Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #6

13 of My Favorite Books

1) Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
2) Wheel of Time (Series), Robert Jordan
3) Wizard in Glass, Stephen King
4) Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
5) Watership Down, Richard Adams
6) Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, Astrid Lindgren
7) Secret of Nimh, Robert C. O'Brien
8) Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
9) A Song of Ice and Fire (Series), George R.R. Martin
10) Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice
11) Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
12) Harry Potter Books, J.K. Rowling
13) Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bean Turns 24 !!




Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Manatees Mate Through Gang-Rape?

One of the most popular New York Times stories today is about manatees, and debunking the perception that the slow-moving mammals lack intelligence. According to the article, scientists have long assumed that the manatee is a simpleton based on its brain size and shape. Manatees have the lowest brain-to-body ratio of any mammal. In addition, manatees' brains have smooth surfaces and exhibit none of the folding found in other mammals. Only now are scientists coming to realize that manatees are quite clever, despite what has been perceived as a lack of complexity in their brain structure, and that their tactile sensory skills rival, and in some cases exceed, the skills of human beings.

I find articles like this - on the intelligence of animals that has gone undetected by human beings because of erroneous assumptions and biases - fascinating. Fascinating, because as a fan of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy series (the books, not the movie), I'm partial to believing that the mice or the dolphins or some other sentient being - cats? - really have been running the show all along. Maybe it's my predisposition to root for the underdog, but I love the idea of human beings getting shown up by animals. There's so much we, as humans, have yet to discover about our world and its other inhabitants, it's nice when we make some progress towards understanding nature; it gives me some faith in our humanity, that we can see the value in other beings.

But now to the point: In the midst of reading this interesting, feel-good article, focused as I mentioned on debunking preconceived notions, I came across this jarring section: "Their social world is relatively straightforward. Males mate with females in a violent affair that resembles a gang rape; manatee calves stick close to their mothers for about two years, then head off on their own."

It's remarkable - in addition to offensive and irresponsible - how even in the midst of critiquing how past misperceptions and assumptions regarding manatees have obscured an understanding of their true nature, the author exhibits no restraint in making, or repeating, gendered assumptions when it comes to describing the sex act of manatees.

A gang rape is a violent and brutal act. It is also an unwanted violation of the being - usually a female - being raped, and in our human society it has as much, or more, to do with male entitlement, gender, and male power, as it does with sex. And, with the exception of rape as an intentional tool of genocidal war, gang rapes, in the human context, have nothing to do with mating or a desire to reproduce.

How absurd, then, that the author of this piece, or scientists if this is the general perception, would liken manatee mating to a gang rape. In the same piece discussing how until recently scientists thought manatees were sluggish, gentle, simpletons, the author readily jumps to the conclusion that male manatees are engaged in a gang rape scenario when attempting to impregnate female manatees. When interpreting the sex act, biases and assumptions of the author based on gendered notions of human interaction come into play to depict the male manatee as a violent, sexual aggressor because that's how many humans stereotype men during sex. For example, you may have heard the expression, "Men are the gas, women are the breaks" when describing human sexual interaction. Similarly, the female manatee becomes the sexual prey, a victim of a "gang rape," instead of an equal engaged in the reproduction of her species.

Scientists don't even understand the manatee brain. How can they understand the nuances of their sex act? How do scientists know that the manatee males are not performing an elaborate mating dance for the benefit of the female, as we see in other species? Manatees are large animals, and sex can be forceful, in humans and other mammals alike, but does forceful have to equal unwanted, sexual violence? Does sex between one female and multiple males have to be viewed as a non-consensual "gang rape"?

Remember for a moment, that we are talking about beings that have existed on this planet for approximately 50 million years. It's nonsensical to assume that for 50 million years manatees have been reproducing, successfully, by violently gang raping the females among their group. Gentle and slow-moving they may be, but it doesn't seem likely that any population of females would stand for that without some kind of revolt. Looking at it from a more big picture context, it doesn't make any evolutionary sense, and I am unaware of any similar examples, that a species' reproductive success would depend upon half of the species gang-raping the other half.

Creatures make infinitely more progress working with one another than they do working against one another, and I can't think of a better example of working against one another than gang-rape as a method of reproduction. Perhaps the scientists and the author disagree with me, and see gang-rape as a viable reproductive institution. Maybe that explains their odd interpretation of manatee sexual interaction.

Regardless of the exact nature of the underlying gender biases, the description of the manatee sex act as a "gang-rape" tells us far more about the nature of the scientists and the author of the article than it does about manatees. And that's unfortunate because I read the article to learn about manatees, not gender stereotyping. The New York Times should be ashamed.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Rainy Day

New York is having another rainy spell. It rained all day yesterday, and today looks like it won't be much different. I don't mind. In fact, I rather like it. Rainy days make me feel cozy and relaxed. They're the perfect excuse to curl up on the sofa and watch a movie, or to stay in bed all day reading a great book.

Granted, they're not as much fun when you have to get out of bed and slog to work in your flip-flops. Those spittle sprays that flip-flops leave on the back of your calves are so annoying. But, being cooped up in my office when it's rainy and gray outside is far better than when it's sunny and all I can think about is how much I wish I were at the Park.

Today, perhaps because the rain has put me in a good mood, I'm feeling oddly productive. I'm not going to question it. I'm just going to run with it and try to keep my blogging and celebrity site reading to a bare minimum.

The painting is by Monet, one of my favorite artists. I don't like this painting so much from a distance, but at close range the movement in the waves is quite impressive. If you look carefully, you can imagine the sound of the wind whipping around you and the feel of the saltwater sprays hitting your face.

I love standing on beaches in the middle of storms watching the ocean. My ideal place to live would be on a cliff overlooking the ocean, similar to the one pictured in the painting but with trees and a house, and a narrow path leading down from the top of the cliff face to the beach below. How awesome would that be?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bacchus In The House

My brother, Bacchus, was in town last night and he, Raj, and I went to dinner in Union Square and then met up with friends in the UWS. As it was a Thursday, I had expected a quiet dinner and chill after-dinner drinks. Dinner was lovely, but drinks got a bit rowdy. Somehow, instead of sipping wine in a low-key bar, my group ended up barhopping in Frat-land and doing shots at Jake's dilemma surrounded by gyrating 20-somethings. There was even - unfortunately - some cookie tossing at the end of the night.

For the record, I was not involved in the shots, gyrating, or cookie tossing. Bravo to me!

This morning, after letting Bacchus sleep until 11:44 - how nice of a sister am I? - the two of us had brunch at the neighborhood creperie. We had nutella and banana crepes, chocolate croissants, and cafe au laits. So yummy! Raj introduced me to cafe au laits. I eat the creamy layer of foam first with a spoon, after sprinkling it with a layer of sugar, and then slowly sip the naked coffee-milk mixture.

My brother and I had a really good talk over brunch. Who knew he had become so mature and grown-up? He gave me some sound, honest advice, listened to my feelings, asked me about my feelings, was tactful and sensitive, and showed me that he was there for me and was looking out for me.

After brunch, we trekked up to the Empire State Building and took in the mist-shrouded views of the city. I pointed out the gaps in the skyline where the Twin Towers once stood, and we found the shadowy figure of the Statue of Liberty off in the distance.

Then it was off to Grand Central so that Bacchus could catch his train to Connecticut. I kissed him goodbye but didn't feel sad because of the wonderful time we had had together.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #5

13 Countries I've Visited

1) Sweden - I was born in Lund, Sweden, a relatively large city in the south of Sweden. In my junior year of college, I studied for one semester at Lund Universitet, the same college my uncle and my father went to before me.

2) United States - When I was six years old, my family (mom, dad, and younger brother, Frey) moved to Hohokus, New Jersey. We stayed there for only six months and all I remember is a plastic rocking horse that I used to play on in the yard. We later moved around New England.

3) Argentina - In high school, I went to Argentina for three weeks with my best friend Simone and her family. At her grandparents' hacienda we sunned ourselves topless in the back yard, and I road a horse for the first time; the next day I couldn't walk because my legs were so sore. In Buenas Aires, Simone, her cousin, and I went to a crazy club called "New York City." They let us in, even though we were years underage, when they realized we were Americans. That night was my first and only experience dancing in the middle of a plastic enclosed room filled with sudsy bubbles and foam. It was a blast.

4) Uruguay - During the same trip, we drove in SUVs from Argentina to Punta del Este, Uruguay, one of the most gorgeous beaches I've ever seen. Simone and I were dazzled by all of the latin boys paying court to us. In one photograph, Simone and I are standing in our bikinis, towels around our waists, in the midst of a group of boys, some of whom were her very attractive cousins. All of the boys are smiling, along with Simone's sister, who was also in the shot. I'm looking at the camera, torn between feeling shy and excited, trying to play cool. Simone has her mouth wide open and is looking straight into the camera as if to say, can you believe this?

5) Greece - The winter semester I spent in Sweden was the grayest, longest winter of my life. The first week the charter flights started flying out of Sweden in April, two friends and I flew down to Greece in search of sunshine and beaches. In Athens, I climbed the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon and the surrounding temples. That was awesome. Later, I was saddened to see bits of temples poking out of the earth in the city proper, surrounded by rusting chain link fences and debris. I also saw whole carcasses of skinned goats, with only their hairy tails left intact, hanging in butchers' windows for the Greek Orthodox Easter celebration.

6) England - I spent the summer following my semester abroad traveling around Europe on a eurorail pass with a friend from college. We started the trip in London, England. While my friend wandered around Piccadilly Street, I went on a tour of the Tower of London and then on to Stonehenge. Walking across the stones in the Tower where queens and princes had met their sordid, scandalous deaths, was fascinating. At Stonehenge I felt like an intruder among the quiet stones, surrounded by crowds held back by only a thin rope. So many secrets that we will never know, perhaps lost forever.

7) Switzerland - While traveling through Europe, I stopped to visit an eclectic friend in Zurich. She took me on a tour of the city and showed me the apartments filled with squatters. She also showed me the corners of buildings where the government had installed fluorescent blue lights in a creative attempt to counter Zurich's drug problem. The blue lights made it impossible to see the veins in arms, and thus, impossible to use needles.

8) Italy - On the same trip, my friend and I stayed with a family who 30 years earlier had hosted my friend's mother as a foreign exchange student. My god, that woman could cook. We saw Milan, Florence, and Venice. I scuba dived for the first time, around Elba Island, the island where Napoleon was imprisoned and penned his memoirs. On my very first dive ever, I went down with the crazy Italian captain, who could speak no English. Many meters down, he communicated through vigorous finger jabbing that my oxygen had run out and that we would have to share his oxygen on the way up to the surface. Because I was insane at that time, I went on 5 more dives with him, including a night dive around a sunken ship. Italy was also the place where my love affair with Parmesan Reggiano cheese began.

9) France - I love France. The Louvre and it's tiny Mona Lisa, the Musee de l'Orangerie with its wall-to-wall water lilies, the latin quarter with its fondue, wine, and romance, and towns like Lyon, where fresh-baked bread, markets, and savoring the sweetness of life is the norm. For any fans of the "freedom-fries" out there, please recall that France gave the US our Statue of Liberty. Without France and it's revolutionary spirit, our history would have been very different.

10) Cambodia - During law school, I worked in Phnom Penh for a summer for a human rights NGO. It was an incredible experience, and my first exposure to South Asia. Sitting on the balcony of the F.C.C. (foreign correspondence club), looking out over the Mecon River, I could almost hear the faint sounds of helicopters; imprints left over in my mind from Vietnam-era movies that seemed to come alive in the mists hanging above the river. In Cambodia, I was surrounded by rubble-strewn streets, bombed out French colonial buildings, memories of the killing fields, and the bright smiles of the people, so many of them filled with warmth and generosity despite the atrocities they and their families have suffered. Angkor Wat was awe-inspiring.

11) Vietnam - Hanoi is a beautiful city, and, surprisingly, a shopping mecca. Literally every corner had a Vietnamese person trying to sell something. So much for communism, Ho Chi Minh. While riding a bus to Vietnam with a number of backbackers, one of the British travelers asked me how it felt to be visiting Vietnam as the United States had lost that war and been disgraced. I replied something along the lines of, probably similar to how it feels when you visit India, the United States, the Caribbean, and all of the other countries the British Empire no longer controls. I don't like Bushie, I believe the Vietnam war was misguided, and I have serious problems with a host of our foreign policies; however, I do have pride in the United States - our history, our principles, and our potential.

12) Belize - On a two-week vacation, Raj and I snorkeled around Tobacco Caye, got bitten alive by sand flies on the beach in Placencia, saw the Mayan ruins around San Ignacio, and traveled to Tikal in Guatemala to see the tallest Mayan ruins, buried deep within the jungle. My favorite part of the trip, other than the Mayan ruins, was a caving trip that we went on. Raj and I, two guys, and a guide went on a two-hour hike underground through caves that Mayan priests used to use to make sacrifices to the Gods. Despite my fear of dark spaces, I climbed through small rock passages, waded and sometimes swam through the waist high water covering the cave floor, and at one point sat in the dark in silence with my head lamp turned off to hear the sounds of the Mayan spirits inhabiting the cave.

13) Thailand - Last October, when I was near my mental breaking point due to work, I went on a much-needed rejuvenating vacation to Thailand. I spent one week on my own in a small wellness resort on an island in the south of Thailand. At the resort, I slept in a simple wood bungalow, surrounded by trees and flowers, took yoga classes, had spa treatments, and fasted for three days! It was one of the best trips that I have ever taken. During the next week, I traveled with my brother, Bacchus, to Bangkok and Chang-Mai, where we road on elephants, drank too many Singhas, and became fascinated by Buddhism.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens! (leave your link in comments, I'll add you here!)
  1. Caledonia
  2. Christine
  3. Nikkie
  4. Cindi
  5. Gypsy
  6. Pixieprincessmom
  7. Ash
  8. Ali
  9. Jerseytjej
  10. Amy
  11. Jenny-Ryan
  12. Sarah
  13. Mar
  14. Something Blue
  15. Ka-rista
  16. KarenW
  17. Shandra
  18. Southern Girl
  19. Tink
  20. Fisher Family
  21. My Two Cents
  22. April
  23. Kailani
  24. Raggedy
  25. Margaret
  26. You're next!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Edible Din-Din

I woke up this morning to Raj, looking dashing at the end of the bed all dressed for work in a crisp white shirt and slacks, saying, in an exceedingly chipper sing-song voice, "Munchkin, wakey, wakey. Time to get up, Munchkin!!" As I struggled to hold my eye lids open, I slowly realized that it was already 9:15, Raj had woken, gone to the gym, showered and dressed, and I had slept through it all. How many hours did I get last night, with only one interruption at 3 am? Nine blissful hours. Now that's the kind of sleep I'm talking about!

So much for getting in to work at a reasonable time.

Last night I made dinner for Leila and Zahra, two extraordinary teenagers I have befriended while working on their asylum case. We have not yet heard the results in their asylum case, so the girls continue to remain in legal limbo. They have been living in a domestic violence shelter since June. I see them about once a week, either visiting them at their shelter, or having them over to my apartment. I love spending time with them.

Though the girls often request "desi" (South Asian, including Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan) food, they decided yesterday that they were tired of desi food and wanted to have something non-desi for a change. The girls also wanted something healthy. I volunteered to cook dinner at my apartment, and this resulted in a flurry of conversations in which I tried to figure out what non-desi food they might like. During one conversation, Zahra told me that she liked eggplant "if cooked properly." When I asked her what she meant by "properly," she said, "with the right spices." I cautioned her that non-desi food does not use the same spices as desi food, to which Zahra replied, "Oh..." In another conversation, Leila told me that she did not like sweet potatoes. When I asked if she had ever had sweet potatoes, she admitted that she wasn't sure.

It was challenging to come up with a healthy, tasty, easy meal - one that I could make, and one that I could teach the girls how to make in the future. How do moms do it every night?? I'm forever looking for ideas, so if you have any, send them my way.

I ended up making poached salmon, corn, sweet potatoes, a salad, and antioxidant-packed blueberries with yogurt and brown sugar for dessert. To my great delight, it was a success!! Both girls had seconds, they loved the sweet potatoes, and the also really liked the dessert. Raj came home just in time for dinner and he said, after complimenting my cooking very sweetly, "Why aren't you always like this?" Ha ha.

Personally, I wasn't thrilled with the salmon. I'm partial to grilled, as opposed to poached, fish. The sweet potatoes, however, were brilliant. I was short on time so all I did was microwave one giant sweet potato for 6 minutes, after peeling the skin off, pricking it with a fork several times, and wrapping it tightly in saran wrap. After removing it from the microwave, I carefully removed the saran wrap (watch out for steam), put it in a dish and mashed it up with a fork. I topped it off with a few pats of butter, and voila! No unhealthy additives and it was delicious. Of course I didn't tell Leila, Zahra, or Raj that; he's worse than them, always wanting butter, salt, and the ubiquitous hot sauce.

Easy Blueberry Dessert:

Fresh blueberries
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp brown sugar

Rinse blueberries, put in bowl. Place a dollop of yogurt on top of the blueberries. Sprinkle with tbsp of brown sugar.

Tips: When eating this dessert, I love to mix the blueberries, yogurt, and brown sugar together until each berry is coated with a delectable brown sugar infused yogurt coating. This satisfies my cravings for creaminess and sweetness.

On yogurt: My mom used to make this dessert when I was younger by using sour cream instead of yogurt. Recently, I discovered Fage's greek yogurt. It's thick and creamy and has a similar consistency to sour cream, yet it has all the health benefits of yogurt. I buy the plain 2% yogurt because it is low fat, and still delicious. Occasionally, I eat it with honey and cinnamon as a snack, or dip strawberries into the honey yogurt mixture. Yummy.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Weekend Update and Vacation Day Dreaming

Another semi-quiet day at the office when I'm supposed to be doing a number of things, none of which are due today and Dragon Lady isn't calling, so I'm feeling relatively at peace with the world, waiting patiently for the hours to pass.

The weekend was fun and productive. I was a social butterfly and saw not one, but two girl friends for brunch and dinner, respectively. I completed my third treatment of laser hair removal on my nether regions, and instead of doing shots of bourbon beforehand as my brother had advised, I opted to ask the technician to turn down the strength of the laser. Excellent move on my part. Freaking brilliant! Because this time, instead of feeling as if I was being stabbed repeatedly with red hot knitting needles, it felt more like I was getting an intricate tattoo etched into my clitoris. Not pleasant, mind you, but a huge improvement over the last two torturous experiences.

I also cut and colored my hair, which I had been wanting to do for months. I had reached that stage of growing out my hair when all the icky layers had finally been eliminated and I was liking it, but was also noticing split ends and feeling as if I needed a little more body. A little more va-voom and bounce. That's a terrible, misguided thing, this desire for body. It leads, inevitably, straight down the miserable path back to layers. Sure enough, that's basically what happened.

I tried to explain to the new stylist that I wanted some more volume around my face and therefore wanted angles starting from an inch below my chin. I was picturing something sleek and smooth, with a nice curling under effect at the bottom of my tresses ala Charlotte of Sex and the City. The hairstylist however, despite my repeated requests for "angles" somehow heard "face -framing layers."

Thus, I know have a large chunk of layered hair that stops just passed my chin, and then longer hair extending down past my shoulders. I feel floppy and messy, and like the longer thinner hair looks like a sea of rat tails poking out from under the layered mess. The back, thankfully, is not layered, but I feel weirdly like I have some type of elongated mullet going on. This is absurd and all in my head, but still discombobulating. I liked my long one-length hair. Why, oh why, do I always get caught in the layers trap? It's going to take months to grow it out!

I'm also not sure I'm wild about the color. The greys are gone - a fact Raj innocently pointed out immediately upon seeing the new 'do for the first time - as are the sun-tinted glints of brassiness, but the color is dark. I'm afraid it might look as if I'm wearing a dark, opaque, hair helmet. I know I'm painting a ghastly picture. I think I just need to get used to it. As I was telling my mom the other day when she was bemoaning a too-short cut, it's only hair and it will grow back, eventually. But, even knowing that intellectually, I still can't stop myself from feeling the urge to cut off all the long pieces and make everything even-ish again.

Now, for the really exciting news: I have two vacations coming up. The first is a trip Raj and I will be taking in September, one week to British Columbia. At this point we are tentatively planning to fly into Vancouver and then drive up to Calgary to go hiking, river rafting, and perhaps climbing in BANFF. I am so excited for nature, camping, tents, smores, cards, and snuggling with Raj that I can barely stand it!! I've never been to B.C., so you if you have ideas, please let me know. Don't be shy.

The second vacation is the present I'm going to give myself after I quit this god-forsaken, but well-paying job. I am going to travel for 2-3 months, clear my head, see more of the world, and just enjoy myself away from the stress of work. I also want to use the time to connect with myself and think about what I want out of the future in terms of a career. But have no fear, I'm not going to put any pressure on myself to figure it out while I'm away. I'm just going to let things percolate.

Ideally, I would like to travel with someone (ideally Raj), because I feel like travelling is the best when you can share the experience with someone else. Some of my fondest memories of my friends and family are of times that we've travelled together. I'm really excited right now because I just persuaded my brother, Frey, to travel for the first month with me. Coincidentally, he'll be quitting his job right around the time that I do, so it's perfect timing to travel together. Raj will join me in the middle for at least two weeks, and hopefully I'll work something out for the remaining 6 weeks.

So, the thrilling question that I'm going to have to figure out during the next few months is where shall I travel? I'm in love with Asia, so will be in the eastern hemisphere. I think I'll definitely go through China, and maybe New Zealand. What do you think internet?

What are the top 3 places you would like to visit in the eastern hemisphere?


You know you've been reading too many celebrity internet sites when, while waiting in line in Starbuck's, you hear:

Girl 1: The movie was good. I was surprised to see Jessica Biel in it. I love her.

Girl 2: Yeah, I really like her too. She hasn't been in something for a while.

Girl 1: But she's been getting a lot of press lately. I don't know why...

Girl 2: Yeah, she has been getting press. I'm not sure why all of a sudden...

And you can barely restrain yourself from leaning over and explaining to the little simpletons: It's because of her ass! She's been getting so much press lately because of her recently "discovered" booty, which has been featured in a gazillion photos during the past two weeks. Which is sort of ridiculous because she's always been a babe, and on top of that she's been working out for months - I know because I've seen tons of pictures - and I've been noticing, approvingly, how buff and non-anorexic she was becoming.

Bravo to Jessica for demonstrating that actresses who eat are way hotter than those who don't!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Here are some of the reasons why this Friday kicks ass:

1) I went climbing last night and I had a great time. I went with a small group of summers and associates for a firm event that included climbing for 2 hours in a climbing gym and then pub food and beers afterwards. This was unusual for me because (a) I hate my firm, (b) I hate summers, with a few exceptions, and (c) I'm usually too drained during the week from work to do anything more active than going to the gym or snuggling with Raj on the couch.

This was the second time I have gone climbing in a gym. I've been bouldering outside and loved it but I've never done anything requiring equipment before. The aspects I enjoy about climbing are that you need to problem solve as you go, it's a great work out, and you feel such a sense of accomplishment when you make a move you've been struggling to get, or you complete a climb. I'm up to 5.7s, which I feel pretty good about, and learned how to belay yesterday so should now be able to go with a partner more regularly. I want to become awesome at it and then go for climbs outside. How awesome would that be?

2) I got nineteen visitors (who commented) to my blog yesterday for Thursday Thirteen! Bu-yah!! I love visitors and comments. I started blogging in February and this experience has been so rewarding and fun for me. I love the writing, the self-reflection, the bonding with my little sister, communicating with friends, and the sense of community and female empowerment that are all part of blogging for me. It's something that makes me happy each day to do, and I look forward to it. Keep coming with the comments and visiting. For those of you who visit but don't comment, say hi sometime!

3) Dragon Lady is not here today!! Fabulous! I had a meeting with her yesterday, and shocker of shockers, it actually went well. Meaning, she didn't glare or yell at me once! We even made half-way pleasant non-awkward small talk for a minute. It was like she was human. I walked out of her office feeling better than I did when I went in. That never happens.

4) This weekend is going to be fun-filled and productive. I'm going for a haircut and potential coloring to get rid of this damn grey. I hate grey hairs and I'm sick to death of peering at them in my mirror. I'm also having my third laser hair removal appointment. I wish I could drink beforehand but then I might be buzzed for my haircut and I need to be dead sober for that to keep the hairstylist in line. Thankfully, the pain from the laser goes away quickly. I have a bookclub meeting on Sunday, and Raj and I are going on a dinner/movie date tonight, and tomorrow we'll probably see some friends.

5) For once I completed the book I was supposed to read for my book club, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," the book that Bladerunner is based on. Though I didn't love the movie, and have yet to finish it, I really enjoyed the book. It questions what it is to be human (maybe Dragon Lady is an android????) and, like the Terminator movies (my all time favorite being T2), made me feel compassion for androids (but not Dragon Lady).

6) If you scroll down to the end of my blog, you'll see that I added a countdown until the day I'm going to give my two-weeks notice. Pretty awesome. I'm supremely impressed with myself that I figured out - through much trial and error - how to add that to my blog. Now if only I could figure out that auto-link thing I'd be all set.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #4

13 Things I Love About New York

1) The UWS - Beautiful brownstones, boutiques, brunch places, and easy access to Central Park. I think Raj and I might start looking for places up there in a few weeks. I would love to live there.

2) Central Park - I love how stepping just a few feet into the park brings a refreshing drop in the temperature, a nice breeze, and a sense of serenity. Sheep's Meadow, the lakes, and the winding paths through the trees are all beautiful. Every time I go, I think to myself that I have to go more often.

3) Nolita - A couple weeks ago I had the best day wandering down Prince, Spring, Mott, and Mulberry street, shopping, people watching, sipping coffee, snacking on hazelnut gellato, and appreciating how lucky I am to live in this city.

4) Diversity - Every day I walk among, work with, hear the languages, smell the foods, and see the faces of people of all backgrounds, races, and cultures. Even though some of them, like the hipsters, annoy me at times, I like that we all exist together.

5) The Choice of Anonymity - Living among millions of people, doing the commute each morning packed together like sardines, it's surprisingly easy to become lost in the crowd, easy to be left alone so that you can do your own thing without comment or interference. I think it comes from New Yorkers cultivating the talent to ignore all the craziness around them; part self-defense, part politeness. I know I've developed the same skill.

6) Museums - They make me sleepy but I love that they're at my fingertips for the moments that I'm drawn to explore them. I love the Rubin Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and have yet to explore the MOMA and hundreds of smaller museums and galleries.

7) Restaurants, Bars, and Clubs - There is an infinite number of choices with new ones opening each week. Although I'm not a fan of dropping lots of money on food (I prefer spending my money on clothes, tangible things, trips, or investing it), I do appreciate a fine meal on occasion, and find it entertaining to check out the various scenes in the city. Having a glass of wine at a cozy table with Raj, and being still, is one of my favorite things to do. I have to have brunch at Pastis, but it's on my list.

8) Shopping - From Bloomingdales to boutiques, every kind of shopping experience is here for the taking. I like Bloomingdales for make-up and boutiques for jeans shopping. Every time I see a Tibetan shop I can't help myself from walking inside, although I rarely by anything. Every shop has its own smell and vibe, usually due to a particular scented candle. I wish my apartment smelled as nice as some of those stores.

9) Convenience - There is a gym within five streets of almost every location in Manhattan, along with a coffee shop, dry cleaners, and nail salon. The city is made for those that work, and have limited time to get the basic necessities of life (yes, I just called dry cleaning, manicures, and coffee "basic necessities"). But seriously, each minute you don't have to waste on errands frees you up to enjoy and maximize the hours you have free from work. Nothing wrong with that.

10) Walking - I have gotten to know this city by pounding the pavement. I have a pretty good feel for the East side, the UWS, and Chelsea, but I still have the northern part of the Park, the Village, and way downtown to explore. Every 20 blocks = a mile. It's amazing how many miles you can walk without noticing the distance you've covered here.

11) Visitors - People come to New York often, either on business or to visit. When I was in Michigan, my family didn't visit until they had to on the date of my graduation. Since living in New York, even though my family still lives in Texas, I've seen them more frequently than I did before moving here, which makes me very happy.

12) The Energy - I feel as though I'm living at a center of things. Even though I'm completely not at the center of anything - not even my law firm - I like the feeling that things are happening here, all around me. There is an energy and a vitality that pulses through the city. Sometimes I find it exhausting, sometimes exhilarating. It's nice to get away from, but even better to come back home to.

13) The Tiny Apartment I Share - The romantic part of me loves the fact that I'm living with my boyfriend in a tiny little apartment with ancient AC, a leaky bathtub faucet, a bedroom that's only an inch wider than our bed, only one drawer in the kitchen, and a family room too small for a couch larger than a love seat. It's so young love in New York! Even though we both mention often that we would like a bigger place - and trust me, I have some grand plans for our UWS future - I know I'll look back at this time with nostalgia in a few years from now.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens! (leave your link in comments, I'll add you here!)
  1. My Two Cents
  2. Gypsy
  3. Caledonia
  4. Amy
  5. Minerva Jane
  6. Mar
  7. Trouble
  8. Nyasha
  9. Darla
  10. Terrilynn
  11. Shannon
  12. Carmen
  13. Friday's Child
  14. Zeus
  15. Kailani
  16. Tink
  17. Norma
  18. JennyRyan

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

TSA's Sensitivity To Breast Issues

Surfing the web today, I came across the TSA's list of prohibited items to pack in carry-on luggage, and was surprised to see that the TSA apparently believes that gel-filled bras are so ubiquitous in today's passengers that they warrant not one but two explicit mentions.

Specifically, in one mention, the TSA stated: "We encourage everyone to pack gel-filled bras in their checked baggage. We recognize the sensitivity of the issue and we are reaching out to key women’s medical associations to assist passengers and make information available to them while respecting their privacy."

Can it be possible that so many women wear gel-filled bras when flying that a specific directive to them was necessary? Putting the numbers issue aside, I guess I'm surprised that any woman would wear gel-filled bras on a day-to-day basis, much less to travel. I can see them at a club or going out when women want to highlight and accentuize their busts, but on a flight? A cramped economy flight where you have to sit in discomfort for several hours? I'm assuming, of course, that gel-filled bras are uncomfortable, and frankly, I don't know as I've never worn one. However, I think it's a safe assumption that tying any amount of bulky gelatinouss material to your chest will not be as comfortable as say not wearing a bra, or wearing a light-weight fabric one.

The other aspect of the TSA's announcement that I find odd is their recognition of the "sensitivity of the issue" and their stated concern for the "privacy" of the gel-filled bra wearing women. I had no idea that the issue of gel-filled bras, or more specifically, the removal and hiding away of said gel-filled bras was a sensitive issue?

This reminds me of an Oprah show that featured women who wake up hours before their husbands to put on their make-up, sleep in their make-up, and go to other ridiculously unhealthy and absurd lengths to make sure their husbands never see them without their make-up on. The idea, I guess, was to create and maintain a fantasy of made-up "perfection" for their husbands. Nevermind that the "fantasy" was far from fantastic. Most of the women had layers of caked on foundation and Tammy-Fae-style lashes, and looked 1,000 times better and younger once they had removed all the gunk.

The show was sad because it was so clear that the women lacked confidence in themselves; the woman expressed fear about what their husbands would think if they saw them sans make-up. The women didn't want to let their husbands, or anyone for that matter, see the real faces hiding behind the painted exteriors.

I don't mean this as a diatribe against make-up, or even efforts to accentuate ones womanly assets. Far from it. I like and wear make-up, and on most days would not be caught out and about without at least a little cover-up, black mascara and lip gloss. I also like and wear bras that make the most of what I've got. Why not?

But, I don't think twice about washing my face and changing the minute I get home from work and lazing around the house with a bare face - not even concealer! - with Raj. I love that I feel confident enough in myself, and also comfortable enough with Raj, to be able to be just as I am when I am with him. For me, it's an essential element of a relationship; I want my partner to know me inside and out, and to love and appreciate me for all that I am - not to be enamored with an elaborate illusion.

The problem with illusions, like lies, is that you can't maintain them indefinitely. At some inevitable point in time, despite your best efforts to the contrary, the jig will be up.

Thanks to the latest round of terrorist threats and alert levels, the jig is now up for women using gel-filled bras to add a little umph to their cleavage. Those using padded bras and tissues, they're still good to go. But for the sly tricksters trying to create not just the visual, but also the tactile, illusion of large, pleasantly pliant and perky boobs, it's time to 'fess up and come clean. The quick-thinking will no doubt turn back to fabric and tissues, but for those stubbornly attached to their gel-pads, they will now have to face the ignomity of traveling with a smaller, malleable cup-size, at least until they can pick up their bras in baggage claim.

Why not embrace your breasts, regardless of size, just because they're yours and they're unique? If you're being generous enough to share them with any partner, the partner should be thankful enough to take your body, your boobies, and you as they are. Maybe with more and more women rocking the small-boob look, women will start to feel less pressure to maintain a facade, and more comfortable with their bodies and breasts they way they are. Then maybe breast size won't be such a "sensitive issue" and the TSA can go back to worrying about border control and terrorist profiling.

* * *
Update: Bubbles pointed out that, contrary to my initial assumption, the likely subjects of the TSA's attention are women who have had a masectomy and are wearing gel-filled bras as a replacement for the breast(s) they had removed. The TSA actually permits "gel-filled bras and similar prostethics worn for medical reasons," but they encourage women to pack them in their checked baggage. That is, actually, a sensitive and respectful approach and I have to commend the TSA for their sensitivity. Thanks Bubbles!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Strip House

I've decided I'm not a fan of Steak Houses. This came as a surprise to me, because until last night I had always been perfectly fine with the idea and practice of joining my friends and family for dinner at steak places, despite my vegetarianism. Generally steak places always have large vegetable sides, excellent wines, and a number of grilled fish dishes. As my vegetarianism is more accurately a pescetarianism, I've been all right with this in the past.

Last night, at the Strip House, not so much. Before I continue, an all important caveat: my number one goal last night was for Raj to have a delicious piece of meat (because he likes that sort of thing) and a pleasant birthday dinner. For the most part, I achieved that objective, so in terms of Raj's birthday celebration, it's all good. He thought the Strip House was very much a traditional steak house which was what he was looking for, his meat was excellent, and he loved the creamed corn and pancetta side. He was a happy boy, so I was happy.

But, had it not been for my love of Raj, I would not have been a happy girl at the Strip House. First, a word about the name. It's trashy. The place itself has nothing to do with strippers - I checked before making the reservation - but I get the feeling, based on the pictures of burlesque dancers that line its walls, that it's deliberately trying to play off of the suggestion of strippers to create a sexy ambiance. Maybe I'm wrong?

Putting aside the misguided nature of this imagined intent, the restaurant failed miserably at that objective. The tables were smashed together too closely to allow for parties to maintain an air of intimacy between them. Seated against the wall on a red pleather padded bench, I was separated from Raj by about 3 feet of table, and closer to each of the couples sitting next to us than I was to him. Trying to talk to each other, we were both conscious of our eavesdropping neighbors. Not the romantic setting I would have liked, and certainly not sexy.

Our waiter was snooty, and he was a man. Normally, I wouldn't mind having a male waiter but in this particular establishment I couldn't help but notice that every single waiter was male. I'm not sure if it was an off night, or if the Strip House in fact hires only male waitstaff. I certainly hope not! When I waited tables, I saw that kind of thing often. Not surprisingly, given our still male-dominated world, the gender hierarchy in restaurants mirrors the gender hierarchies found in other professions, like law and business. Women are disproportionately represented in the lower (read: lower paid, less prestigious) echelons of the restaurants world, e.g. waitresses in diners, and men are disproportionately represented in the higher echelons, e.g. bartenders or waiters at expensive, traditional (i.e male) restaurants.

Speaking of males, there were a lot of them at the Strip House. To be fair, there were also a fair amount of mixed-sex parties, Raj and I among them, but the majority of the tables were filled with men. Very large men with big guts rubbing up against the edges of the tables. Walking advertisements for what consuming excessive amounts of red meat and liquor will do to the human body.

The wine selections were also sub par. The snooty male waiter proposed two glasses of lackluster white wine, and then, because I felt bad that I was being difficult, I ordered a glass of shiraz thinking that it was a safe bet since I generally like shirazes. It was also a disappointment - however, I kept it (Raj drank some of it for me; he's a sweetie like that). A wine connoisseur I am not, but I like a tasty glass of wine. Raj, who is something of a wine connoisseur, picked a pinot noir which was actually quite nice. He's so good at picking tasty wines. I don't know how he does it. Even given the pinot noir, 1 out of 4 are not good odds for a wine selection.

And then there was the food. As I mentioned, Raj seemed to genuinely enjoy his meal. My tuna steak, however, was mediocre at best. It was flavorless, surrounded by an unmemorable brown sauce, and served with a miniscule amount of tasteless diced veggies. The only food I actually found tasty last night were the oysters we had to start and the bread crumb topping of Raj's creamed corn side.

I should have taken Raj to Angelo & Maxie's, although I think he's already been, and I had wanted to take him to a new place. I've been there three times, and each time I've had a wonderful experience (despite that fact that it too is a steak place). The food, wine, desserts, staff, and ambiance are all great, the way they should be at any restaurant worth it's weight in salt.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Perfect Birthday Weekend

This past weekend, Raj's birthday weekend (Happy Birthday Sweetie!!), was so much fun! The weather was gorgeous and the temperature was perfect. Raj and I spent most of the weekend outside in Central Park with a bunch of our friends. On Saturday, we spent almost the entire day sprawled out on blankets in Sheep's Meadow snacking on a picnic of Whole Food's pastas and salads, crackers and cheese, and pringles. Thanks to Raj's inspirational pre-picnic purchase of a whiffle ball and bat (I was dubious), we ended up running around in the sunshine in a spirited game of whiffle ball. There was also plenty of lazing around, resting on each other's bodies, chatting, and people watching.

Saturday night, my girl friend, Kayli, and I got mad girlfriend points by encouraging our boys to go off to a soccer game and drink as many beers as their hearts desired. While the boys were off playing, Kayli and I grabbed a bite to eat and then saw Step Up, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. I love movies about dancers, especially ballet dancers. I'm not sure how to describe the genre that Step Up fits into, but whatever it is, I find it very entertaining.

Jenna Dewan, who played the privileged ballet dancer at the Art School, was cute, likable, pulled off the dancing, and had an awesome wardrobe that I totally would have worn had I been a dancer.

Tatum Channing, as the boy from the wrong side of the tracks with an innate ability to move, was flat out irresistible. He has the magnetic tough guy with a sensitive streak down pat, and the girls in the theatre were going crazy watching him light up the screen. There were a couple of times I think all the ladies in the theatre collectively nearly swooned, Kayli and I among them.

Sunday was more Central Park action, watching Desi-Techno at Summer Stage and lazing around, again, in the sunshine. The Park is so beautiful up by 72nd street; huge Elm trees, shaded lawns, and people roller blading, drumming, dancing, and strolling around.

After the park, Raj and I went with Kayli and her boyfriend to a tapas place on the UWS where we were able to secure outside seating. The night, like the day, was perfect; we ordered a second bottle of wine between the four of us just so we could prolong the evening. Based on our conversation last night, I think Raj and I decided on looking at the UWS instead of Brooklyn when our lease is up at the end of October. Yippee!! I am so excited about the idea of living up there. I love it!

Today is Raj's actual birthday, and to celebrate I'm taking him out to dinner. Only 5.5 more hours to go, so it's back to the grindstone 'til then. Happy Monday!!

Friday, August 11, 2006

New Addition

Hazard is about 1 year and 3 months old. He chases the cats (2) around the house, in a playful way, but Tex and I decided that that isn't enough. When he can't come to work with us, which is the majority of the time, he just chills at home by himself. I would always feel bad if he is stuck there. We leave him out on the deck in nice weather so he is outside, but still he probably gets lonely. So, last night we got a friend for well it is my birthday present...I will be 24 years old...can't believe it. I am a very caring and sharing person...having MY birthday present be really for Hazard.

I have already taken some pics of him and Hazard...Hazard looks enormous though he is a mere 75 lbs. We will call this one Barker for the sake of the blog and he is a barker. Hazard talks to you, this one barks a minature bark. We will have to change that real quick and have him only bark when a stranger approaches our property like Hazard.

This is our new addition!!! I am very excited especially now that Hazard has a friend and now Tex and I can run or bicycle each with our own pup getting a workout! Yah for puppies! I love dogs, they are truly part of the family and my best friend---friends!

P.S. Hazard is still a pup for sure. Last night when we brought Barker home...I sat on the floor coaxing Barker to come to me on command (yes he's young but it's time to start). Hazard got jealous for a second and came running over to me and sat right in my lap, I couldn't help but laugh and give him a big hug. (Note to self, I will not tell this dog to come sit in my lap, Hazard is far too big now and will pretty much knock me over)!

Ding Dong!

I'm so happy it's Friday! I was a total waste at work this week. Shocking not because I'm a procrastinator at heart, not because each hour I spend at work these days seems like pulling teeth, but shocking because Dragon Lady was gone this week!! One would have thought I would have been dancing on my desk and hanging off of the flourescent-lit ceilings screaming with glee:

"Ding-dong the witch is gone,
Which old witch?
The wicked witch,
Ding-dong the wicked witch is G-O-N-E!"

Oddly though, I wasn't in a celebratory mood. Instead, I was depressed, anxious, and worrying about everything. Yuck! To take my mind off of the anxiety, I blogged, read blogs, consumed celebrity news, read about all the latest fashion trends, and somehow completely missed the latest terrorist threat warnings. In short, my week consisted of mindless web-surfing. I should have relished this, but all I could think as I was doing it was how pathetic it was that I wasn't doing any work. How not fun is that? Deliberately avoiding work and then putting yourself on a simultaneous guilt trip about your avoidance. A waste on all counts, I tell you.

Oh well, one of things I'm trying to do, of late, is to let bygones be bygones (both for me and for others), and also to not spend so much time being anxious about the future. Both are excruciatingly difficult for me. I had a really wonderful session with CG yesterday and one of the things she said to me was: You need to think about what you can do to make yourself happy now. And she didn't mean "now" as in this time in my life; she meant "now" as in right now, today.

I'm supposed to try to sit with the present and not worry about the past or the future.

I didn't realize until recently that it was hard for me to sit in the present. I also didn't realize how much energy I spend worrying about time that has passed and time that will come. Yet another disconnect between my intellectual self, which has always understood the importance of living for today, and my emotional self, that has been nodding sagely at my intellectual self, and then, when my intellectual self isn't looking, has been running around like a mad woman trying to dissect, analyze, and divine the truth of the past in order to control the future.

Silly girl, didn't your Daddy tell you that you can't control the future? That you can't control the actions of others? That the only things you can control are your own actions? Why, yes, he did. But until your emotional self gets with the program, it doesn't much matter what your intellectual self knows or believes.

Monday is Raj's birthday, which makes this weekend his birthday weekend! I'm excited, and in order to make sure that I can enjoy the present this weekend, I'm going to buckle down and try to get some goddess-forsaken work done in the next few hours. Wish me luck and have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #3

13 of My Favorite Chocolates

1) Marabou Milk Chocolate (Mjolk Choklad) - Every Christmas, or Jul in Swedish, for as long as I can remember my brothers, sister, and I have received at least one giant bar of this most perfect bar of decadent milk chocolate as a stocking stuffer. In Sweden at my grandparents' house, there were always bars of this chocolate hidden away in the refrigerator, waiting for us to grab a few pieces before breakfast or bed, while watching TV, or whenever we had a craving. I loved putting a chilled chocolate square on my tongue and letting it dissolve until my entire mouth was filled with gooey delicious chocolate. It always made me imagine swimming in a river of smooth chocolate. If you love milk chocolate, you have to try this chocolate.

2) Savannah Chocolate Pralines - I discovered chocolate pralines through my mom, who moved from the Northeast to Savannah a few years back and introduced and addicted the whole family to these Southern pecan-chocolate delights. Pralines are delicious enough on their own. Add chocolate, and it's pretty damn close to heaven. Visiting my mom, I've ruined many a meal by filling up on these beforehand. And forget about getting them as presents and keeping some around the house for a rainy day. Whenever I get a box from my mom, I usually can't help myself from finishing it before nightfall. They're awesome.

3) Marabou Aladdin Chocolates - These chocolates, my Dad's favorites, I also associate with Christmas because the only time I get to sample them is during the holidays when I'm visiting my Dad. There's always an unopened box wrapped in cellophane sitting in the pantry, but my Dad waits until Christmas to break it open and offer us two or three of the delectable pieces. It's always an event as my brothers and I carefully match up the pictures of the individual chocolates with their descriptions in an effort to choose wisely. My favorites are the nougat-filled chocolates. Except for #1 and #2, there's nothing better.

4) Godiva Chocolate Praline Hearts - As a general rule, I love anything Godiva, except possibly the chocolate covered candied ginger; what a waste when there's so many truffles and chocolate covered strawberries to be had! Naming my favorite Godiva chocolate was difficult, though the Praline Hearts are the clear winners in my mind. They are followed closely in second place by the Open Oysters. Both consist of a "creamy blend of finely ground hazelnuts and milk chocolate." Sounds divine, no?

5) Cadbury Creme Eggs - Creme eggs are not for the every day chocolate pick-me-up occasion, but they are something I revel in each Easter holiday. I have a system for eating them which includes first biting off the top ever so delicately, so as to keep all of the molten sugary goodness safe inside the broken chocolate shell. Second, I scoop out some of that molten goodness with my tongue, while nibbling down the sides of the chocolate shell. The piece I always eat last is the thickest piece of the chocolate shell that's filled to the brim with the remaining creamy sugar mixture. I pop it in my mouth and let the chocolate and sugar cream blend and dissolve together on my tongue. It's so much fun.

6) Daim Bars - In the U.S., we have Score Bars or Heath Bars, the red-haired stepsiblings (no offense Wood) of the creme-de-la-creme of this chocolate bar breed, the Swedish Daim Bars. From their chocolate coating to their crunchy caramel center, everything about them is as it should be. They come in bars or bite-sized candies, and I prefer the latter, although the danger of eating an entire bag is usually irresistible. Luckily, my siblings would never let that happen. As with all my beloved and longed for Swedish candy, generally the only time I get a taste is at Christmas, at IKEA (so far away from Manhattan!), or in Duty Free after returning from a trip abroad.

7) Hazelnut Lindor Truffle - I went back and forth between the Hazelnut Lindor Truffles or the Ferrero Rocher Balls. Both are chocolate and hazelnut, but where the Ferrero Rocher balls are crunchy with a whole hazelnut at their center, the Lindor Truffles are smooth and creamy and more deeply satisfying if you're in the midst of a chocolate craving. Plus, I ate way too many Rocher balls at my birthday two years ago, and I have yet to recover fully my taste for them (though that doesn't stop me from picking them up at Duane Reade from time to time). Border's sells the Lindor Truffles - hazelnut, milk chocolate, peanut butter, or dark chocolate - 3 for a dollar, a great price. My mom always eats things in threes, as do I when it's convenient, and three of these are just enough to be satisfying without making me feel like I'm destroying my, somewhat unrealized, efforts to be healthy.

8) Perugira Baci Chocolates - These Italian chocolates are also pretty awesome, and of the same rich chocolate-hazelnut variety as the Lindor Truffles and the Rocher balls. In many ways, they are the perfect blend of hazelnut crunch and creamy chocolate. Though I'm sure I shouldn't, I get them occasionally (read somewhat frequently) when I pick up lunch at the deli. It's so freakin' convenient. You buy your sandwich, you innocently walk up the register and than Bam!, you're surrounded by little miniature chocolates all staring up at you from next to the register begging you take them back to your desk along with your sandwich and soda. What can I say, it's hard to say no under those circumstances, even if I know it's all a cruel manipulative advertising ploy.

9) Toblerone Bars - These need little explanation. I mean, who doesn't love a triangular chunk of toblerone on occasion? What gives the Swiss Toblerone it's distinctive quality are the tiny flakes of honey and almond nougat suspended within the chocolate. It's chewy, creamy, sweet and chocolatey all at the same time. I associate it with airports and traveling. The last toblerone I had was a miniature toblerone bar that my brother Bacchus bought me in the airport in Thailand on our way back to the U.S. It was so good.

10) Whole Foods Semi-Sweet Chocolate - Can I say antioxidants? Who needs blackberries, green tea, and blueberries when rich dark chocolate is packed with beneficial antioxidants? Ok, though not a substitute, the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate are real, and something we can all feel good about when we're having a bite. I actually prefer dark over milk chocolate, in part because of the lower fat content and higher antioxidant levels of dark chocolate as compared to milk chocolate. Recently, I made a chocolate cream pie which involved melting chunks of semi-sweet and bitter-sweet chocolate on the stove, mixing with sugar and eggs, and creating a rich custard center. The custard came out perfectly (to my proud amazement) and the pie would have been delicious, except for the tiny fact that I neglected to defrost the pie crust before I baked it! Oops.

11) Cadbury Mini Eggs - Along with Cadbury Creme Eggs, Mini Eggs are a must for Easter. This past Easter it was very strange because all of the Duane Reade's in New York had somehow forgotten to order a sufficient amount of either candy. I think the last time I tasted Mini Eggs was two Easter's ago when I celebrated by getting Raj his first Easterbasket and then proceeded to enjoy the basket's contents with him. It was a mutually beneficial gift.

12) After Eights - Here again, I struggled to choose between the many varieties of mint-chocolates that I love. My list of contenders included Ghirardelli Mint Chocolate Squares, the perfect size for a little taste of chocolate, Junior Mints, my must-have candy for movies, and the mysterious Mint Bark that my grandma used to bring me from New Jersey when I was young (I have yet to discover it's source). Ultimately, I chose After Eights. They are delicate, a nearly perfect blend of mint and chocolate, and they are to die for over pears with whip cream; a famous family dessert.

13) Russell Stover Boxes of Chocolates - I love boxes of chocolates. Upon receipt of said boxes of chocolates, I generally eat all of my favorites first and then work my way down to the least desirable chocolates - which, in accordance with the laws of supply and demand always get more and more desirable as the numbers around them go down, even if they've already been bitten into, passed over, and put back in the box. Thanks to my Mom, I've never had to depend on boys for boxes of chocolates on Valentine's Day. Thank God!, because you know how that would have worked out. No matter whether I've been in relationships or not, February 14th is always a holiday I look forward to because I know it will bring me something nice in the mail that will remind me that I am loved and that someone out there thinks that I'm the most special person in the world (save for my other siblings of course). She's a great mom like that.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens! (leave your link in comments, I'll add you here!)
  1. Norma
  2. Jenny
  3. Lyn
  4. Gypsy
  5. Agent PMS
  6. Ash
  7. J.
  8. Southern Girl
  9. Carmen
  10. You're next!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Artificial Images of Beauty

I was doing my normal internet celebrity site procrasti-surfing today when I came across these unfortunate allegedly pre- and post-photoshop pictures of Britney.

If these are true, and I can't imagine they aren't because, sadly, Britney definitely does not look anywhere close to the "post" picture these days, it proves once again what outrageous feats techies can perform with photoshop, and how far from attainable the looks of celebrities are for normal women who don't walk around with photoshop in their back pockets.

I mean look at the difference. It's crazy. Droopy cheeks and jowl line? Gone. Minor bumpy imperfections on chin? Gone. Lines under eyes and on neck? Gone.

Those changes don't surprise me half as much as the extremely creative "touch-ups" on her eyes, lips, hair and head angle. Where her eyes looked washed out and dead originally, post-photoshop they appear larger and perfectly symmetrical. Her lips have a fuller, more deeply shadowed pout and her hair and head shape appear entirely different, going for example from a flyaway wispy artichoke head to a glammed up 'do full of body and shine. Last but not least, the angle of her head was tilted to the left so that she appears post-photoshop to be holding her head straight instead of leaning to the right.

It's incredible how different the two pictures look. Almost no feature of Britney's appears to have been left au natural. How long can anyone - even once super hot Britney Spears of the skintight red leather jumpsuit - keep up that kind of a facade?

But, of course, that's beside the point. The point that matters is the massive disconnect between the homogenized images of female beauty (although more and more this applies equally to men) put forth by the media and our celebrity-crazed culture and the faces and bodies of real unaltered women and girls. Maybe this just matters to consumers of that celebrity-crazed culture like myself, who willingly and happily get sucked into admiring and dissecting the artificially created women that grace the red carpet and then find themselves looking in the mirror at their smile lines a little too critically?

I don't think so. You don't have to be a willing consumer to be hit between the eyes with images of artificial female beauty. Walking down the street in Manhattan I can't ignore the images that leap out at me - fake boobs, botoxed foreheads, injected lips, airbrushed buttocks - from the magazine stands. Turn on the TV, check the net, or go to the movie theaters, and it's the same thing. I suppose you could avoid the overwhelming glut of artificiality if you avoided all forms of media, but that seems impractical and a large price to pay: foresaking society to avoid the negative images it vomits forth.

I'm not worried about me. I'm confident in my inner beauty and I like what I see when I look in the mirror (except those laugh lines and a few other little things that will do me no good to focus on). But, I do worry about young girls. In this country they are constantly accosted with unrealistic images of women - images they will never attain unless they go under the knife. It shouldn't be like that.

Although a rarity in the U.S., except for the gym which isn't really the kind of environment I'm talking about, I've always found it liberating to be in the presence of other naked, normal female bodies. For example, in Sweden I went to an outdoor sauna on the beach where women of all ages and shapes lazed around naked in the sun, chatting with friends, seemingly unconscious of their nakedness. Those kinds of experiences gave me an enormous feeling of linked sisterhood and made me look far less critically at myself, than I otherwise might have.

Nearly every woman has something beautiful about her. It's too bad our culture doesn't celebrate that reality.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I woke up this morning as Raj was leaving for work and, even though I was technically late, couldn't bring myself to rush out of the apartment. I showered, put on my minimalist make-up, flipped on the TV, and then sat in a towel on the coffee table totally transfixed by Charmed.

The episode in progress was the one where Cole marries Phoebe in the chapel in the mausoleum. She marries him thinking that he has lost his demonic powers, but of course he hasn't. And for some inexplicable reason - which I never understood since I somehow missed those pivotal episodes years ago - Cole teams up with the Seer and agrees to impregnate Phoebe with a demonic child that will turn her towards evil and bind her to him for eternity.

Poor misguided Cole! If he just trusted Phoebe's love and come clean about his returned demonic powers, I think he could have convinced her to marry him even with his Balthazar half. But, no, Cole didn't want to do that. Instead of being honest, he tricked Phoebe into marrying him under false pretenses. Phoebe could have forgiven Cole his past mistakes, but his continuing dishonesty? Of course that was going to break her heart and irrevocably destroy any chance they had to be happy together.

In the episode, Cole also tells Phoebe that he's gotten a job at a large law firm and "gone corporate" as a way of explaining his sudden increase in disposable income, including a new porsche that he claims is a "company car," and gifts of fancy hotel rooms and (demon-poisoned) chocolates. Puh-lease! Foolish Phoebe should have known that even the most dastardly of corporate attorneys don't start tooling around in Porsches after one day of work.

Just as the tainted chocolates are having their affect and making both Phoebe and Piper (who ate one of the chocolates intended for Phoebe) act like wanton succubi, I had to leave for work without seeing what happened. Ugh!

I used to watch Charmed religiously on Sunday nights, and spent many a pleasant evening curled up on the sofa immersed in their world of magical powers, good triumphing over evil, and unbreakable sisterhood. This was of course before the ridiculous storyline with the Avatars, the death of Phoebe and Cole's love, and the appearance of that silly blonde witch who I never quite warmed up to.

Ah, to have magical powers. My power, unquestionably, would be telekinesis, the ability to move objects with your mind, like Prue and Courtney Cox in Misfits of Science.

What magical power would you choose?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Not Quite Myself

I hate having days when I am just not quite myself. I also dislike when I have days that I get so enraged and unfortunately this can be me, and I can not change it at that moment. This is me sometimes. Today I am having a day where I am more alien to myself than yesterday or the day before. Sometimes I think people take advantage of me although I am not rude, I am paid to assist, so I grit my teeth but sometimes I wonder, "Did they see the fire in my eyes"..."Did they hear my teeth grind"..."Did they see my body stiffen up and get tense in a heart beat?"

They must have even though I obliged because 5 minutes later they come back with a more interesting twist as to why their request is what it is, as if I am to feel pity or sorry for them. I guess today will be today and tomorrow will be a whole new day or at least that is what I make my mind believe. Today I got enraged, tomorrow, I will not (hopefully). I know they will ask me to do more or do it differently, I will smile with my teeth grinding. I wish I could hide the fire in my eyes, but I know I can't. I have tried to hide it from Tex and he knows, but then again Tex knows even if I am not in the same room if I am enraged.

Life is changing as we know it. I do still go to my magical place where no one asks anything from me. But I still wish there was a magical button for people like Dragon Lady and some other "very demanding" people. Like in the movie click, it would be ok to press pause, gather my thoughts and once my mind was caught up to speed, I could press play again and maybe every once in a while smack someone on the back of their head without them knowing. But I guess this magical button will only exist in my fantasy land, so for now I will grit my teeth and at least try to tame the fire in my eyes so it is only noticable to myself!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Professional Discourtesy

Yesterday morning I came into work feeling sad about personal things but resolved to focus on work. Fifteen minutes after arriving, I got a call from Dragon Lady, demanding to know why certain things she had asked me to do while I was out sick had not yet been completed. I explained that I had been working for the 5th year associate on another project for Dragon Lady. Dragon Lady made some unintelligible nasty noises, demanded to know when I'd be able to complete the other assignments, and, after I responded that I would turn to them immediately and complete them in a matter of hours, hung up on me.

I can't tell you how often this happens. I sat still in disbelief for a moment staring at the receiver in my hand that had gone dead, hearing the echo of the click of her hanging up the phone. Then, slowly,I hung up the phone, thought about what an insane creature she is, and turned back to my work.

I guess things could be a lot worse. Instead of working for her, I could be her.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #2

13 Things That Happened This Week

1) I got better, finally, after being sick for almost a week and a half and missing 7 days of work.

2) I went to see Bloc Party at the McCarren Pool in Brooklyn with Raj and Ernest. It was a fun show and the venue - a drained human-made giant, gently sloping pool with a huge stage at one end - was great. We sat around on the blue peeling cement, drank lemonades that Raj bought after accidentally waiting in the food line instead of the bathroom line, and bounced around to Bloc Party's songs. My favorite was Banquet; it's a great workout song too.

3) After Bloc Party, the three of us went to a friend's birthday party in Midtown. The lushes that we are, we shunned conversation, and instead went straight into a drinking game. My triumph of the evening was figuring out a straw game where there were four straws in the shape of a shovel and a piece of "dirt" next to them, and I had to move only two of the straws to make the shovel "pick up" the piece of dirt. What can I say, I'm a genius.

4) I spent 7 glorious hours ensam on Sunday shopping in Nolita. At Olive & Bette's I found a black dress, a turquoise top, an awesome jean skirt by Paige with the cutest detailing on the pockets, and a few james pierce tank tops.

5) I had a Julianna Margolis siting while shopping at Olive & Bette's. She tried on something in the dressing room and then made a purchase, while I appeared to check myself out in the full length mirror and covertly checked her out. She looked good, though a little too skinny. She appears to have skrunken, ala Jessica Alba and Kiera Knightly, as if someone had sucked out much of her flesh with a giant needle, leaving behind only the outlines of taut muscles and bones. I think she's quite attractive, liked her on ER and really like her on Sopranos, but she could do for a little softening of the edges.

6) Raj and I saw Miami Vice. I really dislike Colin Farrell and thought he looked absolutely horrendous in the movie. My fingers were twitching to give him a much needed shave and to cut off his hideous, scraggly, over-blowdried, badly-died hair. The story line between him and Gong Li (Isabella), who was exquisitely beautiful but hard to understand at times, was flimsy and unbelievable. Jamie Foxx, however, looked fine and did a solid job. He's a great actor.

7) I hauled my ass to the gym once over the weekend and ran 2 miles, on Monday and - with Raj's motivation - ran 3 miles, and on Wednesday and did yoga. I'm trying to turn over a new leaf that includes exercising at least three times a week. Wish me luck!

8) I had lunch with a 1st year co-worker, empathized with her struggles at the firm, and later agreed to be adopted by her as her mentor. I have a mentee now! Imagine that, plus I was actually social with someone from my firm. I hardly recognize myself.

9) I emailed with my friends, which I had been remiss about doing, and felt happy to talk with them. They are girls that I met in Law School, some of the most wonderful people that I have ever met, and I feel lucky to have them in my life. Now if only they lived a bit closer...

10) I got rejected by the fourth public interest job in a row, felt despondent, questioned myself, questioned the purpose of my life, had a wonderful talk with Raj in which he was supportive, understanding, and cheered me up immensely, decided to keep my chin up, set a departure date, and started counting down the remaining days. As of today, I have 104 days to go.

11) I saw my therapist for the first time in three weeks, since she had been on vacation, and talking with her helped me put a few things in perspective, and to check in with myself. I love her office because it smells of lavender and rosemary and always relaxes me.

12) I started writing in my journal semi-regularly again, yet another thing I had been neglecting since June, when work became insanely busy. Writing helps me process my feelings and to think through issues. I find it incredibly therapeutic and I need to remember to do it more often. It's also helpful to be able to chart patterns and emotions.

13) I watched Project Runway last night while eating half a cantaloupe. I dislike everything about Angela's clothes, designs, and rosettes. She needs to go.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens! (leave your link in comments, I'll add you here!)
  1. Norma
  2. Gypsy
  3. Carmen
  4. Mrs. Lifecruiser
  5. Shannon
  6. Catherine
  7. Bird on a Wire
  8. Raggedy
  9. Janet
  10. Little Duck
  11. Ghost
  12. Snickerdoodles
  13. Kailani
  14. Leanne
  15. You're next!

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. ItÂ’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!