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.