Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Linkedin Recruiter Calls Me

A head hunter ran through my Linkedin page and tried to get me to apply for a VMWare contract job. Rather than deal this shyster by telling him to Eff off, I sent him Clovis' number, telling him that he was a great fit for the position. When the recruiter called Clovis and said that Thomas Mac had passed along his contact info, Clovis became enraged, wondering if the recruiter and I were friends and wanting to know where I was at because I owed him money after wrecking his car at a Taco Bell.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Blue Apron Is In The Red

Over the last several weeks, I've been a pretty big fan of Blue Apron, the meal kit delivery company that has been the source behind my "Expectation VS Reality" posts. Despite my rousing endorsements, Blue Apron's stock has been in free fall recently. As of this writing, the stock is trading for around $2.20 per share, which is a huge drop from its 52 week high of $6.25 and very near is 52 week low of $1.72. So, what's happening? The meal kit market, which is fad based to begin with, has become heavily competitive. Hello Fresh recently surpassed Blue Apron as the market's biggest meal kit delivery company. Also, grocery stores like Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are looking into providing their own meal kits at a fraction of the price. The other issue is customer retention

So, what can Blue Apron do to turn this situation around? I have a few ideas:


  • Offer some cheaper kits: Most Blue Apron kits are priced at around $11 per serving with a minimum of 2 servings per kit. Cheaper alternatives are hitting the market and Blue Apron needs to pay attention. Blue Apron could easily provided cheaper, less complicated kits for around $6 per serving in addition to their usual kits. 
  • Enter Into Strategic Alliances: Blue Apron has already teamed with Costco in a pilot program to provided Blue Apron meal kits at select Costco stores. Blue Apron needs to expand on this partnership and possibly enter into similar partnerships with other grocery stores.
  • Focus on Customer Satisfaction: Customer retention is a huge issue. Blue Apron spends quite a bit of marketing in order to gain customers, but only 15% of those customers end up sticking around. My own experience is that on-time delivery is unreliable and variety is somewhat lacking. But, whatever the reason why Blue Apron is bleeding customers, they need to address it ASAP. 
  • Lose The Weekly Subscription Requirement: Blue Apron has recently allowed its customers to refrain from committing to a weekly subscription and just order kits on an as needed basis. Personally, this is what made me return to Blue Apron. In order to encourage subscriptions, perhaps Blue Apron could offer some sort of monthly incentive if a customer successfully took 4 weeks of delivery. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

The TommyMac Turns 45

My birthday is today, and I find that one day a year is not enough to properly celebrate my awesomeness. So, I spent the weekend celebrating. It all started when I got my car back from the body shop after I took it in to repair the deer damage. I had friends over for an epic celebration. I ran a 5K for the first time ever and didn't collapse while doing so. I caught a 20th anniversary showing of The Big Lebowski, which I had never seen before (odd since I am a big fan of the Coen Brothers). I watched the season premieres of The Venture Brothers and Better Call Saul. And, of course, I heard from friends, family and various well wishers. It's very humbling to have such an outpouring of affection from everyone. If I weren't such a super hero, I might actually tear up at the thought. Don't get your hopes up, though.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Expectation vs Reality: Soy-Honey Chicken And Rice

Blue Apron scored again with yet another on-time delivery. A guy could get used to this. The fine folks over at Blue Apron actually called me last week to see if I was satisfied with the boxes I had purchased in the past. I told them that one of the reasons I buy from them is that they allow their customers to buy kits whenever they want rather than forcing them to commit to a weekly subscription.

Tonight's meal was Soy-Honey Chicken and Rice with Togarashi Peanuts. This one took a little bit of skill and flair, but the description made me want to try it anyway: "Fragrant with dried orange peel and hot and sweet paprikas, togarashi (a classic Japanese seasoning) stars two ways in this dish. It lends bold flavor to roasted vegetables mixed into our side of brown rice and coats the crunchy peanuts that garnish our sweet and savory chicken". I followed the directions to the letter and fired up the grill to prepare the chicken.

Here's the Expectation vs Reality for comparison:
Expectation

Reality


So, how does it taste? I thought that the rice was the real star of this dish. The Soy-Honey sauce had just enough lime zest in it to give it a hint of lime which really brought all of the flavors together. The chicken was pretty standard since it just grilled chicken. The peanut garnish was interesting and added a nice bouquet to the dish. I'd say that this one was a winner, so kudos to you, Blue Apron.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Finding My Keys With Tile

I'm always losing my work keys. Once, I lost them for about three months and ended up finding them in a jacket I hadn't worn for a while. If I had some way of easily locating my keys, then I wouldn't have had to have bugged my co-workers to let me into my office a few times a week while I continued to look for them. Enter Tile.

Tile is a little square keychain thingy that you can easily attach to various things that you don't want to lose. For example, your keys. You put the Tile on your keys, download the app and connect the Tile to you phone via bluetooth. The Tile then keeps its location updated by getting your phone's location via its bluetooth connection to it. So long as your Tile is within 100 feet of your phone, you can use the Tile app on your phone to make your Tile play a ringtone so that you can easily find it.

Let's say that your phone and your Tile are separated. Perhaps you left your keys on your desk at work and you went all the way home without realizing that you left them somewhere. Well, you can call up the Tile app to give you the last known location of that Tile. Even better, you can share tiles with other people which means that, if you need help from the Tile community to find a missing item, you can share your tile out and other people can help you find it. Imagine losing your keys somewhere at work and enlisting various Tile using co-workers to scouring the office campus sending out Bluetooth ringtone pings to find it.

But, what if you lose your phone but not your Tile? Well, your phone is considered a Tile itself, so, you can use any of your connected Tiles to find your phone. Just double-click on the action button on of your connected tiles and your phone will ring, even if it's on silent. I know that this will be a very useful feature for me, because I lose my phone at least once a month.

So far, I've got a Tile on my work keys and one on my personal keys. I'm thinking that I'd like to add one to my wallet and one to my messenger bag, and perhaps one to my suitcase. I do have to wonder what having three bluetooth signals at pocket level for over 8 hours a day will do to my sperm count.

If you're interested in checking out Tile for yourself, and if you're keen on having me consider you to be "cool", then why not sign up via my referral link?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox


My sister, two of my brothers and my daughter and I caught the Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox game last night. It was also Marvel Super Hero Night which included an Iron Man bobblehead set atop a White Sox baseball platform. Attendance seemed pretty sparse, with a number of open seats easily visible. The folks behind Super Hero Night at Guaranteed Rate Field (Comisky Park) may be inclined to blame the Thanos snap for the low attendance, but, the blame rests squarely on the abysmal White Sox win/loss record.

It was looking like the Blue Jays were going to walk away with an easy win after they scored several times in the early innings. With Toronto up 4-1, Yolmer Sanchez homered on a fly ball to right field giving the White Sox a glimmer of hope in the bottom of the 4th. With Toronto up 5-1, Nicky Delmonico knocked one into the stands at right-center field for a home run in the bottom of the 7th. A rally in the bottom of the 8th put the White Sox ahead 9-5. The Blue Jays couldn't catch up during their last at-bats and handed the White Sox a stunning come from behind victory.




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Goldfish Recall

Remember when you could buy crackers without worrying about salmonella? Pepperidge Farm recalls! Er....I mean, Pepperidge Farm remembers!

Pepperidge Farm has instituted a voluntarily recall for four varieties of Goldfish Crackers due to fears of potential salmonella contamination. The company took the action after one of its ingredient suppliers notified Pepperidge Farm that whey powder used in a seasoning may be contaminated. Really? No whey!

The Goldfish Crackers recall covers Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar, Flavor Blasted Sour Cream & Onion, Goldfish Baked with Whole Grain Xtra Cheddar and Goldfish Mix Xtra Cheddar + Pretzel. Pepperidge Farm has posted a chart with the product codes on its website.

The FDA website has more detailed information about the recall that involves more than just Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish. Some of the other companies and products involved include Hungry Man Chipotle BBQ Sauced Boneless Chicken Wyngz and Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls

If you have eaten a recalled product and are showing signs of illness (bloody diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, and abdominal pain), call your doctor and ask them to order a "stool culture to rule out salmonella" with the diagnosis "possible salmonella exposure from [recalled product name]". If the culture comes back positive for salmonella it will be further serotyped (DNA fingerprint) to find the exact strain of salmonella. The report will then get sent to CDC, and if the strain matches the strain from the contaminated whey, the CDC will handle logistics of informing public and tallying the numbers of confirmed cases across the country.

Personally, that’s the last time I eat a Goldfish. Petsmart was starting to get mad anyway.

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.