Monday, August 30, 2010

Movin' on Out

I am laying on the couch, taking a break. I've packed my power cord, so I've only got 6 and a half hours to last me until I start unpacking tomorrow. Otherwise, I know I will spend more time on the computer than I will packing and cleaning.

For tomorrow at noon or one or so, I start to move. I didn't plan ahead very well. I see something, and I pack it. I'm going to have to use my drawers to move, because I don't have that many boxes left. Oh, well! I'm sure I'll have a box or so with just stuff that I forgot to pack earlier.

I have one tupperware with leftover Mac'n'Cheese'n'Peas, and after that, all my food is packed, so it's peanut butter sandwiches for me until after everything is moved tomorrow. Yumyum!

Ok, time to ration the computer power.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Day: Part II: Canoe Trip!

I love canoeing! Today, we went on our annual canoe trip down 7 miles of the St. Croix river. We left my aunt's house and took the "scenic" route to Taylors Falls. (This should be interpreted as we forgot how to get there, but figured out a way to get there that was less direct)

Anyway, the water was really, really high. Normally, we have a nice sandy beach from which to push off our canoes out of a long line of canoes. However, the water was so high, the nice sandy beach was completely submerged, leaving the water line only a couple yards away from the canoe rental. About 7 or 8 canoes were able to fit in the small grassy cove that had formed in lieu of the beach.

However, the high water meant that there was a very helpful current. Whole logs floated downriver along with us. While we were eating on one of the few spots available to stop and get out, we were passed by a log which looked like a sea serpent. We named it Nessie of course. It had a snake-like head, a small hump in the middle, and a tail sticking out of the water. Our usual lunch spots were completely submerged. The many sandbars and islands, and even campsites on the islands that have been hospitable to us were gone. Instead, we managed to find a not-as-steep place to park the canoes with a fallen tree that sufficed as a bench/table.

And in not-surprising news, I am sunburned. My chest, arms, shoulders, upper back, thighs, right knee, my shins and my feet are sunburned. Also, my hands and the inner half of my first finger segments are burned. My face, lower torso, scalp, back of my legs and my left knee were left unscathed, and my forearms are less burned than the rest of me. I put on some sunscreen, but only in the places that were already a little darker. However, it appears the sunscreen on my right knee wore off. Except for a couple splotches. I also have a rather large pale spot beneath my left knee. The joys of being pale, freckly and kind of red-haired.

After, we explored Franconia Sculpture Park, a recommended visit for artistic people, and also people who like to interact with sculptures. I climbed on a melted car, walked through a log tunnel, creeped through a shed/rocket/I'm not exactly sure what, and sat on a very artistic bench. It's a fun place, and it's free (except for the gas money needed to get there).

We finished the day by exploring my grandparent's/aunt's neck of the woods by going to the Harriet Alexander Nature Center. Right when it closed. Luckily the guy was nice enough to let us in, anyway. So we spent a few minutes there looking at skeletons and bees and a turtle and stuff, then went to visit my grandparents, who live a few doors down from my aunt. It was nice to see them. I see them only once or twice a year, and my grandma's health is deteriorating, so a visit is nice. Plus, it gains me "favorite grandchild" points. I'm near the bottom in rankings, so any points are helpful. This is totally unofficial, by the way. For all I know, they secretly love me more than anyone. But most likely not, since I almost never visit, or do anything for them, even though they don't want anyone to do anything for them.

Anyway, the rest of the day is detailed in the second part of My Day: Part I. Have a great day, yourself, kiddos.

My Day: Part I: Transportation

Today, I headed up to Roseville to attend our annual family canoe trip (more on that in My Day: Part II). It wasn't particularly eventful getting there or back, but it took FOREVER so I had a lot of time to think.

I left my apartment this morning at 5:15am to be there in plenty of time for the 5:45 bus from St. Olaf to Minneapolis. I remembered everything but a towel this morning, but it turned out I didn't really need it, so it didn't matter as much. Impressive for waking up at 4am after getting less than 3 hours of sleep.

Anyway, as the bus left Olaf in the dark of the morning, with traces of light beginning to highlight the clouds, I noticed how annoyingly bright the St. Olaf streetlights are. They also contribute greatly to light pollution. I actually closed my eyes because they were so bright. This, of course, would normally make me fall asleep like nothing else. However, I had had some coffee, so I just stared out the window and watched the day wake up.

Then I took a few Metro Transit buses to get to my aunt's house. On purpose, I got off the bus right next to another aunts house who lives about half a mile away. I got me some golden retriever loving on my way there. However, one of her two goldens scratched my arm a bit, getting what I hope was mud on it. Ah well, they're darling.

Anyway, my mom and one of my cousins met me halfway down my aunt's road. It was nice to see them coming toward me. At my aunt's house, more dogs! Her husband's two beagles, and her giant Great Dane/Black Lab mix (appropriately named Moose) sniffed me up and down until I went to the bathroom to wash off the dog spit and mud from my other aunt's house. Gosh, I love dogs. Must love dogs: one of my requirements in a partner.

Anyway, I'll go on about the canoe trip in the next post. I'm just getting all the transportation themed news events together in one post.

So, on the way home, I caught the Northfield bus from St. Kates. I am not particularly fond of Northfield Metro Express buses, and waiting to be picked up from St. Kates is one of the reasons: Every driver stops at a different corner. I never know where the bus will park, or what direction it will be coming from. Super annoying. Luckily, I didn't have one of the douche-y drivers who barely stop when there's no expected pickup. He actually parked where he's supposed to, and pulled up to me when I saw I had a boarding pass in my hand and was headed to him. Thanks, Cheech.

Anyway, the bus ride home was also uneventful. The sun set as we left downtown Minneapolis. Then something weird happened. I was listening to a song, and suddenly I started crying. I guess this is a song that has always gotten to me, and I must have been so tired and sore and sunburned that the emotions welled up more easily. The song is Cancer by My Chemical Romance. It's a short song, but one that is emotionally poignant to most people, I think. I've put a link to the lyrics at the end of the post.

Anyway, I got home safely after a long, awesome day.

Cancer - My Chemical Romance

Turn away,
If you could get me a drink
Of water 'cause my lips are chapped and faded
Call my aunt Marie
Help her gather all my things
And bury me in all my favorite colors,
My sisters and my brothers, still,
I will not kiss you,
'Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you.

Now turn away,
'Cause I'm awful just to see
'Cause all my hairs abandoned all my body,
Oh, my agony,
Know that I will never marry,
And baby, I'm just soggy from the chemo,
We're counting down the days to go
It just ain't living
And I just hope you know

That if you say (if you say)
Goodbye tonight (goodbye tonight)
I'll ask you to be true (cause I'll ask you to be true)

'Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you
'Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you

It is 5am...

And you are lisssstening to Los Angeles.

It's actually 4:45am, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Why am I up at 4:45 am? I am going canoeing. We probably won't start canoeing until after11, but I have to get from my apartment in Northfield to my aunt's house in Roseville first. Considering public transportation and walking are my sources of transportation today, it then makes sense that I need to get up at 4am. Yay public transit!

Anyway, I'm not exactly dressed for the weather, but here's hoping it's warmer outside than they're predicting. It's bad decisions and lack of forethought like this that make me feel like a teenager again.

We are all in some way or another going to Ricida, someday, to die.

Friday, August 20, 2010

War is Over If You Want it

So, Operation Iraqi Freedom is over. Well, all combat troops have left, in any case. There are still peacekeeping troops and private contractors to finish training and rebuilding so we don't end up with an unstable shitshow that is our fault. Can't pull out too early, now!

I remember the day that the war started. It was in 8th grade, and my math class went to Subway for some reason. Tyler S. lent me money. I've paid him back since then, of course. Anyway, there were protesters on every street corner on Main Street by the government center.

I remember I wasn't too happy about it. Only in 8th grade and already angry at Bush.

What a weird wartime it has been. There have been no war bonds or victory gardens or ration cards like the days of WWII. There was no peace riots or draft cards or backlash against soldiers like in Vietnam. The beginning was fanatic, crazed patriotism that eventually reverted back to the mindless consumerism that is modern America. As long as we got our luxuries, (and unless we knew people who were fighting overseas), life went on as normal.

I feel the Iraq war wasn't/isn't very real for most people. We hear tales of heroism and of dogs rescued from Iraq, and how heartlifting stories of how free Iraq is now, but the Middle East is so very foreign to most of us. A war in Europe, or South America is much more real to us than Iraq because we have more cultural and historical connection to it.

One thing I am grateful for is the renewed emphasis on Afghanistan. Iraq was a much more winnable war. Afghanistan, not so much, and I feel Bush put more resources and energy into Iraq (partly) because of it. I think all we can hope for in Afghanistan now is a stable situation where the majority of the population in Afghanistan and Pakistan are turned against the Taliban. I think that's what Victory will be for us. I don't actually know what we were hoping to accomplish by going into Afghanistan in the first place, but I am glad the Taliban have less control than they did, even if we did screw up royally by invading. Now we have an obligation to fix it as best as we can. Let's not be the Soviet Union. Let's nation build.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Music of the 90s

Man, the 90s were great. I'm watching Top 100 Songs of the 90s, and it always makes me nostalgic for the 90s music scene. I'm sure in a decade, I'll miss Beyonce and Eminem and Jay-Z and Green Day---wait.

Just kidding. They were around in the 90s and are still around today. But seriously, that was a unique decade for music. The emergence of hip hop (yes, I know it was around before 1990, but it wasn't as mainstream) and grunge, and the new direction of pop music was a really experimental time which allowed for individuality.

I don't think the same thing can be said today. There are some gems, of course, but I feel that is more segregated. Or maybe that's just because I watched a lot of MTV and VH1 in the 90s, and had a grungy older brother, so I was exposed to a wider variety of music. And since I was a kid, how could I say I didn't like something? Besides that song "You're still the one," which annoyed me. I didn't like that song. The rest I liked. (I like it now, but then, you couldn't get me to stay in the same room as that song)

Maybe I'm just too laid back to have tastes. And by laid back, I mean that I'm uptight, but easygoing. I thrive in stressful situations, but I roll with the punches. In any case, I rarely dislike music. It's a form of art, and self-expression. Even if it doesn't move me as much as other songs, how can I dislike someone's inner soul? Or even if they just write it for money, how can I hate something that moves someone else? Even if it physically moves people (try not dancing to Baby Got Back)

There are exceptions, of course. I dislike music on the basis of lyrics. "Fix You" by Coldplay made me hate Coldplay, for example. Arrogant bastards. Also, I like Rage Against the Machine, but only 1 song at a time.

I hate country western. I like country, and bluegrass, and folk, and most pop country. I guess I like bluegrass, folk and female country stars. Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, Jewel, even Taylor Swift. I have a lot of respect for women in such a sexist and male-dominated industry. Especially those who mean what they sing, wrote what they sing and/or play their music while they're singing it. Most country western songs involve this cowboy losing his little lady because he drank too much and it made him sad, so he's drinking more. Yeah, can't empathize or sympathize with you, deadbeat alkie. Get some help and face the consequences.

Granted, most mainstream rap isn't much better. Drugs, bitches, guns and cars. I could care less. I love meaningful rap that isn't bragging about how they're so G, and so real because they disrespect women, do a lot of crack, and shoot people. Can't stand it. Grow up. Even angsty emo kids singing about how they hate their dad are more real than they are. It's all a front, imo. They aren't impenetrable macho gods. They're just as experiential as the rest of us.

Anyway, this was probably enough topics for like 10 posts. Ah well. I don't have many opinions about music, and yet, I have as many as anybody else, I guess.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taro and Wintermelon

Lately, when I've been getting Taro and Wintermelon bubble tea shakes.

The flavor is indescribable. It's rather nutty. It's very sweet. It's a little smokey, like Thai tea. It almost tastes like Nutella.

The color of a Taro and Wintermelon shake is purple.

It's probably the color/taste combination that confuses me most. Why is a nutty, sweet drink purple? This is wrong, but it tastes so right. I recommend the combination highly.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer Chill

Yes, I am going to blog about the weather. I love weather, and I love talking and learning about weather. What would I small talk about if I lived in California? "Oh, it's warm and sunny again today." Bo-ring!

Anyway, a short MN summer heatwave just ended. I am sitting on the couch, drinking hot cocoa under my snuggie. It's a nice change from being splayed out on the couch, drinking water and daydreaming about ice cream. It was nice to be able to use the stove this morning to cook my egg sandwich without making the apartment too hot for comfort.

And I'm sure the bike ride to work later today will be awesome without the sun beating down on me and the air oppressing me. And it sure was nice to be able to cuddle with my comforter last night as I slept.

But I kind of miss it. I hate being cold. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Considering I have to wear clothes 90% of the year in order to feel comfortable temperature-wise, it's nice to be able to wear a skimpy tank top and short shorts and not feel chilled at all times. Maybe I have thin skin, or maybe it's because I have a lower body temperature (97.2 F), but I am cold even now because my arms are sticking out. Lol. I am using the blanket with sleeves, but I am not using the sleeves. What's wrong with me?

In any case, I am extremely grateful that the biggest of my weather worries is slightly cooler sunny weather. All around the world, people are suffering from drought, forest fires, floods, and other extreme weather. In my Eurasian Geopolitical Energy class, we joked that climate change would benefit Russia because it would actually be warm enough for people to want to go there, which explains why they refuse to become more energy efficient. However, if climate change means that Russia will face drought, food shortages, wildfires, smog and smoke every day, they may soon be changing their tune.

Climate-change doubters need to take a look around the world this summer and tell me that this is all coincidence. The most extreme weather in recorded meteorological history has been increasing in incidence in the past couple decades. We're destroying our Earth as we know it. Life will go on, of course, but billions of people will suffer, and our ecosystems will be completely different. We're definitely entering an unknown future. Who knows what will be safe, and what will still exist in 20 years? Who knows if we will exist in 20 years? We will reap what we have sown, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The environment rarely changes rapidly, but we're causing it to change faster than it should.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."

And people don't understand why I don't like driving, or using AC, or eating feedlot animals.

"If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pad Thai, by request

I just noticed that my Mom asked for the Pad Thai recipe a couple of days ago, so here it is!

1/2 package of Thai rice noodles
1 pound of protein (chicken, tofu, or mock duck would go best. I supposed tempeh would go as well, but it's really gross and you should not eat it because it is disgusting)
1/4 cup of Soy Sauce (or less. At least 3T, in any case. I know, it's a lot. Get low-sodium soy sauce)
2 T vinegar
1 T peanuts
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cup green onion (I just used onion, because I didn't have any green onion on hand, and it tasted fine)
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 t ground chili powder
2 T sugar
1 egg
Vegetable oil. The more you add, the better it tastes! (but remember that your daily recommended serving is as little as possible. But you know, canola oil and olive oil are healthier than most oils, so use those and you can add more with less guilt)

Soak the noodles in warm water for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the other ingredients. The nice thing about these noodles is that they only need to be soaked before you toss them in the pan/wok. No other cooking is necessary. Cool.

Anyway, cut your tofu into matchstick-like pieces, (or if using mock duck or chicken, make sure it's in bite size pieces. Also any meat needs to be pre-cooked). Then julienne the green onion so its the same size as the tofu (and the bean sprouts). Reserve half the bean sprouts and onion. Mince some of the onion with the garlic.

Anyway, heat up some oil in a wok (I don't have a wok, so I used a large pot, but a 12" pan would also work, but I don't have one of those, either). Fry the peanuts until toasty-looking, then remove them and set them aside for now.

Add the minced onion, garlic, and tofu to the pan. Stir fry until brown. Drain and add the noodles when they are soft and flexible, but don't soak them too long. Stir and mix quickly to coat the noodles with the oil and everything, otherwise they will stick.

Add vinegar, soy sauce, chili powder and sugar. Stir some more until evenly coated. The dish should not be very wet, so if you have a lot of juices at the bottom, turn up the heat a bit. Push everything to one side of the pan, and scramble the egg in the empty space (or if your pot is too small to do that, cook your egg in a separate pot), and fold it into everything else.

Add some of the bean sprouts and green onion and mix it in. While that's cooking, take those roasted peanuts and crush them. I used a bowl and glass as a mortar and pestle, but if you have a mortar and pestle, use that.

Anyway, the Pad Thai is finished, so serve it up in bowls, and sprinkle the rest of the bean sprouts, onion, and crushed peanuts. Voila! It takes only around 20 minutes of intense cooking and it's super delicious. You can also add squirt some fresh lime juice on there, and it'll taste nummy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Swimmin' Hole

This Sunday, I headed north to St. Cloud/Waite Park to go swimming with some friends. One of my friends who lives up there took us to Quarry Park, which is an old granite quarry that is now a park/nature preserve. One of the quarry holes is dedicated to swimming/diving. The edges of the quarry go 0-55 feet above the surface of the water, and the water is 115 or so feet deep. And since it's a quarry, it's that deep pretty much the whole way through. There's a few feet near the dock that is painfully rocky that is 2-3 feet deep, and then it drops off completely.

In any case, I didn't do any jumping, but I did go swimming, and it was a really weird experience. Normally when I swim, I just kind of stand in shoulder-deep water and float around. There's not much shoulder-deep water in a quarry, so I found a rock in shallower water, until someone gave me a lifejacket so I could float on it.

A pretty fun time, with dozens of people swimming around and jumping off of cliffs. You should go there sometime, if you're ever in the St. Cloud area. : )

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Coconut Curry!

To make a delightful coconut curry, you will need:
1 can coconut milk
3 T soy sauce
1 1/2 t curry powder
1 1/2 t ginger
1 t chili powder (you could use chili paste/more of it for a spicier curry)
1 finely diced medium onion
1 large can diced tomato (or a few diced tomatoes if you have fresh ones around)
1 lb protien (I used seitan, but tofu or chicken would go good, as well)
2 cups chopped celery (or bok choy, or something along those lines)
1/4 cup chopped basil
Optional add-ins are: mushrooms, snow peas, etc
Serve with rice.

Okay, so. You mix the coconut milk, soy sauce, curry, ginger and chili powders in a large pan until boiling. Then add the tomatoes, onion and protein. Cover for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the celery and basil, and cover for an additional five minutes. Uncover, and cook for a little longer to thicken it up a bit, but it will end up fairly runny. You could add corn starch to thicken it more if you wanted. Serve over rice.

Very simple, and super delicious! It's really creamy with a little kick to it. Be sure not to eat it all at once, because curry is always better as leftovers.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I love dogs!

This Saturday, I got to spend time with 4 Golden Retrievers. I love dogs! They're so amazing and cute and endearing. Maybe because I had one as a child, but goldens are especially awesome. They're very assertive in their need for attention, but their eyes and the quality of their fur make it almost impossible to resist petting them.

I am not a big fan of Labrador Retrievers for that reason. I know they're really nice, easily trainable, family-friendly dogs, but their fur makes me want to take a shower. It's so oily and coarse compared to a golden. Even the short and curly haired goldens (like my old dog was) have nicer, softer, less oily fur than a lab.

I love all dogs, but labs and Boston Terriers are less "awwww!"-inducing than all other dogs. I'll still pet them and love them and give them attention, but meh. Also, really high energy, nervous dogs, no matter the breed, are off-putting. My dad's German Shorthair Pointer is a really beautiful (and chubby) dog, but she doesn't interact with people the way most dogs do. She wanders back and forth until someone lets her outside, or inside, or feeds her. She doesn't enjoy being petted or played with, and barely gives people attention.

Dogs are amazing because they are one of the only species who are capable of empathy with humans. Cats, as awesome as they are, will not worry if you are sad. If they lick away your tears, it's because they want to lick your tears, not because they think it will make you feel better. Although I did have a cat who seemed to be able to empathize, but maybe he was always just clingy and I didn't appreciate it as much as when I was sad.

Anyway, in conclusion, go adopt, foster, sponsor or even just play with the dogs at your local animal shelter. They're awesome and deserve to be happy and safe. So do cats. Remember to spay and neuter your pets so they don't make unhappy, unsafe and unwanted potential pets roaming around. You don't need to breed it. Go adopt a perfectly perfect animal from the shelter instead!