Award Winner

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I’m now an award-winning writer!

My wife and I recently attended a Yelp Elite Event at The Vermont in Los Angeles. One of the vendors was Tabanero Hot Sauce. Although I’m not the hot sauce junkie I was as a younger man, I still enjoy spicing up my food. Back when I could stomach it, the hotter the better. Nowadays I don’t need to be sweating through my clothes in order to appreciate a tasty hot sauce.

We tried Tabanero with deconstructed chicken tacos (basically chicken nachos) and I liked the flavor. It’s not a vinegar-based sauce and it has a little kick to it, thanks to the habanero pepper recipe. I also enjoyed the Tabanero bloody mary mix.

A few days after the event I learned that the company was sponsoring a contest; anybody who attended the event was eligible. All that was required was an “ode to Tabanero” and a lucky few would win a three-pack of Tabanero Hot Sauce.

Summoning my ode-to-hot-sauce writing skills, I came up with this haiku and as they say in the casinos, Winner winner, chicken dinner! My food will be extra spicy for months to come.

Next up: The Pulitzer.

 

The Nation’s Fist

Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao.

If there’s ever been a tweet I wish I’d written, it’s this one:

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It’s a sentiment that I’m sure a lot of Filipinos and Filipino Americans share. Manny wasn’t the perfect boxer (too susceptible to counter-punchers like Marquez and Mayweather) or the perfect man (a womanizer and someone who has idiotic beliefs about gays), but he was one of us.

Twenty years ago if you would’ve told me that a Filipino boxer would one day be considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and would headline the biggest pay-per-views year in and year out, I would’ve said you were crazy.

Growing up, my favorite boxers were Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson. They were the larger-than-life athletes that fans gravitated to, but it wasn’t until Pacquiao burst on the scene that I felt a kinship to a boxer.

He was our community’s brother, cousin, uncle, father; the one who represented you, good and bad. He showed the world the ferociousness of Ang Pambansang Kamao (The Nation’s Fist) inside the ring and the soft-spoken humility outside of it.

He did what any of us would’ve done in his position, whether it was hamming it up with Will Ferrell or chartering two planes for friends and family to one of his fights.

And those fights! From the moment he started collecting championship belts until last night’s trilogy-closing domination of Timothy Bradley, a Pacquiao fight was An Occasion, a family party filled with plenty of laughter and too much food. It was like a Filipino mash-up of the Super Bowl and Thanksgiving, as you cheered him on with your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents, cousins, long-lost cousins, pseudo-family members, and random strangers. We made predictions of his fights and debated his place among boxing’s immortals, but not before stuffing ourselves from tables overflowing with food and drink.

While I’ll miss his fights and the parties, I’m rooting for him to stay true to his retirement. He has nothing left to prove and we all know about the damage that fighters suffer and its effect on their later years. I want to see him continue his public service to the best of his ability.

He’s my favorite fighter of all time, warts and all.

Long Beach Comic Expo 2016

I wrote a board-game-centric review of the Long Beach Comic Expo here and I said it was a throwback to my youth. The LBCE reminded me of my time spent at the San Diego Comic Con, back before it took over the entire convention center when it was all about the comics, with cosplay, gaming, and all other pop culture phenomena took a backseat to the printed page and those responsible for them.

Here are a few more thoughts and photos about the glorious day I spent in the LBC.

First, I’d like to give myself a pat on the back for being able to wander around the aisles and NOT dump my wallet’s contents onto each table. It was insanely difficult not emptying my bank account on so many cool things. Thankfully, you didn’t need to be well-funded to enjoy the con. One of my first stops was at the Long Beach Public Library table, where I chatted with one of the representatives about their services. I’m a huge fan of libraries, so I made a mental note to visit the one in Long Beach the next time I’m in town. The young lady working the booth told me about some of the library’s features, then showed me how to make my own button. I chose Darth Vader, of course, so my backpack was bedazzled for the rest of the day.

Free make-your-own Darth Vader button.

Free make-your-own button at the Long Beach Public Library table. Kylo Ren would’ve loved my backpack.

It was great seeing the locals representing at the con. In addition to the public library, the Columbia Memorial Space Center had a big presence in the hall. Kids and adults alike were amazed by the science demonstrations, the space suit displays, the build-your-own-rocket table, and more.

Ground Control to Major Tom.

Ground Control to Major Tom.

This was something I really appreciated: the amount of families I saw hanging out together. Not everybody was dressed up, but there was definitely a family-friendly vibe all around. I was glad I ran into these light-saber-wielding folk.

The Force runs strong in this family.

The Force runs strong in this family.

This young lady had the best ride of them all.

Perfect ride for an afternoon on Endor.

Perfect ride for an afternoon on Endor.

One thing I’ll always love about these types of conventions: you never know who you’ll run into.

Thanks for the selfie, Artoo!

Thanks for the selfie, Artoo!

This was terrific marketing: a $35 box of goodies worth $50. I’m not sure what was inside, but those boxes were definitely an excellent way to sell stuff. I saw a lot of people carrying these things around.

No, you don't grow after punching one of these.

No, you don’t grow after punching one of these.

I love the fact that a KISS tribute band had their own booth. Looking forward to seeing these guys someday.

You wanted cosplay, you got cosplay. The hottest (tribute) band in the land ... KISS!

You wanted cosplay, you got cosplay. The hottest (tribute) band in the land … KISS!

Pew! Pew! Pew!

Ran into a walking carpet and a scoundrel.

Ran into a walking carpet and a scoundrel.

Lots of Star Wars cosplayers here.

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The 501st Legion FTW.

The Force Awakened.

The Force Awakened.

I swear I’m not just a Star Wars fan. Here are a bunch of photos of various cosplayers. Enjoy!

The Mask.

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From beginning to end, I couldn’t be happier with the LBCE. Yes, it was a throwback to my younger SDCC-going days, but it also proved that today’s geekdom is in excellent hands. Kudos to all involved for making the event such a blast. I can’t wait to do it again.

Final note: I couldn’t resist one more Star Wars costume. This hip hop stormtrooper had his boombox blasting hip hop classics and got more than a few people dancing. It was the perfect way to end a day spent geeking out.

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Word.

Orccon 2016

Open Gaming at Orccon 2016.

Open Gaming at Orccon 2016.

I wrote about my Orccon 2016 experience  at  iSlaytheDragon.com and I wanted to add a few things here.

It’d been awhile since I was at any kind of gaming/comic/pop culture convention and Orccon was awesome. It was all about the gaming and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the hobby. Not only did it satisfy the hardcore gamers, but it also had plenty for the newbies.

Here are a few photos that didn’t make it in the original article.

The International Ballroom was where all of the big events and demos took place.

The Game Library had hundreds and hundreds of games to borrow.

The taco truck down the street from the convention was much better than eating at Denny’s or Carl’s Jr. The tacos de birria was delicioso!

So smart: these water dispensers were everywhere, keeping everybody well hydrated. Came in handy when my mouth was EN FUEGO after devouring a handful of spicy tacos.

My 2016 Gaming Goal

La Isla

La Isla

I’m on pace to reach my reading and writing goals for the year, so I’ve decided to add another goal: I’m going to do the 10×10 Challenge, which is to play 10 different board games 10 times each in 2016.

Last year was my re-birth as a gamer, which I wrote about it here, but it basically goes like this: after years of thinking game night meant poker, pizza, and beer, I purchased Ticket to Ride and Pandemic and I was hooked. I pored over boardgamegeek.com, devouring board game industry news and information, learning about games and the mechanics that made them go, and salivating at all of the games I wanted to PLAY RIGHT NOW.

I bought a few kid-friendly games like Zombie Dice and Castle Panic that I could play when my nieces and nephew were visiting and I was pleasantly surprised when they preferred Settlers of Catan and Dominion. My youngest niece isn’t interested in too many games yet, but she’s always up for a game of Sushi Go!, which we all happily play. My wife and stepdaughter got swept up in my obsession, too, and we had a few Gaviola Game Nights in 2015 (kudos to my wife for making a cool life-sized Instagram frame for our get-togethers).

When I wasn’t playing games with my family, I was reporting board game news for iSlaytheDragon.com and tweeting about my new hobby. I also started playing every week with a local gaming group and they introduced me to new games or we’d play classics that I’d missed. It’s been a godsend playing with these guys (and the occasional gal); I’ve learned a lot and played more games than I would’ve been able to had I just continued to buy games online, trying to learn them, and hoping that my family took to them as well.

Can I reach my goal of 10 different board games played 10 times each this year? I think so. If I don’t, though, then I know I haven’t had as much fun as I could have.

 

My 2016 Yelp Goal

2016 Yelp Elite badge.

2016 Yelp Elite badge.

Last week I received my 2016 Yelp Elite badge, my fourth in a row. As I’ve written before (here and here), I wear my badge proudly and love all of the perks I’ve received. From free event/concert tickets to awesome parties, Yelp takes care of its most dedicated users. My wife and I have enjoyed some terrific date nights, compliments of Yelp.

Although I’d used the site for years without actually writing a review or posting a photo, this changed in 2013 when I took the Yelp 100 Challenge, which is an unofficial challenge to write 100 reviews in a year. That year I reached my goal and also became a part of the Yelp Elite squad.

As I became a Yelp power user, not only did I get to go to fun and complimentary events, but I also made some new friends along the way. That alone makes it worth the time and effort it takes to write 100 reviews in 365 days.

My 2016 Reading Goal

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I set my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge goal at 26 books and I’m using the above chart to choose a few of them. I’ve already got one book picked out, thanks to my wife: Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451.

I met my reading goal in 2015, beating my 26-book goal by 3 books, and I hope to do it again, thus giving me a three-peat for my yearly reading challenge.

One other book-related note: Gene Luen Yang was named the Library of Congress’ national ambassador for young people’s literature. He’s the first graphic novelist to be named to the post and if you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading his brilliant and thought-provoking American Born Chinese.

I Love L.A.

View of Downtown from Pershing Park.

View of Downtown from Pershing Park’s Ice Rink.

No matter where I live, I’ll always be an Angeleno at heart. I love L.A.’s diversity, its energy, and its SoCal vibe, which is a lot more laid-back than other big cities. My wife and I took an East L.A. food tour in 2014 and our guide, who was a Chicago transplant, was asked what he liked about Los Angeles. As he answered our group, I nodded my approval when he quickly pointed at me and said, “THAT is exactly what I love about L.A.! The chill attitude.”

My wife and I decided to do our own food tour this morning, something we like to do every now and then. Some of our best Date Days/Nights are like this, where we explore a neighborhoods’ food and culture (be sure to read my post from last year on 5 Inexpensive Was to Rock Date Night).

We love to take advantage of the MetroLink $10 Weekend Day Pass, which allows us to ride anywhere on the MetroLink, Metro Rail, or Metro Bus all day Saturday or Sunday. It’s the best way to save on gas money and parking fees as well as avoid traffic-induced headaches and road rage.

So we took the train into downtown and walked over to Grand Central Market, which was opened in 1917 and is now home to lots of buzz-worthy eateries. In other words, it’s a hipster foodie’s paradise. There was one place that we’ve been wanting to try for a while: Eggslut.

The Slut at Eggslut.

The Slut at Eggslut.

Eggslut’s signature dish The Slut was really good, a unique blend of poached egg and potato puree (with grey salt and chives) that melts in your mouth and contrasts well with the crunchy baguette slices. Was it worth $9? Read my Yelp review here.

Next on our food tour was RiceBar. I’d heard the news about its opening last summer; it’s not often that a Filipino restaurant opens downtown. Most of the Filipino eateries in Southern California are located in suburban areas and this one was generating a lot of hype because chef/co-owner Charles Olalia left his executive chef position at the highly regarded, Michelin-starred Patina to open RiceBar.

Bisteg Tagalog at RiceBar.

Bisteg Tagalog at RiceBar.

Chef Olalia’s passion for his food was evident the minute my wife and I sat down at the counter. We ordered the Bisteg Tagalog and absolutely loved it. Read my Yelp review here.

Finally, for the third place to cross off our imaginary Foodie Bucket List, we went to Bottega Louie for dessert. It was a beautiful restaurant with its vaulted ceilings and its New-York-hustle-and-bustle atmosphere.

Macarons at Bottega Louie

Macarons at Bottega Louie

We wanted to try their famous macarons and that’s exactly what we did. Michelle got the grand cru (chocolate ganache made with Valrhona dark chocolate) and I got the pistachio (Sicilian pistachios & Valrhona white chocolate ganache). Both were tasty, but I preferred the pistachio.

After we were done feasting, we walked around Pershing Square and admired the public art and the view of the city (shown above). Downtown has changed a lot since I worked down here decades (!) ago and it’s so much more accessible thanks to the train system, which didn’t exist when I was a regular in the area. Nowadays, a morning or afternoon spent here can make for a memorable, affordable, and walkable date.

Happy New Year!

Lakers Rose Parade Float, 2016

Lakers Rose Parade Float, 2016

Happy New Year! I’m re-launching my website again, this time as Ruel’s Blog. I know, not exactly the most creative name, but hopefully a clever one will come to me soon. Last year this blog was known as My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015. Not only did I accomplish my goal, but I also accomplished a few others as well.

I’m not blogging every day in 2016, though. I learned first-hand how tough it is to do, so I’m just posting here on a regular basis. Whether it’s a once a week or less/more often, we’ll see how everything pans out.

Like last year, my blog will cover the topics that I’m interested in: board games, fantasy sports, food, Los Angeles, and Star Wars, to name just a few. This isn’t the place to get your daily politics or religion fix, though. I write this blog to relax and have a good time.

I began 2016 just as I ended 2015: playing a board game with my wife. I scored a copy of La Isla online for the ridiculous price of $13 with free shipping, thanks to a boardgamegeek.com post last month. One of my gaming buddies had raved about it so when I saw it on sale, I couldn’t resist. Since December was a hectic month, Michelle and I didn’t get to play La Isla until last night for our quiet New Year’s Eve celebration at home, complete with a fantastic sherry from Rancho de Philo winery. We liked La Isla so much we played it again today (and we still have some of the sherry left over, which we’re enjoying right now).

We also found time to watch part of the Rose Parade this morning and I was thrilled to see my favorite sports team, the L.A. Lakers, with its first-ever float in the parade (shown above). I loved the name of the float, Every Second Is an Adventure; sounds like a great mantra for this new year.

Before our first day of 2016 was over, we made it out for a walk on the local trail, before going to Jollibee for a semi-tradition of ours: eating the fast-food version of palabok, a Filipino noodle dish that we use for our “long noodle, long life” dinner. We’ve now done it two years running so I think that qualifies as a semi-tradition, just like watching part of the Rose Parade and playing board games on the first and last day of the year.

La Isla

La Isla

Palabok

Palabok

 

Day 365: We Did It!

I Blogged Every Day in 2015

I Blogged Every Day in 2015

In the words of Dora the Explorer, “We did it! We did it!”

Whew.

There were times when I didn’t think I’d finish My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015.

I thought it would’ve been easier to blog every day. All I had to do was set an alarm to remind me to write and then I’d write. As I found out, though, that isn’t how it works. There are so many things that life throws at you every day that prevent you from writing. I even had to fudge a little on Day 49.

As I wrote yesterday, I wish I would’ve created more substantial posts. When I began this quest, I knew a few of my favorite topics would pop up now and then: fantasy sports, Star Wars, food, movies, golf, my love of the city of Los Angeles, etc. I’m proud, though, that I was able to write about a few more subjects outside of those.

My blog was never meant to be hard-hitting journalism, but it was meant to reflect what was going on in my life and in my head at the time. I’d like to think that I accomplished that.

I’ve never done anything like this before, but I learned two things:

  1. I want to post regularly in 2016, but not every day.
  2. 2015 was the year I rediscovered my love of board games.

The board game thing was a pleasant surprise. I wrote about getting back into the hobby earlier this year which led me to buying more and more board games, digging up games I’d never played yet somehow held on to through the years, and playing games once a week with a local gaming group. My wife and I hosted a few game nights for family and friends and we had a blast talking trash to each other during our occasional one-on-one sessions of Ticket to Ride. And I parlayed my passion into a gig with the fine folks at iSlaytheDragon.com, where I report board game news and bits.

Mainly through my interactions on Twitter about this blog, I’ve been able to have some great interactions with people I would never have met. I reconnected with some old friends and I even shared my blog with family members as well.

Of course, none of this would’ve been possible without the support of my wife. There were quite a few nights when she would doze off while I was typing away furiously, trying to get my thoughts down coherently before Mr. Sandman paid me a visit. Not only is Michelle my biggest supporter and the love of my life, but she’s my life partner and my favorite person to go on adventures with. I wrote about a few of those adventures here. Not surprisingly, it was one of my favorite posts of the year.

(To Michelle: thank you for your patience and understanding as I completed this silly little quest. I love you more than words can show.)

Finally, thank you, Dear Reader, for joining me for on my quest. I appreciate you taking the time to read my words and I hope you’ve enjoyed at least one of my posts this year. See you next year!

– Ruel

P.S. If you were entertained at all this year by My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015 please consider doing one of two things:

  1. Donate to Visual Communications, “the first non-profit organization in the nation dedicated to the honest and accurate portrayals of the Asian Pacific American peoples, communities and heritage through the media arts.” I’m not affiliated with VC, but I do believe in their cause and donated to them on Giving Tuesday.
  2. Help me get my board game fix via my Amazon Wish List. I won’t tell anyone.