I got a new toy

I’ve been M.I.A. lately. I did get a new toy last week. I’m absolutely loving it.

taken with my new toy

The camera. Not Bruce.

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SubZero Festival – San Jose, CA

I grew up in the Silicon Valley. I often take the area for granted. It’s not hard when we’re only a hop, skip and a jump away from San Francisco. Sometimes, however, I tend to take a step back and realize that, despite all of the hate that people of the Bay Area pour down on the South Bay, it can be a lot of fun.A couple of weeks ago, I went to a festival in Downtown San Jose. The SubZero Festival, which was in its 5th year, took place on June 1. It’s a celebration of subculture. Part of the event was part of what’s apparently a monthly art walk.  There was also live music, beer tasting, and a lot of food trucks.

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The European Cup and Traveling with Soccer

Euro Cup 2012 kicked off yesterday. For those of you who do not follow soccer (or are not swamped with it in Europe), it’s the international European tournament that happens every four years. It’s like the World Cup if you take out the rest of the world. I’ve been incredibly excited about it and have been counting down the days for the past month. It’s kind of a big deal. Because I had to do responsible adult things, I really only watched fifteen minutes of one of yesterday’s matches because it was playing at the sandwich shop I was eating lunch at. Now, however, I am currently writing to you while watching the Denmark-Netherlands game and plan to go out and cheer for Germany in a pub downtown.

The European Cup has a special place in my heart. Sure, I was in Italy when they won the 2006 World Cup, but it wasn’t until we were backpacking through Europe in 2008 that I finally got it. I don’t know what clicked. Perhaps there was something in the unspoken camaraderie we felt with a Dutch bartender in a bar in Amsterdam where we were the only other people cheering for Italy when they played Spain. Or, perhaps there was something infectious about being crammed into a packed subway car of ecstatic German fans in Berlin after Germany had beaten Turkey.

There was so much screaming and shouting both while Germany was behind and after they won.

It’s not that we ever got particular close to the actual tournament. Astronomical hotel prices meant that the longest period we spent in Austria were the thirty minutes we had to wait to transfer trains between Slovenia and Italy. Our train did briefly stop in Vienna on the day of the final match between Germany and Spain. We were traveling from Munich to Budapest and in that time we watched as hundreds of excited German fans marched their way off the train carrying giant cartons of beer. Mia was a popular member of our party seeing as she developed her intense obsession with the German National Team on this trip.

Mind you, this picture was taken only mere days after the other one. I swear something happened on that train in Berlin that turned us into soccer nuts.

We arrived in our hostel in Budapest shortly before the final match started. Being on more neutral grounds for the Spain v. Germany match-up meant that while there was a more even split in fan support, the crazy fever of our previous viewing experiences in Germany was sadly absent. Nevertheless, watching it in a park in the middle of Magaret Island with a number of locals and some other travelers made for a fantastic evening.

Which leads me to the other point of this post. One of the most interesting parts about traveling is getting a taste of cultures around the world. There are many ways to do this. For me, one way has been through soccer. Soccer is an international language. It’s a language so many people speak around the world. While I have yet to see a live game in Europe (Chris and I are planning for Russia 2018), watching it in local pubs and parks has colored my travel experiences. I’m not saying to fully embrace soccer when you travel. Don’t ignore it, but find a way to connect to the local culture while you’re there. It could be through food, theater, wine, or anything else. Just find something. Trust me, it’ll lead to a richer travel experience.

A blurry picture of celebrations in Florence after Italy won the 2006 World Cup.

And for all you soccer fans out there, enjoy Euro 2012! I’m rooting for Italy and Germany. What about you?

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

I saw Snow White and the Huntsman on Monday. I’m not a big Kristen Stewart fan. Sure, I haven’t seen the Twilight films, but she was awful in Adventureland and forgettable in any other movie I’d seen her in. So, really, one might question why I would watch a film where she plays the hero. The movie did look interesting in a Lord of the Rings sort of way, however. My mom also really wanted to see it. Oh yeah, and Thor’s in it.

Among the previews for a Katy Perry movie and that strange Rock of Ages movie was the trailer for Les Miserables. Despite my previous misgivings about the film, I am so excited for this movie. I’ve seen the trailer countless times for now. It truly looks like it will be epic. Unfortunately, that was about the highlight of the movie night.

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On Fantasy Sports

I spent a large part of my evening assembling my Euro Cup Fantasy Team. It’s an exhausting process. If my MLS experience was any indication, I’m sure that between now and June 8th, I am going to be changing this lineup as much as I possibly can when I still have unlimited transfers. We’ll see. But with this around the corner and the MLS season in full swing, I’m slowly starting to learn all of the games this fantasy sports business does with your head.

For a large part of my life, I’ve had a serious aversion to all things sports. Being half-Italian, soccer has always kind of been in my blood, but it wasn’t something I followed seriously until after World Cup 2006. Nor was it something I was at all fanatical about until the last few years. Something changed in the last few years and while I have no desire to turn to American football or any other similar sport, I now understand the painfully delightful thrill of being a sports fan.

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Comfort Music

The Avengers came out. I saw it at midnight and am still fan girling about it. I want to post about it and will, but I wanted to hold off until my fan girl fever dies down (or until I manage to see it a second time). In short, however, the movie was nothing less than amazing. Joss Whedon nailed the superhero movie, as I presumed he would. It’s a must see.

That’s not why I’m writing today. Today’s topic is what I like to refer to as “comfort music.” I’m sure others refer to it in the same manner. Like comfort food, these are the songs or musicians that will make you feel better no matter what’s going on in your life.This is the music that, for me at least, makes me step back reassess my situation, and think somewhat more clearly. I’m sure everyone has certain albums, artists, or songs that elicit this reaction.

For me, it’s not a matter of the tempo of the music, nor is it necessarily a matter of the quality of the music. For instance, as much as the music hipster in me pains to say it, NSync’s self-titled album just does it for me. I could be in the absolute worst mode, but I can’t help but smile if “Tearin’ Up My Heart” is playing somewhere. And even the most soothing music can still leave my ears ringing if I’m in some sort of a panic.

What I’ve realized is that the music that can be most effective at this is often most closely associated with some sort of nostalgic element. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia that elicits those feelings of comfort in the first place. Thus, a band like NSync still brightens my day. In the past week, I’ve been thinking about some of the music I’d consider comfort music. This list is in no particular order and it does not represent all of the artists who have this strange effect on me, but I thought I’d share a handful to give you a small glimpse into my mind.

And Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Buster Keaton Live Scoring with Merrill Garbus

The San Francisco Film Festival kicked off last week. I know this not just by following general San Francisco news or by the fact that my sister’s been interning with the SF Film Society. No, I also know this because I was at the opening night party. It was a fun event with so much great food. The only downer of the night is that we met Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame) and it turns out that he was kind of a butt.

In any case, the event I was most excited about was a live scoring of Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle shorts. The music and scoring was done by Merrill Garbus and the rest of Tune-Yards as well as local guitarist Ava Mendoza. Now, I’m not really that well-versed in classic films and film history. To my knowledge before the event, the only time I saw Buster Keaton in a movie was his very brief cameo in Sunset Boulevard. I later learned that his last film was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which I was obsessed with as a kid. Beyond that, I am not familiar with Buster Keaton’s work. Nor had I ever seen anything with Fatty Arbuckle in it before Monday. I was primarily excited by the thought of seeing silent films scored by a band like the Tune-Yards. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m a hipster.Whatever.

Well, I guess I have to thank the Tune-Yards for being an intriguing and unique band, because I would have otherwise missed out on a fantastic evening.

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Project Chicken Fails Again

Way back when I started this blog, I posted about chicks that my brother started raising in August 2010. There were four of them. One of them  turned out to be a rooster, but they were cute. They knew where their coop was, so even if we let them wander around the yard during the day, they’d all be cuddled up by night. We just needed to remember to lock the coop.

Well, one day last January that didn’t happen. Some creature of some sort came in and attacked them, killing all but the rooster. This kind of drove the rooster insane and he had a lot of problems since. We remembered to close to chicken coop at night. We still let him wander around during the day, though. The sad part about that whole experience was that the night the hens died was the first night they laid eggs. Everyone was too weirded out from the experience to eat them, so I think my mom ended up giving them away to a co-worker.

Anyway, the set up with the rooster worked out fine for him. He got to explore the yard and go on whatever adventures it is that roosters go on. Mostly, he would try to attack me if I was anywhere near him. He knew I was afraid of him. Oh, General. In any case, he got attacked by a bobcat in the middle of the day in May. It was wholly uncharacteristic because the chickens had been fine during the day until then. Of course, he was so loud that he was practically a walking advertisement to nearby predators. He survived the attack because we chased the bobcat away as soon as we heard what was going on. Nevertheless, he was so messed up from it that we had to put him down. It was a traumatic event for my family, particularly my dad and Chris who were tasked with the messy job.

Fast forward to February and James decides he wants to try his hand at the chicken thing again. We learned our mistakes from the last batch. The beginning was shaky. We’re pretty sure the dog ate one of them. I also don’t think the place we got the chicks from vaccinated them because a couple others just died. Something spread from one chick to another for a while and we had no idea which one was Patient 0. In the end, we were left with three pretty healthy chickens. One was kind of mean and we were sure it was a rooster. I’ve never gotten worse stink eye from any creature than I got from that chicken.

They’d been fine until now, but they’d reached the point where they were going to have to make the transition to the coop. They’d been kept outside in their cage during the day. They seemed to enjoy the outside, especially since the weather has been perfect lately. Yesterday, they mysteriously died in their cages. Don’t think it’s a bob cat, because they buffer zone my mom had created around the cage had not been moved or touched. The transition had been going on for a while and they hadn’t change their food. We have no idea what happened to them.

Well, so there goes that plan. Maybe one day we’ll be able to try fresh home-grown eggs. I don’t know if they’re going to try this again. We’ll see.

Eight Years and One Churrascaria Later

So, I try to post at least once a week but lately things have slipped by me. For better or worse, I’ve been quite the busy bee these days.

I can’t believe eight years have passed since my first year of college. I’d like to think it wasn’t long ago, especially since I don’t feel like I’ve done too much with my life since then. Maybe I’m exaggerating about that last part. April 18th marks an important day for me as it was the 8th anniversary since the boyfriend and I first held hands. Perhaps that’s overwhelmingly and disgustingly cute, but what can you expect from a dorm couple who’s still hanging in there? It gets weirder when I say that it was Chris’s roommate who declared that the day of our anniversary. It’s been a fun eight years and I hope for many more. But really, who wants to hear about that nonsense?

We celebrated this year at Espetus, a churrascaria (otherwise known as a Brazilian steakhouse). I’ve never gone to a churrascaria before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. In all honesty, I was expecting something along the lines of the smoky barbeque house of any all you can eat Korean barbeque joint. But alas, it was quite a different experience.

Espetus Appetizers

The meal started with an assortment of appetizers. We were presented with cheese bread, fried polenta, fried bananas, and empanadas. We devoured the empanadas. I tried not to eat too much of the cheese bread, but really, I couldn’t resist. Loved the fried bananas. Actually, the polenta was great too. I could have had a great meal just from these appetizers, but there was more.

Our next stop was the salad bar and buffett. I tried not to spend too much time there as I wanted to spend more time with the meat. However,  did try a Portugese sausage and pork dish and some basque salad.

But one doesn’t go to a churrascaria to eat buffet or appetizers. No, no, no. I have had my fair share of AYCE establishments from my aforementioned Korean roots. So while I did not think the task would be easy, I also thought the idea of sampling all of the meat selection would be too difficult. Hah. I surely had much to learn. In spite of the many breaks we took to catch our breath, we did not even make it through their entire selection. It is quite the experience. The food was wonderful, though. Although I was not disappointed with any of the meat I tried, my favorites were probably the pork loin and the sirloin steak. I also loved the grilled pineapple.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get great pictures of the key part of the meal. I have a few, but you’ll have to put up with my messy plate. But we’ll have to make do.

1. Chicken

2. Pork Loin

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On My Rotation

1. Plants v. Animals

2. Britney Spears

3. Twin Sister

4. Bombay Bicycle Club

5. Air

6. Caveman

7. The Wandas

8. tune yards