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|Tuesday, December 17th, 2013|
|The Man Who Spit Gum in His Hair
In all things in life, we must accept that we change. Change can be large or small, depending on the nature of the person and circumstance. For me, the change is small, but important.
One of my favorite stories involves David Bowie having gum spit in his hair, at a concert, by my friend, at my own behest, right before walking out of the show, as nigh twenty years ago. I often tell the story for a rise out of people or to embarrass my best friend from high school, though we haven't talked in seven or so years, something about time and distance which drags you apart, but sadly, that is not the story I am here to tell.
One of my bedrock principles was that I didn't listen to David Bowie. Almost as if not listening to his music is a vindication of an act of teenage antics. Of course, listening to David Bowie will not change the act, nor the value of the story. In fact, my friend who spit gum in his hair, ended up being a big fan of David Bowie and dated someone who worshipped him. Leaving him quite embarrassed as I told the tale to his girlfriend at the time with great relish and flair and her feeling quite irate, as he never admitted his sordid deed prior.
So, as I read Morrissey's autobiography, which is altogether an entirely different story, I realize that David Bowie is supposed to be an influence of many musicians that I like. So gradually, I am forcing myself to listen to David Bowie. I'm still not convinced I like his music and am fairly certain I don't care for his later work at all, but think there is something here. If I could go back in time, would I stop my younger self from encouraging this "assault" against this great musician< of course not, the story is better than everything. Even if he became my idol, tearing down your idols is always superior to doing nothing. Nonetheless, at some point, David Bowie cursed at me in some fashion for making him perform an entire set with gum in his hair.
|Monday, December 16th, 2013|
|At The Drive Through
I love that the bank has a drive through ATM. The joy of sloth and ability to avoid painful personal interaction in one unified moment is bliss. Saturday, I drove up to the drive through ATM, in need of some currency to fill my wallet and pay for photographs of dear Sweetiepig with Santa Claus, which benefits my need for pictures of the world's cutest pig with Santa Claus and the local animal shelter, who get a portion of the proceeds.
One aside, I am a stickler for lines. The queue is man's way of showing patience and appropriate reactions to situations of limited resources. It encourages you to get there first and is a sign of order in a land ever filling with chaos.
Not first, but second in line, I wait patiently for the lead car to complete their transaction and drive away. It was quite cold and the snow was falling slowly, but I can patiently wait for my turn at the machine. As I wait, a woman, Hispanic, approximately 40 to 45 years of age, wearing a sweatshirt, but no jacket comes bearing out of the bank. As the drive through ATM is near the other lanes, she stands in the lane next to the ATM and starts talking loudly and pointing at the ATM.
Hearing sound, I foolishly roll down the window, to understand the commotion. It appears the ATM inside is not dispensing cash and this woman believes that is sufficient reason to go ahead of me. Now, I appreciate she is not wearing a jacket and it is cold, but at the same time, we have lines for a reason. And a stickler I am.
I loudly, but surprisingly politely say no to her, which enrages her. At this time, the car in front of me drives off and I immediately pull up, as not doing so would be a sign of weakness and weakness would be exploited here. So, I start my transaction, all the while watching my rearview mirror, as this angry woman starts screaming Estupido at me, as if it was stupid of me not to give way and let her go first. I hate to break this to everyone, but we live in a world with seven billion people. And not everyone gets to come first or nor is letting someone else prosper while you suffer the ideal action in most situations.
I quickly wrap the transaction, gather the money from the ATM, all the while expecting this enraged and possibly crazy woman to come up and either try to steal my money or attack me. Fortunately, I was just cursed at in Spanish, which while annoying and inappropriate, did not impact my day, but did give me a story to remind everyone the value of lines and waiting your turn when one is formed.
|Sunday, December 15th, 2013|
|Fantasy Premier League: Week 16
About four years ago, I became hooked on soccer and by extension Fantasy Premier League. One of my co-workers was quite passionate about soccer and we were involved in the work Fantasy World Cup League. In fact, one of our co-workers did so well, he finished second in the United States. Having enjoyed both the soccer and competition, we started a Fantasy Premier League competition, which is now in its fourth year.
To stay prepared, I started watching even more soccer, up to four games per week. I've become a tremendous fan of Blackpool, at the time I started watching, a plucky upstart coached by offensive genius and defensive nightmare, Ian Holloway. They also wore bright orange and I'm still a sucker for Charlie Adam's Hollywood longballs, even if they are now in Stoke, rather than Liverpool or Blackpool. Most importantly, I'm a sucker for Fantasy Premier League.
Season 1, I knew nothing about soccer and finished second in my work league. I was 100 points down by the end of August and never recovered. Season 2 was far better and I won in fairly convincing fashion. Season 3 was disappointing due to one of our regulars deciding not to play. I managed to ruin my team in fairly convincing fashion and end up 100 points down by Christmas. As a competitive lunatic, I was able to make a big run back. The bite heard round the world, which as a Suarez fan was disappointing, was the catalyst driving me back into the race. Down over 40 points with three weeks to go, I had the best night of my Fantasy Premier League life, I scored all of the points from Arsenal's four goals with Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Santi Carzola, I catapulted ahead to win my second consecutive title by 20 points, though I only finished 110,000 in the world.
Season four, we managed to bring the whole band back together. The league is especially competitive this year. I started strong, a rarity for me, but then lapsed into my September swoon, leaving me 500,000 in the world after Week 8. But by this point, I was an early buyer and believer in Luis Suarez and for Week 9, broke down and added Sergio Aguero after a brace in the Champions League. Combined with some good choices in budget defense and catching a big run from perennial addition to my team Steven Gerrard, I pulled myself up to 37,000 in the world and second in my competitive league, only nine points back.
Starting the week, I had two transfers in hand, 2.4 million to spend and the below team, with original players with asterisks next to their names. I also have my wild card, which I managed to hoard through tough times.
Goalkeepers - *Mignolet (LIV), *Harper (HUL)
Defenders - A. Williams (SWA), *Coleman (EVE), Gabbidon (CRY), B. Turner (CAR), *Shaw (SOU)
Midfielders - Gerrard (LIV), Ozil (ARS), Ramsey (ARS), Whittingham (CAR), Brady (HUL)
Forwards - Suarez (LIV), Lukaku (EVE), Aguero (MCY)
My first move was on Saturday. With his flowing beard giving him a homeless or foreign look and a looming price rise, I break my golden rule of no Americans and swap Mignolet for Tim Howard (EVE). It moves me to one free transfer and 2.3 million left in the bank. Doing so gives me two Everton defenders for a very soft schedule. Being a big believer in schedule over form for chosing defenders, I felt good about this choice, though I usually try to avoid the risk of doubling on defenders from the same team, since one goal now costs you eight points instead of four. Also, it prevents spreading the risk which is critical.
From here, I knew my second move was going to be for Steven Gerrard, who valiantly injured himself last week was going out, barring some amazing news from the physio. Amazing news did not come and I needed to find a high priced midfielder. With my budget, no one was off the table, but I did want to preserve funds to try and build a fourth premium midfielder. I ended up with a choice between David Silva and Oscar. I've always been a big fan of Silva for fantasy, since he provides consistent points, but Oscar is playing well and there are no Chelsea players in my team. Seeing the results of the Champions League game against Bayern Munich, I made the trade and brought in Silva for Gerrard, saddened to see Gerrard leave my team, as he excels with Suarez in the side.
My benching decisions were mostly easy. Harper has sat on the bench for all but two games this season, during McGregor's injury and provided some bonus points for my team. All three of my forwards were definite starts, as were Ramsey, Ozil and Silva. From my defense, I was sold on Coleman, since I specifically brought in Howard and Ashley Williams, since Norwich was a fairly easy fixture and there was a good chance of a clean sheet. That left two openings for Whittingham, Brady, Turner, Shaw and Gabbidon. Gabbidon was playing Chelsea and never making the side. Shaw was playing Newcastle, which is a high quality side and with a third choice goaltender behind him, was part of a side without much cleansheet potential, leading him to the bench and Turner as my third defender. I finally broke down and started Whittingham over Brady, since Whittingham was guaranteed to get playing time and Brady has not been the same player since returning.
Finally, I flip flopped over my captain's choice all week. I thought about Suarez playing against one center back, but also without Gerrard and a weak team behind him, while Aguero was playing at home where Man City have been beyond unstoppable. I selected Aguero. Aguero had the form, home field advantage, and Arsenal were likely highly demoralized from their midweek results.
And then my team exploded for the week. I scored 94 points, as every outfield player brought results. Aguero scored a goal before hurting his calf, Lukaku, Williams, Ozil and Ramsey all had assists, with Williams bringing in two bonus points, Coleman scored a goal and two bonus points, Turner brought in a clean sheet and three bonus points, Silva chipped in a goal and Suarez scored 22 points. I would've topped my best week overall with Suarez as Captain, but those are the breaks...and the break that my mini league leader captained Suarez and finished with 93 points, allowing me to pick up one point to move eight points back, though I am 19,000 in the world, which is an all-time high. Midweek, we can discuss my grappling with my transfer conundrum.
|Saturday, November 30th, 2013|
|Death in the Dollar Store
On my way to the farmer's market, I detoured myself to the dollar store, Family Tree to be exact. I seldom go to the dollar store, which is little more than an update on the five and dime which seemed to have gone extinct by the 1990s. However, stopping to get a shower curtain for Sweetiepig a while back, I discovered that this particular Family Tree stocks Cherry Coke in the 20 ounce bottle for $1, unlike the other Coke beverages which are served in the dollar store specific 14 ounce bottle.
So, I take a quick tour of the store, because I happen to love commerce and probably more correctly, stores. Not finding anything, I head to the front of the store, select my Cherry Coke and take my place in line. To my right are two gentlemen purchasing 25 balloons, which someday will look silly, given the amount of helium and its value to modern society. The lady behind the counter is having some difficulties getting this completed, since filling 25 balloons is at minimum, a time-consuming task.
Shunted to the left lane, there is going to be some wait, perhaps as long as three or four minutes. Surprisingly, I was not bothered by this, as I had nowhere in particular to be. There were two women in front of me, one with a singular item and another with about eight items, also known as a standard line in a store.
As I stood there, an older couple comes up behind me. They were likely in their 70s, but I cared not enough to turn around to give them a good ID. As we approach three minutes, the lady behind me begins to speak out. She notices I am purchasing but one item, the aforementioned bottle of Cherry Coke. Obviously, feeling the last few minutes of her "precious" life draining away waiting in line like a civil member of society, she asks me, not in a kind way, but in the why are you wasting my time kind of way, "Why can't you just leave the money for your item and leave?"
Now, you might think she was being kind or useful, but she was certainly not. I replied, with the icy tone I reserve for morons, that stores do not work like this. This is not the local convenience store of your youth. All of the items are included in the system, to allow for accurate ordering and inventory management. Should I have the exact change necessary to execute this, all I would do is slow down the process more, potentially involving law enforcement or dollar store management, neither group would I particularly care to spend any time with during my day.
Knowing my displeasure, the old lady quiets herself, but not before ruining my precious line waiting experience with her I'm dying here problems. Seriously, if you cannot bring yourself to wait in the line at the dollar store, you should find a more fruitful and profitable use of your time.
|Tuesday, November 19th, 2013|
There is little in life more unsettling than not having your preferred credit card. That's not true, there are many things far more unsettling than not having access to your preferred credit card, but any time your credit card becomes compromised, you need to go through this horrible cycle of re-registering everything. Last week, I needed to cancel my credit card due to a fraudulent charge, which unfortunately was not an automatic option. "Oh, you want to cancel the credit card with the charge on it you didn't authorize or know about? I thought you might want to keep it open to add a little more fraud to your bill."
So, I forced the cancellation of my credit card and sit here waiting for the new card to arrive. Now, I can live without the credit card without a problem, but I'm addicted to AutoPay. AutoPaid phone bill, AutoPaid cable bill, AutoPaid car insurance and AutoPaid NetFlix, etc.
Home today, I logged on to Netflix to see if there was something I wanted to watch. You know, despite their impressive selection, I often have difficulty finding a movie or show to watch. I did find something today, but then was directed there was a problem and was directed to the login area, where I discovered my Autopay had lapsed. Forced with deciding between waiting for my primary credit card to arrive and make sure the $7.95 contributes points to my reward card or using my secondary credit card to pay, I decided to wait, at least for one more day.
Sadly, I was forced to watch Amazon Instant Video or one of the hundreds of DVDs in my apartment or something on my cable on demand, while I waited for Sweden and Portugal to start. The inhumanity of the situation is startlingly low as other options were available, but I dislike waiting and not having what I want when I want it, because the truth is I'm a loathsome, middle-class American, just like you.
|Sunday, November 17th, 2013|
|The Best Sandwiches Combined Two Pre-Existing Sandwich Concepts
As you are probably not aware, I spent about 10 months working in Philadelphia. During that time, I did not learn to love the City of Brotherly Love, though I did enjoy the best sports experience of my life there, as well as learn to love food trucks. One of the food trucks I was especially fond of was Vernalicous
, which made a number of excellent food choices, especially the Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese
, which combines the delicious moistness of pulled pork with the perfectly sealed pocket of a grilled cheese. It was the best sandwich I ate in Philadelphia, assuming we do not count the hamburger as a sandwich. (It is not, otherwise the hamburger would be found under sandwiches on a menu.)
This sandwich was a take on a sandwich I previously made for myself, though with less skill and slow cooking of pork shoulder. In the past, I identified the best way to make a cheesesteak for one is to make inside a grilled cheese. The grilling of the sandwich gives it the fighting chance of not falling apart due to the absurd amount of ingredients I like to put in between two slices of bread.
Today, emboldened by the ribeye steak sitting in my refrigerator, I decided to take 15 or so ingredients out of my refrigerator and make a grilled cheese steak. Starting with two slice of garlic basted bread, which were a significant improvement over two slices of white bread due to the additional surface area provided, I started thinly slicing some cheddar cheese. You might disagree with my cheese preference, but to each his or her own, no matter how wrong you might be.
With that out of the way, I started to thinly slice some garlic and onion. Technically, I did these while cooking, since the whole mise en place before cooking concept always eluded me. But in a just or caring world, you would do this first. I tossed some olive oil in the now hot cast iron pan, which was quite possibly the greatest twenty dollars I've ever spent, at least until I burn myself on it. This was followed by the garlic and the bacon.
I mean, we can't have a grilled cheese without bacon. So, two slice of bacon, cut in half go in the pan. Once the bacon started to brown, I tossed in the onion and hurriedly prepared some broccoli rabe. I purchased the rabe at the local farmer's market, where it was touted as organic, but really, I just like the whole concept of purchasing excellent vegetables off a folding table in a parking lot, because that is how you get the best food. Also, Philadelphia reinforced that broccoli rabe belongs on any sandwich once fried in garlic oil.
Amazingly, the bacon, rabe and onion all finish close together and went on top of the cheese, while a few slices of tomato lined the other side of the sandwich. Pan still hot from our previous cooking, I cut four slices of ribeye steak, added some salt and pepper and tossed them into the pan, thirty seconds on each side. Out of the pan, I cut it into little pieces and tossed it atop the sandwich. A1 sauce added for some additional moisture and round three begins in the pan. A quick darkening on each side allowed the cheese to finish melting and created a perfectly decadent sandwich, which was thoroughly enjoyed on an another otherwise dark Sunday.
I've watched professional wrestling for over 30 years, which both makes me feel old and likely makes you think ill of me. I've seen wrestling on its biggest stages, watching Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair in person in 20,000 seat arenas filled to the rafters and I've seen shows in VFWs with crowds barely reaching 75 people.
Now, wrestling at its finest, is storytelling set to action. To work, you need broad characters who can be understood at 100 or 1,000 feet with limited vocal interaction. Despite these limitations, there are often some great nuances which separate the best from the rest. The way they interact with the crowd or use their match to tell or further a story with their opponent are what make the sport an art form, more akin to opera than boxing.
Last night, and I mean really, last night, I went to the Pro Wrestling Syndicate
show in historic Rahway, NJ. No really, Rahway was billed as historic, though as far as I know, no event which changed the world happened in Rahway. Well, except for perhaps the Battle of Spanktown, which is a minor skirmish from the Revolutionary War and not the seedy or lurid event of your imagination.
The show would be classified as an "Indy" show, since it is for a company without a television contract. The draw was quite good, as I would estimate between 900 and 1,000 people chose to spend their Saturday night watching wrestling with the Insane Clown Posse as the guest commissioners. This was apparent, as there were about 20 people wearing full-on Juggalo face paint, including one person mixing the face paint with his late-era Macho Man Randy Savage outfit. Also, this was the first, and quite possibly, the only time I will ever be at a wrestling event and smell marijuana being smoked at the event. Horrible body odor from the unwashed masses, you bet, people mellowing out, not so much.
I went, as one of my favorite wrestlers, Chris Hero, was just released from the WWE and making his first appearance in the Indies since 2011, and as always, put on a great match, as he is one of the best in-ring storytellers I've seen in my thirty years. It also helps that PWS always puts on a great show, mixing wrestlers a casual wrestling fan might know, like Vader, along with enough action to fill 3.5 to 4.5 hours. (As an aside, except for recipes, aren't fractions dead and replaced by decimals at this point, another casualty of the digital age, right there with your self-respect and leisure time.)
The bulk of the time is filled wrestlers who were trained at the PWS wrestling school. Now, wrestling is a craft which takes time to master. And I've seen a great number of wrestlers who were either not ready or never going to be ready in my life. However, at the PWS show, everyone seemed very well trained and prepared to wrestle in front of a crowd. It felt both safe and well-acted and was not a night filled with cringe-worthy moments. Amongst the many young dreamers working last night was one fellow with a gimmick that needs further mention: Jewasaurus.
I first must let you know, there are no easily found pictures of Jewasaurus on the internet. Had I known this last night, I would've take a picture of him in all of his glory. As backstory, there is a wrestler in the WWE, Brodius Clay, who goes by the moniker Funkasaurus
. Essentially, he is a large man with African American ancestry who combines funk with the clawing motion of a dinosaur, wrestling primarily as part of a comedy act. Jewasaurus takes this large brushstroke on the canvas and moves it in a new direction. A husky fellow, he wears a black singlet with a giant, red Star of David on his back, with in large, bold, red letters wrapping around his ample waste proclaiming him Jewasaurus. Continuing the archetype, he is bald with the crown of his head shaved, but not quite in that, I've shaved my head clean sort of way. He was in the battle royal, which consists of men trying to throw each other over the top rope. And the crowd was behind him, since like all good wrestling archetypes, he is played in a way to generate sympathy and laughs and it works. It made me smile and in fact, scream everytime he neared elimination. Sadly, he did not win the match, but he won over the hearts of the fans, which in wrestling is far more important than the sporting event record keeping at the end. So, while utterly ridiculous and likely insensitive to some, Jewasaurus is a big hit in a small arena and definitely something to check out, hopefully in the future with pictures.
|I Can't Wait to Tell You All About (Big Apple Stomp Night 1)
Nothing reminds you of your age like participating in something from your youth. Yesterday and again today is the Big Apple Stomp, a two-day ska festival. Fourteen hours of ska, two days, bands I genuinely like seeing live, what a great idea!!! After six hours, I am definitely feeling the effects of not going to shows on a regular basis and generally being old. Very, very old. To be quite honest, the most exciting part of today will be when the schedule for today is released, so I can see how many hours I can cut off tonight's performance.
As to the actual show itself, the first night was good, but certainly not as great as I hoped. I can cover The Fad and What's Your Problem, Brian with the following comments: "The Fad opening their set and the entire show with Rat Race by the Specials was an inspired choice." and "My that was a lot of floor punching." I have nothing else memorable to say about either band. Actually, it had been many years since I'd been to a show with floor punching, which both took me back and reminded me that hardcore is not a tall person's music.
Inspecter 7 came on after them. I'd never seen Inspecter 7 prior to last night and was not overly familiar with their catalog. I knew some of their songs from the endless number of skampilations that I purchased over the years. For me, the highlight was a Skoidats cover, salving a small amount of the wound I felt for having never seen the Skoidats live. From here, it was all downhill.
I won't lie, the above was written in the present tense, while the below comes five and a half months later, since I am a great many things, but consistent in my writing output is not one of them. The great disappointment was The Pilfers, who were the big draw of night one of the Big Apple Stomp. For the vast majority of you who don't know, The Pilfers were one of the best third wave ska bands. Fronted by Coolie Ranx and powered by the signature wail of Vinny Nobile's trombone, the Pilfers produced this huge sound. In fact, I saw one of their reunion shows last November and was reminded how great of a live band they were. So, Coolie Ranx hits the stage and I don't see Vinny. But bands come out like that, sometimes letting one member playing his way on stage.
But then I realized, there was some other guy, on stage, with a trombone. And he started to play. And he was horrible. I mean, drowned out, washed out, missing giant pieces of the Pilfers sound horrible. Coolie kept coming over to him to offer encouragement, but that just made it worse, as if somehow the crowd, about 80% of which expect Vinny Nobile's trombone to be blaring over the rest of the band, wouldn't notice. The error was only compounded when Vinny Nobile came out and electrified the crowd with his sound reaching the whole room. It was such a downer when Vinny left the stage and led me to leave early during the Suicide Machines' set.
Fortunately, there was a day 2, which is a story for another time.
|Monday, May 27th, 2013|
|Due Mari: A Fine Dining Experience
Fine dining is a learned skill. We often spen
Today, the missus and I went out to find lunch. We started off heading towards Somerville to see if Origin
was open. Their website insisted they were closed, but Google gave me the distinct impression they might be open. Also, on Labor Day, we went to Origin, who was open for Sunday hours, so I was filled with hope. Well, after navigating the maze of Somerville created by the Tour of Somerville
, a bicycle race which I had no interest in aside from times I was trying to cross the street, we found they were in fact closed. After some browsing through what feels like the last remaining antique store in town, we returned to the New Brunswick area, looking for a meal.
We slowly drove through downtown New Brunswick, noticing that most of the restaurants were surprisingly closed, as if it was 1980 or they were patriotic, despite my need for someone else to cook and serve me a meal. As we were settling on Chipotle
, which manages to never disappoint nor excite, we noticed that Due Mari was open. We had avoided Due Mari
for a number of years, since the menu posted to the world was not exactly vegan-friendly, a necessity for my vegan wife. However, she was interested in going and away we went.
Arriving at the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was how incredibly clean the restaurant was. In fact, it might be the cleanest looking restaurant I have set foot in, which was enhanced by the visible, natural lighting and open spaces. The table was also well designed, as a table for two contained just the right amount of space, leaving ample room for the food.
The service was also outstanding. I generally dislike the service in most restaurants. I am never a fan of seeing the server that often, but the waitress knew the exact right line between attentive and distant and even identified potential food problems for my wife, which were not readily identifiable from the menu. Another very nice touch was new silverware for each course. There is little less satisfying than eating two disparate food items, yet not getting different silverware. I mean, do I really want to have poached egg mixed into my squid ink pasta because the restaurant didn't want to wash two knives and two forks. For shame, other restaurants, for shame.
Of course, while cleanliness and service are important parts of the dining experience, the main draw is always the food. We started with the Crostini, containing a broccoli rabe pesto and white beans. At first, I was going to refrain, as I am not a fan of white beans, but eventually caved in and enjoyed one of the crostini. As you might suspect, it was excellent. Broccoli rabe, which ranks number 2 on my list of vegetables, just behind asparagus, makes an excellent addition to the pesto and enhanced the flavor profile of the entire bite. While I would not have regretted anything had I not chosen to eat the Crostini, that is only because I would've been blissfully unaware of the great food I did not eat.
We followed the Crostini with something from the Antipasti e Ensalada list. My wife enjoyed Misticanza, while I ordered the Asparagi. The listed ingredients were asparagus, prosciutto, poached egg and parmesan. I expect the ingredients incorporated into a salad. Instead, the ingredients were put together like an appetizer, which is a far more enjoyable way of eating the ingredients. The asparagus, thin and well prepared, were the based, with a poached egg wrapped in a slice of prosciutto, covered in parmesan was laid on top, with a small amount toasted bread off to the side. The bread was necessary for eating the egg yolk once opened and the prosciutto was just the right amount, as any more would have been salty and unenjoyable. In all, it was exactly what you would want to have in an appetizer or even a breakfast.
After completing this, we awaited our pasta dishes. The pasta, while good, was not quite as good as the last two courses. I had the linguine, which is a squid ink pasta covered in a seafood ragu. The pasta itself was excellent and expertly cooked and I did manage to take squid ink pasta off the list of food items I've never eaten. However, the seafood ragu left a little something to be desired. It really comes down to knifework, which sounds like a copout when you say it out loud. But a few of the edges of the seafood let me down.
Seafood is always a risky bet in a restaurant, as there are so many places you can go wrong. It can easily be overcooked, undercooked, not quite as fresh as you would like, none of which happened here, or it could have some cutting imperfections, which can ruin the experience. There was one type of seafood diced up into the ragu which I could not clearly identify, crab is the likeliest choice, but shrimp, octopus and even squid itself were still in the mix. However, the edges of the seafood looked like they had tiny, little fingers attached or tails if they were shrimp. It wasn't consistent and affected only a small part of the meal, but it gave a disconcerting look to some of the seafood, which was slightly off putting. Not nearly enough to ruin the dish or the meal, but enough to be worthy of two paragraphs of internet space.
After all of the food we ate, dessert was out, but looked like it would be a fabulous cap to an excellent meal. In sum, I would definitely recommend Due Mari if you are interested in fine Italian dining, as unlike many other fine dining establishments which tend to disappoint, Due Mari delivered an excellent meal and dining experience.
|The World's Richest Prize
Since World Cup 2010, I've become quite the soccer fan. At work, we had a fantasy soccer league and I shared a small office with a long-time soccer fan, who stoked the flames of our work league. Watching soccer for an entire month ending with Nigel de Jong's kung fu kick were enough to make me a convert. Plus, we enjoyed the World Cup fantasy soccer league so much, we joined an English Premier League version for the season after. While I lost the league the first season, I managed to win the next two seasons, second in the most dramatic of fashion, as I erased a 53 point lead with three weeks to play to win by 20 points.
More importantly, I learned that soccer is incredibly watchable in HD and the average game last less than two hours. That's 33% less commitment then any major American sport. Also, I can usually watch two games on a Saturday morning before the missus awakes and be ready to start the day at Noon.
Now, being a two-time defending champion and subscriber to the BeIn network, as I never let politics get in the way of watching soccer, I am currently watching the World Richest Prize in Soccer, the Championship League play-off final. One team, will win and get an additional 90 million dollars in revenue next season for advancing to the Premier League, while the loser will toil another year in the Championship, sans 90 million in Premier League payments. Last season, I watched my beloved Blackpool play quite poorly in losing to West Ham United, leaving West Ham to move back to the Premier League, while Blackpool struggled to remain in the Championship this season.
Today's combatants are Crystal Palace from South London, is playing Watford, from just north of London. If Crystal Palace wins, that would make them the sixth team from London in the Premier League next season, including Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Fulham and West Ham United. Also, it would bring tremendously entertaining former Blackpool manager, Ian Holloway back to the Premier League for delightful pre and post game interviews. Despite being disappointed in the way that Ian Holloway left the team in November, I still I think I would prefer watching Crystal Palace next season than Watford. With that, I am back to watching the World's Richest Prize in Soccer.
|Sunday, May 26th, 2013|
|Scissors in the Freezer
They say that athletes and mathematicians peak in their 20s. I suspect that is the case for most people as well, which given our ever expanding life spans is likely a tremendous problem.
With pitchers, I believe the phrase is losing your fastball. As my 20s have passed and my 30s are well underway, I realized that I am also losing my fastball. A decade ago, I never felt continual aches and pains. I was never concerned about muscles locking up in my arm, as happened a few weeks ago or going to the doctor to make sure I hadn't broken my wrist after the CLR fell on it.
Even worse than the physical pain of age, I am starting to feel the mental pain of age. One example was today. Yesterday, I decided to enjoy some of the Otter Pops that I purchased last year. Given their status as a semi-food item requiring extreme refrigeration, there was no real risk of damage from eating a year-old Otter Pop. So, I enjoyed my Louie-Bloo Raspberry and Sir Issac Lime, using the scissors to remove the top from the ice pops.
Today, while doing my darnedest to watch all 15 episodes of Arrested Development in a single day, I decided I would also like some additional ice pops. So, I went to the drawer where I keep the scissors. Inside the drawer, there were no black handled scissors, nicest and newest of the scissors which I own, but the old, red-handled scissors, which had seen better years. Opening the freezer, old, red-handled scissors in hand, I pulled out the rack of Otter Pops. Underneath the multicolored frozen sugar water were the black handled scissors, nigh frozen. Embarrassed by the mental gaffe, I took the scissors out, managed to use the Otter Pops and returned them to the drawer.
I worry that as I age further, I will continue to find odd items in places I never expect to and greatly fear the slow, gradual mental decay, leaving me unable to handle even the smallest of tasks as I live a long, unfulfiling life.
|Friday, May 24th, 2013|
|A New Age of Television
Growing up in the 1980s, episodic television required commitment. A commitment to spending the same time, every week, waiting through periods of repeats, in an attempt to follow the narrative. Comedies worked better. If you missed a week of Night Court, you might not see all of John Larroquette's brilliance, but you didn't need to be concerned that you missed a vital plot development.
Eventually, we moved to a world with VCRs, not that you could ever ensure that you would program them correctly, or use a clean tape or set the SP/EP settings correct. Many a time, you would think, I can go out and not miss anything and return to find you have half a show or a tape degraded from continual use, because the four dollars to purchase a new tape was such a major investment.
I even remember as late as 2000, making sure to be home every Wednesday night to watch Survivor. As I was watching this year's finale, it stunned me to learn over 50 million people watched the original season finale, making a cultural touchstone out of a piece of remarkable television. I've always felt the first season of Survivor is the dividing line, making it the last time anyone might have more than an accidental honest moment on reality television. I still enjoy "reality" television, but always take the reality in quotes.
Fast forward five years, spent without cable, I came across Battlestar Galactica, having only seen the series premiere. At this point, I learned the joy of binge watching. Purchasing the first season DVD, I managed to watch all 13 episodes in under two days. I did the same for Season 2 right before getting cable before the start of Season 3. This was a whole new way of watching television. Burning through endless episodes of a series, watching a narrative unfurl as characters develop. I did the same for Mad Men and Breaking Bad after four seasons and found both shows as almost as an endless movie, rather than waiting 167 hours for the next installment.
In fact, doing this has ruined my appreciation for actual movies. To me, it seems the medium doesn't allow for character development and the stories are over so quickly. Also, I complain about having to actually commit two full hours to a movie, even while committing to 13 hours a season for a television show. But like a junkie, I believe I can quite in the middle, walking away for a while, even though I've been watching Homeland for the last four hours and have great expectations on finishing this very weekend. And it is true, there is no good Indian food in Philadelphia, but that's a story for another time.
|A Mask Too Far
Each act in our lives requires some risk, some small, some large. Appreciating that risk is critical in making an informed decision. Too often, modern society takes one or a handful of incidents as a reason to remove more risk from society. While lowering risk can be a societal positive, lowering risk without a commensurate reward is a waste of resources. Today, we are looking to take the risk out of playing baseball and softball by having all pitchers and infielders wear masks.
While not having conducted an exhaustive study, I feel fairly confident that few injuries are attributable to line drives to the face for pitchers and infielders. It is, of course, a risk of playing any game with a batted ball and close to the batter, players do wear masks, as balls and potentially bats are likelier to strike someone in the face causing injury.
Many of us grew up playing batted ball games and while not a great athlete, I did manage to play games and avoid being hit in the face, as has everyone else I've ever met in my life. Faced with one injury and years where no injuries happened, the town is looking to add additional regulation to local sports. As people, we tend to remember the singular, extreme event and forget about all of the mundane events which occur in the same situation.
Here, if we estimate there are 100 pitches per side per game and there are only 25 games in a season, both are what I expect to be low numbers, and one person gets hit in the face, there is only a 1 in 5,000 or 0.02% chance of being hit in the face. If we assume this is the only time this happened in 10 years, then we can say there is a 1 in 50,000 chance or 0.0002% chance of being hit in the face. And this risk is not that each person will, but one person on the field. More importantly, I suspect if this was a tremendous problem, we would have over one hundred years of people suffering terrible facial wounds from playing baseball and softball, which I think we all know is not the case.
To measure this, you need to look at the cost. Everyone who wants to play will now have an additional burden in the form of the cost of the mask. It removes a choice from people, as the current rule doesn't prevent anyone from wearing a mask, but allows those who feel the risk of injury is too high to not wear one. By raising the costs, additional barriers are erected, preventing people with less economic power from entering and enjoying sports. And while neither a parent nor an athlete, I am aware that the cost of playing high school sports can be very high, with equipment, travel and fees.
Finally for me, the scariest point of all is found in the following quote, "I don’t care what it takes," Brown said. "Some way, somehow, I want to see this thing go through because I firmly believe in it. When you see these kids get hit, it shakes you to the core. We need to protect them."
Whenever I see something that boils down to protecting people at all costs, I worry that people want to take away freedoms in order to do what they think is right. This always smacks of people imposing their will on others because they know better and the people themselves cannot be trusted. While in many cases, this might be true, life is about being trusted and handling the risk/reward component for all of our decisions. Each time you take one away, you tell someone they are incapable of making decisions or living their life, which is a dangerous way to live.
|Wednesday, July 11th, 2012|
|My Daily Devotional
The absolute best part of being an early adopter to a well known E-Mail service is that I get mail clearly intended from other people. In the past few years, I've been offered Seahawks tickets, offered opportunities to speak at farm conferences, received invitations to intimate gatherings and have even had the opportunity to be part of two singles groups. All of which always makes me laugh when I get these intimate looks into someone's life.
Today, my very non-religious self was offered the following advice, which is about the tenth time this year someone has tried to get me to find god.
"Trust: Proverbs 3:5 or Jeremiah 17:17
Courage: Psalm 91:4
Strength: Philipians 4:13
Endurance: 2 Corinthians 6:4, Hebrews10:36, or Collossians 1:11
Perseverance: Romans 15:5
(excuse my spelling, apple doesn't autocorrect bible books)
Sent from my iPhone"
Apple (more correctly your iPhone) also does not autocorrect capitalization either. As always, the lesson learned here is to make sure you know who you are sending your E-Mails to.
|Monday, July 9th, 2012|
|Am I Wearing a Nametag?
You would think, after three years, numerous life events (nearly misspelled as live events, as if I were illiterate or discussing the various concerts I've been to) and countless great stories lost to the graveyard of time, I would come back with something better. However, you are most certainly wrong.
One thing I have always hated is people who don't know the difference between an employee and a customer in the retail setting. I know that the years of making employees wear nametags and smocks, combined with years of experience at looking at people shopping, holding baskets, removing items from shelves, engaged with themselves and not their job has always made it difficult for me to separated employee from customer, but despite this handicap, I have always succeeded.
Unfortunately, people often mistake me for the help. I especially enjoy this in the winter, where customers, wearing jackets or coats due to the cold weather, cannot easily be mistaken for the help. Yet, the clueless and unfortunate still have time handling these social cues.
The other day, I was in RiteAid, a store where everyone wears blue smocks or vests along with a name, if they are working in the store. It's a visual aid to assist people in finding assistance within the store. I was in one of the aisles looking for drops or some salve used to placate illness, wearing a bright red soccer jersey with no name tag. I was actually taking the item needed off the shelf to purchase it, engaging in the second most distinctive customer behavior behind waiting in line. All this time, this "gentleman", lacking the years of experience that day to day life offers, starts going "Sir, do you work here?"
Now, I assume he must be talking to someone else, since I am engaged in shopping and clearly off color with the employees. Were this the case, you would not be reading this story. Three more times, moving closer and closer, as if perhaps they engaged a deaf mute in the position of floor service, he yelled louder as you get closer would get results. So, as he is now within two feet, I turn to him, full of anger at my shopping experience being ruined by this "person", and in a loud and unfriendly tone, ask "Am I wearing a nametag?"
He recoiled, shocked by the fact that a shopper would not want an unpleasant intrusion while shopping. After stepping back, he moved forward, in a somewhat aggressive posture. I may or may not have impolitely shown him what I thought of his movement and got in line. Waiting in line, he peaked around the corner, half afraid, half spoiling for a fight to prove his "manhood". He then slunk around the line and stopped even with the cashier to "stare me down". Of course, I stared him back, which led him to leaving, looking angry and defeated that he could not get help in the RiteAid, nor could he get his vengeance against me.
After making my purchase, I walked out into the parking lot, looked left and right, saw he left and I drove off into the sunset. The moral of the story is, as always, I am a self-righteous prick who cares not for people or their "feelings".
|Sunday, April 12th, 2009|
|Precious Little Snowflakes
One of the great things about the internet is the absolutely insane amount of information available at our fingertips. In some ways, this makes it harder to find anything, since the information is more than any one man, woman, child or computer can really handle. On the other hand, it does make reading about some of our favorite topics a great deal easier.
One of my personal favorite topics happens to be about that precious generation of people raised right after me. You know, the people who entering college now and are out of college for a few years now. Those people who were raised thinking they could do no wrong and would set the world ablaze with their amazing skill sets and dynamic energy. I like to think of these fine people using the wonderful term, Snowflakes.
Every week, there is always some article in one of the multitude of online available newspapers discussing the challenges facing this generation. It seems that all the people who were being ground up into little pieces by their jobs forgot that these very children would also someday be required to hold a job, earn an income and suffer in the same ways that they were suffering at that point in time. It was almost as if the workplace so damaged these adults that they tried to shield these snowflakes from the same indignities that they themselves were suffering.
Of course, as we all know, work has if anything, become more difficult in the last generation due to mobile communication and around the clock attention and surveillance. There is no more nine to five or even eight to seven, but instead we are all considered on the clock, all the time. As one might suspect, this grinding lifestyle does not suit the Snowflakes well. And the newspapers are filled with a love and a certain amount of hate for these people. It's wonderful!
They are filled with stories of overprotective parents, calling college professors to provide better grades or for more assistance with timeliness for assignments, because in the real world, my mother calls my boss all the time so I can go home at a decent hour and rest, rather than work 11 hour days...oh wait, she doesn't and I suck it up and do it, because I enjoy things like eating far too much not to.
Even better, some parents take it further and call human resource departments and ask for special considerations for work options and raises. And at work, these fine young people expect their egos to be stroked for doing the bare minimum at their jobs, much like they did in school, getting rewards and high marks for being themselves instead of doing what is asked for.
Sometimes, people defend these wonderful creatures, saying they will bring a technical savvy and a willingness to enact change that previous generations lack. I imagine that techinical savvy mostly revolves around logging onto Facebook at work and posting important company information on Twitter. Change is likely predicated on a willingness to cry about every grievance against them, real or imagined, and insisting they know better on all fronts, because when you have never been wrong, it is hard to be humble enough to be wrong enough to learn.
As you might imagine, I think this is another nail in the fine coffin being built around our fine nation!
|Monday, March 30th, 2009|
Once a year, we all begin on an annual rite of spring. Not sacrificing a goat or a virgin to ensure a good yield for the crops, though this might not be a bad idea in today's topsy-turvy economic climate. No, it is time to do our taxes. That dreaded time when we gather all of our records and try to figure out how can I give the government less money, which is what we all dream of doing.
Usually, I wait until the very last day and gather the W-2s and 1099s and other forms of income and rare deductibles together with 20 or so paper copies of the tax forms purloined in batches of two or three from the local library. Given that I have a law degree and earned an A in Federal Income Tax law in law school, I usually feel this is the best route, since I likely know better or at least like to think I do. Of course, since I have no charitable giving or anything of a nature where I am giving to someone else, I can usually zip through in about 45 minutes, mostly looking at the tax tables and whatnot.
However, this year, I was forced to file electronically. In an attempt to place my one paper W-2 in a very safe place, I managed to make it so safe, that even I am unable to locate and properly use the W-2 in an envelope. Luckily, I had my last paycheck from my old job, my last year's W-2 and enough know how to make my own form for the electronic tax release.
So, it started simple enough, typing in names and numbers, qualifying for the free TurboTax federal and admitting it was worth $30.95 not to have to deal with HR to get another W-2 from the company I used to work for and does not exist. In fact, I was blowing through the entire form with great ease. I was even on pace to get a refund, instead of the incredible reaming I took last year. But then I realized my old job taxed me at 15% for three weeks we worked together, making the money melt out of the refund. It was like watching a perverse, electronic version of Mountainclimber. I could hear the yodeling as the money flew out of pocket and into the government's needy hands. Sadly, I ended up owing the government money, but fortunately, it was only to the federal government and the state will pay me back, since my state is still solvent, unlike the suckers who live in California.
So, I reach the end of the road and I am ready to file, when I get to the needing the either my 2007 Pin Number or my 2007 AIG, neither of which I had possession of. Luckily, with some prompting, I was given a phone number to call the IRS, who have surprisingly useful hours for a government agency. I dialed and expected a wait, you know, the ten minute wait whenever anyone makes a phone call to a gigantic entity. The music begins and the time begins to pass. Five becomes ten, ten becomes twenty, twenty becomes not quite thirty. As the classical music piece fades into a ringing phone, I reach a live person.
I forget the man's name, but he introduced himself as Mr., which was a nice change. I greeted him in a friendly manner and gave him my social security number. From there, it gets crazy. Usually you answer one question to get information, maybe two. This process had ten. Ten questions, things most people would not know, like how many deductions they took the year before. I remembered, but it was touch and go. From there, I was able to get my AIG and finish my taxes, leaving this entire sordid affair behind me for another year.
|Friday, March 27th, 2009|
|Inner Oral Violence
Well, as I embark down the long winding road of modern dentistry I have learned the processes are generally not painful thanks to our good friends Lidocaine and Novocaine, but tend to be exceptionally time-consuming and somewhat discomforting.
Today, being my fourth appointment in the last three weeks was by far the worst appointment I've faced. I went for what was to be a simple root canal, my second one, followed by some light posting and temporary capping. This ended up being far more complex than I would like to imagine. I arrived, fiancee in tow, ready for an hour and a half of oral surgery, ready to be at my desk to take care of a few issues by 2 PM at work. (My appointment was an early 10:45 AM.) Well, the first root canal went alright, with a minor change after initial setting, but no pain and minimal discomfort. We were done around 12:45 or so. I figured we would have a quick posting, slap something over the top and away I would be, by 1:30, a little late, but not totally dismayed.
Well, posting went alright, because the dentist does it and I will be the first to admit that I picked one great dentist. However, from there, the dentist left the room and left the hygienist or assistant to finish things up. I hadn't dealt with this hygienist before today, but it made my day awful.
First, everything took for forever. I understand that dentistry is microsurgery and they understand I am scared to death of being there. They should also understand that novocaine has a shelf life in your mouth before it wears off. First, there was an impression, which took forever. I have a strange bite and even though the dentist warned her, I believe she was frustrated with my inability to get the tray set immediately, though she was quite able to cut the back of my gums with tray number 5. This didn't sit well with me, but I swallowed my pain and my pride and soldiered on, like a blissful coma patient.
Finally, we were able to get some impressions set, but only at the expense of 45 minutes worth of time and some severe pain in my jaw, making things like chewing or biting down harder. From there, we began putting in the temporary crowns.
My god! Each one, there were two of them, took about 25 or so tries to get just right, which at this point is debatable. As my back went into spasm, I noticed sensation in my mouth towards the end of fitting one. Sensation was about the last thing I wanted to feel in there...OK, next to last thing after a new hole of some sorts, yet sensation I felt. At this point, I reached a crossroad, do I get another set of novocaine injections, which are absolutely terrible to take or do I man up and hope she gets it done fast.
Like a fool or deranged lunatic, I chose option 2. The first five or so tries, the novocaine was wearing off, but by try six all I felt was material being jammed into my now very sensitive gums. As she kept jamming things in there, I tried very hard to suck it up, but I was in obvious pain. After try 15, which was about the three and a half hour mark in the chair, the dentist returned and asked how things are going, to which she told him, we were almost done. Almost, of course means five minutes or three tries, not thirty minutes or ten tries. Which continued endlessly as the pain became more intense with each try from the lessened novocaine and continual jamming and pulling. Lest this be the only wound inflicted, the hygienist realized that after four hours in a chair, in excrutiating pain, that it was the right time to insist that I needed to use an electric toothbrush and was doing everything wrong.
I see, I was unaware there was nothing wrong with what I was doing, given the incredible number of thousands of dollars I wrote a check for on Monday or the fact I spent 4 hours in a chair accompanied by the sounds of bone saws and blow torchs. What I really needed was the hygienist to get on her high horse and lecture me about everything I'm doing wrong. Yes, let's pick on the person deathly afraid to be here, who you have been working on for four hours to moralize to. Needless to say, I started screaming about the pain she was inflicting, since I was a customer in pain and started to scream and cry enough to be discomforting to anyone in the back of a dentist's office. Surprisingly, she was able to finish a lot faster at this point and give up on her need to have her friends gang up on me to prove a point, which is where she wanted to take me next.
Luckily, the dentist came out and was very calming. The remainder of his staff was wonderful as well and was really trying to help. As we talked, the dentist told me that the work I had done today was the amount of work the average person has in three or usually four visits, but we crammed it into one fun-filled, adventure-laden day. I will of course, go back in two weeks to begin my series of 16 to 20 weekly Friday afternoon visits, since a good dentist is hard to find, but I will also ask to avoid having this harpy work on me ever again, since there is no need to punish those who have already asked for salvation at the end of an especially arduous session. There is nothing gentle or reassuring about that at all.
|Tuesday, March 24th, 2009|
Some days, I sit in my living room and wonder how all of it arrived in this small space. It did not generally come in twos or threes, but ones, added slowly over time. Sure, sometimes things arrived in large batches, but one at a time, this collection assembled.
Tonight, I spent five minutes going through a box. A crate, more correctly, made of black plastic which allows me to see most of the contents of the crate at once. The other day, I took all of the items off the floor and placed them in the crate. Each box in the crate holds one disc, designed to be played in one of the three video game systems sitting below the television or perhaps a DVD for the DVD player nestled between. Inside the box were just a small portion of these discs which appear to rule my living room, if not my life.
I went through and finally picked a different video game to play, which was not too hard, considering I own plenty of half-finished and barely started video games from the last few years. I mean, I purchased Rock Band on a whim one day, which worked out in the sense that I've played it regularly or regularly enough to justify the high purchase price, unlike the Street Fighter IV joystick sitting in a box waiting to be sent to back to the company, due to its inability to work more than a week after purchase.
But everywhere around me, in bookcases, boxes and god knows where else in this apartment, there are video games to be played and DVDs to be watched and no time to get to them. I figure if I don't purchase another video game this year, I could easily be playing unfinished video games into 2010 and likely watch first and second run movies and television shows piled everywhere. Part of me feels guilty about owning all of these items which serve little purpose at this juncture in my life, but more likely, I will continue to fill this apartment with more shiny, shiny, shiny plastic discs filled with "entertainment".
|Sunday, March 22nd, 2009|
|I Still Have the Password
I realized today it was approximately a year and a half since I made any kind of effort to make a post in my online journal. Over the years, six of them to be precise, I've made postings on at least three different forums and probably more that I started once or so and let lapse like my Catholic upbringing. Nonetheless, I misclicked on one of my old journal links and thought, "Wow, I was a far better writer five years ago than I am today."
I suspect this is due to two reasons. Reason one is simple, I rarely write anything longer than a work related E-Mail anymore. I write to my fiancee every day before I leave for work, but three sentences is rarely sufficient to get any kind of written momentum going. I also write less to my friends, as I find my time becoming scarcer and scarcer, with greater work commitments thrust upon me and greater commitments at home, planning a wedding, preparing for a new life.
Reason two is probably more important, but also more complex. I am often busy, but rarely challenged, which is terrible for growth. I spend a great deal of time at work, which does not provide intellectual challenges very often, save those in finding the self-restraint to suppress my inner rage and dissatisfaction at the things around me. Admittedly, when I started my job, it was easy and required no thought. Which was wonderful for things like creativity, since staring at a screen and mindlessly clicking boxes greatly increases your ability to come up with perverse with to entertain people with, but dealing with people and actual problems beyond the scope of what is right in front of you is tiring and not productive to the flights of fancy and reason which fill up page after page of thought in our lives. What time is not spent there, is spent on logistics for weddings and dentists and new places to live, not for discovering myself. So while I am able to keep an apartment and eat well, like all people, the need for survival is destroying the ability to create.
But that is what life is. You start young and optimistic, then you fail, then you fail again, then you succeed by failing, then you find someone who wants to share this with you and then you end up here, tip-tap-typing away at a live journal, rather than trying to get one more E-Mail to one more person out the door, so one day without your presence does not derail the efforts of others.
So, perhaps I will start writing again and rediscover the person with the controversial thoughts and the ability to give them a meaningful life, but more likely, I will just manage to tell you how much I love going to the grand excess of Costco and fail miserably to ever rediscover the edge that made it all work.