Sunday, June 09, 2013
I truly, honestly, deeply HATE SAD. There's been sunshine for a while now, I've been to light therapy and got the sunburn to prove it, I'm eating as much calcium and vitamin D as my daily calorie allowance will permit, and I'm STILL not over this seasonal affective disorder thing.
It feels like I should be. I know I shouldn't put this pressure on myself, but I've DECIDED I don't want to feel that weak and weepy anymore, so normally my body and brain should DO what I want.
Guess what? They're not.
I'm used to my body betraying me, breaking down, being injured and not healing right, but my brain?
See, now I'm angry. I HATE SAD. It makes me into an emotional mess. It makes me feel like these stereotypical girls you see in the movies when normally I'm pretty much collected, focused, and driven by logic more than emotions.
I can't make sense of all this.
SAD is hell for those who value structure in their thoughts. I think it's hell for everyone, but for me, it's throwing everything I am into a blender, pureeing it, and pouring the whole messed-up mixture out again. I can't shut out the things I want to shut out, I can't keep my mind together and just get things done. I get lost in flashbacks and memories, and people make me jump so hard I think I'm going to have a heart attack one of these days. The worst thing is that exercising exacerbates the problem this time instead of making it better. I can't run, so my preferred way of getting rid of excess "feels" is out. Strength training doesn't give me the satisfaction running does, and I'm exhausted and angry and a big ball of stress at the end.
I NEED to get OVER this!
I came home from work today, curled up on my couch and pretty much started crying because one of the saddest pieces of music I know was on the radio (Michael Kamen's Band of Brothers theme). It's a miracle I kept it together through work.
I rationally know it has to do with adjusting to a new thyroid med dose while combating SAD simultaneously. Now, if only the rest of me would LISTEN I wouldn't be a red-eyed, sniffling mess while outside there's sunshine and laughing kids and a bbq.
I'm just going to pretend it's all because I'm watching UP and put that on right now. *nods*
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
I'm a classically trained pianist and violinist. I love classical music most among all genres I've encountered so far, and if I had to choose just one genre to listen to for the rest of my life, classical would be it.
There is a pretty good music university/college where I live, and I've been to quite a few master class exams now. I even got to attend a class with a very famous pianist once! I just sat in the back row and made fingering notes, but it was still incredibly inspiring and motivating.
Today, I went to a clarinet class's final exam. The final exams for those advanced students are held in the extraordinarily beautiful neo-baroque concert hall of Hamburg. The student who performed today was really good- she still needs to work a little on her breath techniques so they flow more naturally with what she wants to express, but she's on her way to becoming one of those chosen few who make music their profession, and she'll be great at it.
Just as I was leaving the concert venue, still high on the music, I overheard someone saying that "well, that girl was pretty good for a Black person."
"Yeah, I know, I thought this was the classical clarinet final and then I thought I'd stumbled into the Jazz ones."
"Yeah, but then it all turned out alright, right?"
Not one word about how amazing this young musician had been.
This is what I honestly hate about the classical music world: It's one of the most backward and racist environments possible. If you're not white or Asian, don't even TRY to set foot in it. You'll be met with comments like these all the time.
I really admire people like the young woman who performed tonight- people who willingly and with open eyes expose themselves to this toxic environment in order to change people's perceptions of what someone should be, what style of music they should prefer and play, because of what they look like.
As for what I did? I wheeled around and snapped at the two talkers that they were racists and should feel ashamed for what they had said. I hope it made them think at least a little.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
There are things I do that seem to puzzle my equally feminist, atheist, humanist, progressive and liberal female friends. I love to bake, for example, the more complicated the process the happier I am if it comes out great (don't ask about the disastrous "Weeks of the Chocolate Souffle"). I love making my own bread. I don't quite love to cook, but I like it well enough and I prefer the fresh taste of home-made food prepared from flavorful ingredients to restaurant meals and take-out. I like having doors held open for me (and hold them open for others, too), and I don't mind not paying for my own cocktails or meal if I'm going out with someone.
Somehow, the bread baking thing is the most controversial for all of them. I always knead by hand, I always use whole-grain flour, it takes a (comparatively) long while to make and sometimes my hands cramp up if the denser grain flours don't want to cooperate and become the smooth, self-cleaning yeast dough (prefer that to sourdough) they have to be. This particular subset of friends seems to think that going through all that just for the purpose of having bread on the table is somehow contrary to how I present as a person.
I can't see it that way. Wrestling stubbornly resisting elements into submission while also making sure the outcome is a smooth, well-working product IS my daily bread! It's what I love so much about my job. The ingredients for my everyday work are people and the law, both of which are often at odds with one another or even not homogenous among themselves, so just like I sift my flour to make for a more even and fluffy dough I smooth over ruffled feathers and attempt to make sure everybody's on the same page at work.
Until just now, I never realized just how well that bread-making metaphor works for international business law. The power of blogging!
Anyway, back to the matter at hand! I've got two recipes for you this time, even accompanied by pictures (because I thought of taking some before devouring the fruits of my labor this time, yay me!)! One is for traditional Indonesian summer rolls (you may know them as autumn or fall rolls), the other is for this week's bread.
Bread goes first! Measurements are in metric because my imperial scale broke and I can't get a new one for a while yet... :( Sorry! I'll try to approximate but it's an inaccurate approximation and might not work right.
Whole-wheat grain bread with saffron
You will need:
475 grams whole-wheat fine-ground flour (16-17 oz; 3.5 cups)
ca. 40 grams quinoa grains (1.5 oz)
ca. 40 grams linseed (or flaxseed) (1.5 oz)
a large handful of sunflower seeds
about 1 tsp salt
a pinch of sugar
about 12 saffron threads (to be ground in mortar)
a pinch of pepper flakes
a pinch fresh ground pepper
a pinch dried and ground coriander leaves
a small pinch dried and ground onions
a few fresh ground mustard seeds
a tiny pinch of ground-up chili flakes
a few ground-up caraway seeds
(grind all the to-be-ground ingredients in your mortar, then rinse it right away (as even granite will take on the intense yellow-orange color of the saffron otherwise). Alternatively, make a larger amount of the mixture and fill a spice grinder, the mix tastes great on sandwiches too!)
1 package dry yeast (or sourdough/fresh yeast according to their instructions)
splash of olive oil
Sift your flour into a large bowl (clay preferred, I didn't have one handy this time so I used plastic). Measure your seeds on top, then shake to combine. Make a small depression in the middle, pour in your yeast, add sugar, salt and half a cup of as warm water as you can get out of your faucet. Let sit for about fifteen minutes, tidy up your kitchen or mix your ground spices in the meantime.
Add the ground spices around the depression, then start kneading. You will need to add about another half cup of water, but go slow. Make sure to thoroughly knead your dough until it starts picking up whatever crumbs have fallen off, cleans your hands and feels smooth, soft and pliant. I usually start kneading inside my bowl, then transfer to the kitchen counter because the motions are easier when you have more room. Put your ball of dough back into the bowl, splash olive oil on top, smear all over the dough with your hands. Wet your hands and wipe all over the dough, your dough will look kind of like this:
Let proof (rise) covered with a linen cloth in a warm, draft-free place for two-four hours. Normally, I make my bread dough in the morning before going off to work and bake the bread at night when I return.
Tangent: It's funny, the literal translation of this process in German is to let the dough "walk". I tried explaining to my one friend today, and she at first didn't understand either literal translation for "rise" or "proof", but finally laughed and told me that German yeast dough "walks"! At the end of that process, your dough will look somewhat like this:
Place an oven-safe small bowl of water on the oven floor. Pre-heat your oven to 400-425 degrees CONVENTIONAL heat (no convection this time!). Quickly knead your dough one final time, shape or put into a mold of your choice, give the top a few slices with a knife and bake for 45 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for another 35 minutes.
Enjoy your freshly baked bread!
Indonesian summer rolls with shrimp
You will need:
Thin rice paper
pre-cooked vermicelli (rice glass noodles)
Very thinly sliced (about finger length, 1-3mm diameter):
Leaf lettuce (red oak leaf lettuce for me this time)
Braise your shrimp in a bit of lemon juice. Drain and let cool.
Prep a bowl of warm water, a plate, and your thinly sliced veggies, vermicelli, coriander and lettuce leaves.
Place a piece of rice paper in the warm water until soft, put on your plate. Starting from the lower third, place three or four shrimp in a line up to the top. Add a few vermicelli on top of the shrimp, then neatly place your veggies and one stalk of coriander leaves on top. Trim a lettuce leaf to fit the entire construction and hold together with one hand. With the other, fold up the lowest, free third of your rice paper, then fold in the sides and press together. Repeat until you're out of ingredients.
Results should look a bit like this:
Mango-chili-lemon dip to go with the summer rolls:
In a small sauce pan, boil about 1/4 cup of mirin, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. Switch off the heat. Add about 1 Tbsp mild vegetable oil (sunflower, rapeseed). Add 1/4 cup unsweetened mango puree and 1 tsp finely ground dried chilies. Add 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice, then simmer on remaining heat for ~5min. Season with a little rice vinegar until it tastes good for you.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
It's still (or again) freezing here, the one day I wasn't cold was a fluke and we're back to the 40-degree grind. The sun is a distant memory...
I started seriously playing Ingress, a fun GPS-based game in which you and your faction try to gain control over portals via something called "exotic matter", which is collected and used in both offensive, defensive and neutral capabilities. Generally speaking, you run around collecting glowing dots on your phone, then fire "XMP" at the other faction's portals, stock them with "resonators", hack them, collect more items, link them, and run to the next one. It's a game that, to play it well, requires hours spent outdoors on foot or on a bike and has you meet quite a few very nice people (mostly of the tech nerd variety). If you're looking for motivation to go out and walk/run/bike, try it. I can send you an invite ;)
So, anyway, combine the game with the current weather and generally feeling stretched thin and you've got a wonderful full-blown feverish cold.
My contact lenses would kind of swim away from my teary eyes, so I had to take them out and use my glasses. I'm almost legally blind without my vision aids, so every morning has turned into an adventure.
Whenever I'm not wearing anything to correct my vision, my sphere of being shrinks down to my immediate environment. To read, I must hold a page close to my face. I can move through my apartment, but I bump into doorframes and anything on the floor, because they are too far away until I've learned the position of everything there is. It's fascinating,because at once with the loss of something so small every single step is an adventure, a venture out of my secure space and into the wide, unknown open.
It's almost too much right now. The doc diagnosed both my thyroid hormones out of whack and S.A.D., which I hadn't thought possible to have, after all, I lived in NYC for more than four years. Still, apparently, the lack of light and warmth makes for a seasonally affected me- at least now I've got an explanation as to why I felt so stretched thin intellectually, like everything was a chore, recently.
I'll have my first infrared light cabin treatment very early on Monday morning (ugh, getting up at five a.m.!), feel like my home has turned into a pharmacy with all the supplements and vitamins and new thyroid things I'm supposed to try out, and just want to get better.
Feeling like walking around your own home is an adventure you'd rather not have is just no fun, plus I feel like my work has suffered. Ugh!
Winter, leave me alone. I want global warming, please! Right here!
Friday, May 03, 2013
I know it may be a little pathetic, or weird, or freaky, but I've spent quite some time trying to put a finger on what was nagging me about the latest Iron Man movie.
I'm a fangirl. I read as much of the comics as my allowance would let me buy (while my parents kept up the endless stream of books to feed us voracious readers, comics were always a thing we had to buy ourselves), and when the first movie came out, I was pretty much in fangirl heaven (even though it re-invented the back story once more).
This third movie is a very good one- don't get me wrong- but it was strangely... lacking. I didn't connect emotionally as much as I had to the other two, despite the much more human themes and outward expression.
Through some periods of the movie, I felt fully engaged and on the edge of my seat, while others left me strangely cold, all of those to do with the villains. I'm firmly convinced now that non-comic readers, or non-diehard fans won't even have a problem with most of these points, and might even find them better than the comics canon. In some points, I even agree.
First, let me list some of the things other fans were disappointed in that didn't faze me.
1) The big one: The seemingly wanton destruction of one Iron Man suit after the other. Thor's lightning, alien soldiers- the Mark VII/VIII suit withstood a lot more than a few super soldiers while the Mark 42 and its predecessors now seem to be made of cardboard. I consider those types of threats different than a super heated surface, though. When compared to the Extremis soldiers, neither would be particularly effective against a dense metal alloy. A sustained energy beam- sure. Make sure it's not absorbed by the arc reactor and you've got an effective weapon. The way their attacks were portrayed? Not effective. Now, metal coming into prolonged contact with a surface heated to well beyond its melting point (maybe even beyond its boiling point, didn't get "successful experiment" data, only failed (aka explosion))? Very effective weapon. So yeah, maybe I put too much thought into understanding this one, but it was clear to me from the beginning.
2) The mandarin as an actor: Not sure whether it was deliberate, but we never see Ben Kingsley wear the rings outside the videos. Maybe he's just that good? I certainly wouldn't rule him out as a villain just yet.
3) Pepper as an Extremis victim: It was a refreshing change from the "damsel in distress" trope while allowing for it to still be employed. I especially loved that she chose to be un-modified in the end, reenforcing her status as Tony's moral compass.
4) Extremis as purely Hansen's creation/a biological weapon: It leaves an in for more Extremis storylines. I won't protest anything that leaves a backdoor to Extremis!Tony. There was enough drama in the movie without adding it in this time.
Now, on to the things that DID bug me. They come down to three main points: Motivation, continuity, and resolution.
First off, motivation. I understand that revenge for being snubbed by a powerful business entity/potential investor is a fantasy every one of us in the working world has entertained at least once. It is, however, not enough to fuel a fourteen-year grudge to me. I understand Aldrich Killian's desire to cure himself, I understand his motivation for perfecting the Extremis program. I don't understand his need for revenge. He did achieve all he set out to do even without the help of Tony Stark- isn't that revenge in and of itself?
Maya Hansen's shifting perspective on her work... Hasn't it occurred to her in all that time she was working for Killian that he was abusing her idea? Add a quick visit by a sexy billionaire chained to a bed frame, and suddenly she's grown a conscience? I don't buy it. Either make it so she's firmly entrenched in her Ivory Tower or let her out before. There was enough time in the whole bed frame scene/conversation to show at least SOME character development instead of just doing a one-eighty.
Second, continuity. In the previous movies, it was established that the suits were powered by the arc reactor built into them/connected to Tony. In this movie, the newest one suddenly needs outside charging? It's old comics canon, but it's new for the movieverse, and it's a grating and jarring difference that serves no other purpose than forced introduction of moments of comic relief that consequently fail after the first time. Yes, we get that it's a prototype, that it's bugged. Every other bug, I'm buying- the charging thing, no.
Third, resolution. I've already mentioned my problems with how the whole PTSD storyline was handled. It appears in several situations, abruptly and convincingly, then after a little smalltalk with a cute child it's gone? I get that in high-adrenaline situations, all these symptoms are shoved into the back of your mind and don't get out, but as soon as there's a little downtime, there should've been at least some small sign of a crash (e.g. Tony and Rhodey on the boat, after Monkey Chain). As soon as the stress mounts everything will once again be viewed through the wonderfully clarifying effects of an adrenaline rush, but... ah well.
It is well established that Tony Stark is a genius engineer, and in fact, the sequence of him building assault weapons with things bought at a home improvement store is one of my favorites (even though I was a little disappointed that there wasn't anything more sophisticated than what your average high schooler with a penchant for chemistry and electrical engineering would do- come on! He's Tony Stark! At least HIS stun glove should give him more than one charge!). This is why I don't get the final scene of him throwing the arc reactor into the ocean. Engineers, at least all those I've ever lived with (which is most of my family), are pack rats. They consistently feel like none of their "projects" (aka obsessions) is ever good enough, but they also exhibit an almost pathological need to keep the previous versions to improve UPON. I never met an engineer who would EVER throw away a project that worked, even if it was defunct now. I get the symbolism the writers/director wanted to show in that scene, but it isn't in character for me. It's enough to show Tony risking getting the arc reactor and shrapnel removed, let that be the closure.
All the other points I mentioned in my last post stand- JARVIS being ordered to commit multiple suicides, the odd pacing...
But now, on to the things I LOVED.
Pepper! She definitely got her moment(s) to shine this time, and I simply adored her.
Tony/Rhodey banter. Never better! Also loved that they're still friends, missed that one in IM 2.
Most of the comedic moments, especially the Tony/Pepper and Tony/enemy minions ones.
Happy's scenes. And Downton Abbey. Need someone to explain whether there's a deeper significance (e.g. actor working in that series too, writer writing for it too?). I've never seen it so I don't even know what it's about...
Tony's out-of-suit adventures. Especially the rapport with the kid. And him telling the kid, in his own way, that it does get better. In some way.
MOST of the physical comedy with the Mark 42 suit. Some of it, especially the "smashed by truck(?)" scene was too much though.
The final fight, with all the armors zipping around like little fireflies.
The Extremis soldiers, and that the Extremis program was in-universe scientifically thought-through and sound continuity-wise. I also loved that there was no attempt at an explanation as to WHY modified life-forms explode beyond "instability". Also, no "fusion bomb"- that one still irks me to no end, for those who've seen the third Batman movie. THAT doesn't make sense. Hand-wavey, in-universe consistent science? I don't care HOW unrealistic it is as long as you SHOW me it's not meant to be my reality/real science.
Overall, this was a very good movie with a very human Tony Stark- none of the Robot Wars of the previous two, but still not lacking in action (I know a lot of you will disagree). The comics have always been as much about Tony Stark as they have been about Tony Stark in his Iron Man persona, and I for one don't mind the emphasis being put on the other half of the equation this time.
I still think the pacing could have been better, especially considering the exposition of the main villain and Maya Hansen- those were the points that threw me off. IM 2, which many dislike, is basically the same "snubbed so I take revenge" story, only Vanko actually suffered for it while it is unclear what exactly Killian's detriment was. Reflecting on it, it's a minor issue, but one that sticks up since previous villains were so much better fleshed out.
The thing I'm really left wanting to know now is: WHEN and HOW will Tony Stark be back? I can't WAIT!
Thus, the movie has accomplished its mission.
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