Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Com Ed Energy Scammers Keep Calling Me

You'd think they'd have learned their lesson by now. Guess not. The Com Ed scammers called me once again. This time, I went all conspiracy theory on them and accused them of being agents of the government out to silence me. The rep didn't last long on this one. I only managed to keep him on the line for about a minute.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Expectation vs Reality: Middle Eastern Spiced Cod

Blue Apron hit the mark yet again this week with a second consecutive on-time delivery. I took a shot at the Middle Eastern Spiced Cod with Brown Rice, Dates, & Lemon-Yogurt Sauce. I was really excited about this one. The picture made the dish look delicious, even if the description left a little something to be desired: Some of the season’s first juicy tomatoes make their appearance in the hearty brown rice side for our flaky cod, which gets heady, fragrant flavor from ras el hanout—a popular blend of spices that often features turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and more.

Here's the Expectation vs Reality for comparison:


Expectation

Reality



But how did it taste? Well, I think that this has been my favorite Blue Apron meal so far. The cod was spiced well and was cooked perfectly. And it went well with the rice, dates and vegetables. I actually had never eaten a date before this meal and was pleasantly surprised at their taste and texture. The yogurt sauce was good, but, in my mind, the dish didn't really need it.

I think that I can confidently say that, with this Blue Apron dish, I totally nailed it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Com Ed Energy Bill Reduction Scammers Call Me Yet Again

You'd think they'd have learned by now. Yet another scammer using the old "lower your energy bills" line called me. This one actually had a decent accent. I figured I'd keep this one short and just decided to act overly excited when he said I would qualify for a lower rate.

The rep knew that he was being pranked and was about to hang up when I asked him his name so that I could properly express my thanks. He said his name was "Satan". I asked if it was some sort of ethnic name.

Monday, June 11, 2018

RIP Anthony Bourdain

I had a dream the other night. I was running a marathon in a blizzard and Third Eye Blind's "Narcolepsy" was playing in my ears. I came to a bridge high up above a raging river where I saw another runner standing on the ledge. He jumped off just as the lyrics "How'd you like to be alone and drowning" came on. I went in after him but couldn't find him. I woke up gasping for air and shivering.

I think the dream was brought on by news of the suicide of Anthony Bourdain.
He was one of my favorite chefs (yes, I have favorite chefs, geez.). He taught us to be adventurous, to embrace unknown cultures and to love food for its nourishment, it's flavor and its sense of community. He seemed so full of life, but, alas, many of us wear a mask to hide our pain. And while that is sinking in, consider this: He had an 11 year-old-daughter. I feel that one's pain would have to be incredible in order to override your parental instincts and take your own life in that situation. But, then, I think of what David Foster Wallace, famed author and essayist wrote about the subject:

"The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling."

David Foster Wallace suffered from mental illness with some extreme swings and killed himself in 2008, thus adding considerable weight to that quote.

But, now, back to Anthony Bourdain. Via his television show, Parts Unknown, Bourdain brought home to us the extraordinary diversity of cultures and cuisines. He was a gifted writer and chef with a larger than life personality. And I know that I'm usually much more jaded about celebrity deaths, but this one hit me hard. I feel like I've lost a friend. So, in honor of Anthony Bourdain, I'd like to share my favorite scene. Here he is at Waffle House, of all places. Watch as he truly appreciates the place for what it is and for what it does.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Expectation vs Reality: Chicken & Poblano Tostadas

After the last delivery arrived late, Blue Apron comped me for three boxes of two meals each. The first free box arrived on time and I tore into it in order to cook up the Chicken & Poblano Tostadas with Roasted Zucchini. Blue Apron's description is as follows:

The gentle, smoky flavor of poblano is used two ways in the topping for these tostadas: the sautéed fresh pepper is tossed with tender bites of chicken spiced with ancho chile powder (made from poblanos that have been dried and smoked). To pair with our zesty tostadas, we’re serving roasted zucchini topped with tart lime juice, Mexican spices, and crumbly queso blanco—a nod to classic elote seasonings.

This was a pretty easy recipe to make. The only issue I had was with the tostadas. I left them in the oven a bit too long and they started to inflate. But, I quickly recovered them and they deflated. They didn't turn out as golden brown as they did in the picture, but they still tasted great. And, surprisingly, the roasted zucchini came out perfectly.

Here's the Expectation vs Reality for comparison:


Expectation

Reality

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Tale From Tech Support

For me, there's nothing worse than when a tech guy needs tech support. IT folk can be pretty presumptive and impatient when they need technical support. They don't want to hear "Did you try rebooting?" because, yeah, of course they tried rebooting. They take being asked the question as an insult. But, sometimes you have to go through the steps in order completely understand the issue being presented.

A colleague of mine was away on sabbatical and asked if I'd handle a problem one of his students was having. The student had apparently been a network tech by trade and was now studying IT security. He was having trouble saving a file from a security program. Whenever he'd try to save the file, he'd get an error: Cannot create file. Save cancelled. I wondered if this wasn't because of an access issue. I asked him to screenshot the steps he was taking and make particular note of the path he was trying to save the file in. He came back with "I've tried many paths. This isn't a save issue. This is an issue with the program itself". Never mind that the error message quite clearly indicated that it was a save issue. Literally, the file could not be saved. And, of course, the guy had to pull the "I've been in the industry X years. I know what I'm doing".

As a favor to my colleague, I offered to look at the issue and went over to the class lab to have a look for myself. I told the student to run through the lab exercise for me. And when he went to save his work, I noticed the issue right way. He was using an illegal character in the file name. One of the things I always liked about tech support was that look people got when they realized that the issue they were having was so simple that they didn't even consider it. I call it the "brain dump" look because they look as if their brain is taking a crap all over their ego. It's a combination of realization, shame and sudden self-awareness.

That being said, I think all of us tech people are occasionally guilty of this sort of ego puffing. Who among us hasn't said "Hey, I'm having a problem with X and, yes, I've tried rebooting" when initiating a call? But, it's this intellectual myopia, the result of being too close to the problem, that causes us to overlook the simple things. Sometimes, it takes a second set of eyes to help us step back and really, truly look at the problem.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Energy Bill Reduction Scammers Call Me Again

A rep with a very thick Indian accent calling himself "Chris Martin" called me about lowering m Com Ed bill. Clovis asked "Chris" why he was working on Memorial Day rather than having the day off. Clovis asked about Chris' girlfriend, Hania and informed him that Hania was actually over at Clovis' house. Then, Clovis told Chris that his mom was also over at Clovis' house and that she was VERY disappointed in his merits as a son. "Chris" actually seemed to think Clovis' impressions were funny.

The rest of the conversation was Clovis and Chris arguing over what Chris' real name was.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Angry Trevor

This is my second attempt at a GTA V movie using Rockstar Editor. It follows a vague narrative.

Trevor encounters a street preacher who resembles Jesus. His preaching about the failings of his father makes Trevor think about his own father and he goes on a rampage across Los Santos as he searches for closure.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Expectation VS Reality: Seared Chicken Over Couscous

I'll admit it. I'm a terrible cook. If it's pizza or pasta or rice pudding, then there's a high probability that, if I'm cooking a meal, something is going to get messed up somehow. That's one of the reasons why I've been looking into various meal kit services. It's my hope that they'll not only provide a good meal, but also that I'll some cooking skills from following the recipes.

I got a free meal box from Blue Apron recently. For those of you who don't know, Blue Apron is subscription food delivery service that sends you two or three meals a week. Blue Apron sends you the ingredients and the recipes, and you cook the meal yourself. For my free box, I got to choose two meals of two servings each.

For my first Blue Apron meal, I went with Seared Chicken over Couscous with Peppers, Zucchini & Caper-Butter Sauce. Kudos to their copy writer because they make it sound so good: For a unique spin on pasta salad, we're tossing warm pearls of couscous (a type of toasted semolina pasta) with tender sauteed vegetables in a rich, tangy sauce made from butter, lemon, and capers. It's the perfect bright accompaniment for our simple seared chicken.

The instructions are pretty straight forward and easy to follow. There weren't any steps that I was uncomfortable with, except perhaps chopping the garlic. I had no idea what I was doing and struggled a little with it. I tried to stick pretty close to the cooking times given for each step in the process. That's probably the most difficult part. It's tough to keep in mind that your couscous cooks in 7 minutes while your chicken cooks for 6 minutes per side. But, I managed to keep it all straight in my head.

And the end result? Not bad, if I do say so myself. The meal turned out well and it tasted pretty good. You'll see my result down below on your right compared with the advertised version on the left. Pretty close, right? Although, I did away with the peppers because I knew I would not eat them. And the portion size is smaller because I made it for three people instead of two.

Expectation
Reality

All in all, I would call this Blue Apron meal a success. Based on this meal kit alone, I would say that Blue Apron might be worth a two-kits-per-week subscription which is the lowest option they offer. If they had a One-kit-per-month option or an "on demand" option, I'd be all over it. Unfortunately, Blue Apron delivered my very first meal kit to me late, which may have been the fault of FedEx. Still, if I can't rely on the kits getting to my house on time, then it really may not be worth it. We will see.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Medicare Back Brace Scammers Called Me

A rep from some back brace insurance scam called me. I put Otto on to handle the call. His told the rep that his back has indeed been hurting ever since he was on the toilet making poopies and fell off. He kept wanting to tell her about his Beanie Babies, and even hoped that he might be able to get a Beanie Baby Back Brace, but the rep just didn't want to listen. She also kept pronouncing his name as "Arthur" rather than "Otto". I kept her on the phone for about 8 minutes. Once an American rep took over, the call was ended quickly.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Jones Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage

For a brief moment, I actually thought that Jones Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage was a real commercial. It was done in the spirit of the 80's era Chicagoland commercials like Moo and Oink, Eagle Insurance and Victory Auto Wreckers. The Jones Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage commercial even features a real phone number and an an actual address, just 20 minutes from the old homestead! If Toby Jones hadn't said "shit" in the commercial, I would have been completely convinced and I'd have taken suggestions from my fans (both of them) on what to bring down to Jones Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage to have Toby fry up for me.

Alas, this dangling carrot of awesomeness is not real. It's the brain child of Big Dog Eat Child, a Chicago area sketch comedy group. Toby Jones is portrayed by stand up comedian, Robert L. Hines. Hines has done a number of other Toby Jones commercials for Big Dog Eat Child including Jones’ Big Ass Truck Rental and Storage and Jones' Cheap Ass Prepaid Legal and Daycare Academy.

Here's a link to the Jones' Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage video.


If you're interested in checking out some classic Chicagoland commercials, be sure to check out my Classic Chicagoland Commercials playlist on Youtube.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Yanny Vs Laurel

I haven't paid much attention to the Yanny vs Laurel debate that has erupted over my Facebook feed lately. In fact, I thought that the Yanny vs Laurel debate had something to do with American Idol finalists. I hadn't paid that much attention to the noise about the whole debate through, so, when my daughter finally played the audio sample for me last night, I was finally let in on the latest fad that has been taking the Internet by storm.

Apparently, this whole thing began on Reddit when the poster of that thread had recorded the video by playing the vocabulary.com pronunciation guide to “laurel” through their speakers. The original poster also had friends saying they heard "yanny" from the vocabulary.com audio. Youtube star, Cloe Feldman happened onto the thread, created the poll and it went viral.

So, you might ask whether I hear "Yanny" or "Laurel" on the clip. My answer to that is "neither". Instead, I hear something akin to "9/11 Was An Inside Job", though, I must admit, my hearing isn't what it used to be. Still, I hate to admit it, but I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed that Yanny won't be winning American Idol this year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Home Solar Panel Sales Calls Me

Otto got a call from a sales woman working for a home solar panel installation service. When she asked for Otto, I told her that he was an old man who shits himself, but, if she wanted to talk to him, that would be okay. She got a little defensive, and, by the time Otto answered the phone, she decided to hang up.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Surfing On The Humane Van In GTA V

I'm incredibly late to Grand Theft Auto V. I had played it on Playstation 3 a few years back and didn't get very far before I purchased my PS4. At that point, I didn't want to double dip the game, but I just never got back to playing GTA V. I finally broke down and bought GTA V for the PS4 earlier this month and have been steadily making progress on the single player missions. I've also been playing with the Rockstar Editor which allows you to do all sorts of things with your game play clips like change camera angles, add filters and substitute music. This can make for some pretty epic videos.

To that effect, I've made a video my my mission to steal the knockout gas from the Humane van. It's a pre-heist mission that Michael De Santa must complete in order to proceed to The Jewel Store Job. In order to steal the gas from the van, it's suggested that you tail the van, shoot the doors open from your car and then pick up the canisters that drop out. I misunderstood and thought that you needed to get the van to stop, then shoot the doors, then open the doors, take the gas canisters, jump back into your car and leave. You could just hijack the van, but that forces you to confront the driver who is armed and armored, gives you a higher wanted level than shooting the doors from your car, and forces you to try to elude the cops while driving the van.

In this clip, I have stopped the van, shot the doors, and attempted to open them manually. Instead of opening the doors, I climbed on top of the van. Once I did that, the van started moving again. I expected to be thrown from the van rather quickly, but, when that didn't happen, I decided to try to shoot the driver through the roof of the van. When that didn't work, I thought that, if I shot at the passenger side of the van, the GTA V A.I. would read it as an attack from a car and would try to swerve to get out of the way, which would possibly cause one of the A.I. cars to crash into the van. It worked pretty well, as the van swerved, got T-boned by one of the A.I. cars and threw me from the roof. The driver got out, we had a brief firefight and I jumped into the van and took off.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Another Toys R Us Tour

While I was in Bloomington, IL for my TSA pre-Check interview, I decided to stop at the local Toys R Us to see how their liquidation sale was going. When I got there at 10:00am, there were about 8 people waiting for Toys R Us to open. Inside, markdowns of 20% - 40% off meant that there were finally some decent deals to be had. There was a lot of stock still on the shelves and in the walkways.