Monday, January 31, 2011

Every State Has Its Mark--Porn, Taxes, Arson, Rape, Etc.

My home state is good at something. Way to go Pennsylvania; highest rate of arson deaths in the US at a whopping 55.56 a year. We must be a bunch of pyromaniacs.

At least we aren't the ugliest like North Dakota, the most susceptible to identity theft like in Florida, or riddled with gonorrhea like in Louisiana.

And the negatives keep going. On the United States of Shame map you can find just what distinguishes your state from all the others. But be warned. It won't be pretty.

I could have sworn Maryland would've won the worst drivers award, but no, Massachusetts stole that from us. We just have the alarmingly highest rate of AIDS diagnosis in the nation.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Let's start PotholePalooza earlier

DC streets are a mess. They are not only impossible to navigate but also dangerous. We went to the Air and Space Museum this weekend which admittedly, was cooler than I expected, but on the way a giant pothole took out a tire. The car made a loud BOOM as we drove over a crater in our nation's capital.

The giant hole in the middle of road took out the rubber part of the tire, bent up the frame, and knocked the hubcap loose. So what causes potholes?
Asphalt road surfaces eventually crack under the heat of the day and the constant stresses of traffic. These cracks allow snow and rainwater to seep into the underlying dirt and gravel. During cold winter nights, this water freezes and expands. Some of the dirt and gravel is pushed out as a result, leaving a hole when the water eventually melts.
DC has had problems with potholes for a long time. As seen here, here, and here. Maybe they need to start potholepalooza a whole lot sooner to fix DC streets. It's really unacceptable to have that big of hole in the roads. But until the marathon pothole repair, you still report the potholes, but I wouldn't hold my breath until they're repaired.

On the bright side, I learned the art of tire changing from an expert tire changer. It's something I have been wanting to know in case it ever happens when I'm driving in my car. Good skill to know. For those of you who don't: How to change a tire.

Then with a temporary tire, we stopped at every tire store we could find until one of them had frames for sale. And let me tell you, used tire stores aren't necessarily the nicest places in the world. But alas, what would life be without a little excitement to make things more interesting? Unfortunately the hubcap is still if anyone has an extra VW hubcap lying (not laying) around let me know.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Always Snowing

Seems like all it does around here these days is snow. Snow, snow, snow. At least it's beautiful on the bare trees of winter.

I had to shovel my car yesterday because in addition to the regular snow fall, the plow trucks made a lovely barrier between my car and the road. Hence the sore arms today.

Some of my co-workers though ended up getting stuck in 6-7 hours of traffic on Wednesday night because cars were getting stuck on the road or slipping all over the place. Some of them even slept at the office. I'm really glad I wasn't scheduled to work that day! But the next morning there were still abandoned cars on the middle of the highways. There would be a car with a small mountain of snow around them and cars are zooming down the road at 70+ miles per hour. I want to know where the owners went? Did they walk home off of the beltway?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sputnik Moment

Tonight was one of my favorite political events of the year again--The State of the Union Address!

I thought President Obama's speech (well, at least the two-thirds of it) was very good. I like what he had to say about immigration. I like what he had to say about education. I like what he had to say about innovation (specifically in the area of clean energy). He addressed concerns about America being surpassed by other countries, and challenged us to be greater, all the while, elaborating on what makes the US great. His call to action was empowering by calling this our "Sputnik moment." He then addressed the pressing concern of the crappy economy and rising national deficit. However, reinforced his former ideas by saying, "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you'll feel the impact."

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) the clapping/standing/sitting/frowning/cheering wars between parties wasn't as nearly as pronounced this year. Perhaps in the spirit of what Obama said himself:
And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn't a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth. We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything's possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.
Amen! Sometimes that can be easy to forget in all the ugly bickering and partisanship in our political landscape.

P.S. Anyone catch the Survivor Reality TV show reference? "We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world." Seriously Obama's speech writer? Did you really include that? Sounds suspiciously like Outplay, Outwit, Outlast...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Period. Space Space. New Sentence

I always follow the pattern when typing. In fact, I'm even a little anal retentive about it. I will go through every sentence in my papers, emails, blogs, etc. to make sure I've spaced properly. Every period that ends a sentence must have two spaces after it before a new sentence can begin. It's the way I was taught; and I don't plan on changing any time soon.

But some people adamantly argue against this practice.

Farhad Manjoo proclaims why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period by explaining why we started doing it in the first place--and not surprisingly we can blame those wretched typewriters.
The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks "loose" and uneven; there's a lot of white space between characters and words, so it's more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here's the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we've all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.
Ok, I get that it's an outdated practice, but I still think two spaces (in our digital age) makes it easier to distiguish sentence stops and starts. There's no way that two spaces diminishes readability. Obviously more space equals more demarcation between thoughts. Thereisareasonweusepunctuationandspacestohelpourreadersunderstandwhatweintendedtotype. Two spaces are like an additional tool in our typing toolboxes to help us deliver our messages with clarity. Why take away the tools that help us do our jobs as writers? Plus, I think the extra space is more visually appealing than one space. There is definitely something to be said about the aesthetics of readability.

I agree with Megan McArdle's statement, You Can Have My Double Space When You Pry it From My Cold, Dead Hands

Old habits die hard. [space][space] Haha. And I like my double spaces.

P.S. Ironically, you've probably noticed that this post, and all my others for that matter, don't have two spaces between sentences. That's not because I didn't put them there, but because I use Blogger's html editor which does not publish double spaces, even if you painstakingly type them in. I guess they're trying to teach us two spacers something...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Making Flan

Mmmm, flan. Flan, flown all the way in from Morocco. It's so easy to make, yet so good to eat. Just mix it up, stir, stir, stir, heat, stir some more, and pour. The hardest part is the waiting for it to set before digging in. Delicious dessert! I don't know why flan isn't more popular in the US. It's way better than our pudding or jello.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Minions of Satan

Not squirrels this time. But pigeons.

Why do we hate pigeons so much? "Affectionately known by most people as rats with wings, sky rats, gutter birds and flying ashtrays, pigeons must be one of the most unloved birds around. The hatred can be extreme, with extreme pigeon fearing labelled as peristerophobia, but it is so widely shared several clothing manufacturers produce "I hate pigeons" T-shirts."

I wouldn't even wear an "I hate pigeons" T-shirt because they're so gross. Save the pigeons, smigeons, you crazies.

Plus, pigeons do spread diseases: Pest control experts and public health specialists warn that there are dozens of different human pathogens associated with pigeons, including some that can be dangerous or even deadly. Many experts feel that pigeons are a significant health risk to people.

Get away from me you dirty birds!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Making Sushi Rolls Fail

The first time I attempted to make sushi rolls was a bit of a failure. Let me tell you the 2 biggest mistakes that you should never repeat.

1. Using regular rice
2. Not having sharp enough knives

Not using sticky rice will make your "rolls" turn out more like "lumps", unable to hold their shape. Not having a sharp enough knife in the house will lead you to go crazy trying every knife you own, but consistently squashing every roll. If it can't cut through the nori (seaweed wrap), it's hopeless. You might as well not even try to make sushi rolls.

So after I correct these two glaring problems, I think I'll be able to make some darn good avocado and shrimp rolls. And if you're wondering, yes, you do see a strip of bacon in that photo. My dad and brother-in-law were horrified at the thought of eating any type of seafood, raw or not, in the sushi; so we made special "bacon asparagus sushi rolls", about as not Japanese as you can possibly get. And the worst part? They hated the sushi anyway. Last time I try that. Next time I'm going to put eel in it and really scare them. Bahhaha.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Have a Dream

Happy Martin Luther King Junior Day!

It seems MLK's "I Have Dream" speech is always ranked the best speech in modern American history. And as somebody who has spent the past two plus years studying rhetoric, I concur. Here we have a true orator who was able to use discourse and non violent civil disobedience to ignite a massive civil rights movement in the United States.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beware of Baltimore

Baltimore is a special kind of city. I really like it. The aquarium is nice. The inner harbor is nice. The sporting arenas are nice. The universities are nice.

But some of the city is scary as heck. You'll be driving along feeling perfectly comfortable, and then, bam, you're in a sketchy neighborhood with no warning.

We unfortunately decided to eat at "Caribbean Paradise" thinking it sounded like a great, tropical, fun restaurant in downtown Baltimore. It turned out to be across from some shady casino and gas station. People were staring at us because we stuck out like a sore thumb. We were wandering around as if we were rabbits in a foxhole. Nothing bad happened, but I definitely felt unsafe. So lesson learned, if you go to Baltimore, stick only to the touristy areas, unless you packed your bullet proof vest.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wizards Basketball Game

Believe it or not, a DC sports team actually won a game last week! Yay, go Wizards. They crushed the NJ Nets by 20 points, a lead which carried on throughout the entire game.

The Wizards blue thing mascot and blue guy basketball player need a little work, but they're still lovable nonetheless. The best part about the basketball game was the stadium atmosphere. From 3-D glasses, the kiss cam, dance cam, wave your arms cam, insert your way to get on jumbotron here cam, free Chipotle, t-shirt launch, halftime show, and excited fans, being at the game was a lot fun.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Watching Birds is not Bird Watching

While we're on the subject of animals I think are super adorable (but in this case don't want to own), look at this chicken cutie. I'm guessing it's a chicken and not rooster, but I could be wrong since I'm not an expert bird identifier.

This chicken, with her funny feather hairdo is pretty adorable. Her movements are sudden and schizophrenic. She bobs around here and there; and has very strange mannerisms. I could watch her for hours, but then that would make me a bird watcher; and bird watching is altogether way too boring for me. I think it's perfectly normal a person could enjoy watching birds but hate bird watching. They're very different. And for very different types of people.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I want a bunny. Really bad. They're SOOOOO cute. And cuddly.

And furry. And their little noses sniff sniff sniff.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What does 1000 pounds of butter look like?

1000 pounds of butter looks a little like a football player, milkman, and 4 kids on monkey bars--if you're at the 2011 Pennsylvania Farm show that is.

Every year the PA Farm show features a lot of butter carved up into beautiful sculptures refrigerated in a special $50,000 display case to promote the dairy industry. In 2009, "six butter manufacturers in Pennsylvania produced 79.1 million pounds of butter" Wow. That's a lot of butter!

Monday, January 10, 2011

What makes a bucking bull buck?

HeeHaw, it's time for the rodeo! This weekend kicks off the 95th annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, PA.

We got to see the rodeo on Saturday and what happened, but the first guy who came out riding a bull got trampled on and had to be taken out on a stretcher. Bull riding has to be the most dangerous sport I've seen. Those cowboys are crazy!

I learned the reason the bull bucks for the full 8 seconds of the ride is because of special strap on a special area of the bull; and once the rope is loosened, the bucking dies down too.

Via Wikipeda: There is a heated debate between animal rights organizations and bull riding enthusiasts over many aspects of the sport. The first controversy is over the use of a flank strap. The flank strap is placed around a bulls flank, in front of the hind legs, and encourages bucking. Critics claim that the flank strap encircles or otherwise binds the genitals of the bull. However, others note that the flank strap is anatomically impossible to place over the genitals; as well as unrealistic, pointing out that the bull's genes are valuable and that there is a strong economic incentive to keep the animal in excellent reproductive health.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Only in Pennsylvania

And now in this edition of Only in Pennsylvania, I bring you this sign I saw yesterday in Harrisburg:

Built Amish Tough. Where else would you see something like that?

I have to say the sign is rather accurate though. The Amish are skilled at woodworking, everything from furniture craft to barn raising.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cheesecake and Arcade Games

Last night my cousin took me out for a delicious dinner at the Cheesecake Factory followed by a spontaneous trip to the arcade at White Flint Mall. What fun! We played a bunch of games at Dave and Busters as if we were 9 years old all over again.

For dessert, I had the most splendid cheesecake. White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut. White Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake Swirled with Macadamia Nuts and Caramel on a Blond Brownie Crust. A slice of pure decadence that I will certainly feel guilty about tomorrow morning when my pants won't fit, but will still totally be worth it.

Pomelo: the Drink or Fruit?

When my boss first told me about pomelos I wondered how on earth she had ever heard of the pomelo drink they sell in Uruguay made by Paso de los Toros (now acquired by Pepsi Co). That stuff tasted like sour grapefruit soda. Not my favorite, although very popular and interesting nonetheless.

Turns out she wasn't talking about the drink from Uruguay, but the fruit.

When I first walked in to the office today, I wondered why she had a watermelon sitting on her desk (ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but this thing was no itty bitty fruit). The pomelo is the biggest citrus fruit known to mankind, some as large as a soccer ball. The fruit itself isn't much bigger than a big grapefruit though; most of it's size is just cushy membrane stuff that you shouldn't eat. Turns out the pomelo was a gift for me. Yum. It was sweet with just a little bit of sour. I think I should've included trying more new foods in my list of new year's resolutions.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

7 New Years Resolutions

I may be 5 days late in posting my new year's resolutions, but I'm not going to claim procrastination is something I'm going to work on in 2011. Late is better than never. So here they are:

1. Lose 9 pounds. Yes, just like the rest of the world, I want to lose weight in the new year. Surprise, surprise. Specifically I want to lose the 9 lbs. I have gained the past year since coming back to the U.S. I remember my friend Marcos saying, yeah, people always get fat when they go to the States. And oh is it true. I resolve to lose nine pounds, the sooner the better.

2. Graduate. Very important. I want to hold that beautiful M.A. degree in my hands and get hooded. I shall accomplish that this year no matter what. I shall absolutely, 100% certainly graduate.

3. Find a full-time job (preferably with health insurance). At some point in 2011, I hope to be gainfully employed at a job I love. Also very important.

4. Blog more often. I love to write. And I ought to write for fun more often. I don't care if people are saying blogging is dead. I shall single-handedly make it alive again...or something like that.

5. Learn Arabic. I already told you I was going to learn Arabic, but I'm going to be more proactive about it starting now. I'd like to be able to write and read basic phrases by the end of the year. And actually be able to hold a verbal conversations sooner than that.

6. Floss every day. Self explanatory.

7. Make time for what I love. This one includes painting & jewelry making, spending more time with friends & family, and traveling. It's true what they say: if you really care about something, you'll make time for it. So I resolve to make time for those things which are most important to me but can sometimes get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of ordinary life.

I think 2011 is going to be a pretty full and exciting year for me. I'm very excited for what the future holds. At the very least, I hope I can make good on all of my new year's resolutions.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Snooze, You Lose

I've been reading up on polyphasic sleep, after stumbling upon a blogger who tried it for a year and not surprisingly reverted back to monophasic sleep after his experimentation phase.

The idea of multiple naps instead of one massive giant snooze sounds appealing. The idea of more waking hours in a day sounds very appealing. Going through the process of waking up 4-6 times a day does not however. I hate alarm clocks as it is.

Plus, ascribing to a different sleep schedule than the everybody else has its difficulties. I would imagine 6 naps a day would make it difficult to be successful both professionally and personally. Bosses and friends just wouldn't understand. Plus, once you gained a sustained concentration on any one task it'd constantly be broken by naptime, not allowing you to really focus or accomplish anything meaningful. I think I remember seeing a newscast once that a well-rested person should take 15 minutes to fall asleep once his or her head hits the pillow; otherwise you're sleep-deprived. So if you took that 15 minutes 6 times a day you'd spend all your time trying to sleep instead of actually sleeping. No thanks.

In my ideal world, I'd be a biphasic sleeper. Hello, mid-day siesta! Sometimes I think I ought to have been born Hispanic. Unfortunately the United States has not caught on to the glorious Spanish nap-time after lunch. I have to say, the time I spent in Spain were some of the most rejuvenating months of my life. Among a few other lifestyle differences, I would say sufficient sleep had a big part to do with that.

Right now, I love Sundays--because no Sunday is complete without a little nappy nap to get me ready for a week of being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.