Browse Month: June 2010

Facebook Rehab: The halfway point

Hi readers ūüôā

I recently blogged about my intention to¬†cut out Facebook for a month. I thought I’d share a few side-effects now that I’m at the halfway point.

1.) iPhone battery lasts longer. The battery on this wondrous phone is awful, but it’s much less awful now that I no longer screw around on Facebook all the time.

2.) More efficient use of daily time. I used to wake up before sunrise, but then over coffee, I’d start Facebooking. Somebody please, cue up your favorite rendition of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” because that’s the very question I used to ask myself whenever my time disappeared into the Facebook vortex. I gladly report that this is no longer a problem.

Facebook vortex *

3.) Less anxiety. When I was cruising facebook aimlessly, I had guilt sitting like a rock in my belly. This is no longer the case and I gladly report that I am less anxious.

4.) Self-pity. Yeah, I know–not a desirable side-effect. I’d feel frustrated sometimes, like that painful, mouthwatering sensation that overtakes your body when you’re not allowed to take a potato chip from the plate of Lays sitting in front of you. One night, thanks to my TiVo, I did a¬†24¬†marathon and finally watched the last 6 episodes of the series. As the final minutes played out and I cried with Chloe O’Brian and watched Jack Bauer fade away, I actually felt sorry for myself that I couldn’t whine about the end of my favorite show on facebook. ¬†I thought, ‘Lose facebook AND¬†24¬†in the same week?’ Anyway, I got over it 5 minutes later. Sometimes my husband sits near me, logs in, and says something like, “Ohh, so and so posted her first pregnancy picture.” Insert itch-that-can’t-be-scratched sensation. How many times did I want to bitch to the facebook community about Italy’s crybaby tactics on South Africa’s fields? Many times, but I engaged in animated discussions about it with my husband and father instead. Sidenote: How crazy was Italy vs. Slovakia??!

5.) True face time. I admit that I’m generally over-addicted to my iPhone. The apps, the email, the games, and worst of all, the facebook. Now that I use my phone a lot less, I’ve become keenly aware of people who are plugged into their smartphones–I’m talking zero eye contact during a conversation so long as the damn phone is in their hands. I readily recognize that this is a growing epidemic of rudeness, and I renounce this awful behavior for my part. I vow not to look at random info on my phone while talking to people. This new self-imposed rule has enabled me to converse meaningfully with people in a pre-smartphone way: no distractions, complete focus. Of course, I owe my friends and loved ones that courtesy anyway.

Bottom line: Life was always good, but these days, life is better; I’d be lying, however, if I said I didn’t miss facebook.

Photo Credit: “Facebook is Scary” by Kevin Saff

Monsters all around me?

Photo by La FruU

Growing up, I never had an extreme fear of parasites. I did have a bizarre respectful fascination with them and would spend hours reading up on them, what illnesses they caused, etc. Then somewhere in the vicinity of young adulthood, I developed a paranoid aversion to these organisms. After a major surgery at age 21, I awoke in recovery to a traumatic experience thanks to less-than-competent recovery room staff, made worse by unbearable physical pain. I made it through that only to return to the hospital a week later for several days to treat a very painful bout of pneumonia and pleurisy. I think my fear of parasites and infections came about after this experience. The thought of anything making me ill enough to land in the hospital for an indeterminable stay was frightening and HAD to be avoided at all costs.

I confessed recently to my husband that I didn’t used to be this way and wanted to live carefree as I used to. Which is why I don’t know what on Earth possessed me to watch this Animal Planet series Monsters Inside Me, a show about parasites that wreak havoc inside people’s bodies. The format of the series mixes interviews with re-enactments and jarring stop-start filming, zooming in on people’s eyes, just like Mystery Diagnosis, a show on sister channel Discovery Health. There’s fast-paced thriller music playing in the background while the narrator talks up the creepy crawlies. Sprinkled throughout are photographs of rashes, welts, lumps and generally oozing things, along with ultrasound footage of worms whenever applicable. Then¬†after emphasizing the horrific effects of being infected by these organisms for several consecutive minutes, a biologist speaks one or two sentences telling viewers how they can avoid getting sick. Um, ok.

As you may be able to tell, I have mixed feelings about this show, or at least about its format. It does have some interesting information about the parasites themselves and how they operate. One interesting segment showed a scientist cooking ¬†parasite-ridden fish in 4 different ways and showing which methods killed the worms, and which didn’t. *If you’re curious, the parasites in the fully-cooked fish and the frozen fish died, but the parasites in the ceviche and in the seared rare fish stayed alive. I like the people’s stories. I just can’t stand the delivery of the material. I don’t know what the show sets out to accomplish besides fear-mongering. It’s incredibly sensationalistic and hyper, from the fast-paced CSI-ish shots to the narrator’s annoying haunted-house-greeter manner of speaking. The show plays out like a horror movie. The problem is that it’s not a movie; we’re supposed to be watching something about real life. Do people need to compare their lives to horror movies? Isn’t there enough paranoia out there? Fortunately, I’m fairly well traveled and pretty adventurous, but what does programming like this do to people who are not? If I were an unadventurous and/or slightly irrational person watching this show, I’d come away concluding that I shouldn’t travel to Florida for fear of parasitic infection, nor should I visit water parks for fear of parasitic infection. Are these really the kinds of messages that we want to communicate to an overly sanitized American public?

Jeez, I’m sick of all this shock programming on TV! Producers, please for everybody’s sake, tone it down!

World Cup 2010 is HERE! Musings on music…

Woot woot World Cup is here! Unarguably THE most festive sports occasion, all countries (except the USA) will be madly cheering, jeering and drinking for the next several weeks. Although I’m glad to see that the US is starting to get with the program and is somewhat beginning to embrace the world religion that is football.

Make sure to tune in tonight on ABC at 8:00 ET for the FIFA World Cup Kickoff Celebration to see performances and highlights from the opening concert, which featured a bunch of awesome performances from musical artists around the world. I watched some clips online this morning and the vibe was simply amazing–the excitement of the crowd at this event is PALPABLE! I expect ABC to favor American performances, but hopefully the network will show plenty of performances from non-American musicians too.

On a related note, I spent lots of time listening to and analyzing the different World Cup anthems, official and unofficial. There’s been controversy about the fact that Shakira’s song, “Waka Waka” was chosen to be the official anthem as opposed to a song by a local artist. Her song is awesome and lots of fun, but I do feel that this event would have been a golden opportunity to showcase an African musician. This is Africa’s very first time hosting an event of this magnitude, and we sense that the whole continent is spiritually coming together for this event, so why overlook masterful musicians from the host country itself, as well as the plethora of musicians from the other 50+ African countries for that matter, and go with one of Sony’s already-best-known singers? Besides, “Waka Waka” borrows very heavily from an old Cameroonian song, “Zangalewa,” that was popular all over Africa during the 1980s. Yes, Shakira is backed by popular South African group Freshlyground, but there are many well known African singers who are capable of holding their own on a song. And yes, I’m aware that there’s no rule about the official song having to come from the host country, but that’s not my point. My point is that this is the FIRST time that Africa is hosting an event like this. South Africa is standing on the world stage trailblazing for the entire African continent right now, so I think that symbolically in a land that has given so much music to the world, handing off the official song to a non-African singer was a poor choice.

Anywho, that’s all I have to say about that. I’ll still gladly buy Shakira’s song along with the others.¬†Other strong contenders for the official anthem included Senegalese-American singer Akon’s “Oh Africa“–a great song. My personal favorite was Somalian-born singer K’Naan’s “Wavin’ Flag,” which had long been rumored to be the official anthem. For me, his song screams serious anthem while Shakira’s song is a bit trite in comparison. Eventually these songs got picked up as Pepsi and Coca Cola’s official World Cup songs, respectively. All the anthems have fabulous videos and commercials attached to them, like this ad from PEPSI featuring Akon’s song.

So I hope you’ll all be watching. I’ll definitely be heading to Fritz & Franz Bierhaus in Coral Gables at least once to take in the football madness, and recommend this fabulous football-worshipping place to anyone in the Miami area. Good food, good beer, great atmosphere.

Any thoughts and predictions on World Cup 2010 so far? Please share!

Experiment: Facebook rehab

Hi readers.

Chances are, if you’re a close friend of mine, we’re probably friends on Facebook. And if you’re my friend on Facebook, you know that I spend plenty of time there. Recently though, my addiction has begun to weigh heavily on me. One of my best friends had given up Facebook access as a sacrifice for Lent 2010, describing the website as “crack.” I’ve come to see it the same way. I can no longer ignore or deny that I’m addicted to this website. One of the worst things about it? That’s it’s not even just confined to being a website anymore–it’s on my phone too. For God’s sake, it’s EVERYWHERE. So I check in “real quick”–in quotes, because it’s most often never quick–ALL the time. The most common letdown is that usually, it turns out that nothing exciting has happened in the last 120 seconds (the amount of time that has lapsed since I last looked).

Of course, the very nature of Facebook is designed to keep you hooked. Hyperlinks everywhere, in the form of random faces that you want to click on. Quite often, before you know it, you’ve got twenty tabs open and you’re making mental notes to return to this person’s profile and that person’s picture album. Yada yada yada, so goes facebook’s never-ending story.

And the games? Forget it. I made the mistake of starting to play an online facebook game called Restaurant City, a Sims-esque restaurant-focused game. The “goal” of the game is to build your restaurant, decorate it, hire people and keep them fed, and master all of the food and drink dishes that you serve. The problem is that this game is an online form of soap opera–there’s no end in sight; the goal is to never reach an end goal. This game keeps sending more and more novelties to settle and colonize my mental landscape. It’s become quite the time suck. ¬†How bad has it gotten? This bad: I created a whole secondary profile just to play this game. Fake Me’s restaurant was supposed to be a place from which Real Me could siphon off whatever I needed. But Fake Me wanted more. Fake Me’s restaurant is now more ornate and grandiose than Real Me’s restaurant is. The energy, time and focus needed to run Fake Me and Real Me’s restaurants is staggering.

Long story short, it’s all just too much for me now and I’m about to short-circuit. So I’ve decided to cut it out for a month. I know it’ll be hard–I love seeing what everyone’s up to, checking out friends’ and relatives’ pictures, and making my restaurant pretty, but the truth is that this one website keeps me from being engaged in what’s really going on around me. I check in too often when I could be doing more productive/meaningful things. So I’ll be deleting the phone app for the month, and I’ll block the website on my computer temporarily. Facebook is one of the main places where I advertise my blog posts, so I’ll have to find some way around that little issue–I’ll probably just click “Share on Facebook” directly from my blog posts so that I’m not tempted to log into my account, but I sincerely hope that my friends keep on reading anyway.

So if you need to reach me, you can do so outside facebook. I look forward to reporting from a more peaceful, self-aware mindset¬† ūüėČ

To the food snobs out there…

Hello people!

We’re blessed to be living in an age that allows us such easy access to great food. We’ve come a long way since the 1950s (unarguably a horrid time in American dining history). Just¬†consider this fun fact–during the decade of the 1960s, the word “sushi” appeared only¬†8 times in the New York Times. Today, 50 years later, you can probably name 8 different sushi restaurants in less than a minute.

These advancements in access¬† to new and different foods is great. Unfortunately, these advancements have turned way too many people into snobs who aggressively uphold ideas about food and drink that are offputting to others. It always bothers me on shows like Top Chef when diners dislike a dish for whatever reason, and chef contestants say things like, “Well, these are regular people, they don’t really know food.” Um, why? Because I didn’t go to culinary school?¬†Does that make me incapable of having a properly developed palate?

I argue that¬†these snobby¬†people don’t always know better about food and drink, and that they uphold certain myths to make themselves appear superior.

Here are¬†some food and drink attitudes that I’m tired of experiencing from people who¬†think they know best:

1) You’re inferior because you like sugar in your coffee. Those of you who take sugar in your coffee know what I’m talking about: that condescending smirk from people who deem themselves “real” coffee drinkers–the look they give you when you sweeten your coffee. Folks, there’s no rule that says people can’t mix sugar with coffee– the practice started during the 1600s¬†when a man named Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki opened western Europe’s first coffeehouse in Vienna. He served the coffee plain during its early days,¬†then started experimenting with adding sugar and milk to taste to create coffee drinks and well, the rest is history. Earlier than that, coffee drinkers in the Middle East often sweetened their coffee with cinnamon. If you like your coffee without sugar for whatever reason, that’s fine, but lose the “Sugar?? Oh Heavens no!” attitude–it’s obnoxious.

Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.” – Turkish proverb

2) You’re inferior because you like your meat fully cooked. This will always be a battle of the wills between those eating and those preparing the food. Yes, I love sushi, sashimi and beef tartare. I eat beef carpaccio pretty often. When I cook salmon or tuna at home, I cook it rare. But I also acknowledge that it’s well documented that undercooked meats make people sick.¬†I accept that while I may enjoy eating raw or rare meat, I may be exposing myself to various infections like salmonellosis, trichinosis, toxoplasmosis, listeriosis, and¬†E. coli . Bottom line–whether avoiding illness is worth eating slightly dried-out meat is a matter of personal opinion, and someone shouldn’t be made to feel stupid, unsophisticated, or close-minded because he or she would rather eat their meat fully cooked.

3) You’re inferior because you like sweeter wines. Unfortunately, many wine snobs disdain sweet wines; this is shortsighted and simplistic. Even the snobbiest of snobs will admit that a glass of a Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes (a wine beloved across the board) is the ideal pairing with a decadent foie gras. I dare you to write off a delicious glass of Tokaji–described in Wine Spectator in 2004 as today’s most underappreciated truly great wine–¬†as a glass of glorified grape juice. And don’t get me started on ports, ice wines and sherry. There are a lot of rich complex sweet wines out there; please resist that bias and try them!

4) You’re inferior because you ordered the chicken. “Why don’t you try the liver/veal/braised short rib/monkfish instead?” I know others may deride you for choosing that rock of ages at a fine restaurant, but stick to your guns, chicken-lovers! Ancient Egyptians and the Sultans of Delhi along with countless other great ones who came before you have eaten this bird with gusto. I maintain that it’s a challenge to find perfectly cooked poultry seasoned in a simple manner; delicious chicken that’s not tasty only because it’s smothered in sweet and sour sauce or drenched in syrupy teriyaki glaze like the kind found at mall food courts. Assuming you have access to well-raised free-roaming birds that will yield flavorful meat, chicken remains fully deserving of your love.

Photo Courtesy of hddod

Are there any food myths or mindsets out there that get on your nerves? Please share!