Being sick has allowed me, the snail, to finish both Haikyuu!! AND Run With the Wind, believe it or not

Ugh, I’ve been out of commission for days due to illness. HEALTH IS EVERYTHING, FRIENDS. WITHOUT IT, LIFE IS CRUEL AND MEANINGLESS (I say as I eat chocolate and cookies and everything I couldn’t eat when I was down for the count). I’m still not at 100% yet, and my nose is cracked and peeling all disgustingly from where I kept blowing my nose and repeatedly rubbing against it. So this whole week was pretty much wasted, work-wise. I took Monday off, came back on Tuesday feeling a bit bitter, worked an event outdoors, came back in yesterday feeling awful, went home early… and mysteriously felt better around about 2000. It was the strangest thing. Was it the new Dayquil box I bought (I’d been using Dayquil Severe from the combo box before) that did it? The shin ramyun with eggs and spinach that I decided I’d eat ’cause I was sick of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup? The 2 days’ worth of ginger tea sipping? GOING HOME EARLY? WHAT WAS IT, BUDDHA? THE MASSES DEMAND TO KNOW!

Anyways, what’s even happened this past week? I finished (or should I say, caught up with) the Haikyuu!! anime. Still haven’t caught up in the manga. My friend says the anime’s on hiatus for 2 years. I wonder if season 4’s coming anytime soon. But even if it’s not, at least they waited till after the Shiratorizawa match to stop. Not gonna lie, I had my doubts about one volleyball match stretching out over 10 eps (it reminded me of why I don’t like DBZ, with its insanely long battle scenes), but I also didn’t know that volleyball finals matches were 5 sets long, so 10 eps made a lot of sense in the end. I didn’t feel bored at all during those 10 episodes, so no complaints from me.

Right as I was finishing up Haikyuu!!, I started watching Run With the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru). I actually learned about this anime from my favorite anime Youtuber, KrisPNatz, who reviewed it on his channel. It’s still on-going (currently at 11 episodes), but I have SO MANY good things to say about this anime, I don’t even know where to start. I’ve said before that I follow certain sports (soccer, swimming, diving, gymnastics, figure skating, speed skating, skiing, snowboarding, basically any winter sport, etc., etc.) in real life, and I really enjoy sports fiction, which obviously includes sports anime. While I’ve found the sports anime I’ve watched entertaining, the only ones that have felt realistic and true to the sport, so to speak, are few and far between.

Basically, I’ve divided them (roughly) into “Anime with a sports setting” and “Anime about a sport”. Run With the Wind definitely falls into the latter category. It reminds me a lot of Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, where he talks about running being a constant in his life and influencing his writing, and the mindset of a runner/the connection runners automatically have with other runners because of their shared obsession. I can’t say I really understood, because I HATE running, and in my head, people only suffered through runs because they wanted to lose weight or be fit or something like that. Buuuut after I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,  I did stop thinking that my friends who regularly jogged in the evenings were crazy. I still thought the people running in the rain who I drove past all the time were crazy, though. But Run With the Wind kind of made me change my mind on that as well.

So one constant I’ve seen with all sports anime is the fact that all the main players in a sports anime are already participating in the sport (doesn’t matter if they’re good or not), or are naturally talented/gifted and get roped into joining (or are already participating), or are at least willing to learn/improve (even if they suck) so that they can participate in the sport. This is NOT the case with Run With the Wind. The main dude, Kurahara Kakeru, is a naturally gifted, fast runner who was somewhat known in the world of high school track. The other main dude, Kiyose Haiji, is a runner who got injured and is still recovering, but is determined to put together a team to run in the Hakone Ekiden (this huge college marathon thing that takes place around New Year’s). These two are the only ones who know what the fuck they’re doing. The rest of the eight team members Kiyose pretty much forces into joining his track team have absolutely no interest in running and fight back every step of the way. Well, there’s one guy who ran track for a bit in high school, but he wasn’t good and he quit early. And there’s another guy who’s one of those sunshine-y, Tachibana Makoto types and is more willing than the others, but has no experience running. Everybody else… I wholeheartedly agreed with Kurahara, who thinks that the whole thing is a train wreck waiting to happen and doesn’t believe that there’s any way this ragtag group can manage to qualify for the Hakone Ekiden. BUT! But… over the course of 11 episodes, I am now convinced (and I think Kurahara somewhat is as well) that it might be possible. Because somehow, some way, these guys are starting to learn to LIKE running. They’re starting to get a feeling of ACCOMPLISHMENT with every tiny improvement (30 seconds faster than last week, so on), and that, coupled with their teammates’ support and Kiyose’s boundless passion and enthusiasm, has enabled them to stick to it!

I’ve heard friends say over the years that they watched a soccer anime and wanted to play soccer, watched Prince of Tennis and wanted to play tennis, watched Haikyuu!! and wanted to play volleyball, whatever. I feel like with those animes, there was a lot of emphasis on 1) starting young, and 2) having some sort of knack for it, and the main characters seemed to possess some almost superhuman abilities that I just couldn’t see anyone I knew replicating in real life. With Run With the Wind, I actually started wondering if I might learn to enjoy running if I ever decided to pick it up for some strange reason. It just made that possibility seem… realistic. UGH. I hate running. I can’t believe an anime is making me second-guess that feeling.

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My complicated relationship with my mother (that doesn’t seem complicated from the outside, but trust me, it is)

Yesterday, I made the terrible mistake of eating frozen corn for lunch (a whole tupperware container’s worth of it). I thought I’d be fine, ’cause I actually ate a Rice Krispies Treats bar around noon, and I normally don’t eat breakfast at all. But corn simply isn’t filling enough! By 1600, I was STARVING. My stomach kept growling and all I could think of during those last two hours that I spent in virtual reference hell was FOOD FOOD FOOD. I craved Doritos, so I went to Wal-Mart and bought Doritos, Blue Bunny mint bunny snacks (I was so fucking excited to see these, you don’t even know. The Wal-Mart near my parents’ house in California does NOT have bunny snacks), and a big pack of frozen chimichangas. ‘Cause I don’t want to prep food for work. I just don’t. At least not this week.

I had to call my mom back, ’cause she called me on Sunday night, but I was in one of my “I’d rather not talk to anyone right now” moods where I wanted to do nothing but read fanfiction and watch anime, so I texted her back and said I read too much and now it’s late and I’m doing laundry, so I’ll call back tomorrow. As you can see, I did call, but my mom has been really weird and clingy/sensitive lately, so she spent five or so minutes listing out how I’d ruined her Sunday evening by not picking up her call immediately. I told her that’s unrealistic (plus, I never pick up the phone and EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHER knows that); not to mention, I’d texted back. She said “You waited 2 hours to text me back!”

Well, the truth of the matter is, I missed the call and then didn’t feel like socializing at all. It was a miracle that I managed to force myself to text her at all. It’s difficult to explain to my mom and my extroverted friends that I am simply not a very social person. I am introverted to a fault, but because I’m also talkative and loud, they can’t reconcile, so to speak, that version of me with the withdrawn hermit who sits in the dark on her phone scrolling through AO3 and reading on her Kindle app. Actually, gotta give my extroverted friends some credit– they’ve come around, after all these years, and now they send me texts going “BITCH, I KNOW YOU’RE SITTING THERE IGNORING ME ON PURPOSE.”

Honestly, if my mom just texted me instead of calling, I’d respond to her. I respond to FB messages and texts pretty frequently. I never pick up the phone unless I 100% have to, though. What I hate about this whole situation is that the whole argument repeats itself, almost word for word, every few weeks. My mom will start out with “you never call”. Well yeah, I never have. But I do answer her calls, for the most part. Then it’s “Auntie ____’s daughter is married now, and she calls her every day” (up until last month, when my mother’s close friend’s daughter got married, the line was “Auntie _____’s daughter lives with her, and she still calls her every day on her way home from work.”). My sister and I have grown up being constantly compared to this woman’s daughters, who go shopping with her and and go on family outings and vacations abroad and cruises with her and her husband and actually show up at all the dinners that their mother hosts. For her friends and their husbands. Granted, they lived in the same house, so it makes sense for them to make an appearance, but this family is a whole ‘nother thing. There are things I just don’t want to do with my parents, yo. We can go to a museum or an aquarium together if my mom really wants (she does not want).

My dad used to take me and my sister (and my mom would come along) to museums when we were kids. Those trips were the highlights of my childhood! But we never did road trips or went to the movies together or anything. Now that we’re old as balls, my parents suddenly want to do more family outings together, but again, we old. We don’t want to sit in the backseat to drive up to Nor-Cal to visit my dad’s friends anymore.

Oh yeah, to continue that thread about the repetitive arguments my mom and I have over the phone, the next part is always me explaining to her (in a raised voice) that I don’t like talking on the phone, why can’t she just text me?! And her going “I don’t text” (she does SO text– she texts and messages her siblings and her friends 24/7, in addition to talking to people on the phone for hours), and “Children should know to call and check on their parents weekly”. I do. THROUGH TEXT.

My sister already warned me that my mom was throwing a fit ’cause of my lack of response the night before (my sister apparently told my mom “Why don’t you just call her again if you want to talk to her so bad?”– most of the time, my sister behaves exactly like Tsukishima Kei, complete with bored expression and general apathy– and my mom said “If she won’t deign to call me back, then I’m not going to call her!” And then she sulked for a while until she realized I’d texted her back, but she’d missed it ’cause she was too busy sulking), so I knew it was coming, but GAHHHHH, I’M SO ANNOYED. My mother is so PETTY. I hate pettiness, passive aggressiveness, over-defensiveness, and over-sensitivity, and she embodies all of those traits!

For a while, I was in danger of becoming like her. I was defensive to a fault. I didn’t like being wrong (still don’t, really), refused to accept the blame for anything (unless it was truly, 100% my fault), wasted my breath defending myself over every perceived slight. My Toxic Friend was actually the one who pointed this defensiveness out to me. She was making fun of me at the time, but that was the first time I’d noticed my own behavior. Nowadays, instead of going “It wasn’t just me!” or “He was the one who did it, I just followed instructions!” or whatever it is irresponsible conformists in history did, I just go “I’ll fix it” or, if I really didn’t do it, I say “I wasn’t involved, so I’m not sure what happened, but let me see what I can do about it.” ‘Cause honestly, finger-pointing and figuring out who’s to blame for what takes up WAYYY more time and energy than just setting about finding a remedy/solution. Obviously, nobody has informed my mom of this.

I think when I was younger, I didn’t realize how defensive she was. And maybe she really just wasn’t as defensive back then. But as of the past three or so years, every time my sister and I call her out on anything, she’ll argue with us and then come back a couple hours later with a comment like, “You say I do this, but you do it, too.” or “Your father does this, but you never say anything when he does it.” Sometimes, she’s right, and it’s really not something that only she does, but we just happened to argue with her about it because of unfortunate timing or something. But she’ll bring it up at the oddest times, when the argument’s long over.

If there’s one thing I am grateful to my mom for, though, it’s that she never fails to (eventually) voice her displeasure out loud (unless it’s in public– then that’s a different story). She explains to us when we piss her off how we pissed her off and why. I am the same way. With friends, significant others, whatever, I don’t do the silent treatment or cold shoulder thing. Nope, they are going to HEAR about the grief they put me through. The difference is that my mom confronts us only AFTER she’s given us the silent treatment for a while. I actually don’t have major fights with her as much, so I’m not subjected to this, but she and my dad (who is a whole ‘nother problem) argue and he gets the silent treatment for days at a time. My sister and my mom don’t get along very well, so when they argue, it’s the same thing. Silent treatment. Passive-aggressive comments. OY VEY.

I know that right now, I’m irritated and I’m emphasizing mostly the negative aspects of my mother’s character, but it’s unfair to not mention her positive traits as well. She IS a caring mother. TOO caring, but caring regardless. Part of her clinginess and hovering and constant nagging probably has something to do with anxiety. She’s a HUGE worrywart. I don’t think I know anyone who has a mom who worries as much as she does about every little thing. But she has her moments where she’s also very understanding and surprisingly open-minded. There are things my friends’ parents still have yet come around to (I grew up in a fairly conservative immigrant community, which my family still lives in), like LGBTQ+ rights, that she’s supported for years (she originally didn’t, but over the course of my undergrad years, she listened to stories and talks about being LGBTQ and met some of my and my sister’s queer friends and changed her mind about the whole thing). She was the only mom in my high school friends group who allowed her daughters to date starting at age 16, so long as she and my dad got to meet the boy in question shortly after the dating began. It might not sound like much, but in my neighborhood, she’s considered pretty liberal. So I’m proud of her for those things, but MY GOD, does she frustrate me. All right, rant over. Time to head home.

Cooking Is Too Unpredictable, Ep. 2 (Spaghetti Carbonara)

I’ve made spaghetti carbonara four times in my life now (*GASP*), but each time, it turns out different from the last time. Every pan-ful tastes different from the last. I have no idea why. It could be ’cause I keep switching bacon brands. This isn’t unlikely– I’ll never forget the horrible Wal-Mart Maple Bacon Carbonara that tasted like cheap maple syrup flavored noodles (BLEAGH) from one of my attempts.

This particular batch was made using the second half of the bacon pack I bought for Thanksgiving. I discovered the hard way that spaghetti carbonara does not reheat very well in the microwave, so I’ve taken to cooking it in 2-plate batches. It’s a pain in the butt, but for the sake of taste, I must suffer. Just kidding. I hate expending extra energy. I agree to suffer because the suffering is short in the case of spaghetti carbonara. It’s like the easiest pasta to make that’s not just pouring jarred sauce over cooked pasta.

BUT DESPITE ITS SIMPLICITY, THE TASTE IS NEVER THE SAME, AS I’VE SAID BEFORE. IT’S BAFFLING. This time, I think I can explain why it was different from the Thanksgiving batch. It’s cause for that one, I used 4 thick slices of bacon, ’cause that was how many this one recipe I used ages ago and have since lost suggested. The result was something that could have used a TEENSY BIT of salt. My bacon pack had 5 slices left in it, and I was all ready to put the last slice back in the fridge, but then I remembered I don’t actually like bacon unless it’s in spaghetti carbonara, so I wouldn’t use this last slice and it would just rot away. So I tossed it in. AND THAT MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE, FRIENDS.

I wanted to get the timing right this time, ’cause timing is actually kinda important for spaghetti carbonara, so I boiled the water for the spaghetti first (my stove takes an insane amount of time to heat up water) and started chopping up the bacon slices on my one cutting board (still don’t own a second cutting board for meat and still don’t get why I need a second one, Mom). Anyone else have to peel apart each piece of bacon from the next to get them to not stick together in fours and fives (depending on how many slices you chopped at once)?

bacon_raw
Fatty fatty fatty bacon… that I had to manually separate one by one (what a pain)

I had the heat on medium instead of low-medium this time and the bacon got a bit overcooked (I like my bacon chewy and just barely cooked enough).

bacon_cooked
It doesn’t LOOK overdone, but those slightly burnt edges ain’t s’pposed to happen!

Oh yeah, so while the spaghetti and the bacon cooked, I started mixing the eggs and parmesan cheese and pepper. I mentioned in an earlier post that I couldn’t find pecorino romano cheese at the store, so I had to use basic-ass grated parmesan cheese. Well, I went back to the store to get pepper and FUCKING FOUND PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE. I guess there just wasn’t any ’cause I went there 3 days before Thanksgiving last time. Anyways, I remember this Italian Youtuber (whose channel name I’ve forgotten, ’cause it’s been years) saying that you should use one egg per person, so since I was making two servings, I used two eggs. I also tend to eyeball the cheese (basically, just load cheese in until the bowl with the beaten eggs in it looks full of cheese), but it’s about 1/2 a cup for two servings. The mixture looks really nasty and shiny, and I don’t know why, but I had a really stubborn egg white this time that wouldn’t mix properly.

raweggsandcheese
It looks like mustard that’s starting to separate. Delicious.

I was told that you should always undercook your spaghetti for spaghetti carbonara, but the first time I made it as a college student, I undercooked the spaghetti by 2 minutes and it was too undercooked! So now I just cook it for 11 minutes like the spaghetti package recommends.

Anyways, the timing! Oh, wait, before that: I had this leftover bacon fat that my mom always makes me throw out when I’m at home, but this time, I had a ton of spinach that I didn’t want to put dressing on (I like my greens slightly wilted from being microwaved or lightly fried), so I dumped the bacon on a plate, tossed the spinach into the pan with the bacon fat, AAAAAAAND don’t try this at home, kids. It was kind of gross. I forgot that the spinach would wilt faster ’cause of all the oil/fat, so I ended up with oily cooked spinach. Which I ate anyways, ’cause I believed I could do it. Hello, clogged arteries.

*Cough* Back to the timing. Put the oily spinach in a bowl, scraped the bacon back into the pan, drained the spaghetti water, dumped the cooked spaghetti into the pan with the bacon, tried to evenly distribute the bacon pieces, but as usual, it was impossible. The spaghetti and bacon just don’t want to mix! If anyone knows a way to make them mix, let me know! Plus, I had to hurry and pour the egg/cheese/pepper mixture over the spaghetti and bacon while they were still hot. Shouldn’t have worried, ’cause although I’d turned off the heat, my pan was still sitting on the burner, so the eggs immediately started to scramble. Or tried to, at least. My first time making this, the eggs actually scrambled. The second time I made it, I took the pan completely off the stove and just used the heat from the spaghetti to melt the cheese and warm the eggs, the way I saw a chef do it on TV. Of course, he was using fresh eggs, while I have refrigerated grocery store eggs. The scaredy-cat in me feels a bit nervous about eating raw grocery store eggs, so that’s why I switched back to doing everything on the stove, but geez, you end up having to REALLY mix fast to avoid “scramblage”.

spaghetticarbonara
VOILA– the fattiest meal ever.

Yo, I don’t know about you, but for me, pepper is what makes this dish. LOTS AND LOTS OF PEPPER. I put a ton in the egg/cheese/pepper mixture and then put extra in the pan and then put more on the plate. *YELLS* PEPPER!!!!!

So yeah, this “recipe” only uses 5 ingredients:

  • Bacon ($4 per pack? Technically ~$2 for this recipe, since I only used half a pack)
  • Spaghetti (Half a pack, so like 60 cents, lol)
  • 2 eggs (I don’t know how much each egg costs)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (no idea how much this costs, either, but it’s like $4 for a whole container)
  • PEPPER

Total: $3.50? $1.25 per serving? Maybe $1.50 if you want to count the spinach, which isn’t part of the recipe. It’s a very cheap (AND SUPER MOUTHWATERINGLY UNHEALTHY) meal.

And it doesn’t take long to prepare or cook, either. A few minutes for the water to boil, 11 minutes for the spaghetti to cook, and the bacon chopping/cooking and egg/cheese/pepper mixing is done while waiting for the the spaghetti. And depending on how fast you do dishes, the whole thing can take 20 minutes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

The never-ending struggle to find motivation and churn out amazing projects for work (while also making time for Haikyu!! *cough*)

Had a big problem with motivation this work-week. Truly, without motivation, drive, and progress, work can feel meaningless and unbearably hard. Thanks to first-thing-in-the-morning (meaning first thing in my morning– I don’t start work till later than most people usually do) meetings and just projects that I agreed to help with whose tasks didn’t require much brainpower to complete, I did get work done and was here working for a respectable, acceptable amount of time every day. My heart wasn’t in it as much as it should’ve been, though.

One of the hurdles I’ve come up against is that huge, ever-looming one that gives all of us in academia trouble: BUREAUCRACY. Red tape. Permission and approval required for anything and everything. I’m from a public library background, and it’s not like we never dealt with that there, but I’m used to being able to immediately act after I get an idea in my head for a small-scale project, so long as my supervisor is aware. Here, I can get the whole department, including my supervisor, the department head, the assistant dean, and maybe even the dean himself to give me a thumbs-up and I’d still have to wait for the right people to be consulted first before I can get started. I’m not used to it, so it’s maddening. And this is with the majority of my colleagues and bosses being incredibly open-minded and supportive and actively working to help me get what I want. I don’t know how people at other university libraries without that kind of support get anything done. Thank you, gods and heavens above, for making my life a little easier!

I’ve got lots of ideas, fam, but as always, I’m struggling to follow through on them. People are busy and it’s hard to “gain an audience” with directors and important people from other departments and offices so that we can discuss ideas, programming, projects, instruction, etc., etc. I don’t have concrete plans laid out, either, so I have nothing to present the busier people who prefer more structure with. Serendipitously (again with that word!), I stumbled upon a site that collects projects and blog posts from other libraries’ outreach/collaboration/engagement attempts and organizes them so the rest of us can easily browse by library type, budget, so on, so forth. I WANT TO BE ONE OF THE SUCCESS STORIES ON THIS SITE. ME! ME AND MY LIBRARY AND MY UNIVERSITY! HOW DO I MAKE THIS HAPPEN, BUDDHA? BLESS MEEEEE!!!!!

I believe I am going a bit crazy from self-imposed isolation in my cubicle all day (me, my headphones, two monitors with a ton of articles, case studies, webinars, blog posts, etc., Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, and email communications) in order to “figure this shit out”. I’ve actually talked to several different colleagues randomly in the hallways, at the door of my cubicle (I was craving chocolate chip cookies and, out of pure coincidence, my coworker bought me a big chocolate chip cookie as thanks for covering a shift for her, so we chatted for a bit), in the bathroom, but overall, I have been alone with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and my thoughts. Oh, and Haikyu!!. I did take breaks to read a few chapters. I’ve been eating chips and frozen corn and guzzling beer for dinner ’cause I’m too distracted to heat up anything more complicated than that and I just want to watch Haikyu!! or read the manga. Or read fanfiction for it (teeheehee). I also haven’t been consistently exercising and am paying for it. I woke up this morning and accidentally wrapped my forearm and hand around my generous, squishy belly and freaked out ’cause I was NOT expecting that. What the fuck? I’m getting fat, but only in my belly area! EEEEEEP…

 

Is it shounen or shonen? (And what’s better, the anime or the manga?)

Today’s been a really weird day. We’re all back at work, and work is getting done (slowly, but surely), but it doesn’t feel like a work day at the same time. For one thing, our department head cancelled our weekly departmental meeting, so we suddenly had that time free. For another, I spent so much time in virtual reference (those of us who are back “early” are doing voluntary extra shifts to cover for our colleagues who are still out) that I’ve been in my chamber of isolation this whole time, only interacting with colleagues/faculty/students through email and chat.

Virtual reference is… unpredictable. This past hour has been super busy not ’cause I had endless questions, but because a few reference interviews (for you non-librarians, reference interviews are what you call it when someone asks you to help them find things and you ask clarifying questions and they provide more details or don’t provide details, forcing you to ask more questions or make your own assumptions about what it is they’re really looking for) took so long that I was searching nonstop for 15-20 minute blocks at a time. Before that, it was on and off. During some of the down time (I had 30 minutes of down time where I was basically just sitting there waiting for a question), I read fanfiction, scrolled through Tumblr for a bit, and added items to my manga to-reads list.

SERENDIPITY’S THE NAME OF THE GAME TODAY, FOLKS. I randomly read a short article on female mangaka who wrote/write for Shonen Jump, that article linked to other pages, and now I have the following titles on my to-reads list (not all by female mangaka, ’cause again, I went down a rabbit-hole):

  1. The Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki
  2. Noah’s Notes by Haruto Ikezawa (I think this one got cancelled, but the premise is unique and I really want to read a manga about archaeologists!)
  3. D.Gray-man by Katsura Hoshino (yes, I have never read D.Gray-man ’cause I never knew what it was about, but NOW I DO! Victorian setting?! SIGN ME UP!)
  4. Welcome to the Ballroom by Tomo Takeuchi (I love watching ballroom dance competitions, but I have no idea how this will work in manga form)
  5. Altair: A Record of Battles by Kotono Kato
  6. Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate (is Furudate a man or woman? Different sites seem to use different gender pronouns for him/her)

I’m also still reading Barakamon (by a female mangaka, Satsuki Yoshino), BNHA, and Attack On Titan (’cause they’re on-going and I stopped at different points in each one and haven’t picked them up again).

These last four titles I mentioned all have anime adaptations (most of them still on-going). For all except for Barakamon, which I read a good chunk of before I watched an episode of the anime, and Haikyuu!!, whose manga I haven’t started reading yet, I watched at least one season before I picked up the manga. So now my question is: SHOULD I read the Haikyuu!! manga after all? 6-7 years ago, 5 times out of 6, I wouldn’t have even watched the anime if I hadn’t started reading the manga first because I was a snob and a book purist (I’m still kind of a book purist, but I’ve loosened up a bit). I’ve since loosened up, and can now equally appreciate both the manga and anime versions of a series (it wasn’t until my umpteenth time marathoning LOTR in conjunction with my yearly reread of the book that I realized how the music, casting, costuming, and set design for a movie/TV show can bring a book to life in a way my imagination sometimes can’t, but having read the book, I was able to enjoy the movies way more).

BUUUUUT reading the manga often makes me fall way behind in the anime once a new season comes out. Take Attack On Titan, for example. I was on season 2, caught up on the entire manga, took a break from the manga to wait for 2 or 3 chapters to be released so I could read them all at once, and then season 3 of the anime came out and I watched one episode and stopped ’cause I ALREADY KNEW WHAT WAS GONNA HAPPEN, I’M IN NO HURRY! That will probably happen with BNHA and, if I read Haikyuu!!, it will happen with Haikyuu!! 

When I was younger, I didn’t like watching anything with more than 26 episodes (going by what I considered the GOLDEN STANDARD a.k.a. my favorite series, Vision of Escaflowne, and another favorite, Cowboy Bebop). That number got upped to 64 episodes after FMA: Brotherhood, but I’m not very fond of the idea of reading/watching something like One Piece, which has been going since I was a little kid (although I did read several volumes of One Piece way back when)! I think I was traumatized after Bleach went down some strange route that I didn’t get and Naruto jumped the shark. ADD… attention span… short… distracted… impatient…

Is it just me, or are more animes trying to be almost 100% faithful to the source material nowadays? Back then, I would read entire mangas and then abandon the anime adaptations half-way through (LOOKING AT YOU, TSUBASA RESERVOIR CHRONICLE) ’cause of canon deviation. What is this, fanfiction?! But I haven’t been disappointed like that recently. THANK YOU, INCREASED PRODUCTION VALUES!

Before I sign off, I was reading someone’s post where they’d gathered all of Eichirou Oda’s comments/author’s updates or whatever for Shonen Jump, and in one of the notes, Oda had mentioned Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s album Japamyu. My sister has a friend who was obsessed with Miss KPP for a while, but I had no idea who she was or what her music was like until I decided to test-play the album while I did work yesterday. At first, I went WTF IS THIS? But then I got to “Kizunami”, and WTF AGAIN, it’s catchy as hell! So fast-forward a day and I’ve been playing this song on repeat for an hour. All of my interests somehow overlapped and led me to other, similar interests, and now I’m living a Japanese pop culture-fueled to-do list what even?

Cooking Is Too Unpredictable, Ep. 1 (Chicken Parmesan)

Trying something new here. I know I’ve said before that I hate cooking and don’t get any enjoyment out of it, buuut… the truth of the matter is, as some of the more recent posts have indicated, I’ve been doing basic cooking once a week (usually on Saturdays or Sundays) so that I don’t have to cook or go out to get food for the rest of the week. Do I suddenly like it? NAY! I still find it troublesome and time-consuming. BUT survival (and my bank account) dictate that I need to better plan the smaller details of my life to ensure long-term sustainability.

So here’s how this is (hopefully) going to work: once a week, I’m going to attempt either 1) a recipe I find online, 2) a modified version of a recipe I find online (this is most likely), 3) a combination of several different, similar recipes I find online, or 4) some new, experimental creation (this is not very likely, as I am not a creative, bold, or masochistic person).

*Ahem* So I went shopping for ingredients for this tomato chicken parmesan recipe a couple days ago. Imma tell you right now that recipes are too fucking vague for a complete kitchen plebeian like me to decipher. When they say “6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves”, what do they mean? Does the store sell chicken breasts in halves, or do I buy 3 chicken breasts and then cut them in half? Which way do I cut them? Just straight down the middle for stubby, thick chunks, or lengthwise, the way chefs separate fish meat from fish bones, in order to thin out the chicken breasts? In my case, I misread that as “6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts”, so I ended up buying a whopping 3.5-pound tray with 4 ginormous pieces of chicken that I had to chop in half.

Someone in the comments section on AllRecipes suggested making the meat thinner so that the pieces cook more evenly. I don’t own a mallet/meat tenderizer, so I googled how to thin out chicken without one. Many people said to wrap each chicken piece in plastic wrap and roll it flat with either a rolling pin or a wine bottle, or pound it flat with a pan. Ain’t no way I was taking the time to plastic-wrap 7 pieces of chicken, so I decided to cook the thick pieces as is. But in case you want to try this recipe, either get you a meat tenderizer or know beforehand that you will have to allot extra time to plastic-wrapping your chicken. And own a rolling pin or empty wine bottle. Or a pan you’re comfortable using to pound chicken with (and not live in an apartment with neighbors).

chickenbreasts
Fat and uneven chicken breast halves

Anyways, the recipe says to use 2 eggs, 1/2 a cup of grated parmesan cheese, and 7 oz of bread crumbs. I remember the last time I tried making chicken parmesan, I ended up throwing away about half this mixture because there was just too damn much. So I halved the amount this time and realized 1) Next time, I can either use 2 eggs and have leftover beaten raw egg, 2) Keep using 1 egg and try to find smaller pieces of chicken, and 3) I will never get the cheese/bread crumb-to-chicken ratio right. The video accompanying the recipe said to leave the breaded raw chicken in the fridge for 30 minutes to make sure the mixture sticks, so I did that. The video also shows a woman using tongs to dip/bread the chicken. Lemme tell ya– chicken breasts are VERY wrinkly and have folds EVERYWHERE, so I don’t know how you can cover every centimeter of your chicken breasts without using your hands to stretch and dip them from all angles.

chickenbreasts_breaded
Post-fridging, THOROUGHLY covered in egg dip/bread crumbs/parmesan, and all ready to cook

And here’s where the size problem comes up again. The recipe says to cook 8 minutes each side. Total cook time: 30 minutes (note that 20 of those minutes are for the baking-in-the-oven-part). Does this person have a gargantuan pan that covers 2 burners or something? ‘Cause my biggest pan is a 10-incher and this is what happened:

chickenbreasts_breadedinpan
8 mins X 2 sides X 3 batches = 48 minutes of your life wasted

Please pay close attention to this part. The recipe states to cook on medium-high heat. I don’t know what that means, so I just turned the heat halfway between the halfway and highest point (medium-high, right?), then set the timer for 8 minutes. I figured I’d wash and chop my mushrooms (the recipe doesn’t say anything about mushrooms, but I love them and I had a box in my fridge, so I let them soak in salt-and-vinegar water while I prepped the chicken, ’cause that’s what I was taught to do to ensure cleanliness) while I waited, but about 4 minutes in, I noticed there seemed to be an alarming amount of smoke coming from the stove, despite the vent being on at the highest setting. So I grabbed the tongs and lifted one of the pieces and HOLY SMOKES, THE CRUST WAS SCARY BLACK AND HARD. I immediately turned down the heat to 4 (so in-between low and medium) and kept the chicken on the stove for another 2 or so minutes, and then for the other side, I decided to cook the chicken for only 4 minutes at low-medium heat. That worked much better, but I still had the fucking cancerous chunks to deal with.

For the second batch, I dumped the burnt chicken onto my only other plate (the salad plate– the dinner plate was used to hold the raw, breaded chicken, as you can see in the picture above), wiped the burnt oil/crumbs from the pan, poured in more oil (the recipe says 1 tbsp of oil for all 6 pieces of chicken, but I don’t believe that), and kept the heat at low-medium and the timer at 4 minutes. While the chicken cooked, I got to work performing surgery on the burnt pieces. My mom would have demanded I throw them out, but I ain’t tossing otherwise good chicken just ’cause the crust on one side is potentially cancer-inducing.

chickenbreasts_burnt
Still edible, right? Perhaps if I had better kitchen scissors…

The heat/temperature adjustments worked well, but they didn’t allow me enough time to do other things like I normally do leisurely while cooking (doing the dishes, cleaning the counters, prepping vegetables), ’cause I’m slow as fuck and 4 minutes go by really fast.

chickenbreasts_cooked
The second batch, looking the way God intended them to look

I had no plates left to transfer this batch of chicken to while I cooked the last batch (they weren’t gonna go on the raw chicken plate and they couldn’t go on the plate with the cancerous bits, either), so I had to quickly “grease” (meaning take a paper towel and smear vegetable oil all over my brand-new 9 X 13 inch baking pan that I finally tore the labels off of and washed just for this) my baking pan and dump the nicely cooked chicken pieces in so I could put the last 2 pieces on the stove to cook. POO. I wanted to put pasta sauce and mushrooms in the pan first and THEN put the chicken in, but I was too slow for that!

By the way, here’s where the size problem comes up AGAIN. I roughly chopped up the mushrooms, dumped the 15-oz pasta sauce jar in, and managed to fit all 7 chicken breast pieces, but I had to play fucking tetris in order to do that:

chickenbreasts_sauced
In no universe should the baking pan be this crammed!

I was going to chop up my onion and put it in, too, but there was no room for that! Maybe next time, when I buy 3 chicken breast pieces and halve THOSE instead. For this last part, the recipe has a tip: “Aluminum foil can be used to keep food moist, cook it evenly, and make clean-up easier.” Thanks, but HOW? Should I have lined the baking pan with aluminum foil? Would I still need to grease the pan with the aluminum foil lining? Do I cover the pan with aluminum foil? Do I line AND cover the pan with aluminum foil? I ended up doing neither, ’cause I was lazy, but keep that in mind, folks!

Did anyone notice that my packed baking pan was missing an essential ingredient? Fortunately, I realized before I actually stuck it into the oven, but I’d forgotten the Monterey Jack cheese! I ended up using 7 out of the 10 slices, so I felt better about having bought a pack with 10 slices, but what am I going to do with the remaining 3, I wonder?

The baking time, as previously mentioned, is 20 minutes. What I want to know is, why do we have to “saute for about 8 to 10 minutes each side, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear” if we’re just going to bake the chicken for another 20 minutes in the oven anyways? Isn’t 20 minutes enough time to cook chicken completely? Why can’t we just lightly cook the chicken on the stove so the breaded crusts can cook and then pop it in the oven right way? I DON’T GET IT.

But I followed the instructions anyways, because I’m a stickler for this kind of stuff when I’m actually following along, and it bugs me when I have to deviate from the steps!

chickenbreasts_done
From far away, it kind of looks like eggs and potatoes with cheese.

By the way, if you’ve never used your oven before, which I never had until today, see if you can figure out how it works before you try to bake something big in it. My oven is one of those digital ones that should make life easier, but instead are just annoying, ’cause it forces you to preheat before you can enter a baking time (I didn’t know this until I tried to push the timer button and couldn’t), and then takes fucking 15 minutes to preheat! I grew up with an oven that didn’t do any of this stuff, and my mom always told me to preheat for 5 minutes only. I actually thought my preheat button was stuck, but in reality, my oven just takes 15 whole minutes! I also discovered that the oven light isn’t working, so now I have to put in a work order for that. *Sighhhh*

All in all, not a terrible result:

chicken_plated
I wish I could have fit more vegetables in…

Is that fucking rice on your plate, IP, you ask? Why yes. Yes, it is. I stole the idea from this Chinese restaurant I want to in San Diego. They had this cheese pork dish that they served in a skillet on top of rice, and it was AMAZING.

SO WHAT WAS THE VERDICT? 

Here are the (useful/helpful) notes, thoughts, comments, and questions for next time:

  1. BUY FEWER CHICKEN BREAST PIECES AND EITHER POUND THEM FLAT OR HALVE THEM TO GET THINNER PIECES, ‘CAUSE THIS WAS WAY TOO MUCH CHICKEN AND NOT ENOUGH CRUST/SAUCE TO BALANCE IT WITH.
  2. IF ONLY THERE WAS A WAY TO SEASON THE INSIDE OF THE CHICKEN BREASTS, BECAUSE THE FLAVOR WAS SEVERELY LACKING IN THERE.
  3. I suddenly remembered after taking the first bite and realizing that the crust wasn’t crispy that the last time I made this with my mom, she’d done the egg dip/bread-crumb-and-parmesan dip thing TWICE. We still had a shit-ton of leftover bread crumbs/cheese, but next time, Imma use 2 eggs and maybe 5 oz instead of 3.5 oz of bread crumbs and 3/4 of a cup of parmesan cheese so I can get a thicker crust.
  4. MORE MUSHROOMS, ADD THE ONION. Maybe add some salt and pepper to the mushrooms/onions.
  5. A BIGGER JAR OF SAUCE IS NEEDED. The recipe said to use a 12-oz jar. The grocery store only had 15.5-oz and 24-oz jars, so I had to get a 15.5-oz jar. THANK GOODNESS, ’cause this was BARELY enough sauce to coat the pan/cover the chicken breasts.
  6. The sauce could use a little more OOMPH. A tsp of sugar? Some oregano? A pinch of salt?
  7. LOWER HEAT, LOWER STOVE-TOP COOKING TIME. MAKE UP FOR IT WITH THE 20 MINUTE BAKING TIME.
  8. COOK THE RICE EARLY, ‘CAUSE RICE TAKES FOR FUCKING EVER TO COOK AND NOBODY WANTS TO WAIT AROUND FOR RICE AFTER THE CHICKEN’S DONE.
  9. PRE-HEAT WHILE YOU’RE STILL COOKING THE CHICKEN ON THE STOVE/READYING THE PAN, ‘CAUSE NOBODY WANTS TO WAIT AROUND FOR 15 MINUTES FOR AN OVEN TO BE READY.
  10. DO THE DISHES EVERY SPARE MOMENT YOU HAVE (I do this as a rule anyways, so I don’t have to do dishes once I’m done).
  11. IF YOU DON’T ALREADY OWN A 9 X 13 INCH BAKING PAN, GET YOU ONE WITH A LID, SO YOU CAN JUST PUT THE LID ON AND STICK THE WHOLE THING IN THE FRIDGE ONCE YOU’RE DONE.
  12. CHICKEN AND RICE TAKE FOREVER TO COMPLETELY COOL, SO YOU’LL BE WAITING A LONG TIME TO FRIDGE THE LEFTOVERS. BE WARNED.

And now, what every lazy millennial bachelor/bachelorette-slash-working professional wants to know: WAS IT ALL WORTH IT, IP?

I don’t know. Howzabout I break it down for you first?

Here’s how much I spent:

  • Chicken: $12.91
  • Bread crumbs: $1.08 for a big can, 5/6 of which I didn’t need (the smallest can they had. I also bought generic, store-brand bread crumbs, ’cause I’m of the firm belief that if I can’t really taste the difference, I’m not spending extra on a big-name brand)
  • Pasta sauce: $1.89 for a 15.5-oz jar (this one did worry me a bit, because I CAN taste the difference between pasta sauce brands, or non-brands, if you will, but the big-name brands didn’t come in jars smaller than 24 oz, so I had to risk buying the generic store-brand! It… wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t super flavorful, either)
  • Mushrooms: $1.28 for a box
  • Rice: I don’t fucking know how much a serving of rice costs! I spent about $6 on a mini bag of rice from Wal-Mart months ago and I eat rice like once a month (meaning I make 3 or 4 meals’ worth of it) and still have 2/3 of the bag left, so let’s say 50 cents?
  • Total: $19.66, divided by 7 servings (this will vary depending on how much you eat), so that’s $2.80 per serving.

And if you don’t already have them, you’ll also need (these are all staple household items/one-time cost only items):

  • Vegetable oil (~$2.50?)
  • A big pan (~$25, if you aren’t picky?)
  • A pair of tongs (~$3)
  • An egg (~$3 a tray)
  • A big knife (~$5?)
  • A 9 x 13 inch baking pan (~$6?)
  • A big plate (~$2?)
  • A rice cooker (~$100)

Now, let’s factor in the time spent on this:

  • It took 35 minutes to prep the chicken (including cutting open the tray, measuring ingredients, and doing the dishes, which no one EVER considers when they time these things), and excluding the 30 minutes the chicken spent in the fridge (I didn’t count this time ’cause I was off doing something else and wasn’t sitting around impatiently waiting).
  • Here’s the killer: it took 72 MINUTES to cook the chicken (at the reduced amount of stove-top cooking time, not the 8 minutes-per-side the recipe recommended– I don’t know, maybe your stove is exactly like the OP’s stove and will actually take 8 minutes), preheat the oven, and bake it! I am not counting cool-down time or the time I had to wait for the rice afterwards (it was about an additional 15 minutes after the chicken finished baking, but that was due to poor time-syncing on my part more than anything), and I washed/chopped the mushrooms and did the dishes whenever I wasn’t doing something chicken-related, so I saved time there.
  • Total: 1 hour and 47 minutes

SO YOU DECIDE. IS IT WORTH THE TIME, ENERGY, AND EFFORT TO HAVE A SOMEWHAT BALANCED MEAL FOR $2.80 (not to mention, a good chunk of your Sunday that could have gone to anime or gaming devoted to slaving away over a stove), OR IS YOUR TIME/MONEY BETTER SPENT FINDING A PASTRY OR SOMETHING FOR $2.80 AT A CAFE NEAR WORK FOR ALL YOUR MEALS EVERY DAY?

CONSIDER ALSO: PIZZA! Pizza is actually cheaper, if you think about it. I eat 2 slices of pizza at a time, so a $10 pizza can last me for 5 meals, AND I wouldn’t have to cook/clean to get it. Too much pizza makes me feel like I’m gonna get heartburn, though, so alas.

I personally think that I’d make this again in the future, and it’s not bad cost-wise (in terms of money), but I’d like to find other recipes that will take 1 hour MAX to finish, ’cause cooking should be easy, damn it!

 

The day after Thanksgiving, and I’m not feeling very thankful, just unhealthy (also, why is sports anime so addicting?)

Is it sad that I instinctively wanted to start this post with “Thanksgiving was utterly unproductive”? I mean, it’s a fucking holiday. Why would I have even needed to be productive? It’s as if all my free time is on an invisible timer, so if I’ve sat there for too long playing a game, I start feeling guilty and then I turn off the computer just to… do nothing. Because some days, I don’t have any pressing chores or assignments to work on. I just feel like I have to be going, going, going at all times. I was going to use these four days off to catch up on sleep, but I’ve been going to bed super late (first, it was ’cause I was reading a book, and then yesterday night, I was up at 4 AM browsing Black Friday deals on my phone) and waking up about half an hour later than I normally do for work and NOT BEEN ABLE TO GO BACK TO SLEEP. GAHHHHH, BODY, WHY HAVE YOU BETRAYED ME LIKE THIS?

I got this new skin plumping cream from Japan. But what’s the point of plumping up your skin if you’re just going to not sleep and look like a fucking zombie with shiny skin?! I also burned my bread and put too much soy sauce on my eggs earlier. It felt like eating carcinogenic crusts while drinking Kikkoman on the side for lunch. My box of greens went bad, so now I only have frozen corn and carrots in terms of vegetables. I’M GOING TO GET HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND HIGH CHOLESTEROL AND DIABETES AND DIE. I bought all these snacks in preparation for my planned hibernation, but now I don’t feel like eating any of them. But it feels wrong NOT to eat them after buying so much!

I made the mistake of installing my new Sims 4 expansion pack on Wednesday night after art class instead of jumping straight into one of the games in my queue (the ones with actual stories that I could have played through over four days), so the only game I’ve been playing, as a result, is The Sims 4.

I also marathoned 9 episodes of Haikyuu!! last night. I find it extremely entertaining because I love sports fiction and I enjoy watching (select) real-life sports, but it’s actually pretty generic in terms of sports stories. You can match up the characters’ personalities to a ton of other similar characters in shounen anime. And is it just me, or do many of the characters have nearly identical character designs, aside from their hairstyles/hair color? Also, someone please explain to me what an anime sports team manager actually does? I remember managers playing a pretty important role back when I played sports in high school, but the managers’, faculty advisers’, and even coaches’ duties seem to be almost interchangeable in some animes, so I’m confused. I REALLY hope they give the team manager in this series an actual personality sometime before the next season starts. She’s the only female character with a name and, at the moment, all we know about her is that she’s beautiful! And doesn’t seem to talk much. Will they tell us how she ended up being team manager/why she cares about volleyball? Is it just a job? Is she related to a volleyball player? EXPLAIN. EXPLAIN. Free! also has a female team manager who doesn’t swim herself and is the subject of several different boys’ fantasies, but she’s a huge part of the team (I don’t think they’d get much done without her) and has a big personality. I can’t even remember the name of Haikyuu!!‘s team manager! Then again, there are many more team members’ names/faces to remember than in Free!, which initially started with just 4 team members, the team manager, and the dude from the rival team.

I am drinking green tea and hoping it helps lessen the uncomfortable “too much fucking sodium” feeling. Ugh, I’m an idiot. Why did I pour so much Kikkoman sauce onto the plate? And why did I feel the need to eat all of it?! *Groooooan*