Lycopene heaven

I love tomatoes. So the current outbreak of salmonella is very disturbing. Then I heard what it is that spreads salmonella to the tomatoes: fecal matter. One possibility is that feces can be directly spread by animals when they step onto infected droppings, then tread through open fields. Indirectly, animal waste is used to create manure, and while most pathogens are killed through the composting process, but some can survive and is subsequently spread when the infected manure is used to fertilize fields. Worse, some of the pathogens find their way to water sources–irrigation streams, ground water–and can infect the tomatoes that way. In other words, tomato lovers are screwed.

I swear, this total bullshit–no pun intended

I love tomatoes. I’ve been eating it all my life. How can salmonella infect tomatoes now when we have all this technology, when you rarely heard of this kind of widespread infection back in the days when you bought tomatoes from local fields? Isn’t science supposed to save us?

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. I can’t believe I can’t eat raw tomatoes. I use tomatoes in my sandwiches. I put the a couple of slices of a tomato with a dollop of mayonnaise and I’m in heaven–what is it with tomatoes and mayonnaise? This particular combination is incredibly flavorful. Put the mayonnaise anywhere else in the sandwich or hamburger and the whole taste will change. I also love Tex-Mex food. How the hell am I gonna eat salsa with no tomatoes? Tacos with not tomatoes? Man, who can eat a salad without tomatoes? I sweat, I’m gonna go crazy.

The single saving grace in all this is that heat kills salmonella. If tomatoes are cooked to the boiling point–salmonella dies when it reaches 160 degrees–then you can eat the tomato product. The added benefit, amazingly enough, is that cooked tomatoes contain a lot of lycopene, one of the most effective purveyors of antioxidants. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should start chugging ketchup–too much sugar. But you can eat tomato sauce, which is something I also love.

I love spaghetti–although it does nothing for my girlish figure. But that isn’t the only way to use cooked tomatoes. I also use tomato sauce to make a pot roast–seared chuck roast in a dutch oven with onions, carrots, olives, rosemary, thyme and the tomato sauce (or canned crushed tomatoes) cooked in the oven for about 3 to 3.5 hours at about 200 degrees makes for a very tender and scrumptious meal. You’re supposed to let the roast set for at least 20 minutes before you eat it, but I usually can’t wait–who cares if it doesn’t slice perfectly. You can do this with breaded chicken breasts, except cooked at a higher heat–about 400 degrees–for 20 minutes. I also saute fresh chopped tomatoes with mushrooms and basil and ladle it over tofu steaks–tofu cut into half-inch thick squares and seared in a pan like a steak–for my own tofu pomadoro. But the other day, I made a dish my Dad used to cook for us when we were kids. Saute garlic and three slices bacon chopped, then add sliced onions, mushrooms, chopped fresh tomatoes and seasoning (salt, pepper and about a tbs. of sugar). Bring to boil. When tomatoes look soft, spread two beaten eggs lightly on top, cover and let simmer for a few minutes until the eggs are done; thoroughly mix and serve on bread.

As a result of all this cooked tomatoes lately, we are in lycopene heaven. Of course, I should be exercising as well. The body creates a harmful amount of oxidants when you exercise vigorously, and what the heck is the use of all this lycopene and antioxidants without the oxidants?

Another Passing

I wrote the other day abut how I love to watch these political shows. One of my favorites was Meet the Press on NBC Sunday mornings. During the 80s, I usually watched surfed between the shows on the three national broadcast networks–Face the Nation, This Week, and Meet the Press–but after I cam back from Japan in 1996, I watched Meet the Press exclusively because of the moderator, Tim Russert.

Moderators usually have to be pretty sharp about politics and people like David Brinkley were, although their delivery could be a little egg-headed at times. Others, such as Mclaughlin Group was interesting, but it was often contentious, with everyone yelling at each other. Tim Russert always hit the right note. He was down to earth, and spoke in a way that was always understandable. He was from Buffalo, NY, raised in a family of modest means, and loved sports. He was the average Joe. He was also very tough, especially in his interviews. He would put on the screen a quote attributed to the guest, read out loud, and then confront the guest: “Do you still believe this” or “Could you explain what you meant by this?” But he never yelled or seemed disrespectful. He was simply hardcore, not allowing a politician slide by with non-answers.

Well, this moderator for whom I have much respect died of a heart attack on Friday. This was very hard to believe. I had just seen him last Sunday on the air. He seemed perfectly fine. And he was only 58 years old. By all accounts, he was healthy, and even passed a stress test on his heart this past April with flying colors. Apparently, what happened was that cholesterol plaque that had built up in his artery ruptured and clotted his artery, stopping the flow of blood to his heart completely. From what I heard on TV, this is the worst kind of heart attack possible. Even when witnessed by emergency specialists, this kind of heart attack has only a 5% survival rate. That was an eye opener to me. I mean, you could get this kind of heart attack in a hospital, and your chances of survival would be low.

This reminds me of all the unhealthy things I’ve done in my lifetime–smoking for 30 years, eating unhealthy snacks and fast food, etc.–and compels me to consider my own mortality. Could I have built up enough plaque in my arteries over the years to kill myself if they ever ruptured? From what I know, there is really no drug to dissolve or reverse the build up already there. Kinda scary.

In any event, I looked forward to Meet the Press every Sunday, as well as to his comments and coverage of the presidential campaign this year almost every Tuesday on MSNBC. I will miss him greatly.

(My) Decision ’08

Oman '08
make your own logo

As many of you know, I am usually swamped with work–teaching, grading, advising. You probably also know that I am a J-drama addict. I am currently watching Zettai kareshi (Absolute boyfriend), Muri-na ren’ai (Impossible love), and Rookies (Rookies). There are a few others that the family wants to watch, so I get my hands on them so we can watch them but I don’t really pay attention to them. One of them, Change, seems vaguely familiar–Kimura Takuya is the son of a Representative who dies and he suddenly finds himself thrust into a political campaign he didn’t really want to engage. He narrowly wins because of his honesty and uplifting character. When he reaches the Diet, a scandal breaks out about the Prime Minister and he is forced to resign. The party reputation is tarnished and they need a fresh, clean face to represent them. Yes, the new kid, the young kid steps up to run for party leader, promising henka (change), a different path than the old politics.

Sound vaguely familiar? The Japanese system is parliamentarian, but the parallels are hard to miss. The character is from Kyushu, I think, but it would have been more amusing if he had come from the small city in Fukui famous for chopsticks, Obama.

Speaking of which, the people of Obama are actually considering ways to relate their city with the Illinois senator and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate to drum up tourism. I wonder what they plan to do? Rename the high school Obama attended? No wait, the high school is already called Obama. Then how about registering the house where he grew up as an historical site? Oh, I forgot. he’s never been to Fukui prefecture.

Only in Japan…

Anyway, besides being hooked on work and J-drama, I’ve also developed the habit of watching talking heads on TV. I’m no poli-scientist, but I’m fascinated with the politics of our times. I no longer watch American drama–with the writers strike, there was nothing to watch anyway. So I fill up my time watching CNN and MSNBC whenever I’m not grading or watching J-drama. I mean, I have always watched the Sunday morning shows, usually Meet the Press, and now The Chris Matthews Show (which I think is the best on Sunday morning). But I am now mesmerized on a daily basis as I watch Hardball or Countdown or the political segments of AC360, especially when David Gergen is on.

But things were getting bad. I had to make a decision. I just couldn’t spend my time vegetating in front of the boob tube, regardless of how I may justify it–Japanese drama provides Japanese context, MSNBC informs me on politics. Well, I couldn’t afford to go to the Betty Ford Clinic, so I did the next best thing my limited brain could think of–I decided to return to Xanga. B-) Well… at least for the time being. We’ll see how long it lasts this time.

Meteor-illogical event

It’s been truly crazy weather of late. Tornados in the flatlands of middle America. Snow in the Rockies. Floods in the upper Midwest. Yesterday I jogged in the stifling heat–over 95 degrees. It’s been at least 10 degrees higher than the seasonal average since Friday. But at least the heat isn’t destructive, and as a SoCal boy, the heat is something I can deal with. I have learned to deal with the humidity as well, thanks to living in Japan for a number of years.

So yesterday, as I jog through a local park near our home in northern Virginia, I passed a “public house” there. No, it’s not a beer joint, but a county-owned facility that residences can rent for events such as weddings. It is also the local precinct polling location. And yesterday, Virginia held its primary for congressional seats.

The seat up for grabs is Virginia’s US House of Representatives, 11th District. It is the seat that Tom Davis (R) holds. Yes, the honorable Tom Davis whose office helped us with M’s permanent residency. As I believe most of you know, I am no dyed-in-the-wool liberal, but I tend to lean a little left of center politically. Still, Tom Davis did me right and I would have voted for him, if he was running for re-election. But he is not.

Anyway, as I was running/walking by the public house, I noticed the sign “vote here”. I had forgotten it was election day. So after I returned home, I showered, did a bit of work and then set out to vote around 6 PM. There was virtually no one there, so fulfilling my civic duty was pretty painless. I then headed for a local watering hole called Famous Dave’s on Chain Bridge Road. It has pretty good ribs but that’s not why I went. I needed to whet my whistle after four consecutive days of running outside at least one hour each day.

There, I saw the regulars–Matt, the bartender, Gary and his girlfriend Debbie, and a few others. After my third beer, we begin to hear thunder. Oh crap, another summer thunderstorm. These are fairly common, actually, but can scare the shit out of me. We debated about which is the scariest natural phenomenon. I insist its thunder, because even though it’s random, you can’t escape it if it has your name on it. The others blanch when I tell them that an earthquake is no big a deal–I’ve been through many, including the Sylmar quake of 1971 and the big one in San Francisco in 1989. I’d rather be in the middle of an earthqhake than be struck by lightening. Then suddenly someone said, Tornado.

“What?” we all looked out the window. “There’s no tornado,” we laughed. But we did see hail falling from the sky and getting larger right before our eyes.

“Doesn’t it hail when a tornado appears?” someone nervously suggested.

“……….”

Well, it hailed for about fifteen minutes, getting as large as small walnuts at one point. But it ultimately subsided with no sign of a tornado. Whew…

This weather is crazy. I mean, 95-plus degrees in the afternoon and hail in the early evening? How illogical is that? Is this a by product of global warming? The thought of a dented up car crossed my mind, but when I checked it out later, there didn’t seem to be any damage. Fortunately, the thunderstorm was just another freaky summer storm in a summer of unfortunately freaky weather everywhere else.

Backward camel

Holy moly! It’s freakin’ cookin’ outside. It’s 95 degrees, 45% humidity and feels like 102 according to weather.com. But I didn’t need them to tell me. I feel like a roast cooking over a low heat. If it would only melt off the fat…

Still, I went running outside for an hour. Well, more like walking and jogging a bit. I didn’t want to kill myself. As I walked through the park, I saw an acquaintance with her three year old daughter and we exchanged greetings. I reminded the little girl that she should make sure to drink lots of water because of the heat, and she proudly showed me her water bottle.

“Where’s your water?” she asked.

“Me? I’m a lemac.” I told her.

“What’s that?”

“You know what a camel is, right?.”

“I know,” she assured me.

“Ah, and you know that camels have a hump, right? What’s the hump for?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, that’s where they keep water, so they can cross the desert without drinking. Do you have a hump?”

“No!” she cried out adamantly.

“That’s why you have your water bottle. And where’s the camel’s hump.?”

“On it’s back.”

“Right. And I don’t have water because I have a hump too. But its not on my back,” I said as I patted my stomach. “That’s why I’m a lemac. I’m the opposite of a camel.”

The girl’s mother forced a smile at this corniest of jokes. But I didn’t care, my audience was the little girl. Unfortunately, she didn’t laugh. She didn’t even grin. She just stepped up, patted me on the stomach and asked, “That’s all water?”

Green card

It’s been a long time since I’ve really written anything–mostly bitching about work. And when I have written anything, it’s been pretty half-assed. For whatever reason, I just haven’t been able to put my heart into it. Which would explain why I would easily get bored and stop writing.

Not that anything I write now will be whole-hearted, of course. A lot of it is just a process, getting into the habit of writing. But upon reflection, I think a lot of what I did a few years back, when I wrote a lot, was based on my dissatisfaction with my life and career. My status at work was very precarious, and I felt as though I had been disrespected in a very significant way, although most–students and colleagues–would not realize this as I am pretty good at masking my feelings. And writing on Xanga was an escape of sorts from self-doubt and self-pity. Someday I will write about it (in a protected post, of course).

So where were we…

I think I may have mentioned this briefly before, but since people ask me about it rather frequently, I figure I haven’t really discussed it in detail. So without further ado:

Musubichan got her greencard!

Yes, after two years of Hell, she finally got it last May–has it been a year already? Anyway, I’m sure my regular (former) readers remember all the hassles CIS (Citizenship and Immigration Service, formerly INS) subjected us to. Back in July of 2006, we went for an interview and the case officer treated us as if we were criminals. She suspected us of just trying to procure a green card under false pretense and that we were not really married. I had renewed my drivers license late–VA law allows one year for renewal–but the officer insinuated that I got the license simply to make it look like we lived together. Further, she claimed that someone in the office saw M walking from the train station to the CIS building alone, insisting that we had come separately. I was incredulous. I insisted she produce the person who made this “siting” but of course, she backed down. I had heard horror stories regarding US bureaucracy and some of the mean-spirited people who work there, but I guess you have to experience it to get the full measure of there arrogance, an arrogance they exhibit if only to hide their incompetence and stupidity. It was truly aghast.

Fed up, I finally decided to write to my Congressman–I think this is something that Sunjun actually suggested once way back when–Tom Davis (R). I wrote an impassioned letter detailing our journey through the bureaucratic Hell known as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Amazingly, I got a response from his office within two weeks telling us to renew–for the millionth time–M’s metrics (finger printing). We were hopeful that we might, in fact, get an interview by the summer to resolve this fiasco. In another two weeks, we got letter from CIS. Wow! That was fast, we exclaimed. But when M opened up the envelope, we were taken aback. It did not contain instructions for our next interview. Instead, to our utter amazement, out popped the actual green card!

Oh my freakin’ God!

Well, you can imagine our glee and our incredible relief. Finally. The first thing I wanted to do was dance a jig, but since I don’t know what a jig is, I settled for going to my Google calendar to note the expiration date of this green card in 2017. There is no way I’m going to let M’s permanent residency lapse again.