Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Nope, its not my birthday yet, a couple more days of 41. But I wanted to post this now since I will be taking an extended blog break to focus on some other things. See you all in mid-Sept!

Me on my 5th birthday - 1968

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Note: This post, like many others, is more to myself, to keep track and remember. Follow the logic, if you dare. Maybe someone will have insight into one of these cities that I don't

Over the last 5 years it seems like a huge chunk of my Dallas friends have moved: Lonnie to Hawaii, Dutch to New York City, Kathie to San Diego, Stephanie to Chapel Hill. London, Austin, Houston, Miami, Chicago, Boston, you name it, they are all moving. Tara is planning her first living experience outside of Dallas, in the lovely and slightly cold Minneapolis. I know Noeha will not stay in Dallas forever, we've already discussed that she cant see herself here indefinitely. I see Alana in Saledo or Florida sometime soon, maybe she will be roomates with Joyce?

I started thinking today, where will I go after my degree in '06?

Yes there are a couple of places that I will be able to work in Dallas, particularly UT Southwestern.

But I don't want to stay in Dallas. I dont hate it here, but it doesnt excite me. The advantage has been low real estate cost and a good job base. Those things no longer make up for the lack of culture or the summers that suck ass for 6 months out of the year.

Plus: great friends, low real estate cost, great restaurants, its familiar, Southwestern on a resume looks good. No state tax.

Minus: no culture, suckass weather, people suffer from Nouveau Riche syndrome, its familiar.

There are several areas where my new industry dwells.

Las Vegas
LV is aggressively incubating my industry since they feel it will draw the middle income people that the city now lacks. They also seem to have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to competing with Reno, which has some Bioinformatics momentum already. After some lengthy talks with a PhD at UNLV I feel like this city will be one target area.

Plus: I like Las Vegas, its a fun city that never sleeps. It has culture. It has more 5 star restaurants than any other US city, per capita. I have friends in Las Vegas. No state tax. From all of the reports I have read in corporate and financial rags it will continue to be the fastest growing city in the US - by 2020 it will be larger than Dallas.

Minus: Real estate values are getting steep. Summers are hot, hot, hot.

San Diego
San Diego is the birthplace of Bioinformatics. Some may disagree but from all that I've read, this is the origin. Good in that it promotes a broad job base. I've only been to San Diego a half a dozen times, each time being only for a weekend, so I don't know the city well enough to have an opinion.

Plus: Good job base. Friends that live there. Incredible weather.
Minus: Out of control real estate costs.

I spent about a year working in Atlanta so I got to know the city well. It reminded me of Dallas but with more trees and better accents. CDC is the big draw for Atlanta so it is a consideration.

Plus: Good job base. Good real estate value. Public transport. Close to the parental units.

Minus: All my Atlanta friends have long since left. Its ranked as the most transient city. Mediocre culture. People here seem to suffer from the Noveau Riche syndrome, much like Dallas.

Miami/Ft. Lauderdale

I've been to Raleigh a half a dozen times on business, maybe 3-4 days a pop, so again, I dont have enough information to formulate an opinion.

Plus: Excellent job base. Good real estate value. Striking natural beauty. 4 seasons.

Minus: Didnt see much culture. Traffic is fucking insane!

Philly To Northern New Jersey
This stretch is known as the Bio corridor, heavy concentration of pharmaceutical companies. Philly, no. I've been there enough to know that I dont like it. N. New Jersey I've only seen from the Turnpike while driving into NYC, probably not the best view, so really, I have no opinion.

Washington DC
NIH is the huge draw in DC. I worked in DC for the 3 years I was associated with the CIA, NSA, Army and Navy. I love DC. Its an energetic city that has its own feverish pace.

Plus: I have friends in DC. Kick ass culture. Proximity to NYC.

Minus: Horrendous real estate cost. Snow. Crime is worse here, statistically speaking.

New York City
NYC is also trying to incubate bio companies in the Manhattan area, a plan to lessen the stance of the allmighty financial services. No, I dont think it will accomplish those lofty ends but New Yorkers can and will bring in Bio companies if this is what they want.

Plus: Duh, this is the city where I feel the most at home, I love it. The culture is the best this country has to offer. The people are individuals here, New Yorkers insist on it, they will boot you out if you aren't, yo. Public transport or walk everywhere; no car or associated costs. Being stubborn, opinionated, quick-thinking, smart-mouthed, walking fast and not caring too much what people think about you is just the 'accepted norm' -- I fit in. My good friend Dutch is here.

Minus: Snow, unobtainable real estate, sketchy job base. Since I would have to live in Manhattan there would be that crappy city tax.

There are also some international sites which I haven't started investigating.

Sao Paulo

Friday, August 26, 2005


How many first times can you remember? Can you still recall the kind of fumbling combination of fear and excitement? You can. I see the look of apprehensive courage, the strained smile back into the face of the unknown.

First tooth falling out
First bike
First kiss
First date
First love
First Krispy Kreme
First trip to a foreign country
First disappointment
First job
First layoff
First grey hair

Everyday should be a first for something, yes?

Pic: My older niece on her first day of first grade.
Younger niece, 'pink' with envy.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

American Idol - Closure

Damn! Looks like I wont have to watch American Idol, again.

A note from Andrea


Hi Gang! It was a pretty busy morning this morning! Julie and I got to the Erwin Center by 5:00 am, and waited until 7:30 before we got to go through back checks and get to our seats. The actual auditions started at 9:30, and I sang at 10:00 on the button. We grouped up (4 at a time), and each sang until the judges stopped us. They let me get about half way through my song, and the other three in my group got to sing about two lines each before he made them stop. Though he was exceptionally complimentary, the judged realeased us all to go. In all the time Julie and I were watching, we saw about 3 people chosen to move on, out of the two sections we were able to watch. It was a fun experience, and going in without ANY expectations, I felt I did pretty well. Thanks to all of you for your notes and e-mails nad words of encouragement. You are the best friends a girl could have. You can check out pics and a much more professional and informative today by visiting Julie's webpage at You can see the hip sign she made for today, that will be sure to show up on TV! Now, I must drag my sleep deprived self to bed for a few winks before rehearsal tonight! Love to you all,A

Inside American Idol - Ramping Up

Ever wondered what it would be like to audition for American Idol, what happens from the very beginning? Here is an account from Andrea's friend Julie, who went with her a few days ago. I'm going to post it here in its unabbreviated form since it is fascinating and she writes very well.

Andrea auditions today. Go babe!

Day One
American Idol Auditions
Austin, Texas

Andreá and I met at the eye-squinchingly early hour of 5:00am at her office, where she parked her car & we carpooled in mine. There was hardly another soul on the road as we made our way towards campus. It's kind of fun to drive around in the wee hours of the morning. The city looks somehow cleaner & more inviting.

We snagged a great (door-ding free...!) parking spot in Lot 80, just catty-corner from the Erwin Center. There were very few other cars in the lot, which was encouraging. We made our way down the hill & to the upper level outside the center, near Gate B where the instructions told us they'd be handing out tickets & wristbands. We quickly found the end of the line, and it wasn't really all that far from the start of the line. Again, an encouraging sign. It definitely paid off to arrive early.

I have to hand it to the folks running this thing, all of whom were Austin / Erwin Center event coordinators (i.e., not out-of-town Fox people). The line was designated by a very long barrier gate that stretched all the way around the perimeter of the building, and they had us lined up such that when the sun started to rise, the start of the line was in the shade. How cool is that? In other words, the *end* of the line (which had, apparently, stretched most of the way 'round to the other side of The Drum) was in the morning sun. Makes sense, if you ask me. Especially since we weren't at the end of the line....

Anyway, we plunked down in our little spot & prepared to wait. The 3/4 moon was out, and quite bright. We were the chatty cathys in our area -- the folks around us were all very quiet. In front of us was a pretty young blonde girl who was all done-up (hair straightened, full makeup, and so on). I think she was with her mom. They were both really sweet. Behind us was an even younger, rather teeny African American girl who was with her aunt. Also a sweetie. It was nice to be around cool people. I hope our constant chit-chat didn't annoy them too much.

Our part of the line wound around inside this little alcove/entrance area, so we had a chance to look at some of the folks behind us in line. One girl who was just *full* of energy earned the nickname "Jessica Medina" because she was definitely Jessica's secret twin! Looked quite a lot like her, and even had some of her mannerisms. At one point she spontaneously shouted "People from Dallas say hey!!!" and there were a handful of muttered "heeeey"s. So she said (even louder) "People from AUSTIN say HEY!!" and there was a slightly more enthusiastic "Hey" -- but only slightly. Bless her heart, she was quite the energy ball -- constantly in motion, bouncing around -- but the crowd just wasn't up for it.

There was also The Austin Chickee with Her Austin Boyfriend. She had on the requisite crunched-in cowboy hat, skin-tight belly shirt, and ratty jeans. Her boyfriend wore an iPod, had on some kind of quasi-athletic shorts & T, and sunglasses. At...5:00 am. He was being nice enough to her, but he kept breaking line to wander around, which was making her nervous. I really don't think he wanted to be there. Andreá and I decided that the role of "support friend" is really a job for a gal pal! I mean, I plan to bring not only snacks on Thursday, but also beauty products, and whatever else Andreá wants to make herself byoootemous -- not that she needs anything but her smile and her voice! Nevertheless, the boyfriends in the crowd all seemed a little uncomfortable and out of place.

Several times someone with a video camera would walk by. It wasn't the news or anything -- just average joes documenting the American Idol wristband line for all posterity. Yeah. Inevitably, sections of the line erupted in loud "Whoooooo"s when the camera would get near them. Andreá did our best to avoid being captured by the camera. It *can* steal your soul, you know. At least, at 5:00 on a Tuesday morning it can. I'm telling' ya.

At one point fairly early on a security guard came by. I can't remember what he said.... I think it might have had something to do with parking. Some folks had parked illegally, even though the Fox website includes a list of about 15 parking lots and 3 garages you're allowed to use for his event. Anyway, he was mighty sweet. Smiled and seemed to be enjoying his early morning security gig.

Later, an event coordinator named Mark came by and gave us all advice about making friends with the people around us in line. He suggested that we'd have an easier time spotting line cutters if we knew the folks near us. It's funny -- the Fox website has a lengthy discussion about the repercussions of cutting in line. I can only guess that it has been a big problem in the past. Anyway, the result was that everyone turned to the people near them in line and made introductions. That was fun. Mark also talked for quite awhile about parking. He was great -- made some cracks about people in line, and was generally just a friendly fellow.

After about an hour and a half of waiting, another event coordinator walked by and said "Pick up your chairs! Pack up your stuff! Time to get tickets & wristbands!" So we all started moving down the ramp & around the corner into a little cattle chute near the doors to the center. As Andreá pointed out at the time, there's a reason they call it a "cattle call". Moo. I kept looking around at the people surrounding us and thinking, "Can *all* these people *really sing*? Surely not." Not to be snotty, but I know several people who, uhhh, *think* they can sing. I asked Andreá, "What do you think it is like for the judges to have to listen to allllll that singing...??" She said that, in her past experience as a judge, you get to where you can sum a person up before they even open their mouth -- you can tell a lot about a person by the way they walk in the room. I believe it!

We ended up at the very front of the line, as they were letting in groups of 20 to get wristbands & tickets. This gave us a chance to chat with the event coordinator who was doing crowd control there. We asked him when his day started, and he said 4:30 or so. He explained that at about 4:30 they started allowing people to get in line. There were signs posted -- lots of signs -- stating that overnight camping was prohibited, under threat of arrest. He told us that some folks had arrived at 9:30 last night, and, since no camping was allowed, they had parked (legally, at least) on the street in front of The Drum. They camped in their cars overnight, and promptly at 4:30 they got to be first in line. Fanilows, every last one of 'em!! (That's my favorite new word.)

After just a few minutes we were allowed into the center where they had tables set up -- a station for ID check & wristbands, and another station for tickets. We picked up our wristbands first -- yellow for support friends and I want to say green? for auditioners. They put a green one on Andreá without even asking. As I told her then, it is because she is so obviously idol material! We picked up our tickets. Every person gets *an actual seat* in the Erwin Center, so there's no rush for good spots, or whatever, on Thursday. We are in section 41, row 22, seats 3 & 4. That's not the first ring, but not the nosebleed ring either. Go here for a map, if you're interested:

And...that was it! We were out of there by 7:15. It was all quite painless, and extraordinarily well organized.

We did learn a few things about what to expect on Thursday. It's not terribly advantageous to show up at 5:00 on the spot, but then again you get the ID/waiver process over with a lot sooner if you get there earlier. Also, the early bird gets the best parking spot, and you all know how important good parking is to me! They are going to line us up outside for a period of time *just so they can film us*. Bleah! I can't remember the exact language the woman I talked to used, but it was something like "Ohhh, yeah, Fox wants to show the *whole event* from start to finish, or whatever, so y'all have to stand in line for awhile so they can tape you."

But I know they'll let us in before too long because they really are very afraid of people having problems with the heat. More than one event coordinator made mention of it -- looking up at the sky & saying something like "It's gonna get hot!!" As a matter of fact, they aren't letting people in any later than 8:00, which is when auditions are scheduled to begin.

Also, they will have the concession stands open all day inside the center. I am sure they'll charge the usual outrageous prices, but at least we can supplement whatever snacks we bring with something more substantial, if needed. There's a limit to how much we can take in, so it's nice that we don't have to be self-sufficient all day.

As much as we'd love to have visitors, it won't be allowed! But I'll take plenty of pictures (I'll have my SLR & my digital cameras with me), and lots of notes. I am intensely curious to see how they run things tomorrow -- how on earth do they process that many auditioners on one day?? As I mentioned before, it will probably be an odd combination of bursts of interesting activity & hours of boring waiting. Nevertheless, as y'all know, I am looking forward to it!

And now we get to the most important part of this recap, which is the GO ANDREÁ GO!!! section. I will probably make some kind of silly sign for Thursday (unless Andreá asks me not to), and I will definitely pack in whatever is needed to make the day go well. Andreá is well prepared with her natural talent and beauty, but be sure to remind her over the next two days just exactly how fabulous she is!! And on Thursday, remember to think about her as she makes her way through the auditions.

Thanks to you all for your support! We'll tell you what happens on Thursday!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Andrea Auditions For American Idol!

I've known my friend Leslie, who lives in Austin, for over 20 years. We met in college and became roomates for several years post graduation as we were both getting on our feet. Leslie is a multi-talented person: she can sing, dance, act, cook and ... she makes the most beautiful glass art you've ever seen! If you have been to my house you have probably seen the stained glass piece that hangs in the sunniest window. Leslie made this piece as an 'experiment' in a class, I thought she had spent a million dollars on it. She laughed, ever the artist discrediting her own brilliance.

Talented people attract other talented people, it must be some other physical force that you dont learn in school. Leslie's friends are highly creative and very talented. At a cast party following one of Leslie's plays, the group decided to karaoke to further display their vocal talents. When it came to Leslie's friend Andrea, she thumbed through the selections, ignored them all and decided to sing without background assistance.

'I think I'll sing something from my favorite performer of all time, Etta James', she said.

Etta James? I liked Andrea immediately, if only for her obvious good taste. Backflashing, when I heard that Etta James was performing at some small venue in Albuquerque, without hestitation I booked a flight, hotel and car and went to New Mexico to see her. You could say I like Etta James, just a little. She was incredible, even though she was having some problems with her knees and sat in a chair the entire concert, she needed no fancy choreography to dazzle a mostly 20-something crowd into gasping and cheering uncontrollably at her genius.

Andrea didnt announce that she was going to sing my favorite Etta James song, she just started singing 'At Last'. It was almost as if Etta James herself was now occupying her 24 year old body, commanding her voice to reach out and stun everyone into opened-mouthed awe. Seriously, her voice is just amazing. Eyes closed, mic in hand she belted out 'At Last' with moments of soft, romantic longing and contrasting hot, growly passion. Had Ms. James been present in the room, she would have retired on the spot.

Since then I have been threatening Andrea with introduction to my uncle's brother who directs on Broadway. I just knew she was destined for singing on stage.

She's starting the path.

On Monday she sent me an email telling me that she is audtioning for American Idol. Its about time! Sheesh, she has been keeping that velvety weapon of a voice a secret for way too long. She's in the process. She and a friend both went Frank Erwin Center in Austin to register. They have their wristband and tickets. Andrea will audition tomorrow. Lucky are the people that get to witness her singing 'At Last' during the audition. I wish I could be there to capture the wide eyed amazement of those who have not yet experienced it for the first time.

Evil Simon will have his heart and ego melted out. Even Whatevia will uncross her stoic, bitchy arms and be impressed.


Pic: Andrea' Smith

Monday, August 22, 2005

Brazilian Sampling - Mousse de Castanhas de Caju e Chocolate

  • 2 oz dark unsweetened chocolate (2 squares)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup roasted cashew nuts, finely ground
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 egg whites

    Break the chocolate into small pieces and put with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water into the top of a double boiler over boiling water. Add the sugar and stir until the chocolate is melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the ground cashew nuts. Beat the cream until it stands in firm peaks and fold it into the chocolate mixture. Beat the egg whites until they stand in firm peaks and fold into the chocolate mixture, lightly but thoroughly. Pour into a 1-quart souffle dish and refrigerate overnight or for several hours. Serve, if liked, with sweetened whipped cream.

Brazilian Sampling - Greens Mineira

  • 6 Slices Bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 lb Collard Greens, trimmed, washed and thinly chopped
  • dash Sugar
  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • 1/2 t Liquid Smoke
  • Salt

1) Render bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside.

2) To rapidly boiling water add collard greens, sugar and salt. Cook until tender. Drain and toss with bacon, olive oil and liquid smoke.

Brazilian Sampling - Feijoada Completa

  • 1/2 lb chorizo
  • 1 lb smoked pork sausage
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb lean bacon
  • 1 lb lean beef chuck
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 quarts water

4 cups black beans, picked over, soaked overnight, and drained

To serve

Greens Mineira Style (recipe following)
Cooked white rice
5 oranges, peeled and cut into segments without the pith, then cut into 1/2inch chunks

1) In a large heavy stock pot, heat the oil over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more, until the aroma is released.

2) Tie the bay leaves, parsley, and thyme together to make a bouquet garni, and add it to the pan, along with the meats, and the water. Bring slowly to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and skim any fat from the top. Cook for 1 hour, then add the beans, return to a simmer, and again skim any fat from the top. Simmer for another hour.

3) As each piece of meat becomes fork tender, remove it, starting with the beef and finishing with the other meats. Place the cooked sausages on a platter, slice and cover with aluminum foil, keep warm in a low oven. Cut the remaining meats into 1/2 inch dice and also return it to the beans. Continue cooking the beans for 20 minutes more, or until tender.

4)Arrange the sliced sausages on one side of a large heated platter and place the beans on the other side Serve hot, accompanied by Green Mineira Style, cooked white rice and orange segments.

Brazilian Sampling - Picadinho de Porco Torta

  • 1 T Butter
  • 1 Onion, grated
  • 3 Tomatoes - peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 lb Ground Pork
  • 1/2 lb Chorizo or other smoked sausage, chopped
  • 4 T Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 C Parsley, chopped
  • 2 Hardboiled Eggs
  • 3 Bananas
  • Tortillas
  • White Cheese (Jack), grated

1) Heat the butter in a skillet and saute the onion for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and well blended. Add the pork and the sausage and continue cooking for 20 minutes until the pork is cooked through, breaking up the meat with a fork. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and cook for a few minutes longer. Transfer the hash to a warmed serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley, the egg whites, finely chopped, and the egg yolks, sieved. Keep warm.

2) In a separate skillet heat a small amount of butter over medium heat. Add one tortilla to the pan, cover the tortilla with a small amout of cheese. Cook until cheese melts. Remove to plate.

3) Add a small amount of butter to the skillet. Add another tortilla, a small amount of cheese and then the pork mixture. Place the cooked tortilla on top of the pork mixture and cook until bottom cheese melts and torta is warmed through.

4) Remove the torta and let cool slightly before cutting into 8 pieces.

5) Halve the bananas crosswise, then lengthwise, and saute in butter until browned. Surround the torta slices with the bananas.

Brazilian Sampling - Banana Salsa

  • 2 Bananas, diced
  • 3/4 C Prepared Green Salsa (Herdez is good)
  • 1 T Cilantro, chopped
  • 2 t Lime Juice, fresh

Blend all and refrigerate overnight. Serve with flaxseed tortilla chips.

Brazilian Sampling - Caipirinhas

The national drink of Brazil!

  • 2 oz Cachaca
  • 1/2 Lime, cut into 4 quarters
  • 2 t Sugar
  • Ice
  • Club Soda

Muddle the lime and sugar in the bottom of a glass. No need to pulverise the lime unless you like a strong lime flavor, just enough to release the juice. Add a handful of ice. Pour in the Cachaca. Stir. Add a splash of club soda. Stir.

Also good, in case you cannot find Cachaca, was Rum or Vodka. Most people prefered the Cachaca.

The club soda is not standard but I liked it -- lighter flavor for the 103 degree heat yesterday!

Brazilian Sampling

I had a small get together last night - theme - Brazilian food and drink. It was great and I think by the number of 'I must have this recipe' requests, the samplings were a success. I promise I will blog them as soon as I can.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Tagging Weirdness

OH NO, I was tagged and didnt even notice, worse, I didnt feel a thing :)

This probably falls under 'worlds strangest collection of10 songs' but this is my repeat cycle on my MP3.

  1. Nightclubbing - Grace Jones
  2. Everlasting Love - U2
  3. I'll Be - Cibelle
  4. Felicidade - Suba
  5. Samba de Bencao - Bibel Gilberto
  6. Jumpin Jumpin - Destinys Child
  7. At Last - Etta James
  8. Evil - Interpol
  9. Speed Of Sound - ColdPlay
  10. Longview - Green Day

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Post Arm Breaking Happiness

My brother in law is a sky diver. Maybe he did this as a necessary laugh into death's face; one must have an immeasurable strength when working with children with terminal cancer, which he did for the past 3 years at St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis.

Then again, this might be genetically motivated, since my niece attempted sky diving from her bed. She did not have the softening assistance of a parachute at the time. Broken arm.

But doesnt she look happy now; the amazing resilience of children, if only we could all recover so quickly from our boo-boo's and with a 'pink lady' glitter cast, no less :)

Pic: My two nieces

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Post Bee-Boring Happiness

My younger niece, hours after the bee-boring incident. You can see the trama in her eyes, no?

Prison Coif

Irma & Perry
Love Your Hair
Preston & Belt Line
Dallas, Texas

I got a haircut, woo! I had been telling my friend Perry (shown here in mid chocolate chip muffin chew) and his partner in hair, the lovely Irma, that I was going to blog them. Think of it as free publicity! They both liked that thought. And honestly, the are both very good at what they do.

So you're wondering about the title. In the first 15 minutes I knew Perry he asked my opinion of his idea for a vacation resort.

"Its a prison theme, I'm the warden."

He is serious.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005



"God has selected our family for a special purpose", claims the father of Fenton and Adam Meeks after being visited by an angel one evening. So starts this tighly woven, surprisingly well-crafted suspense film.

Filming and editing are brilliant. Dark and rural, every corner turned is a cautious step into deeper foreboding. Much like Memento, scenes are assembled in a strategic and precise manner making more sense in hindsight. Flipping back and forth from present to past is a daunting task for film editors, it can easily fall down and become tedious. I was most impressed with the seamless progression of the film without the necessity of a sequential timeline.

Matthew McConaughey does an excellent job of delivering accounts from his childhood with a unnerving deadpan stares and nary a variation in vocal tone. Quite the departure from his roles in other films. I'm partial to McConaughey if only because he is a rebellious sort from Texas. But what impressed me about him in this film was his ability to walk a razor's edge in not disclosing whether he was the good guy or a sociopath. While the script takes you down one particular path there is still the nagging question -- what makes him so numb? Was he so damaged emotionally from the horrific acts of his father that he no longer feels emotion? Or does he just not value human life? I was fooled. The outcome left goosebumps. The ending was truly the most subtle and frightening one imaginable.

Beyond the plot details and script the film dredged up some long standing faceoffs between religion, morality and fanaticism.

Funny what can happen when a good idea goes unchecked and is allowed to grow under an unintended environment.

Overall: 9/10, invite someone who frightens easily ;)


Standing in line at the grocery today I overheard two young ladies commenting on a young man walking in.

"UGH, cute but yet another Aberzombie!"

Aberzombie? Must be some reference, and not a good one, to Abercrombie & Fitch. A&F is a style, I suppose, I see alot of it on campus. It looks good on 20-somethings but I'm a bit too counter-culture to embrace it.

Ever the researcher I had to look it up on UrbanDictionary. com, its amusing entry is as follows.


The type of clothing worn by Aberzombies, a peculiar specimen which infest college campuses and upscale suburban high schools across the North American landmass.

Nominally a human being, the Aberzombie is easily identifiable by large advertisements worn on its chest and buttocks. It tends to come from wealthy stock, drives an SUV and mates exclusively with other Aberzombies.

The musical taste of the Aberzombie is limited to bands like Dave Matthews and O.A.R. Its SUV is typically emblazoned with a sticker reading "DMB" so as to communicate its bland taste in music to potential mates.

The Aberzombie is not without its natural enemies, however. Most prominent among them are independent thought and a sense of style. The Aberzombie will go to great lengths not to face such horrific ideas, most often by associating only with fellow Aberzombies. In the rare case that it is exposed to outside ideas/free thought, it will utilize its only defense mechanism: complaining that others are envious and simply cannot afford Abercrombie clothing.

Source: Kim Jong-Il, Jan 12, 2005

I laughed till I snorted when I discovered there is an Amberzombie website, Aberzombie.

Just my bit of fun for today :-)

Monday, August 15, 2005


One busy week completed, yay! And now, many more to come, sigh :) Getting back into the swing and I will hopefully get back into posting regularly!

Cincinatti, A New Adventure

Part of my 'busy' was a trip to see my sister and her family in their new city - Cincinatti. Coming from a flat and barren area of the world, all cities with hills and dense vegetation seem intriguing. Cincinatti definitely has both attributes. The landscape here is decidedly green despite the locals vehement cries of drought. The Ohio river makes a stately appearance, seen from every part of the hilly inner city. The river-centric city imparts a contrast in feelings; restless wandering with muted mometum and a calming, well-worn consistency. The downtown area is thriving with life, a pleasant mixture of business and play in a template of downtown revival. Like many other river cities they have an adult playground that spans a portion of the river on both the Ohio and Kentucky side; touristy, yes, but still enjoyable and a good place to gage the regional diversity. While not as diverse as some other areas of the country, it was far from the black and white I found in Memphis while my sister lived there.

We tried a smattering of ethnic food, just to see if Cincinatti would offer future culinary excursions or if we would be conjuring up our own. Thai, Turkish, Mexican and Ice Cream (yes, ice cream is regionally distinct and on every damn corner, lol) were all excellent.

The architecture is tudor, cape cod, post colonial, greek revival and as you pierce the concentric inner city circles - sprawling single level 50's ranch style, 70's Brady Bunch split levels and finally, the late-model ubiquitous standard of two story with high peaks and arches.

One noteworthy observation about this region is that everyone is tall. I mean really tall. My sister's neighbor, an undercover narc for Cincy PD, is 6'8", his 9 year old daughter is as tall as me. Everywhere I went I felt like a midget. I dont know what people in Cincinatti actually look like, but I can tell you that they have great taste in belt buckles :-)

San Francisco Recall

One area of dowtown had such a sheer grade upwards that I instantly felt my calves ache by the mere sight of it; instant recall of the many treks up Castro to visit friends in Noe Valley. 18th street - flat, uneventful, what a nice walk, 24th street - a little tightness in the legs but almost there, 30th street - a little out of breath, searing leg pain and hoping for a taxi.

I would have had pictures to share but unfortunately my 6 year old niece accidentally broke my digital camera.

The Bee Boring Incident

There is always a niece story post visit, this trip was no exception.

One day I took my nieces to play in the park by my sister's house. Cincinatti is full of parks, each neighborhood is built around one or more, in this respect it reminded me of Savannah, Georgia. The neighborhood park was great - jogging trails, bike paths, mokey bars, slides - the whole nine. In one area they had dumped sand to resemble a beach with dunes. My nieces immeadiately jumped into the sand and there they stayed for an hour. They befriended an 8 year old boy who they buried up to his knees in sand then they wandered away laughing as he beckoned - 'But wait, you need to undig me!'. Dont worry, he dug himself out.

At one point my younger niece started screaming hysterically. I rushed over to see what happened.

"A bee, BEE BEE BEE, its biting me, its biting me, its in my arm! Get it out! GETITOUT GETITOUT GETITOUT! She was drawing a crowd, I feared a citizen's arrest for child abuse, neglect or proper prevention of bee boring.

No marks, a tiny bit of swelling. Ant bite? Maybe. Bee sting? No. A bee boring its way into her arm stinging her repeatedly? Maybe thats 3-year old attention whore tactics in play. Screaming and moaning somewhat tempered by a cold water bottle placed against the 'bee entry site' then completely abolished when we arrived home and she saw 'Boomer', the neighbor's golden retriever. Poor Boomer, I dont think he was wanting to play horsie to a 3 year old girl but he was a good sport. So much for the bee boring its way into her arm; the healing powers of the golden retriever are apparently much stronger than ice cream or staying up past bedtime.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Busy, busy.

Posting will resume sometime next weekend, this coming week is insane with too many things to do.

Rio, Perigoso

My trip to Brazil is getting closer and closer and I'm getting so excited I cant stand it!

I want to thank everyone conveying their 'friend of friend who was almost or indeed mugged in Rio' stories, I know you are concerned and it comes from a good place. But, I think there may be a few key pieces of information you're missing.

Yes, Rio is dangerous, perigoso. Short of any city in Columbia it has the highest murder rate in the world.

But, and this is a big but, if you look at the crime statistics, the bulk of the crime, 80%, and almost all of the murders are in the 'favelas' of the north section of the city. This area is unimaginably poor by anyone's standards, it is also the home of drug trade. Most of the crime is related to the drug trade. In the south part of the city, where I will be, the crime resembles any other dense urban city in the world. Looking at the city as a whole is misleading, much like looking at the crime stats of your city as a whole would be misleading for a particular area.

Also I have been talking to Brazilians in the US who have lived in Sao Paulo and Rio. They laugh when they hear the Rio is dangerous warning because Sao Paulo is infinitely more violent and crime is not confined to poor areas or nightime. The trend for Sao Paulo residents is to work in Sao Paulo and play in Rio, since in their words 'it is much safer'.

I know a group of people going to Rio later in the year and some for Carnival next year, so here were the suggestions from the Brazilians.
  • Know some Portuguese (Rio dialect)
  • Dont wear jewelry, particularly watches or anything shiny.
  • Dont carry an expensive camera, buy disposables.
  • Dont dress up. Rio is a beach city - shorts, jeans and flip flops are standard.
  • Dont take public transport, period. This seemed particularly important.
  • Dont go to the financial district or anywhere in the north section. Also Copacabana can be sketchy, if only for the pickpockets.
  • Take a small travel wallet, take only what you need that day, keep it in your front pocket.
  • Its better to stay in the Ipanema or Leblon areas.
  • Dont fall for the helpful Carioca routine, noone in Rio will offer to help you if you look lost. If you need directions go into a business.
  • Dont fall for someone spilling something on you then offering to clean it up. Jusy say 'Obrigado' and keep moving.
  • After 10pm, much like other dense urban areas, Rio is more prone to crime.
  • Dont walk on the beach at night. This also seemed particulary important.
  • Dont get too friendly with people in bars unless you are comfortable with Portuguese, the Rio dialect, you may miss the part about them wanting money for services.
  • Crime is exponentially worse during Carnival.
  • Dont even think of taking a 'favela' tour (and they do offer them).

Friday, August 05, 2005

Suffering For Happiness

From the Buddhist perspective every day of our existence in physical form is hell. Acknowledging this hell, that earthly life is based on suffering, not happiness, is the cornerstone of their belief system. The point to life, they claim, is to transcend earthly concerns, to dismantle the lie, the prefabricated societal architecture, to go beyond it to what is true.

But if I had a partner and soulmate, I would be happy. But if I had more money, I would be happy. But if I had 2.5 children, a big house in an affluent neighborhood, a late model BMW and Palm Pilot full of names and addresses called friends, then, yes then, I would truly be happy.

This is crap. I know plenty of people who have traversed this 'A then B then C, D and E' path who are still very much unhappy. It isn't a destination, this ellusive happiness, its something you pick up along the way from the struggle. Without the struggle, there is no contrast and the happiness is non-existent. Without the struggle there is numbness, an anesthetized void ending with 'And here rests ...'

There is a writer in Seattle who crafts the blog, Living Above Ground, I'm obviously a fan. Her most recent post, "This morning was rough...met the world without an airbag" is a portal into this very struggle. Its a riveting piece, any further comment I could make would seem trite.

Living Above Ground

Summer To Fall

And now for the more mundane.

The Summer Session Results are in - 4.0, yay!

Fall Session (speculatively)
  • Biochemistry
  • Computational Biology
  • Applied Bioinformatics
  • Cell Biology

All graduate level, thank goodness.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

People Primavera

With Spanish Tapas on my mind after our leisurely evening at De Tapas I was thinking, Hmmm, I should make some tapas and invite a few people over. I got on Google and punched in 'Spanish Tapas Tomatoes' hoping to score a recipe -- Maybe a nice 'Tomatoes in Garlic' like the one we had in Memphis or that great 'Tomatoes in Saffron Cream Sauce' like the one we had in New York.

This was not what I was expecting.

First it was running down claustrophobic corridors while being chased by bulls that could gore and kill you on a whim, now this. Leave it to those passionate, hot-blooded and yes, crazy, Spaniards to create the world's largest food fight.

Welcome to Bunol, Spain. A quiet, unassuming Spanish town of only 9,000 people. On the last Wednesday of August the town has a festival called La Tomatina. The town square fills with thousands upon thousands of people, 125,000 kilos of tomatoes and they spend hours and hours hurling them at each other. Notice in the pictures that little clothing is worn for the duration of this event. Why bother with clothing really, it will just be destroyed anyway.

Investigating a little further, utterly fascinated and now completely sidetracked from my original mission, I discovered that this festival is big business and a huge tourist destination. The hotels and restaurants in Bunol offer 'package deals' for the event. They are seriously booked up, even a year in advance.

IHMO, La Tomatina has distinct adavantage over other street festivals like Madris Gras. Which would you rather see: A bunch of drunk people dropping trou for a handful of platstic jewelry or 20,000 scantily-clad Spaniards, whipped into a frenzy and covered in tomato pulp? I would have to choose the latter.

When I looked at the pictures I thought, this looks like an orgy directed by none other than spurned high school home coming queen, Carrie.

I never did find my tapas information but who cares, this was way more interesting. I think I may have found a theme for Noehas next party. I wonder if Krogers will give a discount if we buy the tomatoes in bulk?

People Primavera

  • 20,000 people
  • 125,000 kilos tomatoes

Remove most of the outer clothing from the people. Toss vigorously in tomatoes until aggressions just begin to release. Garnish with wild laughter, reckless abandon and enjoy immediately.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Grad Grub - Entry 4

Persian Pizza
  • Whole wheat pita
  • Mozzarella, grated
  • Turkish Feta, crumbled
  • Basil, thinly sliced
  • Walnut halves
  • Basterma, thinly sliced
  • Ground Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Assemble cheeses on pita. Add basil, walnuts and basterma. Sprinke with pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 450 for 6-8 minutes.

Basterma is a spiced middle eastern beef introduced to me by my friend Noeha. I can't think of anything else that is similar, the spices are uniquely middle eastern. It can be omitted and it will still taste great!

For Dallasites: You can find Basterma at Shines Deli, SE Corner of Preston & Beltline, in front of Stein Mart.

For Laurel: See, another Laurel-friendly concoction brought to you by yours truly :)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


This September marks 13 years in Dallas, Texas. Still, after 13 years, I am the wayward tourist I was in the late 70's when I first visited this city. I still couldn't tell you if Marsh Ln. is west or east of Midway Rd. When I emerge from downtown Dallas I am invariably on the wrong freeway going in the wrong direction, cursing, again.

I'm fortunate that I've harvested several long-lasting friendship in Dallas but in general I find the people to be empty shells, they hide behind a community or clique to give themselves some sense of identity; high school with stock portfolios and really big mortgage payments.

I lived in San Francisco for 14 years. I still love the city for many reasons but it too never felt like home. While I developed a center of gravity at Market St, don't dare ask me to identify Nob Hill vs. Russian Hill. I have no idea where Diamond Heights parts company with the Castro. Many times I emerged from the BART train and immediately went to the wrong level to catch the wrong MUNI train. I think I need the L train, or was it the K? More than once I wound up in Daly City, cursing, again.

I try to remember the people I knew during the San Francisco chapter, a murky form may hover, sometimes if I hold it just so I can mold it into a outline. If I concentrate I can make out a smile or voice before it all disintegrates and skitters away.

But I still remember the anger in the Paki cabbies eyes who almost hit me while crossing Broadway and 45th. 'What the fuck is wrong with you!' I stopped dead as I felt the wind screech past me at 30 miles an hour. I remember the face of the Korean server who shamelessly flirted with me in front of my parents at Barolo on West Broadway. Who knew I could turn Chianti red. I remember smoking a cigarette outisde of the Enoteca on Avenue A, the man who asked me how much I charged, me asking my friend Dutch, 'what part of me screams hooker?', the raised eyebrows and laughter as we walked back to Lexington Avenue.

In New York City I know where I'm going, instinctively. I know exactly where Grammercy Park ends and Murray Hill begins. I can navigate the subway system. I can plot 100 paths from Battery Park City to the Metropolitan Museum. I've walked those paths and never been lost. More often than not people stop me for directions; I usually have them.

When people ask me where I'm from I have to pause, think and make a concerted effort not to say New York. I wasn't born in New York nor have I ever lived there. My parents and grandparents, yes, they were from the city.

New York City feels like home, a comfortable well-worn feeling and ironically, very peaceful. I thrive off the subway momentum, the manic crowds, the break neck pace, the omnipresent sounds of angry taxis and brooding sirens - I sense it all simultaneoulsy, viscerally, block by block.

In the years I've travelled there I've covered every inch of Manhattan, at least everything below Harlem. Even once I unwittingly took a tour of Harlem as I emerged northbound from Central Park and just kept walking. My jaunt above 110th St. never bothered me but a good citizen of Harlem seemed worried - 'You know where you at?' I acknowledged his concern with a half-nod and kept walking. I remember his hoodie sweatshirt - blue, with gray NYC across the front, the strut-hop as he went on his way, arms outstretched, palms up in a Yo Whateva gesture.

I've never felt threatened in New York City, not once, not walking at 4am, not even pre-Giuliani, before he had the unsavory street life deported to surrounding burroughs. I still get a creepy feeling in the Garment District and again in the no man's land east and north of Washington Heights. These areas feel haunted and disjointed but no harm intended.

Beyond the depth of culture, the 24/7 availability of anything and everything, sleazy to sublime, I love the people. Individuals. The city strips off labels and smokes people out from under protective community cover. You must be yourself, they wont tolerate less. New Yorkers want to know who you are, what you stand for and what makes you unique. And they want to know it in 3 minutes or less. Not sure who you are? You will be after a year in NYC.

Some scientists claim that memory is genetic, that when an event occurs in your life, a pathway to this memory is burned not only into the synapses allowing you recall, but also into your genetic composition. I wonder then, if memory is genetic, can memories be inherited? My parents and grandparents lived in this city and maybe this explains my affinity, my sense of belonging.

Picture: My grandparents - Brooklyn, 1940

Monday, August 01, 2005

Free Thinker

Here is the result of the Old Monk Rum induced personality test I took over the weekend. Usually I dont give much credence to these things but this one is dead on.

INTJ: The Free-Thinker

Profile by Sandra Krebs Hirsch and Jean Kummerow

INTJs are strong individualists who seek new angles or novel ways of looking at things. They enjoy coming to new understandings. They are insightful and mentally quick; however, this mental quickness may not always be outwardly apparent to others since they keep a great deal to themselves. They are very determined people who trust their vision of the possibilities, regardless of what others think. They may even be considered the most independent of all of the sixteen personality types. INTJs are at their best in quietly and firmly developing their ideas, theories, and principles.

More about INTJ

Find out what type you are