Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Case of the Mysterious Macaroons

Imagine this: I was returning to my apartment after a long day at the laboratory, my mind reeling from the many crimes against nature and humanity growing in the tanks below the basement. There was an ominous glow around the city, like it was covered in some sort of omin blanket.

Pictured above: the ominous city with ominous rainbow. Fun Fact: rainbows do NOT lead to pots of gold, as popular myth asserts, but rather to pots of mercury. This is the origin of the controversy surrounding Skittles' slogan “Taste the Rainbow.”

As I retrieved my keys from my pocket to enter my flat, I froze in shock. I discovered something mysterious on my door handle.

Pictured above: A mystery.

Immediately, my mind began racing. Had the drug cartel in Monte Carlo finally tracked me after I destroyed their operation by seducing the don's daughter and winning ownership of their casino in a game of canasta, only to disappear after they realized that it was I who had stolen their prized Tan Tiger Diamond only a month previous? No, there's no way they could track me down; they believed that I was dead, or rather, the man they knew as Raul Esteban.

Was it a booby trap set by rival scientists, afraid that I was approaching the brink of publishing my data on the neuroendocrine effects in the hippocampus before them? Had the reusable canvas bags gained sentience and turned on their human masters in the only way they knew how: minor inconvenience?

But by using my powers of deduction, induction, and (of course) seduction, I finally understood. The game was afoot. Here is the necessary background information on the case:

Two days prior, after exhaustive research into what the locals consider “nice,” I had prepared a batch of my famous blueberry muffins in an attempt to deceive the natives into friendship. So, I had given a box of them as a gift to my neighbor. I managed to trick her into befriending me, and thus began what we in the business call “the long con”.

However, I was not expecting this sort of reply. The bag was her work, there was no doubt. She had retaliated with an equally deceptive token of gratitude: an assortment of flavored macaroons inside the bag. It was, as the young folks say, “on.”

Pictured above: the tools of a professional. Delicious and malicious macaroons.

She, too, must be a “confidence man” (or for the politically correct, “confidence person” or “confidence woman” or “confidence womyn” or “cynfydyncy wymyn”). This was an unforeseen development, though I welcome the challenge from such an adversary so early in my arrival to Chicago. I shall rebut with an even more aggressive display of baked confections.

Perhaps I will send anger cookies or a resentful bundt cake (redundant, I know, as there is no other kind of bundt cake).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fast Breaks and Radishes

This wonderful Sunday morning, my older brother Kuma and I went out for a delicious Chicago breakfast (for those unfamiliar with it, "breakfast" is a kind of early lunch or very late dinner).

He suggested a place called the Bongo Room, which I assumed was some kind of Argentinian nightclub that served breakfast-themed cocktails (for example, a cosmopolitan benedict, which is vodka, cranberry juice, and just a splash of hollandaise sauce). But it turns out with was your classic Wicker Park restaurant: everything you enjoy, but exactly $2.50 more expensive than you would expect (walking into the restaurant cost $2.50). I ordered the breakfast burrito in an attempt to make myself appear more ethnic.

Pictured above: A burrito filled with avocado, eggs, and regret. While it was delicious, my brother's croissant sandwich (not pictured) had significantly more pastry.

Afterwards, as Folmsbee men are want to do, we ventured to see if there were other foodstuffs to conquer. We stumbled upon a Farmer's Market, but yet there were no farmers being sold, only sad buckets of fruits and vegetables at a considerable mark-up.

As much of a fan of local food I used to be, I have some skeptical hold-ups best described by Mr. Brian Dunning (see here for those reading for science and not absurdity). But regardless, I found some roots too appealing to turn down. My love of subterranean vegetables is well documented.

Pictured above: a chump and his turnips.

More exciting events transpired today, but I will save those juicy tales for later in the week. For now, I shall change out of my after-dinner tuxedo and into my flannel pajamas and cap. I have a long night of dream-thinking ahead of me.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reality Show Round-up #1

I have begun my fateful spiral into the heart of American culture, and I have decided to review some reality shows. Today, it's Hell's Kitchen.

Hell's Kitchen is, from what I can gather, a show about Chef Gordon Ramsay and his love of swearing and throwing spoons. To make it more interesting, the producers bring in a group of emotionally unstable men and women to be the targets of said spoons. Rather than give a full review, I instead will list a set of out-of-context quotes from the last Hell's Kitchen episode I watched.

“I'm really glad I didn't fall on the step and make out with the tuna!”

“I took it like a man and started with a brand new chicken.”

“Chef Ramsay is like the Jay-Z of restaurants.”

“When you're in the weeds, sometimes you lose your head.”

“Mikey, the rice is bullets!”


Clearly, screen-writers have become a thing of the past.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


While shopping at H&M, I saw three mannequins dressed like this: two polo shirts, with both collars popped.

Rather than be upset by this, I've decided to embrace this inevitable evolution of fashion. Already, I am predicting next season's big hit: a shirt made up entirely of popped collars.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Full-Frontal Pizza

When I told my "friends" that I would be moving to Chicago, they told me to do two things right away: get some Chicago-style deep dish pizza and join a gang. The pizza was easy enough (see below), but unfortunately, the organized crime market is still in shambles since The Bubble burst back in 1999 ("The Bubble" is the nickname of the powerful New York mob don who died after eating too many Pop Rocks).

However, I managed to get an interview at the Chicago satellite office of the Yakuza. Now I just need to brush up on my gangster interview skills, which are significantly different from those I picked up on the medical school trail. For example, did you know that when interviewing for medical school, it is considered "rude" if you reload your revolver in front of your interviewer?

To aid in my search and boost my morale, two Kansas acquaintances visited me this weekend. They remembered my fondness of large tanks of water, and we went to the aquarium. It is a great thing to view the wonders of aquatic life, and it gives each of us the chance to experience what it would be like to be King of Atlantis.

Pictured above: the world's smartest fish. It may have a giant head, but it still only has book smarts. The other fish know that it may be able to get into fish-college, but it wouldn't survive on the fish-streets.

Then, we went to a local park, where my visitors dressed up like hipsters to frighten the people who had real "jobs." I couldn't join in, because I was busy changing into my tuxedo (as a true gentleman is want to do as the day approaches 6:00 p.m. [the gentleman's hour]).

Pictured above: This hipster has a "book" (a kind of vintage e-reader made out of wood-pulp) and an unnecessary scarf, but still failed to show proper levels of smug.

Afterwards, we went to a local eatery for pizza. Little did I know the travesty I would witness.

This pizza was certainly deep-dish, but toppings and cheese were violently stuffed into it with no regard to the dignity of the dish. I learned a valuable lesson: just because something is delicious does not mean it is not a crime against humanity. This pizza was obscene and is not suitable for younger viewers.

Pictured above: the obscene pizza (censored for your benefit), flashing its full-frontal toppings and taunting us with its scandalous cheese.

Overall, a good weekend.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Science Initiation

You are about to hear about a ritual never before documented by modern investigation: the savage initiation into scientific research.

When men and women of "normal" professions, such as firemen or nurses, go through their daily lives, they are able to enjoy a reasonable amount of comfort. They know that there is vocational transparency in how they shoot water from a hose or stab children in the arm with needles. The public appreciates their service, often showing their gratitude in the form of popular song.

But what of that shady cabal of professionals known as "scientists"? They are universally feared for their excess of evil and unkempt hair, and thus remain a mystery. I penetrated their cult to shed some light on this dark, modern-day magick.

I entered the nefarious laboratory camera-in-hand, ready to capture evidence of hideous mutant, hybrid man-beasts or bubbling cauldrons of corrosive acids for alchemy (now outlawed all US States, with the exception of Massachusetts, where it is mandatory). But I instead found this:

Document A: The laboratory. This was the show-floor, available for public viewing, appeasing the expectations of a gullible populace. The real research was being conducted thirty stories below the earth, in the famous Northwestern science bunker/fallout shelter/fallout generator.

Upon my entrance, I was blindfolded and forced to recite the names of Nobel laureates. When I got to Linus Pauling, I was forced to drink a gallon of orange juice.

After a number of subsequent trials, including one where I had to identify each element of the periodic table by smell alone, I had become one of them. I had truly joined their ranks and become a scientist.

Document B: The trophy. I was presented this coffee mug as a testament to my initiation. Also, the phrase "Neurobiology & Physiology" was branded onto my back with a cattle iron.

My colleagues assured me that the cup will come in handy when I attend lengthy lab meetings or blood oaths. In either, it is important to stay hydrated.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Glimpse Into My Life

I just drank milk directly from the jug. I wonder if this is a sign of future bachelor clichés to come.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blackhawks and Books

Today, the Blackhawks, an athletic team representing Chicago, were champions of some hockeyed game.

Pictured above: a Blackhawk. It is reassuring to know that casual racism and arbitrary sports are still living happily together.

They were to hold a parade today downtown, and some of my colleagues encouraged me to attend. "Ah," I thought to myself. "This is a good chance to bond with the locals." This was immediately followed by the thought "I don't care about any of this."

Pictured above: I don't even care about this picture.

Nevertheless, I found myself alone in a sea of inebriated Chicago-ans at 11:00 this morning. Upon reaching the intersection of Michigan and Erie, my brain came to its own intersection of misery and ennui. I turned to leave, and my spirits were brightened when I noticed this window display.

Pictured above: Triumph of humanity. It is difficult to see, but the mannequin is wearing a polo shirt with two collars popped. I can only assume he is on his way to forcing a lesser mannequin into drinking an entire bottle of Smirnoff Ice (the name is deceptive; it actually is consumed as a liquid).

On my way back, I passed by the medical school and pondered my own future. On Monday I will start my first research rotation, which will also be the first time I will be paid for being a scientist. It will be first time I won't be able to excuse my incompetence by being an undergraduate.

Pictured above: The owner of my soul for the next 8+ years.

But rather than dwell on trivial things like my future or the scientific progress of humanity, I began to look for literature to read during my hour-long commute to and from the laboratory over these summer months. From my limited experience of seeing hipsters read on trains, I knew I needed to be careful when choosing the right book, something both pretentious and bizarre. I wanted other passengers on the train to think I was an interesting person, but also have no desire to speak to me.

Pictured above: The semi-complete works of Mr. John Hodgman.

Perhaps books of fake trivia seems like a shallow choice. But I defy you to not be entertained by a list of 700 fake hobo names.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Interior Decorating

The decor for my modest studio apartment is, for the most part, complete.

The entire process, shopping for furniture, arranging items around the room, choosing colors and more, was surprisingly satisfying. Perhaps my natural predisposition for classy threads has translated into interior decorating. This is undoubtedly a life-changing event.

It's a bit hard, but not impossible, for a man to take care of his personal appearance without sacrificing his perceived manhood. Throw on a fitted collared shirt and slim khakis and you look like a real man. But as soon as I began considering the purchase of drapes, a line had been crossed.

Interior decorating has become the death sentence for the remnants of my masculinity. To be fair, the American patriarchy is known best for its disregard for personal hygiene and desire to crush empty alcoholic-beverage cans against one's forehead, so I'm not going to miss it terribly.

Pictured Above: The death of my machismo. The killing blow was in the form of the matching napkins and tablecloth.

Is this a normal transformation? Am I experiencing a coming-of-age phase of my life, transforming me from a boy to a man? Or at least from a man to a more fabulous man?

Pictured above: A fabulous kitchen.

I have yet to entertain guests, so time will tell.

Monday, June 7, 2010

(Not) Making Friends

In Lawrence, I had an almost uncomfortable level of recognition. I would walk through the downtown area and inevitably would run into many people I knew. Before you interpret this observation as one of arrogance ( I am arrogant, but it is not contributing to this particular argument), I must admit this psuedo-popularity was for the most part due to my involvement in many university circles (scholarship halls, biological research, school newspaper, amateur vampire slayers club, etc.) and my trademark state of dress (perpetually business casual). When I moved to Chicago, I was looking forward to starting anew and making a baker's dozen of friends (Twelve total, plus an extra, in case I needed to murder one of them).

Pictured above: an ocean of potential Chicago friends in the fog of anti-Sai sentiment.

It has been incredibly difficult to make new friends. Without school forcing my classmates into close proximity, I have been unsuccessful in making any new Chicago acquaintances. For this, I blame society and its unwritten rules.

Pictured above: My homemade strawberry french toast hasn't abandoned me. Yet.

For example, in my apartment complex, I will often share an elevator with another resident for approximately 17 seconds. During this time, what should I do? Should I just put on a goofy grin and say "Hi there! My name is Sai and I'm new here and I'm from Kansas! Want to get to know me more?!" Terrifying. No one ever says anything, staring into the corner of the elevator or pretending to check their phone. Do I dare break this silence?

Pictured above: Without human companionship, I have taken to a modern style of interior decorating. For instance, this clock I installed on my apartment wall reminds me of the unstoppable march of time and my inevitable fate of death. Also, it has a cute bird.

When the rest of my MSTP class arrives, I'm sure we will become fast friends. We will become a gaggle of geeks, spouting science to each other at an inexcusably irritating frequency. And when the MD students arrive in August, I will then be able to deceive a handful of them into hanging out with me. But this does not address the heart of the problem.

Pictured above: my new, Asian mug (my real, Asian mug is shown just in the column to the right on this blog) and portable computing device. My decor has become far too Japanese, and perhaps the simplest(?) explanation for my lack of friends is that all of Chicago is racist. I guess they don't want another Chinaman in their city.

The real problem is that I want to have "real" friends during medical school, friends who aren't "medical students" and therefore "boring." I need to make friends who are artists, law students, or young professionals who dared enter the "real world" and got "jobs". To do this, I will need to begin trying to talk to complete strangers. And not spend so much time writing blog entries.

Pictured above: Crippling loneliness. And Tanzanian-spiced fried rice.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

These Hipsters Don't Lie

There are lot more hipsters here in Chicago than in Lawrence, but how does the quality of the Chi-town hipster compare to that of the Larryville variety? Time for a head-to-head competition.

L-Town Lady: The Indian Intellectualista

This is some lady I found in downtown Lawrence. The Indian bangles on her left wrist are hidden from view, but we are treated to full-frontal hipsterdom regardless. The colors of these clothes, the mix of darks and brights, really sell it. The bright red bag makes a strong statement, and that statement is "this bag is red". These together make a good outfit, but is there enough irony? I'll bet this girl actually cares about India.

Chi-Town Lady: The Shanghai Sensation

This is some lady I found in downtown Chicago. The glasses and cardigan are classic counter-culture constants, but what really sells her outfit is the nearly-seersucker shirt with the winged collar. The book in her right hand shows an ironic value for antiquity, but masks her probable deep dependence on the technological tangle of Apple's Information-Phone (iPhone).

So who wins? Nobody. The irony of this blog post cancelled out any irony from these hipsters. All of you out there need to get on board with New Sincerity.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chicago Food!

My first homemade meal: vegetarian carbonara. Sautéed red onions and cucumber in a cream sauce, with parsley and basil.

Add some noodles and some eggs, and you get a mighty fine meal.

I did enjoy some pizza in Chicago today, topped with goat cheese, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes, for only $12. Look's like Go Roma is my kind of place.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chicago Go!

I have arrived in Chicago. The view from my apartment:

But how did I get here? Well, when I flew into Midway with my approximately 130 lbs. of luggage, I decided that taking a taxicab to my apartment would be unnecessarily decadent. Shunning the advice of my mother, my siblings, and other sane people, I ventured to jump on the affordable metro to my Chicago home.

If my liberal arts education at the University of Kansas has taught me anything, it was that people all over the world suffer from genocide, famine, oppression, and non-reality based television. The rich and privileged need to be exposed to such issues, in the hippie monetary unit known as "awareness." I was overcome with this emotion at the airport, and without an organic cotton t-shirt to buy or an ironic button to attach to my backpack, I resorted to taking public transit.

Lugging my luggage through the metro stations, up and down stairs, was probably as hilarious as it was exhausting. My feeble attempts to "blend in" with the locals on the train were stopped when I almost punched a lady when the train lurched to a stop.

Dehydrated and demoralized, I attempted to buy some water from a vending machine as I transfered between metro lines. I placed quarter after quarter into the contraption until I ran out of change, only to realize that water was $2.00. I had just placed $1.75 into the machine. Other than that, I only had $20 bills, which the device did not take. I did not have enough quarters to buy water. Waiting and understanding that my death now would probably be justified and serve as an effective warning to others, I got onto my train.

However, this was the correct decision. A cab ride surely would have been $50 or greater. And by my calculations and conversions, I still managed to choose the better deal:


Cab ride: $50


Metro fare: $2.25
Estimated value of pain/suffering: $32.51
Failed water bottle: $1.75
Total: $36.01
-> less than $50!

On the bright side, my apartment has a bright side. Two large windows open my humble home to the scraped sky of Chicago.

The living room (a.k.a. only room) is surprisingly large, and the hardwood floors give the illusion that someone much cooler lives here. The mattress was salvaged from an exited resident with "standards" for furniture.

The bathroom is lovely and also has hints of a vintage design.

The "kitchen" is small, but functional. My tea set occupies nearly 50% of my counterspace. Unacceptable.

My laptop sits atop a set of drawers also aquired free of charge (one step before dumpster).

Perhaps soon I shall photograph the beautiful city. But first I need to put away the rest of my stuff. What?! Really?! Come on! [Sai has just discovered a large number of quarters in his messenger bag, any of which could have saved him at least $17.47 worth of pain/suffering from the trip]