Food: The McRib’s Return

2 Nov

The Los Angeles Times has good coverage of the McRib’s 6-week return at all chain restaurants, the sandwich’s fan base, as well as the reasons for its sporadic appearance:

While some U.S. devotees would like to see the sandwich join the McDonald’s lineup permanently, store operators have found that sales are strongest for about four to six weeks, said McDonald’s Corp. marketing director Brad Hunter. Thus the McRib has taken on a cameo role. Elusiveness heightens its appeal.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Hunter said. “The quest for McRib happens throughout the country every year.”

The sandwich consists of a pork patty pressed into the shape of ribs. It’s served on a hoagie-style bun with onions and pickles. McRib has 500 calories — 240 of them from fat — and 980 milligrams of sodium, according to the McDonald’s website.

The nationwide promotion marks the first time in 16 years that the sandwich has been available at every U.S. McDonald’s at once. The company is also holding a contest for the best tale (tall or otherwise) about hunting for or eating McRibs. The winner will get a free trip to Germany, where the sandwich is always on the menu.

News from the Yay Area: Giants Win World Series

1 Nov

Life After Facebook: Quitting You is So Hard to Do

30 Oct

I quit Facebook at 11:12 PM yesterday. Rejoined at 6:46 PM today, quit 2 minutes later at 6:48 PM. Logged in again at 9:29 PM, deactivated at 9:33 PM.

The Internet without Facebook is a lot like a Las Vegas without casinos, i.e., a desert wasteland. Today, I’ve read New York Times articles on cancer cells, how to prepare braised short ribs, a woman’s touching post on how it felt to lose her father, among other pieces. I’ve also played three past “This American Life” podcasts today: #317 Unconditional Love, #389 Frenemies, #359 Life After Death.

I’d like to think that I’ve flexed my brain muscle more as a result, or at least that this was a better use of time than browsing Facebook, but the truth is I’m only scrambling for some divertissements. Something — anything! This is really as sad as it sounds. Recovering crack addicts probably feel similarly, as if they understand everything they’re engaging in as “not doing crack,” and thereby unconsciously still defining things in terms of what they don’t have.

Objectively speaking, this has been a more productive Saturday than previous ones, and right after I finish this post, I’m going to continue my offline reading and do my best to finish a translation. However, there is yet the persistent urge for me to broadcast the mundane little things:

  • Berkeley sound bite at Cheeseboard, 1:05 PM: “Sarah keeps complaining about her knee surgery. I tell her, ‘Go watch Grey’s Anatomy. Now those patients have real problems. There was someone with no arms last time.'”
  • If I were still on Facebook, I would have “liked” Karl Pilkington by now.
  • … there was something else, but I’ve forgotten.

Those seem to have lost some relevance once typed out in a medium that’s not a feed. Anyway, cheers to the coming Day 2.

Lines from a Semi-Luddite: Ugh, Facebook

29 Oct

First, a word from Warring States philosopher Xun Zi.

Xun Zi states that rites “trim what is too long and extend what is too short.” Here, he is specifically referring to mourning periods — i.e., if the rite stipulates a two-year mourning period, someone who is in deep sorrow must learn to move on at the two-year mark, while someone who is relatively unaffected must at least try to process the event for two years.

I dislike Facebook for several reasons, but one of them is that they’ve turned social rites à la Xun Zi on their head by trimming what is too short and extending what is too long. That is, I’m not hanging out with cool friends nearly as much as I should, in part because I’m at my computer, learning wall feed minutiae of people I hardly know.

Second, Facebook introduced a new feature called “Friendship Pages” today. Mashable (via CNN) gives the breakdown:

Facebook is rolling out a new breed of Pages called Friendship Pages that pull together the public wall posts, comments, photos (based on tags) and events that two friends have in common.

The Friendship Pages feature was cooked up by Facebook software engineer Wayne Kao and then brought to life in an internal hackathon event.

The Pages are designed to the tell the story of two friends on Facebook through their shared activity.

Friends recalling how they met one another should happen in the context of a “remember when we … ?” back-and-forth. Not a “let’s click and see” type process. This new feature takes all the fun out of remembering the good ol’ days.

It’s also, erm, really creepy, considering you can chart not only your Facebook friendship with Friend A, but you can also track the friendship trajectory between Friend A and Friend B, given they are friends with each other.

***

Okay, I can barely bang out another sentence; I’m yawning right now. I have more proof of why I’m a curmudgeonly septuagenarian, but it’s past my bedtime and I have to go clean my dentures.

Lines from a Semi-Luddite: On Forgetting

29 Oct

Jeffrey Rosen wrote an NY Times Magazine cover story, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” in which he addressed the impact of the Web’s archival nature on our online — and offline — reputations. Given the Net’s inability to “forget” our every tweet, photo, and update, we are scrambling for mechanisms to deal with its social ramifications. Because, after all, sometimes there’s nothing we need so much as a blank slate. There is a value to forgetting.

There’s another dimension to this. For one, the Internet does not help us to remember so much as it helps us to retrieve. A brief example, using one of my favorite memories: I was wide awake in DC at 1 AM, and figured I would call home because of the forgiving 3 hour time difference. My dad and I began talking about poetry, whereupon he decided to recite some Tang dynasty poems to me. Just as I was falling asleep, floating downstream on images of boats ten thousand miles away, I bolted awake, realizing these poems that coursed from my father’s lips came forth so naturally — but not easily. The words he spoke that night were the same words he recited a short while before, which were reflected upon months prior, which were taught to him by his own father years earlier. With that sort of constancy, I get the impression that these poems are some of the strings that bind the length of my father’s years together.

It’s an understatement that my command of poetry pales in comparison. Case in point: I had to Google search a few phrases in that poem in order to provide the link above, since I never memorized it well. The whole process didn’t take that long — certainly, not as long as it would to commit such a short poem as that to memory. The boon of the Internet is quick retrieval, which is totally different from quick recall. Possessing a fast recall is the end product of a slow effort.

Precisely speaking, I should not say I forgot any of the lines from the Li Bai poem, because indeed I never truly remembered them. This is the other value to forgetting. It seems obvious, but you only forget what you remember. That said, I think it’s good that the human memory is limited, because it’s only under such conditions that I have to make an effort to prioritize and hold onto otherwise fleeting memories.

Facebook rolled out a new feature today that allows users to track the trajectory of their Facebook friendships. Surprise, surprise — this neo-Luddite finds this horrible, and will write on it soon. Although, as an interesting note: this very post was collecting dust as a draft since late-July.

8th Annual Spice of Life Festival

17 Oct

On my way home from church, I briefly stopped by the 8th Annual Spice of Life Festival, located in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto.

Two pictures below are of Paul’s Paella. In the first bite, I could distinctly taste the chorizo, bell peppers, and lemon. However, I thought the rice was too mushy.

The next two photos are of Carolyn Tillie‘s remarkable food jewelry.

I gave Carolyn some of my paella. In return, she gave me a small slice of her okonomiyaki.

Second Binational Conversation on Bridging Cultures

16 Oct

Today was the first day of the Second Binational Conversation on Bridging Cultures, or 中美文化论坛, which was co-sponsored by the American National Endowment for the Humanities, the Chinese Ministry of Culture, and UC Berkeley’s Center for Chinese Studies. Important figures like Yu Dan 于丹, of recent fame for popularizing Chinese philosophy, and Mo Yan 莫言, maybe known best for Red Sorghum, were panelists. Jonathan Spence and Ann-ping Chin, two noted Chinese historians, also shared some remarks.

Early morning attendees were greeted by a bevy of busy Chinese journalists and photographers. Tonight, I found 42 stories on the Binational Conversation in Chinese language Google News. Interestingly, I found 0 stories from English language press. A search even on solely the term “Berkeley” yields the following top three headlines:

  1. Berkeley filmmaker Gail Dolgin dies at 65
  2. Sunday Is Chow-Down Day in Berkeley
  3. Berkeley 63, De Anza 0

I suspect this press coverage discrepancy can be explained by three reasons.

First, I feel that the Ministry of Culture is a bigger deal to Chinese citizens than the NEH is to American citizens — as a matter of perspective, not actual value. Of course, maybe I’m only hanging out with Philistines, but I’m going to stick with this wager.

Second, Yu Dan and Mo Yan are household names in China; the American side did not have equivalent figures today. Again, I’m not conflating recognition with actual worth here.

Third, while there is a high level of American interest in U.S.-China commercial and human rights issues, most Americans simply do not have a significant interest in cultural ties with China — or really any other country, for that matter. I remember in 2008, my friend at Fudan said this reflected a “cultural hegemony.”

She may very well be right, but it’s also more complicated than that, at least in the Chinese regard. Chinese blockbusters are often period films (e.g., Qing Dynasty) and thus maybe less accessible to American audiences, people in China recognize the domestic market is currently much more ripe than the international one, and Chinese mass media culture has come a long way since the Eight Model Plays, but the creative environment still has its restrictions.

Conditions are sure to change in the future. But that is a subject for another time, one hopefully sooner than later.