19. November 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Cooking, Random · Tags:

…and yes, I realize it’s only Monday. I’m pretty sure this won’t be beat, unless we’re quoting stuff either of the Fords said at the special council meeting today. And then it’s just a laundry list of quotes; but those aren’t as fun as I never heard them in person.

Grad student 1 to me: Jamie, you’re the only white person I know that cooks with wood ear mushrooms.

Grad student 2 to grad student 1 in a deadpan tone: [Grad student 1], you’re such a racist.

Starting my work with radioactivity1 again today, I took it upon myself to try and track down a lab coat that fits. The lab has a small collection of archaic2 lab coats that I looked through, but unfortunately none of them fit. Because they were just all wadded up & shoved into the shelf (and because I’m a bit of a neat freak), I opted to fold them back up to save some space. As I was working through them, one of the lab coats crunched when I smoothed it out.

I tracked down the culprit: one of the pockets was harbouring an (extremely) old latex glove that was falling apart. As I was explaining what the source of the crunch was to the technician, I exclaimed that it looked rather terrible and it was “old and crunchy.”
At which point, it could be subsequently heard in my head being voiced by my good colleague Tom still back in Buffalo, “Like your mom, yeaaaaaahhhhhh!” Despite that immaturity, still one of the most rational & logically minded individuals I know. And a great sounding board when I need it.

Zetti’s may have been shitty pizza more oft than not, but man I kind of miss those escapes from the lab for lunch. Thank god we started going to My Burger Bar during my last year there instead!

1Having worked with tritium in the past, I sort of loathed radioactivity; no convenient means by which to detect it. Thankfully, 32P is way easier to detect & monitor! So I can go home and not be worried about sucking radioactive wing sauce off of my fingers to mutagenize my gonads & germ layers, 2-week half-life or not.
2These lab coats are very likely older than the undergraduate students in the lab, and likely threatening to be older than myself, I’d hazard.

Today’s weekend wandering was encouraged by the beautifully sunny (albeit briskly chilly) weather. I was totally intending to head over to The Green Grind, but after realizing how amazing the walk down Christie Street was after eating breakfast over at The Stockyards, I had more ambitious plans in mind. The trees are all starting to turn (if they haven’t already lost their leaves), and I wondered how the Don Valley was looking, so I planned a longer excursion (despite hauling my laptop for working on anyways).

More »

Here I am, practically light–headed & dizzy from tiredness, and I can’t fall asleep because my mind is racing.

I’m so scared of coming off immature that I am afraid to be myself. At least I think that’s what’s eating me. I have this engrained idea of how I am supposed to be conducting myself, when there’s nothing really pressuring that. I feel so frustrated that I still feel helpless reading/responding to social convention.

How do I not take things so literally? Is it blind trust, or naïve understanding? It’s maddening, because for as often as I use sarcasm, I swear I can’t read it. It makes me feel for the people who interact with me, who do have to remind me that they’re only kidding, or they were being facetious. Or they don’t realize I’m continuing on with the sarcasm, and I’m just too dead–pan in response to it.

I really was going to rant about how I’m clearly a grown man, competent, and versed in a whole slew of things that should do anything but portray me as immature. But how the heck is a list of competencies, skills, and complex understandings going to truly convey that? It’s just a reference list of what I’ve learned. It doesn’t illustrate maturity.

Maybe I’ll return to this once I have an answer. It’s just tearing at my mind; I feel torn at this juncture in my life that I’m supposed to be disconnecting myself from the naïve & immature aspects of my graduate career, and transition entirely into a professional career with the postdoc. Well, sure, in my work life.

Maybe that’s my problem: I’m having an issue separating work & personal life right now. Because one does fairly dominate the other, some of it inadvertently while the rest is clearly deliberately. I’m trying to compensate for something. Not just a lack of a personal life right now. The question is: what?

Let me pray that either I figure that out quickly, or that sleep overtakes me if this rant wasn’t sufficient to evacuate the hyperactive mind right now. This really is the problem with living alone & not having anyone to conveniently call: you can’t get a way to air this mental laundry.

Hopefully the rain goes easy tomorrow; I’m going to need a long walk to clear my head, and I’ll have plenty of time to do so while a vat of sauce & meatballs cooks.

01. November 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Random · Tags: , ,

Did I miss some sort of generational shift, or is PDA way more common among youth these days?

I see this all over the place at the University of Toronto. Not just hand–holding, but more so the “arm around the waist pulling the girl in” or both with arms around each other’s waist. Not a subtle thing, either; it’s pretty obvious. Between that, and all the street–corner embraces, it just seems rampant amidst the student population.

Is this just a shift from a decade ago? Is it a metropolitan thing? A uniquely Toronto or Canadian thing? It does seem to be disproportionately among Asian couples (either exclusively or mixed); could it just be a cultural thing that’s exacerbated by the high population of eastern Asian immigrants?

That’s what this week has felt like: a veritable train wreck.

I’ve slept like shit all week. Monday night I got five hours of sleep. My body just woke up at 4am Tuesday morning, after which I put it back to sleep, only to have it wake even more vigorously at 5am, at which point I refused to argue with it.

Tuesday night was Madhev’s & Jen’s collective doctorate celebrations at Pour Girl across the street from work. Plenty of beers with a dinner in absentia left me thoroughly intoxicated before leaving. The whole night was a harsh education lesson in where my tolerance has gone since before leaving Buffalo: downhill! It would appear I managed to kill a red shirt during the drunken shenanigans, and got roped into a tequila shot just prior to leaving. That was a bad idea; I needed a lot of extra focus during the streetcar & bus rides back home to avoid letting my stomach get too roiled. I was grilled more than once or twice about my weight loss since I started at the University. I always feel awkward talking about it. I’ll leave it at that. I feel like I’m slowly being incorporated into that social circle more these days, but even that is also evaporating, as the people I am developing friendships with are graduating & leaving. *beats head on wall* Why can’t I establish more permanence here?!?

I woke up substantially buzzed Wednesday morning. In part because I only got four hours of sleep Tuesday night, as I didn’t get home until nearly 2am (oh the joys & woes of mass transit in a city of this size). Wednesday was really a struggle to get through, and I had high hopes of carving a pumpkin & sleeping early, but had no time to get a peer review done yet. The evening was spent on the review (remarkably easy), and I had to give up the gourd gouging hopes. Oh, and I lost all taste for alcohol after Tuesday night, so I gave up on my plans for a whiskey festival tonight.

Thursday rebounded a bit with some extra sleep, but attempting to survive the day without caffeine was a poor choice. I was nearly crashing by the departmental coffee break, although thankfully that helped me to survive the rest of the evening. Got to learn about how fun geckos are (never been a lizard guy, but I would consider them!), got some delicious Indian gosht & dahl for dinner (OMG!), and had some great conversation in the evening. Got extra creeped out by the transit passengers on the way home1, while barely maintaining consciousness on the way back, I was that tired. Then I can’t even fall asleep right away either; grand!

Last night’s sleep was probably the worst of the week. Usually my abrupt awakenings are left with some semblance of what I was dreaming that induced said waking; not so much last night. I woke up in a fitful & violent (like whole body) panic with absolutely no recollection of what was going on in my subconscious dreamscape. I really can’t recall the last time that ever happened. I’ve had experiences similar to it, but nothing so unsettling & unsubstantiated. It’s left me feeling unusually disconnected & not myself all day long.

In fact, looking back on the week, most of this week has left me feeling not myself. I have been running on autopilot so much of the week with no downtime at home (Thursday’s outing was the closest I got, short of what I will finally get tonight), I haven’t had my normal time to decompress & regain my wits. A harsh reminder that I can’t grow out of certain personality traits: I cannot fathom ever not being an introvert. Social time this week has also reminded me I’ve still go some growing to do in the engaging part of social interactions. Which isn’t really growing; it’s acceptance. Less panic; more frankness. And when the frankness works, don’t back over it & explain it like I always do or over–think what happened.

I really need to find the this turbo2 button on my brain & down–clock it back to normal; I could get so much more out of it throughout the day if I could just get it to cool down a bit! Now, I think the evening Friday rush on College St has tamed itself (sufficiently) such that it’s worth trekking home now.

1The vehicle was getting full, so I moved to the window–half of the seat, and made room for people to sit. This well–presented Indian fellow sits down, and then proceeds to stare over at me (while I’m staring off into space, trying to not fall asleep) most of the trip, and creep up next to me. Did I just experience my second potential getting–hit–on–by–a–guy since moving to Toronto? Sorry fellas; I just don’t swing that way!
2Who here remembers that ancient Turbo button on the old 486 Intel computers??

It’s interesting how interactions can be so polite or cold in this city at a given time. My neighbourhood is almost consistently cold in nature, but I keep feeling that’s a consequence of me looking more so the foreigner than the native1. However, I continue to run into random warm encounters that are a bit surprising in nature.

The Sunday morning crew at The Stockyards is amazing. A couple rowdy women in their 40s, often the owner, and a couple of younger cooks that do their work just right. It’s great to listen to them just interact with the regular patrons (both dining–in and to–go), ’cause they just love to catch up with their regulars. Even I got dragged into some conversation as they wanted to know what I did for the (Canadian) Thanksgiving holiday!

Which is hilarious every time I mention I go to Buffalo.

Other: “Oh, do you go visit your family there?”
Me: “No, my family lives in North Dakota.”
Other: <insert confused/dumbfounded look as they either (a) try to figure out where North Dakota is, or (b) figure out why the hell I would be visiting Buffalo if I didn’t have family there>

It really makes me believe the effect it has of some people never moving out of the greater Toronto area. They don’t know what it’s like to move 250–300 miles away for college, or another thousand miles away for graduate school, and throw in another hundred or two for your next job. Transplantation isn’t so easy; it’s convenient to have your support network close enough for weekend visits. It was a luxury I did not have moving to Buffalo, nor much of one moving to Fargo. I’d hazard, people just don’t often think about it…

Anyhoo. Back to the weather changes. I would have expected a warmer reception from the (professional, supposedly) academics I have met to date. Thankfully, one I did, but she’s off & gone in Oman now2. I did emo–whine a bit earlier about the grad student colleagues in my department, but again, that’s a tight–knit social circle that is pretty self–stable. I’ve had the chance to reach out to a couple other postdocs so far, but those communications seem to be…evaporating, perhaps? I’m not sure. We’re all whipped workhorses to our own specific projects, but how on earth do you coordinate time to spend with them amidst all that, let alone any social circles they already have? So, there are the colder ones so far.

Last weekend, I got an amazingly warm response from a café shop owner. I inquired about what music was playing over the speaker system & let me snap a picture of the info off his iPod. Ten or fifteen minutes later, he asked if I had a flash drive with which to provide some of said artist to me with. I was momentarily floored; far above & beyond what I would have expected of a stranger, especially when he returned the flash drive nearly full! Listening to some pretty awesome contemporary classical music as we speak right now!

Lastly, this evening, I took it upon myself to inform a stranger about when the next streetcar was coming down College St, as I was leaving work. She kept checking the street profusely (a couple times a minute), while I coolly waited because I knew the streetcar was down at Yonge & College still3. I politely informed her that one was coming only a block and change away, with two more in quick succession behind it. I seem to have weirded her out a bit over the random remark, but she was thankful for the information. I mentioned the follow–up cars because she had a loaded rolling luggage piece with her, and any (competent) TTC rider knows that at that time of the post–workday hours, the first eastbound College streetcar after an extended lack is going to be one packed sardine unit! Anyways, first of the three shows up, I can already see that the car appears to be a nebulous, black entity traveling down the street, indicative that the plethora & density of standing patrons — blocking out all interior lights of the streetcar to the outside —has utterly filled the streetcar. She hesitated, and decided to wait out the next car, as I already said I would (I’m not that impatient to get home). I show her the app, and demonstrate how it shows the next two streetcars in tow: one at University & College already, with the other at Bay & College. She inquires where I got the app, I relate how she can track it down for her own phone (an Android, alas, not iOS like my own), and she looks to be genuinely happy with that extra piece of knowledge for the day. The next streetcar comes down College nearly a minute or two later, and it looks virtually empty! Alas, it is only bound for Bathurst, so I’m stuck awaiting the final car, while she enjoys her near–vacant streetcar. I figured in a city as dependent on transit at Toronto is, more of the regular patrons would be aware of/informed about such smartphone utilities to aid their travels. Heck, it even surprised a young man while I was waiting for the 47B Bus at College & Lansdowne; he was surprised with how accurately I predicted its arrival, after I asked if he was heading north (he kept inspecting TTC signage near the stop). Perhaps not! Mayhaps I need to disseminate my unnatural technical prowess more unto others…it might make a nice opening conversation piece, and who knows, maybe even get a regular conversation partner for my winter rides on the TTC!

1With a neighbourhood that is predominantly Italian & Portuguese, I lack the Hispanic good looks that my mother’s side of the family has, and lack the language skills to partake in the mostly non–English conversations in my ‘hood.
2Thanks, Meezan! Way to leave me hanging, once I found a friend! But no, really, not her fault; awesome woman who has a crazy wordly knowledge & experiences behind her…
3The Transit app from the iTunes App Store has probably got to be one of the most useful city transit apps I have ever had the pleasure of using! It shows (nearly) all the surface–exposed transit vehicles locations as their GPS reports them in to their respective server systems. Granted, some surprise additions/reliefs to the routes don’t always show up in the app, as I learned tonight when I got off the 47 bus at St. Clair and didn’t realize the 47B was right behind, which I could have transferred onto, as opposed to walking the final 1–mile of my trip home, uphill in the rain…

03. October 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Random · Tags:

Despite having shed nearly 70lbs since New Year’s, it’s been difficult to appreciate what sort of a transformation it has really had on me. I continue to look in the mirror and still see hanging bits of flesh and poorly defined body features. Complicated by the time frame this has occurred over, things have not been readily obvious visually.

I had gone down almost two shirt sizes, and gone from not quite fitting into a belt to now almost needing another (~5″ if not more) because it’s as tight as it can go. People have remarked how obvious it is to them, but somehow it continued to remain elusive to myself visually. At least, until today.

Last night’s inadvertant auto pep talk left me riding a bit of a confidence high. I’ve never been one to take “selfies” as they’re called1, but I felt I should this morning, and so did. Give myself a more current avatar for some social media streams. I pretty promptly felt happy with it, and replaced my previous Facebook profile picture.

Then it hit me.

I finally saw a (significant) difference. Holy hell. That was even before my heaviest at the end of December; I was probably hovering around 245–250lbs. Just seeing the difference around my cheeks and neck was a bit shocking. I still have a bit of double–chin action going on, but that — much like the rest of my body — is still due in part to carrying around so much extra weight for over a decade.

I won’t say I’m totally convinced I’m looking great, but I’ll definitely buy into how much better I (theoretically) look2.

Today was a (mostly) solid day of confidence. Let’s keep this ball rolling, folks…

1I worry that they come off as conceited. I feel like I’ve had such rare reinforcement that I’m handsome/sexy/attractive/etc., I have a hard time believing as such. I think I detailed this somewhere else or another. I remember briefly talking about it with @katekowalski about it. Perhaps it was just a tweet, and not a blog post. Anyhoo. Social preconception expects men to vocally/visually compliment women; social preconception doesn’t seem to suggest the converse.
2I only say theoretically, ’cause I really still have no idea what is or isn’t considered attractive/good–looking in men, let alone how much of it I possess. Yes, yes, I know, it’s different for everyone, but that just makes it all the more complicated!