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So I’ve had two recent encounters that have bothered me a little bit and reminded me of exactly where I’m living.

First, one of my colleagues at work who has been here from China on a temporary  (8 month) training assignment is leaving to go back to Shanghai.  So, I offered to take him out to lunch.  Since he was a pretty popular guy and made a lot of connections here, he also had an offer for lunch from someone else, who I know, so we decided to go out together.  During the discussion, the topic of democracy in China came up.  My Chinese colleague, let’s call him Howard, said that he didn’t think a western-style democracy would work in China right now.  My other colleague, let’s call her Pamela, was flabbergasted and couldn’t understand why not.  She couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that Chinese citizens were not clamoring to have a “one person, one vote” system where they could elect their president. Howard and I tried to impress upon her that the philosophical and cultural differences in China were too great to create a western-style democracy and have it work right away.  I made the argument that the effort to create something like that in Iraq and Afghanistan is failing due to cultural differences and that each country has its own unique philosophical and cultural challenges to consider before we force an American/western democracy down their throats. Howard went on to say that a poor Chinese farmer, given a choice between having the right to vote for his/her president vs. having a month’s worth of food, will choose the food every time. And that can lead to quite a bit of manipulation.  The right to vote doesn’t hold as much value for these people – if someone told them, “If you vote for me, I’ll give you a month’s worth of food,” they are more than willing to do that because they don’t value the right to vote – they value the food.

It reminds me of a movie I saw recently, “Please Vote For Me,” which was a documentary about an experiment in Chinese grade school where students were allowed to vote for who their class monitor was.  In the end, it turned out that the kid who gave out the most presents wound up winning the election.  I just think on a cultural and philosophical basis, China just cannot support a western-style democracy as of yet. Not saying that I believe that they can’t eventually have a similar style government, but I think significant changes need to occur before that happens.

Regardless, the thing that struck me the most out of this conversation with my colleagues was that Pamela clearly couldn’t understand why anyone else wouldn’t want to have a system like the one in America.  It was such an American point of view, and one that surprised me a little, since I know Pamela’s traveled around a bit.  However, I should’ve been tipped off when she asked that her seared tuna be fully cooked instead of seared.

The second incident that struck me just happened this morning.  I was asked to participate in a staff meeting, and one of the things that was on the agenda was a presentation by someone who had gone to our China facility.  I inwardly winced because I had a feeling I knew what was coming next.  Jokes and negative comments about Chinese being short (“if you take a picture in front of the building, security guards will come out to confront you, but you’ll probably be bigger than them), Chinese food (“I thought I’d wind up losing weight when I got there” and “I had pork fat, but when I discovered it had the skin still attached I stopped eating.”), among other things.  At least there weren’t any jokes about eating cats and dogs, which I’ve run into before here.

But what bothered me the most was the slide that he put up on “Training the Chinese”.  It was a typical run down of: “Chinese are not confrontational.  I didn’t know how much English they really understood, since they don’t want to interrupt you,” and those types of comments.  He also said that there were HR resources in place to help the Chinese workers become more assertive and speak up.

Now, I’m not against becoming more assertive, but again, here’s a cultural thing.  Why do we have to train our Chinese workers to be more assertive and speak up, versus teaching our people who go over there how to properly speak to workers and learn Chinese first?  I realize that it’s a tall order to train anyone who goes over to China to speak Mandarin, but why must we make it the case where we have to teach Chinese workers how to be more American in China?  Granted, they’re working for an American company, but they’re doing the vast majority of their work in China, so why do we have to force them to be more American?  Why not make the Americans who go over there more Chinese?

It’s this type of narrow-mindedness that bothers me the most.  I can totally understand if a Chinese worker comes over here to America to work for a time – I believe that he or she should learn how to interact with Americans on American terms since they are living here and learning to work here.  However, when Americans go over to China, why do we have to force them to be more American?  It’s a colonialist attitude and sadly, one that is all too common, especially here in Indiana.

It makes me upset, angry, and sad all at the same time.  I’ve found that people here aren’t consciously racist or consciously ignorant, but they are ignorant.  It’s not necessarily their fault, I suppose – ignorance begets ignorance – but it is disheartening and upsetting.  I realized as I stood in that room, that of about 40 people, I was the only minority in there.  And there were only 9 women there.  It’s not a very diverse place, and because of that, you have these attitudes which permeate through the area.  I’m not sure what I can do about changing some of those attitudes.  I know I have a different point of view, and I feel like I should open people’s eyes to them.  However, I know it’s a huge obstacle and I’m not sure how much effort I really want to put into it.

Sad to say, mostly, it just makes me want to get out of here.

Ok, so I really shouldn’t have any complaints, since we are only a family of two so far, but one thing we’ve found that we always seem to be doing is laundry. It piles up a lot quicker than you’d expect for two of us. I don’t think we’re particularly messy people or that we overuse clothes, but I have no idea how we manage to get so much laundry. I used to do my own laundry and I admit, I’d regularly wonder if I’d wind up burning out the motor of the laundromat machines. Of course, those are made to take that kind of abuse, but now that we’ve got our own machines, I worry about it just a little more.

The other week, we had the confluence of laundry storms – the laundry apocalypse. I have no idea how it happened. It was probably a bit of laziness, procrastination, and absenteeism, but I came home one day to realize I was scraping the bottom of my underwear drawer, looking for something resembling a cloth to cover my, ahem, more sensitive spots. Trying to find something that didn’t smell horrible and didn’t wiggle away when I tried to put it on really makes you rethink your laundry strategy.

Needless to say, I came home that day and we wound up doing about 5-6 loads of laundry.

Of course, the aftermath of Laundry Apocalypse occurred: the Folding Hereafter.

If you’re like me, you suck it up and fold, then put stuff away in the drawers (unless of course, you realize that your drawers actually don’t have enough space for ALL of your clean clothes as you’ve subscribed to hamper method of clothes storage: keep enough dirty laundry so that you don’t need to overstuff your drawers and closet. Hmm. Maybe we have the origins of the Laundry Apocalypse right there.).

However, if you’re C, you subscribe to the “pull it out of the folded laundry pile” philosophy of clothes storage and the clothes sits on the couch for a couple of weeks as it dwindles down. 🙂

Needless to say, I am quite scared of what will happen when our little family expands…

So I realize that much of this blog (ok, all of our posts, as we haven’t been exactly proliferate in our postings) has been centered around food.  Which is all fine and great, but there’s a ton of food bloggers out there, and honestly, one thing I dislike is being a copycat.  Understanding this, I’m expanding the scope of this blog to incorporate another of my interests: music.

Let me begin by saying that one of my favorite shows these days is Chuck.  It’s a great mix of nerdiness, action, humor, and enjoyable story lines.  It appeals to me on many levels, since I think I can relate somewhat to the nerdy guy who’s hopelessly in love with the beautiful girl.  Goodness knows I spent enough of my adolescence pining over beautiful, popular girls that I didn’t have a shot with.  Nowadays I’m a lot more comfortable in my skin and therefore can acknowledge with pride that I am in fact, somewhat of a nerd, which makes Chuck’s celebration of all things nerdy that much more enjoyable.  However, it didn’t occur to me until after I’d watched the show for a while that the soundtrack they use is fantastic.  I’ve been going through my own music renaissance lately, revisiting some of my old favorites and looking for new music.  Chuck is a great way to find some new music, since they like to use indie/alternative artists that might be on the fringe of popularity but are great nonetheless.

I suppose this push toward indie music has been prompted by my own personal backlash against pop.  While Ke$ha is annoyingly catchy and sticks in your head in a happy, sugary way, it pains me to even admit that I can recognize her song on the radio and find myself bopping to it.  However, what has completely pushed me to look for non-popular music is Taylor Swift.  I just do not find any redeeming qualities to her music whatsoever.  I refuse to listen to anything she puts out, as much for the fact that it sends legions of pre-adolescent (and probably a number of older) girls into throes of lovestruck sighs and whimpers, as for the fact that it’s musically inane.

Let me explain what I mean by musically inane.

The first introduction I had to music beyond nursery rhymes was a heavy dose of classical “pops” type music mixed with Perry Como, Doris Day, and Johnny Mathis.  During junior high, I tried to foreswear these influences (but now happily acknowledge them) and thanks to my older sisters I was bombarded with Duran Duran, Madonna, and Air Supply.  I remember the first real album (cassette tape) that I felt proud to own was “Forever Young” by Alphaville (Christmas gift from my sister).  There was a perverse pleasure in listening to this album knowing that absolutely no one in my high school had a clue who Alphaville was.  Looking back of course, Alphaville was nothing particularly earth-shattering in terms of musical complexity, but it was enough “alternative” to me that I still have fond memories every time I break it out.  By the time I hit college, I was surviving on a steady diet of top 40 and classical music from the romantic period.  I owe the next evolution in my musical education to my freshman year roommate, Dom, who was heavy into classic rock.  I began to listen to old Genesis, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Marillion, and was introduced to World Party.  The one group I didn’t pick up on from my roommate was The Grateful Dead, which, although I respect, I just can’t seem to get into.

I also took a few classes in music, mostly to help boost my GPA and to take a break from Bessel functions and trying to code C++.  One of the most memorable classes that I had was where the professor had us listen to “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx and “She’s Always A Woman” by Billy Joel and made us say which one was the “better” song.  His point was that “She’s Always a Woman” is a more complex song than “Right Here Waiting” and even if we didn’t know squat about music theory or composition, we could tell innately which was a better song.

Which brings me to back to musically inane.  After listening to a song like, “Supper’s Ready,” a 9 minute extravaganza written by Genesis that involves multiple sections, time signatures, and complex lyrics discussing religion and death, anything by Taylor Swift is in a word, inane.  There’s absolutely no musical substance whatsoever and it contributes absolutely nothing to musical development.  I’d even argue it subtracts from musical development.  If I start listening to Taylor Swift, I think my IQ drops by several points, I go into a coma, and begin humming “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

I realize that Chuck is just a TV show, and compared to meaty shows like The Wire or Lost, it’s probably the equivalent of French fries.  However, it’s duck-fat fried French fries if only for the reason that the producers manage to add depth and subtlety by using music by Imogen Heap, Frightened Rabbit, Matt Costa, Leonard Cohen, and Nina Simone, eschewing the trend of using bubblegum pop songs that Dawson’s Creek started.  (Dang, I managed to sneak in a reference to food.)

If I have one vanity (and I probably have more than one), it’s the fact that I take pride in my musical tastes.  I have my fair share of cringe-worthy albums in my collection, but for the most part, I am proud of the music I’ve collected.  I’m always looking for good music to add, and always willing to listen to something new.  I like being clued into a group before they hit it big, and even if they never hit it big, I will still stick with them.  The Lovehammers, David Gray, Vienna Teng, Ray LaMontagne, Nick Drake, eat your heart out.

I am counting on my wife to make sure I don’t become like Barry in “High Fidelity,” however.  Except if you like Taylor Swift.  If you do, I reserve the right to make fun of you incessantly behind your back.

I love food.  I love eating great, tasty, well-prepared food.  I watch No Reservations, I’ve read Kitchen Confidential, The Nasty Bits, and Heat (and if that book doesn’t make you appreciate Italian food, nothing will).  I love exploring new cuisines, but I also love the classics.  One of my favorite dishes is a well-made plate of tagliatelle Bolognese.  My stomach is grumbling just thinking about it.

However, one of the unfortunate drawbacks of moving to Indiana, especially rural Indiana, is the decided lack of cuisine.  In the town of Warsaw, not counting the Chain restaurants, there aren’t many choices.  Most of the 8 or so non-chain restaurants are “classic American.”  There is a brew pub, which has halfway decent beer, but over-salts the food.  There’s a “New American” restaurant, which is by and large OK, but hasn’t figured out whether it’s Asian Fusion or New American (sushi menu, bento boxes, cous cous, and tapas?).  There’s an island themed restaurant that does sushi and island seafood, plus pasta.  And then there are four really bad Chinese restaurants (I won’t fault them for being bad, they’re just catering to the Indiana palate for Chinese food).   The one decent cuisine they have here is Mexican.  They have a phenomenal little lunch counter in one of the grocery stores that makes great tortas and even has lengua and cabeza de res. However, what blows my mind is there isn’t a single Italian restaurant around.

Given all of this, you’d think I’d start to resemble Cartman.  However, the irony is that I’m probably eating healthier than I ever have.  Part of it is that I’m on a pretty strict diet right now.  But the other part of it is that C and I have made a conscious effort to buy organic, locally produced food.  It helps there’s a large Amish community close by that is always willing to provide fresh, chemical-free food.  The thing about this food is that it’s actually much more flavorful and easier to make good meals with.  I guess Gordon Ramsey is right: Local, fresh ingredients always make a difference.

The other upside of being here in Indiana is that I feel as if my cooking skills are getting better.  I am by no means a chef extraordinaire, but I do feel like I’m getting the hang of this cooking thing, to the point where I can start developing my own recipes and dishes.  It’s actually a lot of fun to pull together a dish that tastes good when you’re finished with it.  I can now understand that cooking has a lot to do with experience – what works, what doesn’t work – it’s all stored in a culinary memory that allows you to pull things together when you need to.  I’m sure no one’s ever made the analogy that cooking is like chess, but in some senses, it is.  Great chess players have the memory of thousands of games and situations to rely on when they play chess.  I imagine that great chefs have thousands of dishes that they remember and pull together to make a wonderful dish.  It’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but I’m a geek.

I do still miss going out to dinner, though.  As much as I enjoy putting something together myself, I believe that sampling other people’s creations and ideas are necessary to keep things exciting.  At the end of the day, I think that’s one of the biggest things I’ll miss about being near a city.  I used to think that I’d miss the cultural events the most – shows, art, etc., and I do miss those.  But surprisingly, I’ve found myself missing the ability to try a new restaurant more than anything else.  Unfortunately, there’s no remedy for that in a small town.

So we are finally having our celebratory dinner to celebrate C’s new job. We originally had planned to go out to dinner in December, but because of the diet that I’m following, we decided it probably was better not to indulge in a decadent meal in the middle of my regimen. Now that we’ve eased off some of the restrictions, we are going to try again this weekend. We’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and have booked our meal at one of Chicago’s best restaurants.  This is one of the instances where we realize that we’re going a little overboard, but we don’t expect to be dining at this restaurant more than once, and it really is a unique opportunity.

If it sounds like I’m doing a lot of justification, it’s probably because I am. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this meal, but probably not quite as much as I would have enjoyed it had we gone in December. The reason?


I’ll be sitting in a restaurant having one of the most incredible meals of my life, while so many people in Haiti are struggling to find food enough to survive another day. Haiti already had a food shortage before all of this happened, and with the earthquake, they’re facing an even greater shortage. I hope and pray that the aid that is arriving will be able to be distributed to those who need it the most.

As much of a splurge this meal is, I can’t help but think what price some of the Haitians would pay for a simple meal to take care of their family. I’m sure it would be priceless to them.

To me, it’s not so much that I’m dining out while Haitians are starving and fighting for food. There are plenty of horrible situations around the world where this situation is played out every day. I’m aware that every time I go out to a restaurant, whether it’s Olive Garden or Ruth’s Chris there are countless others out there that can barely find enough food to eat to get through the day.   It’s really the timing of it all that hits home for me.  Just as you think you’re on the top of the world, there are always little reminders that happen in your life that there are others that aren’t as fortunate as you.

So what does this all mean?  Here’s one of the instances where I wonder what would have happened if I’d decided to go into medicine.  American Airlines was supposedly offering free flights to Haiti for any doctors – I wonder if I had been a doctor if I’d have jumped on the plane.  Regardless, I don’t think I’ll be going down there to help in person.  Does this mean I’ll assuage my guilt by donating monetarily?  Yes, I’ll donate, but not primarily to assuage my guilt. It’s the right thing to do.  I’ve been blessed with the life I have and it’s only right that I should find a way to share that with people who are not as blessed as I am.

I think of the outpouring of aid and donations that were given to the victims of the 9-11 tragedies, and reflect on the fact that Haiti is estimating a death toll of somewhere around 50,000 – over 20x that of the death toll from 9-11.  Time will tell, but I will bet that the impact of 9-11 on us as a nation is going to be much greater than the tragedy in Haiti.  And the Haiti tragedy will have more of an impact on us than the typhoon in Burma did, which had an even greater loss of life.  Does this mean that 9-11 is any less tragic?  Not at all.  Something is tragic or it’s not.  I don’t see any grades of tragedy.  I just think that 9-11 gives us a more tangible reminder of our humanity and its frailty than Haiti or Burma does.

I’m a little bummed by what that says about me as a person.  What’s the price of a meal?  I think this weekend’s meal will be a little heavier.  And that’s ok with me.


And then the doorbell rings
Somebody asks you could
You spare a little time
To feel the weight that’s mine
To lower down your guard

Yeah, that your heart gets snagged
Caught in the wheels and dust dragged
Dangled o’er the edge, breathe

You feel you’re in too deep
So offer up some crumb
And drop it in the tin
Then slither back within

Your crenelated wealth
Your educated self
Your family your rude health

And all the joy it brings
Aren’t we forgetting something?
Feet out on the ledge, feet on the ledge


~David Gray

So this is our first attempt at a joint blog.  We thought we’d put some stuff up for some discerning readers (read: select few) that would reflect our musings, lives, adventures, and observations as we go through life.  So what prompted this sudden foray into the blogosphere?

We never in our wildest imaginations thought that we would wind up living in northeastern Indiana.  The two of us have always been attracted to large cities and the inherent excitement, culture, and diversity they bring.  Boston is probably our favorite city given the fact that we both grew up there and have a fondness for it.  Chicago’s become our second city – a home away from home as we’ve learned to love its unique blend of big city feel with a laid-back attitude.  San Francisco’s always been on our radar as well, with the beautiful scenery and the strong Asian American culture.  But life always throws curveballs your way, and you never know what’s going to happen.

There were a lot of forks in the road and little decisions that wound up getting us to this place.  And we’re sure that if we look back on this several years from now, we’ll have a better understanding of why we wound up in Warsaw, IN of all places.  We’re not the type to complain about our situation and in fact, there’s a lot of good things about where we are.  For instance, we both really like our jobs.  It’s incredibly cheap to live here, and our house (yes, a house!) sports a jacuzzi tub, a fireplace, and a huge basement that we can use either as a Man Cave (Brian’s preference), exercise room (Cathy’s preference), or a music studio (split the difference).  We’re enjoying fresh, organic, locally farmed produce (compliments of the Amish) that would make Gordon Ramsey and Anthony Bourdain proud.

On the flip side, the local restaurant scene doesn’t extend much beyond the evil trifecta of Bennigans, Chili’s, and Ruby Tuesday, so all of that locally farmed produce is definitely being used.  Diversity is a bit to be desired, and while there’s plenty of culture, it’s not quite the culture that we’re used to seeing.

We’ve always thought that jobs have three components to consider: the location, the type of work, and the people you’re working for.  If you can get two out of three, you’re not doing too bad.  Both of us agree that we’ve got at least two out of three; and in fact, we don’t hate where we are, so actually, we’re ahead of the game.

Given that we have a lot of time to explore different activities now without the distractions of things like film festivals, food festivals, sports events, concerts, and shows, we thought we’d finally put our domain and website to use.  We used to host our wedding website here; given that it’s been three years since we’ve been married, we figured it was time to find another use for this site.  So here goes our attempt to log our adventures in life.

Hello, world.