Am I Magical?

Howdy folks!

I’ve been busy over the past few months and weeks working on my newest novella: Am I Magical?. What’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:

“Bill is a shut-in that lives off of the money his parents left him, and supplements his income by buying and selling toys online. One day, a package arrives; beneath a pile of action figures is a plastic scepter. Bill pushes a button on the toy and is transformed into Magical Mina, a powerful super-heroine. At first, Bill revels in the power, but soon, he finds out that there is much more to being a hero than he ever imagined.”

Sounds pretty good huh? Well, if not, maybe this sweet minimalist cover I slapped together will change your mind?

Untitled-1

Yeah, that’s the stuff.

Am I Magical? is available from Smashwords, and you can pay what you want. Want it for free? Can do. Want to pay a million dollars for it? You can. I’d probably blush and feel really bad about accepting it, but I’d accept it.

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Ploughman’s Bento

So yeah, I know I was saying that I was skimping a bit on dairy, but sometimes, you just have to jump in with both feet and treat yourself. However, I think it is important to remember that you don’t always deserve a treat, even though you do usually work really hard and generally try to be the best person you can be. By definition, a treat should be a once in a while thing.

So, when I was visiting our local Whole Foods, I decided to treat myself to cheese. Behold the result: The Ploughman’s Bento:

006That is a sight, isn’t it? Maytag Blue Cheese and a well and basementy Tomme sit in their individual cellophane wrappers — it is a necessity, as they would stink-up each other and the rest of the meal. Some fresh-picked blueberries that a co-worker gave me, some of my homemade pickles, honey ham, a campari tomato, and a pretzel roll fill the box and create a pretty robust meal.

The Ploughman’s lunch is something I fell in love with on a visit to the Dunbar Tea Shop in Sandwich, Massachusetts. It is a simple, peasantry meal that can be as large or small as you’d like. You can dress it up with specialty ingredients, or you can just enjoy what is local, fresh, and good.

I tend to like my Ploughman’s lunch with Branston Pickle, but I have a hard time bringing myself to spend the money to buy it, since I won’t use the whole jar before three or more years have passed. I could make my own, but I’d rather just make straight-up slightly spicy pickles, rather than make a pickle jam.

On the day that I took this to work, it wasn’t too hot, so I went ahead and ate outside in a little picnic area that used to be for people who smoked. Since they banned smoking on premises, the area has gone largely unused. As such, it is pretty peaceful. I was able to enjoy my lunch in peace, pretending for just a moment that I had been working hard on my farm in the English countryside and taking a well deserved rest, enjoying the fruits of my labor.

That, my friends, is what it is to eat happily.

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Panda Invasion

I don’t usually shop at Trader Joe’s. The nearest one is not terribly far away, but it is enough distance to dissuade me from going unless my wife and/or I are looking for something particular. In the case of our most recent trip, she was looking for some special goodies to send a friend, so I took it as an opportunity to spoil myself with a reasonably priced Thai Green Curry simmer sauce.

If you have been following my bento posts, you might have surmised that I like foods that are fairly fast to put together, but also quite tasty. As such, I have an abnormal fondness for simmer sauces – brown your meat and cook up your veg, plop in the sauce, let it heat through, and flavor heaven, or something close-ish to it, awaits.

004  I put the curry together with chicken, green peppers, an onion, and a zucchini. I tossed the zucchini in right at the end, as I wanted it to heat through and be cooked, but not to turn into a mush. I think that I’d add more spices to amp the curry up a bit, but overall, it wasn’t bad for about a half an hour of cooking. An ample serving of Basmati rice rounds out the box that was destined for the microwave.

My cold box was bristling with all sorts of little yummy things. Campari tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, homemade pickles, and a panda full of Hello Panda chocolate filled biscuits.

I have been curious about the Hello Panda snacks for a while, and since I do enjoy Pocky, decided I’d give them a try. I’m so glad that I did. Not only are they super-cute, with their panda-doing-sports motifs, but they are tasty and travel quite well – they taste particularly good chilled in the fridge. Consider me a fan.

That’s all I have for this week’s lunch. I hope you enjoyed, and remember to eat happily!

 

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Eating Outside the Box

I don’t only eat bento. Once in a while, I’ll actually eat out of actual ceramic bowls.

002Pictured above is a delightful watermelon, feta, and tomato salad that my wife had made for dinner. Ever since I have been taking bento lunches to work, my breakfast has been a fairly large meal, typically whatever my wife made the night before for dinner. At work, I eat my bento, and when I get home late at night, I have a bowl of cereal or just a snack.

Since the watermelon salad is fairly light (and quite refreshing on a humid day), I decided to accompany it with some thinly sliced grilled chicken with a garnish of green onions and a few generous drops of garlic chili hot sauce.

Refreshingly light, but fairly balanced meals like this usually make me feel pretty good. Skimping on dairy is probably not a terrible idea, and going light on carbs can definitely help the waistline. While I’ll never probably cut carbs out of my diet completely, I do try to go a bit lighter on them.

Still, I will always love a big pile of rice with my curry, and a heaping bowl of pasta and tomato sauce will always call my name. However, it is important to remember that eating a little healthier doesn’t mean eating less happily.

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Furoshiki, Or That Little Cloth Lunchbox

Each time I bring a bento to work, I wrap it in a napkin. My wife makes large napkins that verge on the size of a furoshiki. For those not in the know, a furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. A furoshiki can be used to carry a bento box, books, a watermelon, and even bottles if you are so inclined. I found instructions on how to tie furoshiki here.

This bento is the most basic of basics: peanut butter and marmalade, some yogurt, a wee chocolate bar, and some fruit.     001To tie the furoshiki for a rectangular box, follow these steps:

1) Lay out your box on the cloth. The box I have been using a lot lately is a reusable take-away box from Bertucchi’s, a chain Italian restaurant. See, bento boxes don’t need to be expensive :)002
2) Bring one corner down across the length of the bow. I always consider the longest side the length, as long and length both begin with L.003
3) Bring up the opposite corner, letting the point hang off the side.004
4) Bring up one side along the width. I treat this a little like wrapping a Christmas gift by making sure that it looks tidy.005

5) Bring up the opposite side, and tie both points into a simple, yet tight, knot.006

6) You are done. You can carry it by the handle that the knot you just tied makes.007 I’ve received quite a few stares and compliments when my co-workers have seen my bento tied-up in a furoshiki. Once, one asked me, “Where did you get that cute little basket?”

I told her that it was just pretty much a Tupperware container tied-up in a napkin. I undid the whole thing, setting out the napkin as a table cloth, and she was very impressed.

“You always have the best ideas for your lunches,” she said.

I thanked her, then explained that it was just a traditional Japanese way of tying cloth so that you can transport goods, and she just smiled and nodded.

For me, bento is really about eating in a special way that makes you happy. Sometimes it is with little picks or cutouts, other times, it’s just the way something is presented. Today, my wife asked me how I feel since I’ve started eating bento-based lunches.

“I feel happier,” I said. “Lunchtime is more exciting and special. While I prepare my own lunch, it just makes me happy to see something that I’ve worked on, something that is special. It has turned my lunchtime into leisure time — I enjoy myself more, and can return to work feeling much more rested.”

I think that part of it is that I have to take time to set out my furoshiki, heat-up anything that needs heating, and actually look at and appreciate my food.

So, until next time, remember to eat happily!

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GeekLife: The Geeks for Geeks Anti-Massacree Movement

It would be a hideous omission if I did not tell you all that I love the works of Arlo Guthrie. I like his cadence, his word selection, his accent, and just about every little thing that makes his presentation so very folksy, heart-warming, and funny-bone tickling. Not only do I like how he tells a story, but also the stories he tells. Often they are funny, sometimes they have a point, and sometimes they do not. This story has a point. I figured I’d tell you, just in case you were starting to worry. It may be a while before I get to it, but I guarantee that it is there.

Waiting.

Ready to pounce.

So, it has to be over fifteen years ago that, in a basement room, while in the middle of practicing a scene from The Father for an acting class, that my friend M, an enabler of distraction and all-around lovely woman, asked me if I ever heard of Alice’s Restaurant, and the writer thereof, Arlo Guthrie. I told her that I did not, and she proceeded to tell me the ENTIRE story of Alice’s Restaurant, complete with appendix, indexes, table of contents, and important annotations. She did it in three-part harmony, just the way it was intended – a mean feat for a single woman, but like any woman caught in the middle of a regaling under-prepared, she buckled down, tied her shoes, drank some water, and did the work of three people.

I bring-up the story of Alice, and her Restaurant, to a specific end. Alice isn’t the center of the story, but she certainly is a hero of the story. Without her, there would be no song, or if there was, it would be ‘s Restaurant, and that just isn’t very catchy.

What the world needs is more heroes.

Because what the world has too much of is people who don’t give a damn about other folk. People who think the world revolves around them, and that their way is THE way, and that THEY WILL NOT SURRENDER, THEY WILL NOT GIVE-UP, THEY WILL NOT RELENT until you fit THEIR expectations.

Friends, what we need is a movement.

You may know the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Masacree Movement, you may not, but if you do or don’t, what’s important is what a movement is- a movement is when one person takes a stand. And then another, and another. If they take a stand in a uniform way, that’s how it BECOMES a movement. Simple as that. It can be a song, it can be a word, or it can even be a hashtag.

The movement I suggest is Geeks For Geeks.

The Old Geeks know. We were there before color TV and major conventions. We were fans before superhero movies had a budget – that doesn’t make us better by the way – it just makes us older. We wrote letters to friends miles away, hoping to connect with someone, anyone that GOT us. We talked through magazines and zines, and on phones, and in hallways secreted away from the NORMS.

Norms – the people that didn’t understand. The people that said it was childish, or stupid. The people that used names and intimidation. All too often, we didn’t have someone to stand with us.

I thought things changed. I thought that now everyone knows who The Hulk is, it had gotten better. It hasn’t.

Just the other day, my friend “R”, who is like a sister to me, told me that her daughter was being picked on at school for liking “boys’ stuff.” Stuff like Star Wars, The Avengers, and Batman. I became livid. I wanted to do something, anything to help this child – this child who is young, innocent, and full of love for something that is just plain awesome. This child that is being picked on for loving what she loves.

This is what I decided to do.

I wrote this piece, and I’m encouraging you all to take part in it.
When you see someone being harassed, or made fun of for being different, don’t skirt it. Don’t ignore it. Stand with them. Tell them “Geeks for Geeks.” Let them know they aren’t alone. Stand by them, hold a hand, share a story.

Far fewer people probably know who Wil Wheaton is than know who Arlo Guthrie is, though I may be mistaken. I am a bit out of touch sometimes.

Nonetheless, it was Mr. Weaton who put it best when he said that “when a person makes fun of you, when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s not about what you said, it’s not about what you did, it’s not about what you love. It’s about them feeling bad about themselves. They feel sad…They don’t understand the things you understand.”

I’m not telling you to bash a bully in the nuts. Like Mr. Wheaton goes on to say, the best response is to pity them. Maybe get to know why they are the way they are. Maybe you can be an agent for change, but if not, you’ll certainly gain some kind of knowledge.
However, that is easier said than done. When someone’s in the thick of it, well – not everyone is composed enough to be rational. Or kind.

I guess we all have to ask ourselves two questions. “Why do we value a given person’s opinion, and why do we think our opinion matters to someone else?”

We empower other people. We let them affect us, for good or for bad. In my years as a Geek, I have learned that you can stop empowering people. You don’t have to value every opinion, you don’t have to address and redress every opinion. If someone is a malevolent douche bag, you shouldn’t care what they think as long as they aren’t hurting someone else. If they walk up to you and tell you your shirt’s the wrong shade of blue to go with your red pants, you can choose not to respond, or to give a non-response, or even be a smart Alec. The key being that you have a choice.
Just like you have a choice to stand by someone when they are being targeted.

We all think our own opinion matters because it is OUR opinion. I think it has something to do with the meaning of life and looking for the value of existence, but it could be just that we’re all terrible in our own way. Why should other people think or act the way you do? Even if it works for you, why do you think it would work for them?

It’s like pulling a fish out of water and yelling at it to breathe. “What’s the matter? Isn’t oxygen good enough for ya?” That’s no way to speak to a fish. Why would you speak to a person like that?

If you can let go of this idea of your possibly wrong opinion being essential to everyone’s life, things get easier, and a lot more friendly.

While I am not a Christian, I do think that Jesus and company had a few valid suggestions on how to get along in the world. Love your neighbor as yourself. Pretty simple stuff, really. It’s not, “Put everyone else down so you can feel good,” it isn’t “Force your perspective on everyone.” It is basically just “Play nice.”

So, before this train completely derails and careens into the depths of meandering, I’d like to conclude by saying: stand by those that need it, don’t be a jerk, and be true to yourself. These are the words I live by, or at least aspire to live by. This is my movement – spread the love. People out there need it a heck of a lot more than they need another prick telling them that they aren’t worth a damn. Be tolerant, be loving, and by all means, enjoy your life, and help others to enjoy theirs.

**Also**

I took the time to record this entry so that it can be listened to as well as read. Please enjoy while I read the post quietly at 3 in the morning :)

Posted in GeekLife, Personal | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

1,000 Word Challenge 2014

Hey folks!

I just finished the first draft of my new novella! Am I Magical? is the story of Bill, a shut-in that has given up on the world who finds a plastic scepter in a box full of toys. When he presses a button on the scepter, he becomes Magical Mina – a super heroine with great strength, agility, and phenomenal powers. However, Bill finds out that being a heroine isn’t as straightforward as he believed…

Since the first draft is done, I figured I’d take a brief break from playing with Magical Mina and do my sometimes-annualish 1,000 Word Challenge.

For the uninitiated, the 1,000 Word Challenge is an interactive event where you, the reader, sends me a link to an image by August 2nd (I’m lenient if you are late, no worries). I will look at the images, and select four of my favorites as cues for a short story. My aim is to deliver a story inspired by the image that is 1,000 words long. A few examples are:

Meanwhile, In the Back of Fung’s Fine Cantonese Restaurant

Freiheit Brücke (Freedom Bridge)

Raising the Kraken (Or “Pardon Me, but Your Kraken is Showing”)

So, if you please, comment below with a few images and we’ll see what happens!

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