Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Bike Got Stolen, Happy Thanksgiving!

Under the cover of darkness, breaths misting in the chill air, the thieves leapt out of their idling vehicle and began their work of liberation amidst the bike racks. Armed with nothing more than a slender bar, a hammer, and a knowledge of physics, they snapped the end off my Kryptonite U-lock and eased it from the bike's back wheel and frame. They quickly tossed my Trek 2 -- and their other victims -- into the back of their pickup and roared off, knowing that in a few hours, that dead, gray street would come to life with purposeful students, relaxed employees, and harried residents.

Indeed, one of the latter -- me, pushing a happy Junior on his tricycle to his daycare -- came upon the spot and noticed the loss immediately. After all, Trek 2 was my main form of transportation to my Very Important Job of pushing paper and updating Excel spreadsheets. I leave it near Nick's daycare on weekdays, and store it in our building's locked bike room on the weekends. 

Alas, Trek 2's continued presence on the bike racks since August had lulled me into a sense of security, as did the police cruiser parked right beside the racks, as well as the campus police office right across the goddamned street. Truly, bike thieves have no fear.

That day would have been my last ride on Trek 2 before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Trek 2, you will be missed.

Full of righteous anger but also resignation, I reported the theft to campus police, who were all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. So then I did what they said and reported to the Boston Police, making a family trip out of it. While I filed the report, Hubby supervised Junior's controlled disassembly of the reception area and supported his Baby Presidential campaign, which consists of waving at absolutely everyone, what a pandering politician, but I had no need to say it twice. The process took 40 minutes, mostly because, according to the officer, "We have this new system...New York had it and got rid of it, it's just horrid, there are so many blocks you have to fill in..." Boston's finest, ladies and gentlemen. 

(I'm being a jerk -- the guy was very nice and helpful.)

In honor of Trek 2's five years of excellent service, here is a list of my top five bike riding tips for Boston: 

1) Massachusetts Law Chapter 85 Section 11B: This law states that yes, bikes can go on sidewalks, we just have to give right of way to pedestrians, so the next time a crabby lady yells at you for riding on the sidewalk, make a full stop, quote the law chapter and section, and apologize for not giving her the right of way. Seriously, this was my plan for this exact scenario.

2) Go crazy with the lights: Especially when the sun starts setting earlier like a ruiner! I had my flashing red back lights, flashing white front lights, and a flashing blue wristband from my Electric Run 5K back in 2013. Trust me, you'll be safer, and pedestrians will comment on how fracking awesome you are.

3) Make eye contact: A lot of drivers are actually really nice, and will actively not run you over when you look them in the eye and beam. Remember, you are beaming because you're getting fresh air and exercise, and more importantly, you're not on the horrid MBTA! (Do you know how much I hate the MBTA after last winter's crapfest? Sans my bike, I'm going to run to work. More reliable, and probably faster, too.)

4) That windproof layer, though: When temperatures start getting into the forties, your top layer must be windproof, or you will be miserable. Without protection, the icy winds claw into places you never thought would get cold, like your armpits. Unless you're a woman, because women don't have armpits, we have freshly-scented underarms, that's just human anatomy.

5) KEEP IT INSIDE: Like the police officer said, "Just take it right inside your house." Honestly, that's the only surefire way to prevent bike theft, unless thieves break into your home, of course. I figured I was saving myself a five-minute walk back to my building after dropping off Junior, and thus sealed Trek 2's fate.

By the by, my bike was Trek 2 because my original Trek ***drumroll*** got stolen. Because of course it did. The flimsy cable lock didn't help, I'm sure. Le sigh.

TL;DR: My bike got stolen, I'm never buying a bike again.

This post brought to you by toddler tantrums!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

My Son the Ramen Monster

Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish that you can get for 600 yen in Kyoto, or twice that in Boston, which really should be rectified because the two cities are sister cities, but I digress. Ramen's essential ramen-ness is in its broth and noodles. If you would like to watch a very Japanese (read: wonderful and weird) movie about ramen, I recommend Tampopo, where the heroine goes to great lengths to spy on the secret broth ingredients of her would-be competitors. There's also an episode of Golden Boy where he works at a ramen shop and learns how to make noodles, but it's rather pervy so let's keep that in your "maybe?" pile.

Anyway, the point is that ramen is delicious and your bowl must be emptied, broth and all, to show respect for the chef. When I lived in Kyoto, I watched any number of sarariman just pound those giant bowls like it ain't no thang, and so I learned to completely finish off my ramen. Also, apparently in Japan it is super bad to ask for a doggie bag, because you're expected to eat everything you ordered. This was back in '05, you understand, but I doubt Japanese society has changed too much. Well, we'll find out when I take my mom on her Japan tour, after I win the lottery, obviously. Again, I digress.

The real point of that rambling preamble is to reveal that my son is a ramen monster. HE WILL NOT STOP UNTIL HE HAS ALL THE RAMEN. I first found out that he even liked ramen during a routine lunch stop at H Mart, when I placed some noodles from my bowl in front of him. He likes pasta, so I figured, hey, wheat noodles are wheat noodles. 

On that day, he ate half my bowl of ramen and demanded more. (This is including the pork, because he needs his protein, and the vegetables, because he really likes greens.)

So from that point forward, I would order an extra serving of noodles just for him. And all was well with the world.



But earlier today, I got my ramen order from Bon Me, and I'd never eaten there before, so I didn't know if they did extra noodles. I had to share my bowl with a bottomless pit. :(

Here is Hubby trying to keep pace with the Ramen Monster:


Which begs the question: is this how Hubby feels when I polish off a giant bowl of ramen? Does he wonder where it all goes? 

These are rhetorical questions; the answer is of course yes. So the family now has two ramen monsters, is what I am saying. 

TL;DR: Junior eats just like mommy.

This post brought to you by homebrewed mead and stovetop popcorn!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Movie Review: Spectre (2015)

On a scale of Daniel Craig Bond movies from Casino Royale (excellent) to Quantum of Solace (blergh), Spectre pulls just ahead of the latter. It is meh. It's over-the-top and formulaic, and while that can be fun, this particular Bond movie seems to have been written by someone's 13-year-old nephew armed with a guidebook of movie tropes and his own libido.

Plot: As a global data-sharing security initiative threatens the 00 program, 007 must act alone to stop the mastermind behind the evil organization Spectre.

So yes, it's predictable spy stuff, so let's run through the checklist, shall we? Cheers!

1) Chase scene: Occurs early on, and is telegraphed by the large crowd. One must shoulder through a mass of people to heighten the tension, after all, although this one is sandwiched between a spectacular building collapse and helicopter fisticuffs. But somehow, it's still meh.

2) Cheesy intro song: The melody is nice, but the falsetto killed me. I am dead. A ghost is writing this review. Also, the opening video is reminiscent of tentacle hentai, which is a phrase that you should definitely not type into your Google search bar, at work or ever in your life. 

3) Sex: Bond chases a lot of leads and rogers any and all women along the way. It is known. But in Spectre, the mutual attraction is inexplicable. In the first instance, there's zero leadup to the bedroom scene, and in the other, the age difference just makes it gross. Hubby's thoery is that Bond has pheromones that overpower judgment. I repeat: gross.

4) Pouty Frenchwoman with sultry gaze: Obligatory, and I support their presence in all movies. 

5) Car chase scene: Can't have a "3-billion-pound prototype" (pounds as in currency, not weight) without a high-speed contest, that would be improper. Spectre's was mildly amusing, and Bond's car was the most beautiful thing in the movie. 

6) Villain monologuing: Christop Waltz is effective in every role he plays, whether villain or anti-hero, because his delivery is so charming. But in Spectre, his character explains to Bond (and the audience) all of his reasons for going down his path of evil...thus buying 007 time to escape his restraints. Le sigh.

7) Elaborate death trap: It's enormous and booby-trapped, and the odds of our hero escaping are slim to none! Blah blah blah, obviously he gets out.

8) Obvious mole: As soon as his enormous forehead and evil eyebrows enter the room, you know he's a rat. He also deserved a more satisfying death, but I'll give that a pass because I don't care.

---

I'll stop here because the Pats just beat the Giants by one point and I'm feeling magnanimous. I did like a number of things about this movie, such as:

a) Bond brought a twin engine plane to a car fight;

b) Bond's relentless fake cheeriness at his coworkers;

c) Dave Bautista's badass character; 

d) Q;

e) SERIOUSLY I WANT THAT CAR.

---

It's too bad that Spectre didn't live up to the standard set by its immediate predecessor, Skyfall, which did everything right: the theme song, the emotional depth, the character development, the scary villain, the tense action, and the grim victory. 

TL;DR: Meh.

This post brought to you by iPad Air!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Being Vegetarian

Exhibit A: Pinakbet, note the shrimp
First, a disclaimer: je ne suis pas vegetarien. I invite you to view Exhibit A, a dish I made for tonight's invitation-only Filipina Mafia Dinner: it has shrimp. Ergo, I'm not a vegetarian.

But!

It's been weeks since I watched Cowspiracy and I still hear Howard Lyman's words: "You can't be an environmentalist and eat animal products." It makes sense, given the nature of agribusiness. Growing livestock takes too much land and water; catching fish results in too many by-kills. Et cetera.

So I looked up the vegetarian food pyramid, drank less milk, and continued not buying beef (we stopped maybe a year ago, because reasons).

But!!

I still eat eggs, cheese, chicken, pork, and fish. I agree that drastically reducing meat consumption can make a dent in the fight against climate change, but transforming from a voracious pork-devourer into a lentil- and chickpea-chewer is a slow process. In fact, back in grad school, when my homegirl Shaffo said she was going vegetarian, I replied: "I have a moral objection to that." Those were my exact words. I was close-minded. But I had a tummy full of iron, protein, and vitamin B12!

Also, please note: "I have a moral objection to that" = "I vehemently disapprove of your rejection of bacon, why have you done this, you must be shunnnnnnned." 

Bacon is still my jam.

But!!!

I am a secret Planeteer and I will do my part for mother Earth!

TL;DR: Being a vegetarian is hard but I think I can do it with enough garlic chili sauce.

This post brought to you by butt-cold rain!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Movie review: Crimson Peak (2015)

I went into Crimson Peak all a-quiver: a) it was a Guillermo del Toro film (scary monsters!), and b) it stars Tom Hiddleston (eye sex!). I expected to be simultaneously shrieking with terror whilst overcome by desire for my Hiddles.

...Well, one out of two ain't bad.

Alas, the trailer and posters are as scary as Crimson Peak gets. Fortunately, the lack of scares is balanced out by the film's incredible color palette, stunning set design, excellent cinematography, tight pacing, and the fine performances by the three leads.

The first act of the film provides a likable protagonist and hints at the sinister events to come. Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring young writer encouraged by her successful father (Jim Beaver), meets the Sharpes, Thomas (Hiddles) and Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Thomas has come to the US seeking funds for his invention, designed to mine the clay under his property in the UK. Rejected by a suspicious Mr. Cushing, Thomas sets his sights on Edith, despite his sister's clear disapproval. Hearts open, love blossoms, skulls are bashed in, and it's off across the pond to the dismal Crimson Peak!

The second act offers a visual feast to go along with the thematic content. Dressed in bright colors, Edith often stands out against the bleak countryside, a parallel to the contrast between her positive outlook and the grimness of the inhabitants of the decrepit mansion. At night, the spectres that haunt the place are a bright blood red, the same color as the clay that seeps up from the ground -- Thomas' redemption and Lucille's bane. As Edith's experiences in her new home become progressively more disturbing, the colors go into deepest blacks and grays, making her white nightgown and blond curls more vivid.

The snow that comes in for the third act enhances the gorgeous horror on screen while obligingly serving as a barrier against our heroine's escape and/or rescue. What will Edith's final fate be at Crimson Peak?

***

Let's talk about the performances. With this and The Martian, Chastain has now starred in two of the most beautiful movies of 2015. Her portrayal of Lucille, the "more collected" sibling, as Edith's father observes, is effective in that she comes across as equal parts victim and villain. There's one memorable scene where she serves Edith porridge, and she's scraping the spoon against the bowl, deliberately creating a screeching, unpleasant sound for her "patient." Lucille also has all the best subtext lines in the film, delivered with genteel menace.

Meanwhile, Wasikowska's Edith is perfect: young but perceptive, trusting yet aware, and consistently confident in her own judgment and abilities. These qualities draw Thomas, who wastes no time giving her all the eye-sex. I mean:



Whoooo! All the acting awards to this man! Based solely on his looks!

***

My one teeny tiny "ha-ha" moment was when Edith and Thomas are dancing, and Lucille is playing the piano -- I was watching Chastain's hands, and, well, they didn't match with the notes I was hearing. That is all. I am a dork.

***

So all in all, a great "horror" film where the ghosts are metaphors (per Edith), but also actually hanging out because they cannot be laid to rest. (This did not stop my friend Crispy from burrowing into her seat. At one point, I thought she was throwing up during a very Guillermo knife-to-the-face scene.)

It's got mystery, love, murder, fundraising, a dab of steampunk, and lots of tension -- of the romance and also the murder-murder-kill-kill kind.

TL;DR: Great film, not scary at all, recommended!

This post brought to you by banh mi!

Movie Review: Hereditary (2018)