Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Quarantine Day 11

According to my local health department, this is my last day of quarantine/isolation. When I first went into this, I thought that, in order to go back to work and be cleared to socialize, I would have to have to negative Coronavirus tests. I had heard some people had been put under that requirement, but, it is no longer the case, as it has been shown that non-contagious Coronavirus carriers can still test positive for quite some time after the disease has run its course. 

Now that all of this has been said and done, I'm thankful that I didn't pass this to my elderly, at-risk father through my brother. And I'm glad that I went and got tested when I did, otherwise I might have gone through with Jason's birthday party that next weekend. Had I passed the virus to Jason, his asthma would likely have had a hard time with the virus.  Jason could  have passed it to his mom who is still recovering from her cancer treatment. And had my old friend from high school and college attended,  I might have passed the virus to him where it would have run rampant all over his compromised immune system. So, there's four people in my circle of friends who could have been harmed badly or killed. This is why we have to take extreme precautions with regards to this virus. While it wasn't deadly to me, and while it probably wouldn't be deadly to you, it could very well rip through the vulnerable population very easily and almost silently. 

So, please, wear masks in public, wash your hands, practice social distancing and get tested if you have even minor symptoms. It's not for you. It's for those who could be very adversely affected by this. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Quarantine Day 10

 I feel a lot better today, almost back to normal. I don't have a fever and although I am still a bit worn out, I was actually able to get through the day without succumbing to a nap even though the day was filled with meetings and online classes. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Quarantine Day 9

I had a rough couple of days. My fever spiked to 101.5 on Friday and I started wheezing and having some trouble breathing. My congestion got out of control and I developed a killer headache. I managed to call my doctor who prescribed an inhaler which my oldest daughter picked up and left at my doorstep. That helped a lot, but I was still very uncomfortable for the next 48 hours. 

At about 2 AM Saturday morning, I awoke to Luna pouncing on me. My daughter had gotten up to go to the washroom and Luna decided to burst into my bedroom to see if I was still alive. I appreciated it, but I had a lot of trouble getting back to sleep. I was fairly out-of-it for most of Saturday due to the lack of sleep and feeling like a truck had hit me. 

My fever had started to creep back down on Sunday and I was feeling a lot better.  I was well enough that I actually considered mowing the lawn, but I just couldn't get around to it because I felt so physically worn out. This morning, though, I felt much better. I wasn't tired, my fever was gone, and I only have a small sniffle. I was able to work from home during my regular work hours. 

I also heard this morning that my brother's COVID test came back negative which I expected, but is also a huge relief because that means that my father likely didn't contract it. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Quarantine Day 5

 Back in the late nineties, just after I had graduated from college, I was working my first "real" job and got waylaid by a bad case of pneumonia. I spent nearly two days straight just sleeping on the couch with A&E on in the background and didn't bother to get up unless it was to keep hydrated or hit the washroom. And that's about how I feel right now, like my body is tired from fighting this COVID thing off. I've got no desire to eat anything, but I'm making sure to drink a lot of water. And, in the background, I've got Classic Cold Case Files from Netflix, narrated by the legendary voice of A&E himself, Bill Kurtis. 

I don't mean for my current condition to sound bad. Aside from feeling wiped out, sore and congested, I'm actually improving. My fever is going down, I'm not coughing near as much as I had been over the past few days, and my headache and sore throat are both gone. I haven't ever lost my sense of taste, and, thanks to my doggo's gassy butt, I'm often reminded that I haven't lost my sense of smell. 

My girlfriend and I are still wondering how she could have possibly escaped infection. She wondered if she tested too early for the test to have enough viral load to indicate a positive. So, she and her kids went to get another test this afternoon. My brother, whom I had worried about infecting when he had visited, is still having no symptoms and is finally getting a test tomorrow. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Quarantine Day 4

The good news is that my daughter, my girlfriend and her two children have all tested negative for COVID-19. The bad news is that I continue to decline. My temperature is up to 100.8, I'm congested and am completely wiped out. I managed to teach class today via Zoom and that took everything I had.

I spent some time out on the patio working via my laptop. It's relaxing to sit in a zero gravity chair while looking at the nice landscaping in the middle of the divided street that borders my property. I got up at one point to let the dog out and she promptly ran out and took my chair. Typical. I thought dogs were supposed to be sensitive when their owners are sick. 

I managed to make dinner but it was simple with rice in the rice cooker and chicken in the Marsala simmer sauce. My sense of taste is still intact. So, as of right now, I'm on the sectional under two blankets with doggo at my feet. I'm hoping to get a lot of sleep tonight in the hopes that I can start to beat this whole COVID thing back. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Quarantine Day 3

Word has gotten around that I'm sick and quarantined, so, after a very rough night battling a cough and congestion, I woke up this morning to a number of friends offering to drop food on my doorstep. So far, I still feel well enough to get things done myself, but I can tell that things are getting a bit worse. My temperature has crept up from 99.7 this morning to 100 this afternoon. 

A theater friend of mine was on Facebook yesterday complaining about allergy symptoms. I urged her to get tested, as my own experience started out with allergy symptoms that temporarily subsided. She's just so busy, you know, and can't afford to take time off of work for a test. And she doesn't fell all that bad. So, she's chalking it up to allergies and isn't going to bother getting tested. This is why infection is so rampant in the United States. Meanwhile, my girlfriend has similar symptoms and  certainly didn't want to have to quarantine for 14 days and miss work, but, then again, she's got a conscience and doesn't want to end up inadvertently killing someone's grandma, so, she got tested and is quarantining. Her results still are not back yet. Neither are her kids' or my daughter's. 

I've been conducting classes online and have been doing live lectures via Zoom and Teams which has been going fine. I've had to dope myself up with generic Sudafed in order keep my congestion at by while I lecture. My headache is more pronounced, even with medication, and I've pulled my contacts out in the hopes that it might cut down on the eyestrain and lessen my headache. 


Monday, September 14, 2020

Quarantine Day 2

 I had some very weird dreams last night that I can't remember much about. In between those, I felt congested and had a headache. I woke up a little later than usual to get ready to do some work from home. Throughout the day I felt tired, congested and had a runny nose with a sore throat. My temperature held steady all day at 99.5.  

I noticed around lunch time that we were running low on milk and soda. Normally, I'd just hike to the grocery store to pick those up, but, since I'm consigned to the hose for the rest of the week, I had to fight the urge to do that. Instead, I made an Instacart order and it was on my doorstep within two hours. 

The health department called in the afternoon, asked about my symptoms, and informed me that my daughter will have to quarantine until the 23rd whereas I only have to quarantine until the 19th. When you're exposed to someone with Coronavirus, you have to quarantine for 14 days from your last contact with that person. But when you actually have Coronavirus, you only have to quarantine for 10 days from your onset of symptoms. Exposed patients quarantine longer so that they can account for a potential positive test and onset of symptoms. 

We're still waiting on test results for my daughter, my girlfriend, and her kids. Meanwhile, I'm absolutely mortified that I may have passed it to them and hearing that my girlfriend has developed symptoms today makes me feel even worse. And I already feel like a pariah to begin because of being infected.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

I Tested Positive For COVID-19

Last Wednesday, in the middle of teaching class, I felt a little congested. I chalked it up to allergies and my mask forcing me to project my voice harder. On Thursday, I felt a little run down, but I didn't think much of it because I had been up a bit late. On Friday, I was notified that one of my students was ordered to quarantine, so, as a precaution, I decided to get myself tested. The health department called me today to notify me that the results came back positive. 

My most immediate concern was to get my daughter tested to see whether or not she was infected as well. I managed to get her to the drive-through testing facility just before it closed. My girlfriend and her children went off to get tested as well. Meanwhile, I'm quarantined for 10 days, backdated to Wednesday when I first developed symptoms. So, for now, I'm holed up in the house and working from home. My symptoms so far are minor: A slight runny nose, an occasional cough, a dull headache, minor breathing issues and general fatigue.  

Thankfully, I had already done my shopping for the week, and anything that I find I'm in need of can be ordered off of Instacart and left at my door. I called my close friends and relatives to let them know that I'm positive for COVID-19 and that they should make sure not to walk into the house. My main concern was my father. He's bedridden and, having seen my brother last weekend who then went on to visit my father, I was concerned that I could have infected my father through my brother. The health department did not seem concerned, but I advised my relatives to get tested anyway. I swear this is what it must be like to get an STD and have to notify your partners. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Credit Card Scammer Jumps In The Line

Clovis got yet another call from a debt consolidation scammer trying to get his credit card numbers. This particular scammer talked very fast, so Clovis asked him to slow down and reminded him that Meth is a hell of a drug. When told that they checked with Experian, Clovis mentioned that Experian was his favorite superhero. When the rep asked which credit card he used the most, Clovis responded that it was his Mastercard, rather, that's the card his WIFE used the most. A supervisor had to be called in when Clovis started listing the expiration dates of all of his credit cards rather than just his Mastercard. The supervisor said that he jumped in the line while monitoring the call. Clovis began to sing Jump In Line (Shake, Shake Senora) by Harry Belafonte. The rep then hung up.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Samuel Adams Jack-O Pumpkin Ale

 Fall is upon us and, as is the yearly tradition, pumpkin flavored beers are spilling out of the breweries and onto store shelves. Samuel Adams has a new offering this year in the form of its Jack-O pumpkin ale. At first, I thought it was an ill-advised tribute to the late Michael Jackson, but, no. Available via 6-pack and in its "Sweater Weather" seasonal box, Samuel Adams Jack-O pumpkin ale is an interesting entry into the pumpkin beer wars. 

I picked this up as part of the Samuel Adams "Sweater Weather" seasonal variety pack which also includes Boston Lager, Sam 76 and Oktoberfest. Of those four choices, Jack-O was the one that I was  trepidacious about. I had thought it would be a more Earthy, vegetable style beer and what I was met with was something more akin to pumpkin pie than straight pumpkin. And that's not a bad thing. Samuel Adams Pumpkin Ale is a very pleasant, drinkable beer that smells of nutmeg and cinnamon and tastes like a decent pumpkin pie. It's very good as a Fall dessert beer and I could see myself enjoying this alongside some turkey or some meatloaf. 

Samuel Adams Jack-O Beer
Enjoying A Samuel Adams Jack-O Pumpkin Ale. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

I Achieved Platinum On Ghost Of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima became my second PS4 Platinum Trophy game tonight (this first being Marvel's Spider-Man). It's very rare that I'll stick with a game long enough to obtain every single achievement trophy, but Ghost of Tsushima hit that spot both because the game is so engaging and because the achievement's aren't difficult to obtain.

Much of the story centers around Jin Sakai's need to dispatch the Mongol invaders from Tsushima using dishonerable tactics rather than the honorable fighting methods that his samurai training requires. The game forces you to use these dishonorable tactics, as it's part of the overall story. I really wish that the player had a choice of combat methods and that there was a karma system with actual consequences. The few story choices that the player is presented with have no game-changing consequences.

The other hindsight observation that I would like to add is that, if you do decide to play Ghost Of Tsushima, you should make sure to invest some of your action points early on into both deflection AND evasion. When I first started out, I went all-in on evasion thinking I would just be a damage sponge, and ignored deflection. As you can see in the first duel video below, my combat style suffered for it.  After finally pumping points into deflection, I found it easier to counter the intense attacks of the characters I was dueling against, as illustrated in the second video below.

All-In On Evasion


Incorporating Deflection

Monday, August 31, 2020

Brown Sugar Bourbon Pork Chops

One of the things I love about Hello Fresh is that, even if I decide not to order from them, I still have access to their vast array of recipes. This week, I looked at my upcoming meal options and decided that while Brown Sugar Bourbon Pork Chops with Apple Pan Sauce, Scallion Mashed Potatoes & Roasted Green Beans sounded good, I figured that I could make an attempt at this recipe without relying on Hello Fresh to source the ingredients. After all, McCormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Seasoning, which the recipe relies on, is easily available at most grocery stores. And I don't know what kind of apple Hello Fresh is planning to send, but I went with a Honeycrisp.

The dish easy enough to make. You basically just season the pork chops (I took a butterfly chop I had and cut it in half for two servings) with the McCormick Grill mix, cook them in the pan, let them rest, then cook the apples. Just before the apples are done, you add the pork chops back in order to warm them back up. Instead of mashed potatoes, I just went with a package from The Little Potato Company. Overall, it was a decent meal, and I'll be interested to see how it compares to the Hello Fresh version when it arrives next week.
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Monday, August 24, 2020

Ghost Of Tsushima And The Poison Darts

One of the best aspects of Ghost Of Tushima is the attention to detail. For me, that attention to detail is exemplified with the poison dart and hallucinogenic dart weapons that you'll get somewhere in Act II.  Watch the video below and you'll see me test the darts on a semi-stealth (though I chose not to wear the stealth-based armor) takedown of the Forest's Edge Camp. When an enemy gets hit with a poison dart, instead of just dropping like a stone, they actually get sick, vomit and then die. And, when they're hit with the hallucinogen dart, they get confused, rage out, and the attack everyone in sight.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Credit Card Scammer Calls His Manager

Clovis is always happy to get a call from someone offering to lower the interest rate on his credit cards. When asked for his credit card number, Clovis, ever the befuddled blunderbuss, Clovis couldn't come up with it easily. At one point, he started singing "Take Your Time (Do It Right)". Then, Clovis started giving out the customer service numbers. The rep got angry and started yelling at Clovis until, several minutes later, Clovis finally understood and gave out his credit card number. The number must have been wrong, because the rep put Clovis on hold and got his manager to try to close the deal with Clovis, which didn't last long because Clovis put the manager through the same paces.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Ghost Of Tsushima

I have a personal policy that I will not pre-order video games. I've been screwed over way too many times and have decided that it's better to be late to the party than to be stuck at a lame party. It was difficult to resist pre-ordering Ghost Of Tsushima, though since it appeared to have everything that I like in a video game. Ghost Of Tsushima is an open world action/adventure RPG that follows a samurai on a quest to protect Tsushima Island during the first Mongol invasion of Japan. The game was released on July 17 as a PS4 exclusive. After reading many positive reviews, I picked it up right after I got back from my Gulf Shores vacation. It reminds me a lot of "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt" which is a game that I absolutely love. That being said, Ghost Of Tsushima isn't without its glitches. There are sneaky ways to cheat at resource collection and there are some barrier glitches here and there. However, after three weeks of playing this game, I've yet to encounter anything game breaking. One funny glitch that I encountered involves a woman at the Golden Temple constantly falling off the stone steps. If you watch the video I uploaded, you can see her in the upper left-hand corner.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Took My COVID-19 Test

I went in for a COVID-19 test earlier this week, not because I have any symptoms, but because I've been back from Gulf Shores for two weeks and wanted to make sure I didn't pick anything up. It was a simple test, with the nurse swabbing my nostrils for about 20 seconds each. It wasn't painful or overly invasive. It felt like someone picking my nose and removing some particularly large boogers. 48 hours later, my results are back: I'm negative for COVID-19.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Garlic Shrimp & Chorizo Meatballs

I was looking through some Blue Apron meals options last week and was interested in ordering the Garlic Shrimp & Chorizo Meatballs with Saffron Mayo & Romesco-Dressed Corn. I was about to place the order when I thought that I could just buy all the ingredients and make the dish myself. It didn't look too terribly hard to do, as most of the ingredients are easily sourced and the amounts needed are clearly specified in the recipe.

The only thing I had any issue with was the romesco sauce that was needed to dress the corn. Blue Apron would have provided it for me, but, since I was doing this recipe without the safety of pre-made sauces, I would be on my own. My local grocery store didn't have any, so I decided to search the web for a recipe and make it myself. Several options for making romesco sauce are available on he Internet. It's basically just tomatoes, roasted red peppers and some spices (depending on which recipe you use). I don't know how this stuff is supposed to taste, but mine tasted like a tangy tomato sauce with a tiny kick.

The only real issue I had with this recipe is that my chorizo meatballs collapsed and fell apart. What came out of the oven were meat piles rather than meatballs. I suspect that the chorizo I used wasn't fatty enough to bind together with the breadcrumb mixture. But, I'm still just an amateur at all of this, so I don't know. I'll be more vigilant the next time I attempt meatballs.

Overall, I enjoyed the dish. The meat piles had a nice kick to them and there was a nice garlic flavor in the shrimp. I'd probably be willing to make a second attempt at this, though it will probably be a while before I do.
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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Otto Keeps Giving The Wrong Number

Otto got a call from a Credit Card scammer spoofing a well-known Wells Fargo phone number. When asked about his debt load, Otto, flushed the toilet and told the rep that he had spent a lot of money of Beanie Babies so he had a huge amount of debt. What came next was about five minutes of the rep trying to get Otto's credit card number with Otto constantly giving him the customer service numbers. Otto eventually figured out what the rep meant by "Membership Number" and gave him a sixteen digit number, but must have misread it because the rep said it was invalid. The two of them argued over whether or not Otto was messing with the rep. Otto got so upset that he threw up.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Home Again

We drove back home this weekend. Five people and a load of luggage can get very cramped, even in a mid-size SUV. But, we powered through, drove the entire route in the course of a day and wound up home just before midnight on Saturday. We had a great trip, but, before returning to reality this week, I want to mention a few things that were too brief to make full posts about:
"Really???"
  • We had lunch one day at ACME Oyster House in Gulf Shores. I had tried several times to get into the New Orleans location over the years, but it has always been packed. So, it was a nice surprise to walk into the Gulf Shores location for a late lunch and find it nearly deserted. We had raw oysters, char-grilled oysters, gumbo and onion rings. It was a very pleasant lunch. 
  • Other touristy places like LuLu's, The Yard and Lambert's were doing social distancing well, but the wait times were enormous, so we didn't bother trying to get a table at any of those places. 
  • We had a nice, socially distant lunch at The Hangout where we had snow crab for an appetizer and cheeseburgers for the entrees. There's a lot to do there besides eat a meal, but the side shows and activities apparently don't pick up until evening. 
  • There was a shark bite incident one town over from us at Orange Beach on Friday. We had been in the water early that morning and noticed a lot of small fish schooling around the area attracting flocks of birds. A pod of pelicans even swooped in very close to us to gobble up some fish. So, it came as very little surprise to us that predatory marine life was out in the area. Thankfully, the victim at Orange Beach only had to get a few stitches and will make a full recovery. 
  • My daughter was thrilled to find a store called Faux Paws Dog Shoppe when we went to The Wharf at Orange Beach. She bought doggo a bunch of cute things including a bandanna with "Wiggle Butt" etched on it. 
  • The girlfriend and I got some drinks at the Kentucky Mist Distillery at the Wharf and, to be honest, we weren't impressed. Certainly not for $8 a drink. 
  • We stopped at a Popeye's on the way back in order to sample their entry into the Chicken Sandwich Wars. Their Spicy Chicken Sandwich is very good. I don't know if it's better than Chick-Fil-A, but at least I can eat it without feeling guilty about contributing to a company that hates on homosexual marriage. 
  • Doggo was happy to see us upon our return but not overly so. Boy Boy clearly took great care of her. 
It seems like a lifetime ago when I had said that "family vacations are a lot of work". But, this trip has convinced me that I was wrong with that statement. At the very least, a family vacation won't SEEM like so much work so long as you actually enjoy where you're going and the family you've got in the first place. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Park at OWA

We spent a good chunk of the day today at OWA, a 520-acre entertainment destination in Foley, AL that boasts a section "downtown" outdoor-mall area as well as a small theme park. It's kind of like Disney Springs meets Santa's Village. We had heard that the attractions were fun and that the park was fairly new and that it wasn't very crowded. And the rumors were true.

We had lunch at the Groovy Goat which is billed as "The Grooviest Restaurant at OWA", and, yeah, okay, it's pretty groovy, I guess. It offers a wide range of options and is reasonably priced, so it's easy for a family to eat there and find something there for everyone. I decided to eat light and went with the "grown-up grilled cheese" because I knew I'd be sampling the wares of the confection makers in the shopping center and I wanted to save some room. We got some delicious and unique donuts at a place called Crazy Donuts. And you can actually make your own donut creation there which basically involves you putting a bunch of stuff on top of a glazed donut and/or injecting it with filling.

I've said before that I'm not a huge fan of amusement parks, but The Park at OWA is really more of a B-musement park than an amusement park. The vast majority of the rides are pretty tame by Disney or Six Flags standards, which is actually perfect for a guy like me who needs to pop a Xanax before going on something like The Batman. I was honestly very impressed with how clean the park was and how reasonable the concession prices were. And, best of all, there were incredibly small wait times for the rides. All for the admission price of $20.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Banana Boat Horror

Banana Boat. The term evokes images of historic tropical transport boats and a sunscreen brand that has a history of giving people chemical burns. While lounging at the beach this afternoon, sipping a few locally brewed beers, we got the notion that doing one of those touristy "banana boat" rides might be fun for the kids. These sort of rides involve a large, inflatable, banana-looking catamaran being pulled by a jet ski for about 10 minutes. Sounds fun, right? I guess it is, if being whipped around on a bunch of rough waves is your thing.

We all waded out to this plastic monstrosity that looked more like an inflatable hotdog pontoon than a banana pontoon. And it's some guys job to push everyone up onto it, including me who has gotten way too chubby due to this COVID-19 quarantine thing. And, soon, we were off and crashing through the waves and the wake of the jet ski. Meanwhile, the ball of my femur is digging into my acetabulum because of the way I was forced to sit. So, I'm in pain, the girlfriend is in pain, one of the kids is terrified, my daughter is struggling to keep her bathing suit on and the last kiddo is urging the jet ski pilot on. By the time we had turned around, so much salt water had gotten into my eyes that I couldn't see anything which was probably for the best.

Seriously, though, the banana boat people were super nice and cool and I'm ultimately glad that we took the ride. I just never want to do it again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Doggo Has Separation Anxiety

Uncle Jason Taking Luna For A Pup Cup
My daughter asked her boyfriend, whom I refer to as "Boy Boy", to take her dog Luna in for the week that we are on vacation. Boy Boy said that she was doing really well for a while, but, yesterday, she seemed down and spent about three hours in her doggie den laying on her bed with kiddo's shirt. Boy Boy, hoping that familiar surroundings might help perk her up, brought her back home to hang around while he went to work.

I had my oldest daughter look in on her on her lunch break and she said that doggo was laying on kiddo's bed crying. I sent Jason over to the house to play with doggo because he's her favorite person outside of the family. He was able to coax her out with her favorite treats and then took her through the Starbuck's drive-thru for a pup-cup. After that, she was a lot happier and they tossed the ball around in the back yard for a while. Luna still doesn't quite get the concept of "fetch", but she had fun.

When Boy Boy picked Luna up later, he said that she was in a much better mood and that she was running around his house full steam and playing with his family. So, I guess that sometimes a girl just needs a trip to Starbucks to perk her up.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Fort Morgan

We visited the Fort Morgan State Historic Site this morning. Fort Bowyer had been built in the area after the Spanish vacated in 1813 and the British attacked the rudimentary fort twice during the War of 1812, the second attack (which also happened to be the last battle of the War of 1812) resulting in a British victory in 1815. Fort Morgan was built on the site of Fort Boywer between 1819 and 1834.

Fort Morgan was captured by the Confederates just before the start of the Civil War and was used to provide protective fire for blockade runners. During the Battle of Mobile Bay, the Union captured two Confederate ships and destroyed another. Union forces also captured Fort Gaines which freed up additional Union land forces to attack Fort Morgan. After a two week siege, the fort was surrendered.

The fort was renovated in the 1870s but soon fell into disrepair. President Cleveland allowed for the further renovation of the fort between 1895 and 1900 adding several concrete batteries. During World War I, the Army established a radio transmitting and receiving station at Fort Morgan as a part of a nationwide Morse-code communication network. In April 1942, the Army constructed an airfield. Initially, the Coast Artillery brought five Model 1918 155mm (6.1-inch) guns to equip the fort to defend against German U-Boat attacks. The Army placed two of the guns on top of Fort Morgan on mounts that permitted 360 degrees traverse. The remaining three guns stood on the fort's parade ground. The War Department turned Fort Morgan over to the State of Alabama in 1946. Fort Morgan was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

Fort Morgan Parade Ground
The Parade Ground At Fort Morgan

Monday, July 27, 2020

Crab Hunting

Mr. Krabbs the Crabby Crab
Each night that we'e been here in Gulf Shores so far, the beaches we have seen swarms of kids and
adults with flashlights running along the beach chasing cute little sand crabs. Last night, we decided to join in and headed out to Gulf Shores State Park to do some to crab hunting ourselves. All you need is a bucket, a net, a small flashlight and a plastic red filter to cover your light so that you don't confuse any turtles.

Ghost crabs, more commonly referred to as sand crabs, are little crabs that live in small burros on the beach. They come out at night and are fairly easy to spot with a spotlight. We saw dozens of them last night and wound up catching and releasing about a dozen of them. They ranged in size from absolutely tiny to the size of a fist. I'm told that ghost crabs are not particularly tasty, so, if you decide to hunt them, don't bother trying to eat them, just catch and release.

Overall, it was a fun family activity. That is, until we got locked in the Gulf Shores State Park parking lot with a few other families. All the signage said that the park closed at 10pm. When we tried to leave at 9:30pm we found that both of the gates had been locked. I called the number on the parking ticket and eventually got someone to come and let us out.

Late Night Crab Hunters As Seen From Our Balcony

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Jellyfish Sting

It can be rough out there on the beach. There are a lot of hazards such as riptides, heat stroke, sharp coral, and, of course jellyfish. We learned first hand about handling jellyfish stings this morning when my daughter got stung on her wrist while boogie boarding. She described the sensation as an annoying burn, but wasn't more than a bit put out by the experience. Still, we were prepared for such an eventuality, so we administered some first aid.

What To Do If You Get Stung By A Jellyfish


  • Inspect the area for hanging tendrils and pull any off with tweezers
  • Rinse the area with vinegar (NOT cool fresh water or sea water)
  • Apply cortisone cream for the itching
Contrary to popular belief, peeing on a jellyfish sting is not effective and may actually result in more pain. 


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Welcome To Gulf Shores, Alabama

We spent about four hours today driving from Birmingham, Alabama to Gulf Shores. We've rented a condo right on the beach. I could jump off of my balcony, and, if the fall didn't maim or kill me, I would be right on the beach when I landed. Gulf Shores is clearly a tourist town, but it offers a lot of opportunity for family fun. We've already hit the beach to kick around some waves and dig up some sea shells. I'm personally looking forward to having some of the great seafood that Gulf Shores has to offer.

The weather has been a bit stormy today and the waves have been a little choppy. There's a rip-tide advisory going on as well. Even though it isn't the sunniest day, and the ocean isn't as blue as I had hoped it would be (yet), it's still a beach and I'm still just happy to be here.

The Ocean At Gulf Shores, Alabama

Friday, July 24, 2020

Back In Birmingham

Eleven years ago, I spent a few days in Birmingham in order to speak at and attend a mathematics conference. Today, we're spending the night while we're en route to Gulf Shores, Alabama. We're going to be spending an entire week down there for a socially distant vacation. For now, we're just hanging in Birmingham, chowing down on some Zaxby's and resting up before taking on the second leg of the trip tomorrow.

I've heard it said that Sailor Sam is from here, but I've never been able to find him.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Scammer Calls Otto Some Bad Names

Otto got a call from a debt consolidation scammer that prefaced the call with a female auto attendant. When the live rep came on, Otto said that he wanted to talk to the lady he had been talking to. The rep ignored him. Otto then tried to make sure that the rep was wearing a mask so that he wouldn't catch Coronavirus over the phone. Again, the rep ignored Otto.

Otto explained that he had a high balance on his credit card because he had purchased a lot of Beanie Babies. The rep again ignored Otto and tried to steer him back on track towards providing his credit card details. Otto dripped out a few details about his credit card, just the issuer and an expiration date. But, when Otto was asked to provide the actual card number, he instead gave the customer service number.

Surprisingly, instead of realizing that he was being had, the rep was pretty persistent in trying to get Otto to read him the correct number. After several minutes of back-and-forth, the rep finally called Otto some bad names and hung up.

Monday, July 20, 2020

About That 99.957% Survivability Rate

"COVID-19 is not that big of a deal", you've likely seen screeching across your Facebook feed. Reassurance is offered in a phrase similar to "The Coronavirus survivability rate is 99.957%". The number on the right of the decimal often changes a little based upon which exact figures someone is using for their calculations. This "survivability rate" is calculated by taking the number of COVID-19 fatalities reported in the US (143,000 as of this writing) and dividing it by the total US population size (331,002,561). This gives us 0.0004320. To account for the percentage, we have to move the decimal two positions to the right which gives us .043% (rounded). Subtract that from 100% and you get a survivability rate of 99.957%. So, this number seems to say that your chance of living through the COVID-19 pandemic is 99.957%. You gotta like those odds, right? Unfortunately, that figure is deceptive for a number of reasons.

There are a myriad of different ways to calculate fatality rates of any given disease. The 99.957% figure is an inverse of what is called the crude mortality rate. The crude mortality rate takes the number of deaths due to a disease and divides it by the total population. Indeed, you have likely seen posts on Facebook saying "The mortality rate of COVID-19 is only .043%!". What's wrong with that number? Well, it has been about 25 years since I have taken a college-level statistics class, but it seems to me that there's some selection bias involved. To illustrate what I am getting at, let's do some comparisons of various mortality rates from 2019 using 328,200,000 for the 2019 population:

Disease Number Of Deaths Crude Mortality Rate Survivability Rate
Heart Disease 647,000 .20% 99.800%
All Cancers 606,880 .18% 99.820%
All Accidents 169,936 .052% 99.948%
Chronic lower respiratory diseases 160,201 .049% 99.951%
Stroke 146,383 .045% 99.955%
Lung Cancer 142,670 .043% 99.957%
Influenza 55,672 .017% 99.983%
Car Accidents 38,800 .012% 99.988%

So, what does this tell us? This tells us that the three leading causes of death last year each have a survivability rate of 99% (truncated). This tells us that, while we can all agree that every person has a 100% chance of eventually dying of some cause during some year, the chance of dying of any one specific cause in any one specific year is minuscule. Using the crude mortality rate, your chance of dying at all in 2019 was .9% giving you a survivability rate of 99.1% for the year (assuming 3,000,000 total deaths in the US).

Some people rail against mask mandates, social distancing and banning large gatherings for a disease with a survivability rate of 99.957%. To that, I say, heart disease has a survivability rate of 99.8% so eat all the fatty foods you want! Why are we banning smoking in bars and putting labels on cigarettes when Lung Cancer has a survivability rate of 99.957%? Why do we require seat belts when car accidents have a whopping 99.988% survivability rate? Because calculating an individual's risk of dying of a disease involves a number of factors and is much more complex than just dividing two numbers. But, even if we accept the crude mortality rate method, those tiny percentages still equal a lot of people, and, without those mandates and guidelines, the number of deaths would surely go up.

Maybe you don't see any deception or selection bias in those numbers. At the very least, the crude mortality rate doesn't indicate the likelihood of someone dying who has contracted the disease. For that number, we need to calculate the case fatality rate. The case fatality rate is the number of deaths from a certain disease divided by the number of people diagnosed with the disease. To find the case fatality rate of COVID-19 in the United States, we take number of reported deaths (143,000) divided by the number of US Coronavirus cases (3,830,000). This gives us .03733. If we move the decimal to account for the percentage, then we get a Coronavirus case fatality rate of 3.7% in the US. For comparison, the case fatality rate for influenza was less than 1% for 2019. And, keep in mind, we're only about 8 months into 2020, so the number of Coronavirus deaths will certainly increase.

As it stands, Coronavirus is on track to be the third leading cause of death this year. Just as we want to keep Heart Disease and Cancer deaths to a minimum, so too must we enact measures to keep the Coronavirus deaths to a minimum. All of the peer-reviewed science indicates that masks and social distancing offer at least some measure of protection. So, for now, keep your public interactions to a minimum. And, if you do go out in public where there's a crowd, then put on your mask. This isn't about freedom, this isn't about an unnecessary panic, this is about compassion. This is about keeping that .043%. crude mortality rate as low as possible.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

American Auto Repair Coverage Calls Me

I can accept that there may be legitimate businesses out there that offer extended warranty coverage for automobiles. This recent call, however, that connected me with a company called American Auto Repair Coverage, seems to me like they're scammers. First off, they used a foreign call center that hid behind a spoofed number to screen me for eligibility. In my opinion, this is a tactic that a legitimate business would not use, as it's illegal to solicit via a fake number (see the Truth In Caller ID Act). 

The audio from the call center side is tough to hear, so the recording picks up when I got transferred to a rep from American Auto Repair Coverage. When I asked if I could be arrested for unknowingly letting my extended warranty lapse on my 2015 Fiat 500 the rep laughed. I also asked her at one point if she was wearing a mask so that I wouldn't get COVID over the phone, and she again, laughed. At one point, I guess I asked too many questions and she wondered out loud if I truly was not interested in extended warranty coverage for my vehicle. This was the second red flag that made me think that American Auto Repair Coverage is a scam: The rep clearly wanted to push me through the process so that she could get to the next call and thus wanted me to ask as few questions as possible. Once I cleared that rep, I was sent to an account manager that triggered a third red flag. He used a number of high pressure "urgency" sales tactics like limited availability and fake-sounding discount incentives to get me to buy in. Of course, once I was asked for a credit card number, I played dumb and gave him the Visa network toll-free phone number instead. Once that happened, the game was up and he knew he was dealing with someone who wasn't interested. He scolded me for wasting his time and kicked me off of the call.

Monday, July 13, 2020

RIP Google Play Music

I knew that this was coming. I'd been notified quite some time ago that Google Play Music was going away and would be merged into Youtube Music. I tried to ignore it, as if refusing to think about it would somehow stave off the execution. But, alas, earlier tonight, I got the notification from Google that I should start migrating my Google Play Music library into Youtube Music. So, it was with great trepidation and regret that I hit the Transfer To Youtube Music button. And I instantly regretted it.

Youtube Music Sucks


I'm sure that, now that people from Google Play Music are migrating over, development on the Youtube Music interface will speed up exponentially. But, for now, the interface is horrible. Not only is the navigation counter-intuitive, but key features from Google Play Music are missing or broken in Youtube Music. Here are my main gripes about Youtube Music:
  • No "Offline Mode" switch.
  • Uploaded songs and streaming songs are split into two different libraries 
  • No tag editor: If you messed up your song tags with an upload, you have to delete it and upload it again with the corrected metadata.
  • Cannot like or dislike downloaded songs while offline. 
  • Cannot swipe to skip songs.
  • Casting is broken
  • Cannot save a queue as a playlist
  • No detection of duplicates being added to a playlist
  • Google Assistant can't play Youtube Music playlists
As I said, development in the Youtube Music app will likely accelerate now, but, it seems to me that most of the above issues should have been addressed before the migration. For now, Google Play Music still works, and I hope it'll continue to work until those issues get taken care of. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Clovis Tells A Scammer About His DUI

A scammer calling himself Jimmy from US Auto Care called Clovis and attempted to sell him some auto insurance. Clovis was confused at first, thinking that Jimmy was from his own insurance company. When Jimmy asked Clovis how many insured vehicles he had, Clovis replied that he only had one and asked if he needed to have more than one. Jimmy sighed in exasperation and then asked Clovis if he'd had any DUIs over the past three years. Clovis said that he'd had one five years ago and then began to describe the experience. Jimmy hung up when Clovis made crashing noises.

Monday, July 6, 2020

I Got Some Bunk Beds Delivered

After a two month wait, the local furniture shop was finally able to install the bunk beds that I had ordered for one of my bedrooms. I had ordered them right before the COVID-19 restrictions hit and while the store was willing to do doorstep delivery, they couldn't do setup until the restrictions had been lifted. And, so, late least week, I watched once again as yet another furniture truck blew past my house because, as I am always saying, my place is incredibly hard to find. After hoofing it down the block and flagging them down, I directed them to my driveway.

In they came, a younger guy and a fairly old guy who looked to be about 60. They asked which bedroom they would be setting the bunk beds up in and I directed them to the second door on the left. My dog barely looked up from her perch on one of the couches as the duo brought in the parts to the beds. I did some work on my laptop and listened to the duo put the set together while they argued. After about an hour, just as I started to wonder what was taking so long, my Nest doorbell notified me of activity near my door. I opened it up to see a man, even older than the old guy who was already in my house, staring back at me. "Alright, where are they?" the elderly man asked gruffly as he held up his socket wrench.

"Did you have to ask your dad for help?", I jokingly asked Old Guy #1. No laughs emanated from the room in which they were working.

After some clangs and scruffs, Old Guy #2 exclaimed "You've got the feet on backwards!". Excuses were spat out by the original duo but I couldn't make out what they were saying. After about ten minutes, Old Guy #2 came shuffling out of the bedroom, looked at me and said something along the lines of "Damn young-in's think they know everything...". With that, he saluted me with his socket wrench and walked out the door. The remaining crew cleaned up and left shortly afterwards.

As I was tossing the mattresses onto the bed frames, I was amazed at how bunk bed technology has evolved. Back when I was a kid, bunk beds were twin-over-twin. The one I bought is full-over-full and is much more sleekly built than the one that I slept on as a kiddo. My doggo indicated her own approval as she jumped onto the bottom bunk and curled up against one of the pillows. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Homemade Gin Kit

This Is NOT A Urine Sample!
I'm a bit envious of my girlfriend and my daughter making batches of Amish friendship bread to give out to their friends. I'd love to be part of the share-crafting, but, experience has shown that letting me bake anything is a recipe for disaster. I had always wanted to dabble in making my own beer, but, since Jim Koch and the Boston Brewing Company achieved perfection with their line of Samuel Adams beers, I figured it was a waste. I had also thought about making my own still-less moonshine after tasting a number of concoctions made by various friends over the years. But, after looking at various recipes, I felt that I didn't yet have the time available to commit to such long-term projects. So, I settled on making homemade gin and bought a kit from Bespoke Post.

The process for making homemade gin is easy enough: You basically take vodka or some other kind of cheap grain alcohol (I used 3/4 pint of a vodka that I got for $5), plop a bunch of juniper berries in it for 24 hours, then drop in some herbals for another 12 hours, strain it, and voila: bathtub gin. For my own process, I  cut up one lemon and one lime and added them to the juniper berries. Thirty-six hours later, the end result looked like my urine when I had that bladder cancer scare two years ago. But, the real question is: Can you drink it?

Well, I didn't go blind when I drank a shot of it straight (for Science!) so that's a start. Gin was never really my thing, so I can't compare it to anything, but, as a straight shot, I'm not a fan. This concoction does, however, make a decent Primm's Cup and a palatable Gin & Tonic (with some Jamaican bitters). 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Garlic Herb Butter Steak & Lobster Tail

Surf and Turf is a classic meal. But, it's also a tough one to cook, owing mainly to the lobster tail. If you don't get the lobster tail cooked just right, you end up eating something that tastes more like rubber than lobster. I've never had the confidence to attempt this meal before, but, thanks to Hello Fresh, I decided to take the plunge with their Garlic Herb Butter Steak & Lobster Tail with Lemony Broccoli & Chive Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes. The meal cost an additional $7.99 per serving. 

The description sounds like something out of a restaurant: No need to make a reservation at a fancy French bistro—bring the white tablecloth vibes to your dinner table with this surf ‘n’ turf dish. Lobster tails are basted with a rich, aromatic garlic herb butter, which is also used to top perfectly seared steaks. The duo’s paired with lemony roasted broccoli, plus an epic twist on your traditional mashed potatoes. Our secret? We blend in butter, chives, and a generous dollop of crème fraîche for ultimate silky goodness. Bon appétit! 

There's a lot going on in this meal. I usually operate pretty well in sets of three, but the 4 items in this meal put off my game a bit. One of the steaks was cut a bit off, so I had some issues cooking it fully. Otherwise, I'd say that the meal turned out quite well. My girlfriend and I both enjoyed it. My only other regret is that I didn't baste the lobster more while cooking it so that it would absorb more of that butter flavor. 
 
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Friday, June 19, 2020

Balsamic Fig Chicken

I made a subtle change yesterday. Instead of Hello Fresh for dinner, I decided to cook one of the meals for lunch. To me, Hello Fresh meals scream "dinner" so much more so than "lunch". So, just to change things up, I cooked Balsamic Fig Chicken With Roasted Potatoes & Lemony Broccoli for our noon meal. 

The description provided by Hello Fresh is pretty typical: We’re big fans of pan sauces because they’re a simple way to add extra flavor to dishes. Here, fig jam, balsamic vinegar, and fresh rosemary mingle with the fond—the crispy bits and drippings left by the chicken. The result is a condiment that you’ll want to drizzle all over your meat and potatoes before swiping up every bit of sweet and savory perfection. 

This took some effort to make, mainly because of the pan sauce. I wasn't ever sure if I had reduced it correctly. But, I was pleased with the end result and my daughter said that it was her favorite Hello Fresh meal so far. I don't know that I'd say that it was my favorite, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. 
 
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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Clovis Sings To A Scammer

Clovis got a call from an insurance scammer who told him that he could get a policy to cover his burial expenses. Clovis said that he isn't dead yet, so he doesn't need burial insurance. Clovis then went on about how he might actually be immortal so why would he need to buy something that he might not actually need? The rep said that Clovis was just lying to himself. Clovis relented and the rep said he wanted to give Clovis a quote. Clovis wondered what kind of quote he was going to get. A quote from a Kurt Vonnegut book?

The rep went into his spiel and said he'd like Clovis to "go on" which Clovis figured meant that he wanted Clovis to perform. So, Clovis did his best impression of Shug Fisher (a la Uncle Pecos from the old Tom and Jerry cartoons) and launched into a rendition of "Froggy Went-A-Courtin' (Crambone!)".

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Crispy Parmesan Chicken

For this week's Hello Fresh meals, I started with something safe: Crispy Parmesan Chicken. Getting a chicken dish from Hello Fresh is a safe choice. Hello Fresh does chicken well, but most of their recipes are just variations on a theme. Take the Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Garlic Herb Couscous & Lemony Roasted Carrots for example. It's very similar to Crispy Monterey Jack Chicken. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's okay to stick with a winner. It's called "comfort food" for a reason. 

I can't say that I bothered to even read the description on this one. Though, in hindsight, it's nothing exciting: Consider plain chicken breasts a thing of the past: in this recipe, the white meat gets gussied up in a gorgeous golden breadcrumb topping with paprika and Parmesan cheese. You’ll roast it and the lemony carrots on the same sheet—once they’re in the oven, the only thing left to do is boil the couscous and toss in the garlic herb butter. Simple, satisfying, and supercharged with flavor—what more could you ask for?

This was an easy meal to make, as it just involved breading some chicken, cutting some carrots and putting them in the oven while boiling the couscous on the stove. I was happy with the taste and the texture of the entire meal, and the chicken tasted particularly good when paired with the couscous. My daughter thought it was a good meal, but was not a fan of the lemon on the carrots. 

 
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Monday, June 15, 2020

I Attended A Wedding During The Pandemic

This weekend, I had the honor of being part of a wedding ceremony for a close friend of mine whom I went to high school and college with. Due to the restrictions on government services brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it's apparently very difficult to get a marriage license in any of the larger Illinois counties. So, the bride and groom opted to get a license in Macoupin County and, the next thing you know, my girlfriend and I are wending our way through the back-roads of Illinois to get to Sunset Lake in Girard, a town of about 2,000 people. We spent the day boating on the lake, cooking out, chasing the dogs  around and just generally having some wholesome, mask-less fun, which is a rare thing for all of us these days.

At Sunset, the small gathering of family and friends congregated at the dock and the ceremony began. It was short and sweet and began with a benediction from myself. Once the bride and groom were officially presented and congratulations were received, my girlfriend and I went off to meet the happy couple in Springfield for dinner and drinks at Obed and Isaac's. It was nice to get out to a "normal" dinner experience amid the current climate. After dinner, we walked down a few blocks and checked in to our rooms at the Inn At 835. My girlfriend and I had a room next to the bride and groom's and we shared a balcony which allowed the four of us to relax and have a few drinks while we mulled over the events of the day.  

It has been a crazy year so far, and it's only half over. We've been through an impeachment trial, Australian brush fires, Brexit, a pandemic, mass protests and riots. Our very way of life has been challenged in so many ways and there is a myriad of different opinions on how to handle those changes. And those opinions tend to boil down to right or left, Republican or Democrat, Trump supporter or rational human being. Whatever side you're on of the National debate, I think we can all agree that, when the chips are down, we all side with love. And I was happy to be a part of one couple's love story this weekend. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Crispy Southwest Corn Fritters

I  admit it: I don't know what a corn fritter is. I know what an apple fritter is: It's a doughnut with cinnamon and chopped apple. But, apparently, a corn fritter isn't a doughnut. But, it's in the doughnut family in that it involves fried batter. I'm told that this sweet and savory dish has its origins in Native American cuisine and was perfected in the Depression era. It involves corn kernels fried in a batter of some sort. Ultimately, I guess a corn fritter has more in common with a potato pancake than it does with a doughnut.  

To my knowledge, I've never had a corn fritter in my life. But, I was in the mood to try something new, and the description from Hello Fresh caught my attention: It’s hard NOT to love eating your vegetables when they’re fritter-fied, aka covered in batter and cooked until perfectly golden. This zesty corn version is as easy as making pancakes, and just as fun to eat! Southwestern spices and tender corn kernels go right into the batter, which you’ll fry until crisp. Paired with roasted sweet potato wedges, a crisp side salad, and plenty of creamy, smoky ranch dressing for dipping—this is a veggie-packed meal for the books.That's just what I wanted, an all veggie based meal. After all, I've been trying to lower my meat intake. But, is a fried corn fritter any better for you than a grilled chicken breast? 

This recipe wasn't difficult to make, though I do think that perhaps my batter was a bit too thick. The first corn fritter in the pan got sacrificed to the kitchen gods, as is tradition. The end result, while edible, didn't wow me. My daughter was unimpressed as well. The sweet potato wedges and the salad were fine as well, but, overall, the entire meal was a loser for me.  
 
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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Firecracker Meatballs

I didn't think much about it while I was choosing, but the second meal this week is a lot like the first. Instead of Southwest chicken over rice, we've got firecracker meatballs. 

I can't remember the last time I had meatballs as the star of an entree. Usually, the're relegated to co-starring status with my spaghetti, and, even then, they're overshadowed by the garlic bread. But the very idea of Firecracker Meatballs with Roasted Green Beans & Sesame Rice sounded interesting, at least. In my mind, I pictured Jim Carey in his Mask persona exclaiming "That's a spicy meat-a-ball-a". The description sounded enticing enough on its own: This recipe is here to blow up everything you think you know about meatballs. All dramatics aside, these meatballs are truly game-changing thanks to a certain onomatopoeic sauce. What exactly is “firecracker,” you ask? Well, mystery asker, it’s a creamy, spicy, sweet, and savory (yes, all those things!) sauce so good, it’ll make your taste buds explode! Once the meatballs are baked, they’re tossed in the magical condiment, then plated atop sesame-seed-flecked rice along with crispy roasted green beans (AKA more things to dip in sauce). Don’t be surprised when you find yourself swiping up every last drop. 

This was another super easy recipe to prepare even though my hands got a bit slimy since I had to roll the meatballs by hand. I swear that my grandmother had some kind of utencil that pressed meatballs and I found myself wishing for that. While I was a huge fan of the end result, my daughter was not nearly as thrilled. I think she expected Italian meatballs and these are much more in-line with the Swedish style. She said she would have preferred a BBQ sauce rather than a firecracker sauce. 
 
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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

I Won A Samuel Adams Cooler

I don't know how many times I've filled out one of those raffle slips in various liquor stores in the vague hope of winning some item that I would never have purchased on my own. When one of my local stores offered up a Samuel Adams Coleman steel belted 54 quart cooler, I just had to put my name in. Well, this week, the old Irish luck kicked in and I got a call asking me to come pick it up. 

I've got more than my fair share of coolers already from the classic Igloo 4 quart all the way up to a 70 quart Yeti knockoff. Did I really need a new cooler? No. And, at a retail price of upwards of $120, I certainly wouldn't have bought this on my own. But, I've got to admit, this is one snazzy cooler that's going to look awesome the next time I have a patio party. 

Samuel Adams Coleman Cooler

Monday, June 8, 2020

Chicken & Guac Burrito Bowls

Hello Fresh is on a big tear lately after their dismissal of spokesperson Lea Michele. They have been offering a $60 off deal spread out through 4 weeks worth of kits for people who are willing to join back up. So, I took the plunge with glee. 

The first box showed up this week and out of the three meals included, we decided to start with Chicken & Guac Burrito Bowls with Long Green Pepper, Salsa Fresca & Hot Sauce Crema. It sounds good, especially with the extended description: Bowls are way past “having a moment.” They’ve become a pillar of our lunches and dinners. Why? It’s simple: everything’s better in a bowl! (Nice knowing you, plates.) But seriously, the customizable combo of carbs, protein, veggies, and a drizzle of delicious sauce cannot be denied. True to form, this Mexican-inspired rendition is fully loaded. Steamy lime rice is topped with spiced chicken, fresh salsa, a tangle of veggies, hot sauce-spiked crema, and of course, a big dollop of guacamole. In our bowl, though, guac is never extra. Sounds, great, right? It's like Chipotle or Qdoba, but at home and without a cashier pushing chips and salsa on me. 

This was super easy to prepare as it just involved cutting up vegetables, mixing sauces, and cooking chicken and rice. The guac and "Southwest spices" came pre-made and packaged. I really liked how this tasted and I'd be very eager to track down ingredients to try making this on my own. I had thought that perhaps the chicken cutlets provided were too small to make a filling meal, but I was wrong. My daughter's only complaint was that she's not a fan of having lime zest in her rice. 
 
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