a realistic dose of cynicism

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The art of making [delicious Asian] rice.

If you’re like me, you’re Asian. And as a corollary, you must love rice.

I love rice. Not only is it delicious and a staple of billions around the globe, relatively speaking, it’s also cheap (yet another corollary of being Asian). Rice also tends to go very well with a large variety of Asian foods, including meats, veggies, seafood, tofu; you name it, it’s delicious. It’s also cheap. My hands-down favorite thing about rice, though, is its ability to absorb flavors in the food you cook/eat it with. Did I mention it’s cheap? That, my friends, is truly a no-compromise situation.

Win-win. No, win-win-win. (see The Office, Season 2, Episode 21, Conflict Resolution; which, as a sidenote, the new season begins tonight!)

Unfortunately, to be fair, there’s one caveat to this otherwise totally-awesome-win-win-win-situation. The rice has to be perfect. When I say perfect, many of you know exactly what I mean. For the others of you who haven’t had the [dis]pleasure of growing up in an Asian household where the ubiquity of rice was second to none, all you need to know: Perfect rice should be fluffy and tender, but not hard or mushy. Each grain of perfect rice should be distinct, but still remain slightly sticky.

Fortunately, there’s a method to the madness of making perfect rice. It’s a matter of two things: the kind of rice, and how much water. I’m going to assume you’re using a rice cooker. If you don’t have one, get one. It’s easily worth its weight in… (what’s more expensive than gold? oh.) PLUTONIUM.

First of all, you need to get the right kind of rice. For me and millions of Asians living in the US, there’s only one kind of rice to use. Anything else… well, is in fact, just that. Anything else. (It is also blasphemy.) This is the only rice on the table (ha ha ha) for us Asians, and that is: Kokuho Rose short grain white rice (which is technically sushi rice!). It usually comes in a white bag with a prominent red and blue logo. Patriotic, too. For America. Weirdos.

Anyhow, a 5lb bag can be had for about $4. Fortunately, us Asians are cheap, so that’s why you see us breaking our backs walking out of the 88 with three 50lb bags of the stuff. You probably won’t find the stuff at a Shaw’s or a Stop and Shop, but Whole Foods may carry it, Costco does carry it, and the aforementioned 88 will definitely have it.

To be honest, I have no idea why everyone uses Kokuho Rose rice. But like I said before, millions of Asians can’t be wrong. (Unless we are. Never thought of that.)

You’ll want to rinse the rice a few times, to get rid of the talc that some mills outside the US use as a milling aid, and also to get rid of excess starch, which will have the end effect of making your rice stickier.

Now that you know what rice to use… As for the amount of water, I’ll start by telling a story. Many of you know the net result of this story; don’t spoil it for others.. I know a few people who used to work in a Chinese restaurant. As such, they never had the luxury of time; no time to grab out the measuring cups and precisely measure how much water to use. And thus, was born, the “finger trick”.

What is the finger trick, you may ask? Well, to put it simply, it’s a genius method of measuring how much water to use for cooking rice. If your washed rice is at the bottom of a pot, simply even out the rice so it lies flat in the pot, place your index finger straight down into the pot so as to almost touch the rice, and cover with cold water until the water line reaches halfway to the first joint. This trick has been passed down from generation to generation of Asians. I take back what I said before about millions of Asians not being wrong. Billions of Asians over thousands of years can’t be wrong.

Unfortunately the finger trick fails to take into account varying lengths of index finger bones. Perhaps everyone who ate rice hundreds of years ago (I’m looking at you, Asians) were the same height. For Asians, that’d be around 5’2″. Tiny tiny index finger bones. I’m 5’10” and Melody once saw my hand and said to me, “woah, you have really long fingers!” It’s true. Fortunately for me, every time I make rice using the finger trick, it still comes out perfectly. A method to their madness.

All I’m saying is that maybe you should take Asians as more street-smart and cunning than they’re perceived to be (With the exception of ricers, of which I am NOT affiliated).

Maybe when you look at that middle-aged Korean guy, you should think, “oh, he doesn’t go home and yell at his wife because he has anger issues, he goes home and makes really good rice.”

Maybe when you glance over at that old Chinese lady on the T rockin’ the lime green and purple jacket with baggy denim shorts, you should say to yourself, “oh, she doesn’t have poor fashion sense. she goes home and makes really good rice.”

A change of view, it’s all I’m asking. And to make really, really good rice.

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If you’re not Michael Phelps…

If you don’t swim 40 miles a day and burn 12,000 kcal in the process (yes, I used the kcal, as in kilocalorie, not Calorie… who thought that would be a good idea? Seriously. 1000 = 1? He wasn’t very smart.) like Michael Phelps does, you should be the kind of person that is mindful of what they eat. I’m not talking about lower-class families that have no choice but to eat processed/fast food due to their budget. I’m talking about people wealthy enough to enjoy, oh, say, ice cream. Or a smoothie. Or even a milkshake.

When you think ‘milkshake‘ (I haven’t had one in at least 5-6 years, and I plan to keep up that trend), I’ll bet that the first thing that comes to mind isn’t a 2,310 calorie (970 from fat) large Heath Bar milkshake with more than triple the recommended daily value of saturated fat, and just enough carbs and cholesterol for an entire day. In a single milkshake.

That’s right. Baskin Robbins makes a Heath Bar milkshake that might as well notify your life insurance agency to triple your premiums. It makes eating an entire Monte Cristo in one sitting seem tame. Unfortunately, I’ll have to keep this post short, because if I keep talking about it and looking at that picture, imagining the Heath bar candy bits clogging up my arteries, my heart might just go into v-fib.

On the bright side, it does have 120% RDV of calcium, if you can manage to look past the half a pound of sugar in that cup.

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Chinglish.

I’m an American-Born Chinese (heretoforeafter referred to as “ABC”) and pretty proud of it. My parents did all the hard work of coming here with nothing, working like mad to make a living, went to colleges with a very elementary grasp of English (my mom graduated from Wellesley, mind you), eventually bought a house, several cars, a lawnmower, several large-screen TVs, the works for our garage… and somewhere in that span of time, they learned English. Don’t get me wrong; I’m extremely appreciate of all the time and energy they invested into their new lives in America. Without them… well, I wouldn’t exist. So you can put me down as “beyond extremely appreciative”. I love my parents. I know very few people, ABC or otherwise, who don’t.

But why is it that for ABCs who know their parents’ language, it eventually becomes impossible to exclusively speak that language to them? For example, my parents speak Cantonese (yes, they’re from the villages in southeast China, and not from the affluent, civilized northern China, where people speak Mandarin, and regard Cantonese as a ‘lesser language’). My dad, in particular, prefers that the only language to be spoken to him, my mom, or my grandma, be Cantonese. I remember when I was younger (ha, “when I was your age…”), he would scold my brother for not using Cantonese in the house. Of course, at the time, I naively figured he had it coming, since he was my brother, and he never got in trouble for anything. I was wrong.

No one can blame them for trying to preserve their cultural roots. Unfortunately, for a multitude of reasons, the pure native language is interspersed with seemingly random English words, resulting in what is commonly referred to as Chinglish. For example:

我要吃 BAGELS GONDOLA RIDE 当射擊时 NERF GUNS.

(For those of you who can’t read Chinese, that says, “i want to eat BAGELS on the GONDOLA RIDE while shooting NERF GUNS.”) To be honest, I don’t know why anyone could be in this situation. You’d have to be in Venice (or the Charles) and it’d have to be breakfast time (or post-dinner pre-midnight-snack snack time) and you’d have to be attending Northeastern (or live in Italy). You know what? That. sounds. awesome. I’m jealous of the imagery I just created. mmm.

There are two major caveats preventing the pure transmission of an ABC’s native language. I’m sure my dedicated readers are familiar with them…

1. The ABC learns concepts and terminology that don’t have equivalent English expressions.

This is probably the most common cause of Chinglish. In the above example… Chinese simply doesn’t have a word for bagels. They don’t have bagels. They don’t like bagels. They think bagels are nasty. It’s like… a ring of tofu, or something. Blasphemy.

No gondolas, either.

And sure as heck no Nerf guns. Can you imagine what 400 million Chinese kids armed with Nerf guns would look like? And how much it would hurt? I can see it now, Nerf gun wielding firing squads… and a week later, NATO-supervised disarmament of 30% of China’s population.

I liken the fact that some English words don’t exist in Chinese to having an abstract word or concept to draw in Pictionary. Or to act out in Charades. Or to act out in Telephone Charades Pictionary. (not sure how that one works. yet.) My annual favorite: playing Pictionary, draw COURAGE. The word. COURAGE.

2. Some Cantonese words were probably derived, symbol-for-syllable, from their equivalent English expressions.

Jason mentioned this. How do you say the word ‘chocolate’ in Cantonese? For those of you gifted with the… uh… gift, of Cantonese, say it to yourself. In your head. Because if you don’t, your equally-fluent Cantonese-speaking roommate will look at you awkwardly, and the relationship will never be the same. Don’t do it.

Now that you don’t have the word chocolate in your mind anymore, notice how it sounds similar to the English word. ju-goo-lick. chocolate. ju-goo-lick. chocolate. CONSPIRACY.

I’ll just go down the list here, of words that sound similar in Cantonese to English:

  • steak : see-take
  • chocolate : ju-goo-lick
  • bagel : bay-go
  • the Charles river : cha-lay horh
  • boston : boh-see-dun

If you look (or listen) closely, it appears that these Chinese translations for English words came about due to substitution of Chinese symbols for English syllables. Furthering the spread of Chinglish.

Whether you like it or not, Chinglish is here to stay. It matters little whether or not it makes you sound like a bumbling idiot while speaking Chinglish. It’s almost required. Everyone’s doing it. Sooner or later, it won’t matter what language you’re speaking (or not speaking). It’ll all blend together into one variegated chinglish-americaese tapioca spewing from underneath our palates. Yummy.

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Tinges, Totoro, and the fate of the Earth.

So some of my regular readers may have realized that I’ve been changing my theme around. From a black monotone theme to black/gray/blue theme to a white/multicolor theme… and finally, back to Hemingway, my favorite out of the bunch. It only displays two posts. Scratch that, excerpts from two posts. But it’s simple, clean, functional, and minimalistic. Kinda like a kitchen by IKEA, or a Honda Accord. But we’ll save those topics for a later date.

Yesterday, I watched the movie My Neighbor Totoro with Lisa. Before we sat down to watch it, she said to me,

This is one of those movies that’s really random. So don’t look at me in the middle of the movie with that confused face, because chances are I don’t know what’s going either. =)

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s begin. My Neighbor Totoro confused me. But that’s just because nothing was explained. What’s a Totoro? He never even says his name! Setsuki only interprets his name from a series of growls, in the style of UGNHHH UNGHNN UNGH. Think Chewbacca-esque. Also, why are they so fluffy? I want to take a nap on a Totoro, especially the big one. See how comfy he looks:

Okay, so maybe that shot isn’t so flattering. He looks like an inflatable rabbit. That, right there, is also my favorite scene of the movie… it just looks so hilarious. Please tell me someone agrees with me.

I also don’t know the purpose of the Totoro. He’s a fluffy spirit that lives in the forest? I wish spirits were fluffy. The only spirits I know of… actually, I don’t know of any spirits. But even if I did, they wouldn’t be very pleasant to hug. It’d be akin to hugging my college roommate (he’s 5’10” and weighs something like 120lbs. i.e., a stick.), except that you’d be hugging air. Very uncomfortable.

Also, what’s the deal with the other two, smaller Totoros? Is it like the Three Bears, where there’s a dad, mom, and kid? See picture… and if that’s the case, then I’d say the Mom is dangerously malnourished.

I still think the big Totoro is my favorite. He’s what you’d get if you crossed a bunny, a bear, and a penguin. And a marshmellow.

Still, despite what you may think, don’t get on big Totoro’s bad side. Or this happens:

You do not want to mess with that guy.

Also, in case you were wondering if the Earth has been destroyed by the Large Hadron Collider, I’ve found the answer here (constantly updated): Has the LHC destroyed the Earth?

Ooh, they have an RSS feed too! So I can instantly be notified by e-mail of any status changes. That is, if the Earth does in fact get destroyed.

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Sir, the reason I pulled you over…

I can’t see your license plate. Well, I can see it, but I can’t see what it says.
— “What do you mean? It’s right there!
Yes, sir, but I can’t see it.

It’s okay if you don’t get this one. If you do, you must either be a nerd, digital artist, or web developer. But really, don’t lose sleep over this one.

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Freedom sans responsibility.

It recently occurred to me that I’m not going back to school anymore. College is over for me. School… maybe not. When did I come to this realization? When I wondered where Derek was. I called him up one Sunday…

“why aren’t you at service?”
“I’m back at WPI.”
“oh.” *is saddened*

Lots of other reasons. My muscles thank me that I’m not moving in anywhere, whether that’s a dorm (yeuch), on-campus apartments (yeuch), or an off-campus apartment (joy!). As people go back to school and start their workloads off relatively light, I continue to work. And then it hits me. This is it. There’s no end in sight for me and my job at Sun. There’s no end-date for my internship. Even school has a set end date–you’ll always be done eventually–lodged in the back of your mind. I’m living, for real this time.

I don’t envy those who are going back to school. They’re going to have to pull all-nighters, study like crazy, and maybe even work through their weekends, not getting a chance to relax and enjoy themselves. I do envy those who are going back to school, but aren’t taking any classes. As far as I can tell at my old, old age of 20, that is the epitome of living. Not only are you not living at home (sorry, commuters!), but you aren’t taking any classes, or your workload is relatively light. I got a chance to experience this all through freshman and sophomore years–I never stayed up last 10pm doing work. Enter, MMOs and other addictive games–in my case, the Matrix Online and Guild Wars. I regret playing those games at all. They robbed me of my social life and even times, of my hard-forged relationships with others. It was a lot of fun, though, and was a great timesink. Which was what I needed them to be.

World of Warcraft. I DEFINITELY dont envy them.

Those, my friend, comprise the lives of World of Warcraft addicts. I definitely do NOT envy them.

That’s just it–you don’t have to do anything, in a situation like that. It’s freedom sans responsibility. And, may you (or may you not) experience it, it’s the best (and probably most selfish) 6 months you’ll [n]ever have.  Unless you get married, or something. But we’ll save that discussion for another time.

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Milk, eggs, vodka

The other day, I was at Borders (yes, I read books, occasionally, but most of the time I just like shopping for them) and I happened upon a book entitled, “Milk, Eggs, Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found.” The author, Bill Keaggy, went around scrounging parking lots and shopping baskets at supermarkets, in search of other people’s grocery lists… to determine something about their lives. He also has an overwhelmingly-popular website, grocerylists.org, where people can submit images of others’ grocery lists. Let’s take a look, shall we…

hmmm… a life. Check aisle 14… the ice cream isle. Of course. Keep looking? Oh, okay.

Who knew they made buttmilk?

Who knew advances in dairy products had come so far?

w/ red stripper shoes. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

Who knew 3rd grade was optional?

Who knew 3rd grade was optional? Oh, and make sure you buy the ROST-BEFE-, PRETSILS, HARE SOPE, KRAKERS, and don’t forget the BURD FUDE.

Well, obviously.

Much, much more at grocerylists.org.

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Why is this blog titled the way it is?

Some of my newly gained followers *ahem, regular readers* may have noticed something about the title of this blog, “this new catfood tastes like crap.” I’m sure that they (you know who you are, and thank you =) as well as any new visitors may think that I’m crazy for choosing to title my blog this way. Well, you’re right. I am crazy.

The source of my blog title comes from a picture I found on digg. In this picture, a cat is chowing down on a cactus. And he looks… very displeased, to say the least.

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