Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Cannabis Oil Rep Calls Again

The Cannabis Oil rep called again. Once again, I answered as the stereotypical stoner. This time, however, the rep quickly recognized it as a riff off of Cheech and Chong. Clovis then got on the line and the rep remarked "You guys are characters!". Clovis took offence and said he was a Republican, not a character. The rep seemed to get triggered and said he wanted to give Clovis an analogy. Clovis said that he doesn't want to put anything in his analogy because he poops out of that hole. The rep then went on to talk about building a five bedroom house. Clovis got bored and went to get his accountant to talk to the rep. The rep droned on for a second about building the five bedroom house and then hung up.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Medieval Times

We took our teenage daughters to see Youtube star and beauty influencer James Charles at the grand opening of Morphe in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. I had never heard of James Charles or Morphe, but I was familiar enough with Woodfield Mall to get everyone there and safely navigate the crowd of angsty teenagers. Back in my early post-College days, I lived within 10 minutes from Woodfield Mall and would end up there at least once a week to catch a movie, drink in one of the restaurants or shop for over-priced merchandise. Back then, Woodfield Mall was usually pretty busy. And, despite everything I have read about the impending demise of brick-and-mortar retail, Woodfield Mall seems to be bucking the trend. It even has an open Sears store!

The line to see James Charles was huge. I had never heard of James Charles since before last week, and we had no desire to stand in line with a bunch of teens, so we let our daughters fend for themselves and went off to explore on our own.

The Nopiest Nope That Ever Noped. 

After our daughters had properly basked in the presence of James Charles, we headed out for dinner at Medieval Times which is pretty close to Woodfield Mall. The last time I was there was about 4 years ago and I remember it being packed to the gills with people while we waited to get in. It really wasn't so bad this time. I'd say that the place was about 2/3 full at best. I was able to get 50% off tickets just by searching for Medieval Times coupon codes on the Internet. So, I splurged on a few upgrades and got us an early entry and seats closer to the action.

The food is still as good as it was the last time I was there. The dragon's blood (tomato bisque) was some of the best I'd ever had and the chicken was decent. I had forgotten that you have to eat like a peasant and that no utensils are provided. And the coffee is still amazing. I managed to bribe our Man-Wench to slip me the label of the coffee brand that Medieval Times uses so that I can buy some myself.

Of course, the best thing about Medieval Times is the show and tournament. I felt that the performers were a little off their game this time. I'm sure that comes with doing the last show of the night. I also found it a bit odd that they made a point of mentioning that some of the battles were to the death, yet some of the supposedly "dead" opponents came back to fight again. Maybe the Queen has a really good doctor that she put to use for the tournament. Maybe there's a necromancer on staff. I'm sure that total realism isn't a concern for Medieval Times. All in all, we had a great time and are already planning on  going again sometime soon.

Go BLUE! The Blue Knight Would Eventually Win The Tournament


Thanks to the magic of Youtube, I dug up an old commercial for the Medieval Times Schaumburg Castle:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2 - Painful Screwups

Looks like I finished Marvel's Spider-Man just in time. Red Dead Redemption 2 came out last week and I'm a few hours into it now. It's a truly beautiful game with a lot of depth and a lot of things to do in the open world. After progressing through the initial "teach you how to play" chapter, I've spent most of my time exploring, hunting and raiding the occasional ranch for materials. My muscle memory must still be stuck on Marvel's Spider-Man because I keep running into things in Red Dead Redepmption 2. And, occasionally, things run into me. On purpose. Check out the video below to see my most painful screwups in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Stop IRS Debt Calls Me

A rep from a so-called tax relief company called Stop IRS Dept called me. I strung him along a little bit by pretending to look for paperwork which culminated in me flushing a toilet. I then pretended to fart and said it was "Farting Friday". I told the rep that the IRS was planning to garnish my wages, which I thought had something to do with food presentation.

I was handed off to a "Senior Tax Advisor". I said I was expecting a Mexican because of the word "Senior" and said I was disappointed. The rep said that life is filled with little disappointments. I replied "Yeah, your wife knows that very well".

He hung up on me.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Marvel's Spider-Man Screwball Combat Challenge Gold

The Screwball Challenges are the scourge of Marvel's Spider-Man DLC: "The Heist". Getting the bronze level is tough enough. Getting gold on the challenge seems impossible when you first start out. Here's a video I made of me getting gold on a Screwball combat challenge. What you need to do is try not to engage the enemies until you get into a photobomb area. Once you do, start jamming on your gadgets, favoring the impact webs, tripwire webs and web bombs. Also, make sure you have the regeneration power enabled plus the add-on that gives you a gadget refill whenever you do a finisher.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Cannabis Oil Rep Calls

A Cannabis Oil rep called looking for someone named Bryant. I pretended to hand the phone off to my dad. I was trying to sound like a stereotypical stoner. At one point, I said "Dave is not here!" trying to ape Cheech and Chong, which I figured that the rep would know about. Guess not.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Played Through The Heist

I played through the first part of the "City That Never Sleeps" DLC for Marvel's Spider-Man game for the PS4. Part 1, subtitled "The Heist" is all about Spider-Man trying to stop the Black Cat from her quest to steal data drives from the various Maggia crime families across New York. Purchasing the season pass for $25 will save you nearly $5 as each pack costs $9.99 individually. I downloaded the DLC update early last week and spend Sunday afternoon playing through it. Here are my thoughts:

  1. It's pretty short. I played through it to 100% completion in about 3 hours. 
  2. For the money, I don't mind it being so short
  3. FUCK those mini-gun brutes
  4. Screwball Challenges suck hard. The only 2 things I hate about the main game are Screwball, and the Drone Challenges. So, of course, the two have been combined into the ultimate annoying challenge in the DLC. 
  5. I wish that the three new unlockable costumes, The Resilient Suit, Scarlet Spider (Kane) Suit, and SpiderUK suit, had new powers associated with them. But they're just cosmetic. 
  6. There's great story content and the characters and their motivations seemed authentic and believable. 
  7. They're heavily teasing a Miles team-up and I hope we get that in the next DLC
  8. Since installing The Heist, the game has been locking up every few hours. 
  9. I especially love JJJs commentary tracks on this one. "JOIN THE NAVY!"
  10. The "Pizza Time" side-quest was pretty random. 


Me Playing Through The NG+ Content With The New Scarlet Spider Suit

Friday, October 26, 2018

Credit Card Services Rep Doesn't Want To Talk

A credit card debt relief rep called me. I was in the middle of microwaving my lunch back to life, so I didn't have much time to suffer this guy. When he asked if I pressed "1" in order to get a lower rate, I said that I did indeed press "1" but that I did it because I was lonely and wanted someone to talk to. At first, he seemed to want to play along and asked what I wanted to talk about. When I asked his name and where he was from, he got indignant and hung up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Spider-Man PS4 Combat Challenges Gold

On the eve of starting Part 1 of the three part DLC for Spider-Man PS4, I decided to try and upgrade Spidey as much as possible. In order to do that, I needed to get as many challenge coins as possible. The best way to do that is to get Gold status on the Taskmaster challenges. Here are some videos of me doing that. Maybe they'll help you get Gold status too. I'll say right off that I used web bombs where I probably should have used impact webs instead. But, you can't argue with results, right?





Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Bible Museum Says Five Of Its Dead Sea Scrolls Are Fake

Having grown in a Catholic home, I often take interest in biblical exhibits. So, when kiddo and I were in Washington DC back in July, I looked into visiting the Museum of the Bible. After all, it was just kitty-corner to the hotel we were staying at, and admission was free. Then, I found out that the place was founded and run by the nutcases who own Hobby Lobby and figured that there wouldn't be anything worth looking at there. And it appears that I was correct.

The museum recently announced that five of its most valuable artifacts, once thought to be part of the historic Dead Sea Scrolls, are fake and will not be displayed anymore. Tests were ordered on the fragments after biblical scholars, who had examined 13 of the museum's previously unstudied fragments, said there was a "high probability" that a number of them were modern forgeries. Steve Green, the Bible museum's evangelical founder and chairman, would not say how much his family spent for the 16 Dead Sea Scrolls fragments in its collection. But scholars say even small fragments with little text can fetch millions in the antiquities market. And it's not the first time that the Steve Green and his family have caused controversy with their artifacts collection. In 2017, the Green family's company, Hobby Lobby, agreed to pay $3 million and return artifacts smuggled out of Iraq as part of a settlement with the Justice Department.

Scamming evangelicals out of money is practically a sport with criminals and unscrupulous artifacts dealers. This is what happens when you buy antiquities that have been illegally excavated or looted. There's no documenting chain to back up their authenticity. This sort of thing happens in every conflict area. People want to make a quick buck by looting antiquities and selling them to collectors abroad, and decide to up their income by throwing in a few extra fakes.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Gone Platinum On Marvel's Spider-Man

Marvel's Spider-Man is the greatest game I have ever played on the PS4, or even the PS3. I like it better than any of the Fallout games and any of the Elder Scrolls games. My dedication to the game paid off last night when I finally achieved platinum status, which means that I collected every trophy available with the game. And just in time for the latest game update, too! I've never gotten a platinum trophy on a PlayStation system before, so I was pretty damned excited to finally get one.

 And that ending....wow. The plot to Marvel's Spider-Man is better than any Spider-Man movie and the ending was truly amazing. Spactacular, even. Possibly even Web Of! I can hardly wait to download the new DLC next week. Meanwhile, I'll be playing Marvel's Spider-Man in Game Plus mode which came out as part of the patch on Friday. Game Plus (or New Game+ or NG+) is an unlockable video game mode available in some video games that allows the player to start a new game after they finish it at least once, where certain features in NG+ not normally available in a first playthrough are added, and where certain aspects of the finished game affect the newly started game, such as keeping in the new game items or experience gained in the first playthrough.

Gone Platinum On Marvel's Spider-Man. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Finally Saw Venom

I took my daughter to see Venom this afternoon. It is hard for me to think about a Venom movie set in a universe where Spider-Man doesn't exist. After all, in the comic book Marvel 616 Universe, Venom is the fusion of journalist Eddie Brock and Spidey's old alien costume. Brock hates Spider-Man for exposing the true identity of the Sin-Eater, thus disproving Brock's front-page exclusive story false. And Spider-Man's alien costume, which he picked up on the Beyonder's Battle World, hates Spidey for rejecting it after Spider found out it wasn't merely a cool costume, it was an alien symbiote that wanted to permanently bond with him.


Sony's Venom movie makes a plausible enough origin story for both Brock and the symbiote. Thankfully, the movie doesn't dwell too long on it and soon gets down to the action. The real disappointment is the PG-13 rating. I was hoping for an R-rated version on the level of Logan or Deadpool. Venom's goofy humor is present, though this time it's a result of Brock being a total loser rather than him having been driven craze by his hatred for Spider-Man.


Overall, it was an entertaining movie, and I think it was worth the price of admission. I'll be interested to see what they do with the inevitable sequel which almost certainly will involve Carnage. My daughter, who has had no exposure to the comic book version of Venom, really liked the movie.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Marvel's Spider-Man Disappearing Boxes

While playing a sneak mission as Miles Morales, your job is to escape the area without the Rhino seeing you. Rhino charges through a few areas and disturbs a number of boxes here and there. Those boxes eventually disappear. You can see it happen at 18 seconds in, 26 seconds, and 58 seconds. I normally would not care about such a little detail, but avoiding knocking over boxes is a pretty large part of these sneak missions. It sort of knocks the immersion off.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Debt Consolidation Rep Calls Hank Hill

A rep from a debt consolidation company called looking for Hank Hill. I put on my best Hank Hill (from the TV show King of the Hill) impression and went along with the scam. The rep asked how I was doing and I lauded the recent accomplishments of the Trump administration which got an uncomfortable laugh out of the rep. The rep then asked me about unsecured debt, which I compared to a dog on the loose.

Randomly, I asked the rep if he was the boy who had been "whackin' in my toolshed" which was a callback to Mr. Anderson from Beavis and Butthead which is the same voice as Hank Hill. I then proceeded to confuse the word "debt" with "dog" and talked a bit about my dog, Ladybird. The rep eventually had enough and decided to hang up

Friday, October 12, 2018

Marvel's Spider-Man PS4: Taking Out A Sable Base With Stealth

I'm still getting quite a kick out of playing Marvel's Spider-Man on the PS4. I'm far enough into the game where Silver Sable's agents have taken over various parts of the city. As part of the game's progression, the Sable Bases must be taken out in every section of the city. I uploaded a video of me taking out the first wave of Sable agents at a Sable Base using stealth techniques like the web take down, the perch takedown and the generic stealth takedown.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Dick Pond Athletics

I was up in the north suburbs earlier this week for a 5K and decided afterward that I was in dire need of some proper running shoes. The cheap shoes I had been wearing just weren't cutting it, and were probably damaging my already messed up knees. I decided to stop at Dick Pond Athletics in St. Charles, IL.

What an unfortunate name for a store, right? Despite my giggling at the name and making several snarky comments under my breath to my companion, I actually had a very good experience at the Dick Pond. The Dick associate measured my feet, had me walk on a treadmill to measure my gait and then presented me with a few pairs of shoes for me to try out. I exited the Dick Pond satisfied with my purchase and ready to run in my next 5K with proper equipment.

Do I Have To Write Another Dick Pond Joke? Make Up Your Own! 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Student Loan Forgiveness Scammer Calls Me

When I went to college, I didn't take out any student loans. So, I fail to understand how some company can call me and offer to help me get them paid down. Maybe they're just cold calling and hoping to get someone who has student loans in arrears.

Anyway, I got this telemarketer on the line and was surprised that she was actually an American. After going through the motions of determining my eligibility for the program, I told her that I got kicked out of college for indecent exposure. She ended the call abruptly after that.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Spider-Man PS4: Taking Down A Prisoner Camp

I continue to be amazed at how fun Spider-Man for the PS4 is. As you progress in the game, more opportunities for base fights present themselves. About two-thirds of the way through, there's a prison break at Riker's Island and hundreds of prisoners take to the streets of New York, setting up bases throughout the city. It's up to Spider-Man to take them down.

In this particular prisoner base fight,  I spent about 6 minutes taking the goons down via various stealthy means, including perch takedowns sneak takedowns, web strikes,  and trip mines. Once I was discovered, I went about taking down the bad guys directly and ended up reaching the base goal of getting 5 stealth takedowns and 10 air yanks. One of the craziest things that happened during the fight occurred at about 7:35 in the video. A rocket is launched, I dodged it, and it hit one of the bad guys, who then shakes it off and continues to fight. Although, I do acknowledge that other missiles that struck other bad guys seemed to have effectively taken them out.

Here's a video of my prisoner camp fight:


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

In celebration of Talk Like A Pirate Day, Jason (Bosun Gee) and I (The Dread Pirate Nerdbeard) raised the mast on the Steadfast and, faster than a bareback seahorse sailing an uncharted sea course, we set off on our mission as pirates with zero ambition. Our destination: The local Long John Silver's where they offered free fish and fries for anyone who dressed like a pirate and a free deep fried Twinkie for anyone who talks like a pirate. We didn't have any elaborate costumes by any means. Jason wore an eyepatch and I wore a party favor pirate mask.

Upon arrival, I approached the cashier and said "Arrr matey. I be wantin' a chicken plank and a medium drink along wit whatever freebies ye be given me". The guy laughed so hard that he said he was going to give me two deep fried twinkles instead of one. Truth be told, I could barely finish the one. But, the fish and fries were as good as I expected.

The Fabled Treasure of Long John Silver


Monday, September 17, 2018

Extra Strength Excedren Limited Edition

This is an interesting marketing idea. Excedrin has issued a number of "limited edition" extra strength geltab packages with the tag line "We See Your Pain". I don't think that these are actually hitting store shelves. I assume they're just promotional items, as I got one in the mail yesterday as a freebie after filling out an online form a few weeks back. I had chosen "Adulting", but "Bad Date" and "Commuter" were also available. If I were in charge, I would have also made "Too Much Screen Time", "Bills Piling Up", "Hungover Again" and "Kid Forgot Her Homework".


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How High Is My Electricity Bill?

The energy bill scammer who called Clovis was pretty aggressive. He wasn't in the mood for any of Clovis' shenanigans. Just listen to how angry he sounds when he asks for Clovis' zip code. And when Clovis goes on to describe how hot it has been this summer, the scammer just hung up.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Spider-Man PS4 Game

I've been playing Marvel's Spider-Man for the PS4. This new endeavor by Insomniac Games seeks to make you feel what it's like to actually be Spider-Man. I'm not the kind of guy who buys many video games to begin with, and I'm certainly not one to pre-order a game, but I pre-ordered Marvel's Spider-Man because I was so excited about the prospect of having a fully immersive Spider-Man video game.

A Selfie With My Spider-Bro
And it truly is an Amazing game. Spectacular, even. The narrative, while taking some very interesting character diversions from the Spider-Man mythos (Otto Octavius being a mentor to Peter, Mary Jane working for the Daily Bugle, etc etc) is incredibly engaging. I would watch the cutscenes of this game as if they were their own Spider-Man movie. Despite a small initial learning curve, swinging around as Spider-Man is incredibly fun, and I found myself mastering the technique after just a few hours of play. I'm still trying to get the hang of combat and I seem to get creamed whenever I drop down in the middle of of a gang of thugs. Button mashing is NOT your friend in this game. Being methodical about combat takes time, but pays off, especially if you want to go the stealth route. I've embedded a video below of me playing in the Spider-Man Noir suit and taking out a gang of Fisk's men silently. I love Spidey's quips and the various snippets of conversation Fisk's goons are making.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Cutting The Cord With Philo TV

I don't have much use for cable these days. In fact, I spent almost the entire Summer burning through 8 seasons of Shameless on Netflix and catching up on various other shows on Hulu. There are really only a few shows on cable that constitute "appointment" viewing for me, those being "Better Call Saul", "Rick and Morty" and "Venture Brothers". Those shows are important enough to me that I've hesitated to cut the cord completely. Until now.

Enter Philo TV. Philo is a streaming service that offers 40 channels for $16 per month or an extended package of 49 channels for $20 per month. Here's the channel rundown:

Philo $16/month package 

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • AXS TV
  • BBC America
  • BBC World News
  • BET
  • Cheddar
  • Cheddar Big News
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Discovery Channel
  • DIY
  • Food Network
  • FYI
  • GSN
  • HGTV
  • History
  • IFC
  • Investigation Discovery (ID)
  • Lifetime
  • Lifetime Movies
  • MTV
  • MTV2
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nick Jr.
  • OWN
  • Paramount Network
  • PeopleTV
  • Science
  • Sundance Channel
  • Tastemade
  • TeenNick
  • TLC
  • Travel Channel
  • TV Land
  • Velocity
  • VH1
  • Viceland
  • We TV

Philo $20/month package (Includes All Channels In The $16 Package)

  • American Heroes Channel
  • BET Her
  • Cooking Channel
  • Destination America
  • Discovery Family
  • Discovery Life
  • Logo
  • MTV Live
  • Nicktoons
You can watch any of the channel streams on Philo live, or you can watch the individual shows on demand. You can also save any show to your own personal DVR space and it will be available for 30 days. 

But how do you watch Philo? Well, the channel is available for Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, IOS, Android and various internet browsers. My own personal solution is to watch Philo via the Chrome browser on my Chromebook and run the HDMI stream through it to my TV. The result actually looks pretty good: 


I think, overall, Philo is a pretty good deal for $16/per month. Your mileage may vary depending on what you're into watching. But, for a guy who likes certain channels and who isn't into watching sports on TV, it's a no brainer buy. The channel line-up doesn't include AdultSwim/Cartoon Network but I can catch those shows via the channel's streaming events. And I'm hoping that they'll eventually roll out support for the PS4. 



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

There's Nothing Enchanting About Disenchantment

I'm a huge fan of early Simpsons episodes. I'm also a die-hard Futurama fan and have been clamoring for more ever since its most recent cancellation. So, it was with much anticipation that I logged on to Netflix to binge watch Matt Groening's latest creation, Disenchantment. It's the story of Tiabeanie Mariabeanie De La Rochambeaux Drunkowitz (better known as "Baen"), the rebellious, irresponsible, alcoholic Princess of Dreamland, her companion Elfo and her "personal demon", Luci.

What can I say about this show? It's trite, predictable, and ultimately, underwhelming. But, that's how I felt about Futurama when it first started. There may be some potential in Disenchantment. Aside from the lazy humor, I think that Disenchantment, which purports to be about a rebellious princess going on quirky adventures, is really about an entitled drunk stumbling from contrived situation to contrived situation. It's just not funny. And it's hard to connect with a show when the main character is so unlikeable and unrelatable.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Kansas City Royals at White Sox 8/18/2018

I was up in row 1 of section 537 which offered a great view of home plate at Comiskey Park (Guaranteed Rate Field can KMA) on Saturday to check out the White Sox as they took on the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox suffered a pretty stunning 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Royals. It started out looking like the White Sox would have a great game, especially after Covey picked off Merrifield and Delmonico hit a solo homer to right field. Alas, it was not to be, as the Royals played a consistently better game and ran up 3 runs.

It was Tim Anderson bobble head night at Comiskey Park, and, I'm sorry to say, Anderson played like an actual bobblehead.

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.

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.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Getting Our Grub On At Chicago Food Truck Festival

I attended Chicago Food Truck Fest 2018 on Saturday with a number of friends and family. We were treated to over 45 different food vendors offering a variety of different cuisines. While I was very impressed with the food offerings, I have to say that there were other aspects of Chicago Food Truck Fest that did not measure up. For example, we arrived 2 hours into the first day of the fest and the Pina Colada vendor was already out of alcohol and had to resort to serving virgin Pina Coladas. At some point, the sangria that the fest was pushing was switched out to Franzia over ice. I had also heard via a number of folks that the VIP tickets, which allowed for entry into the fest an hour early, were essentially useless because none of the trucks were ready to serve until the advertised opening time. These are the growing pains of a festival in its infancy and I'm sure that Everbright will get the kinks knocked out next year.

Despite the negatives, I think we all had a pretty good time at Chicago Food Truck Fest. I did a live video feed during our lunch excursion. You'll see it below. In the video, you can almost feel our disappointment when we discover that there's no alcohol left in the Pina Colada line. But, then, you can feel the joy as we dive into a pineapple chicken bowl made from a hollowed out pineapple!

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.