Monday, March 30, 2020

Samuel Adams Mountain Berry Beer

I think I've made it pretty clear on this blog over the years that I'm a huge fan of the Samuel Adams brand. So, whenever something new hits the shelves, I'm usually keen on trying it. For some reason, I hadn't been able to get around to Samuel Adams Mountain Berry until now. Maybe it's because I'm not a huge fan of fruit "gimmick
" beers. I've always been a fan of Samuel Adams Cheery Wheat, so I figured that this one would be fairly close riff on Cherry Wheat. And, guess what? It is. Samuel Adams Mountain Berry tastes like Cherry Wheat but with raspberries and blackberries. That being said, it's a pretty decent beer. It's light and crisp and the fruit doesn't overwhelm the taste like a lot of over fruity beers tend to do. There's a little bit of a sour taste in there as well, but it's just a hint. There isn't much of a head on the beer after a pour and it's not very hoppy which is something that Samuel Adams beers tend to overdo with some of their creations. Overall, it's a very drinkable beer, one that would probably go down best as a light Summer offering in the place of some kind of Summer Shandy. Unlike Samuel Adams Summer Ale, it's not a beer that I would want to have a lot of, though. So, Samuel Adams Mountain Berry is, at the very least, worth a try.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Clovis Is Not Dead Yet

A scammer called Clovis trying to sell him final expense insurance. Clovis responded that he's not dead yet and he's tired of people saying that he is. When asked if he had a life insurance policy, Clovis said that he didn't and blamed Obama for it. As usual, Clovis accused the rep of hitting on him, and when the rep tried to rephrase the offer by saying that "the condition to purchase is not required". Clovis thought the rep was offering him cheese and told him about his issues with lactose.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Orbitz Is Overwhelmed

We were just starting to pack for our Spring Break vacation two weeks ago when things started to look dicey. Coronavirus cases were climbing fast and cities across the country were shutting down attractions and restaurants. The writing was on the wall: We were going to have to cancel our vacation. I had booked the suite directly with the hotel which had a policy of allowing for cancellation 24 hours before check-in. It took me all of five minutes to cancel that. Cancelling the flight, however, would prove to be much more difficult.

Ordinarily, you're pretty much out-of-luck if you want to cancel your flight. But, Orbitz, in anticipation of the pandemic, allowed for a generous cancellation window. I tried to cancel the flight through the Orbitz website. An hour later, when I hadn't gotten any kind of acknowledgement, I tried to cancel again. And yet again the next morning. I finally gave up on the website and called the Orbitz customer service number and was met with a message saying that the had high call volume and could not take my call. I tried several other numbers and finally got through. I was put into a wait queue and sat on the phone for over an hour until the call got disconnected. I called back and got the option to schedule a call back with a rep. I did that and about 90 minutes later, the call came in. I picked up and an automated message said I was being transferred to a customer service representative. The call got dropped.

Calling American Airlines directly was a much easier experience and I got through before very long. I told them that I would be cancelling my flight and they said they'd take care of it, but I'd have to contact Orbitz for a refund. The day of my flight, I tried over and over again to get in contact with Orbiz to no avail. I then decided that it might be smart to call in at 2am. After an hour wait, I was connected to a customer service rep out of the Philippines who basically told me that he couldn't issue a refund.

At that point, I was tired of trying to deal with Orbitz and I called my credit card company to dispute the charge. They'll notify Orbitz of the dispute and give them a chance to respond. The way I see it, Orbitz is likely overwhelmed, so they likely won't even respond. And, even if they do, I have it well documented that I tried to call and cancel and that American Airlines via Orbitz was offering refunds under the Coronavirus circumstances. I have heard some anecdotes about Orbitz sending successful chargebacks to collections, but I'll deal with that if and when it comes along.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Clovis Plays The Numbers

Clovis is always excited when these credit card scammers call him to offer him the opportunity to get a lower rate on his credit card. As usual, Clovis said that he had five cards, and listed them off by numbers. The rep asked Clovis about his Discover card and wanted to make sure that Clovis was the primary account number. Clovis then went on a rant about his wife being on the card as well and spending too much. When asked for the card number, Clovis kept giving the scammer the customer service numbers. The rep kept getting angrier and angrier at him until he just hung up.

Monday, March 16, 2020

So Much Empty

The absurdity of this world never ceases to amaze me. In a world where there is an ongoing pandemic that we haven't yet reached the peak of, the main thing that is being hoarded is toilet paper. It hasn't affected me or my family, as, I tend to buy non-perishables in bulk either from Costco or whenever the stuff is on sale at the local grocery store. So, as of right now, I've easily got enough for an extended quarantine. But people who made a run on this stuff? I guess that this sort of hoarding of toilet paper does eliminate the risk of running out if quarantined, so, mission accomplished there. But, moreso than that, it's likely borne out of a need for control. People might not be able to eliminate their risk of catching coronaviru,s but they can eliminate their risk of running out of toilet paper. Personally, if I were anticipating a long quarantine, I'd rather spend the money on food and medicine.

I did my usual grocery shopping trip yesterday and bumped into a sweet old lady who asked me why all of the Jack's Pizzas were gone, but there were still plenty of DiGiorno's. More bang for the apocalypse buck, I suppose, as one DiGiorno costs about as much as two or three Jack's. Suits me, as I like DiGiorno better anyway. By examining the empty aisles at my area Aldi and Wal-Mart, I surmise that, in a crisis, people really want to have clean asses, want clean and fabric softened clothes, want to stay hydrated and want eggs. They want milk, but not lactose-free milk or almond or oat milk. They want bread but not oat nut bread. And they want a lot of cheap frozen pizzas. What they don’t like are fruits and vegetables and obscure ethnic food. I guess it pays off to be weird and like the obscure stuff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Credit Card Scammer Calls Me Stupid

A fast-talking credit card scammer called me trying to get me to give him my credit card numbers. He went into his pitch and, when he asked me what my credit card number was, I told him that my Mastercard was card number two. He then asked for the sixteen digit number and I gave him the customer service number. He kept trying to get me to give him the correct number and I kept giving him the customer service number. The scammer kept getting angrier. He told me to flip the card and I told him that I did so and that it landed heads up. The rep then got frustrated and told me that I'm stupid and that I'm just playing with him.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Duchesse de Bourgogne

Duchesse de Bourgogne beerIt wasn't too long ago when we were sitting on the couch binge watching Worth It, a Buzzfeed show where two annoying dorks sample three different tiers of a particular type of food and decide which one gives the most bang for the buck. Early on in season one, during the $2 Hot Dog Vs. $169 Hot Dog episode, Steven and Andrew are served a beer called Duchesse de Bourgone and are told that they will either really enjoy it or simply not like it. Upon tasting it, Steven and Andrew declare that it tastes like fruit punch or a Starburst. That sounded interesting, so we made a point to keep an eye out for Duchesse de Bourgone at any of our nearby liquor store chains.

Duchesse de Bourgogne, named in honor of Duchess Mary of Burgundy (daughter of Charles the Bold), is a Flanders style red ale beer produced in Vichte, Belgium with a focus on maltiness over hop flavor. It is matured in oak barrels for 18 months after a primary and secondary fermentation. The final product is a blend of a younger 8-month-old beer with an 18-month-old beer. The end result is a delightfully sour ale with fruity sweetness as well as the tannic bitterness of a heavy red wine.

We picked up a few large bottles of Duchesse de Bourgogne, chilled one for a few hours and then got into the hot tub to enjoy a few glasses. If I hadn't known better, I would have sworn that this was a sparkling wine rather than a beer. It does indeed taste like a fruity wine with notes of black currant, sour apple and cherry. This is the perfect beer for a Summer patio party (yeah, I know, it's not Summer yet).

Monday, March 2, 2020

The Impossible Whopper

One of the best things about having a getaway weekend is that last grasp at alone time before you have to return to civilization. We'd had a good night with dinner at a nice restaurant, cutely-named yet tasty drinks at the hotel bar and then back to the room for a bottle of beer that we'd gotten the name of from a Buzzfeed show. What could we possibly do to wrap this weekend up with a nice little bow? To me, the answer was obvious: Lunch at Burger King.

Burger King has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, in some ways, more so than White Castle. It's like a better tasting yet somewhat less sanitary version of McDonald's. And I have been wanting to try the Impossible Whopper for quite some time now, but hadn't had the opportunity. I had reviewed the Impossible Slider from White Castle last year and found it to be decent, but not something that I would go out of my way to order because it tasted like its own thing rather than tasting like a White Castle slider. I was more hopeful with the Impossible Whopper, though, because Impossible Foods promised that "The Impossible™ Whopper® is just like the classic Whopper®, but made with an Impossible™ patty made from plants".

The Whopper has never been my go-to burger from Burger King. I generally prefer the double cheeseburger. But, since the Impossible burger is currently only available in Whopper form, I went with it. I got some chicken fries on the side just in case I couldn't stomach the Impossible Whopper and because, let's face it, Burger King fries are bland. With equal amounts of trepidation and excitement, I bit into the Impossible Whopper. And it was good! I mean it, this is a good burger. It actually tastes like what you'd expect from a Burger King burger. I could eat this on a regular basis and be very happy with my choice. I'm actually hoping that they'll expand the Burger King menu to offer Impossible burger versions of some of their other items. But, if they don't, the Impossible Whopper might just become my go-to item. With chicken fries.

So, there we were, sitting in a booth at Burger King, chowing down on our Impossible Whoppers while wearing our Burger King crowns. For me, it was the perfect denouement to a weekend getaway. 

The Impossible Whopper From Burger King
Behold The Impossible Whopper In All Its Glory!!!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tilapia With Almond Parsley Gremolata

Tilapia's Revenge: This Time, It's Baked!

The weekend. It's a time for relaxation, reflection and re-decorating the dining room. After putting together a bazillion dining room chairs and stationing them around a new dining room table, it was time to actually use this new furniture. And that's when it was announced that we'd be having tilapia from Hello Fresh again. After the mediocre Valentine's Day offering from Hello Fresh, I was apprehensive about having another tilapia meal from them. But, this particular meal had two things going for it:

  1. The tilapia would be baked this time and not pan-fried. 
  2. This meal would not be prepared by me. 

You gotta love the description: "Fishing for a delicious, sea-faring meal? We’ve got just the thing. Flaky tilapia fillets are rubbed with a bold seasoning blend, then roasted to perfection. Once they emerge from the oven, they’re drizzled with an enchanting sauce known as “gremolata.” In it, there’s fresh parsley, crunchy toasted almonds, garlic, lemon, and olive oil. On the side, there’s roasted green beans and buttery Israeli couscous. Yeah, that’s a whole ’lata weeknight goodness."

Joke's on you, Hello Fresh, we were going to be eating this stuff on a weekend! And we didn't need some kind of fancy mathematical conversion rate from weeknight to weekend in order to calculate our enjoyment. No! We'd be diving right in and we'd be the once to decide whether or not this contender would knock our taste-buds out. 


I liked this one a whole lot better than the Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia from last week. I've never been a huge fan of couscous, so I swear that these meal kit companies must be infusing them with crack before shipping them because I just can't get enough. The tilapia was good enough that I'd actually have it again or attempt to make it on my own.

Monday, February 24, 2020

First Alert 2-in-1 Z-wave Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector

In some ways, I feel like I've betrayed Nest Protect buy purchasing the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm. It's not you, Nest Protect, it's me. You're absolutely brilliant in my common areas like the kitchen and the bedroom hallway, but, for smaller settings like bedrooms and the home office, I think that the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm is a better solution. It's cheaper, smaller, and it doesn't connect directly to my wi-fi.

Of course, the real test of a smoke detector is how it operates when there's a fire and/or when there's carbon monoxide. I'm not UL certified, so I won't be running field tests on this thing. And neither should you. So, the best I can say is that the First Alert Z-wave COMBO 2-in-1 Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm connected to my SmartThings hub easily and it was a simple thing to install it in all the places that it needed to go. I hope that the time never comes when I need to test its functioning. But, I sleep a little better at night knowing that its there.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia

Ah, Valentine's Day. It's a day for exchanging Hallmark cards with your special someone and wolfing down a special dinner. I thought it would be a romantic gesture for me to handle Valentine's Day dinner, so, while the kids got a heart-shaped pizza, I looked to Hello Fresh for a meal idea that I could make without worrying about whether or not it would actually be good. And nothing says "romance" quite like Ginger-Turmeric Tilapia with Buttery Coconut Rice & Green Beans, right? Don't answer that.

Of course, I was taken in by the description: "Want to take your taste buds on a trip to the tropics? We’ve got just the thing. This dish has warm and sunny flavors guaranteed to brighten up dinnertime. First, flaky tilapia is rubbed with golden-hued turmeric. After crisping up in the pan, it’s served alongside fluffy brown-sugar-simmered rice tossed with toasted coconut flakes and lime zest. There’s also a side of steamed green beans for a bright crunch. For a dynamic finish, the fish is drizzled with a ginger, shallot, and cilantro-flecked pan sauce. Now all you need is someone to bring you a piña colada!"

Well, instead of piña coladas, we went with Moscow Mules. But, who wouldn't want to take their taste buds on a trip to the tropics, especially in this cold, miserable weather? My work, studies and parenting duties demand that I stay close to home in-season, but, darn it, my taste buds were packed and ready!

In all seriousness, I think I kinda messed this one up. The tilapia fell apart and I botched the reduction. Plus, massaging turmeric into the tilapia left me with yellow fingers for the entire weekend. But how did it taste? Meh. It was okay, not spectacular. My girlfriend was a real trooper and choked down most of her tilapia like a good sport. Now, whether this lackluster dinner was the result of a design flaw or a launch failure is up for debate. Either way, this isn't something I'd have any desire to try to re-create on my own.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Insurance Scammer Says My Name Again

Another car insurance scammer called recently trying to get me to switch my insurance company to some fly-by-night scammer insurance carrier. When asked who my current insurance company was, I said "Zoo Station" insurance. The scammer then asked me if I had any DUIs. I said that I had had six and that I was due for another. "Due for a DUI" I said jokingly. When asked my name, I replied with the usual "Heywood Jablowme" and asked the insurance scammer to say it back to me. It took a few attempts, but when he finally did, I told him that he wasn't my type.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Crispy Monterey Jack Chicken

By Tuesday, it already seemed like it had been a long week. I've moved to a new, private office at work, had a ton of papers to grade, started work on a faculty lecture, had to medicate the dog's ears and started planning our Spring Break vacation. All things considered, dinner wasn't high on my list of things to think about. Good thing there's Hello Fresh.

This weeks box included Crispy Monterey Jack Chicken. It's also known as Monterey Jack Un-Fried Chicken, because you bake it in the oven rather than fry it in a pan. The description, which includes the promise of a quick prep and cleanup, sounded like it was exactly what I was looking for: "Crispy chicken is always a recipe for success. Add melty Monterey Jack and Ranch seasoning to the mix and you’ve got yourself a winning dinner. Once baked, the cheesy panko crust turns golden brown while the meat stays juicy and tender. The crunchy cutlets are served with sriracha-spiked mayo and sides of buttery green beans and crispy potato wedges. If this all sounds complicated—it’s not! 35 minutes is all you need for this delicious dish to land on your table."

I did most of the prep work right when I got home from work. I then put everything in the fridge for a few hours while I did some work from my home office. When dinner time approached, I kicked on the oven, put everything in and cleaned up while everything cooked. The end result garnered mixed reviews.



While the chicken was very tasty, I was personally a bit disappointed with the size of the portion. It's a pretty measly breast cut. In contrast to that, I felt that there were way too many green beans. Maybe this is an indication that we need more vegetables in our lives, but, I ended up saving about a quarter of these for lunch the next day. The potato wedges were okay, but not spectacular. I'm told that I needed to put more oil on them in order to crisp them up.

This is a meal that I would likely make on my own, though I would probably go with mashed potatoes or even a Little Potato Company product for the side next time.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Honeywell Z-Wave Light Switch

I've learned a number of things in my home automation journey:

  1. If the Roomba is missing, it's probably under the couch
  2. No matter how perfectly you schedule the thermostat, someone will adjust it manually on a whim. 
  3. Twisted pair switches are too big of a pain in the rear.  
Three of the four Geeni TAP Smart Wi-Fi Light Switches that I have installed in the bedrooms have been slowly falling out of their housings over the last year. This has been largely due to heavy use and the fact that the large wire couplers (one for load, one for line, and one for neutral) used to bind all the wires together took up so much space in the housing that I couldn't screw the switch in entirely. So, I decided to replace the wi-fi switches with Z-wave switches because they're less bulky thatn wi-fi switches. And, since Z-wave switches don't directly connect to a wi-fi router, I would also be able to cut down on the traffic on my home automation wi-fi channel. I've already got a Phillips Hue Z-wave hub, so I looked for switches compatible with it. If there are any, they are difficult to find. So, I broke down and bought a SmartThings Hub and purchased some Honeywell Z-Wave light switches.

There's a lot to love about the Honeywell Z-Wave light switch, not the least of which is the fact that it has receptacles for your existing wiring rather than requiring you to twist pairs together. But, even better than that, the Honeywell Z-Wave light switch can automatically detect your load and line wires, so you don't have to worry about screwing those two wires into the right port (just so long as you don't put either in the "neutral" port). They're also two-way compatible out-of-the-box, so that's a plus, especially since I have some more two-way switches that I'd like to add to my home automation plan.

I had each of these switches installed in less than five minutes, and it only took another minute to get my SmartThings hub to recognize them. There was plenty of space to fit the switches into their respective switch boxes and I was actually able to screw them in, which was a nice chance of pace. No more worrying about switches falling out of the wall.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Chicken & Cranberry Currant Pan Sauce

Nothing says "Date Night" better than cooking a meal together, so the girlfriend and I endeavored to make a Hello Fresh meal together. Out of the three that had been shipped to us, we decided to go with the Chicken & Cranberry Currant Pan Sauce with Scallion Couscous & Zucchini. The description provided by Hello Fresh seemed enticing: "You know those special sauces that make just about anything taste delicious? Meet your new favorite: cranberry-currant pan sauce. Currant jam brings a sweet, earthy taste while dried cranberries turn up the texture and tanginess. Spooned over juicy seared chicken breast, alongside a heap of scallion-flecked couscous and tender, roasted zucchini, this dish is sure to satisfy. Talk about a square meal bursting with winter flavor." At only 650 calories, it seemed like it would be a tasty, yet somewhat healthy meal to eat before hitting the couch to watch Napoleon Dynamite.

The zucchini was decent but forgettable, the tang of the cranberry-currant sauce was interesting but not overwhelming and the couscous was a great pairing with the chicken. It's a meal I would likely try to make on my own outside of Hello Fresh, though I would try to do something else with the zucchini.