January 29, 2009


Everything is expanding

I was looking up what are the biggest stars on-line and what were the closest stars to earth and so forth (Biggest star: VY Canis Major, is a couple thousand times bigger than the sun – closest star: Proxima Centuri, is only a little more than 4 light years away.) when the question came into my mind? Where did it all start? If I look up, is there a place where I can look and think to myself, that was where the Big Bang happened. We came from there. I was surprised to read that there is no such place!

Everything is where it always was. Sure things have changed shape and exploded and formed clouds and stars and planets. But the stuff thats around you is the stuff that would have been around you at the moment when the whole universe began. And while the universe appears to be expanding, there is no edge of the universe. Well there isn't anything outside of the universe, so how could there be an edge to nothing? So while the universe may not be getting any bigger everything is getting farther apart. Now I know that if I ever find the love of my life I'll know that each day I'm just getting farther and farther away from her, and everything else. That gives me an enhanced sort of lonely feeling.


January 27, 2009


Allison and I Make Excellent Enchiladas

This is Part 7 in Allison and my dinner making lessons. Click here to see all of our lessons together.

I found a recipe on a vegetarian website for enchiladas. I didn't really look too closely at the directions so I didn't notice it was actually a vegan recipe--so it involved some interesting prep work. We had to make our own cheese sauce since dairy is off the menu if you're a vegan. This was a really fun experience for us, and I'm pretty sure one of our best tasting dinners yet, of course I think I've said that about every dinner we've made together so far. I wonder if Allison knows how much I look forward to our dinner lessons each week!

Well, below is our recipe. Turns out, we probably didn't really make our enchiladas vegan because we just grabbed the cheapest pack of tortillas we could find, which quite possibly could have included some dairy products in their creation Allison pointed out to me. Click here for pictures!

Okay, its going to be hard for me to mess up the direction this time (last time Allison had to do some major corrections) but who knows...

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (we only used about a quarter of a cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cup water
1 teaspoon mustard
4 tablespoon margarine
10 tortillas
2 small cans enchilada sauce
3 cans beans (white kidney, pinto, black), drained
2 medium onions, chopped
1 can olives, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1/2 cup salsa (optional)

Instructions: In medium-large saucepan, combine flour, nutritional yeast, salt and garlic powder. Add water and mix thoroughly (you have to really mix it good! I think the heating helped dissolve the clumps). Heat it on medium until it thickens up. Remove the pot from the heat and add mustard and margarine, and stir in well. Set aside one-half cup of cheese sauce in separate container. Add onion, beans, olives, cilantro and salsa to sauce and stir it all together.

Pour a half-cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Take your tortilla and fill it with the ingredients you mixed together, and roll it up. Then roll your rolled tortilla in the pan with enchilada sauce. Slide rolled tortilla soaked in enchilada sauce to one end of the pan, and continue rolling tortillas and coating them in enchilada sauce until you have a pan full of enchiladas. Then cover the enchiladas with remaining enchilada sauce and drizzle with your cheese sauce. Lastly bake at 350 until they are brown, which would be about 30 to 45 minutes. Now you have some delicious enchiladas!

After our dinner together there was a 'robot party' or at least that was what I was led to believe. In the picture to the left you see me wearing my “robot costume” Allison and everyone played a clever trick on me, inviting me to a “robot party” but which was really a Toga party. I was totally convinced and brought over a box my friend Dave gave me to make my robot mask with. It was a fun party even if I was the only robot in a room full of togas.

I'm looking forward to next weeks dinner lesson which will be Stir Fry!


January 26, 2009


Recent movies watched

Gran Torino is Clint Eastwood's most recent film (the second to come out in less than four months, the last was Changeling, which I have not yet seen). The last Eastwood film I watched was Letters From Iwo Jima, one of the most captivating and emotional war dramas I've ever watched. The story follows a old man who, set in his ways, carries a bitter outlook on society, and who has no particular concern for being sensitive to social issues such as race or cultural differences. That is to say, he's fairly thickskinned with little patience for those who aren't, not least of which include members of his own family. But to be fair, he really has no sympathy or tolerance for anyone who can't see the world the way he does, regardless of what othe characteristics they might have. But through the course of events that unfold in the story, he is able to befriend his neighbors who come from the Hmong culture, and begins to mentor the young boy in order to make him into his idea of a man. He ultimatly shows compassion for the family as he sees the threat a gang of other Hmong have placed on them, and decided to do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening.

Rocket Science is about a boy trying to impress a girl who is their her school's debate star. Although she chooses him to be her partner in debate, he has a nearly completely debilitating speech impediment. If you have ever felt awkward in high school (and should be about 99.9% of you) then you will relate in some way to this movie. This is realistic high school, which for most people is full of enormous psychological pressure and a general social awkwardness.

Eraserhead is director David Lynch's debut feature length film, it came out back in '77! Its also possibly the strangest Lynch film I've seen yet. David Lynch has his own kind of strange that is far superior to regular strange. I've seen Mullholand Drive, Lost Highway, some episodes of Twin Peaks, and of course Dune (I loved the book), and this movie is odder than all of them put together. The story, well i'm not sure if there really is a point in trying to describe it...but it hinges on a man who discovers he's a father, then his new wife can't handle the stress of raising their child, which is not even close human. Its filled with gross and just slightly more than mildly disturbing imagery. At best, the movie will leave you wondering "hmmmm" what exactly did I just watch?

My Bloody Valentine was not a film I was planning to see, but some friends asked me to join them, and the intrigue of 3D film got to me. It does take advantage of the capabilities of digital 3D, to the point of being a little silly. This was certainly not a movie suitable for children, there is a lot of gore and sexuality.

I recenlty rewatched The Jerk with some friends. I'd seen it when I was really young so the basic plot was familiar to me. Having seen it again its surprising how hilarious was Steve Martin. There are some of the funniest moments ever in The Jerk. I couldn't help but think that this movie must have really inspired more modern comedians.

Melvin Goes to Dinner is a dark comedy directed by Steve Odekirk. The story centers around four friends who are having a spontaneous dinner together. There are periodic flashbacks that explain what lead these four individuals have dinner together. Throughout there extremely well written moments of comedy. My favorite part was the totally hilarious cameo by Jack Black that itself is reason enough to watch this film.


January 22, 2009


Allison and I Make Veggie Chili and Quiche

This week I've been really lucky. I've had dinner lessons with Allison twice already! (And we went out for dinner with our friends the night in-between--so thats three dinners in a row!)

Lesson 5: Veggie Chili

Our first dinner was veggie-chili, it was Allison's idea and it was really delicious. You might be wondering, as I was, what replaces the meat in veggie chili? The chili I'm accustomed to is made up with approximately seventy-five percent meant I would guess. And I used to make something called “Huff-Man-Chili” which was almost all meat. But they sell this meat substitute stuff that has a consistency like hamburger, and really when it comes down to it, its all about the spices: cyan powder and/or chili powder.

Ingredients: 12 ounces or so of vegetarian hamburger meat substitute, 2 to 3 cans of peeled tomatoes (28oz each), one can each of beans of your choosing (I like kidney and black beans) (15oz each), chili spices, one onion,

Process: in a large pan heat a table spoon of cooking oil, once heated add vegetarian meat substitute and stir in spices then reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Once the meat substitute is heated, mix together the cans of peeled tomatoes, cooked meat substitute, beans, and stir in spices. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes. Ummm, now you have a delicious and animal-free chili.

Lesson 6: Vegetarian Quiche

I don't have a lot of experience eating quiche. I just assumed that it was something fairly complicated. But as it turns out, it was quite simple, just like making a large omelet. And even easier if you forgo the crust as we did.

Ingredients: Any vegetables you want (I brought a whole bunch of veggies; tomato, squash, yellow pepper, spinach, cucumber, a pack of mushrooms), a dozen eggs, 8 ounces of cheddar cheese

-Slice up whatever vegetables you want to include
-Add a table spoon of oil to a frying pan and cook the spinach on medium. The spinach will 'wilt' and shrink a lot from its raw size.
-While spinach is cooking add in sliced veggies (all except tomatoes which would dry out if you cooked them)
cook vegetables thoroughly, once cooked mix in sliced tomatoes
-while cooking vegetables, beat the dozen eggs in a large bowl; pour in two cups of milk, and slice up the 8oz of cheddar cheese and add to mixture
-pour cooked vegetables, tomatoes, and egg milk and cheese mixture into baking sheets/pie pans trying to get an inch thick layer.
-Now its time to bake: our recipe suggested baking for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees, but it ended up being only about 30 minutes for our quiche to be done, which might have been because our quiche was thin or because we left out the crust; so keep your eyes on the quiche while its cooking. When you can stick a toothpick in and it stays then its probably ready.
-thats it; enjoy your tasty quiche!


January 18, 2009


No more an omnivore

I've been giving it a lot of thought, and I'm strongly considering giving up something that I really love, eating meat. This is not a result of my vegetarian cooking with Allison although she has shown me that cooking without meat can still somehow be quite tasty, as surprising as that might seem.

When you think about it, eating is one of my biggest accomplishments on earth. When I think about all the food I've had to eat in my life, I wonder how many thousands of cows have lost their lives for my dining pleasure, or how many thousands of chickens, how many hundreds of turkeys. The list goes on, its a long list. I have eaten a lot of meat.

The real reason I've come to this decision is for a long time I've been considering many eastern philosophies especially from Buddhism, many of which seem like very good principles to live by. One of the most important ideas is to do no harm to any living creatures. However there is also the idea of the middle way, which basically is to not adhere to an idea to the point of being extreme.

Much of my enjoyment in dining has come from eating animals. And yet quite possibly I'm saying goodbye to cheese burgers even though though they are sublimely delicious, and on the dollar menu, not to mention buffalo wings, steak, and almost everything good about breakfast.

Well, I'm still thinking it over. It is a lot to ask of myself. Maybe I could just cut back a lot on my animal intake.

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January 14, 2009


Allison and I Make Amazing Makizushi!!!

This is part IV in our attempt to teach me some tricks in the kitchen that will hopefully help me someday swoon a lady! Since Allison is vegetarian, we're making all our meals as such; our logic is, if I can cook without meat successfully that broadens the overall pool of potential ladys I can cook for! So far we've made tasty thai, delicious pizza pies, and some terrific tofu tacos! This time around we made sushi rolls, also known as Makizushi, with fresh asparagus and avocado. I really like sushi but I've never before tried to make sushi. It turns out, it was really easy! Click here for some photos!

Allison helped a lot by purchasing all of our ingredients ahead of time since I was coming in from out of town. And she had a cool idea for an appetizer: Edamame. In case you're wondering what Edamame is, as I was, its salt-boiled green soybeans still in their pod. You squeeze them out to eat them. They're delicious and a very healthy alternative to potato chips.

Allison's parents had given her a jar of authentic wasabi powder which we just added water to making some tear-inducing hot wasabi. I love wasabi. Once while at an authentic Japanese sushi restaurant called Ru-sans that I really like, someone dared me to eat a mouthful of it at one time, which I accepted, and which was a BIG mistake. I do not recommend it; for a moment I thought I might need real medical attention--it was that hot!

Read below if you want to duplicate Allison's vegetarian sushi recipe...

Ingredients: some sheets of nari (dried seaweed, usually available in your grocery store in packs of sheets that are 7x8 inches each), one cup of rice, one third of one third of a cup of apple vinegar (isn't that a ninth?), one tablespoon of sugar, fresh asparagus, an avacado or two, and of course Wasabi!

Tools: a pot to boil three cups of water, a pot with a steamer device to steam several asperagus stalks, knife, plate, and of course manners ;-)
(Optional: makisu - a little bamboo mat that aids the rolling of the sushi)

The process is simple:
-start boiling three cups of water, and one third of a third of a cup of apple vinegar (a.k.a. 1/9th), and one teaspoon of sugar
-once boiling add the one cup of rice and cook for as long as the package it came in suggests
-steam your stalks of asparagus, (be sure to first break off the bottom inch-or-so of each asparagus stem which otherwise can be tough to eat)
-once rice is steamed, place it in a line down one side of a sheet of nori, then add a stem or two of asparagus and slices of avocado
-using your makisu (or just your hands) roll up the rice, asparagus, and avocado (tip: use a dab of water to make the end of the sheet of nari stay stuck to the rest of the roll
-use a knife to slice the long roll into 6 or 8 smaller rolls
-thats it: enjoy your Makizushi!!!


January 10, 2009


2 films overlooked

I was thinking back about my list of year's best movies from 2008, and I realized I left off two of my favorites: The Visitor (IMDb), and The King of Kong (IMDb). (Both technically were released in '07 but I didn't see them until last year,)

The Visitor is about a professor, Richard Jenkins, who while reluctantly making a trip to NYC to make a presentation, discovers that a couple have taken up residence in his not-often visited apartment. Both parties are a little surprised to discover the other, but the professor soon discovers that they were duped by a bogus renter. Seeing that they have no other place to stay he offers his apartment until they can sort things out. I don't want to give too much of the story away, but the professor slowly befriends the couple and starts learning from his new friend the joys of a new form of music (the back story is, the professor had wanted to learn the piano, which his late wife was gifted in playing, but struggled to do so). However, he soon discovers that the couple are from different countries of origin and neither are living in the US legally.

This movie does the best job so far of any film I've ever seen to paint a picture of the tragic realities faced by people who live in America but without the rights of a citizen, at the same time mixing moments of honest beauty and humor. And it has that characteristic I often find in movies I consider really good: the ability to allow the viewer to be reflective and appreciate the awe and wonder of life. The Visitor is directed by Tom McCarthy who previously directed The Station Agent (IMDb) another fantastic independent drama.

The King of Kong is a very amusing and light-hearted documentary about the two greatest players of the classic video game Donkey Kong. If you enjoy documentary films or if you've ever enjoyed a video game--be they the classic coin-ops from the 80s, or even more recently the FPS titles on xbox, you will certainly be entertained by this film. Its hard not to love the characters (even the scoundrels) for their obsessions with the game Donkey Kong, and other classic arcade machines. Its hard not to be amazed by the determination and ability of the real characters involved. I'm glad this documentary exists because it would be quite intimidating to attend one of their gaming tournaments.

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January 9, 2009


Book Report: The Gunslinger

I've just finished reading The Gunslinger by Stephen King. It is an amazing story! I wouldn't say its a horror in the typical sense of the genre. Although it deals in truly terrifying subject matter: such as being forced to make terrible decisions, and brutality in desperate world. The Gunslinger is more a story of a journey, but one that seems even more grave and desperate than the path of Frodo and Samwise in Lord of the Rings.

The story begins in a harsh apocalyptic world where the protagonist, Roland Deschain, goes on a quest to track the man in black. When he finally reaches him the story has led up a brilliant climax that you would think to be the sort of thing Stephen Hawking would fantasize about. The situations in The Gunslinger are so desperate; its a world where the reader is painfully aware of the harsh conditions which give much contrast to characters' very human emotions.

Even though this is the first piece of writing by King I've read, many of his works have become movies that I've seen, and some that I have really enjoyed; the Shawshank Redemption for example. In the beginning of the somewhat recent film The Mist (IMDb) (based on a short story by King, and directed by Frank Darapont who has worked with King before, directing The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) there is a shot where the protagonist, an artist who does movie posters for a living, is painting an image of Roland with the Dark Tower in the background. I assumed when I saw this that it must be a tease to suggest a future movie adaptation of The Gunslinger, or the whole series. While doing a little research online there seems to be rumors floating around that JJ Abrams (the guy behind the tv show LOST, the monster film Cloverfield, and directing the upcoming remake/prequel of Star Trek) would be involved, and that King is a fan of Abram's work on LOST. LOST itself has a very cinematic feel to it, so be it an adaptation for the film or small screen, either way it would likely be something to look forward to!

I looking forward to reading the next story in the series, The Drawing of the Three. But first I have to read a sequel to Ender's Game, called Ender's Shadow, loaned to me by Allison. I had loaned her my copy of Ender's Game as well as some Neil Gaiman novels. I loved Ender's Game but I haven't read any sequels to it. Ender's Shadow follows the same time frame as Game, but Shadow follows a different character's point of view. There's been rumors about a movie adaptation for Ender as well, and that it would draw upon both Game and Shadow for its story.

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January 8, 2009


Watchmen production diary

There is still a while before we can feast our eyes on the Watchmen (IMDb). In the meantime I've discovered video production diaries at apple (also on the official blog) and an official flicker page with stills.




My roommate and I sat down to watch Night of the Living Dead (1968) which is sort of the grandfather of zombie survivor/horror films. We mistakenly rented the infamous '30 Anniversary' edition which contains bogus added footage at the beginning and end of the film (although it was created by the co-writer of the original screenplay and features the same actor playing a zombie who playing the same zombie in the original version's opening sequence...).

Afterwards I thought it would be cool to see every zombie survivor/horror film made. Thats a very unpractical goal, I loved the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) by Zach Snyder, who went on to direct 300 and has the Watchmen coming out soon. And I really enjoyed the spoof Shaun of the Dead (2004).

So after doing a little research on wikipedia and the IMDb I was surprised by just how many zombie films have a story that directly links back to the seminal 'Night'. It was so complicated I thought it worthy of a flow chart explaining all the connections.

There you have it. In looking these films up, it seems that most of them are probably not so worth watching. But its pretty interesting that one film could spawn 18 (or more) sequels, unofficial sequels, remakes, etc.

If you want to see Night right now, you can for free on Google Video (apparently due to a printing mix-up its been in the public domain for years)

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January 5, 2009


Allison and I Make Tofu Tacos

So Allison and I had our third dinner together – part three in our mission to teach me the ways of the kitchen so that I might someday impress a lady. I have a feeling its going to take a lot more practice! Our meals are vegetarian because for one thing she's a vegetarian and the idea is if I can cook for a vegetarian then I should be able to cook for anyone, in the same sense as a square is a rectangle. And maybe I have squares on my mind because our dinner was Tacos with Tofu as the main ingredient. I'm not that experienced with tofu and I had some preconceptions about how it would taste when in fact it doesn't have any taste. The only real variation is in the texture, how firm it is.

I have to say this was one of our most delicious meals yet! Click here for pictures

Ingredients: One package of tofu at a firmness of your choosing, cooking oil, garlic powder, cyan power, chili powder, mexican cheese, package of tortillas, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, and one onion.

-set your oven on warm and place the tortillas on the middle tray on a oven sheet
-lay a damp paper towel over the tortillas to keep them from drying out while warming up (keep your eye on the paper towel and keep wetting it once it dries out)
-cut up the block of tofu into little squares
-pour enough cooking oil into a frying pan to evenly coat all the tofu cubes
-into the frying pan with the oil stir in a dash each of cyan powder, chili powder, and garlic powder or more if you like it spicy
-mix the tofu cubes with the mixture of spices and cooking oil until all cubes are coated evenly
-peel and slice up some onions (watch out for your fingers, and prepare for your eyes to get misty).
-start sautéing the onions and tofu cubes
-keep sautéing the onions and tofu until the tofu is golden brown and has a bit of a crispy texture
-now you're done, take out your tortillas from the oven, and add tofu and onions, Mexican cheese, lettuce, salsa, and sour creame to your likening.

I should note: As someone new to tofu I did feel a certain level of internal discomfort afterwards. That is to say: Tofu and I were not exactly perfect strangers. But considering how delicious our dinner turned out, I think maybe with a little more experience I can become accustomed. It would certainly be worth in in the long run in my mission to someday impress a lady :-)

Click here to read about part 1 in our cooking adventures, and get a recipe for tasty pad Thai!
Click here to read about part 2, and get a recipe for delicious home made pizza!



Home From the Holidays

My trip home for the holidays was a nice break. I put up some pictures from that trip as well as some pictures from past holidays with my family.

(above: my youngest niece and I, family now, family in the 80s, niece and I with our "robot masks")

(who knew my dad could dance; my niece has had all the holidays she can handle)