Monday, July 21, 2014

How I feel when I see cheerful emails reminding me that the school year is starting soon

Friday, July 18, 2014

From living apart to living together: the readjustment period couples in long-distance relationships have to go through

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Couples in long-distance relationships have to go through another adjustment period after being apart for so long. For me and MOTL, our experiences living together again provide tons of comedic material.

MOTL is exacting and thorough when it comes to schedules and plans, I am perhaps more laissez faire and am prone to making statements about how time is a colonial construct (I am obviously kidding - or am I?). He is more introverted, I am more extroverted. He pays attention to the smaller details, I look at the bigger picture.

Together, we’ve managed to reach equilibrium.  For example, rather than him going to an event ten minutes early and me going ten minutes late, we now arrive on time. Rather than him getting to the airport four hours before departure and me arriving an hour and a half beforehand, we get there with two hours to spare.  Rather than him spending most of his free time watching Star Trek and me going out every single night, we have nights when we stay in and nights when we go out. I like to say that we balance each other out…

…Except, when living apart, what happens is that we revert back to our natural tendencies. And so, when we live together again, it takes a few days to get the balance back.

This meant that the first few days when we were cohabiting again were in equal parts frustrating and funny. 

Take, for instance, the ‘cheesecake’ debacle. That evening, MOTL and I agreed to go to the Old Nick, our local pub, for nachos and beer. We agreed that we’d do this then head back home to hang out. After the meal, though, I suddenly was hit by a gluttonous desire for cheesecake.  

"Let’s go to 7 Numbers so I can get cheesecake to go," I said.

MOTL looked at me blankly. “What? Seriously?”

I looked at him, equally perplexed. “…yes…I want cheesecake.”

"…Ok…," he said, clearly looking twitchy. 

I found out later that MOTL was getting twitchy because getting cheesecake wasn’t part of our plan and, moreover, he had classified 7 Numbers in his head as a sit-down restaurant where you didn’t just order dessert to go (unlike, say, a bakery).  For me, it wasn’t a big deal.  Even if they didn’t normally sell cheesecake to go, I’m paying them for it, so why not go? Also, sure, it wasn’t part of our plan, but plans change every day. And we had nothing else to do that evening.

Take, as another example of our differing temperaments, the ‘lost TTC token’ incident.

The two of us were eating at an all-you-can-eat hotpot restaurant in Chinatown. I was getting food-drunk, which meant I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around me.  I was happy and full and was in such a state of complete bliss that had Hugh Jackman appeared behind me dressed as Wolverine while singing songs from Les Miz, I wouldn’t have noticed. When it was time to go, I methodically took out my wallet, set my transit token on the table, put my wallet back inside my bag, then stood up to go. 

What did I do? In the two minutes it took me to take out my transit token, put my wallet away, and walk to the door, I lost the transit token. While MOTL tried hard to be patient, I then spent five minutes looking inside my bag for the errant token, then another five minutes crawling under the table searching for it.  Suffice it to say that I was probably not his favourite person that moment.

I am normally not this scatty, and MOTL is normally not this anal, but after living apart, we go back to the way we usually behave. Old habits resurface. When I am in Edmonton and MOTL is in Toronto, MOTL becomes more reclusive than usual. I find my head becoming even more entrenched in the clouds as usual and notice that I lose more things. In short, the equilibrium we both have when we’re together gets lost.

Anyone else in long distance relationships who’ve experienced the same tendencies?  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How I feel when I see ads for tenure track jobs

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And so it begins: summer is officially over when TT job ads ever-so-slowly start popping up in the various list-serves that I am in. 

Silver lining: at least there are still TT jobs available. In a few years, they’ll be as rare as…well…tenure.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Conversations with people in my hood: debunking the perception that Toronto “lacks community”

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One of the most common misperceptions people have about life in the big city is that it lacks a sense of community. “People in Toronto aren’t friendly. They don’t talk to each other,” I’ve had certain folks say to me when they find out that I’m from Toronto. And though I agree that perhaps Torontonians aren’t prone to small talk and don’t really knock on each other’s doors to say hello - heck, I’m an extrovert and I abhor both of these - the argument that there is no sense of community in Toronto is completely false.

In my little slice of Toronto in the Danforth, I’ve come to know and enjoy the company of people who I meet in coffee shops, restaurants, and small business establishments like dry-cleaners and yoga studios. Although we may not know each other’s names, we have a passing familiarity with each other, enough that we nod at each other in recognition.  

Today was one of those quintessentially Toronto days when I feel that there is truly a sense of community in my hood.  Take, for instance, the following encounter at my local dry cleaners.  There I was, waiting for my turn, when the acerbic and funny owner of the dry cleaning shop close to my house had to deal with the flakiest customer on the planet.  

Flaky customer: So, like, I know I dropped something off but I don’t have the receipt and I can’t even remember what it was - I just know I did.

Acerbic and Funny Owner: Do you know if it’s a dress?  A shirt?  What is it? And when did you drop it off?

FC: Um. I mean, I couldn’t find my favourite tank top today, so maybe that’s it? Or maybe it’s a dress? I may have dropped it off in late June.  Or maybe last week. I don’t know.

A&FO: Ok. Do you know the colour at least?

FC: No.

A&FO: Fine. Just write your name down and I will go through our clothes at the back and look for it.

FC (brightly): Ok!

A&FO: Don’t forget this conversation.

When FC left, the two of us exchanged a pointed glance that expressed exactly what we were both thinking.  While waiting for her to retrieve my dry-cleaning, a report on TV showed our beleaguered mayor, Rob Ford. 

Me: Ugh. Not again.

A&FO: I am so sick of that man. But I am also sick of the media reporting everything he does. Just stop already. Isn’t there better news to cover?

Me: Yeah, exactly. Just put him out of power.

A&FO: I know.

Me: So who do you think you’ll be supporting for mayor?

A&FO: I like Jack Layton, not sure about his wife, Olivia. 

Me: So maybe John Tory?

A&FO gives me a pointed look. Unlike the other look we exchanged, I had a hard time deciphering what she was trying to say.

Me: What?

A&FO: Well, all I can say is that that man is close with members of the Greek community who just aren’t good people.

Me: What do you mean?

A&FO gives me another pointed look.  I still don’t know what she means.

Our conversational exchanges always take the same pattern, which I enjoy thoroughly. She says one thing, I respond, she says another thing, and I spend the rest of my day figuring out why she said what she did.

Another person who I like talking to in my hood is the woman who owns the neighbourhood Caribbean restaurant. Known for their $5 lunch special, I occasionally go there for my fill of jerk chicken and oxtail.

One day, I got there right when it opened, at about 11 am. After ordering the lunch special, I sat down to eat. After five minutes, the woman taps me on the shoulder.

Me: What’s up?

Her: I need to go to the bank. Can you watch the restaurant while I do so?

Me: Seriously? 

Her: Yeah, it’ll be a minute.

Me: Ok.

And so I watched her restaurant for the five minutes it took her to make a deposit. 

And I’ve also had multiple interesting conversations with other people, from cyclists to dog owners to coffee shop patrons to baristas to the folks who go to my local pub. Do we know each other’s names? Nope. But we’re still one community.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How I feel when I see friends cross the finish line and finally get their PhDs

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A victory for one is a victory for all!  HOORAY!!!!!

Easy summer dessert: no bake cheesecake

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In honour of MOTL’s birthday, I decided to make strawberry cheesecake. I wanted to surprise MOTL by making it when he was out playing soccer tonight but realized that it would be hard for me to have the cheesecake ready during this time. Then I realized, hey, aren’t there also no bake cheesecakes? The last time I made a no bake cheesecake was a decade ago and I remember it being yummy and easy to make.

And so it was. It took me fifteen minutes to whip together two packages of cream cheese, half a cup of sugar, a tsp of vanilla extract, a cup and a half of whipped cream, and lemon.  Then I dumped all of this on top of a pre-bought graham cracker cheesecake crust, then sliced up strawberries.

The result was quite tasty. The batter was a bit lumpy but it tasted the way cheesecake was supposed to taste. It isn’t Carnegie Deli’s cheesecake but it hit the spot. For someone like me, who isn’t adept at baking and would prefer cooking, this recipe is foolproof! Plus MOTL liked it! 

Oh, and as an aside, to celebrate MOTL’s birthday, I’ve booked him for a spa retreat at Elmwood Spa and then we are having French food at our favourite bistro, La Palette.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reactions to Rita Skeeter’s column on what Harry Potter is doing at 34

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A few reactions to Rita Skeeter’s update, which can be found here, on where Harry Potter and members of Dumbledore’s Army are doing at the age of 34.

1. It makes sense that Harry is still an auror. I never really bought the idea of Ron being an auror, too, so I can see him leaving to co-manage Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.  I really don’t think Ron quit being an auror because he didn’t like living in Harry’s shadow. Ron always struck me as the type of guy who wasn’t terribly ambitious - I can see him preferring to work a 9 to 5 job, after which he’ll crack open a Butter Beer and watch quidditch.  He’s always been the Beta to Harry and Hermione’s Alpha, and that’s totally cool. Plus, with Hermione being a trail-blazer, Ron is probably totally content being the dad who is at home more with the kids. Oh Ron.

2. Of course our girl Hermione is rising up the ranks of the Ministry of Magical Law Enforcement. Maybe Hermione can be the Minister of Magic one day?  Then again, is there a glass ceiling in the Wizarding World?  Or does Hermione have to lean in?  

3. Pshaw - of course Neville Longbottom and wife Susan aren’t alcoholics. Please. Neville is a herbology professor. I can see him being into, ehrm, plants that give him a chill buzz throughout the day. I also love that, of all members of Dumbledore’s Army, it is Neville who becomes an academic (like me!!!)  Can’t you see him lighting a joint and writing a paper?  Holding office hours with his students and calmly telling them that they’ll be ok despite their test results?

4. This is a completely unfair observation but maybe Rita has a point about Ginny’s qualifications? Did Ginny even display journalistic ambitions? The only time I remember her even writing was when she had that diary that turned out to be a horcrux. Of course, I am happy that Ginny has a career. The last we heard from them, I feared that she was resigned to living a life only being known as “Harry Potter’s partner.” 

5. Not impressed with the slut-shaming and the gendered assumptions throughout Rita’s piece. Just because Fleur is beautiful doesn’t mean she’s empty-headed!  We know that Fleur is a brilliant wizard - we saw as much during the Triwizard competition! And what is up with the assumption that Teddy is ‘luring’ Victoire into dark corners to make out? So teenage girls don’t have desires as well? Also, I resent the implication that Bill and Fleur Weasley have to watch out even more for their daughter because Teddy is half-were-wolf. Such prejudice. Tsk tsk tsk.

6. I really hope everyone is getting counselling for PTSD. After what happened, I can’t imagine that they’d be able to easily resume their regular lives.

Monday, July 7, 2014

UPDATE: Bernard, Toronto’s master pig-roaster, is still in business!

Yesterday, I blogged about how sad I was because I was unable to reach Bernard from Bernard’s Pilipino specialties.  Then I got all emo about the possibility that he may have retired and started reminiscing about the lechon I ate that he had cooked.

Today, I was determined to get ahold of him.  I called his phone number four times, to no avail. Sadly, I looked up other places where I could get lechon. I was resigned to ordering lechon from Bella’s lechon but then decided to try one more time.

And he answered!  When he asked me whether I’ve ordered from them before, and I said it was awhile back, he chided me for not coming back sooner.  And then we proceeded to talk about the different pig options he could offer, negotiating a bit on how much a group of our size could eat. He told me that he refused to roast pigs that are too small because the taste just isn’t as good. We then talked about the importance of ensuring the skin of the pig maintain its crispy, glossy sheen.  THIS, we agreed, was what distinguished Filipino lechons from other lechons.

When I told him that we were celebrating - among many things - me and my friend S’s PhD graduation, he also persuaded me to order a tray of pancit for good luck.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Looking for Lechon: Where oh where has Toronto’s master pig-roaster, Bernard, gone?

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In Toronto, there is only one man who makes the best, crispiest, juiciest, and more flavourful lechon - Bernard from Bernard Pilipino Specialties. In 2010, I asked Bernard to roast a lechon for MOTL’s surprise birthday party, which I wrote about here.

When I went to Bernard’s shop at Parkdale to pick up the lechon, I was surprised to see that Bernard was, at that time, in his late 70s. “How long have you been doing this for,” I asked him in Tagalog. “Since before you were born,” he said. Clutching a cleaver, he adroitly chopped half of the lechon into more manageable bite-sized chunks, the fluidity and swiftness of his movements a clear sign that he has been doing this for decades. After giving my friend D instructions on how to carry the pig wrapped in cardboard to our car (“carry it like you’d carry a woman,” he chortled, at which point D turned red), Bernard gave me an entire bottle of sweet lechon sauce and also two big bags of pork chicharron.  

"Thank you," I said. "I’ll be coming back."

Alas, it wasn’t until four years later when the idea of hosting a pig roast came up again. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve of course had lechon since then but usually from places like Bella’s Lechon, where you can order a party tray of lechon alongside other Filipino dishes. Though the lechon at Bella’s isn’t quite as good (and, in fact, the last time we ordered from them, the skin wasn’t quite at that point of delectable crispiness, which means it was probably taken out of the oven too soon), the fact that you can order dishes other than lechon was a selling point.

Now, I really want good lechon - not lechon that was just good enough, that passes muster, that gives me a hint of how good lechon can taste so my cravings are somewhat satiated. No, I want the best lechon this city can offer.

And so I called Bernard.  And, despite repeated ringing, no one picked up. I tried for a few days, to no avail.  After doing some Internet sleuthing, I’ve determined that, as of March 2014, Bernard passed his Dine-Safe inspection report. Also, someone checked in via Four Square at Bernard’s within the last sixty days.

Yet why is there no one picking up the phone? WHY? WHY?

I think Bernard may have retired at this point. If that is the case, I am happy for him. I will say, though, that if he retired, Toronto has lost one of the city’s premier pig-roasters.  Roasting lechon is an art: you need to be patient, regularly basting the pig with oil and spices. Getting the pig’s skin to become smooth and crispy is also not that easy. Bernard did this so well! 

If in fact Bernard hasn’t retired and maybe is on holiday, go book him if you’re craving lechon. You won’t regret it. Unlike other places, you can get a roasted lechon for $100.  I’ll keep trying to see what the deal is…I may very well hop on the streetcar to Parkdale to see what’s happening!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

When finding out that someone recently published a book on the same topic as your book proposal…

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…then finding out, after buying the book and skimming it on your Kindle, that your books aren’t exactly alike (hers is set in a different country, has different case studies, and is not an academic book).

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