Sunday, July 21, 2013

Upping the Tour de France Ante

Every July, I look forward to the Tour de France. I started watching the Tour de France about 10 years ago, I had heard about this amazing guy named Lance Armstrong and decided to see what the hype was all about. I quickly learned that the Tour de France is definitely the tip of the competitive international cycling iceberg; one could plan an entire year around the many different competitions. Some of the more popular races include the Giro d’Italia (May), the Vuelta a EspaƱa (September), and Tour Down Under (January).

I like how the direction and evolution filming bike races has advanced; the stage broadcasts alternate between a battalion of motorbike videographers, keeping pace along with the peloton, and helicopter filming, taking in sweeping countryside views of ancient chateaus, forest, farmland and villages. Another interesting phenomena that occur during the Tour de France is some of the field art created by devoted countrymen and farmers. These people go to tremendous lengths to create a large-scale depiction of something they want viewers of the Tour de France to see.

Of course it’s too bad about that whole Lance Armstrong thing. Watching that drama had it’s own sort of sad appeal to it, and like you, I watched the Oprah interview in disbelief. Believe it or not, the whole Lance debacle hasn’t deterred me from watching the tour and seeing how everything all plays out. I am, however, a little more skeptical now when someone does exceptionally well. Over time, I have also found myself scanning cycling articles year round to find out information about drug testing, doping and cover-ups by the organizations that manage competitive international cycling.

This year, like every year, I found the tour to be interesting and exciting. There were grueling mountain stages, sporadic rainstorms during treacherous downhill races, powerful sprints, massive accidents and painful injuries; strategic team attacks occurring over several hours and several kilometers. The areas that the different stages are scenic and majestic, and having never visited France, I feel like I’ve been there. I’ve received a 21-day history lesson from Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, dishing on both details behind the amazing landscape and details past and present about the cyclists who have participated in the Tour de France.

I thought it’d be funny if we upped the Tour de France ante and added some next-level appeal ala The Running Man to each stage. It’s be great if while cycling through the alps, the peloton also had to dodge projectiles that came from snipers in tree tops. Or maybe there were a bunch of AT-ATs and AT-STs set loose throughout the course, chasing and closing in on the cyclists racing to the finish. Another exciting scenario could be to insert a team of “bad guys” to try to affect the performance of the cyclists. I imagine the bad guy team to be wearing tattered leather Mad Max uniforms, and instead of power bars and bananas in their jersey pockets, they have tacks, grease, string, and other performance deterrents.

Imagine these two chasing after the peloton, hurling Molotov cocktails and screaming like a banshee. 

Imagine if the TdF had a stage where all the competitors had to drop acid and compete on BMX bikes.

Chris Froome from South Africa on Team Sky won the yellow jersey this year. I’m kind of indifferent about his win, I hope he isn’t on drugs but you never know. He seems to be pretty adamant that he is clean so I’m hoping for the best. I think there’s been a perpetual history of cyclists trying to figure out ways to get an undetectable advantage. I am pretty glad Alberto Contdor didn’t win; I do not particularly care for him. He placed 4th in the final standings. The winner I am very excited about in this year’s TdF is Nairo Quintana from Columbia, he ended up winning 2nd place overall, and he also won the Best Mountain Climber Jersey and the Best Young Rider (24 and under classification).  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Black Bean Corn Summer Salad!

It's been pretty warm here lately. I enjoy the warm weather, however, I have found that using my stove to prepare meals has a crazy way of superheating my apartment. As a result, I've become more creative and exploratory in the past month or so when it comes to mealtimes.

I was hungry shopping at Trader Joe's the other day and bought some fresh corn on a whim. After I got home, I decided I wanted to use it in a salad somehow. I thought about a delicious black bean corn salad featured in the New Seasons deli from time to time and was inspired to try to replicate it.

The result of my interpretation is below. This Black Bean Corn Summer Salad is an quick throw-together recipe that could you could easily add or subtract items to. I was able to get all of these ingredients at Trader Joe's but you could easily get the ingredients anywhere. To make the most delicious salad possible, be sure to use only fresh, high quality ingredients. You are what you eat!

Trader Joe's products are sourced from non-GMO ingredients. 

2 15-oz cans of black beans
3 ears of corn
1 red onion, chopped
a small bunch of cilantro, washed and leaves removed from the stems
1 or 2 avocados (your preference, both work well)
1 12-oz container of pico de gallo
2 or 3 limes
16 oz jar of your favorite salsa
salt and pepper to taste

You will also need:
a can opener
a strainer
2 large bowls
a large spoon
a small spoon
knife and cutting board
probably a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting about

1. Open and strain the 2 15-oz cans of black beans. Cook corn and then remove kernels from the cooked ears. Combine in a bowl.

2. Add diced onion and cilantro leaves. Dice avocado and add that too. Cut limes and half and squeeze lime juice over avocados.

3. Drain Pico De Gallo and add to bowl. Mix all ingredients thoroughly.

4. Add the jar of your favorite salsa and stir in.

5. Serve and eat! Refrigerate uneaten portion.

Fresh corn is awfully delicious in the summer. If you aren't sure how to cook corn, visit this link.

Mmmm corn!

Black Beans are high in protein and fiber.

De-corned corn.

Beans and corn.

The "Hot" part is wishful thinking.

Pre-avocado step.

The juice from the lime will help prevent the avocado from browning.

Added and ready to mix.

While we used this salsa, I'm sure any would suffice. I'd like to try this recipe again with mango or pineapple salsa. 

Salsa has been added to the salad.

Ta daa! Delicious non-cooked salad for those warm summer days. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

spontaneous yard sale

I live in a duplex. There are about 4 steps up to our front doors, and large covered concrete patio adorned with hanging and potted flowers. It’s usually pretty quiet around here; however, on this fateful Saturday things were different. When I opened my front door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There literally was a yard sale occurring on my porch! There were people sitting on the steps, they had belongings for sale arranged all over the steps and on the porch railings. They also had a rope strung across the two ornamental plum trees in my front yard area and on it several clothing items had been hung. They also had tarps on our front lawn that presented an array of household items, furniture and books. I was literally shocked as I surveyed this before my eyes.

I couldn’t believe I was looking at a yard sale set up on my porch and in my yard. This definitely wasn’t a project my duplex neighbor was involved in. The whole scene struck me as strange—I’ve come to expect a wide variety of weirdness living in Portlandia but this had to have taken the cake for weirdness that I’ve personally encountered. I remember thinking, “are these people having a yard sale on my porch??” I didn’t know what to say about this. I looked around at the many people right outside of my residence and did not recognize a single one. I just decided to move forth and get on with my day.

I had to gingerly step over people and items to get out of my apartment. As I was attempting to exit, one woman sitting on the steps eating takeout turned to me and enthusiastically said, “Hey, thanks for letting us use your porch for our sale!” That statement really caught me off guard and I replied, “um, your welcome, however, I am just now learning that you are using my porch and yard for a sale. Is it your sale?” the woman nervously looked around as she put the container she was eating from down. “Um, yes, it’s mine, her's and her’s,” pointing to two other women in the sea of people looking through a large random assortment of household items, furniture and clothing. I recognized one of the women she pointed at as Sanlinn Deserthymm, my older hippie neighbor who lives in the building next to mine. I’m not sure why Sanlinn decided to set up shop on my front porch and was curious to know what prompted her to do that. Sanlinn has nice open area visible from the street in front of her apartment and if I were her, that’s where I’d set up my spontaneous yard sale.

This is the neighbor's cat Jasper on my non-cluttered porch, as seen in other non-yard sale times.
Jasper, like many others in my neighborhood, seem to really like to use my porch. 
I was little annoyed about this but wanting to be a good sport, decided to look at all of the wares spread out on my property. I like a good yard sale so maybe there’s something interesting here. I immediately spotted a large mirror and inquired as to how much it was. “Oh, that one’s sold,” said the sheepish woman on my steps. Next I looked at a couple of dresses hanging on the rope between trees. “Um, sorry, those are sold too.” Jesus! Can’t I get a resident’s break? I start to browse around at the other items for sale and come across some interesting looking shoes that seemed to be my size. “Sorry again,” the woman on the steps said to me, “those are sold, we’re waiting for the person who wants them to come back and pay.” I was pretty done with yard sale shopping at this point, politely suggested she put “sold” stickers on stuff that was sold, and headed away on foot to run my errands.

When I came back a few hours later, the yard sale on my porch and property was still in full swing. The “sold” mirror, dresses and shoes were in the same places as when I left. I started to maneuver through the crowd to get to my residence when Sanlinn approached me. “Hey, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner about the yard sale, I’m sensing that you might be a little annoyed.” I thought it was pretty hippy passive of her to tell me that she “senses that I’m a little annoyed” right after her insincere apology, so I turned it around with a little bit of motivational interviewing. I asked why she thought I was annoyed and she replied because she has her 3 family yard sale set up on my property. I next asked her if she would be surprised if she opened her front door and there was a crowd there and she agreed. I asked why she didn’t set the show up in front her place and she said she thought my yard was a better spot. (At least she was honest). I asked her how long this sale was occurring and she said until 7. I expressed if she had asked me, I probably would have said yes anyway, and also might have some items of my own I wanted to sell. I could have helped promote their yard sale too; I have a vast network spanning different life activities. 

Sanlinn ended the conversation by thanking me for understanding. I guess it was nice she thanked me even though I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I thought later it would have been pretty funny to call the cops and tell them there’s a bunch of people stealing stuff from my front lawn. I wouldn’t have actually done that although I get a chuckle out of imagining the scenario with cops showing up and a bunch of old hippie ladies trying to explain themselves. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

suicides and shit food

There has been an alarming number of suicides lately, and as I’m typing “lately,” I’m thinking to myself that I can’t really isolate the time frame in which “lately” occurs. I was thinking the past year, but I feel like it’s an ongoing issue, almost part of normal existence. For example, these are some of the stories that made it to the headlines in the past year:

Some suicides that I’m aware of didn’t make the news and I wonder how something that significant could have been missed. There was a suicide in April from the top of the parking garage across the street from the building I work in. I don’t remember seeing anything at all about that, and as soon as it happened I started scanning the news and twitter for any hint of what had occurred...why someone felt compelled to end his or her life via a jump off of a parking structure. Something similar happened a couple weeks after this incident, only it was the parking structure about 3 blocks away.

I wonder if the rate of suicides around here is normal and I’m just noticing it more then usual, or if there’s an increase related to all of the socio-economic shit going on. While surfing around to satisfy my curiosity to this query, I found an interesting document entitled Suicides in Oregon: Trends and Risk Factors.

From the executive summary: “Suicide is one of Oregon’s most persistent yet largely preventable public health problems. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Oregonians ages 15-34, and the 8th leading cause of death among all Oregonians in 2010...”

Why is this happening? What is driving people to feel so hopeless and desperate that the only perceivable way out is to end their lives? It’s hard to understand what someone else is going through and I have trouble identifying with the desire to die. In 2010, a local shop owner and prominent community contributor Greg Klaus decided to take his own life after trying to live with painful depression. I remember reading a moving and intense article that talked about Greg, his legacy, his struggle with depression, and the friends and family he left behind. It made me feel numb and sad when I read this, and I also thought about all of the times I dropped into that shop to buy something. I remember talking to Greg on several occasions and thought he was really nice. We had many random and brief conversations about everything and nothing at all. His former store, Greg’s on Hawthorne still exists with the exception that the store name has been changed to Memento PDX

Could this high suicide rate be connected to environmental factors? Are the chemtrails finally penetrating our cellular processes? Are people’s brains are finally breaking down from the onslaught of pharmaceuticals and shit food they consume? How are we affected by food containing chemicals, GMOs and non-food fillers? It’s obvious that these substances do nothing to perpetuate life. I don’t understand why anyone who has had a basic biology course lacks this understanding. The human machine needs certain things to work—naturally occurring carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins. Variety is good, vitamins and minerals are good, and I think inherently most humans know that sweets and fried foods aren’t good for you, especially in large quantities. It’s important to support the building blocks that are responsible for creating organs, vascular and circulatory systems, and structural substances like bones and muscles.

Processed “Killer” Foods
About the 3:49 mark he references the “chemical cornucopia”

Think About What You Eat
A smart 7th grader put together this brief video about what’s really going on with fast food.

But I digress. Back to suicides--it’s been on my mind because I’m hyper aware of how many have been occurring downtown. I feel like they are underreported, the stories behind the circumstances that drove someone to end their life linger like a ghostly unanswered question.

I like how The Onion jumps on the suicide bandwagon:

Interesting they set the story in Portland. The funny thing about this is the whole PowerPoint angle. At least funny to me, probably offensive others but hey, fuck it, right? I don’t condone suicide but I also don’t feel that it’s my place to judge someone who is suicidal. I don't know what they are feeling and can't begin to identify with what they are going through. I do, however, have a natural inclination towards the preservation of our species. I also don’t want to see my fellow human in such a state of distress they feel the only solution is to cease to exist.