Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Today, I am actually sitting down at my desk as I write this, not in my usual (and coincidentally adjacent to my food pantry) locale on the kitchen countertop. This is not by choice, unfortunately, as I must remain near enough my phone jack and modem that the telephone wire can reach my laptop.

Therein lies the problem. I am without wireless internet. Just as the way phone lines went from rotary landlines, to cordless, to the younger generation eschewing a landline for strictly cell access, I have not been hard-wired to the internet in years. And it is decidedly unsettling.

For the last few weeks I have woken up each morning, and as part of my routine, attempted to check my e-mail, facebook, fantasy baseball roster, and local news headlines only to be rebuffed. My immediate reaction is disbelief: if I just wait another minute it will load. And when it dawns on me (literally after ten minutes) that I may not be able to connect, I have a panic attack.

Nevermind that I can connect to the internet by walking over to the modem, plugging it in, and going through the process of restarting my laptop (which perhaps is the only “process” I can complete with the press of the power button). I freak out anyways. What? How will I know what Ashton Kutcher is twittering about today? How many facebook friends will compose eloquent status updates that I will NEVER read. Oh the humanity.

Honestly, I don’t completely attribute my daily breakdown to an addiction to modern technology (spoken just like an addict), but rather a break in my delicately constructed routine. E-mail comes before sipping coffee, but not before brushing my teeth and perhaps putting some oatmeal in the microwave.

Nonetheless, I found my desperate attempts to connect to wireless internet unnerving. Why was knowing how many doubles my fantasy baseball team essential to my daily existence? I am not sure, but I became acutely aware that it clearly was. In fact, I am sure I have showed up late to work on multiple occasions because I was checking some local headline that I found interesting (and coincidentally finishing my bowl of cereal because I get downright fierce in the morning if I lack sustenance).

The opposite, however, has occurred now that I have completely given up on my spotty wireless router and plugged directly in to the internet. When I leave this desk area, I am free of all the mindless facebook/e-mail/twitter checks that I do without even realizing it (a recent NY Times article stated: “Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour,”. Yeah, maybe if they haven’t become enraptured with spider solitaire for the morning. That same article also discussed the brain’s addiction to dopamine. An interesting read:

I discovered that it was nice to be able to focus on one thing at a time. And not just the seemingly obvious things like accomplishing more reading while not sitting next to a computer. Last night I watched The Big Lebowski straight through for the first time ever and it vaulted up the list of my favorite movies. I never would have caught the subtle dialogue which makes the movie if I was half invested in reading a New York Times article online (maybe not the greatest point, but you catch my drift).

I am not sure if I have actually been more productive with my time, but I have surely spent less time with a computer in front of my face. Which also makes the time when I sit down to my computer all the more focused (hence the recent spike in blog posts. Also coinciding with the end of the academic year, but still). Anyhow, in the span of a few weeks I went from being absolutely panicked about not being able to use Wikipedia in every room of my house, to being absolutely comforted by the confinement of my computer to the corner. The beast is in its cage. Until I get a new router, at least.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I love Ike

My left arm is about three shades darker than my right these days. That of course, is and indirect consequence of my automobile lacking air conditioning and my penchant for allowing my forearm to enjoy the sunlight and rushing air.

I have been fortunate enough to take road trips each of these last two weekends and I am always amazed by the experience. By a simple change of location, and especially in the sort of purgatory between locations (the Eisenhower interstate system) my preferences seem to change.

For example, while normally I abhor Rascal Flats and their minions of poppishly-horrible cowboy crooning, while I am driving through the open fields of Ohio, I absolutely crave some Josh Turner or Deirks Bentley (note: if you don’t know who those two are, I commend you, and I am a little surprised I can tell them apart now).

I also partake in the recent phenomenon of massive cans of re-branded soft drinks known as “energy drinks.” Whoever the marketing whiz is that took Mountain Dew and said “we can make a worse tasting, worse looking, incredibly more expensive beverage only we will sell it in large cans so you can’t see what you are drinking” is a genius (although not as smart as the 5-hour energy guy who decided to make commercials that look like infomercials and go the exact opposite route: sell their energy drink in tiny bottles).

Nonetheless, when on the road and stopping for gas, I remember I felt a little fatigued and the desire to pound 24-ounces of high fructose, carbonated B-vitamin goodness is unquenchable. And thus, I quench it. This past weekend, I set a new personal best by consuming 3 drinks in two days while each time justifying the increased cost by neglecting to eat a complementary meal (thus, much like ethanol, enhancing whatever beneficial and unfortunate effects the beverage would have on me).

From the sounds of the above, it would seem as if I did not enjoy these road trips. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I absolutely love them. I discovered in high school that I could take a day off academics, fill-up on gas and a guilty pleasure (I believe peachie-Os were my high school decadence of choice), and head out to some random college for an interview, tour, and maybe, if I was lucky to have some football coach who did not know my name blow smoke up my rear for twenty minutes. I have been addicted road trips since.

Of course, amazingly, whenever arriving at the destination, or back at home at the end of the trip, there is an amazing sense of fatigue and accomplishment (only one of which can be attributed to the aforementioned Taurine-enhanced beverages). And after a few hours of literally sitting on my tail, I feel as if I need a day and half to recover.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Confession: I am devotedly following the World Cup

Go ahead, call me a Euro-lover: I have become a soccer-watching fiend (quick aside: that sentence was spontaneous but reminds me of my favorite palindrome: "go hang a salami: I am a lasagna hog." Try not double-checking that by reading it backwards. Ten bucks you can't. Second note: long asides like these make me really wish blogger allowed footnotes. That is all. Back to the blog) So much so, that on this day, essentially my second day of vacation (I have to take one more test in a few hours), I find myself waking up by seven-thirty so I can catch the first World Cup match of the day. Which is between Serbia and Germany. Which, given a map of Europe, I think that I would fail miserably at identifying one of those two (because U.S. Americans tend to struggle with geography. And complete sentences).

I am not going to give credit solely to a newfound appeal of the game, but a perfect alignment of the stars between a loosening of my schedule and a plethora of soccer to watch. Just four years ago, I tried to get into the Cup but found the incessant dives and whining players intolerable.

Now, however, I am able to look past those marked flaws in soccer (I think the biggest barrier for most male sports fans to commit to the game). I now recognize that an NBA game provides nearly as much complaining and diving (which I could note is corresponding to an influx of European players, but Rasheed Wallace provides enough of a counterpoint to that argument).

I don’t plan on feigning an interest in the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew after this experience, but I will probably commit to catching as many World Cup matches as I can in four years as well (which is quite a commitment because in order to watch a full soccer match one must prepare to pay attention for 90-plus minutes for three seconds of excitement). Much like the Olympics, I love the continuous nature of the event and am partial to events I can remain engaged in for extended time periods (this is also the reason I enjoy having four-day golf tournaments on in the background).

However, I will stop short of blind soccer passion. I will never submit to using the term football to mean anything else than the sport Barry Sanders played throughout my youth. I especially won’t say futball like a jack-ass and act indignant because “that’s what the rest of the world calls it.” Congratulations, you are in America. And I won’t tolerate the argument that “its what it should be called because its played with your foot.” I think we all should be beyond Piaget’s concrete stage of reasoning by 11 years old (note: if I was having this argument with a second grader, then I could let it slide). By that logic you should have a panic attack every time you pull into a stop on a driveway or pull out onto a park-way. Not that I am bitter.

So therein lies the rub. As much as I am enjoying this years World Cup, I think the primary reason is because I am enjoying it with casual fans, not the hyper-defensive I-wish-I-was-a-European-so-then-I-wouldn’t-look-so-goofy-in-these-pointy-diesel-canvas-shoes type individuals. And as a casual fan, this years World Cup matches have been a joy to watch. All ninety minutes of them.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No, I don't want no scrubs . . . pants at least.

I wore dress pants today. Normally, I wouldn’t really notice such as thing, but as I have been pretty much exclusively wearing scrubs for the workday the last five months, everything felt foreign. I originally thought I had incorrectly buttoned my top button before tying my tie because it felt so tight. And upon actually buttoning it, I began to get the claustrophobic hyperventilating feeling that I remember having as a six year-old forced to wear a clip-on.

However, the other new article of clothing proved to be surprisingly pleasant. I had forgotten that some varieties of dress pants are surprisingly comfortable. I may be exaggerating the effect since I have been used to wearing hospital scrub pants that I believe are made from burlap exported from the USSR in the cold war era.

These specific pants (someone please tell me why I have to pluralize this sentence) were extremely lightweight and (dare I say) felt flowing. Never have a I worn a pair of jeans and thought, man these jeans are so comfortable, I could forget I am wearing them. In fact, I think jeans may derive some of their comfort by making you always aware of their presence (whereas sweatpants derive their comfort by making you feel like you are wearing a pillow . . . also pleasant).

Part of the issue is that apparently dress pants can be made incredibly thin. It seems counter-intuitive, but they are not able to make jeans that thin. Unless, of course, they are the Old Navy variety, in which case those jeans have a shelf life for me of about 6 months. Month one is thin and comfortable. In month two they begin to feature holes so that they look as if I purchased them off the rack at Hollister or its partner in crime Abercrombie and Fitch. In month three, they begin to have a sort of thinning feeling so that I move slowly and gingerly as if to not expose the jeans to too much stretch. In month four I realize that anything I put in my pockets somehow travel down my pantleg and into my shoe. And inevitably I try not to wear them for month five and in month six I rediscover them and think “oh man, I forgot about these jeans.” Then I wear them, proceed to attempt to change a tire or something of the like and as my fruit loops boxer shorts are exposed to the world, I remember why I had put them in the back of the closet. Yet, I digress . . . rapidly.

The fact is that dress pants are paradoxically comfortable at times. Which almost makes it unfortunate that any sort of associated article of clothing is decidedly uncomfortable. Also unfortunate is that any comfortable article of clothing (tennis shoes, tee shirts, baseball caps, flip flops) look decidedly ridiculous in association with dress pants.

And so, I suppose the lesson for me today is that when I am breathing into a paper bag because my necktie decided to adhere to my adam’s apple, I can take solace in the fact that “hey, these pants are so comfortable I could forget I am even wearing them.” Let’s just hope I don’t pull an “emperor’s new clothes” and actually forget anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yuppies and Unami -- Discovering Thai (food)

Besides pizza, I have also been on a recent kick with Thai food. And when I say recent kick, I mean I hadn’t tried Thai food until the summer of 2008 and I have been loving it ever since. I had been trying to fight the yuppie food craze and found myself accepting an invitation to eat out because I was spending the summer in a new city and wanted to be social.

I got more than I bargained for that night. First, I experienced a delicious Pad Thai entrée. Then I found out the Gin Blossoms were playing a free concert in a local casino (which turned out to be a massive pull-barn with a ridiculous amount of Slot Machines . . . I guess the Gin Blossoms weren’t kidding when they said they’d follow you down). Besides enjoying a throwback to some fine 1990s rock, I also spent the entire night as if I had just discovered a new taste bud.

Flash forward to my first year of medical school and I realized that there is actually a new taste bud. Beyond the traditional bitter, sweet, salty, and sour, scientists had recently discovered a fifth taste known as unami. Unami has been roughly translated to mean savoriness or deliciousness and is trigged by amino acids such as glutamate (the base amino acid for MSG). According to our friends at wikipedia “Savoriness is considered a fundamental taste in Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean cooking,” (that was the first time I quoted wikipedia in my writing, and I feel dirty . . . I think I need to shower).

Apparently, the Chinese restaurant I grew up frequenting wasn’t hitting the MSG-spot like Thai food did. Because I was surely utilizing my unami receptor to its full extent while eating Thai food. Apparently, I occasionally lit up the unami light with dishes with parmesan and even beef can light it up. Salt, of course, increases the sensation of the unami which sort of explains why salt on steak (containing glutamate) enhances its deliciousness. And how.

Scientific research aside, I felt as if I had been cheated out of 24 years of eating Thai food. Now, I find myself making up for lost time and getting in line behind all the other yuppies to consume the deliciousness.

Oh, and by the way, you could pretty much say the same thing about my experience with sushi except that I have been able to resist it just a tad more thanks to its enhanced yuppiness. However, I do have to hand it to the yuppies, they sure have great unami sensors.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How to eat out and not end up with egg on your face

A few weeks ago, I went to Supino’s pizzeria, a sort of carry-out pizza place with a small dining room barely capable of accommodating double digit numbers of diners. The quaint institution is nestled into a strip of multi-colored storefronts in the southeast corner of Eastern Market. After the Detroit News listed it as their best pizza in Detroit, I made it the destination for one of my traditional pre-test pizzas with my buddy.

Over the next year I made a habit of frequenting the pizzeria as much as my budget and metabolism would allow (both of which I sort of over-extended myself, literally and figuratively). However, it wasn’t until just a few months ago that I strayed from the traditional Red Pizza into the White Pizza domain. Despite appearances to the contrary, the red pizza was in no way associated with a hammer and sickle and the white was not associated with any sort of racial propaganda. The Red was not a nod to Moa Tse-Tung, but rather merely distinguished itself from the White by containing sauce (which I incorrectly called marina sauce, much to the owner’s chagrin on one occasion).

Before experiencing the White Pizza, I thought it was merely a clever ploy by the proprietor to snooker paying customers into ordering pizzas which would allow the cache of tomatoes to last longer. However, after eating one of the white variety, I realized that the absence of sauce allowed for more of the crust, cheese, and toppings flavor to exert themselves.

A month or so after my first experience with the White I returned to Eastern Market’s finest pizzeria and again wanted to experience something special. I attempted to try the Bismark, mainly because it featured an egg, which is always a huge selling point for me (I frequently find myself ordering the gimmicky burger because it has an egg on top, even though I have been repeatedly disappointed by this combination. I guess I am a glutton for punishment. . . or just a glutton). Soon, the restaurants crack wait staff (read: the cashier who will bring you your pizza if it seems he likes you) informed me that the owner forgot to buy eggs and so I would have to change my order.

I chose not to point out the irony that we were eating in the location of the city’s fine farmer’s market (and essentially the only convenient place for me to buy groceries), and merely returned my eyes to the menu. I was reminded of the rich deliciousness of the White Pizza variety and decided to indulge my mushroom craving. I ordered a Vedure I Funghi pizza despite the unfortunate apparent Italian word for mushroom (not that mushroom is a particularly appetizing name, I just don’t enjoy being reminded that my pizza topping is in the same family as my athletes foot).

At this point, I must digress and inform you of the other internal battle I face whenever ordering health foods such as pizza and a burger: the build-your-own option. I can’t deny the fact that every time I get the chance to craft my own toppings, the idea of combining barbecue sauce, onion rings, and a slice of ham on top of my burger almost proves too much to resist. However, much like the egg fiasco I find myself in, the burgers/pizzas I craft, are never as good as the ones that I stumble upon by sticking with the menu.

Through eating the Vedure I Funghi, which was divine, I was reminded that the guy who owns the pizzeria might know what he is doing. That is, the flavor combination was so incredible, I forgot my former grudge against extending his vegetable supply. Furthermore, I did not even flinch at the fact that the one potentially healthy ingredient of the pizza was conspicuously absent (which may have in fact enhanced its deliciousness).

And so, while I am always amazed to find how good the pizza at Supinos is, I found myself more committed to letting the professionals handle their business. It reminded me of a classic scene in a Queen Latifah movie I saw on TNT while at my parents house one evening (Yeah, so I watched Last Holiday. Sue me. Also, Queen Latifah is one of my secret and weird celebrity crushes. Deal with it). In the movie, a series of snobs order at a fancy restaurant by listing their chosen entrée and then butchering it, much to the chefs dismay, with restrictions on ingredients to leave out. Then of course, QL orders up the special just the way the chef designed it.

Point being, I can pick which ingredients to put in my fajitas when I make them at home. But when I head out to any of the hundreds of independent Mi Pueblo restaurants, I should probably trust the chef to pick the ingredients. Besides, if the meal stinks, better being able to blame someone else than have to fork over a la carte fees for your own unfortunate experimental concoctions.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tradition . . . Tradition!

So lately I’ve developed the desire for more routine in my life. And, while I haven’t succeeded in accomplishing routine, I have set out some potential routines, which is just as good. For each week night, I have an essential food item (because food should be at the core of all scheduling decisions).

It started with a spur of the moment trip to Mexicantown in Detroit for Tacos Al Pastor at Los Altos (translation: delicious pork tacos at a legit Mexican restaurant). Thus, Taco Tuesdays were born. So far I am batting 50% for getting tacos on taco Tuesday (a pretty good ratio). I have been craving Thai food the last few weeks, so Wednesdays became Sala Thai Hump Day.

Today I drove by the famous Nemo’s bar next to the former site of Tiger Stadium and made a spur of the moment decision to make Thursdays “Old School Burger Thursdays.” And since I had the delicious, incredible, lightning-fast Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready pepperoni pizza on Mondays, I think I’ll pencil “Cheap Pizza Manic Mondays” into my agenda.

Now, if I ate my entire schedule, each week, I’d probably balloon up to match my personal record for body weight in my senior year of high school (I weighed in at a cool 240 thanks to a sedentary lifestyle and a ridiculous affinity for S’mores. No really.) However, I now have the knowledge that if I want to eat Thai food on Wednedsay, I immediately have justification: you can’t not eat Pad Thai Chicken on Sala Thai Hump Day!

And also, if I want to eat out on a weeknight, no longer do I have to hem-and-haw about what would be the best option. It’s Thursday, and my fridge is empty? Shoot, time for a burger from Cutters. Don’t feel like Cutters? Well Anchor Bar has been around the block, they still count. Sorry Five Guys, I love your delicious peanut oil-saturated ground beef heaven . . . but you’re a bit too new school for old school Thursdays. Maybe I can pencil you in as a weekend alternate.