Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Again With The Energy Scammers

These energy scammers just won't let up. This time, Dustin, from NGE called tried to get me to sign up for a discount on my Com Ed bill. He said he wanted to check my eligibility. I asked him what he meant by checking my "legibility" and wondered if I had written something for him. When he asked my zip code, I asked him if he meant my work or home zip code. I also kept asking him what his name was and then repeating it back incorrectly. When he asked me whether or not I got government assistance, I wavered on my understanding of the term and he finally gave up and told me that I didn't want his services and hung up.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Expectation vs Reality: Steak & Spicy Butter

You've got to love Blue Apron when they manage to enrich your dinner experience with an on-time delivery. The Steak & Spicy Butter with Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Zucchini was a pretty simple dish, which is exactly what I was looking for during the dog days of Summer. The description is brief and to-the-point: To elevate classic steak and potatoes, we’re dolloping a soft, spicy compound butter onto the seared steaks and mashing creamy mascarpone cheese into the potatoes. Tender sautéed or grilled zucchini rounds out the meal. There wasn't a lot of skill involved in this one, and that's not a bad thing.

Here's the Expectation vs Reality for comparison:


Expectation

Reality



But how did it taste? It's steak and potatoes. The steak tasted just like I expected it to. The potatoes, however, were actually pretty damn good.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Washington DC: A Retrospective

I first came to Washington DC back in 1987 as part of an 8th grade class trip. I don't remember much from that trip aside from nearly getting sent home after leading a mass protest during an inter-school mixer party. The trip organizers had promised us an appearance by Madonna, which, wasn't TOO terribly implausible given what our parents had paid for the trip. Of course, "Madonna" was an impersonator and my friend Matt and I led the crowd in chanting "Bullshit" during the poor lady's performance.

Anyway, coming back to Washington DC for this new jaunt was a lot of fun. I visited several fun places and ate at a lot of different restaurants. I've made a little retrospective video highlighting just a few of the attractions and dining options available in Washington DC. Included in this video, you'll see:


  • Pizza Autentica

  • The Washington Monument

  • The George Mason Memorial

  • Washington DC Food Trucks

  • The Albert Einstein Memorial

  • Ollie's Trolley

  • Newseum

  • Ben's Chili Bowl

  • Congressional Cemetery

  • The USDA Cafeteria

  • The DC Wharf 



Monday, July 9, 2018

DC Metro Issues

A lady that I went to college with moved out to Washington DC and started a blog called "Metro Eats My Soul" that detailed her struggles with the Washington DC Metro system. Due to her writing style and her seemingly losing battle with the DC Metro, it soon became one of my favorite blogs. It's gone now, probably a victim of her political ambitions, but I remembered it fondly as I braved the Metro for myself this past week. It took me a while to get the hang of it, even though I practically grew up on the Chicago L system.

I know that the DC Metro is plagued with delays, accidents and line closings, so a lot of what I'm going to bitch about are going to seem like "noob" issues. But it's these sort of issues that can really shed some light on how weird the DC Metro really is. Here are my main issues:


  • So I have to pay $2 to get the Metro card, but that just gives me the card. I don't get to have $2 on the actual card? I have pony up $2 for the card and then put money on it? LAME!

  • You have to pay by distance between the station you get on at and the one you get off at? It's not a flat fee like in Chicago. 

  • There's peak and off-peak pricing. How do you know if you're traveling during peak or off-peak hours? 

  • I have to scan my card to get IN to the Metro and then OUT of the Metro as well? 

  • If I don't have enough money on the card to cover my trip from one station to another, then I have to get out of line, put more money on the card and then try getting out again?
The worst part of the whole DC Metro system is that, whenever I'm wandering around the stations, I always harken back to Fallout 3 and half expect to encounter a feral ghoul luring around a random corner. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Caught A Washington Nationals Game

We caught a Washington Nationals game at Nationals Park last night. Now, being from the South Side of Chicago, I'm usually a White Sox fan. But, I'm always happy to catch a major league baseball game, so, if I'm at a park on a nice day, I don't really care which teams are playing. Last night, it was the Miami Marlins facing off against the Washington Nationals. 

The story of the Washington Nationals team is actually a pretty crazy one. There have been several incarnations of the Washington Nationals over the last 130 years or so dating back to the old Union Association and American Association leagues. The current incarnation of the team dates back to 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos, the first Major League team in Canada. After some back office troubles during the early 2000s, the team was moved to Washington DC where it was renamed The Nationals. It took them a few years, but they've turned into a pretty solid team, even though they've yet to get past the first round in any playoff. 

It was a pretty good game last night. The Nationals won by one run in the bottom of the ninth. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

The National Archives Building

I've been trying to get into the National Archives for the last several days. It's apparently a very popular place, because every time I walked by, there was a line around the corner to get in. This morning, however, I arrived early, about 30 minutes before opening. The l
ine was manageable and actually moved pretty quickly.

The National Archives Building holds some of our country's most precious documents including the original Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. All of these documents can be found in the rotunda. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed anywhere in the National Archives Building. This rule is very strictly enforced in the rotunda. If you even pull your cell phone out of your pocket while viewing the founding documents, security will usher you out. The founding documents are very old and are fading and flash photography will just degrade them more and the National Archives doesn't want to take the chance that some idiot forgot to turn his flash off.

Aside from the founding documents, there are lots of other important and interesting historical documents on display at the National Archives Building. Here's just a small sampling on what you'll find:


  • The Emancipation Proclamation
  • The Louisiana Purchase treaty
  • Various treaties with Native American tribes
  • Oval Office Audio Recordings
  • Japanese Surrender Documents
  • Captured Nazi Documents



Thursday, July 5, 2018

Washington National Cathedral

We visited the The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington. That's a mouthful, right? It's more commonly known as the Washington National Cathedral. Congress designated Washington National Cathedral as the "National House of Prayer". Every since, the cathedral has hosted major events, both religious and secular, that have drawn the attention of the American people, as well as tourists from around the world.

The Cathedral's design is a mix of influences from the various Gothic architectural styles of the Middle Ages, identifiable in its pointed arches, flying buttresses, a variety of ceiling vaulting, stained-glass windows and carved decorations in stone, and by its three similar towers, two on the west front and one surmounting the crossing. Most of the building is constructed using a buff-colored Indiana limestone over a traditional masonry core. Structural, load-bearing steel is limited to the roof's trusses (traditionally built of timber); concrete is used significantly in the support structures for bells of the central tower, and the floors in the west towers. Numerous grotesques and gargoyles adorn the exterior, most of them designed by the various carvers who contributed them. There were two competitions held for the public to provide designs for gargoyles to supplement those contributed by the carvers. The second of these produced the famous Darth Vader Grotesque which is high on the northwest tower, sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter and carved by Patrick J. Plunkett.


Several notable American citizens are buried in Washington National Cathedral and its columbarium: 

I Heard That Helen Keller Was Buried Here. She Didn't.
I Can't See Why She's Buried Here. Neither Can She. 
  • Larz Anderson, businessman, diplomat
  • Thomas John Claggett, first Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland
  • William Forman Creighton, fifth Bishop of Washington
  • Joseph Edward Davies (ashes), diplomat, presidential adviser. He gave a stained-glass window in the Cathedral in honor of his mother, Rachel Davies (Rahel o Fôn)
  • George Dewey, United States Navy admiral
  • Angus Dun (ashes), fourth Bishop of Washington
  • Philip Frohman (ashes), cathedral architect, following the death of Bodley
  • George A. Garrett, diplomat, first United States Ambassador to Ireland
  • Julia Dent Cantacuzène Spiransky-Grant, granddaughter of Ulysses S. Grant
  • Alfred Harding, second Bishop of Washington
  • Cordell Hull, United States Secretary of State
  • Helen Keller (ashes), author, lecturer, advocate for the blind and deaf
  • A.S. Mike Monroney (ashes), U.S. representative, senator
  • Norman Prince, fighter pilot, member of the Lafayette Escadrille flying corps
  • Henry Yates Satterlee, first Bishop of Washington
  • Francis Bowes Sayre, Jr. (ashes), dean of the cathedral and grandson of President Woodrow Wilson
  • John Wesley Snyder Secretary of the Treasury under President Truman
  • Leo Sowerby (ashes), composer, church musician
  • Anne Sullivan (ashes), tutor and companion to Helen Keller, first woman interred here
  • Stuart Symington, U.S. senator, presidential candidate
  • Henry Vaughan, architect, associate of Bodley
  • John Thomas Walker, sixth Bishop of Washington
  • Thomas C. Wasson, diplomat and Consul General for the United States in Jerusalem
  • Isabel Weld Perkins, author, wife of Larz Anderson
  • Edith Wilson, second wife of Woodrow Wilson and First Lady of the United States
  • Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States. Wilson's tomb includes variants on the Seal of the President of the United States and the coat of arms of Princeton University. Wilson is the only American president buried in the District of Columbia.
President Woodrow Wilson's Tomb

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Ford's Theater

The Presidential Box
One of the most vivid memories I have of my 8th grade class trip to Washington DC was the disappointment I felt when I found out that we wouldn't be able to visit Ford's Theater. The reason behind it escapes me. We either ran out of time or the theater couldn't accommodate our some other administrative SNAFU cropped up. Well, today, I finally got the chance to visit Ford's Theater and, as a Lincoln fan and as someone who played John Wilkes Booth in a production of Our American Cousin, I'm incredibly happy to have been able to do so.

On the morning of April 14, Good Friday, actor John Wilkes Booth learned President Abraham Lincoln would attend a performance of the comedy "Our American Cousin" that night at Ford’s Theatre—a theatre Booth frequently performed at. He realized his moment had arrived. By 10:15 that evening, the comedy was well into its last act. In the Presidential Box, President and Mrs. Lincoln and their guests, Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris, laughed at the show along with the audience—not knowing that Booth was just outside the door. Booth waited for the show's funniest line to be delivered: "Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap!". During the ensuing laughter, Booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head. Being familiar with the play, Booth had chosen that moment in the hopes that the sound of laughter from the audience would mask the sound of his gunshot. Booth then leapt from the Presidential Box onto the stage and made his escape through the back of the theater to a horse he had left waiting in the alley.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Congressional Cemetery

Final Resting Place Of J. Edgar Hoover
Congressional Cemetery is kind of a misnomer. Although there are quite a few congressmen interred there, Congressional Cemetery is not a federally owned burial ground like the name would seem to imply. Rather, it's privately owned by Christ Church and the government merely owns 800+ plots at the site.

Many members of the U.S. Congress who died while Congress was in session are interred at Congressional Cemetery. Other burials include early Washington DC landowners and speculators, the builders and architects of early Washington, Native American diplomats, Washington DC mayors, and American Civil War veterans. Some of the more famous burials include J. Edgar Hoover and John Phillip Sousa.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The George Mason Memorial

George Mason is one of the more interesting and contradictory of our Founding Fathers. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention who contributed many clauses to it, but he refused to sign it and even lobbied against it. He was an abolitionist, yet the only person in Virginia at the time who had more slaves than he did was George Washington. So, why do we honor him with a memorial in the shadows of other greats like Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson? Because he was right and he was ahead of his time.

As the writer of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Mason felt that a similar set of declarations was needed for the new United States Constitution. Mason also sought, at the very least, a clause within the Constitution to provide for an end to the slave trade within the United States either via outright abolition or a gradual phasing out. There were also some minor economic issues that Mason wanted to work in favor of the states rather than the Federal Government that didn't pan out.

After the ratification of the Constitution, it was soon realized that a declaration of rights was indeed needed. The resulting Bill of Rights borrows quite a bit from the Virginia Declaration of Rights. And, after tip-toeing around the issue of slavery for several decades, slavery was eventually abolished. So, George Mason was proven right. However, the damage had been done. His friendships suffered in the aftermath of his anti-ratification efforts and his legacy was lost to history. The George Mason Memorial seeks to give back a little of what he lost and honor a man whose ideas were ahead of his time.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Mr. Mac Goes To Washington

Ages ago, when I was in eighth grade, I went on a class trip to Washington DC. I don't remember much about the trip. I remember that we traveled by bus, Kathy Young got crapped on by a pigeon at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial was jam packed, Ford's theater was closed, the Washington Monument was awesome and we spent way too much time outside the Capitol waiting to get in. I also remember my friend Matt and I leading a protest when we found out that the lady entertaining our group during our inter-school mixer party wasn't actually Madonna, but was an impersonator. Matt and I nearly got sent home over that.

I'd been wanting to get back to Washington DC for quite some time, and a little Summer trip seemed
like a good opportunity to do so. With my daughter in tow, we jumped on a plane and now we're staying within walking distance of the National Mall. We're practically surrounded by museums, monuments and other attractions.

Of course, the first thing we did after dropping our bags at the hotel and scarfing down some lunch was head out to the Washington Monument. I had planned to go up in it again, but, alas, it was not to be. The Washington Monument is closed until sometime in 2019. The monument has been plagued by problems since an earthquake damaged it back in 2011. It has been closed various times since then in order to fix different issues with the structure. As of this writing, The Washington Monument has been closed in order to modernize its elevator.

Even though it is closed, it's still a very awe-inspiring structure to look at. At 555 feet tall, it's the world's tallest stone structure and the world's largest obelisk. Most of all, it's a fitting tribute to our first President.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

I Hit A Deer

It was around 4 AM. I was driving to the airport. There was a train running on my right side and I was about two cars behind the engine. A deer came bounding out of the forest between me and the train. The train must have scared her because she was moving like a bat out of hell. I hit the brakes, but it wasn't enough and she ran right into the front passenger side of my car. The impact was enough to throw my head forward onto my hand which was clinched around the steering wheel. I essentially punched myself in the face.

I pulled to the side of the road and got out of the car. I looked around for the deer but couldn't find her. She had either run off, or the impact had launched her back into the forest whence she came. The damage to my car was bad, but only seemed to be cosmetic. It didn't appear as if the engine had been affected. Still, I figured I should alert my State Farm agent right away. Thankfully, I remembered the summoning jingle.

"Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!", I said out loud.

Nothing. My agent didn't appear out of thin air like in the commercials. And I guess that's a good thing because I'm sure he was still asleep at the time and I had no desire to see my agent in his PJs.

Friday, June 29, 2018

What Did You Say Your Name Was?

These energy scammers just keep calling me, even after all the crap I've been giving them over the past few months. You'd think they'd learn. But, no, they keep calling. And I keep messing with them. Today, I kept pretending to space on the rep's name and kept calling him by completely different names.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Tour Of The Toys R Us In Champaign, IL.

This is it. The last gasp. The last hurrah. At the end of this week, Toys R Us will turn into Toys R Gone! The aisles are nearly cleared of merchandise with only the dregs remaining. Everything, including the fixtures, must go. I took a tour around the Toys R Us in Champaign, IL on June 24, 2018 to see what they had left to offer. There wasn't much there, and the store was planning to close by the end of the week.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Tour Of The Toys R Us In Orland Park, IL.

With less than a week left before all Toys R Us stores across the United States close, I took a quick tour of the store in Orland Park, IL. to see what's left on the shelves. Prices have been dropped by 70% to 90% off and, at this point, they're only taking credit cards. No debit cards and no cash or checks are allowed. There's actually more stock than I thought there would be and there's less Star Wars merchandise than I expected. I expected to see a few rows of Rose Ticos and Admiral Haldos, but, for better or worse, there was nary a one to be bought.