Gettin nerdy with it

December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

I used to be one of those tragic cases of human being who believed that to participate and get into whatever the social committees were up to wasn’t cool. I thought by not participating and not getting into anything requiring “spirit”, I kept my cool cred intact. I was wrong, as I’ve realized quite often lately.

That would be me at the bottom

You know what’s cool? Letting go of all that BS about being cool by being anti, putting the inhibitions aside, and saying “I had a freaking blast decorating my department for the office Christmas decoration contest.” I can’t remember having had that much fun at work, with my coworkers, ever. That’s why I love nerds. I love when someone can unabashedly throw themselves into something, be it stamp collecting, Star Wars, knitting, math jokes (my own personal brand of nerd-dom) whatever! Anyone who can fully immerse themselves in an activity or hobby, inform themselves of all the minutiae of their chosen interest, learn the lingo, and cite fun facts has become a card-carrying (sometimes literally) nerd, and they should celebrate the fact that they lead a passionate life that disconnected, anti-everything people do not. Life is too short to pretend you’re above letting loose and having fun. Screw the aloof act and get nerdy with it!

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Brunch Quest: Insomnia

December 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Has it ever happened to you that within a short span of time (a few days, a week or two) you hear people talking about one particular thing everywhere you go? That kind of thing always makes me wonder what the significance of this thing’s occurrences are in my life. Of course the cosmos isn’t always in on this type of ubiquity, it’s most often the 25th anniversary of an 80s classic (Back to the Future), or the 10th anniversary of a kooky Coen Brothers movie (The Big Lebowski). However Insomnia was a little different, as it’s a restaurant with a local following, not a multi-million dollar grossing movie celebrated in magazines with international distribution.

Brunch is a favorite of mine. It feels like my world slows down a bit when I’m at brunch. I like to try new things (as mentioned previously in this blog), and brunch is certainly no different. By that I mean I prefer going to different spots rather than being a regular at one or two, but it’s not like I haven’t made repeat performances in the past (School Bakery, Dr. Generosity). I’d love to say I’ve covered a healthy portion of Toronto’s brunch scene, but that would be a lie. I’m working toward it though!

So yeah, back to Insomnia. I had heard many good things said of Insomnia’s brunch (and apparently drinks, which I left for another time), and so, as I am wont to, I decided to head down this destined path, and try it out.

What I had: Eggs Isabelle (a variation on the classic eggs benedict with avocado spread – oh, and I requested the hollandaise on the side) with coffee and stolen toast from my friends T & S.

What I thought of it: YUMMY! The avocado spread was the perfect amount (not too goopy, not to thin), the eggs were poached as I like them, and hollandaise was ON THE SIDE. Nice. A feature my friends did not enjoy but I loved very much was that they tossed their potatoes in ketchup before roasting/sauteeing them. Result was a light ketchupy taste on all, without the bottle-slapping efforts.

Highlight: Lucas, our tiny host (he was four or five by my guess), presumably the owner’s son, showed us to our table, waited for us to sit down, handed us the menus, and ran over to the bar to sip from his tiny saucer. ADORABLE!

Wait time: None, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we arrived at 11:30 on a Saturday. We had to weed through the people lined up on our way out.

Brunch is rarely (if ever) not a success, and Insomnia didn’t disappoint. Next time, I’ll tackle the sweet section.

You say you want a resolution

December 4, 2010 § 1 Comment

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions often. The last one I made was to run a 5K in 2006. I fulfilled the ability to run 5K in 2009, and have yet to run a 5K race. I don’t believe in the whole “I want to lose 10 pounds after having stuffed my face over the holidays” thing … it just doesn’t work, and brings on a lot of guilt. Screw that. However, sometimes, your life needs a thesis statement. Something like a marker to keep you on track or change any bad habits you’ve adopted. I’ve made some resolutions throughout the year in the past, and stuck to them better than I would any made in a post-New-Year’s-celebration hangover. I think it has a lot to do with the date itself, and how society has adopted the idea of change beginning on January 1st. I myself have bought into this, so while I dislike it, I understand it as well. It’s like a cleaning of the slate. Back to square 1. That kind of thing. But who says you can’t do that on any arbitrarily picked date on the calendar?

Basing myself on this argument, here are a few of my resolutions pertaining to life in general.

1. When you say you will do something, go through with it.
2. Have faith.
3. Be less sarcastic.
4. Be less cynical.
5. Be patient.
6. Seek the positive in life.

Starting right… NOW!

Yoga and other drugs

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I don’t have an addictive personality where that term is typically used. I like to drink occasionally in social settings, and don’t have any use for illegal drugs, but that’s not to say I don’t get addicted to other things. My addictions just don’t run along those lines. I lose myself in other things, like the number 13 (and 313), my birthday, HBO shows, bread, jazz hands, amongst others. So when my curiosity got the better of me one summer night 9 years ago, it wasn’t unusual to see how a future yoga addiction came to be.

The first time was a little scary, but I went in and lay down in the dark, awaiting what would become one of the most awesome sensations ever. Most people go in thinking it’s all fun and high times, but they soon realize exactly what they’re getting into, as I did, when they’re sweating on the floor, standing up, balancing on one leg, and sitting cross legged. Capping the sweat session with ten minutes of relaxation, I opened my eyes to a rose-coloured world. I was on cloud 9, on a completely natural high. I suddenly understood why yogis seem to live life with a smile on their faces, complete with untamed hair and breathy speech. Smile on my face, I realized I had finally found MY workout. And I haven’t let it go since then. Untamed hair I’ve already got, breathy speech soon to come.

Naturally, I pushed my practice further, and it wasn’t long until I was introduced to inversions. Some I could do, others I failed time and again. Bakasana (or crane pose) was one of the latter. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it. I gave up on it as I am wont to do (I was a champion quitter when I was a kid), but it didn’t sit well with me that I couldn’t do it. So when my Ashtanga teacher mentioned she was holding a workshop on arm balances and inversions, I signed up, resolving to prove myself wrong. I could and would tackle this. I also got a taste of the high times when she helped me into a Salamba Sirsana (supported headstand). I was ready to view life upside down, balancing on my hands.

My friend D and I took the subway down to the studio. I was in a bad mood Saturday into Sunday morning, so I was hoping I’d get a good hit of my drug of choice. Class started, we warmed up, and then quickly got into technique. D helped me get into the supported headstand again, and there was my frown turned upside down. Litterally and figuratively. Bad mood vanished, we moved into a variety of inversions, with lots of hijinks that you can imagine accompany being on one’s hands (such as toppling sideways onto the floor, or landing on one’s knee – OUCH).

When we finally got to crane, I faced a familiar foe, slightly skeptical of my abilities. I lowered myself on my hands, tucked my knees into my armpits, and began to lean forward. “Do not look down, look in front of you,” my teacher said. I did, and suddenly there I was, balanced on my hands, knees on my triceps, feet in the air. What? I could barely believe myself until I heard my teacher congratulate me for getting it right. I plopped back down, and went for it again, and again, and again. I’d found a new layer of addiction within a well established one.

As is typical, I left the workshop totally high, 180° away from where I had started. There’s nothing like changing your perspective to shift out of your bad mood. Sometimes it’s a mental perspective change, other times you just gotta flip onto your head and stick those legs in the air. Or balance on your arms, whatever. Reaching the Holy Grail of my yoga practice was what I like to call A TOTAL QUEST SUCCESS!

The Room of Requirement

November 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve had a realization of late. It seems whenever I need something – a friendly chat, money, an epiphany – it has somehow become available to me. There have been times, especially the last few months, when I’ve needed a reason to be positive, and/or to get out of a funk, and suddenly my eyes catch onto articles discussing the exact issue I’m dealing with, a friend sends me an email of a cartoon that happens to have a message I should listen to. If you’ve looked up at the sky and asked the Universe to throw you a bone, a sign that you’re on the right path, or a push in the right direction, you’ve been where I’ve been. The best feeling in the world is when you really need that certain something and you get it. It might not be the exact destination you want to get to, but the road to your destination suddenly clears, allowing you to forge ahead confidently.

In honour of American Thanksgiving…

November 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

I am thankful for many things. My family and friends. My health. My ability to provide myself with the basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) and then some (travel). But on a day like today, at the tail end of a week filled with work issues with contractors, I have to stop and say thanks to the people I see most in my life: my coworkers and boss.

When I graduated from university 6 and a half years ago, I thought I’d get a cushy job in Dubai, learning the ropes in my field, and making a mint to bring home at the end of my 1-2 year-contract. I thought I’d move back home, buy myself a nice condo, have zero debt, and travel anywhere my heart desired. Of course I’d have another cushy job supporting myself so the money flow would be endless. Very little of my expectations had to do with the work I’d be doing to obtain all these goals.

Things didn’t turn out as I thought they would. Life lesson #1: nothing will turn out as you thought it would. Quote Conan O’Brien. My lavish expectations were swept under the rug as I had to deal with work. Life lesson #2: you will never get something without nothing. I started working in my field, learning the ropes, almost painfully slowly. Life lesson #3: you have to learn to walk before you learn to run. I tried not to make mistakes, but collided with them head on regardless. Life lesson #4: don’t try not to make mistakes, because you will make them anyway. Oh and let’s not forget Life lesson #5: if you thought you were the shit because you graduated from university, come back down to earth and have yourself a helping of humble pie, cause, my friend, you ain’t seen NOTHING yet.

That’s what I’ve learned in a nutshell. Post-graduation has been one learning experience after another. One glaring fact is that I’ve been extremely lucky where workplace is concerned. While learning the ropes, I could have fallen under the hands of a cruel boss (and from the stories I hear my friends tell, there are many), I could have dealt with competitive and backstabbing coworkers, in an environment that screams “every man/woman for him/herself!” But I didn’t. They have been there for me every step of the way, answering all my questions without rolling their eyes, offering me support when I needed it and even when I didn’t, and most importantly, allowing and encouraging me to grow. To each and every one of them, I say thank you. Thank you for checking my work. Thank you for being my cheerleaders. Thank you for calming my meltdowns. Incidentally, the last two apply to my family above all else. So what does that say about my 2nd family? Pretty awesome stuff.

Thank you for making my workplace a place of envy.

I remember it well…

November 12, 2010 § 1 Comment

I was standing in the cafeteria at my work, stirring some sugar into my coffee, as I do every morning. I was casually glancing around as I worked on stirring those sugar crystals into coffee oblivion, when my eyes fell on a basket by the cash register. Normally, this basket is filled with a variety of goodies meant to entice the junk food devil on your right shoulder, but today it was a sea of monochrome green Miss Vickie’s jalapeño chips. The junk food devil on my right shoulder, let’s call him Bocephus, whispered into my ear: “Wouldn’t you like a bag for the road? And perhaps one to accompany your healthy lunch? And another for an afternoon snack? I wonder if they’d give a discount if you bought the entire basket…” Before I could tell Bo to shut up, I was transported back in time, to a memory I hadn’t thought of in nearly as many years that had passed since it occurred.

It was 1999. I was in cegep. It was winter, because I remember it being dark out, and I never had classes past 5:30pm. A friend of mine, a boy, was hanging out with me as I sat doing my math homework. I left him there to get a snack, and discovered a new flavour of Miss Vickie’s chips at the vending machine: jalapeño. I got back to the table we were occupying and offered him some of my discovery. He took some and told me how jalapeño chips reminded him of his mom, because she would make them at home. I thought that was pretty cool, as I had no idea someone could think of jalapeño as a chip flavour (I wasn’t so… whatever the equivalent of worldly is in foodie circles). And then I remembered how that same friend had paid me to write an assignment for him (where I had the opportunity to read what would become one of my favorite books – Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto). And how we had gotten into an argument on the bus over a comment he had made that, at the time, I took offense to, but I can now see was openly flirtatious (I wasn’t so… whatever the equivalent of perceptive is in normal circles). It was like jumping from one memory lily pad to the next in a matter of seconds.

I came back to reality, unscathed by my time travel, not even a minute after having been transported back. Those sugar crystals were dissolved, but everything else was the same. As I walked back to my desk, I wondered how powerful associative memory can be. Oftentimes, a scent will trigger a specific person, a specific moment in time. Other times, a song, a place, a car, and in the case of deja vu, a “je ne sais quoi.” It amazed me the specific details that came to mind at the mere sight of a bag of Miss Vicki’s jalapeño chips. The amazing thing was that they are always around. It’s not like it was the first time I had seen them in the last 11 years. I had indulged in a bag just last week. But this morning was the first time I thought of that friend, that boy. I think the last time I had spoken to or thought of him was easily 8 years ago. What about this instance of Miss Vicki’s jalapeño chips bag sighting triggered the memory of him? I don’t know. But it was fun to reminisce. I wonder what he’s up to today…