Saturday, December 17, 2011

The last activities!

I'm doing the last 5 things together. Four of them are food-related. Yay!

26: Natto
I went back to first-tier sushi with my orchestra stand partner because we went to an LA Phil concert again and he said that tuna should be the freshest right now. Last time he suggested I try natto, since his friends claim that the restaurant served the best natto. I didn't try it last time. I figured I'd do it this time.

They gave me a hand roll so I could have the joy of eating it all by myself. Natto with thin slices of green onion wrapped in rice and seaweed. The act of eating it wasn't so much of What did I just eat? so much as it was WHAT JUST HAPPENED????. Even now I can't describe it. The texture was so soft and masked by the texture of everything around it that I felt almost as if I'd bit into nothing except for a slight aftertaste. I certainly didn't enjoy it, but I felt like I ought to finish it. "You might be one of those natto-lovers" my stand partner commented. "Otherwise you would've stopped eating it by now."

27: Waffle Sandwiches
One of my closest childhood friends came and visited, so I took the opportunity to spend a weekend with a group of them in the area. On the bright side, we're all foodies. This meant that my friend came with a list of all the best restaurants in the area. We then picked which ones we were going to go to and then planned what activities we'd do around them. One of them was this place called Bruxie, which serves gourmet waffle sandwiches. What is a waffle sandwich, I asked. It's a sandwich with waffles instead of bread. Mind blown.

We got friend chicken waffle sandwiches in honor of chicken and waffles. I got extra maple syrup and a dessert waffle with lemon curd and fresh berries. The waffles were extra crispy and light, so on the downside, they get soggy really quickly. On the upside, we ate the sandwiches so quickly we didn't notice. There's a combination of sweet and salty to the waffles that enhances both types of sandwiches. The fried chicken inside was really juicy, but also cut thin, so the ratio of breading to meat was ideal. The lemon curd and berries was amazing, definitely the favorite. Unfortunately, they don't keep well, despite being available for take-out as well.

28: Gay Club
After the waffle sandwiches, I got taken to a gay club for the first time (by a taxi! First time I've ridden a cab on the West Coast). Apparently all straight people who are being taken to gay clubs for the time will ask "Will gay people hit on me?" And the answer is NO. Gay people also have a gaydar. And it is probably more accurate than straight people's gaydar. After I asked the question and was told the above facts, I tried asking something more unique: "So if I start hitting on lesbians, do you think they'll flirt back?" Blank stares.

It's weird going into a bar and knowing that no one will be attracted to you. Or at least, not realistically. Given my poor dating record and social life, you'd figure I'd be used to that by now. We people-watched most of the night, and it was interesting to see what types of people were there. There were also a lot of girls who looked like guys, and I started to be able to differentiate an hour into our adventure.

I ended up dancing under a speaker and spent the rest of the night with ringing ears and the next day with plugged ears. Overall, it was a fun experience, and definitely something new for me.

29: Iberico Ham
The food trip continued! By the next two days, we'd tried special fruit teas, taiwanese food, cuban pastries, and a pub bar with probably the best burger I'd had in my entire life. And while I'd entered the bar with the express purpose of eating said burger, we saw the appetizers and perhaps overreacted. I got iberico ham and my friend ordered bone marrow.

Iberico ham is made from pigs who have a diet consisting large of acorns, giving it a nuttier flavor. For some odd reason it weirds me out to no end that your flesh takes on the flavor of whatever you eat. For some odd reason, it's always intrigued me since then, to the point that my co-worker suggested that I run into Spain and cry out "Jamon Iberico!!! Dinero!! *mimes throwing out money in exchange for ham* Mas jamon iberico!!! Mas dinero!!!! *more miming*"

They served their jamon iberico with olive oil, mint, and persimmons. It was like a prosciutto and melon. Fantastic! There was a nuttiness, although I easily could've thought it was regular ham if they hadn't told me. I was quite in love with it. The bone marrow came still in the bones, with 4 crostinis and an acidic salad on the side to cut the fat. It spreads kind of like a butter, but with an umami, meaty flavor to it.

On a side note, we ordered so much food the waiters freaked out whenever they had to deliver more to our table. We did the number system and had two numbers, and they kept delivering dishes and then being like "I'll just take this number..." and we'd respond with "Actually, there's still another dish we're expecting..."

30: Tetris Cake
It's a friend's birthday and I offered to bake a cake. She has this awesome etsy store called My Geeky Boyfriend which sells pacman, Batman, Superman, Star Trek, etc.-themed gear. I originally wanted a completely geeky cake with all of the themes, but my cake started to dry out and my frosting was really gross. I had to throw it out and start a buttercream frosting (which is disgusting in concept if you know what goes into it, although the name itself should give a hint). In the end, I cut out tetris pieces from the cake, frosted them individually, and then put pacman characters I cut out of airheads. I love seeing what I can make from scratch. Gingerbread cookie and house decorating is something I take very seriously, to the point that I ruined my friend's rolling pin to crush jolly ranchers to make stained-glass windows for the gingerbread house. At any rate, the cake was crumbly and a little dry, so it crumbled off into the frosting when I iced the cake. However, after I assembled it and put it all together, I felt really proud. It wasn't beautiful, or perhaps even good-tasting, but I felt like it was very me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Activity 25: Breakdancing

I feel strangely like going on a dating website has been good for trying new activities instead of meeting new people. Because I learned breakdancing on another first date. I've realized that I don't like date-y first dates. I like fun first dates.

Anyway, I asked someone to teach me how to breakdance, and he came up with a couple tricks he thought I could do. I've learned a few moves before, but I've never learned a routine, or even how to do the tricks properly, seeing as I once did a six-step for a friend who acted as if I'd thrown acid into his eyes.

My teacher got a couple moves together for a routine. I mostly wanted to work on toprocking, so he taught me those as basics. Then he did a bunch of floorwork: six-step, seven-step, four-step, cee-cee's (I'm not sure how you spell it...).

The part I had the most trouble with was actually the ending pose. This is particularly relevant in battles, where you have to be creative, you have to bring your own style, and apparently there's a format where you pose at the end. I don't have any swag, so I'd do the routines, stand back up, and announce "and then I pose" instead of just doing it. My teacher seemed rather baffled.

"Anything can be a pose!" He showed me all sorts of things people have done, and we laughed over a lot of them, but I wasn't really sure what to do. He showed me lots of things, and I felt like I could do them if I was just standing off to the side, but not incorporate them into the routine.

I feel like part of it is this fear of doing something "for reals." As long as you're not chasing something 100%, you never have to face the fact that you could suck at it. You just know that you have potential. If I don't do a move for reals, you have that excuse for if it sucks. There's a strength and a dedication for people who watch themselves to improve themselves. My supervisor used to make fun of me for listening to myself play violin. He said it was very ego-driven. I think he wouldn't say that if he realized how much I criticize myself while listening to myself.

I'm thinking of recording myself dancing, just to force myself to really look at it. For reals.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Activity 22: Baylands and Activity 23: Wasabi Tako and Activity 24: Christmas Sodas

So, this past Thanksgiving weekend didn't afford for too many new activities, seeing as it's a holiday about tradition and I tend to spend it catching up with old friends. And although I did do new things (like try coffee that had been pooped out by a feral cat), I only really wanted to mark 3 of them.

1. Baylands

An old high school friend and I decided to go on a walk, and my parents suggested the Baylands. For how long I've lived in the place I grew up, I've explored it very little. We went on the trail, and it was mostly long stretches of grass, streams of ducks and pelicans, and concrete and rocks that we climbed over. I think I mostly relish it as a place of tranquility where my friend and I can just walk, swap jokes, and ruminate about the passage of time. We ended up getting lost on the way back and the trail pooped us out a couple miles from the car. Luckily, we knew the roads well enough that we walked across streets for several miles. All in all, I think we walked maybe 7 miles in total.

2. Wasabi Tako

I caught up with another friend over food. We're total foodies, and sometimes we can sustain whole conversations where we just list foods that we want to try out. So when my friend said she wanted ramen from a famous ramen house, I didn't think too much of it as a new thing because I'd been there before. Furthermore, the other time I'd gone, my friend researched it beforehand, so we knew the secret good dishes that are hidden in the menu and what to expect in the ramen.

As we scanned the menu, I debated whether to get all of the good things we'd tried last time, or to give myself a break from the 4-day non-stop stuff-your-face binge I'd started Thursday night. But when the waitress stopped by, my friend looked up and asked "is the wasabi tako fresh?"

Helloooooo, new thing, something in my mind clicked.

I in general hate tako (or octopus). It's chewy, it's got tentacles, and I never order it as sushi if I can help it. Although if I remember correctly, I do believe we got it during first-tier sushi, and I was not impressed. That's how much I dislike octopus. Also, I've seen Oldboy, and I've seen this:

The wasabi tako we got was actually closer to that consistency: very small, grey, slimy pieces. And surprisingly not that chewy. A little sweet, but with a huge kick of wasabi that cleared my sinuses immediately. I was surprised to actually like it quite a bit. It had a firmness that made it seem juicy. And the sliminess was actually pretty nice too. It served as a vessel for capturing more wasabi flavor. I know this because I ate the shiso leaf at the bottom of the dish and it was covered in the slime.

3. Christmas sodas

So I say "Christmas sodas" a little deceptively because I'd also bought a bacon soda. That's right. And yes, it was very disgusting. It tasted like bacon, but it smelled like a permanent marker. So drinking it was like drinking liquid bacon while smelling permanent marker while getting kicked in the stomach by a ninja. I suggested we have a bet where the loser had to chug the rest of the bottle after we'd all had a taste, and my co-workers threw up in their mouths a little bit at that.

The other flavors were much nicer: Pear Tree, which was a light, fragrant pear, Gingerbread, which actually captured the bread aspect as well as the ginger, Sugarplum, which was the least flavored one but colored a rich purple, and lastly Candy Cane. I was most wary of Candy Cane, because I drank carbonated mint-flavored water in France and found it to be the most disgusting thing ever. It wasn't sweet, but incredibly strong. What made it worse was that it was so damn great after you drank it. It made your breath smell fresh, and the carbonation ensured that burps would keep the fresh smell long-lasting. You just had to get through the actual drinking-it period.

My co-worker much preferred the Christmas sodas, but it was generally agreed that they were much too heavy to drink a whole bottle. I never realized how subtle or perhaps generic Pepsi and Coke are that you can just drink large quantities of it, but not of these special sodas. Or perhaps not subtle, but just... traditional.

I'd like to give 2 really quick maintenance notes. One is that I'm aware that my 30 days are up, but I haven't reached my 30 new things yet, so rather than start telling you about this great cat-pooped-coffee, I will give myself an extension to elaborate on more meaningful activities. The second is that I rather like stand-up now. I wrote another joke today. Perhaps to be posted here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Activity 20: Tricking class Activity 21: Rosemary Lime Soda

A guy asked me to try out a martial arts tricking class with him. I haven't done martial arts for awhile now, so I decided to give it a try. It's kind of funny because lately I've been thinking about how everyone seems to have different sides to them. And I've mostly been thinking about this because you only really present one side on a dating website. I feel like everyone is a little bit all over the board. I consider myself cultured because I love classical music and perform it, but I also tend to cuss a lot and talk about crude subjects. I'm a nerd, but compared to most of my nerd friends I'm an artist, and compared to a lot of my artist friends, I'm a bit of a jock. I'm a tomboy, but people think I'm small, young and cute. I feel like where most people see a character or characteristic they really like, they appreciate it for what it is. I think I react by being like "I want to be that. I can do it." I can't even figure myself out.

At any rate, when I picked up martial arts in college, I finally started to feel like a badass. And when I started to trail off in my training, I started to think, maybe it's time to let that side of me go. I'm trying to trim down all the random urges I get to be somebody I'm not and to think of one personality that is my ideal self. And even now I can't think of it, or envision it.

That kind of changed when I went to the tricks class. The guy I went with used to do tae kwon do, and although we were brand new and the instructor taught us as such, it was clear from the beginning that we had martial arts experience. Which was also awkward, because the moves are similar, but they're not the same. So some instincts will help you, and some will get in the way.

At any rate, I started to feel like I wanted to everything again. The adrenaline rush really gets to you, and the feelings of soreness actually equate to feeling more accomplished. This is the first new activity I'm considering doing regularly, if just to have something physical I do on a regular basis.

Today I decided to take it easier on the new things, so I cracked open one of the new sodas I got 3 activities ago. I've actually been to unique soda stores before, and I tend towards the really strange flavors: floral and vegetable flavors, as well as exotic fruits. I've had lavender, elderflower and chai tea coke sodas. To the best of my knowledge, I haven't tried an herbal soda.

It was actually quite innocuous. Much like a scented carbonated water rather than a full-out soda. Very light and more fragrant than flavored. Overall, very nice. I'm excited to try the rest of them (particularly the bacon soda), but I'm promised to try it with co-workers.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Activities 16-19: Read below to see what they are

Activity 16: Fill an entire sketchbook in one night
This is a strange feat. I've heard of art classes where you just draw for quantity instead of quality, just to get your mind and muscles flowing. I wasn't sure what I was going to pull from, so I grabbed a moleskin notebook, a bunch of pens, and a published sketchbook by Britney Lee for inspiration. I popped in an opera dvd and just drew for several hours. It wasn't actually too bad. First off, the best that you're going to get are rough sketches, and you're okay with that. Second of all, a lot of the sketches will look like s***, and it's important to be okay with that as well.

My brain's creativity would run low a lot, during which I'd flip through Britney Lee's stuff and copy. I think most of my best drawings were just copies of her work. At any rate, afterward I pulled out my favorite sketches and I'll post them here.

Sometimes when you draw, you get that real "aha" moment where you feel like it's going great, every mark just makes it better, and then you can't stop looking at it afterward. You'll probably hate it down the road, but it's really great to have those moments, and unfortunately, I didn't have one of those. Perhaps it's because it's detailed-oriented.

It was still a good experience, though. Perhaps one I will try again in the future.

Activity 17: Pay for a haircut

Can you believe I've never paid for a haircut??? Sometimes I marvel at this fact the way I used to marvel that I had a boyfriend when I had one. I've gone to a salon to have my hair dyed before, but this was still pretty nerve-wracking for me. I looked up a recommended barbershop and scheduled an appointment. I was pretty n00b at the whole thing- I sat there quietly, gave a few directions, and the whole thing was over in half an hour. I looked over to the next chair where the guy was having a long conversation about his life, talking about how he'd started eating healthy and doing yoga, and thought to myself Maybe I'm getting this haircut all wrong. Maybe I should be talking about my life. Who thinks that???

At any rate, I do love my new haircut. It's more precise to what I wanted compared to my attempts to shorten my hair that end up with Mrs. Brady hair. It might not be worth the money, but it was a nice kick-back.

One thing that I thought was nice was that I asked what I should do about my bangs, and the hairdresser said, "I kinda like how they are right now." And I wanted to be like, "Hey... I got something right!" and tell her about my own hair-cutting escapades. Unfortunately, I said nothing.

Activity 18: Wander around and get lost

It rained today, so I got the crazy idea to walk around. I wandered around New York and got caught in a shower, so I figured I could take it again. This time, however, there was no real destination. I decided that I'd driven through one area enough that I wouldn't mind walking there to get a little more lost and see what pops up.

In a way, this is what I love to do. I put in my music, shut out the world and just walk and walk. I feel like I can do this for miles, if it weren't cold, wet, hurting my knees, and drenching me. The rain was better in New York.

As the pain in my knees got worse, I began to think of what was the whole point of this? Sure, I was starting to see lots of shops (turns out there's a lot of vintage shops on this particularly street. Also, turns out vintage shops creep me out a little), but I felt like I wouldn't know when to turn back. The pain in my knees began to beg me to turn back, but I could already see the festive lights that meant we were in the heart of downtown. I felt like I had to go a couple more blocks.

I ended up stopping in a vintage soda shop that sold all sorts of weird flavors. I love these. I bought a couple sodas to try out (Hello, new activities!), shoved them into my bag and headed back. By the time I got back, everything was soaked and I had some pretty bad blisters. The whole things only took about 4 hours, so I still had time to dry off, take a nap, and then do my next activity.

Activity 19: A first date
Can you believe I've never gone on a first date?? I'm making exceptions for things that probably could be considered first dates but that I didn't consider first dates. For example, my ex-boyfriend's first date with me was after we'd already known each other for several years. I went on a "date" with a guy, but I didn't count it because he just asked if I wanted to go to a club on New Years. I thought he meant as friends, because in general guys aren't interested in me.

So, after some back and forth, some guy on the dating website I joined asked me out to go bowling. For some odd reason, I felt really intimidated by this guy. He's good-looking, adventurous, and seems to have a good sense of what he likes and doesn't like. Also, from the beginning I began to have an idea that he wasn't what I was looking for in a guy and I wasn't what he was looking for in a girl, but the messaging back and forth was really fun, so I was hoping I could be convinced otherwise.

I realized a few things tonight, and I think a lot of them are about what's normal for a first date (although given my sampling size, I'm still not sure). First off, he's not as good-looking as I thought he'd be (yay!). Second, he's strangely quiet and not that funny (I look for humor a lot in guys). I felt this urge to really try, though. I tend to be really quiet when I first get to know people, and I was trying really hard to break that.

What I'm trying to get over the most in my mind is that it was a pretty mediocre date not because I sucked, but that we both sucked. And not in a bad way- I just didn't feel like we had that much chemistry. It was only about 2 hours, and it was kind of nice to be treated like a lady instead of as one of the guys, but I actually rather like being one of the guys.

At any rate, the amount of fretting that I did over how bad that date was made me take a step back and re-group. I think I might take a break from the dating website and think about what I really want to do with my life. After all, this is the time to do it, isn't it?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Activity 14: Stand up Activity 15: No distractions

So, after listening to stand-up non-stop for several days, I had some weird idea of trying it out for myself. I think the rhythms of stand-up starting to permeate into my brain, and I started to approach everything as if it were a set up for a joke.

I decided to give it a shot myself, so I shut myself in a room, wrote out some jokes, and then performed them. The videos were meant to be sent to my friend who's currently doing stand-up, but I'll post them here:

So, it's horrible. The writing isn't particularly funny, and my timing is really slow. But I felt like I learned a few things.

Whatever awkward experience you have now serves as material for the future

I think there are two types of comedians. The first types are the ranters. They go onstage and yell political stuff that's raunchy and raw and are like "SARAH PALIN SUCKS. But I'd still f*** her." And people will cheer more about the fact that somebody is finally voicing an opinion they feel strongly about, and there isn't really a punchline.

The second type is the type that I empathize with more: the losers. These are the Mike Birbiglia's and the Louis CK's, who are nerdy and have nasally voices or big guts. They tell stories about the hardships of their lives and there's something beautiful about the fact that they really think about their lives, but they also look at them with a sense of humor.

Mike Birbiglia shared 2 stories about stand-up gigs he'd done. And what surprised me is that these were from while he was actually well-established. It wasn't an awkward growing period that he's gone past to become the comedian that he is now. It's ongoing. And in a way, I think he kind of needs it, because that way he'll always have a new story to tell. So... fail more! Go and have awkward experiences and celebrate your faults! At the very least, you'll have a good story in the future.

I decided to have one day when I first decided to do 30 new things in 30 days where I wouldn't distract myself. No youtube videos, no gchat, no music. I wanted to see if I would focus more.

Unfortunately, it was a day where I was compiling code a lot, which usually takes awhile. And as I stood there, I started to feel myself going a little bit insane. It was like an activity solitude. And unfortunately, it didn't make me feel more productive. I think it would've if I'd been multitasking or had more things I needed to get done. I think instead time just moved slower.

I feel like calming myself down into a zen state of working isn't something that can be done in a day. That being said, there are a lot of things that I feel like I could work on gradually, like posture and my attention span.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Activity 11: Music school Activity 12: Ethiopian food Activity 13: Dropping a class

I've decided to start calling these "activities" instead of "days," seeing as I don't do one everyday. Yesterday I visited Colburn music school for the first time. It's actually very similar to many a music building I've been to. For some odd reason, art schools are kept impeccably clean. I'll never understand that. What I love about them is that everyone there is for the same purpose. I love it and I hate it too, because it means that you're not special. People who are incredibly focused fascinate me, and this was the environment for it.

I've been thinking a lot about decisions, and thinking about at what point is a choice no longer available to you. Maybe this is the aging me talking, but lately I've realized how different my options now are compared to 10 years ago. I have massive Peter Pan-complex, so this depresses me greatly. And I will probably reflect on this more for Activity 13.

But for now... Ethiopian food! I cajoled a couple co-workers to go to Little Ethiopia. Unfortunately, I was too stupid to make a reservation at the restaurant we wanted to go to, so we went across the street to another one. My co-workers hadn't eaten all day and we tore apart the menu and ordered a ton of food.

I've only seen Ethiopian food on tv before this, and what makes it so exciting is the complete difference in how you eat it. The menu described it on the front cover, and we read how you use the bread as your knife/fork/spoon. I can only really think of sopping up extra sauce with naan while eating Indian food. Oh, and once in Switzerland I stayed with a homestay that served sausages and potato salad for dinner (yum!) and then the girls wiped their plates clean with bread which they then ate. My friend and I did not react very well to this new method of eating and left our plates dirty.

I decided to prepare myself for the hands-eating part by washing my hands (we ate the appetizer with forks). Which was perfect, because when I got back, a giant plate was on the table with all of our food. We unrolled the bread, whose consistency reminded me of martial arts training mats, and dug right in! Lamb stew, strips of fried beef, chicken, collard greens, tomato-based stews and lentils. I started off nibbling everything separately because I wanted to taste everything for the first time and soon found myself wiping at the plate with bread and grabbing greedily at fried onions. The food itself didn't feel too foreign. In fact, sometimes while I ate I'd get a whiff of a flavor that I felt like I just knew.

Afterward, we walked around Little Ethiopia a bit. I was mostly interested in seeing if I could buy some of the main spices, but nothing was labeled well enough for me to trust myself. And then we headed back.

Activity 13 is the first activity that wasn't intended to make me feel better. I'm currently taking an online class. Or rather, I was. Today I had a little bit of an epiphany, and I dropped the class. In college, there was a class-dropping policy up to 4 weeks into the course, but this is the first time I've dropped a class after finishing a significant portion of homework and coding.

The last time I dropped a class was senior year of undergrad. I was taking a cryptography class, and after struggling with the first homework assignment, I had a complete breakdown. I simply could not take anymore. I called my mom at work and she calmed me down from her office while I blubbered to her that I could not do this, I refused to try to squeeze in so many classes. I've been driven my entire life, and it felt like such a letdown. I also decided to take a year off of school at that moment.

Luckily, this was not the same. It was simply a realization. Last week I turned in the homework 5 minutes before the deadline. And I realized if I'd done this 5 years ago while I was in college, I would've felt this incredible rush of "OMG I DID IT!!!"
I'd probably start a slow clap to myself that would turn into applause and then finish it off by eating junk food for 2 hours. Last week when I ran that close to the deadline, I slunk back in my chair and muttered in an old man voice "Uggggghhhhh... I'm getting too old for this s***."

I consider myself driven for knowledge, so quitting on a class that I know I can do simply because I don't feel fulfilled by it feels more like a letdown of my personality than my intellect. It also made me realize how much of an adult I am. I have more choices now. I'm not a student anymore.

I feel like I ought to replace that with something more fulfilling. And I think it's similar to when I broke up with my ex-boyfriend. He found another girl about 6 months later, and I realized, heartbroken, that I made a choice. I have to live with this choice. And I have to make it the right choice by doing the best with my life I can.