Monday, August 22, 2016

A Trip To The Illinois State Fair

It's nice to see that, in spite of the ongoing budget stalemate going on in Illinois, we're still able to find enough funding to run the Illinois State Fair. Historically, the first state fairs were essentially agricultural trade shows organized by farmers in order to compare notes with each other and distinguish between good and bad advice. In the advent of World War II, as America's workforce transitioned to a post-Agrarian model, state fairs became more entertainment oriented.

Is This The Pinnacle Of Culinary Achievement?
This year marked my first ever visit to the Illinois State Fair. First off, I have to say that the price was right because our kids got in free due to their ages and my wife and I were handed free tickets by a random stranger who happened to have two extras with her. Still, even with the cost of admission, the Illinois State Fair offers a lot of bang for the buck. Mostly, I was there for the food. I will say that I was hoping for something more akin to Taste of Chicago where various restaurants come out, rent a booth, and offer some of their more flashy fare. It's a bit disappointing that the Illinois State Fair seems to attract mainly carnival food vendors. Still, an attendee with a more discerning palate can, with a little patience, sniff out some of the more exotic foods hiding among the rabble. I enjoyed a very passable pirogi in the ethnic center. I did also slum it and get a fried Twinkie which I found to be decidedly mediocre (too much corn dog batter).

Thanks to the many exhibits that the Illinois State Fair hosted on agriculture, wildlife, politics and citizenship, I learned quite about about the goings on in our state. Most importantly, I learned the difference between a corn dog and a pronto pup. Once upon a time, I thought that a pronto pup was just a cute name for a corn dog. But the Illinois State Fair opened my eyes. Turns out that a corn dog is a hot dog fried in cornbread batter while pronto pups are fried in pancake batter. Although both options were available at the Illinois State Fair, I didn't have either of them. I was, however, on the lookout for a corn brat or a cheesy corn dog, but, alas, neither seemed to be available. My kids were content with the many varieties of ice cream available, especially Dippin' Dots. And, of course, there were many different varieties of  popcorn from kettle corn to multiflavored and colored. And, one of the big highlights for me was encountering the tent. There I could sample various different types of meat in convenient jerky form. They had everything from alligator to kangaroo. No zebu, though. Damn.

They Really Like To Jerk Their Meat!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lower Interest Rate Credit Card Scam

I get calls like this all the time. A recorded message comes on and tells you that, due to your good credit history (or thanks to government bailout policy) you qualify for a lower interest rate on your credit card. You're asked to select "1" to speak with an agent. And when you do, some heavily accented agent feeds you a bunch of crap and asks for your credit card info. Once they have it, they'll be off making fraudulent charges in your name. Here's how I dealt with a recent call that came from (301) 912-3320 (obviously a spoofed number).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Long Wait Time At KFC

The first level of Hell is a fast food restaurant where you order your favorite meal but have to wait an eternity for it to arrive. Jason and I visited that Hell this afternoon at our local KFC/A&W restaurant. I was on my lunch break and was craving some chicken pretty badly. I ordered the $5 three-chicken tender meal from the KFC menu while Jason ordered a bacon cheeseburger from the A&W menu. Jason's cheeseburger came up rather quickly but he hung out with me by the pick-up counter. After about five minutes of waiting, we sat down. Fifteen minutes into it, I noticed that a lot of people were waiting around for their orders. At about 20 minutes, a few ordered started to trickle out, but they were for people who had ordered after me. Once we hit thirty minutes, I yelled "What are you guys doing back there, killing the chicken?" which got quite a few laughs from the frustrated crowd, but elicited no reaction from the KFC employees.

It was starting to get comedically tragic. Jason had long since finished his burger and I began to wonder aloud whether we were all part of some weird social experiment. The crowd had had enough and started to approach the counter for refunds. Refunds appeared to be taking about 5 minutes to process, as the cashier had to make a phone call each time a refund was requested. When my turn came, I approached the counter and asked to speak with a manager. I was told that the manager was not there. The cashier ask me what I had ordered. "A kids meal. That's how long I've been waiting" was my reply. Even though I said it in a joking manner, it probably wasn't the smartest thing for me to say. I soon noticed that my refund was taking longer than I had expected.

In the end, I just cut my losses and left. There's really no point in me raising public a fuss over $5. I could just as easily call the regional manager or send an e-mail to corporate, but to what end? Maybe I'd get some coupons for free KFC. But, if I got some free KFC, then I'd have to actually eat KFC again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Insurance Sales Recruiter Calls Me

Clovis got another e-mail from one of those insurance sales recruiters. The first line said "I recently came across your resume and was impressed by your credentials". I knew right off that it was a form letter and that he hadn't read my resume. Clovis called the rep out on this and the rep admitted that he hadn't read the resume, he was just working off of notes provided by his manager. The rep then tried to end the call and Clovis brought him back on message by asking what method of payment he could expect. The position, of course, is commission based. Clovis then bragged about how he had blown the rep's mind with his credentials. The rep accused Clovis of having a bad attitude. Clovis turned it back on the rep and tried to say that the rep was jealous of Clovis' superior sales skills. The rep eventually ended the call because of Clovis' salty language.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Aw, Shucks

It seems like my house has become a drop-off point for various types of vegetables. Ordinarily, I like getting such freebies from various neighbors and acquaintances, but it seems like this year has seen a bumper crop in home grown vegetables. This past weekend, we were invited to pick some corn from a friend's farm and were told we could help ourselves to three rows of the stuff. That's a lot of sweet corn. The entire family pitched in to shuck the stuff, yet, late last night, I found myself still shucking the stuff. As I threw the husks into a giant pile, I thought that I might take a picture and post it to Facebook with the caption "Aw, shucks!". This made me wonder about the origin of the expression.

Let's break this down. What is a shuck? It's a word used to describe the husk, pod or shell that protects certain foods. Essentially, a shuck is the worthless container that is wrapped around something of value. Origin of the actual word "shuck" is not generally known, but it first started to appear in literature in the 17th Century. Personally, I think it derives from the Middle-English word "schucke" meaning "adversary" or "devil". If you think about it, a shuck usually takes a fair amount of effort to pull off whatever foodstuff it's wrapped around. A shuck is, in effect, the adversary you must defeat in order to get at the food you want.

In the 19th Century, "shucks" began to appear as part of an idiomatic phrase indicating worthlessness.  (ie "it's not worth shucks"). Shucks are, after all, pretty much worthless, aren't they? It then evolved into a standalone expression that would seem interchangeable with the word "shit". Mark Twain uses it quite a bit in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, By the late 1930s, "Aw shucks" became a common response to a compliment and indicated modesty and/or shyness. One essentially is saying "Oh, it was nothing", as shucks aren't worth anything.

Friday, August 5, 2016

I Won A Prize In The Samuel Adams Quench Your Own Thirst Sweepstakes

The doorbell rang late this afternoon. Was it the neighborhood kids playing ding-dong-ditch? Would I find a flaming bag of poop awaiting at my doorstep in celebration of my upcoming birthday? No! The UPS guy had left a package. My wife studied it and asked "What did you buy from the Boston Beer Company THIS time?". I couldn't remember a recent purchase....but that didn't necessarily mean anything. I wondered if my wife had bought some Samuel Adams beer-related merchandise for my birthday and was just having some fun with it.

I opened the package. It contained a letter. "Dear Thomas...Cheers to you for winning our Quench Your Own Thirst sweepstakes! Enclosed is your prize". What??? Months ago, I had entered the sweepstakes when I pre-ordered Jim Koch (founder and CEO of Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams beer) book Quench Your Own Thirst. I had all but forgotten about it. And now? A major award! Maybe it was a statue! Yet I could not find the words "Fragile" anywhere on the package. Okay, so it wasn't a statue or a leg lamp or a bottle of Utopias or trip for two to Boston to tour the Samuel Adams Brewery. It was two Samuel Adams pint glasses. Awesome! A prize I'll actually use! Beats that meat thermometer I won from Copenhagen tobacco.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Some SEO Scammer Calls Me

I got an e-mail last week from a guy named Ray Josh wanting to sell SEO services for my website. His contact card picture looked like something pulled from a stock image website and his name sounded made up. So, I told him that I don't speak English well and that he'd be better off calling and talking to Clovis.

He eventually called and encountered the standard carpeting company greeting. Ray asked for Clovis and was passed on to him. Ray immediately went into his pitch, but it was tough to understand due to his thick Indian accent. Clovis got Ray to condense his pitch and was told that he wanted around $200 for his SEO services. Clovis tried to talk him down to $10 and then moved up to "$15 and a song". When Ray got called out on using a fake name, he took major offence and eventually tried to say that "I told Tommy I was based in India". Which isn't true. So Clovis went to get TommyMac to put him on the phone. I then switched to yet another voice and spoke to "Ray" as if I did not quite understand English. "Ray" eventually became frustrated when I kept repeating "Mama say, mama sa, ma mak ku sa" and hung up.