All that changed about 3 months after being subjected to her tiny tyrannical nonsense. It was the end of the school day, we were all lined up in our respective bus lines waiting to go home. I was talking to the oldest sister when the youngest sister came up to me and started her usual routine, giving me glares, kicking my schoolbag. At one point she ran at me and shoved me out of the line, causing me to nearly tumble to the pavement. She’d done this before, but for the first time she’d made the mistake of doing it right in front of a teacher. The teacher (who knew me for the quiet, mild-mannered A+ student I was) immediately started yelling at the youngest sister, but before she could carry on for too long I got back in line and said “no no, it’s alright, she’s my friend.”

The moment I said those words... I can still remember the look on that kid’s face. It was shock and shame and realization all at the same time. The teacher didn’t exactly stop, but eased her tone to something less angry. But regardless, the lesson had been learned. I could see exactly on her face what that little girl was thinking, I’ve been relentlessly mean to her and she’s saving me from being punished... I have done her wrong.

From that day forward, I had nothing but that child’s cheer and kindness, she was all smiles and boisterous sweetness whenever she saw me. And I remember thinking, this is why niceness matters, this is why you don’t fight fire with fire.

It’s only recently that I remembered this incident (it happened 20 years ago after all) and realized that it’s been a huge factor in shaping my personality. When I eventually went to high school later I employed the same tactic against legitimate bullies with... less effectiveness. But I employed it all the same. You don’t fight fire with fire. And sure, none of my high school bullies ever had a moment of awareness like that little girl did, where they realized that I deserved better from them. But they did mature, gradually, out of their juvenile predilections. It wasn’t that they realized I deserved better, it’s that they realized everyone deserves better.

There's been a spike of hate and anger in the world lately, between the rise of Trump and the Orlando shooting and all the fallout in between. We can all agree that there's too much negativity and hate in the world, and not enough love and kindness. I remember Jack Layton's final message about hope, I remember all the truth that the Dalai Lama speaks upon, I remember teaching a kid about kindness, and I hope that I can show the world we can do better...

Dec 22, 2015

A Very Long Post About Star Wars (And Yes, There Will Be Spoilers)

Part 1 – We Need To Talk About Legends

My father knows his children well. In 1997 when the Star Wars Special Edition was being released in theatres, he took his three kids to see A New Hope, with the promise that we would love them. I was 16, my little sister was 9. My father was right. We were hooked. But the movies weren’t enough. I needed more.

I started reading the novels of the Extended Universe, the EU. I read the campy wrongness of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, I read about the powerful Nightsisters, the courtship of Princess Leia, the rise of Tarkin, the complex awesomeness of Mara Jade, and Luke’s Jedi Academy. I read about the new generation: Jacen and Jaina and Kyp Duron and Tenel Ka. I devoured the novels revolving around the Yuuzahn Vong. The internet happened and I discovered fanfic. One of my close friends in high school was my Star Wars BFF and we talked about the fic we were writing. My Star Wars BFF also chased me around her house when I accidently blurted out that Chewbacca had died in the latest book.

By the time I got to university, I didn’t have time to read Star Wars novels anymore. I only heard second hand about Jacen’s fall, about Ben Skywalker, about Mara’s murder.

And then Lucasfilms got sold.

30 years later. 30 years after ROTJ. In the EU, this was the point where the Galactic Republic finally defeated the Yuuzahn Vong. Han and Leia lost their youngest son. Luke had trained hundreds of Jedi apprentices. Jacen and Jaina transitioned to adulthood. I can’t imagine skipping the twenty-five to thirty books I had read beforehand and jumping directly into The Unifying Force novel. But here’s where we are, and from here the story picks up…

Part 2 – The Force Awakens, A Jacen Vs. Jaina Rematch

I haven’t read any of the new tie-in comics or novels yet. I’m fairly certain everything will pale in comparison to the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, which was emotionally damaging and heart-breakingly beautiful. All I have is the movie I have seen.

I love this movie, I really do. I couldn’t sleep for two hours after I’d seen it (the movie finished at 2am) because I couldn’t stop thinking about the universe that had lain out before me. Same but different. Like coming home two decades later and seeing it with grownup eyes.

The heart of this movie is unquestioningly Rey. Daisy Ridley carried the movie with the force of her acting. I can’t even explain how looking at Rey’s face on-screen made me feel… like I was about to vomit with excitement perhaps? That moment when she resists Kylo Ren’s mind-reading and mind-reads back at him… if anyone has watched the Avatar cartoon, they’ll understand why it reminded me of Aang and Ozai metaphysically battling for bending supremacy.

John Boyega’s Finn was a stroke of brilliance. That man is amazing. In the history of Star Wars, the evil grunts are always evil, always disposable. We know nothing of their exploits and feelings. But the reticent Stormtrooper, that’s a new angle. It humanizes individual enemies instead of painting them with broad strokes. Finn was the perfect foil to Rey. I know he has a smaller role in the next movie and that makes me sad.

There are no words for how adorable BB-8 is. I swear to god I will crochet one for myself and pet it every day. Its dejection when Finn says Poe is gone, its confusion at whether to believe Finn and tell Rey about the resistance base, its attempts to stay in one piece on the Falcon, how it tries to wake up R2. And at the end, BB and R2 and 3PO talking together like the cutest little droid family ever, oh my gosh.

From what I saw of Poe I liked. Hotshot pilots are always welcome, the younger the better. The instant bond between him and Finn was fantastic and their reunion at the base was perfect, as well as his reunion with BB.

I screamed “whaaaaaat” when Rey turned towards the garbage spaceship that was the Falcon. I laughed through Han’s typical tactic of trying to talk his way out of owing someone money (you’d think people would give an old war hero a break, damn). The strained reunion of Han and Leia broke my heart. Sorry to go all #Force4Ham right now but “have pity, they are working through the unimaginable.” And then the final tender caress when Han knows it’s over, Leia back at the command centre feeling his presence fade through the Force, the broken & defeated look on her face when Rey finally arrives, because only another Force user could truly feel her pain and offer compassion. Chewbacca with his head in his hands, deep in mourning.

(Aside Number 1: son of Han Solo my ass, let’s not play games, call him exactly what he is… the son of Leia Skywalker Organa)

I could have done without the heavy-handed Nazi flavour of the First Order but otherwise I loved the direction they were taken. Love the Flametroopers, loved Captain Phasma (wish there had been more of her), loved that Star Destroyers and Tie Fighters were still around. Snoke is the biggest mystery to me right now, I am salivating to see who he actually is and how he turned Ben Solo into Kylo Ren.

I still smile every time I think of Kylo flipping out when he hears bad news, demolishing an entire control panel wall with his lightsaber upon hearing bad news. He’s like a petulant teenager in a very unique position of power, a marked contrast from Vader’s terrifying silence. It was shocking to see how much of a youth Kylo still is, I do believe the woobiefication has already commenced. It was interesting to hear a different interpretation of the dark side, that one could be “seduced” by the light side, that Vader had actually fallen from his dark destiny as opposed to turning towards the light.

If anything, the ending was my least favourite part of the movie. It was too subdued, not celebratory enough, but I understood why it was done the way it was. I am so excited for Luke’s return, for more Jedi and Force mythos, for Jedi Temple exposition, and an extended training sequence between Luke and Rey.

(Aside Number 2: why do I suspect that it was Snoke leaving Rey on Jakku?)

I also look forward to hearing why Ben Solo went to the dark side. In the EU, Han and Leia’s children didn’t have the luxury of their parents’ attention, and were instead cared for by nannies and the galaxy’s deadliest bodyguards. But they didn’t bear any ill will towards Han or Leia because of their upbringing, and when they were pre-teens they happily went to Luke’s Jedi Academy. Danger and the dark side were always there, but those kids loved their parents more than anything. The Solo family was the bedrock of the EU. That’s clearly not the path taken here, and it will be interesting to see why it was not to be.

Part 3 – The Light and the Dark; The Force Awakens Soundtrack

The music of Star Wars is one of my great loves. John Williams is a fantastic movie soundtrack composer and to me, Star Wars is his best work. His soundtrack for The Force Awakens is good, but only good. To be quite frank, he hasn’t made a great Star Wars soundtrack since The Phantom Menace. Across the Stars was a great track but I didn’t even like anything from Revenge of The Sith.

But I digress. This soundtrack has one shining track of brilliance, and that is Rey’s Theme. It manages to be quiet and poignant while signifying something epic and transformative underneath. There are hidden depths lurking beneath those lilting bells and violins, a promise of a difficult but magnificent future. In her track, we hear promise and hope. This isn’t just a fantastic track, it’s magical and perfect.

The other standout track is Han and Leia, due to its generous callback leitmotif, but this time we hear a tentativeness, we hear the estrangement, the regret and lost years (Hamilton: “They are working through the unimaaaaginable”). I can feel my heart being squeezed to shatter, thinking about what they must have endured, apart, after their son became an agent of evil. And yet, they remain strong to their particular causes. They’re strong people. But it makes you wonder if family was ever something they could really do together. I’m reminded of how I used to write Bones fanfiction about how Brennan and Booth were terrible for each other, that any relationship they embarked on would be doomed to failure.

I particularly like Snoke’s track too, due to its blinding creepiness. I’m reminded of the scene between Palpatine and Anakin in ROTS, during the opera when the senator tells the young Jedi about Darth Plagueis. Ominous chanting, impending doom. But this track… this track. It feels… small. It was recorded in a small room, with two few voices…

This brings me to my main criticism and it’s not a criticism I thought I would endorse. John Williams has always recorded his Star Wars soundtracks using the London Symphony Orchestra. This time, he recorded in Los Angeles at the behest of J.J. Abrahams. You can sadly hear the difference. Play the opening theme from The Force Awakens then play the opening theme from The Phantom Menace and it becomes very clear. There’s a certain grandiose reverberation that has been lost in this most recent soundtrack. I sorely hope they allow J.Will to conduct with LSO again for episode 8.

Part 4 – Final Thoughts, a Legacy Unfolds

When I first heard that Disney had optioned more Star Wars movies, I was cranky as hell. Once you’re a certain age and your favourite movies issue closure, you don’t really want things to change. But Disney has a marketing department that is vast and unrelenting, like the Empire itself. Star Wars wasn’t even my One True Love growing up, that coveted spot will always belong to the X-Files. When the last X-Files movie came out, I didn’t even think about seeing it. I had my closure already, I was content to let that can of worms lie dormant. It was a movie marketed nowhere near as aggressively as Star Wars.

Disney’s ceaseless promotion of the Star Wars brand was quite effective in stirring up my enthusiasm. Clearly, they know what they’re doing, inciting excitement in adults and children alike. I don’t know if I’ll keep watching new Star Wars movies into my older years but knowing me I probably will. I hope I will. I’m not confident in the direction the brand will go and I would have been fine with no more movies, but here we are. And it’s all still magical.

Apr 13, 2015

Food and Eating: Part 2

The hardest food for me to resist isn't chocolate or pie or potato chips or poutine. The hardest food for me to resist is food that is free.

---

Since 2015 began I've been parktakng in a fairly regular exercise routine. I go over to my future SIL's house after work (3 times a week), she feeds me dinner, then we do an hour or so of pilates, Brazilian butt-lift, cardio, or good old fashioned bicep curls. The only times I've ever been able to keep up an exercise routine was when another person was expecting my participation. And when the other person was at least less lazy than me. ;) Anyways, I've been on this routine, nothing too strenuous but 1 hour of moderate exercise is much better than 0 hours of any kind of exercise.

As of a few weeks ago, I'm actually starting to see results in my body. Not only can I handle more physical activity than when I started, but I've noticed my calves are more defined, my butt is nicely rounded, and I can just barely start to see my abs appearing. I haven't lost any weight; in fact I've gained quite a bit since Christmas 2014, but I'm guessing it's mostly muscle. Nevertheless, seeing my body change is great positive reinforcement. It's encouraging me to do my own research into what fitness practices are the best for me, and how to maintain the good habit I've got going.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to do any research about exercise without seeing a lot of advice about diet. And lord have mercy, that there is a complicated subject for me. Food is complicated. My relationship with food is complicated. And money is to blame.

When I first started working out, I was going in with the mentality: "If I exercise and burn calories, that will give me the freedom to cram all kinds of bad foods down my gullet!" But diet isn't just about calories. No matter how much cardio I do, that doesn't erase all the sodium I've consumed. I don't want cholesterol clogging my arteries or weak bones from lack of calcium. Any foundation I lay in my 30s will have a big pay-off when I'm in my 40s. So... I bit the bullet and re-downloaded the old food diary app I'd had back in 2012, ready to improve my health not just with physical activity but with watching what I ate as well.

When I last used the app in 2012, I was 10 pounds lighter and struggling to maintain my weight. I remember it would be like 9:30pm and I'd be scratching my head in the kitchen, wondering what I could eat last minute to reach my daily caloric intake. Now, I'm older and metabolically slower. And in the last 3 years I've trained myself (ironically) to cram more food into my mouth.

Growing up, I never had much of an appetite. Eating was a chore I got little pleasure from. As I hit my late 20s and rejected culinary austerity, delicious things were much more... delicious. It's almost as if my brain is somehow wired differently now. It's possible that due to living on my own for almost 10 years now, I either have a better appreciation for deliciousness... or I've been denying myself in my lazy, single bachelorette-dom and crave everything I can't have.

As much as I've lacked rigor when it comes to exercise and diet, such rigor always came easily to me in matters of money. To be honest, I do well with frugality. I feel a smug sense of satisfaction every time I walk away from a nice dress or cute shoes or quality makeup or takeout Chinese food. And there's the issue when it comes to food: if the food is free, the shackles of my restraint are released and I fill myself up like I never would in my own house or in a restaurant. Restraint is for your pocketbook, not your stomach. Spend like a miser, eat like a king (but not on your own dime).

Of course, I can’t ignore the fact that I am too damn lazy to care for cooking. Everyone has something they don’t care to invest time in, whether it’s cleaning the bathroom or money management or decorating their house. Cooking is my thing I’d love to outsource, of all the chores it’s the one that causes me the most apathy in me. I will be one of those secretly grudging and resentful cooks for the rest of my life, but unlike my mother my food won’t taste nearly as good!

Apr 6, 2015

Food and Eating: Part 1

Not all recipes are born equal. Simpler is better. Simpler is easier. Simpler is necessary because my apartment is barely 600 square feet and I didn't buy it for the kitchen. With the microwave on the countertop I barely have room to chop my veggies.

"Combine ingredients in stand mixer-" NOPE.

"On low setting in your food processor-" NOPE.

"Add 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley leaves-" Like I have bunches of fresh parsley leaves just hanging around waiting to be used!

When you're living on your own, ensuring your fresh food does not go bad before you've consumed it all is a herculean task. Standard portions are just not made for single people.

My fridge is empty save for some eggs and orange juice, but my pantry and freezer are always fully stocked. So help a sister out and gimme recipes with more staples and convenience. None of this "1/3 of a cabbage" bullshit.

-

It sounds funny to say it, but it's only recently that I've developed an appreciation for food. Let me explain.

At some point in my mid-twenties I decided I wanted to be even healthier than I already was. The news was all a-buzz with the foods that were slowly killing us all. I cut out all kinds of things from my diet: fast food, pop, chips, and canned/frozen food. No more running to Burger King or grabbing a can of Chunky Soup for lunch. I was going to cook fresh, healthy food like they showed on the Food Network. I was going to eat Real Food(TM), which technically included stuff like cake and pie and vodka smoothies, so I didn't even feel deprived!

Bless my young foolish heart, for I knew not what I had wrought.

By cutting those things out of my diet, I didn't actually switch to consuming healthy food because here's the kicker: I hate cooking and I hate being stuck in the kitchen. When a delicious meal didn't miraculously materialize in my kitchen after I came home from work, I just... didn't eat. I'd maybe munch on some carrots but to make a MEAL? Hnnngggg no. Too much effort. What was the point? I wouldn't like what I made anyway. Everything I cooked was (and mostly still is) a disappointment to my taste buds.

But fast forward a couple years of this lifestyle and I began to notice I had lost a bit of weight. This was NOT a good thing, as I naturally skewed to the low end of the BMI scale to begin with. For my own sanity and self-preservation, I decided not to beat myself up for choosing convenience over healthy.

I don't know what happened to my brain over those two years of culinary austerity but my first time back to McNuggets and New York Fries poutine felt like... a revelation. For the first time in my life, food really and truly was setting off the pleasure centre of my brain. It had been rewired after such a long hiatus from glorious fat and sugar.

I still don't eat fast food or pop very much, but now I let myself if I have to and don't beat myself up over it. Who am I to argue with my brilliant brain telling me maybe, just maybe, I deserve food that makes me happy.

-

At this very moment, there's a platter of cupcakes hanging out on my counter. I ran out of containers to store them all in; like I said before, my kitchen is not strong on size or storage.

While my friends master the art of meal making through beef bourguignon and scratch-made vegan burgers, I have settled comfortably in the realm of Cupcake Realness. It's my go-to culinary tactic that burnishes me with the illusion of domestic godliness. I make them from scratch too, and it's an unholy pain in the ass, but it's the only area of food where my curiousity and creativity are piqued. I still want to try making a filled cupcake, either through piping or baking a little Lindor ball in the centre of the cupcake. I want make more cupcakes using pop for the wet ingredients (seriously, it's a thing... a sugary and delicious thing). I want to practice my icing techniques, which are passable at best.

The thing with cupcakes is that I'm never making them for all for myself, I couldn't eat them all if I tried. I got into cupcakes through a cupcake baking competition at work on St. Patrick's Day. I baked cupcakes for coworkers, for family, for my dude. I sometimes bake cakes to share with them as well.

When it's meant to be shared, when the food is an expression of my caring and competence, I'm all about creativity and effort. Interesting, that I don't do the same for my daily personal meals.

-

When I was a kid, meal time was fraught. My parents served me too much food and I didn't have the capacity to eat it all. So I sat at the dinner table looking everywhere but my bowl. Beyond a few bites, food held no interest to me.

It's funny how little you appreciate your mother's cooking until you leave home.

(As an aside, if I ever have a child who's anything like me I've already formulated a tactic to manage such behaviour. I let my child eat however much they want, they get to control their portion size. But then NO SNACKING an hour later when they're hungry, they can just suck it up. It'll help them learn their capacity for eating! Except I don't think I'll actually have the heart to stick it to my kid like that.)

But between meals I would tell my family how much I disliked meal time. I told them I longed for that day in the distant future when we could be able to get all our mealtime nutrition in pill form. No hassle, no drama, just pop a pill and get on with your day.

Part of me feels cheated that such a pill never materialized. Another part of me recognizes that a pill could never do what a real meal does, unless bloating up the stomach was part of its functions.

As a kid, food was nutritive, mechanical, necessary. I ate because I was hungry. I didn't eat because I wasn't hungry. Nowadays I clarify with my friends: "I'm hungry... not stomach-hungry, mouth-hungry." I salivate for something particular, something to satisfy and delight my palate. Kid Smitha did not delight in anything food related.

-

If it were just an issue of cooking being a bore, I could find healthy shortcuts and solve my food hang-ups. But it's not just an issue of food. It's hunger too.

By the time I moved out on my own, it was clear that hunger was the enemy. Hunger was a hurdle to be overcome. Hunger was a needy toddler begging for my attention. If I just ignored it long enough, it would go away and I could continue doing the things I REALLY wanted to do, like study or code or read that amazing book.

Thankfully, just before I turned 30 I finally had enough. I was tired of torturing myself with hunger. I vowed to seed my life with so much food opportunity that I wouldn't ever have to be hungry again. It was okay to keep cookies in my drawer at work. It was okay to grocery shop for munchables and not just staples. I deserved food.

Now, if only I could overcome my stinginess about spending money on food.

-

With my imminent wedding looming, food and cooking is becoming a more timely topic. It doesn't escape me that in my particular case, I'm going to have a lot more responsibilities regarding food preparation than my fiancé. But I barely ever cook for anyone other than myself, how in the world is my meat-ambivalent self supposed to cook for my fairly carnivorous partner?

Then my mind rolls further down the line and thinks about kids, how feeding children is construed as a primarily female role. I fret and leap to the irrational conclusion: bad cook, bad wife, bad mother. How am I supposed to raise kids who are open and adventurous about their food when I can't prepare such things for them? I grew up with the blessing of a mostly vegetarian mother and a totally omnivorous father, who led me to such loves like brussel sprouts and beetroot.

I can't cook so many of the things that are beloved to me, an endeavour all that trickier because the food I (and my fiancé) love are rooted in ethnicity and culture. Meanwhile all I have in my recipe repertoire is mac & cheese casserole. How are my kids supposed to love Indian/Pakistani food when I don't have the patience or skill to cook that stuff for myself?

-

Sometimes I wonder if this is just some serious liberal guilt surfacing. I once read somewhere that liberals are puritanical about food the way conservatives are puritanical about sex. Do food right or there will be drastic consequences. Do organic and local and fair trade and home cooked and low fat and low sodium and bathed in the light of the autumn harvest moon while we're at it.

Jan 9, 2015

All The Music I Want

Posted for posterity! It ranges from pop to trap to hipster indie to kpop to a random Armenian dance song, LOL.

SeSa - AiAiAi
Serebro - Mi Mi Mi
Duke Dumont - Won't Look Back
Wankelmut & Emma Louise - My Head Is A Jungle (MK Remix)
Secondcity - I Wanna Feel
Route 94 ft. Jess Glynne - My Love
Taylor Swift - Blank Space
Akdong Musician (AKMU) - 200%
Hyuna - Red
Orange Caramel - Catallena
Red Velvet - Happiness
G-Dragon - Who You?
Block B - Her
AOA - Like A Cat
Senri Kawaguchi - Jinshin no Ran
Martin Garrix & MOTi - Virus (How About Now)
EDX - Make Me Feel Good
Beyonce - 7/11 & Ring Off
Donna Summer - I Feel Love
Hunger Games - The Hanging Tree
Stromae - Meltdown
Major Lazer ft. Ariana Grande - All My Love
The Chemical Brothers ft. Miguel - This Is Not A Game
Vance Joy - Riptide
Selena Gomez - The Heart Wants What It Wants
Gyptian - Stunta
PARTYNEXTDOOR ft. Drake - Recognize
Sirusho - PreGomesh
Keys N Krates - Dreamyness
Benny Benassi - Satisfaction (RL Grime Remix)

One day, I will have time to sit down and download all these tracks. ONE DAY...

Sep 1, 2014

Sloth Is My Deadly Sin

Lately I’ve been thinking about laziness. Which is apt, because thinking doesn’t require a lot of stamina, it can be performed using minimal energy and effort.

I’ve been thinking about my mp3 collection and how much harder it becomes year after year to seek out interesting and engaging music, it’s much easier to just switch on the radio every morning and bounce along to whatever the airwaves deems popular and therefore worth replaying every 20 minutes. It’s similarly just as easy to walk through your front door, plop on the couch, and press a couple buttons on the remote control to get passably entertaining drivel. It’s the very reason I’ve decided to cancel cable; the thoughtlessness, the mindlessness, was just killing me on the inside.

I’ve been thinking a lot about passion, and where exactly it went. When you’re a teenager, everything is a freaking crisis or mind-blowingly exciting. Things are tempered a little in your twenties, but instead of hyper-reacting to every situation, you develop an appreciative but mature appetite for life. Then I hit my thirties and it’s like I can’t feel anything anymore. Okay, that's a little maudlin of me, it's not like I'm dead inside. But I don’t obsess over the new tune I heard, my heart isn’t captured by a scene on TV or a passage in a book. I don’t find myself consumed anymore, not the way I used to be when a song or a TV show or a book or any hobby really would swallow me up and only let me go when my brain demanded I finally go to sleep.

I miss being interested and curious about things, exploring something new, expressing creativity through writing or singing or even just plain old imagination and daydreams. My life nowadays is more concerned with maintaining boring day-to-day responsibilities to myself; do the dishes, track your bills, buy groceries, plan that wedding, finish the laundry, get a good night’s sleep. There's no impetus for excitement and wonder anymore.

May 8, 2014

I Am Hugging My Emergency Fund Right Now (Or: Why It Pays To Be A Saver)

Fun has been cancelled for the indefinite future. Just as I was feeling a little bit of financial freedom and security and control, I’ve been hit with the double whammy of health issues and car issues. Nothing tragic, I just need to get a root canal, plus all my tires are bald enough to violate safety limits so I had to get all new ones. And get the suspension replaced. And other things that add up to a whopping load of cash.

The good news is that I have a whopping emergency fund for these exact situations, so lack of money isn’t an issue at all. It’s just that part of me wishes that money could have been used somewhere else. Like the wedding, or furniture, or a down payment on a house.

But in the end I have no one to blame but myself for incurring these costs. This isn’t fate striking me with bad luck. Whether we’re talking about teeth or transmission fluid, a little preventative maintenance goes a long way. I’ve definitely been lackadaisical about taking care of my health and car in the past. A co-worker actually bonked me on the head when I told her that instead of changing my engine oil every three months, I change it never.

Therefore, lesson learned. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Next on the list: try to find a good physiotherapist or deep tissue masseuse so that I don’t keep throwing out my back!

Apr 10, 2014

Thrills and Chills

Despite being immune to such influences in my tween, teen, and young adult years, last night I realized that I’ve spent more time in a state of “scared by creepiness” these last 12 months than I have for the entire rest of my life. Is this something that happens as we get older? Are children simply immune to creepiness? I swear to god that “Elephants On Parade” sequence in Dumbo was plain old fun when I was a kid, instead of the disturbing creepfest I interpreted it as when I finally saw it again in my early twenties.

When I’m talking about the scare factor of creepiness, I’m talking about the sense of unease we get from things that are abnormal, off kilter, but in a seemingly understated/innocuous manner. It’s the sense of not knowing more, of only having a glimpse of the story. It’s finding a human-shaped burn mark on a wall. It’s the sound of a crying child when there is no child to be seen. It’s inanimate objects slowly following your movement through an empty room. Seemingly innocuous, and no harm done, but maybe... what if...

It’s the not knowing that creates creepiness.

But there’s actually a fine line between creepiness and wonderment. No one freaks out when Lucy finds the random lamppost in Narnia, that’s because the book is written with a sense of childlike curiosity. Tone and mood are huge influencers on whether something is plain odd or forebodingly odd.

The one thing that creeped me out as a child and that continues to creep me out to this day: the moon. I mean the full moon, especially when it’s low on the horizon and looks larger than usual. I have no idea why the low-hanging full moon creeps me out so much, it just does. SHUDDER!

Apr 1, 2014

Vegetarian Deliciousness On the Fly

So I just pulled this recipe out of my ass when I realized I had tomatoes and mushrooms in my fridge that were about to lose their prime freshness:

  • Fry tsp minced garlic and green onions in canola oil at medium heat, cook until garlic is golden
  • Add one chopped tomato and 1 tsp chopped fresh basil, continue cooking until tomatoes break down
  • Add one package sliced mushrooms (I used cremini)
  • Add 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Add 1 tsp veggie stock powder with 750 ml water
  • Simmer on low heat until mushrooms are tender (8-10 minutes)
  • Add 1 tsp cornstarch (mixed with tiny bit of cold water)
  • Add al dente pasta (I used about 3 cups uncooked aka quite a lot)
  • Toss with a sprinkle of dried oregano
  • NOM WHILE HOT!

Flavourful as fuck with a lot less salt/sugar than bottled pasta sauce. I already love mushrooms as is, but I wish someone had told me earlier that fresh basil is basically HERBED MAGIC. :D

Mar 21, 2014

Mo’ Money Mo’ Security

Since the new year rolled around and I’ve accepted that the State of Engagement requires copious budgetary planning, I’ve been on an aggressive saving plan. Any and all money leftover at the end of the month goes directly into my savings account and I’ve been doing well so far. I think in both January and February I saved an extra $700, in addition to the $500 and $100 automatic monthly deposits into my RRSP and TFSA.

Then March rolled around and I got bit by the “you deserve it” bug. See, because I’m so frugal and save so much money, I know I’ve got extra disposable income. And the tighter I hold my own reigns, the more I want to buy the stuff on my ongoing Wish List. This month’s obsession: new perfume. But because I’m frugal by nature, I didn’t just stroll into Sephora and buy it. Nope, went to a local flea market, trawled the various perfumery stalls until I found the cheapest one, paid cash.

New perfume aside, there’s been other items on the Wish List. I set up an appointment for a Swedish massage, because I work in front of a computer all week long. But again, did it frugal style: Groupon deal! I bought a purse (the $22 one as opposed to the flashier $59 one). Both my watches were languishing with dead batteries, so I had to get those fixed. And I’ve been pretty social this month as well, dropping money on dinners out and tickets to various events.

Needless to say, I was sort of “spending scared” for most of the month. I’ve got the additional cost of paying property taxes for March through to May, so I wouldn’t have as much money as the previous months. But it looks like if I stay the course and only spend on necessities, I’ll be okay.

But because life never goes as planned, this weekend I’m going wedding dress shopping with my sister. Then the weekend after that I’m on a jeans shopping mission with my BFF. But knowing that money is tight will be great incentive for continuing to reign myself in.

Mar 17, 2014

Behold The Glory Of All Creation!

As someone on Twitter said, if you’re not watching #Cosmos you owe me a 72 page essay outlining why not. ;)

For those not in the know, “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is a science documentary series being shown on Fox TV, produced by Seth McFarlane, hosted by the phenomenal Neil deGrasse Tyson, inspired by the original series from Carl Sagan. The interesting thing about the show is that it’s not trying to be ground breaking or revolutionary. Instead, NdT just points out the facts with the tenacity of an astrophysicist who’s had quite enough of America’s anti-science fundie creationist bullshit.

I saw the first episode during a rerun on Saturday; even though I had previously heard the episode incited controversy through its narrative of the church vs. free-thinker, I wasn’t prepared for how all-out the show actually went! They really painted religious figureheads as the enemies of progress, all the while emphasizing that science is not in competition with faith or god, but really an extension of it.

Last night’s second episode also wasn’t afraid to throw some punches, especially regarding evolution. NdT was basically like: “listen, evolution is a fact, deal with it”. More than anything, this show is a political statement, a measured response to disinformation and distrust. But even as NdT recalls the religious opposition to Darwin or alludes to a man-made ongoing mass extinction, he also shows how marvelous science can be. My favourite moments:

- Did you know that on Saturn’s moon Titan, there is a large water mass named the Kraken Sea? KRAKEN, seriously.

- NdT looking straight into the screen, subtly inviting children watching the show to be the individual who finally unravels the origin of life on earth.

Can’t wait for next week! Wish I could mainline it like House of Cards. ;)

Mar 8, 2014

I Can't Do Anything Halfway

One of the sorta-resolutions I wanted to make in the new year was "less internet, more reading". My hope was that by swapping one for the other, I wouldn't end up with so much wasted time on my hands. No more getting sucked into another YouTube or Wikipedia black hole and suddenly realizing it's an hour past my bedtime and there are still dishes in the sink and I haven't brushed my teeth or done the laundry or taken out the trash. Reading, clearly, is far superior to dicking around on the internet (or watching TV for that matter, but I'm increasingly not a TV person anymore... how this has happened, I don't even know.)

Unfortunately, if I was looking to not get "sucked in" to something, perhaps I shouldn't have picked reading as an alternative option. Because give me a good book and it's the same story all over again, except this time I'm curled up on the couch when I realize it's an hour past my bedtime and there are still dishes in the sink and I haven't brushed my teeth or done the laundry or taken out the trash. *facepalm*

Need to find another another alternative, most likely some kind of crafting (crochet, scrapbooking, embroidery, etc.). Right after I finish this book of course.

Feb 1, 2014

Recipe: Ham Fried Rice

I recently made ham fried rice for the first time and it turned out really well, but my creation was inspired by a number of different recipes I found on the internet. So I thought it would be best to make a post with my exact ingredients and steps, so that I can refer to it again for future posterity!

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups cold cooked rice
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups chopped green beans
  • 3 stalks spring onion, chopped
  • 1 cup diced cooked ham
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying (canola or vegetable)
  • dash of sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Heat a small skillet with a little bit of oil, then crack the eggs into the pan. Cook the eggs as though making scrambled eggs, removed from heat and set aside when the eggs have just set.
  2. In a larger skillet, heat some oil and add the garlic, cook until just browned.
  3. Add the green beans, cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the diced ham, cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  5. Add the spring onion and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add in the rice, egg, oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly until the rice is evenly coated.
  7. Finish with a hint of sesame oil, mix evenly.

YUMMMMMM!

Jan 20, 2014

10 Things I've Learned After Being Engaged For Exactly A Month

1. Companies see me as a walking dollar sign and will try to sell me all kinds of bridal-related crap.
2. The Knot has some great advice but is biased towards traditional Christian weddings.
3. More people need to save themselves drama/money and elope.
4. I don’t even like cake!
5. Remember those Amar Chita Kata stories where kings would meet the daughters of sages in the forest and they’d fall in love with each other and secretly get married by just exchanging garlands? Yeah, throw a couple witnesses and that’s the kind of wedding for me. ;)
6. There are couples who only have their parents meet each other after the engagement is announced, and I call these people UTTERLY MAD.
7. Surefire way to destroy my sanity: wedding inspiration on Pinterest.
8. I need to spend more time at Offbeat Bride and not Pinterest/The Knot.
9. I need to start my own wedding blog for the penny-pinching, feminist, first-generation Indian, interfaith wedding crowd.
10. Weddings are a boondoggle, what matters is the marriage and partnership that comes after!

Jan 9, 2014

YouTube Delivers Again!

I have a lovely little EDM discovery for everyone today. I was on YouTube one day and decided to trawl the Ministry of Sound channel for new dance tunes. I saw a recommendation from an artist named Porter Robinson, who I already knew of via a collaboration he did with Matt Zo (also an amazing song/video). Clicked on the video and oh my god. Sweet song of course, but the video is so touching and moving I maaaaay have shed a tear or two in the process.

Watch for yourself and be the judge!


My interpretation: this woman is running away from her problems (symbolized by the otherwolves) and finds refuge in an alternate reality, full of beautiful landscapes and a silent but supportive companion. She enjoys the sights, recuperates, stops running for a while and recharges. But she cannot escape her problems forever. Eventually they find her and push her silent friend off a cliff, but in its last moments the creature sends her back in time to the moment before she leapt away from her problems. Fully restored by peace and respite, she now has the strength to tackle her problems head on, and chases the otherwolves away, saving the creature and her own destiny at the same time.

Let me float back to the place you found me
I’ll be okay

Jan 2, 2014

Ring It In

I like taking stock of the year as it comes to a close and I have to say that I’m in a much better place now than I was a year ago. At the end of 2012, things were just plain old good. On the other hand I’ve been dealt a very fine hand for the end of 2013. First off I negotiated myself a bigger raise for 2014, secondly I got news that my condo’s maintenance fees are not going up for the next year, and finally my partner surprised me with an engagement ring just before Christmas! Needless to say 2014 is looking up, but no doubt it will have its own set of challenges like:
  • Getting started with wedding planning. No date has been set and we haven’t finalized a budget, but within days of the announcement I was bombarded with information and requests and calls for compromise. For a woman who never really thought much about weddings, it’s all a bit overwhelming.
  • Related: saving up for the wedding. I already have a ton of money saved up and I don’t want to spend a ton on it either. But it would be nice to not have to dip into my savings and just use some money gathered in the upcoming year instead. Just call me the Budget-Conscious Indian Bride!
  • Unfortunate side effect of wedding planning: worrying about your appearance. I’d like to shrink my gut down a couple inches if possible, but more than anything just get back in shape and be more physically active for my own health’s sake. Also, thanks to coffee and tea every day for the past 3 years I think I need to get those teeth whitening strips. :P
  • Before fiancé popped the question, my big plan for 2014 was to get my professional certification, which involves a lengthy application process, in-person interview, and a difficult examination. Not sure how I’m going to fit this into my plans now, but it needs to be done! My manager and the company CEO are eager for me to have that certification under my belt. Maybe I can actually use it as an excuse to put off wedding planning? ;)

Dec 27, 2013

Ring In The New Year With A Little Recap

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: mashup release time! There are three artists who do year-end mashups that I look forward to, and now that they’ve all released their goods and I've had time to let the songs and videos sink in, it's time to rank them!

3. DJ Earworm United State of Pop

• Without a doubt the most well-known of the year-end mashup DJs, and I enjoy that Earworm attempts to rework the lyrics into a completely new song, and the video into something brand new. Since he’s from the UK, sometimes I don’t know all of the songs he uses, but nonetheless his skill in changing tempos at the drop of a hat is always impressive. Unfortunately I found this year's creation a little boring.

2. Mashup Germany Top of the Pops 2013

• Despite the random German songs that inevitably get thrown into these mashups, I still really enjoy how they are crafted year after year, well meshed and without excessive complication. Honestly, the random German songs are refreshing! This is a very nice mix, very nice video, my only complaint is that I haaaaate "Hey Brother" by Avicii and it's the main track in this mashup.

3. Pop Danthology 2013

• Daniel Kim is Canadian so he usually picks songs that are specifically popular in my part of the world, which I deeply appreciate. He’s dropped some killer combos in this mix, I particularly like the music for Gaga’s “Applause” mixed with the vocals for Zedd’s “Clarity”. Also, he mashed the vocals for Selena Gomez’s “Come And Get It” with the Harlem Shake, amazing. My favourite this year, the video just blows me away with its accuracy and effectiveness. However, I'm sad to say that this is actually the worst of his mashups, but that's no fault of Daniel's, it's just that music this year sucked. :P

Dec 10, 2013

Review – Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Full disclosure: I only read the first Hunger games book and the first third of Catching Fire (it was a pdf copy and I just couldn’t continue). But I’ve read the synopsis on Wikipedia so I know the major deaths/outcomes and conclusion. I am NOT ready for that terrible terrible death that happens in Mockingjay. D:

Katniss was always cool, we all know that, but this was the movie that made me really adore her. Katniss is everything teenaged me would have wanted to be, and everything that adult me realizes I could never be. She is a rule breaker, the girl who doesn’t smile when you ask her to unless it serves her purpose, confused and bold, impassioned behind a mask of ice. But beyond all that, she is powerful and competent and a threat. Her actions, no matter how insignificant, can topple an empire. She is the unwilling metaphor who did not wish for the future she was given, but love and family thrust her down a path she could have never predicted.

The only times I ever teared up in the movie were the parts with Cinna and Effie. Oh my gosh Cinna, Kravitz is like a beacon of pure sanity in these movies, there is nothing I do not like about him. I love that he used fashion to stick it to the empire, even though it cost him in the end. But I get the feeling he knew what he was doing when he took that chance with Katniss’ dress. And Effie, oh my gosh Effie, I totally bawled every time she was like “we’re a TEAM and I will bedeck the TEAM so help me god”, like, bless your heart my dear, you love your bb victors so damn much and she was SO NOT COOL with the Quarterquell.

When I first started getting into the Hunger Games series, I was massively on Team Gale because I wanted Katniss to be with someone she had already felt longterm friendship/affection for, not someone the system had coerced her into pretending to love. But then I read what happened in Mockingjay and, well, as my Chinese coworker said, “he went all communist by the end, ugh.” But Peeta definitely is growing on me, especially once I read all the articles about how the Peeta/Katniss relationship is basically gender-flipped tropes. Peeta is compassionate and emotional and bakes bread and Katniss has to save his ass all the time? Beautiful. I am NOT ready to watch what happens to him in Mockingjay.

But I found it interesting that compared to the books, they definitely tweaked how Katniss felt about both Peeta and Gale. In the books she’s very “how the hell should I know what love is?” but in the movies she’s more like “you’re both lovely but now is not the time dammit!”

I do wonder though, what the heck the rest of the world is thinking while shit goes down in Panem. Like, I guess Panem gave the United Nations the middle finger or something? And, like, China and Indian are just watching from afar and shaking their heads while curing cancer and sending space missions to Mars? And do Canadians download illegal bootlegs of the Hunger Games and watch it going “wtf eh?” NEW HEADCANNON.

But seriously though am I the only one weirded out by the lack of Asian people in the Hunger Games movies? It’s not the best series diversity-wise. Hell, they even upped the ante with a “token black district”. :P