29 April 2011

Cold dinner

Last night, it was warm, and late. By the time I got home, it was 8:30, and I was exhausted from work. And the kitchen was messy, as was the bathroom. Ugh. I attacked everything, and got it all sorted by about 9:15. I was still hungry, but didn't really feel like cooking per se.

While I was in Chicago with Steve's family for Easter, his sister's wife Debbie made this fantastic salsa that everyone absolutely loved to bits. I especially liked it, so I commandeered the leftovers and ate it. "Ate it with tortilla chips", you may ask. I ate it with a spoon.

And I don't even like bell peppers. In fact, I absolutely hate bell peppers. Correction: I absolutely hatED bell peppers until I started my campaign of not being so stupidly finicky about everything. My eldest brother made this eggplant dish, for which I completely forgot to ask for the recipe for whatever reason, which was quite lovely over rice. Essentially, it was very heavily salted eggplant, fried in spices and such, so that it almost became like an Indian pickle. It was so good, but it was also an isolated incident. I'm not sure that I can clear my textural issues around eggplant quite yet, but hope springs eternal.

The bell peppers in Debbie's salsa, however, have a subtle sweetness that was accentuated by the corn. I didn't feel like I was eating bell peppers at all, and I happily chomped away at them. I don't know that I'll start seeking them out, but I think I've made my peace with the multi coloured peppers. Green bells are a different story for another day. Maybe if anyone is interested, I'll share my recipe for cumin bell peppers which work excellently as a side veg for those who enjoy green bell peppers.

Anyway. I digress. When I got home, I made sure to bug Debbie via the Internet to remind me of what all she put into that salsa. Here's what she said:

Need 1 can sweet corn, 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained) 1 purple onion, any or all colors of peppers (green, red, yellow), jalepeno pepper (good part is you can make it as hot as you want and leave the seeds in), 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup lime juice, 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp cayenne. whisk liquid together with spices and pour over veggies; put in the fridge for a couple hours and serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Easy enough! What you'll notice immediately is that the riot of colour makes it extremely appetising. A couple of things to note. For one thing, don't think that you have to make this in enormous quantities. If you do, you'll end up with an enormous grocery bill. Make just about what you and your family can eat in one sitting, and you'll be fine. Yellow peppers, red peppers, and orange peppers can get freakishly expensive. If you buy just one, it shouldn't amount to very much money. I don't think that this will work with green bell peppers, because they're way too bitter, and would be jarring in comparison to the other, nicer flavours.

Another thing to note is that this is an excellent place to get other vegetables and herbs that you like. I threw in one tomato, a cucumber, and an avocado, as well as a bunch of cilantro, because I like those things. I didn't use lime juice (having forgotten to buy lemon), but I hit it with some citric acid, and it did the job. Also, I didn't have olive oil, so I used a couple tablespoons of canola oil. Yes, I left the seeds in the one jalapeƱo chile I used.

I was exhausted, so it took me the entire 9 minutes that my pasta was boiling to finish chopping up all the veggies. However, since I wasn't exactly doing anything else while the pasta was boiling, it's not like I had to spend extra time in the kitchen. When the pasta was done, I drained it, and rinsed it under cold water. This was both to cool it down very quickly, and to prevent it from cooking much more. One of the most awful things about pasta salad is when the pasta is overcooked.

For my one pound of pasta, I had an enormous quantity of fresh, raw vegetables, making the dinner quite healthy and tasty. Because I didn't shake off too terribly much of the liquid from the draining pasta, the liquid combined with the seasonings and oil in the vegetables, and was quite refreshing on that warm night. The total put together time was about fifteen minutes, making it a meal I will most likely make again. I'll just need to find tinned black beans and tinned corn on sale somewhere, and keep a few in my pantry, so that I can avoid the extra steps of making those things fresh. The charm of Debbie's Salsa is that it's incredibly quick.

27 April 2011

“It’s fine if you’re gay; just don’t flaunt it in front of me.” In that case, please extend the same courtesy to me. Otherwise, you’re holding me to an arbitrary double standard.

Don’t flaunt being straight to me. Don’t mention your significant other in loving terms in front of me. Don’t call that person your lover. Don’t fill your songs, books, movies, mythology, and stories with any mention of the loving and tender feelings between a man and a woman. Don’t build religious institutions that actively promote the heterosexual lifestyle. Don’t create thinly veiled hate groups, that masquerade as religious groups, which get tax benefits.

Don’t ever call your lover by a term of endearment. Don’t hold their hands. Don’t give them a hug to comfort them when they’re sad, to show them that you love them, to express joy at seeing them.

Don’t make the assumption that everyone is straight.

Who was doing that flaunting? I know it's not me.

18 April 2011

Dino needs a brand new bag

Yesterday, on the way home from Port Authority, I had to use the restroom, and we were on a local train (the A) which is notorious for dragging behind on the way uptown. It just got worse and worse. To distract myself, I started thinking about the problem that Steve and I have: we both need new laptop backpacks. Let me explain myself.

On 20 July 2008, I bought this bag. It's become such a part of my life that pretty much everyone who's seen me has seen me (and Steve) with that bag. Why? Because back in those days, to prevent either of us getting jealous of the other's things (a stupid concern, seeing as how we freely borrow each other's things [with permission, which is always granted] all the time), I would frequently buy things in duplicate: one for me, and one for him. This does not apply to clothes, because we share our whole wardrobe. Except my red shoes. Nobody touches my red shoes.

I digress.

Point is that I bought one for Steve first, because he needed it the most. He was commuting the better part of 1 1/2 hours both ways to work at the time. He needed something to hold his 15" laptop, along with a few other extras. I wanted something that was sleek and stylish, and wouldn't look like a nerdpack growing out of his back. I didn't want a messenger bag, because (1) he already had one or two, and (2) for holding heavy things, like a laptop, for extended times, a backpack spreads out the weight much better than a messenger bag. There comes a point where style becomes bad for your body, and that's where I draw the line. If it's going to cause physical discomfort or pain, I don't want to bother with it, because then it's no longer a pleasure to own that thing.

Anyway. Both of us use our bags fairly frequently, and somewhat roughly. They get thrown in all directions, and both of us, being fairly attached to our electronics, tend to take our backpacks with us everywhere. Here are a couple of reasons why our current bags are so good:

1) When travelling by bus for long distances (generally, greyhound to DC), the bag fits very neatly under the seat, fully packed. This means not having to toss it in overhead or checked baggage. This applies for flights as well. It fits so neatly that no matter how cramped the under the seat storage is (Greyhound bus, subway, city bus, plane, Metro North train, etc), I can still slide my bag into it.

2) It looks really good. Even after (almost) three years of heavy, constant use, it still looks pretty nice. I've never had to throw it in the wash, so I'm not sure how it'd deal with it.

3) It sits sleekly on my back. This means that when I turn around in a crowded subway, I don't knock people over. Larger bags tend to do that, and all you need is one guy who's had a bad day to make the value of this bag unspeakably priceless.

4) It fits a /lot/. My macbook pro, laptop charger, wallet, phone, ipod, phone charger, ipod charger, wireless headphones, wireless headphones charger, work/home/friend's keys, 20 oz bottle of water, salt shaker, food for one meal, roll of yarn (and a crochet hook), a paperback novel, and CD wallet (into which I'd packed a bunch of DVDs). Steve's fits even more, because his computer is smaller. Best part is that there are compartments into which everything neatly fits, so I'm not searching forever.

However, Steve and I both have very different needs. I need something to hold just my computer, its charger, and basic day-to-day things. So although my bag needs to be larger than Steve's—to hold the computer—it also needs to be smaller on my back. Steve needs his to hold his computer a bunch of notes, his previous night's graded assignments, the test he's giving that day, possibly some snack of some sort, possibly water, and a whole host of other crap. Why? Because as soon as I get into my office, I have everything I need right there. Steve, on the other hand, is an adjunct teacher, meaning that he's got to carry his office on his back. There are a few things that both of us require, and a few things that would be nice bonuses, but we can have some wiggle room on.

On to the requirements:

1) It's got to be vegan. I'm not spending our money on something that has animal parts on it, including leather. This is absolutely non-negotiable.

2) It's got to be within my price range. I spent about $44 for each of our bags all those years ago, because we were making enough money that $44 wasn't a huge expense. I still researched the heck out of it, and bought the bags carefully, because this is something you're using every day, and you want it to be so convenient that you don't even think about it. Currently, we're not making too terribly much money, and need for our things to be within our price range. Right now, $44 is workable, but a titch on the pricey side. I wish we could afford more, but there you go. In other words, I'll spend it if I know that said bag will last longer than the (roughly) three years that the current bags have lasted.

3) Steve wants one that is big enough to hold all his stuff. He's also not too fussed about it looking nerdpack like. Because of the sheer quantity of stuff that he's carrying, his needs to maximise the comfort, and durability. He does need it to hold his laptop, but if there isn't a particular compartment meant for laptops (with the extra padding that comes with it), he's willing to use his own laptop sleeve for it, which he does own already. His laptop is 15".

4) I want for mine to be sleek, but big enough to hold my 17" macbook pro. I specifically want the laptop compartment, because I carry my computer with me all over the place, and I want the computer to be segregated from the chaos that is the rest of my bag. If something spills, at least I've got a bit of a thick, physical barrier between the $3,000 machine and the $1 bottle of water.

5) Comfort. Both of us tend to carry our backpacks frequently. We both need thick, cushioned shoulder straps. Padding is definitely a good thing.

This likely means that I'll be purchasing different ones for me and him. I'm OK with that.

My wants:

1) Red. I'd like for my bag to have as much red as possible, because it's my favourite colour, and it's different from every other laptop bag, which is either grey or black. I like being able to pick out my bag from a lineup. Yes, I know that looks aren't everything, but I do like using things that are attractive.

2) A nice carrying handle. I don't frequently use it for more than a few seconds, but the handle up on top of the backpack is often neglected. They're rarely comfortable to use. I like my current top handle, because it's just as padded as the rest of the bag.

3) Mobile phone holder. Again, not an absolute requirement, but for me, I used my mobile phone holder to hold my phone and my metro card, because I reached for both so frequently. I found out that I can even slide my ipod touch 2nd gen in there instead of the mobile phone, because the holder is flexible.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears. I mainly mad this list so that I can organise my thoughts on it, and make sure that I'm not missing anything major. If you can think of anything that I'm missing (in my set of requirements) that you think I should be considering, please let me know.

07 April 2011

Annoying subway preachers

I was once on a small shuttle bus that took me between my bus stop and my job. This was years ago, when I lived in Florida, and actually needed such services. Thank goodness they existed, because it was a goodly mile or so to get there, and on hot days, an air conditioned bus is much nicer than walking.

The driver had on some bible preaching show on the radio, but the reception was terrible. Overlaid on the show was a rap station. It was very interesting to listen to, because you could hear the beats of the rap song, which was for whatever reason, in iambic pentameter. What was the interesting part? The rap song and the preacher synced up almost perfectly. Why? Because the preacher had training in speaking in public. He doesn’t have to yell and gesture wildly. He has to open his mouth, and fall into those familiar patterns that humans are so attuned to, and people listen. People don’t even realise that they’re listening. It just sneaks right in there.

This is part of the objection I have to those street preachers that invade our subways. It’s offensive, not just because it’s intrusive during a time (journey to work) that should be a private moment between you and your ipod, but also because they suck. They have none of the natural charisma that the trained preachers have, and they have absolutely none of the skill that comes from speaking in front of people for a long time. They’re making a mockery of an art form.

To someone who does know how to speak in public, listening to that crap is like someone who’s got a good ear for music listening to someone caterwaul along to a song on the radio, and do so off-key. Then, all of a sudden, even though you know the correct tune, all you can hear is the horrible singing.

Take home message: save the crappy flailing arms and shouting for your church. Nobody else cares. If you’re going to preach out on the streets, where others are going to have to listen to you without being able to get away from it, have the decency to do it well. Otherwise, shut up and let me get back to ignoring you and the rest of the world.