Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: December, 2002

I’ve been staying off-line for the past couple of days–vegetating, watching movies, cooking, writing, shopping. The new version of The Legend of Zu, a Chinese movie with supernatural kung-fu complete with flying people and weird monsters, made even less sense then the version made in the 80’s. Despite the numerous bad reviews, my sister and I rented Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. It wasn’t bad, if all you’re looking for is things to blow up. Ballistic had this cheesy early 90’s feel to it though and I was sort of expecting Eddie Murphy to pop in during the middle to provide some comic relief (unfortunately, that didn’t happen). We also saw Men in Black II, which was okay, but not stellar. There were plenty of other bad movies which I wouldn’t bother to mention except that my Mom picked most of them out.

I loved the extra time I had for writing–by hand (I was attempting to stay away from the computer, mind you), but I write slowly. Perhaps averaging about a page a day. The rest of the time, I helped my sister experiment in pie-making and shopping. I would have to say that shopping is not my favorite activity. I got dragged to the mall where every other shopper was carrying paper bags printed with half-naked men (Abercrombie & Fitch is apparently big down here in Nashville). Other shoppers and salespeople have the nasty habit of staring at you while you’re trying on coats and shoes. I suppose I look like the type of person who would steal stuff–it’s happened before and maybe I should just try to be used to it. It’s like those security people at the airport. They love rummaging through my bookbag even though it only has textbooks in it.

Ah, the trials of a scruffy looking student. Maybe I should try to change my image.

So I’ll be leaving here soon, from snowless to snowed in, from southern twang to yankee drawl. My Dad kept nagging my sister and me to check the weather to make sure that our flights wouldn’t be delayed. My sister grumbled about buying umbrellas–it’s still raining in Vancouver. I spent the last couple of hours stuffing extra sweaters into my bag. I have mixed feelings about going back. For one thing, it’s back to the daily grind, but then again, I’m also independent (and alone) once more.

Tuesday Too:

1. What was the best moment/time for you in 2002?

It’s hard to say since bad moments seem to be more memorable. Maybe graduating?

2. Is there something significant that will be different for you in 2003? How come, or why not?

Not really. It’ll still be classes and labwork for me (I feel like the perpetual student).

3. Some people really enjoy celebrating New Years. Do you? Do you have a ritual associated with the arrival of the new and passing of the old? What is it?

I celebrate by going to sleep earlier. Of course, my resolution for going to bed at a reasonable time only holds up for a few days.

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Merry Christmas!

Hope your holidays have been as interesting as mine. (I’ve been attempting to be domestic, with mixed results.)

Christmas Eve

Yes, yes, I’ve been completely remiss in updating, but like most people, I’m enjoying the holiday season. Let’s see, last Friday I caught a screening of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers which was mostly fight scenes. I was a bit disappointed that they cut out so much about Merry, Pippin, and Treebeard, but nonetheless, a very awesome movie. And despite seeing it out in the boondocks where most people would rather see country music stars onstage, I was quite surprised by the number of LOTR fanatics (read: people in costume) out to see the movie even when it wasn’t opening night.

On other fronts, my sister and I have been messing around in the kitchen. Today we made apple pie and shortbread, both of which actually turned out quite tasty. The shortbread, however, was a bit hard. I think we left it in the oven too long. And of course, relatives my parents haven’t heard from in twenty years called. Like all the other coldly ambitious Asians I’ve ever met, they interrogated my parents on which universities their kids were attending and what we were majoring in. What happened to wishing your loved ones a “Merry Christmas”?

Going Home for the Holidays

So. If you see a girl reading The Best American Essays 2002 and listening to George Fenton at high volume at the airport, it’s probably me.

For other people going to fly:
SeatGURU.com. A great resource for finding out which seat is the best for you. As for myself, I don’t particularly care as long as it’s not the middle seat. I’m short as it is.

I feel a little out of sorts. It may be due to the fact that I was waiting in below freezing weather for about an hour.

Oh, and I got the latest edition of Best American Essays while I was in the local bookstore attempting to loot out a bargain. (And why is it that shoppers at bookstores always look at me strangely? Is it because I resemble a navy polar bear? Is it because I’m wearing my yarn hat? Is it because I don’t have one of those annoyingly adorable chic purses that you stuff under your armpit?) Other than the essays, the book selection was absolutely dismal. Is it because people around here aren’t sci-fi freaks like myself?

Anyways, some strange ladies at the checkout counter thought that the glass jars I bought were “good gift ideas”. Hm.

W.S.J.: G.O.P., R.I.P. Why is it that names are shortened to mere initials? If our civilization was suddenly wiped out, would an archaeologist in the future be able to decipher them? Abbreviations litter our language, from LOTR (Lord of the Rings) and AOTC (Attack of the Clones) to CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory) and all the way to more technical jargon like DTT (dithiothreitol), MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase), GPS (global positioning system), and LED (light emitting diode). When will this overwhelm us to the point of not really meaning what we say? (I know some people already practice this. It’s called lying. What I mean is that simple words start standing in for other things.)

Over U.S. Protest, Asian Group Approves Family Planning Goals All right, let me get this straight: the American delegation says that the United States is against abortion? That’s not what the Supreme Court ruled. I think the current administration is attempting to take the moral high ground when it is hypocritical for them to do so. What about Enron? The death penalty?

Topic for this week’s Tuesday Too:

What do you think about the US government giving money to family members of 9/11 victims?

1. Is a firemen’s life worth less than a stock broker?

It would be downright egotistical, not to mention foolish, for me to judge. Sure, most people apply stereotypes when thinking of a fireman and a stock broker. A fireman saves lives from burning buildings. Stock brokers sit in offices all day making money. Society tells us which occupation is more “noble” but it says nothing of the individuals themselves. What would you say then, if the fireman goes home to beat his wife and abuse his kids and the stock broker spends his spare time donating to charity and working at a soup kitchen? I have no right to judge the “worth” of anyone’s life, especially of those I do not know.

2. What about family members of victims who died from circumstances not related to 9/11?

I believe victims and their family members should be respected regardless of circumstances. 9/11 only garnered more attention because of its world-wide implications. It wasn’t the deaths themselves (more people can get killed in an earthquake) but the acts that caused these deaths of the 9/11 victims seem “more important”.

3. It is likely that 9/11 will not be the last terrorist attack. Should the same “compensation” be provided for future victims families?

I don’t like the idea of selectively giving compensation to only victims of terrorist attack. Compensation should be given to anyone who had a loved one murdered.

Upon more rumination: I admit my answers are detached and probably not very sympathetic. I live in an insular, academic world and it’s very hard to break out of it. Perhaps my answers would be different if I actually knew someone or even talked to someone who lost a loved one on 9/11. In the beginning, I also had a gut-wrenching reaction, but as the months go by, all I get is talk and posturing and politicians using the event to further their own agendas. What is real and what is hype? I’m not sure what to believe anymore.

Something completely different and trivial in comparison:
Last night, I went to see Star Trek: Nemesis. I suppose it’s more the duty of a ST:NG fan than really of anticipation that made me get off my butt to go to the theater. It’s like going to see Episode II even though I knew it wasn’t going to live up to the original Star Wars trilogy. (My enthusiasm for Lord of the Rings hasn’t dimmed, but I suspect if the LOTR franchise was also dragged on for several more movies, my view on Tolkien’s world would also become lackadaisical.)

Possibly indicative of its future box office earnings, not very many people attended the screening. Mostly it was just fellow geeks, couples with nothing better to do, and some teenaged girls gushing about Patrick Stewart. The movie itself was a little lackluster although there were a couple of intriguing themes brought up (most prominently the nature vs. nurture debate). But somehow, I got the feeling that it was nothing but a rehash of Wrath of Kahn. I wished they lingered longer on the bad guy’s motives. For instance, why is Shinzon so intrigued with Counselor Troi? Why was he hesitating instead of going immediately ahead with his plans for world destruction?

I have a bunch of other extremely minor quibbles with the film (like how Wesley Crusher should have had a line or ten, the Romulans needed more screen time, cut out the gratuitous fight scene between Riker and the Reman, and B-4 should of stayed inactivated). But despite the really unbelievable technobabble about cloning Picard (which I’m convinced was scripted by a writer who overheard the term “RNA” from a bunch of high school biology students), it’s good for a night’s entertainment, especially if you’re partial to special effects, sci-fi violence, and ST:NG nostalgia.

The Cookiemeister Strikes Again

Well, I’m not really a very good cook. Just sometimes competent. The trick, I think, is to put in what feels right. My roommates attempted to make some chocolate chip cookies and ended up with these rock hard lumps that might be useful as slingshot ammunition. For some reason, my attempts at making cookies result in things that look “store-bought” (their description, not mine).

An Approximate Recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do not measure anything exactly (except maybe the eggs) because exact measurements are like Schrodinger’s cat. Measure it and the recipe’s dead.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the following in a large bowl:
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking soda
1/2 tablespoon of salt

Blend the following separately (actually a few quick whacks with the spoon is sufficient)
2 sticks of butter, melted
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 eggs

Then mix everything together until the resulting mess looks like slightly dried play-do. Afterwards, mix in the chocolate chips (about 2 cups). Roll the cookie dough into spherical pieces of approximately 1 inch in diameter and put these on an ungreased cookie sheet far enough apart to allow the cookie to spread while cooking. Cook at 375 degrees for fifteen minutes (but no longer or it will start to burn).

This will make a lot more cookies than you can eat in one sitting. You can freeze the rest of the dough for later use if you like. Substitutions for ingredients are encouraged. You can put in nuts and coconut instead of the chips. You can substitute margarine for the butter. You can add in cinnamon if you like that kind of stuff. But the key thing is not to measure things. I’m sure it’ll still turn out okay if you put in exactly two cups of flour but it’s better to be surprised by nice results that you weren’t expecting than to be depressed because it’s not perfect.

Choice vs. Fate

On Wednesday, I sent out into the Big Black Void a list of choices. It was ranked from first to last, in order. Clear. Unambiguous. Then last night, I started having dreams where a nervous figure kept pulling me aside to tell me what a Big Mistake that I had put my first choice first. This morning, I had discovered that I had gotten my second choice instead. I was both disappointed and relieved because all day yesterday I had been trying to ignore that little voice in the back of my mind that was churning out doubts.

So did I subconsciously pick my the first choice because I knew I wasn’t going to get it, or did my dreams predict what might happen? (I know, dreams are somewhat boring to read about, but I’ve just been plain disturbed on how relevant they’ve become these past few days. I usually remember only odd dreams with aliens and clowns and mazes.)

To play:
Time Hunt. A nifty flash game that’s not for the easily frustrated. Instead of testing your motor skills, you get to use that bit of grey matter between your ears. Philosophical concepts of time. Guaranteed to burst a couple of those precious neurons.

Lengthy Commentary on Other People’s Links

A Collossal Waste of Time. (via April’s post on Blogsisters) I never understood society’s obsession with weight. The obsession itself is a disease, infecting everyone’s minds. I admit I’m not a thin person, let alone a skinny person, but I would be lying if I said I never thought that I was fat. I just deal with it my own way, by avoiding scales and filling my life with other (perhaps more worthy) obsessions. Why worry about weight when I have the possibility of finding something to help cure cancer or writing stories that may make someone laugh?

However, I wouldn’t say that an obsession with being fat is completely fabricated like philosophical mumbo-jumbo. There is the “biological” theory–that thin women are considered more desirable because they have the resources to remain thin whereas more heavier women are considered less fit because they consume cheaper weight-gaining food. This is the converse of what has been historically true: that more heavier women were considered desirable because they were wealthy enough to even have food. On the other hand, the thin women were all peasants.

But there is a flaw in this theory. At present, most people (at least in Western and Western-like societies) have the resources to choose whether to be light or heavy. Or to be black or white (see Michael Jackson). Or to have their hair short, curly, and blue. I believe some people make appearance to be their obsession because they have nothing else to do. Women talk non-stop about their weight instead of filling out college applications, doing their homework, and doing their jobs because talking, not eating, and running mindlessly on a treadmill is easier than essay writing, figuring out how to balance a chemical equation, and filing paperwork.

Baby’s Named a Bad, Bad Thing. (via discussion on Metafilter) When names are bad, they’re awful. Some of the names suggested on these sites sound more like creative handles and usernames that someone came up with because someone else already had the one they were thinking of. And the creative spellings? The parents were either on crack or are hackers. (Besides, creative spellings turn out to be not creative at all since the name is pronounced the same as the original spelling.)

So what’s in a name? Everything apparently. Personally, I haven’t met anyone with a crazy sounding name even when I was working at the local library helping to file all the patron records into an electronic database (indicative of uncreative Tennesseans, I suppose). I’m a bit obsessed with looking up names and meanings though–perhaps because my own name is not that common and through my Chinese heritage where every name has a meaning. My sister and I were given our Chinese names first and our English names were based from those. (My cousins’ names were done the other way around.) Mine was picked mostly at random from a baby name book to rhyme with my Chinese name and to have the same initials as my father’s English name. This was the same rationale used to pick my sister’s name, this time following my mother’s initials, although for a while she despised it (she wanted to go by Alexandria instead because her name sounded too much like the horror vamp Elvira).

In a way, I’m glad my parents gave me an odd name. It makes me different from all those other Asian girls named Jennifer and Christina and Sarah (and believe me, I’ve met scores of them) let alone everyone else. Then again, it’s notoriously difficult to pronounce despite its short length especially for native Chinese speakers who can’t get the “th” sound right. Instead of getting mad, though, I’ve given up on pronounciation ever since I was seven. (I give out the hint that it’s pronounced exactly like two articles smushed together but no one ever gets the joke because they’re not grammar geeks.)

Most of the time, I just browse baby naming sites because it’s a good way to find names for story characters. I want them to be short but not too common (unless they’re minor characters) and to have meaning. And because they’re simply characters, I also have the added bonus of naming them something awful that wouldn’t fly in the real world. But it’s not the name itself at attracts me, it’s the history behind it.

It’s the end of another long exhaustive sprint again. Little sleep, skipped meals, and stress are never good combinations. Yesterday’s presentation went okay, I think, considering I had some literally last minute data and my ineptitude with a laser pointer (I prefer the barbaric pointy stick). And once I got home I caught up on some much needed sleep. There were some weird dreams though, one in which I dreamed my roommates had brought friends back with them at four in the morning. Then they broke into my room to overwrite all the files on my computer. It turns out that it was somewhat true: my roommates did bring people back with them at four in the morning, but no one broke into my room.

An update: My writing site [ R I I ] is back online! New stuff will probably be posted tomorrow.