May 2008 Archives

The last few weeks I have been dreaming about spending time with my non existent dog.  I never really figured out what the "teeth falling out dreams" or the "no pants at school dreams" mean BUT I am pretty sure these mean I want a dog.  Like women start to yearn for a baby, I am really starting to want man's best friend.  Of course, with medical school schedules dominating my life for the next few years, it's not really possible.  But if it were, these are the five breeds I'd be considering:

1. Curly Coated Retriever- I have read that this English Hunting dog that has been around for hundreds of years is THE best family dog.  It's the smartest of the retriever breeds (one of the smartest dogs there is actually), very loving, and is said to truly become a part of the family.  It does require a lot of exercise and attention, but most dogs do.  This is the dog I'd get if I were picking one up today. More.


2. Labradoodle-
Nullus.  These dogs, a cross between Labrador Retrievers and Poodles, combine the paramount intelligence of a poodle and all american canine personality of the lab.  If you can get past the name, and the semi goofy look, these dogs are awesome.  Plus they don't keeping them in the house is no problem at all.  More


3. Bullmastiff- My parents have this dog.  Her name is Erma, and she is the best dog I have ever personally spent time with.  They love being around people.  They are protectors.  They are quiet.  And they are quite lazy, so they don't need quite as much exercise.  Only problems include heavy shedders, tendency to slobber, and their chewing prowess.  More.

st. bernard.jpg

4. St. Bernard- I actually don't know much about these dogs, but I LOVE big burly dogs, and this is THE big burly dog.  The first time I had ever seen one was this summer in Switzerland, and it was probably the coolest pet I have ever seen.  I'd have to be somewhere cold to actually get this dog, but remember, these dogs were used to rescue people trapped in snow and give them a hot drink which they wore around their necks.  More


5. The Komondor- Look at this dog...I don't feel like any more description is needed.
So over the weekend, adding stress to my medically stuffed brain, my freezer decided to give out.  I went for some ice cream, and it was completely liquified.  My landlord wasn't answering his phone, so I went to the messageboards to try and find a way to fix my freezer.  In the end, I used a hairdryer to thaw the vents that had frozen over, and all seemed well in the universe.  That night, my ice cream was frozen, the freezer was cold, and crisis seemed to have been averted.  Then the next morning, it had gotten worse.  EVERYTHING was melted, including all my ice.  The refrigerator was no longer cold.  We had to make an emergency run to the store to by ice and an ice chest to salvage our perishable food.  It was Sunday, so no repair man was available.  Basically, we spent a weekend without a freezer.  And it was awful.  Luckily, Pacific Beach is home to an OLD SCHOOL mom and pop appliance repair shop called Gormsen Appliance.  Monday morning, they sent over a repairman in full coveralls with his name, Russ, written in neat cursive on his "suit."  He arrived straight from 1950, and chatted me up as he replaced the thermostat, which had gone bad and caused the entire vent system to freeze over (I was on the right track with the hair dryer, just didn't have the equipment to fix it).  Anyway, an hour later, the freezer was up and running, and three hours later, I was eating twice frozen ice cream with massive ice crystals in it.  Anyway...while we were thawed, here are the five things I missed most.
1.Ice- The weirdest thing about Europe is their disdain for iced drinks.  I was in Berlin this summer, and ordered a coke at a movie theater.  It came in the same massive size that theaters in America have, only NO ICE.  And when I asked for ice, I was given a look of disgust instead.  Eventually, after minutes of explanation and barter, I managed to get 2 ice cubes for my 32 ounce soda, which melted almost immediately.  

When I moved to the beach this last year, I left a nice place with a nice kitchen.  And to this day I miss my dishwasher so much...however in my new place, my freezer has an automatic ice maker/dispenser.  This is the most valuable thing in my home.  Not having to bother filling and waiting for ice trays to freeze is worth millions to me.  So when I woke up cotton mouthed on Sunday morning and pushed my cup on the ice button, only to hear empty mechanical whining, I think I might have begun to cry.  I definitely became dehydrated over the ensuing hours, as I refuse to drink juices and water without ice.  Definitely the number one loss with regards to my thaw crisis.

2. It's Its- I must admit, the first time I tried these, it was around ALOT of hype.  And at first, I didn't get it...the texture just didn't work for me.  But I gave it another go, and another, and another, and now I AM HOOKED.  If you are not lucky enough to live in California and have access to these, its worth the trip by itself.  Vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies, frozen in a chocolate shell.  Trust I trusted others.  Incredible.

3. Individually Wrapped Tyson Chicken Breasts- I get these at costco.  A wonderful product. Usually...chicken breast is expensive, easily freezer burned, and get frozen stuck together and it is difficult to thaw one out for an individual meal.  For 16 dollars at costco, you get a ridiculous amount of these things, each one in its own plastic packaging, airtight to prevent freezer burn issues and sticking together.  Without the freezer, its daily grocery store if I want to make chicken, and its not like I can buy 1 breast at Vons.

4. Double Rainbow Ice Cream (vanilla). Okay...I know I already have an ice cream product on this list, but I eat a LOT of ice cream.  And since being introduced to this by a friend that I try to avoid admitting is correct at all times, I have given up Breyers (an old family favorite) for good.  This stuff, like the it's it, comes from the Bay area.  Here in San Diego, we can get it in large sizes at the trader joes, though I am not sure if that is the same for the East Coast.  I particularly enjoy putting loads of Milo powder, or Ovaltine powder all over it, makes it kind of like a milo mcflurry, only with good ice cream.   There are few times when I don't have this in my freezer.  It really is, simply the best there is.

5. Frozen Roti Canai- Roti Canai really is the best tasting snack in the entire world.  Unfortunately, as someone who's tried to learn from some of the best Kuala Lumpur Roti flippers, it is NOT easy to make.  99 Ranch sells frozen roti in packs of 5, for less than 2 dollars.  I generally eat them roti gula style, because I am not yet an ace with my curry.  Though sometimes I do hit up and indian restaurant for some dal, though it never really tastes like the dal from home.  I never have less than 5 packages in my freezer, which sucks, because when they thaw, the dough all sticks together and you are kind of screwed.  These do NOT refreeze well.  So off to Mira Mesa I am this week, to restock on roti.  

Lesson learned?  Maintain your freezer, and call Gormsen at the first sign of problems.

Twas the night before the state of West Virginia validates itself as a solid component of Hillary's remaining voter base.  That of course being white people who did not go to college (and are probably also racist and will end up voting Republican in the general election anyway).  Most of the Democratic voters are vestigal remnants from the days before Chuck Heston flew in to town and told them that the liberal sissies were going to take away their guns, force them to marry someone of the same sex, and then have free abortion clinics on every corner.  Unfortunately, many of the social stereotypes about West Virginia are based in some degree of truth.  And while its hard not to perceive some implied and outright criticism of West Virginians in my opening to this rant, I, like Bobby Huggins, truly do believe that the majority of folks from the mountain state are hardworking, genuine, reliable people that wave to you as they pass by, stop if you need a hand, and expect the same from their neighbors.  Unfortunately, the states economic troubles, rooted in fancy dressed folks from the Northeast   robbing the wealth from within the mountains from which the state draws its name and taking it back with them to Cape Cod, leave many of those great West Virginia folks without the infrastructure that affords them the opportunity to escape their stereotypes.  In fact, many of the West Virginians who do work hard to educate themselves end up heading to Charlotte, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh, following jobs that don't exist in their own state.  But while it might not offer the best job opportunities for college graduates, or a metropolitan scene to support a younger population, there are some things about West Virginia you just can't find anywhere else.  I'll give you 5.

1. The Pepperoni Roll- Arguably the most important offering the state has (and this is by all means a compliment to both the state and the food), the pepperoni roll is one of those mysteries of cuisine.  Why is In and Out Burger restricted to the west coast?  Why do bagels in New York taste so good, yet Mexican food there is so weak?  Why are east coast cheetos cheesy poofs entirely different than west coast cheetos cheesy poofs?  All mysteries.  Just is that of the limited dissemination of the Pepperoni Roll.  It's so simple, a well prepared white roll, stuffed with two 2 to 3 pieces of stick pepperoni.  Soft on the outside, grease soaked on the inside, this snack is perfect hot or cold.  To me, it's THE West Virginia food (many would argue that the "west virginia hot dog," about which is an entire cookbook that I own, owns this distinction, but to me its just not as unique).  And yet, no one believes me...until I prepare a batch for them.  Unfortunately, mine never come out as good as those from the bakery's surrounding the fairmont area in which I was born.  In fact, the pepperoni roll really loses its magic within an hours drive in any direction from that place.  In Charleston, where my father lives, you can buy them, but they aren't the same.  In fact, anywhere else you think you've found one, don't be fooled.  It's probably only "like fairmont guts".
2. Bridge Day- 364 days out of the year it is illegal to jump off the western hemisphere's largest steel arch bridge (1700' steel arch).  However, once a year, hundreds of thousands of BASE jumping nuts descend upon the new river gorge valley and jump off The New River Gorge Bridge, which also happens to be the second highest bridge in the country (876').  Bridge Day represents an interesting community of "part time" West Virginians that I hope will one day revitalize the states economy through promoting ecotourism.  While Bridge Day is the extreme of these extreme outdoor thrill seeker attractions in the state, the top notch mountains, white water rafting, forests, and fishing could serve as a selling point for the state, if it just did a better job managing and promoting it.  
3. Sports fan devotion-  Look at this guy.  He just says it all.  West Virginians live for their sports teams.  Be it WVU or Marshall, the lack of a pro sports franchise in the state doesn't stop mountain staters from being avid sports fans.  Quite the contrary.  I have more informed conversations regarding sports (of all kinds) when I am in West Virginia than anywhere else.  It might have something to do with the ridiculous amount of top tier athletes the state produces relative to its small size.  From Jerry West to Randy Moss, the state has produced more than its fair share of top athletes. In fact, Randy Moss and Jason Williams played on the high school basketball team(also with another teammate who played football at Notre Dame and eventually in the NFL) and did not win a state championship their senior season.  You can't say the same about OJ Mayo's Huntington High School team, which is arguably one of the best high school teams ever assembled, with Kentucky's Patrick Patterson and Oklahoma's Chris Early also from the team.  I would guess that their generation of kids from Huntington, WV (the small town where Marshall University is) probably is the most ridiculous concentration of talent to ever grace a small American town at once (when you also consider that Kansas State's Bill Walker is also from the town.  Anyway...I can talk WV sports forever, but in an effort to finish this post I'll end this number with OJ Mayo's high school career ending dunk. (set to explosions in the sky by some talented youtube film maker).
4. Senator Robert Byrd- To be honest, I really don't know too much about Senator Byrd, except that he is really really really old.  This guy is the most tenured fella in the senate by quite some time, and he did get really upset at how mike vick treated dogs.  He was once in the Klan (a very uncool fact that might have some relevance to the opening paragraph of this entry, though probably not much), and has been in congress since Eisenhower was president.    He has done a lot for his oft-forgotten homestate, and I am convinced that if he ever does stop moving, West Virginians will continue to elect him.
5. Top Quality Hip Hop- So after my first year in Malaysia in 1994, my older brother was kicked out of our house by my mom and stepfather, sentenced to a year of high school at South Charleston High School.  There he met Sam...who let's you know about the rabble razzlers in this urban tour of the West Virginia hip hop scene.  Only in WV does a rapper cooking crack whilst holding a baby make it into a music video.

I had a interesting conversation on the way to school today with one of my close friends with whom I share a lot of social ideals. However, it frustrated me to hear her argue against (and I am stretching and paraphrasing here) Barack Obama's "connection" with the American populace and disturbingly reiterating Hillary's (who, to my friend's credit, she supported from the beginning as the health care reformer candidate.  i agreed with her on that too, and at one point EARLY in this democratic primary process i couldn't have cared less whether it was obama or clinton, they were both great candidates.  read my earlier post on obama and you'll see clearly my stance has changed) new ignant republican, i know the good ole' white folks while obama doesn't argument.  It's what I considered her last ditch, completely ridiculous attempt to cling on to what 3 months ago was all but hers.  The presidency.  Now though, some politicians, and apparently my friend too, think Obama might not know what's up in this country enough to fix it.  She repeatedly was countering my frustrations with "but SOME americans maybe feel that way..." and by never really validating my arguments of general lunacy amongst Obama haters, I am scared to believe she might be in that "SOME americans" category.  Let me make something clear.  This person I'm writing about is really smart.  Smarter than me...very well read, and generally someone I consider to be a free thinker with her own ideas.  So for her to understand and empathize with some of the bullshit people are selling about Obama really bothers me.   Her two arguments to me were:
1. Obama grew up overseas, and while I (who grew up in Malaysia) may be able to relate to that, most Americans can't and that's a problem...

So...let me get this straight...a really really smart guy, who was editor of the Harvard Law Review, and has experience working with urban areas in Chicago, happened to grow up in Indonesia, a giant country with lots of instability and a majority muslim population that has not yet fallen into complete fundamentalism, and this is a PROBLEM??  Since when is perspective on global events and issues a problem for a job, part of the major requirements understanding and developing sensible, rational, and informed foreign policy.  I bet before Sieg Howdy became president, he couldn't even point out Indonesia on a map...and I bet if asked directly now, without the benefit of a press conference briefing, he couldn't name who their president is.  Its pitiful.   (I need to get to my list of five, so I am going to cut this rant off here). 

2. If Beirut was to tumble into a civil war (she through in the qualifier SOME americans might feel here) John McCain would be a better president for this situation.  Apparently her dad brought up this argument with her and she thought it was a good one...

...ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? The last thing we need in the middle east at this point is more military action.  Our military is's kind of like being in a really taxing relationship (Iraq) that your friend (bush) set up for that never really worked out for reasons that were quite obvious before hand...finally having the chance to get out of it (because you are tired, worn out and the relationship isn't going anywhere anyway, like our military in Iraq), then IMMEDIATELY (like in the upcoming election) going to another friend (Mccain) to ask to get setup with another awful relationship with a middle eastern girl (Iran, Lebanon, Syria...take your pick.  American Military presence is not going to fix anything there.  If anything, Obama's willingness to sit down with desperate, often crazy, leaders in the middle east might provide some insight into the kind of diplomacy and humanitarian efforts that might lead to some solutions in the middle east...and the empowering of people there that can overthrow the fundamentalist yahoos currently in power.

Anyway...enough politics.  I just had to get those rants out.  Now onto today's five...which relates to the above rants in the following way.  I believe that American life has maxed out in terms of our ridiculous average standard of living.  We live off giant amounts of credit (much of which, sleeping economic giant china is buying up, fueling their economic growth), the gap between the rich and poor is becoming immense, and STILL our average standard of living is higher than anywhere else in the maybe switzerland, monaco, and bermuda.  The problem though, is that our economic potential is dwindling from the roaring powerhouse that it was in the mid 20th century, to a slowly growing, self reliant machine that is powered by the service economy.  We are buying China's goods and resources now, not the other way around...and what we can sell to china, benefits those at the top.  So how will everyday white people without college educations (Hillary's support base) continue to live the good American life?  Flat screen tvs?  Cheap groceries?  Vacations to myrtle beach?  I don't know that they
can...unless people at the top start making some concessions, which is the HOPE obama might just bring to the office.  Anyway...without further ado...five luxuries that we as Americans take for granted and how life would suck without them.

1. The Supermarket- Do you ever walk into whole foods and think about what someone from from the British East India company would think if they could come to the future and do some shopping?  It would be like when Dave BeeThuven played the electronic piano at the San Dimas mall in Bill and Ted's Excellent adventure...only even crazier.  Here were these people, raping, pillaging and effectively destroying South East Asia's potential for regular modern development, all so British people could have tea and spices.  For me?  I just need to go to the grocery store.  I don't need to send seven warring ships on month long journeys across the sea in hope that they can secure me some palm oil.  It's in aisle 7!  And it doesn't cost all that much either.  The availability of food in this country is so taken for granted...that I regularly cook up a dinner with multiple types of meat...can't finish it all and throw it away.  And its crazy, cause in many parts of the world...meat is a once a month treat.  In many parts of the world (all of Africa, the middle east, south asia and more recently east Asia) food is not as easy to come by as a "hey...doritos are two bags for four dollars today!"  In those places food is a limiting factor of economic growth and productivity...
We wonder where terrorists come from as we drink fresh orange juice (at a fraction of our earnings), and munch on healthy snacks from Trader Joes (at an even smaller fraction of our earnings).  Terrorists come from places where people spend ALL their earnings failing to pay back debt to relief agencies like the world back who provide just enough food for them to not starve to death.  Well...if we don't change our ways soon...we might be paying a little bit more for our western bacon cheeseburger (i mean, how spoiled are we when we call 911 because we can't get our order at burger king).  People are greedy by nature...and places like India and China, with a much cheaper, hungrier, larger and more hardworking workforce will surely outcompete us for the worlds growing economic pie.  Surely, our standard of living will continue to rise with that of the rest of the world...just not at the rate of other countries...whose standard might even surpass ours...a prospect I am not so sure many Americans are ready for.

2. Tivo. Seriously, this is the most awesome invention since the internets (see number 3).  Do you remember trying to figure out how to program a vcr to tape shows?  I think my uncle still does it...but TIVO has really made the VCR entirely obsolete.  In's kind of made tv advertising obsolete.  So as productions companies and advertisers drastically try to figure out a new way to sell us there junk, we sit back and effectively steal their programming.  It's really quite incredible...for the price of "free" if you don't have cable, and 30 bucks a month if you have basic, you get access to commercial free programming.  Whenever you want.  Whatever you want.  It's enabling us to sift through the giant beach of awful American programming for that which is useful to the individual person...without hearing about the cleaning benefits of the SHAMWOW in between. 

3. Internet Access.  While farmers in Kenya are just now able to access affordable mobile phone service, I can watch TV streamed from my tivo box, over the internet from my slingbox, on my cell phone in the VONS by my house, which offers free wifi, all while looking up a recipe on the internet from, and then using the benefits outlined in (1.) to buy all the meats (processed as necessary), spices, and whatever the hell else is necessary, to make dinner...for under 10 dollars.  Anyone else think that's the good life?  Economic recession maybe...but overextension of luxuries afforded to us by our American citizenship...definitely.

4. Our Military. If I agree with the "new" Hillary Clinton on's that if we wanted to...we could absolutely obliterate Iran.   If we wanted to, we could pave it.  We could put up al Disney, and put a starbucks on every corner (though I wouldn't be surprised if every corner of Tehran didn't have one already.  And if we did...I bet people would hate us more...but I bet no one would stop us.  We still have the greatest military force on the planet...both in training and technology.  And unlike in the 70's we have it on a volunteer basis!  I didn't have to fear getting drafted when making the decision to go to medical school.  One of my old high school friends from Korea left this on my facebook wall the other day...

"Ben!!! how are u?
I'm back in Korea! I was in the Korean army for a while and I got discharged not long ago.
Army sucked.. If you're thinking that Korean Army is somewhat similar to the US Army, u're so wrong!
anyways take care and stay in touch~!!!"

I wrote him back telling him I'm glad I was never in the Korean army, but also glad I never had to join the American military.  The thing is, as the larger countries get richer, their training, and technology will catch up to ours.  Their armies are already larger, and our enlisted soldier numbers are decreasing. (the volunteers that our becoming harder and harder to come by, while we have too many officers, which many military branches had to LET GO despite the fact that we were in a war).  If we are to keep those numbers up, and continue to grow and keep a safe distance ahead of these developing nations, we need to make the military a more attractive place to work...i.e. not send them to pointless wars where they have to police poor, frustrated, innocent people.  Or...I guess we could step backwards and call for a draft again?

5.Cheap Gas. I'm a poor student.  Paying 4 dollars for gas sucks, especially since in my lifetime it was less than a dollar.  But to be honest, I am okay with it.  Making gas is expensive.  You have to get it out from the earth, in some places out from miles of ocean AND earth, THEN refine it.  Then ship it to gas stations....paying middle men each step along the way.  When you think of it that way, it's amazing that the scumbags that work for Exxon, shell, texaco and whatever other texas base organization of saavy heartless business men could EVER sell us gas at under a dollar a gallon and still make ridiculous fortunes for themselves.  You see, in order for them to do that, someone had to get screwed...and for the longest was the arabs.  They had the product, we had the demand, so the texans underpaid for it (which made a select few arabs VERY rich, and the rest of the middle east VERY poor and oppressed, in the process creating a sea monkey tank full of t'rrsts).  NOW though, the demand for the black gold is higher.  The Chinese want it.  The Indians want it.  The price goes up...simple economics.  So these scumbag texans sell it for more...which the Chinese and Indians can now afford with their growing economies, and our price goes up.  And Hillary Clinton becomes Sieg Howdy like and offers us 20 dollars of relief for the summer.  Sorry America.  99 cent gas was never gonna last.  If we want something to be cheap again, we should do ourselves a favor, invent something new, make it cheap for ourselves, then rape the rest of the world selling it.  Unfortunately though, I kind of need a western bacon cheeseburger right now, and my truck only takes gasoline. 

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