Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Star Feature: My Sister

My sister Tiffany has been pestering me for her star here it is.

(Earlier on Google Chat...)

Tiffany: Whatcha doin'?

Me: ...Finally working on your blog post. Ugh.

Tiffany: Don't sound so miserable doing it! >:(

Me: >:(

...It all started when I made the mistake of mentioning to Tiffany that I was planning on writing a blog post about her and illustrating bird pictures of our lives as siblings.

This was several months ago, before I got bogged down with a staggeringly long to-do list...which, admittedly, may have been the result of indolent procrastination on my part. So when I told Tiffany I had to keep pushing back her featured post, she communicated her displeasure in the most dramatic way possible.

My sister isn't a spotlight-seeker per se, but once you blurt voice any intention of casting her as the star of anything, she will clamp onto that verbalization and hold you to it until you make it happen.

So after receiving a collection of text messages bearing different variations of, "WHERE'S THE BLOG POST ABOUT ME THAT YOU PROMISED TO WRITE?? I WON'T ACKNOWLEDGE YOU AS A SIBLING UNTIL I SEE IT!"...I decided it's probably time to follow through with the promise I barely remember making.

To start off, a bit of information. Tiffany is four years younger than I am, and she was born during the peak of my childhood fat years (God, was I a porker). Up to that point, I had been a pampered (and very well-fed) only child, so learning of my mother's pregnancy was most unwelcome news.

For a single young child that had been lovingly spoiled by both parents for over three years, the prospect of engaging in sibling activities (such as sharing) was highly unappealing. Unfortunately for me, fetuses have a tendency to enter the birthing process no matter how much their older siblings hope they stay put in utero. And so in the summer of 1992, my mom went into labor at an ungodly hour of the morning.

My dad rushed my mom to the hospital, and I was left behind with my grandma. The sequence of events was very confusing to a 4-year-old kid because I had woken up to find that it was still dark outside, both my parents were in a panic, they then left the apartment at the same time, and no one had even fed me yet.

I was convinced they had abandoned me.

My grandma held down the fort and comforted me enough so that I didn't develop PTSD while my parents welcomed my sister into the world. A couple of days later, they brought her home to meet me.

I didn't realize it at the time, but Tiffany was pretty much the cutest baby ever. Even though she rarely smiled.

And being the jealous brat that I was, I put up a lot of resistance in approaching her.

I reluctantly padded over to her as she sat there on the floor and dribbled up at me. While the adults obliviously moved to another room to give me some bonding time with my new sibling, I decided to issue a greeting that wasn't exactly benevolent.

...I tried to smother my own sister with a pillow. If that doesn't win the Most Heinous Sibling Award, I don't know what would. I honestly don't remember doing this (my mom told me about it when I was at an age where I could comprehend guilt), so I'm not certain whether I was purposely trying to eliminate Tiffany or just trying to hide her under an oversized pillow and hope she'd disappear like a magic trick.

Either way, my intentions were pretty horrifying, so it was a good thing my grandma's intuition kicked in and told her that something was wrong. She sent my mom to check up on my sister and me.

And this is what she found.

To be continued...

Update [1/20/13]: I'd forgotten I had the second part already illustrated and partly written, so I'm just going to lump it with this post.

Picking up where we left off...

Right after I smushed my infant sister with a pillow, my mom walked in.

She freaked out.

And kicked my ass.

So after I got the spanking of a lifetime and was sentenced to three hours in the timeout corner without parole, I grew even more bitter about Tiffany's existence.

While most normal children would associate punishment with the act of smothering their defenseless siblings, I instead associated punishment with getting caught.

As far as my 4-year-old tubby butt was concerned, Tiffany was an intruder to my comfortable family environment. If I was going to have to compete with her for parental attention, she was going to be as miserable as I was.

And so, over the next several years, I terrorized my sister mercilessly.

Throughout her ordeal of having to put up with me, Tiffany maintained a surprisingly sweet demeanor. She did try to fight back a couple of times (which never got her very far), but she was overall a very loving and forgiving kid. It was very surprising. And kind of ridiculous.

Note [1/20/13]: This post was never finished, so the happy ending is that Tiffany and I grew up to become best friends. Even though she'll never let me forget the Dark Age known as our childhood. It's all good. The end.

Friday, September 30, 2011

[Character Spotlight] #2: Avery Fawns

The leading lady of Whiskey Tea Cafe is the 19-year-old singer and guitarist of the popular rock band 2-Gen Alpha. Introducing...Avoria "Avery" Fawns!

Avery makes her debut at the end of the second chapter when she and the band show up unexpectedly at the cafe. She comes off as laid back, friendly, and somewhat mischievous, especially during her interactions with Hakan. There is also a perpetual air of mystery about her, dispelled only when she performs on stage.

I came up with the name "Avoria" thirteen years ago when I was a kid, back when I used to draw portraits of women--horribly, might I add--and assign them made-up names (although searching Google now tells me that I wasn't groundbreaking in my discovery). For some reason the name came back to me while I was brainstorming characters earlier this year, and after some tinkering, I ended up with Avery Fawns.

Her role in Whiskey Tea Cafe as the protagonist's love interest originally belonged to a character named Kalani Milohai, who is now the protagonist of my debut novel. Avery was actually going to be a supporting character in the novel (which I had planned to be a direct sequel to Whiskey Tea Cafe), but when I started reading about first rights in the publishing industry, I bumped Kalani off this project and moved Avery to take her place.

Regarding Avery's appearance, she actually has hazel eyes and long chestnut hair, unlike what my above illustration depicts. (She is NOT bald! I promise!)

When I draw people as birds, I generally omit clothing and hair because 1) I want to stay consistent with my art style, and 2) I'm actually just really lazy. I usually distinguish females by assigning them head accessories, such as a flower or a bow.

But since I wouldn't want you to go around with the mental image of a bald female vocalist in my story, I drew this extra picture just for you:

Check out those luscious locks!

And to all you artists fixing to nitpick my shading and highlights, I'd like to issue the disclaimer that I draw all my pictures with my trackpad and Paint.NET (which is basically a fancy version of MS Paint).

...Not much of an excuse, huh? Yeah, I didn't think so, either. All right, bring on the criticism!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My first job interview all year...

...And I had to draw knowledge obtained from watching reruns of TLC's What Not to Wear in order to pass a test at the end.

Let me explain.

I recently grew desperate enough for money that I finally knocked myself off my college grad high horse and decided to apply for part time retail jobs in the area. I got a call back from the manager at a women's clothing store, asking me to come in for an interview. Since it was the first time in two years an employer had shown any interest in seeing my face, I was a little eager.

I wore my most fashionable business outfit and arrived with plenty of time to spare in order to demonstrate my knack for punctuality. The manager welcomed me and told me to go amuse myself for a while since I had waltzed in a half hour ahead of schedule, which was apparently too early.

...It was at that moment that I began to suspect my enthusiasm was starting to look like desperation.

Toning down the automated self-marketing front, I meekly made my way around the store and browsed through the merchandise. I was impressed with the collections this season, but the prices were daunting. The day I spend $50 on a blouse is the day I become just as successful as J.K. Rowling. Which is almost certainly never.

As I continued to stroll idly through the sales floor, I also saw some tops that came in highly questionable color schemes. I couldn't quite hide my grimace as I eyed a sweater that looked like it had been dipped in a puddle of melted crayons. A sales associate mistook my expression for one of interest and asked me what I thought of it. I offered a diplomatic answer.

Eventually, the manager flagged me down and led me to the back to begin the interview. Not surprisingly, the process was similar to interviews for entry level corporate positions ten years ago. With the ongoing recession (starting to gain fame as the Great Depression II), standards for every sector of the job market have been raised and even part-time retail jobs have become more selective.

...The 21st century thus far should be a demotivational poster in itself.

Anyway, the manager asked me about my educational background, my previous job experience, my qualifications, and what I would bring to an already crowded team of associates. My only other experience with retail had been working as a DPS associate at Office Depot (for which I had been hired on the spot) two years ago, so I told him I had learned a lot about sales and customer service...particularly that I have the patience of a saint when faced with very angry and even borderline violent customers.

He seemed impressed enough by the end of the interview and was jotting down notes to take to the district manager when he brought up the last request.

Store Manager: All right, I just need you to do one more thing for me.

Me (eagerly): Yes?

Store Manager: I have a test I need you to pass.

Me: ...?

Store Manager: You have two minutes to pick out three articles of clothing on the sales floor, bring them here, and explain why you picked them.

Me: Wait, so-

Store Manager: Time starts now!

I bolted out of the office faster than New York women clearing out a 75% off Gucci sale.

As I pinballed around the store in a panic, trying to figure out where to start, I noticed the sympathetic stares of the sales associates. I heard one whisper to another that she had never been given this kind of task prior to getting employed. Great. This was probably a recently implemented hiring practice specifically designed as a new way to mess with applicants, and I was the current guinea pig.

Fortunately, I've been into fashion since high school and so wasn't completely clueless about putting together an ensemble that wouldn't melt the manager's eyes. Determined not to be the laughing stock of the day, I slowed my pace and started pulling clothes as I channeled several episodes of What Not To Wear in my mind. All those hours of watching TLC in boredom were actually paying off.

Within minutes, I had an outfit picked out. I gazed at my selection in both pride and misery, knowing it would win over the manager, but wondering where my career was going at this rate.

I scurried back to the manager and confidently began blabbering on about how each piece was versatile and flattering for most body types, all the while inwardly cursing the recession for bringing me to this point when I'd worked my butt off in college for two bachelor's degrees.

At least I haven't had to resort to the world's oldest profession. Yet.

After I finished my rambling monologue, the manager applauded me and told me he would be in touch soon.

Nearly two weeks later, he called me to let me know I'd gotten the job. The hours and pay are sparse, but after five months of waiting for some discernible income source, I can't complain.


-J. S. Blancarte

Monday, August 22, 2011

[Ungodly Cravings] #2: World of Warcraft

This is the second installment in my Ungodly Cravings series, and it will reveal a few aspects of my life that I had originally intended to keep quiet about when I started this blog. In any case, something I will admit I was addicted to for a year was the ridiculously popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft.

The release of the Cataclysm expansion pushed back my scheduled quit date.

I started playing in January 2010 after I obtained my BA in Journalism that past December. I had impulsively decided to pursue a second BA and was taking only two classes that semester, so I was bored and found some interest in WoW when my boyfriend left his character screen pulled up on his laptop while he was in class.

At the time, nearly everyone in my circle of friends played WoW and went on raids in the same guild. My roommate (the one I mentioned in my 4th of July post) had also just gotten lured into the game, and she and I ended up starting characters together. We played the Alliance side (although I also played Horde) and had a lot of fun questing and leveling while the guys continued to trespass Ice Crown Citadel in repeated attempts to kill the Lich King. (Arthas should have just filed a restraining order against them).

Something I've gotten used to seeing is real life males playing female characters. My friends are all guys who played female toons, including my boyfriend. To counter that, I decided that my main character would be a male Night Elf Druid named Orifiel.

Here is a picture of Orifiel when he was level 80, circa spring of 2010:

"Ah, yes, my photo op by the Dalaran fountain in my outdated Tier 9 gear."

My boyfriend played a transsexual Draenei Shaman. Named Orchead. (Orchead used to be a male Orc with apparent aspirations to become pretty). Ironically, my friends couldn't fathom why I would play a male character, so I told them it was the same reason they all played female characters. But to this day, I honestly think they still don't get it. Bloody double standards.

So I went around masquerading as a guy in-game, and no one other than my friends had any inkling that I was a girl. I tend to communicate in a gender-neutral fashion online, which got Orifiel hit on several times by other female gamers. Awkward.

I picked the Druid class because I wanted to try out the tank, DPS, and healer positions without having to create another character. I soon discovered that I panic too much to be a decent healer, and my tanking skills were roughly equivalent to a 9-year-old dragging his face across the keyboard. Feral DPS it was.

Once I hit level 80, I joined my boyfriend's guild, where everyone referred to us as the gender-confused couple. I liked to make snarky comments in Guild Chat about being the one who wore the pants in the relationship. Even though my character's Tier 9 wardrobe included a skirt.

Here is a loving photo of my big, beefy Night Elf (in full Druid skirt ensemble) with my boyfriend's curvaceous, sexy Draenei (wearing the Tier 10 moose skull--er, Shaman helm), circa summer of 2010:

"Our love defies the boundaries of gender!"

By fall of 2010, nearly everyone in our group had graduated college and/or stopped playing WoW. My boyfriend and I were the only ones left, and while he remained loyal to the guild, I was in the middle of transferring to a PVE server since I had been ganked enough times to despise PVP. It got to the point where it just wasn't much fun playing on a server by myself, so I prepared to quit, too.

However, once Cataclysm came out, I stuck around to create a Worgen character and played it from level 1-85 in a month. She eventually became my main. My final character roster includes an 85 Worgen Balance/Restoration Druid, an 80 Night Elf Holy/Shadow Priest, an 80 Night Elf Feral DPS/Feral Tank Druid (Orifiel), and an assortment of lesser regarded alts.

And then I stopped playing in January 2011.

I really didn't have any inclination to play again until these past few weeks when I started watching The Guild. If you're not an MMO player, you probably won't understand it very much, but it's a comedy web series about a group of people who play an MMO together and how their gaming affects their lives and relationships.

This is a music video the cast released during the third season:

So now I'm having strong urges to start my WoW subscription again, especially since my boyfriend finally left our old, dying server and has joined a new guild on a lively one. I've managed to hold back, though, mainly because I haven't had a desktop computer set up since we moved to Destin. I don't even have a desk anymore to set it up on.

This is probably a good thing since I should be partaking in more productive activities, such as working on my writing career, continuing the impossible job search, and stalking my undergraduate professors for grad school recommendation letters. And I get distracted enough as it is by Xbox games (Fable III held my attention for nearly two weeks straight).

In conclusion, I'm proud to announce that this is one craving I haven't given into.

For now.

-J. S. Blancarte


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The GRE experience

Hello, I'm back. I took the GRE on August 6 but had to go on hiatus from productivity for nearly two weeks due to the devastating whiplash the math content had on my IQ. While I'm fairly confident that I made reasonably good scores on the analytical writing and verbal reasoning sections, I'm also fairly confident that my scores on the quantitative reasoning section labeled me as borderline retarded to prospective graduate programs.

Attempting to relearn math I hadn't even looked at since I was a teenager was a dreadful, esteem-shattering process. My study sessions were grim and depressing, and I suspect I ended up knowing even less than I did before I started studying. As a result, I withered into a zombified state and took the GRE looking and feeling like a mathematically incompetent corpse.

I've already made it pretty clear in the last post that I experience the same amount of enthusiasm working with math as I do cleaning up a pile of vomit. But while I was (futilely) studying for it, not only was I in a perpetual mood of self-pity and sorrow, I was also quick to anger and verbally violent toward any hapless soul who happened to wander within ten feet of my presence.

I dropped more F-bombs during the weeks leading up to the GRE than I had this entire season. Now, I'm not normally accustomed to swearing excessively (or even regularly), but when infuriated to this point, my vocabulary regresses into a trove of obscenities as I become the epitome of the term "potty-mouth." I even drew a graph detailing the relation of my anger level to the number of F-bomb occurrences.

I also discovered, to my surprise, that my weakest points in math aren't graph problems...they're (ironically) word problems. You'd think that someone highly efficient in words would have no trouble with written math problems, right? Wrong! Unfortunately, although I could comprehend what they were asking (the word part), I couldn't figure out how to find the answer (the math part).

For example:

Martha invited 4 friends to go with her to the movies. There are 120 different ways in which they can sit together in a row of 5 seats, one person per seat. In how many of those ways is Martha sitting in the middle seat?

If this had been a multiple choice question, I would have looked for the answer that said, "I DON'T BLOODY CARE." First of all, while I can (kind of) see how this type of equation could apply to real life, I found minimal inspiration in solving it, for the following reasons:

1) I highly doubt Martha is picky enough to demand the middle seat out of the "120 different ways in which they can sit together in a row of 5 seats."

2) If all five of them want to sit together, I would suggest they arrive at the theater early to get first choice in seating.

3) Even if they can't all sit in a row, they could always split off into two groups and have one group sit in the row behind the other.

4) Martha didn't invite me so I have little concern for their dilemma.

5) This question is stupid.

And yes, I got the answer wrong when I seriously tried to solve it, by the way.

So after my atrocious performance on the quantitative reasoning section, I left the test center praying that the psychology department at UMass Boston would be too dazzled by my writing and verbal skills to notice my startling mathematical deficiencies.

I was traumatized enough that I spent the past eleven days doing nothing but playing Fable III. After finishing the game four times, I figured my emotional health had sufficiently recovered and I should probably start being productive again. So here I am.

I'll be catching up on blog posts and chapters on Whiskey Tea Cafe as well as resuming my job search. If you're a returning reader, thanks for your continued interest in my writing!

-J. S. Blancarte

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Self-imposed blog exile until August

In the interest of doing well on my upcoming Graduate Record Exam (GRE), I have decided (reluctantly) to exile myself from blogging and working on my stories until after my test date on August 6. I parted with quite a bit of money for a shot at this exam, and I need to obtain a pretty damn good score to get into the psychology graduate programs I've been looking at. I've found it increasingly difficult to sit down and study diligently for the GRE due to the abundance of plot bunnies multiplying in my head.

On one hand, my creative flow is much like the fluctuating nature of the tide. Right now it's at maximum capacity, so I can churn out blog posts and story chapters without feeling like I'm trying to single-handedly drag a moose up a mountain (in other words, I don't have to try so hard). On the other hand, I REALLY don't want to take this exam more than once, mostly because I'm not fond of standardized tests and their costs (which took a chunk out of my food funds).

Also, it's pitting me against the subject I detest the most: mathematics. The last time I took a math course was during my freshman year of college (only because it was a requirement to graduate), and it really was a waste of time since I never had to use it again in my daily life. And now I have to delve right back into it to do well on an exam that will gain me entry into a graduate program that will have nothing to do with mathematics. Except statistics for research studies, but that's a small blip.

It's not so much being unable to do it as it is being unwilling to do it. I can complete math problems below the college calculus level if I refresh my memory enough, but I become fairly hostile while working equations. Especially graphs. I grow very angry for no apparent reason other than the possibility that the sight of graph problems has become a conditioned stimulus for my wrath. This stems back to high school, where I was thrown placed into an advanced algebra class against my will, and in my frustration and resentment, my brain developed a powerful immunity against quantitative reasoning.

Point being, I need to take the rest of the month to work through all the math in my study book because it's going to be a long and tedious (and agonizing) process, and I can't afford to distract myself with more appealing subjects, such as writing and literature. Even history, a subject I've always been neutral toward and admittedly bored with, has better chances of holding my attention at this point.

But as soon as I complete the GRE, I'll be back. I had a line of blog entries in the queue for posting, including one about my sister (since we recently celebrated her birthday) and one featuring my real life tea beverage recipes. They'll have to wait until my exile lifts and I can come back, free from mathematics (hopefully for another few years).

-J. S. Blancarte

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tourists are beach-obsessed zombies on Independence Day weekend

First of all...Happy 4th of July, everyone! Secondly...dear God! It appears that a good chunk of the U.S. population has decided to swarm the Emerald Coast to become gas-guzzling, highway-clogging, beach house-renting, moped-riding, umbrella-toting, seashell-hoarding, ICEE-chugging, swimsuit-squeezing, sunburn-wearing zombies!

The other day I was driving from Destin to Panama City to visit my old college roommate. What should have been a simple hour-long trip turned into two and a half hours of attempting to maneuver around endless vehicles carting wide-eyed tourists as they gawked in awe at the ocean, effectively halting the flow of traffic.

While inching along a particularly congested section of the highway in Panama City, I witnessed a multitude of interesting scenes. I passed by a very rotund man balancing himself rather impressively on a bright pink moped on the opposite lane. Several sets of aggravated parents dragged their screaming spawn across the road in front of my car. Temporarily docile gang members littered the sides of the highway, posing shirtless atop their dilapidated vehicles (I'm not entirely certain what they hoped to achieve by that, but to me it looked like an all-male red light district in broad daylight).

To make matters worse, I realized I'd missed my ex-roommate's street. I blanched at the idea of a U-turn, considering that the opposite lane was now as stuck as mine was and angry tourists were beginning to honk expletives at each other. Sure enough, it took me another half hour to reach a traffic light where I could escape the chaotic scenic route. I took a left at the light and followed the new road to a less busy parallel highway, on which the locals and other remaining sane people drove.

After speaking to my ex-roommate on the phone for back road directions, I finally made it to her house in one piece. Once she opened the door, I believe my greeting to her was, "Do you realize your town is being overrun by horrifying vacationing zombies otherwise known as tourists?"

Apparently, this was a normal occurrence during Independence Day weekend. I imagined Destin to be in a similar situation, and I was just glad I wouldn't be mauled while attempting to find a parking spot at the beach (some of the tourists from landlocked states, such as Kentucky and Utah, seemed to go rabid once they crossed the Florida border).

My ex-roommate and I spent the day catching up, then I ventured back to Destin the next morning. The drive back was notably faster and less eventful, although a Saturn from Texas dared to cut me off, to which I yelled, "Impudent zombie, I will cackle as I drive past your flashing hazard lights when your vehicle breaks down on the side of the road, thereby cutting you off from your uncontrollable thirst for beach-lounging!"


I spent the 4th of July itself on the pier at Okaloosa Island to watch the fireworks show in Fort Walton Beach. The view was excellent, and I could even see fireworks in Navarre and Gulf Breeze in the far distance. My camera is nothing short of crappy at capturing nighttime sequences, but I have a clip of part of the show.

Definitely made up for the sand-and-sun zombie fest!

-J. S. Blancarte

Thursday, June 30, 2011

[Character Spotlight] #1: Hakan Kramer

The protagonist of Whiskey Tea Cafe is a 21-year-old recent college graduate residing in Destin, FL! Introducing...Hakan Kramer!

Hakan appears in the first chapter as the owner of the titular cafe. His personality is portrayed as the calm and collected type, but his sense of humor manifests during his conversations (and bickering) with his best friend Luke Prath. He is described as having tousled black hair, slanted green eyes, assorted Nordic features, and a tall, toned build.

I picked his name out of a book of male names without the slightest clue how to pronounce it. Yes, my brilliance astounds me sometimes, too. I ended up Googling the correct pronunciation and determined it to be of Swedish origin...[HAH-kan]. Basically, just say "Hawkan" and you should be good.

My sister pointed out that he seems very similar to me, which makes sense, considering that he and this entire story are based in part on me and my life. However, there are quite a few stark differences, which I'm somewhat ashamed to admit:

...Wow. I think I've become jealous of my own fictional character.

-J. S. Blancarte

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Whiskey Tea Cafe is now posted!

Image by Soa Lee
Yes, I s*** you not...after over a month of delayed promises, I present to you my first posted original story...Whiskey Tea Cafe!

Summary: When Hakan Kramer opens a tea café in a tourist town, his uncanny ability to match patrons with their favorite teas quickly gains him a loyal customer base, including the renowned rock star Avery Fawns. But as Avery's interest in Hakan grows, she begins to pull him into her world, one comprised of rock music, the thrill of fame, and the dangers involving a hidden Biblical race…the nephilim. And he and his tea café are along for the ride.

Please select one of the following links to read the first chapter:

via FictionPress
via Wattpad
via WritersCafe

They all contain the same content, but I recommend the FictionPress version for the simplest layout (and you'll be able to leave a review at the bottom of the page...just sayin').

Why did I upload this story to multiple sites, you may ask? My aim was to 1) gain as much exposure across the web as possible, and 2) make it very difficult for someone to get away with plagiarizing my work. I reasoned that consistently throwing my name with Whiskey Tea Cafe all over the internet would cement me as the original creator of this (prospective) masterpiece.

Please read and leave me a review/comment with your feedback or critique. And for those of you who read my blog, here's a fun fact...

My first novel will be connected to Whiskey Tea Cafe. I need to know that I'm at the top of my game with this story. So when I say read the chapter and give me some honest constructive criticism, I mean...BRING IT!

Thank you for your consideration.

-J. S. Blancarte

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

[Ungodly Cravings] #1: Instant ramen

Okay, so I bloody lied about how soon Whiskey Tea Cafe would debut. My apologies. It wasn't intentional. I've been sick with some sort of stomach ailment for the past two weeks, and my only symptom is a persisting tight clenching in my upper abdomen. Which, you know, could be anything from a stomach virus to the bubonic plague.

I've stubbornly refused to see a doctor just to prove that I can take care of myself even after my health insurance runs out, although some friends have told me how absolutely retarded that logic is ("Get medical attention while you can, moron!"). I decided to compromise: I will go to the hospital in the event that this problem reaches the one month mark.

So what have I been doing all this time? I spent it watching the entire anime series of Naruto since I was rendered immobile in the fetal position on my couch for hours at a time, and Netflix was the only source of entertainment that didn't require much movement from my torso.

But to get to the point of this post, this is the first in my Ungodly Cravings series, discussing horrible foods or unproductive activities a health-inclined individual like me sometimes craves. Today's topic is instant ramen.

After witnessing Naruto stuff his face with ramen in several episodes, I decided out of the blue that I wanted to eat ramen, too. I was on a bland diet, anyway, and soup-type foods had become my primary entree. Unfortunately, the only ramen available to me was a pack of ostracized Maruchan instant ramen shoved into one corner of my pantry.

I know how awful this stuff is, but I was under a temporary Naruto-obsessed trance and was convinced that eating ramen would get me that much closer to becoming a ninja. Or something.

Needless to say, I gave into the craving, but not without some improvisation to buffer against Maruchan's sadistic plot. First off, I chucked the flavor packet directly into the trash. If I wanted that much sodium and crap in my soup, I would just go to the beach and slurp from the ocean.

Next, I pre-boiled the noodles in one pot and used another pot to set up the base of the soup.

Recipe: Improved instant ramen

Once the noodles are cooked, drain and set aside. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in the main pot. Add the napa cabbage, ginger root, and bouillon cube and boil, covered, for 5 minutes. Add the noodles, shallots, basil leaves, and chicken. Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

These extra ingredients will add to the volume of the ramen and provide the meal with nutrients. So even if you're used to eating a full pack of ramen in one sitting (which I've been able to do only at the height of my physical fitness when I was in Air Force ROTC), the added volume will help split it into two servings.

My pot turned out to be five servings since I couldn't stomach more than half a bowl at a time. Tragic, I know.

Well, hopefully my digestive system isn't completely screwed.

-J. S. Blancarte