I meant to spend most of my break between semesters catching up on reading like I did last year, but we’re about a week out from the first day of class and I’ve only read through some volumes of the comic book series Grimm Fairy Tales. It’s not bad, but it’s also not the intellectually stimulating experience I want from a book. I picked them up as digital comics a few years ago and never got around to reading them. Maybe they were part of a Humble Bundle, I don’t know. It’s hard to resist the book Humble Bundles.
The story mode is good, but I enjoy the online play more, even though it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of load times. I also wish it had more of the story mode content, like items you can find and collect. One thing that did carry over is the trick jumps. Some of them are a headache to get right, mostly because you have to use the right vehicle and avoid killing yourself while pulling off the jumps, or you have to land in just the right spot to get credit for the jump. It’s fun, though. One of the more interesting ones to do are the jumps at the airport traffic circle off the billboards. I made the video below of the jumps, but I feel like I could probably pull off two backflips on the motorcycle before landing. I’m going to give it a shot.
This is a bit delayed, it being the fourth night of Chanukah, but better late than never!
I saw this poster hanging in the lobby of my mother’s apartment building when we went to visit her for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t aware there were enough Jewish tenants living there for the management to recognize the holiday. Maybe they put up signs for every major religious holiday? Regardless, it was very well done and a nice gesture.
Chanukah is a commemoration of the reconquest of Jerusalem by the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple to God. The oil they had available to light the menorah in the Temple was only enough for one day, but they lit it anyway, while they got to work making more, which was an eight-day process of pressing and purifying. According to tradition, the oil vessel miraculously refilled itself every night allowing them to keep the menorah burning for all eight nights. That’s why Jews today light a menorah each night of the holiday, in commemoration of not just the rededication but the miracle of the oil.
Ever since I enlisted in the Army and businesses started offering Veterans Day promotions, I’ve tried to make it to a participating business each year. I’m not one to pass up free food, especially when it’s from a place like Olive Garden. I’m just being practical. Besides, I’m a veteran, and in a way, I already paid for it. That’s what the day is about, and I’m glad businesses have decided to give back to the veteran community one day a year in a show of appreciation for the efforts and loss that some people went through, or are still going through, for those on active duty.
The first time I remember going to a restaurant for a free meal on Veterans Day was when I was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I think I went to a Golden Corral or a similar all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant with a group of guys from my unit. This year, like last year, my wife and I went to the Olive Garden in Times Square. In addition to the free entree for veterans, the restaurant was offering 10% off for family members. I’m not sure if that was 10% off the rest of the bill, or just the other entree(s). I forgot to check and tossed the receipt already, but it doesn’t really matter to me. A discount is a discount.
The entree options for veterans were limited, but they offered a nice variety of choices. I went with the cheese ravioli. We also got the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and my wife ordered the capellini pomodoro, which she said tasted delicious. It looked delicious. I also ordered a new drink they have, a blood orange blackberry iced tea. That tasted outstanding.
These guys were outside the Olive Garden. I thought it was pretty cool, so I want to share the photo:
We finished the evening off at Starbucks, which was offering a free tall brewed coffee to veterans and family members.
The evening wasn’t completely free, but the discounts at Olive Garden made our evening out more affordable and gave my wife and I an opportunity to be thankful for my coming home in one piece, to remember those who didn’t, and gave us another reason to just spend time together out of the house. We’re looking forward to doing it again next year.
My wife and I were downtown last Thursday to get some supplies from Petco. After shopping, we were cutting across Union Square to get to a subway entrance that’s closer to the L train when we saw a booth set up. My first thought was that it was the beginnings of the Christmas market. I mean, it’s early, but why not? The month ends in a -ber, right? And it seems like stores start selling Christmas stuff earlier and earlier each year. But, when we got closer, I realized it was a booth for Sukkot. I thought the evergreen branches hanging off the roof were Christmas decorations, but nope. That’s part of the temporary structure. The roof is supposed to not be completely covered. The entire construction is supposed to be non-permanent, because it symbolizes the temporary dwellings of the Hebrews in the desert during the Mosaic diaspora period (between Egypt and Canaan / Israel).
The decorations on the outside of the structure were nice. I didn’t realize how extravagant people can get with these things. If you’re wondering, “succah” is the name of the temporary dwelling. It’s just the Hebrew word for it, and during Sukkot Jewish people usually eat in their succah, unless it’s raining. For more info on Sukkot, click here.
After seeing the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular last Friday, my wife and I walked over to Rockefeller Center to take a look at the big Christmas tree. It’s one of those iconic sights that you have to see to say you had the full Christmas tourist experience in the city. We’re not tourists, but even still, it’s nice to get out and do the tourist thing. It helps me appreciate the city more and take advantage of what it has to offer, before I suddenly find myself moving somewhere else. That’s how it’s always been for me. I keep putting things off and then before I know it, the opportunity has passed and I’ve moved on. That’s how I wound up never seeing the Carlsbad Caverns, even though I lived in the area for two years.
Anyway, the tree was looking a little wilted, but we did wait until the it had been up for more than a month to came take a look at it. Next year, I want to take my wife around to see it when it’s still fresh. She was very amused to see the ice skating rink just below the tree and had a lot of questions about it. Maybe one of these days I can teach her how to ice skate, though I’m a bit rusty myself.
The Christmas season is winding down. In just a few days it’ll be the New Year. Even worse (and better), classes start again on the 3rd. It’s just one class, for Winter Session, but it’s 4 hours a day, 4 days a week for three weeks. It should be interesting. I just hope we can squeeze in a few more sightseeing stops before we run out of time. We still have to make it back to the Met! Hopefully we can do that this Friday, when the museum stays open later than normal. I’d like to take her to the Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History too, if possible.
Ok, so maybe it’s not all that bad. In fact, it could be a lot worse. The fact remains, however, that I spent this Christmas apart from my wife, and that seriously put a dent in my holiday spirit. This year just feels different. The ‘spirit’ of the holiday seems to have gone around me without touching me. The lights are up. The tree is there. The gifts are under it. The food was good. I had family around me. And yet, without my wife it seems pale. All I can do is look forward to next year, when we can do things right. Next Christmas will be extra special.
Some of my photos came out fairly decent, so I thought I’d share a few.
Traditionally, my mom’s side of the family does Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, so last night we had a simple meal of roast pork, black beans with rice and yuca. It looks simple, but trust me, it tasted great! We also had cake and homemade oatmeal cookies.
This morning we followed up the dinner with a really good, traditional breakfast of bacon, biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes and eggs.
Christmas isn’t completely without joy this year, but like I said, it’s just not the same. My wife and I spent every day together for almost 2 and a half years until we had to temporarily part ways. It really puts a damper on my holiday spirit, and instead of really enjoying this Christmas, it feels more like another step on a path to something more fulfilling, when my wife and I will be together again. I’m looking forward to it.
So, Sunday is August 9th, Singapore’s National Day. The country will be celebrating it’s 44th birthday, it’s 44th year of nationhood, supposedly. I say supposedly because I remember reading recently that the Prime Minister said that Singapore is not yet a nation. I know he was speaking figuratively, but it still can’t be a fun thing to hear if you’re a Singaporean. I’ve seen that same sentiment echoed quite a few times on forums and in blog posts, though. There are plenty of Singaporeans that feel as though Singapore doesn’t belong to the Singaporeans anymore.
Somehow, I can’t blame them. A full third of the population isn’t native. About 68% of the country’s jobs are given to foreigners. The country has been built up quite nicely for just 44 years of self-government, but somehow it has failed to produce people who feel like they belong.
Here are some quotes I pulled from a blog post’s comment section:
This is just a small sampling. You can visit the blog post itself for more, but this is just to show that there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the current situation in Singapore. There were even comments from Singaporeans stating that they planned to wear black on National Day, rather than the national colors, to represent the fact that they’re mourning rather than celebrating.
Still, not everyone was full of doom and gloom. My wife and I walked through Pasir Ris Park tonight and it was packed full of people barbecuing and camping out for the night. There were tents everywhere! It sort of reminded me of parks and neighborhoods in the US on July 4th, with groups of family and friends getting together to celebrate.
From what I’ve read, and I’ll admit it isn’t too much since I try to steer clear of much involving Singapore politics, people have come to believe that National Day in Singapore is more of a celebration of the PAP (People’s Action Party?) than a celebration of the people, and so a large portion of Singaporeans aren’t as enthusiastic about the day as they used to be. It’s pretty sad that many people in Singapore are opposed to celebrating their own national holiday.
Singapore is a young country. It has a lot of maturing and learning to do yet, and I’m sure that in time it will become a place that all Singaporeans are proud to call home. So, here’s hoping for that day. Happy 44th Singapore.