Monday, October 18, 2010

How not to be a freak...

First, let me say I have NO idea how to do this. I either recognize people that are various levels of celebrity or I completely space who they are. When I recognize them, I go through the mental "oh my god, holy shit, they're a real person and they're close enough for me to talk to, am I cool enough to even address them, fuck me I'm in high school all over again" panic response. I wish I could be one of those people who just have that innate "fuck you, I'm awesome!" persona.

I don't. I am forever that geek that learned how to code before computers were "cool" and have the social awareness of a gecko. I can do small talk (yay for being in a social business setting for ages) but I absolutely fail at the graceful exit from small talk.

Here's where it all started for me this weekend. I attended TAMLondon and met people that I follow on Twitter/have only seen on stage with their stage personas in full form. Cue my brain going into overdrive. The conversation went something like this...

Ryn's Id: Look, it's someone you appreciate. Because you appreciate them and "get" them, you have something in common with them. Go up. say hi!
Ego: Is that really wise? They're people just going about their day.
Id: Oh, c'mon. They have to expect this on some level...
Ego: They are not going to magically become your friend. They will not remember you in 24 hours. Or even six.
Id: C'mon, it's all in good fun. Roll with it!

Eventually, the id wins out and then the nerves kick in. So far I've been fortunate enough that upon opening my mouth I have not said "You cool. Like. Wow. Shiiiiiiny." But it usually is something along the lines of "please allow me to tell you something about a way in which you have impacted my life that you may not have known about and likely will see as being somewhat creepy when I mean for it to be complimentary and oh god please something make me shut up and run away any time now I can't stop talking and if I don't breathe soon I will pass out I wish I could disappear where is the nearest black hole?"

I know, in my heart of hearts, every single one of us has done this at one point in time or another.

Here's the flip side.

After Saturday at TAM, I was stuck at Charing Cross waiting desperately for a taxi to take me home since the trains had decided that running as late as normal was just not on that day. I am quite (85-95%) certain that the nice man behind me in the queue for the taxis was Damian Lewis. A clot of us chatted while in queue and it wasn't until the next morning that I realized who it was in the nice overcoat. Had I known at the time, I would have been a stammering fool because I have used Band of Brothers as a teaching tool.

If my brain doesn't twig on some manner of fame (I do it in more niche areas of my life as well), I am fine and chatty and do the polite "stranger chat" thing with a willingness to let it taper off.

Back to TAM...

I'm fine if I can just go up to the person, say my little "you're brilliant!" or "thank you for [insert thankable offense here]" and run away. Much like going up to someone in elementary school and saying "I like you!" and running away (a la Eddie Izzard). And for the most part, people were willing to do that. But then you get people like Iszi Lawrence... Lovely woman. And tall. I rushed up to her outside and said "I follow you on Twitter, I think you're brilliant!" or something similar and was ready to walk away again and she Started Talking To Me.

In fairness, it was quite pleasant. Definitely one of those people that I felt like "yes, I'd like to buy you a pint and do things with your brain" but I also know that I am not the only person out there that feels that way. In fact, I bet if you follow people on Twitter, there are a lot of them that make you think that you have a "connection" with them.

That's because they are very good at interacting with people. As Stephen Fry wrote in the foreword to The Salmon of Doubt, "[t]he stranger might laugh and seem to enjoy the writing, but you hug to yourself the thought that they just didn't quite understand its force and quality the way you do..."

I have my list of people that I think "I would love to be friends with that person" - it's not written down because that would be a little obsessive and creepy. But I also try to maintain the grounding in reality (hard to do at a convention where things are a bit heightened by the "I've found my people" sensation) that I/they don't have to be friends with everyone and that again I am not the only person out there that feels that way. And I just don't have enough of the narcissistic tendencies to think that I am just that awesome.

But what I'd really like to know is what the celebrity-types think about it when they are approached by the hoi polloi (of which I am an imaginary-card carrying member) and aurally accosted with praise and gushing admiration.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Everyone's a little bit racist, sometimes...?

I was speaking with a friend a while ago and we got on the topic of race and tribe-association.

(I should probably explain "tribe-association." When I get to know someone well enough to call them a friend, they become part of my mental tribe, because when I called them "my people" some outsiders got offended that I was trying to "own" my friends. Anyway...)

The friend in question is Asian-American. From comments she has made, I think she is Taiwanese and white as far as her ethnic recipe goes, but I'm not 100% on that, mainly because I don't think that it's that crucial to either of us for our friendship. She's ethnically Taiwanese, as she has just clarified for me. She grew up on the East Coast of the US and I asked her when she got to know people, do they change ethnicity in her head?

Even that's not wholly accurate. It's not so much that I look at my friends that are black or native or whatnot and they "turn white" in my head, but that they become that most horrible of cliches... I stop seeing their "race." They become more "like me" and I'm not sure how that works with the ethnicity aspect. I wish someone that has explored the psychology of this could adequately explain it for me.

So I asked my friend when she gets to know people, do they somehow become more like her, and whether that becoming more like her means that they are identified as slightly Asian to her in her head. I was told that those people generally are seen of as more white to her, rather than more Asian, even though she self-identifies as an Asian-American.
I've asked her to read this post and let me know if I was talking out of my ass. Apparently, I was a bit. Here's what she has to say:

I don't think that people change race, exactly, when I get to know them more? But I'm pretty sure I don't see them as more Asian, either.I think perhaps because I meet a lot more non-Asian people than Asian people, it doesn't really ever go away, the "not-Asian" bit... but at the same time, I don't think it's very important most of the time.

Does anyone know what this is, psychologically? I'm assuming that it's something that helps us to identify friend as "same" and "safe" and stranger as "other" and "possible threat." Is it as simple as a psychological evolutionary protection mechanism?

Does this mean that the dominant culture (or ethnicity) becomes the "same" benchmark?

Was 'Avenue Q' right, we're all a little bit racist, and it's just ingrained in our psyches?

And is this a bad thing? Is it good? Or is it just what it is, a development of our brains used to protect an individual?

Or, do I just get to ask these questions as a result of my white privilege?

The more I talk with people about this, the more I realize that race/ethnicity/culture issues are insanely complicated. Every seeming answer leads to four more questions. So far, I've discovered that sometimes people in the non-dominant demographic have expectations of people that are from a similar background as they are, but not always, because of the expectation of commonality.

They intertwine with class, geography, education, religion, and a myriad of other things that I can't even seem to grasp.

I'm actually starting to question how it is that I could have married a British man when I'm American. It seems like our main point of commonality is that we both speak English, but even that is different dialectically.

I suppose it only proves the need to get to know people individually and determine the personality compatibility based on that interaction rather than a perception based on a cultural stereotype. Or, as George Carlin said, "I'd like to get to know you so I can find something to really hate about you."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reprint/blog from NYT

I want to make this. If anyone else has made this, please let me know how it turned out! (I might make it and bring it to the in-laws for Easter celebrations.


Adapted from Kaori Endo at Rose Bakery, Paris
Serves 10-12

1 heaping cup flour
½ teaspoon instant yeast
½ teaspoon salt
2 heaping tablespoons matcha green tea powder (see note)
¼ cup unsalted butter
⅔ cup crème fraîche
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1¼ cups sugar
¼ cup raspberries (can use frozen).

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, yeast, salt and matcha powder. In a small pot, melt the butter. Add the crème fraîche to the butter and whisk; remove from heat.

2. Using electric beaters or a food processor, whip the eggs, yolks and sugar until the mixture is white and thick. With a spatula, gradually fold in the dry ingredients. Then add the crème fraîche/butter mixture. (If the result is very thick, don’t hesitate to reheat it a tad.) Pour half of the mixture into a buttered cake pan. Distribute half of the raspberries into the batter. Pour the rest of the mixture into the pan, then the second half of the raspberries, using your finger to press them just below the surface.

3. Bake until lightly golden and a knife inserted comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Note: Matcha powder available at Asian supermarkets, such as Sunrise Mart.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

London Food Update!

Attention, all Americans living in the UK and wondering where to get garlic powder... Asian markets. There's two that I went into in Chinatown (London:Soho) that had big bags of it for sale.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Baa, baa

I really wish there were a way to have an audio file of a sheep bleating when your eyes pass over the title of this blog post.

Shy of that, I'll just have to be satisfied that I now have you hearing the sound now.

We all know (or should know) that I'm a knitter. Sometimes knitterly things show up in the media. Most of the time they're cutsey or just plain shit.

This, however, is brilliant.

As I told B, if we lived in Belgium, we would be going through this company for our natural gas needs based on this commercial alone.

What's even better is that the company did a follow up on how the commercial was made.

I'm of two minds. First off, "all that work, gone!"

Second, "did they get to keep the yarn? How many ball winders were involved? And, just awesome!"

For the first time in a while, I don't feel like the use of knitting or yarn/wool is gimmicky. I think that this commercial verges on art.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chicken Taquitos... Of a sort

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to make the Baked Chicken Taquitos posted in Foodgawker.

I had to make some alterations in the recipe as London is not generally known for being the bastion of Mexican food ingredients.

Green salsa (salsa verde) is not easily obtainable at supermarkets so I used standard salsa. When tomatillos come in season and are accessible via Borough Market, I'll grab some of those and some Anaheim chiles and make a damned fine roasted salsa verde for future use. The good news is that salsas generally freeze well.

For all Americans living in the UK (or UKers using American recipes), be aware that when cilantro is called for in a US recipe, it can be found in grocery stores as coriander in the UK.

Instead of shredding the chicken, I poached 6 chicken thighs (approximately 1 pound/450 grams/2 cups) in chicken stock with some onion powder and garlic powder. When I make this again, I'll probably put some taco or fajita seasoning in the stock. After the thighs were poached, I pulled the additional fat from the meat, put it in the food processor and pulsed until the chicken was akin to mince. Not the same as shredded, but with the mix of cream cheese and spices, I figured it would give more even distribution of meat protein through the filling.

Mexican cheese was another one that isn't exactly ubiquitous over here. I used shredded Monterey Jack (available at Waitrose/Ocado and Sainsbury's), but another substitution would be half cheddar and half a mild, soft cheese like Edam or Mozzerella. I would avoid Gouda. In a pinch (and if I didn't care about plastic cheese), I might use jarred nacho cheese. But only if I were desperate.

Topped with sour cream and store-bought guacamole, these were quite nice. I have four in the freezer for leftover eating this week. They should be quite good.

I wouldn't call them taquitos or burritos. More like sauceless enchiladas.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Toned, Symmetrical People Gettin' It On

I'm all full of sex news tonight.

Did you hear about the condom shortage at the Vancouver Winter Olympics?

Yep. Loads of hot, athletic, young people getting it on.

I'll let you sit with that for a moment.

Now, onto the bits of the story that I find interesting...

Health officials in Vancouver have already provided 100,000 free condoms to the roughly 7,000 athletes and officials at the Games. That's about 14 condoms per person. But as of Wednesday, those supplies started running dangerously low.

Let's think about that for a moment... Assuming that hot people want to have sex with other hot people and not us mere mortals (and admit it, as much as you might fantasize about it, do you really think you could keep up with a world-class athlete in the best condition of their lives? That's okay, I already hear your response... "No, but I would try! Please let me just try!") this means that there are 28 condoms per couple. The games started on 12 Feb and the article was written on 24 Feb. Figure that your event takes place over two days, on average, and that you opt not to have sex on the preceding nights. That's 2.8 instances of sexual activity requiring condom use per day.

Hot, sweaty, athletic adrenaline sex.

Go find your partner, I'll be here when you get back.

I've heard a few people saying different things. My favorite so far has been the call to not send more condoms to the Olympic Village. The reasoning has a delicious form of logic.

"Think of the 2030 games! Breeding the uber athlete! It could be done!"

I have to admit, it sounds just whacky enough to work.

My pet theory is that with all the anti-weed hoo-hah (anyone that's done pot will tell you that it's not a performance-enhancing drug) that they've had to find something else to do with their time off.

Urban Fox Mating Rituals

...apparently take place under my living room window.

I was happily watching some event of the Winter Olympics a few nights ago when I heard what sounded like a cat fight out my window. Okay, no biggie, even though it was past midnight, until it started sounding like a child being flayed. Then I grabbed the phone, ready to call 999 and possibly go outside and beat someone with a lead pipe. (Just call me Miss Scarlet.)

I look out the window and I see a shadow scurry off in one direction and notice a fox looking up at me. Yeah, we live near Greenwich Park and Blackheath, both extensive green spaces, but I'm not sure I expected so much attitude from a fox.

As I looked down at the fox, he looked up at me and might as well have said "what, Bitch, I was gettin' my groove on and you have to be all human and ruin it."

I actually felt bad for interrupting the fox fucking, and then realized that I was getting a tough guy attitude from a fox.

I guess I'm glad that there will continue to be kits around, but as the fox sauntered off, I came to the sudden realization that we have chav foxes engaged in car-less dogging. Go Greenwich!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

25 - 28 Feb 2010

Planned dinner menus:

Thai-style scallops with rice and vegetables
Venison lasagne with salad and garlic bread
Erwtesoep with fresh baked bread and salad
Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos with refried beans and Spanish rice.

That is, of course, the plan.

The Thai-style scallops with rice are going to be simple; I have a sambal sauce that's pre-prepared, so I'll caramalize the scallops and then toss them with some of the sauce, serve it over rice with broccolini and green beans.

Venison lasagne is just a lasagne with venison mince cooked into the red sauce.

Erwtesoep is a split pea and sausage stew that B fell in love with when he was working in Amsterdam for three years. I have a recipe that's supposed to be wonderful, and we'll give it a shot. It makes about 17 million gallons. Somewhere around there, it serves 8 people or some such. I figure I'll be able to portion the remainder out and tuck it in the freezer for emergency eating. It's a good winter food, and given that it's barely cleared 40°F here in London in the last month, it seems to be a well timed meal. The only issue is that I can't find split green peas here, so it will be yellow. I admit to debating on getting green food coloring in order to get it more to the color B (and I) expect... But I think the yellow split peas will be slightly sweeter than green would be.

The chicken taquitos I came across when I sent a plaintive Gchat message to Ritsuka, saying "HELP! I have three mains, I need a fourth for when B comes home!" I explained what I had planned, and she said, "This sounds like a time to use foodgawker."

"Uh, bwuh, what is foo...oooooooh."
"POOD FORN! You gave me pood forn!" (Yes, I was so excited I transposed letters. Leave me be.)

I've started digging 'round in there and I've decided that one meal a week will be from foodgawker.

To explain, I only have to plan out four meals a week because B works out of town and I generally eat leftovers or quick food during the week.

I can't wait for Spring to hit so I can go mental at Borough Market. I already have plans and I can't wait to see my fishmonger again. And I'm sure that B would love to get some new and exciting cheese.