Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh the Weather Outsides Delicious.

Philadelphia is seeing the second largest snowfall in December ever recorded, look at the table on our back porch, that is a good 18 inches of snow, its up over my knees walking around out there. It has been a couple years since I have been in the snow, and I am loving it. The first thing I did when it started piling high was whip up a batch of some good ol' snow ice cream. Heres how:

You will need
-4 cups snow
-4 Tablespoons milk
-1/4 teaspoon vanilla
-3 Tablespoons sugar

Go get 4 heapin cups of the good powdery stuff right off the top of the snow in a nice big bowl. Add the vanilla, sugar, and lastly the milk. Good substitutions for the milk would be egg nog, which I just tried- delicious, some baileys irish cream perhaps, or an creamy variation you can think of. After all the ingredients are added the powdery snow reacts strangely like flour, it kind of turns into a loose doughy mixture. Just mix it up well and youre done, eat it quick because the integrity deteriorates quickly, though the last few bites when it is just the right amount of melty are always the best. Dont be afraid to experiment, add some cinnamon, chocolate powder, fruit, go crazy. Enjoy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Trans-Siberian Orchestra LIVE!

I am sure that many of you know what the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is and what they are all about. Making Christmas songs rock. Now, this initially seems like a pretty difficult task, one which I thought, in my limited exposure to Trans-Siberian, that they had managed to pull off. They go on a yearly tour around Christmas time, and Philadelphia was lucky enough to be pretty early on the list, just early enough to get your christmas music in before Thanksgiving (woo hoo!). Kari wanted to see them, and I thought it could be good, so I bought 2 tickets and was genuinely excited to go. The day of the concert arrives, and after driving to the Wachovia Center (I wont even say how much I paid for tickets and parking) we walk across the lot and through the crowd adorned in christmas hats and reindeer antlers I realize that I didnt really think about this at all. Did I really do all of this for Christmas music? In general I dont even like christmas music, let alone in the middle of November. I try to keep my hopes up as we take our seats, Kari and I entertained with people watching in the very diverse crowd. The people around us range from 3 to 172 years old and we have fun just observing while Ricky from Better Off Dead (great movie btw) goes up and down the stairs multiple times looking for his seat. The clamor of the crowd is full of excitement as the stage lights up and the emcee walks up on stage to a grateful roar of applause. We are told how the night is going to unfold, with a narrator telling us a christmas story interjected with the rockin Trans Siberian Orchestra. Sweet, lets do this. The narrator comes on, an old black man with a weathered tone and an audible grin, and sets the scene of some stranger going into a bar on a cold winter night. TSO starts into their first song, starting quiet and then... getting louder... and... and... and... oh... thats as loud as it gets. I thought the first two songs were some sort of joke before the concert would actually begin and they were going to wow us with their incredible sound system, but that never happened. Kari and I could carry out a conversation in normal speaking voices for the entire concert, babies 5 rows behind us were drowning out the music when they cried (cant blame them, I was pretty upset too), it was pathetic.

The rest of the concert/story played out with the man in the bar befriending a santa like character that sat by him and following the story that said santa man told. He would tell part of the story, I don't even remember what it was about now, and the last word in a section would be snow, so they would break into "Let It Snow" TSO style. Or something like that. The songs all ended up being the some over done mediocre music played by a bunch of showboating guitar heros headbanging with their long flowing hair, and the rockin violinist doing the same bend over and headbang for 4 seconds then fling hair back and run/dance for 10 seconds, all while "playing" the violin, often over her head or behind her back. The only people with hair less than a foot long on stage were the actual string section, which turned out to be a minor after thought in the concert. Yes, the string section, in the "TSOrchestra", was hardly even acknowledged, they went around to all the guitarists, narrator, pianists, back up singers, lead violinist, all by name and listing accomplishments, pause for applause for each, and then oh, ya, and the 5 members of phillys local orchestra in the dark corner in the back of the stage.

To make up for the less than exciting music, they had the previously mentioned guitar heros and violinist flailing on stage, but also featured dancing backup singers which were also a sad attempt at eye candy, and the most impressive part of the show which was the laser and light display (An interesting side note- they aimed the high powered lasers at the small sections between the sections where nobody would be blinded by them) and the pyrotechnics. The dancers ended up being an exciting repetition of- swing right arm down, swing left arm down, swing right arm out, swing left arm out, even when they were in the lime light center stage. Every song was the same desperate attempts at excitement, and for me just about every attempt was in vain, there were a couple songs that were genuinely exciting, like their best known rendition of Carol of the Bells, complete with fire shooting up with the beat, as well as the demonic sounding O' Fortuna with the entire auditorium lit up with red flames, both real and videos on every screen available. If the entire concert was carried out with the bravado of these few songs, I would have gotten more than I expected, but the few good bits were interlaced with an over hyped plethora of power chords, terrible acoustic originals from the creator of the TSO that put you to sleep (more than one with a Pachelbelian tune), ridiculous stunts (like the mini stage set up in the middle of the audience they were on for 10 minutes and it lifted up into the air and then sat back down)and a sad attempt at a story to give meaning to the whole thing. I think the show was summed up quite well by the character in the story when the old man had finished relating his fantastical tale (whatever it was). The old man asked "Well, did my story entertain you?" and after this story which fueled the whole show and they tried to inject with such excitement, you were expecting the character to say how great and entertaining the story was, however the response came... "It had its charms" and this is how the story was closed. So, was it worth the ticket price? Did it get me into the christmas spirit like it promised it would? Did the concert wow me with its rocking christmas tunes?... It had its charms.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Million Dollar Idea

Everyone has one of those great million dollar ideas. Like the guy who made the pet rock? The guy made a million dollars. Or the "Jump to Conclusions" mat? pure genius! Well we all have these ideas, which inevitably end up just that, an idea. It is rare that... wait... I am sitting in the car with my parents and I just told them what I was writing about, my dad is relating his idea right now: Personal bobble heads. He has a couple different ideas, use a stereo lithography 3D printer to make exact bobbling replicas and hand paint them, or have a stock of general faces and you could personalize the painting. So that is just another example of those ideas that we all have, you are thinking of your million dollar idea right now aren't you? Well, as I was saying, it is rare that anyone actually brings this idea to fruition, and even then the attempts are often swiftly beaten down by the reality of the consumer market.

Every now and then the right idea will surface in the right persons head and they will be one of the rare few who actually tries to make that idea a reality. I am fortunate enough to have one of those few as one of my best friends, and a rare breed they are. It takes a special bit of ingenuity, a gamblers spirit, and a touch of crazy to take that leap. My friend fits that mold, he is actually embarking on a business venture right now, investing thousands of dollars and countless hours into his idea, and I am amazed that he is actually doing it. I know I am not one of those people, I'm never going to do anything with my ideas, so here it is, you knew it was coming, my million dollar ideas.

Just a couple days ago I had this idea, which is what gave me the idea for this post. I was thinking about a friend we met in the Bahamas, Dick from the boat Rio Dulce, and the fact that I owe that man a drink, but how could I buy him one? This led me to my million dollar idea. The Webar (thats web/bar... mixed together... ok the name isnt important). Set up a streaming high quality video of the patrons sitting at the bar and create a color code or something visible to the camera that distinguishes each seat. Allow users to go online and view the streaming images and, heres the kicker, buy drinks for anyone sitting at the bar. They could buy with a credit card from an online menu and specify who it is to be sent to with the color coding, send the drink and a message to go along with it, like, maybe your phone number, maybe your name, the possibilities are endless. You can scout out the scene before you show up to the bar, buy a couple drinks and drop your name with the men/women of your choice and by the time you get there half the work is already done, you already broke the ice, thats the hardest part! Ladies would get all hussied up and show off for the camera to get free drinks, and who knows what else people would do. The bar top could be interactive, enter your name so those online can see, it will tell you when someone bought you a drink, oh man there is so much you could do with it, I'm just thinking up more as I go. You could link up to your Twitter and Facebook and all that crap! And be like, hey, im at the Webar, buy me a drink! It almost seems practical in todays techno driven world, and if nothing else the novelty would be enough to make it a success. And... I could buy a drink for someone no matter how far away they are. The Webar.

This idea is not nearly as exciting, but it is something that I think would be very useful, in fact I would be surprised if it dosnt already exist, though it didnt turn up in a quick google search. Liquid screen protector. A slightly viscous liquid you could apply to your cell phone or ipod screen or whatever that would set and harden into a clear protector over your screen, and if it gets too scratched up and worn out, a special solvent would harmlessly take of the protector completely, leaving you reapply a fresh coat or do whatever you please with your still perfect screen. It would be a simple, universally applicable product with an ever widening market. There would be problems to overcome of course, like getting the product to set without compromising screen clarity, touch screen response, that kind of thing, but things that could be overcome. I know I would buy it.

I have more ideas, but I know I have gone on too long already, if you really want to know, email me, or call my google voice!

haha, and I will be glad to discuss my ideas and yours, maybe we can have an inspiring conversation that will turn us into one of those rare few.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Peters Township HS Reunion

I'm writing this for all the fellow alum who joined me at the PTHS reunion on Saturday. Done in true Peters Township style at the Diesel night club, I wasn't sure how excited I was to attend... heck I wasn't even sure if I was attending, but I ended up going and I really am glad I did.

After graduation we set out to experience the real world and the people who inhabit it. At the time, I thought my graduating class was just your average bunch of kids, we had the go-getters and the lazy, the nerds, the jocks, the bandies, Mike Puchi... And everyone would go out and do their thing, some would succeed, some would fail, we would all just fade into the rest of the world and become just another part of the whole. That's not how it is though. And I didn't realize that until Saturday night. I have experienced the people in the real world, their work ethic, their intelligence, their personal hygiene habits, and I just went with it, its the real world, that is just how people are. But this Saturday I realized that is not just how people are, that's how the average person is, but the people I saw that night are not average. I walked into a room of good people who are ambitious and successful, and I was a little surprised at how glad I was to be there among them. I found myself talking to people that I hadn't spoken a word to since high school, as I am sure many people did, and I actually cared, I wanted to hear what they have done in the last 5 years and it is because they are good people who actually have something say, I want to hear what they are doing because they are actually doing something. Had they changed since graduation? No, not a bit, I just didn't appreciate it until it was put into perspective by reality.

There is nothing more that can be asked of you than to do something with the lives you have been given, and you are doing it, so, here's to you, PTHS class of '04, keep doing it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bad and Awesome

I started my last post with disappointing news that I would not be going on the sailing trip. A fact that is even more depressing as I follow my brothers progress with the boat he is crewing on and the amazing experiences he is having, like this nonsensical awesomeness... he got pictures of sharks jumping out of the water... I didnt even know awesome got that awesome. I regret that I have even more disappointments this time as well. I have been planning on moving to San Diego with Kari where she got placement for fieldwork for three months, there were contracts signed, plans were made, and then last week they called and told her that they cannot afford to take her in as a (non-paid)student... so after all of her classmates have all of their placements figured out, she is back out again looking for somewhere that will take her in. There are prospects in Texas, Arizona, Boston, Virginia, all over the place, but... who knows what will happen. I am definitely moving back to Pittsburgh in December, though even that has been tainted with a bit of misfortune. I was supposed to be moving into a house with a few of my friends when a current resident moved to Colorado, but turns out the guy decided to be all ambitious and go to medical school instead of taking the nursing job in Colorado. So we have no room at the house and are mow looking for apartments around the area. It wont be too hard to find something, and it will be nice to live without roommates, Kari wasn't too excited about living with 5 other guys anyway.

The last few weeks I have been transforming into a nocturnal creature due to my work schedule, and it is great. We have started to work overnights in preparation for the biggest day of the year, Black Friday, or as it is officially called by Toys-R-Us, Green Friday, because they make so much money. My work nights are 10pm to 6am and I try to keep a similar sleep schedule when I am not working also, so I am up till at least 6 every day. A lot of people would look at this as a big pain, but i actually kinda like it, plus I get a whopping $1 an hour extra. I get up some time between 12 and 4, so I have time to do all the stuff that has to be done during the day, but then most of my waking hours are during the night. They say that nothing good happens after midnight, but I beg to differ. I have always been most productive after the rest of the world is asleep, I have written about that before. The things to do at night are far fewer, and therefor produce fewer distractions, I have nothing better to do than work on my resume (click that link there and not only can you see my resume, but you can edit it! Ah the power and wisdom of google), or do some dishes, or maybe write a blog.

OK, so I just got back from work, and another benefit of being out late, you get to experience all the crazys that inhabit the night. For example. I went out for food during our "lunch" break (interestingly they call it a lunch break no matter when you are working, in this case the break is at 2am) and when I came back, my coworker and I were walking through the parking lot when the sound of screeching tires caught our attention. We look over to see a car 30 feet away, maybe a Dodge Stratus, careening over the curb of the street that goes by the store at a good 40 mph. It was airborne as it flew over the 20 feet of grassy hill between the street and the parking lot, landing in a spray of shrubbery and dirt as it landed in the landscaping around the parking lot, crunched over the concrete barriers at the front of the parking spaces, its tires flattened by now it went sideways across the lot, hitting off the barriers in the spaces opposite, almost running into the building, at this point I expected things to stop, a driver who had been sleeping at the wheel to get out shaken... but they kept going, burning metal as the rims spun on the pavement, thankfully headed away from us towards the back of the store, they slid around the back and out of sight just as we heard another set of screeching tires, this time accompanied by a siren. The cop ripped through the side lot (opting to take the entrance to the lot that was 10 feet before the spot where the chasee had decided he wanted to go through) after the guy, and I hurried over to the other side of the store to see the rear entrance where they would have exited the lot, I got there in time to see that the car had lost control when it tried to make the turn out of the lot on flat tires and wound up nose hard into the embankment across the street. The cop was out, gun drawn, yelling at people to get on the ground and a woman was screaming, and then... I went back in to the store eat the panini I just bought. After relating the story to the rest of the crew in the break room, they went out to have a look at the damage done, mostly just to the shrubs that were now scattered on the lot, and watch the arrests, there were swarms of cops cars within a few minutes patrolling the area, which must have meant that someone got away, so I made sure I locked my car. I will be checking the news to figure out what the deal was, but for me that made for the most exciting night of work at Toys-R-Us I will ever have.

Well that was fun.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Google Voice

Hey internet, look at this, Google voice, you link your phone numbers to a google number you pick and google works their magic to make stuff awesome, but really what you need to know is that you pick your own phone number, and the good ones will go fast. I got 754 BRENDOR, so... mines awesome, but act now if you want a good one.

So you will go request an invite if you want to keep up your intercred, and if you need me, you can get me at 754 brendor.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'm All Over It

Okay, so the boat thing didnt happen. The frog said he wanted to leave this week, I told him I would look into travel options and whatnot and call him monday, it actually seemed like it was going to happen, and... his number was out of service. Must have gone back to frogland. Oh well.

The point of this post is really to express my admiration for the musical genius that is Jamie Cullum. A friend introduced me to him in high school after his first US release- Twentysomething. I was instantly enamored with his sound, he showed songs that I already knew from a totally different angle, and his originals sucked me in with their catchy melodies and jazzy beats. He does covers that you would never expect, like Pharell's rap crappin hip hoppin "Frontin", and totally spins it, jazzes it up, and turns it into something that is good, no, great. Twentysomething contains covers of some songs of today, like the aforementioned "Frontin" and Radiohead's "High and Dry", but also adds a little pop to some songs from the past, like Frank Sinatra's "I Get a Kick Out of You" and the classic "Singin' in the Rain". Twentysomething is not even why I am writing this, I should move on.

A couple of years after Twentysomething's release, the pending release of his second album "Catching Tales" got me excited, though I was skeptical that it could get any better than Twentysomething. The release of the first single "London Skies" fueled my concern that I would be dissapointed my the album, and upon its full release my concern was confirmed. Now dont get me wrong, the music is great, I still love it and many say it was an improvement, it just wasn't for me, didnt suck me in, lost some of the jazz i think. Just after the release I went to see Jamie play to a sold out Byham Theatre in Pittsburgh and he was incredible, full of energy, it was amazing to see the genius just oozing out of him on stage. Any doubt I had was gone. Then there was nothing for 4 years except little updates that he was working on some things, a rogue show now and then, some radio interviews, and a pretty sweet collaboration with Clint Eastwood on Gran Torino which got him a Golden Gldobe nomination for best original composition. He finally announced the release of his new album "The Pursuit" and went on tour, one stop being New York's Carnegie Hall, which I attended and it was awesome, just got me more excited for the new album.

Afraid that Jamie's music was headed in the wrong direction for me, The Pursuit had potential to turn me into one of those snooty "I like his old stuff" people. The first single "I'm All Over It" was released a couple weeks ago... I am so happy. It brought back all the excitement and drew me in just like Twentysomething did. He released the video which is crazy cool, and then, in accordance with his obsession with twitter, did a live video broadcast for his twitter followers. The broadcast is probably the best example of just how good he is at what he does. When an album is released it could be the product of so many alterations and polishing that it sounds nothing like the original recording. Jamie doesn't need polishing, and he proves it. Twentysomething was recorded and mixed on analog tape, meaning almost straight from the instruments and his voice to print, and this live twitter show is another example. Jamie sets up a mic and a webcam in his kitchen, and in perhaps the most informal situation possible, cranks out some damn good music, this might be more impressive than anything else I could show you, a recording some girl from Singapore did of her laptop playing the show Jamie did in his kitchen, broadcasting over twitter, watch it, really. In the broadcast he asked for requests, saying that he is sure that some people have gotten ahold of the new album even though it is not to be released until next year... which fueled me in a search through the dark alleys of the internet, which turned out to be pretty easy, and I am now listening to the full album. In all of its glory. Jamie has done it again, injected the new and old with his jazzy flavor while continuing to progress his style, produced some originals that will be played over and over, and created an album that could appeal to you, your grandma, the stinky guy at work, and most importantly, me. Thanks Jamie. You rule.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stumbling Along

Still in philly. Working at Toys-R-Us. It isn't exactly exciting, but it is satisfying to be working again, no matter what it is. I am enjoying my time, and in an attempt to take advantage of my current situation I am in contact with a guy who just bought a boat and needs it delivered to Florida from Connecticut. This might be the only job I will ever have that I can go up to the store manager and ask for a month off so I can go sail a boat to Florida and get a "yes" without hesitation. He did say he would really rather I didnt go, but thats as much resistance as I have seen. A while back I posted my profile on a crew finder website, not really thinking anything would come of it, as there are thousands of profiles on there. I had forgotten about it until about a month ago when I got a message from a guy who just bought a boat in Connecticut and needs it delivered to Florida. He lives in France and makes a living as a chef on yachts. It sounds great and he seemed like he had at least a basic knowledge of cruising and would kind of know what is going on. He is clueless...

I have talked on the phone with him a few times and he just gets more and more confused every time. We were originally supposed to leave on the 15th, but after his arrival in the US on the 2nd I guess he realized he had much more to do than he thought, and every call after that he has become more and more hopeless, to the point that I think that if I dont take it upon myself and go up and take the boat out of the slip myself, he might just stall until its too late. Everyone keeps telling me this is a bad idea... I am going to end up sodomized and finely chopped into chum by a crazy french chef... whatever, I miss the ocean, and I think he seems ok. It is kind of serving as a justification to me that I can go off sailing and it dosnt really affect anyone (except the less than thrilled Kari), makes my less than ideal situation worth it, in my head.

So other than that, theres not a lot going on in my life, not a lot to write about. Work is fairly routine, the most interesting about it is the people, the guys that work in the storeroom with me are pretty cool, but there is of course the requisite crazy. Unloading the truck one day I found myself in a conversation with one of the requisites about the reptilian overlords, the boy of wonder, Friday night mudwrestling and Saturday night monster trucks. After a contemplative silence, me going back over the absurd stream of consciousness pouring from this mans mouth, him, brewing his next profound insight, he lifts a box, looks at me and pauses as it clunks onto the rollers, our eyes locked "How well do you think the average human can handle the truth?", and goes on with his business, leaving me to marinade a bit in the broth of that insight. Thats pretty much how every interaction goes with him, lots of questions about the establishment, whether they care, why you care, if anyone cares, "do you consider yourself a good person" "sometimes I dont know if i am a person at all", "Good morning" "thats what they want you to think".

I would like to take this time to do a little spot for something that has taken up a lot of my time the past few years. A program called StumbleUpon (I just got lost for a good 20 minutes just by going to the page to get the link). They have over 8.5 million subscribers, so I am sure that some of you are already stumbling away your time like me, but for those who have not discovered StumbleUpon, tread carefully. This is no joke, you will waste time, it is an absolute guarantee, if you are have an addictive personality, very little free time, no self restraint, cataracts, back problems, are or may become pregnant, well then this is not for you. StumbleUpon is a simple idea, you supply them with interests, a quick selection of the columns of my interests gives : Archaeology Astrology Astronomy Gambling Genetics Geography Geoscience Psychics Puzzles Quizzes Racquetball. And after you supply them with a list of interests, they supply you with a button. And when you click that button a website comes up that others in the 8 million subscribers thought was interesting and that you would be interested in it as well. Its that simple. They of course go far beyond that by giving you a thumbs up and thumbs down button, giving you suggested interests to expand into depending on what thumbs you give, allowing you to network with other users, etc. etc. I have given a thumbs up to 351 sites and they can all be seen in my profile, I have worked long and hard on that list. So if you are a stumbler, add me as a friend, maybe i will share things with you, and if you are not, join us in our time wasting ventures into the interwebs.

Another amazing program. Picasa. Have you seen the new facial recognition feature? You give it one sample of a persons face and it goes off and finds more pictures of them, its incredible, I have tagged hundreds of pictures with peoples faces with hardly any effort, and it is remarkably accurate, in 100 suggestions of myself, the only inaccuracy was that in one picture it thought that Alan was me, a very forgivable offense. It tags them in sync with your google address book, and I dont even know what it can do from there. Google, you amaze me.

To a tree, who in the proper conditions could live an infinite amount of years, struggling with disease and damage day after day towards infinity, the agony of death must be just that much more devastating with so much unrealized potential.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Random Bag of Crap. Woot!

Now, I feel a little strange about posting this on here, just because I don't know if all of you really appreciate the magnitude of this accomplishment, or at least the significance it has for me. Some of my closest friends and family know how much this means to me, and I know you are all happy for me and I thank you. So anyway, you must be wondering what is such a big deal. It is a Random Bag of Crap (or BOC, as we Wooters call it (or Bandolier of Carrots, Bulgarian Olympic Committee, Blinged-Out Cabbage, etc (you get it))). Now that doesn't sound exciting, and they make every effort at to make it unexciting, but the orders flood in at an incredible pace. Wooters wait for this item, hitting the refresh page over and over when a new item is about to arrive, and when one of these babys pop up, it is a scramble to get through the ordering process before the servers go down and/or all of the BOCs are sold. They sell around 2000 every time, and it is near impossible to click your way into getting one, as evidenced by the stats they put out after every woot item, here showing a blistering .089 seconds between orders. So why this fervor for a box of self-proclaimed "crap". Well woot has a new deal on something every day, they buy out excess and refurbs and things like that from other wholesalers for cheap and then put it on for a great price, this leaves them with some spare items sitting around, either too few to list, too damaged to sell, to crappy to put a price on, or who knows what else, and all of this randomness culminates in the BOC. BOCs have been known to house Nintendo Wiis, Xboxes, SLR digital cameras... or broken RC cars, obscure action figures, loads of cheap random cases, useless gadgets, anything imaginable really, and for $8 shipped, it is well wirth the gamble. I have been trying for years, literally years, to get one, and the last wootoff, on September 25th, was finally my time.
Order pace: 0m 0.089s
Woot wage: $122,049.53
Woots sold: 1499

I resisted the urge to post about this as soon as I got it, because I know the biggest question would be, well, what is in it. So I waited, and just a few minutes ago the mailman buzzed my apartment and I knew what was in store for me, so I bounded down the stairs and gazed with delight upon the hefty box that awaited. After a quick pic to text to friends and family, I opened her up and was shocked by the quantity of crap that stared back at me from inside the box. I started digging.

2 Smith and Wesson Galaxy 3 LED flashlights, with blue LEDs
1 Xpal iPower Power on the Go for the iPhone
1 Thermor wireless indoor/outdoor weather station with forecasting technology
1 DXG digital camcorder with MP3 player and 5.1MP digital camera capabilities
1 set of Sansa earbuds (as well as one pair with the camcorder)
2 EzyFlare emergency electronic flares
1 Energizer Energi To Go iPod spare battery pack
1 white cheese grater thing that I have not figured out yet
5 Excalibur vinyl bags roughly 18x12 inches with picture of scary red horse head
3 Daiwa bags, roughly 9x12 inches with a clip, a pouch, and a single pen pocket
1 horribly cheap looking air pressure gauge with pocket clip

So there it all is, it holds true to its name, and it was everything I had hoped and dreamed about and more. I will go online and try to figure out the value of my crap when I get back from work, but I think everyone can agree it was worth the $8 and the effort. Right?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Next to a Dream, Be a Laugher

Last night I lay in bed restless, as inevitably happens because I try to get to bed reasonably early but sleep in every morning unreasonably late. This attempt to force sleep sometimes brings on a state of mind with which I am sure a lot of you are familiar. You lay there thinking about all kinds of random things, you try to stop thinking and get to sleep but your mind goes on without your permission anyway. And then, once your mind starts to give in to the siren song of sleep just a little, your normal thoughts start to meld into the fantasism of the dream world and your rational thoughts turn into completely irrational situations. The worst (best) time for this to occur is when you start to travel to the Land of Nod in the middle of a lecture. You still hear what is going on but it gets transformed somewhere in your half dream state and you get the urge to yell out ridiculous things that make so much sense but then when you jolt into full awakeness because you are about to yell out this packet of brilliance you realize the insanity that was about to sprout from your mouth and catch yourself just in time to not make more of a fool of yourself, though everyone is already looking at you because you just had a miniature seizure when you landed back on earth, probably for the 15th (and not the last) time that class. I have found myself in this situation just a few times, and have never given in to the urges of the dream world, but you have all either seen or heard of it happening. The poor kid who spouts out something about Macbeth being a fish or some such nonsense. Or maybe that just happens in movies.
Ok, I didnt plan on going there at all, that just kind of came out, what I was planning on writing about was laughing, because in my thoughts, for some reason, I thought about the tent we borrowed from Kari's Pap. I was thinking I hoped I got it dry enough the keep stored away and hoped her Pap wouldnt be put out by my packing job or something. And when I thought of him, the thought that came to mind was him laughing. For some reason that intrigued me... I intrigued myself I guess... so I thought on it more. I thought of my own Grandad, he was laughing. Papa was laughing. My brother was laughing, my friends were laughing. Maybe it is just me, but I realize that when I am mentally recalling someone, their laugh is the clearest image in my head, maybe its because it is linked with a strong emotion, a good emotion, and always has a distinctive sound, it seems like a laugh would be the best way to remember someone, maybe we are programmed to remember like that. I think you can tell a lot from someones laugh, whether it is genuine or forced, outgoing or reserved, whether it goes on just a little to long, or I guess whether it exists at all. While writing this I have been thinking about people, and I dont have a laugh on file for everyone. Maybe I just forget, or maybe some people are just better remembered otherwise, maybe I dont remember those forced, reserved laughs, or maybe some people just dont laugh enough.

In this world I have just created where people are split into being remembered with a laugh or without, I think I surround myself with laughers, and I think I am myself a laugher for most people. It is important to me to be a laugher and its something everyone could strive for. Be genuine, be happy, let it out, and thats how you will be remembered. Be a laugher.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ungainfully Employed: Toys-R-Me

So, I am currently in the car on my way to Pittsburgh, my third trip in three weeks to get out of philly. My philly getaway last week was a camping trip to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. My friends Jon, Julie, Steve and Jess joined Kari and I for Labor day. Camping and beachin with a good group of friends. Hard to beat that. I need to make some friends in philly, I am at a point at my new place that I am getting bored with just me and my roommates, but I am not motivated enough to go out and actively try to make some new friends since I will only be here a few months. I talked to a guy about a weekly poker game at the apartment complex I am in and it sounds like a handful of old guys that sit around and play 7 card stud for quarters. So thats pretty awesome, I will be there next week. Maybe I will make some money... a call from my lawyer last week made me think that money might be a more pressing issue than I had thought. Apparently they didnt forget about the 75,000 dollars in hospital bills floating around. I cant believe this crap is still going on. Just leave me alone with my money. Well... their money. Just leave me alone.

And also on that note, I got me a job! At Toys-R-Us! I had to pull some strings, but I got an interview. I showed up and was directed to the break room, where 4 others were waiting for the group interview also. So it was me, Brian, an 18 year old kid who dropped out of school when he was 13, "was not good with people" and usually slept in till 5 or 6 pm, and told this all to our interviewer, Emily, a 16 year old cheerleader who needs more spending money, Rebecca, a 19 year old mother of one who said nothing but "I don't know" the entire interview, and Caitlin a 20 year old girl who just started school at a local university. Spoiler alert: if you are planning on interviewing at Toys R Us in the near future, this may ruin the experience for you, and it is definitely cheating.

They start off by having everyone say their name and describe themselves with an adjective that starts with the same letter as their name. I started off with a moment of brilliance (oh brilliant would have been good too) with the word benevolent. after another minute or so of pondering, nobody else could think of anything for themselves, finally Caitlin chimed in with Cute Caitlin, and nobody else came up with anything for a while, the interviewer started asking for anything that started with their middle or last name letters too and brian finally came up with Fun from his last name, and then after a few more minutes he helped out the other two speechless girls with Joyful and Righteous. Off to a good start. For the next exercise they brought in 5 random toys and had us stand up and sell them to the group. I got Call of Duty: World of War. Brian was pissed I got the easy one. After a good deal of mumbling and "I dont knows" from the others when the interviewer asked such difficult questions as "Would you recommend the slingshot spongebob for my one year old?" (which brian insisted would be fine) we were ready to move on to the final exercise. We were paired up and found out about our partners and then tried to convince the interviewer to hire them. Another bombardment of "I dont know"s, though I think I did Cute Caitlin justice. For the finale we were given a "trophy" which was a bop-it game, and gave an acceptance speech for the job pretending we got it. I stood up with a pained expression, some sniffles and an embarrassed look away from the crowd and confessed "I promised myself I wouldnt cry", but I pulled it together long enough to thank my fellow interviewees and interviewers (working in that my interviewer Ilene's name was beautiful and is my grandmothers name also) and some other junk. This reminds me of another momentof interview brilliance I forgot to mention before. At my Cutco interview we were asked to give 3 words to describe ourselves, I said Intelligent, Modest, and AWESOME. She didnt get my joke and wrote it down, I let it go. We were then called into another room individually and told if we got the job. Brian came out and gave us a thumbs down and a raspberry and I didnt see the other three, I was the last one in and correctly guessed that they hired me, caitlin, and cheerleader. So I start within the week, unloading trucks, working the cashier, the sales floor, look out Toys R Us, here I come...

Some random thoughts: Lime Gatoraid Rain tastes like melted green ice pops, it is delicious. A real man always has extra room in his luggage. I just held my breath through both Blue Mountain tunnels in a row. whew. almost passed out. A law abiding citizen always uses turn signals. Nobody is going to steal your shopping cart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

You wish you lived in Pennsylvania

Well, good news, I am officially a PA resident once again. I have moved into a new apartment in Bensalem, in northeast philly. I have been keeping myself busy looking for a job the past couple weeks, with depressingly poor results. I have applied to a ridiculous amount of jobs, finding them on craigslist, the paper, roaming the streets. I have only gotten 3 calls from all those applications, one was from a "balloon artist", seriously, I applied to be a balloon artist, and at $10 an hour I got that nonsense out of the way, another call back was from Vector Marketing. There are probably some of you out there who know what that means already, well, I didnt know what that meant, all I knew was that I got a call back from a marketing firm to do customer service work and she told me to dress nice for the interview. I show up to a little office complex and enter a room with 8 other people sitting clueless at a table making small talk. Two of them were driven there by their parents. The rest were a mish-mash of ethnicity, age, and sanity. I got practically laughed at when I said I had a college degree. She started giving a presentation about the job and I was already feeling out of place... then I saw the word Cutco. It all went downhill from there. After sitting through almost an hour about how to sell knives and how their pyramid scheme was your chance for great success, I left with my head held low. I was one of the lucky 2 people to get a call back later that day, and I had to respectfully decline. I thought about it though. Thats how desperate I am. I considered selling Cutco and being a balloon artist. I currently have a pretty promising prospect at a valeting job, going back for interview #2 today, and a friend on my new soccer team said his wife can get me a job at toys-r-us. So, still slightly depressing, but hey, its work. And I recently put out some applications for some research positions, so hopefully those will play out.

And on a happier note, and one of the reasons I need that job, I just bought my first car and dang is she a beaut. It is a 2003 Jetta, charcoal grey, with black Motegi 17" spoke rims, and it is immaculate. The guy who sold it took care of it with an intensity that it will never experience again in the hands of its new owner, and it shows, without a flaw on the interior or exterior. All I have is the picture from the ad, but I will put some more up in the near future.

The move to a new apartment has gone pretty well, the only downside to the whole thing is... we are living in a den. After much debating and deal making, we decided that we would move into Brooke's second bedroom until December when we go back to Pittsburgh. Turns out that she lost the 2 bedroom she wanted and all that was left was a one bedroom with a den, which we agreed to stay in, maybe ignorantly. So Kari and I now live in Brooke's 8x9 foot den, and it is working out quite well. Somehow. The complex owns a marina and I had hoped to bring my dinghy up to keep there, but the guy told me I have to pay $60/foot even for a 7 foot tender... so sadly the dinghy remains in Grandad's garage in NC. I guess that the boater hospitality I had experienced in my previous journeys doesnt exist everywhere.

So, other than job searching and car buying, I joined a soccer team. Spruce Goose FC! And we just started practice, it seems like it will be a good time. And hey, thanks for the compliments on my guacamole recipe, with such a positive response, it is good incentive to get some more recipes up, so look for some in the future.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Avocado, to some people you are holy.

Many of you who know me know that I enjoy a little adventure, and that the adventure does not stop in the kitchen. When I cook, I have fun with it, and over the years I have learned to turn that fun into something palatable, even delicious. When I cook I do it different every time. I have developed some vague guidelines, and developed some skill in getting things to turn out like I want them, like sauces, marinades and whatnot. Many of my dishes have been met with great accolades from my guinea pigs, and of them all, I dont think any have been accepted as unanimously as a good batch of guacamole. Over the past year, guacamole has been a common feature in my creations, it was a pleasant surprise when I found all of the essential ingredients in the market in the Bahamas, so it was often on the menu. The key to good guacamole is to pick the right avocados and to use them at the peak of their ripeness, just the right amount of squish. I like to use hass variety. The second most important ingredient is the cilantro, use fresh stuff and de-stem it as best you can, if you are going to use dried cilantro, you might as well use dried avocado, and they dont even make that, so just stop. Here is the recipe:

2 large hass (3 might be necessary) or 1 large Florida avocado (see below, the big smooth skinned ones... no good)
3 T lime juice, or half a lime
1/2 t chili pepper
1/8 t cumin
dash of parika
1/4 c fresh cilantro chopped (I love cilantro, you may want to use a little less)
1/4 c chopped onion
1/3 t seasoned salt
1/2 t salt, preferrably kosher or sea salt
1/4 t fresh cracked pepper
1 small tomato, seeded, chopped
some hot pepper, see below

Optional but highly recommended additions
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/8 c banana pepper diced
splash of EVOO
splash of Tabasco sauce
dash of garlic powder or a minced garlic clove

For the hot pepper, use 1 jalapeno for some kick, some seeded pablano for the weak of tongue, or for some extra kick, a habanero will do the trick, or the Bahamian goat pepper will spice up the guac with a mere square centimeter of the insanely spicey fruit. And the banana pepper adds some great flavor, once you use it you will be missing it every time you have bananaless guac after that. If I get a particularly good avocado, I like to chop it pretty rough, if the flavor can hold strong with a big chunk of pure avocado goodness, you have to embrace that, you can make a sort of guacasalsa with nice rough cut on the tomato and onion as well. Of course, all of this is subject to your own tastes, and actually I totally guessed on all of it, having just made it in a kitchen with absolutely no real measuring devices, I will probably come back and tweak the recipe here and there later. Good luck, I will leave you with a little ditty, original artist unknown, popularized my my father in the produce section of every supermarket he has ever entered.

Avocado, to some people you are holy, but you're just guacamole to me.

Edit: A few people have made the recipe and said it is great, thanks! I just wanted to add a couple comments. I forgot to stress the importance of letting the finished guac sit for a while before consumption, an hour or so at least, it helps to let the flavors meld. Also, when storing it, use saran wrap and press it so it is actually touching the top of the guac, removing all air, this keeps it from oxidizing and browning. And I just made a batch with a florida avocado which didnt turn out as well as it had in the past, but the only time I had ever used it before was when I bought it at a little street side produce vendor actually in Florida, so I may be spoiled. The one I bought here was strangely sweet and too watery, I think that I will only recommend the larger florida avocado if you are actually in Florida.

Friday, July 17, 2009

One Billion Animal Crackers

Our days in Vegas got my friends and I on a constant gambling rush. To fill in the gaps between stints at the tables, we played a game taught to us by Chris. The rules of the game: One person is asked a question that has a numerical answer, one that the answer is not definitely known and preferably that cannot be estimated with great accuracy. For instance, we asked questions like how many gallons are in the pool at the Paris, how many grams does a Ford Focus weigh, things like that. The estimator writes down the answer and his work is done. The others in the group then begin bidding on the number they think the estimator estimated. Bidding starts at, say, 10,000 gallons, if someone else thinks the number is higher, they up the bid, 20,000 gallons, 25, 30, 40, and it keeps going up until nobody wants to go any higher. At this point the real number is revealed and if it is indeed higher than the highest bidders number, then everyone owes that person (we played $1), if the actual number is lower than the highest bidders number, then the high bidder owes everyone else.
We chose zack to be our estimator, just because we knew he would give us some interesting answers. We were not dissapointed.

The Eiffel Tower is 7,500 feet tall
There are 23 million platypuses in the world
There are less than a million white people in Africa
There are 1 billion animal crackers eaten every day

So, ya the game is a good time, have fun with it.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I sat with a man named Bill on the flight out of Pittsburgh, it was his first time flying on an airplane. He is 68 years old. Bill works in the oil fields and was sent out of Oklahoma to Fayetteville PA to check out some work going on there. What do you call a funeral in Oklahoma? Karaoke. Frightened by his fathers bout with Alzheimer's, he finds comfort in the fact that he has a great memory, especially for some things, like jokes. He can remember any joke with detail, where he heard it, who told it to him, so well even that a few times he has told a friend a joke that he heard from them and they will laugh like they never heard it and ask where he learned that one. His brother told him the Karaoke joke. His oldest son died in a car accident in '91, his wife died of cancer in '99, his youngest hung himself in March. He still has 6 surviving sons and a daughter. He had lots more jokes. I wish I had the memory for them that he does.

Dallas to Vegas. I sat next to the reason so many people hate America. She was the incarnation of what I imagine maybe your typical European would think about when you say American housewife. Overweight with a pink frilly blouse on, a handbag that was probably a top of the line knock off bought by her also overweight husband, who looked like he was terrible at golf even though he plays a lot. I really am not a judgemental person usually, but I hated these people after seeing them for 4 seconds. She ordered a bottle of Aquafina soon after sitting down, not just water, but Aquafina, but she supposed it would be allright if they brought her another kind. Even after proving their imminent mundaneity, I put the bait out for a conversation by making a comment about the circular crops that she seemed so interested in and kept leaning over to see. She broke into a conversation about her facebook farmland and my brian turned off. I have no idea what happened for the next half hour or so, but I am fairly certain she kept talking about facebook. The rest of the trip was full of insightful comments like "there is another plane down there", "oh we are in the dessert now", "oh I can see cars ("honey you cant see cars from up here") oh, no those arent cars", and as we descend in altitude and are obviously flying over houses in the Vegas suburbs "those must be houses!" "I can see cars now!". It only made landing in Vegas that much sweeter.

On the trip in, my friend Chris asked if I would back him, giving 10% of his $1000 tournament buy in in exchange for 10% of the winnings. The kid is the best tournament poker player I know, so I went for it. He was playing in the tournament when we landed and Zack and I went to see him, which left me in the poker room with Zack and we both sat at a $1-3 table. The poker room in Ceaser's is possibly the toughest in the strip, maybe with the exception of the Rio, which is full of spillover from the WSOP main event, and I was sitting down at a real poker table for the first time in a lonnnnng time. I lost $500 my first 5 hours in Vegas. And then Chris tanked his well earned above average stack of 400,000 on an epic bluff, the same way I lost most of my money, so I certainly cannot get mad, he played well. So 4 hours at a poker table and I did not see a single hand better than 2 pair. I was not playing my best poker ever, but my aggressive style requires that I actually make a hand every now and then. If I make a big bluff and get caught in it, I can make that pay off later when a player makes a loose call thinking that I am bluffing. Well I can't capitalize on those loose calls if I dont have a hand that can beat anyone. To give you an idea of the crap for cards I was getting, I lost $400 in two hands, the two times I got 2 pair all day, the first I looked at K 10, both spades, the best hand I had seen all day, and it checks around the table so I check in late position hoping for big things on the flop. flop comes A K 10 rainbow and I am loving it. nobody raised preflop so I cant be facing any pocket pairs hitting trips or AK, maybe I should be scared of A 10. I raise, he reraises, I go all in, he shows AK. Whatever. And I lost a couple other big bluffs, and like I said I never got a chance to get paid from them. Well after that disaster I wasnt sure what I was going to do for the rest of the trip if gambling was going to treat me like that. Luckily I found my calling in a little game called War. What is it good for? Making lots of money.

We saw the table in the Paris hotel where we were staying, a big bright sign saying Casino War, and we had to figure out if they were actually playing the ol' classic for money. Turns out they are serious. I sat with $20 or so, a $5 minimum bet, the dealer doles out a card face up to each player, and, perhaps with a little dramatic flourish, he flips his own card. His is higher he takes your money, yours is higher you double up. For serious. And if you go to war, you match your bet and each gets another card, if you win, you win your original bet, if you tie again, you get double! And that is how I turned my luck around. for the first 2 days we sat at the war table for a bit every time we went through the casino and I didnt lose a single time for 2 days. It made no sense. I finally lost when I ventured out of the Paris and played at O'sheas, I lost $100, put up another $100 and lost 90 of it, I must have been off my game. I recalculated my strategies and turned my $10 back into 150, and when i stood up with that 150 I saw the roulette table had a streak of 7 reds in a row, surely it would hit black next time right? Apparently I was not the only one thinking this, because as I go to put down 50, there is a rush to the table, people putting everything they have on black. The little 8x3 inch black square was packed full of $5 $25 $100 dollar chips, and spirits were high as everyone was confident that black was sure to hit. She flicks the ball and gives the wheel a spin... a bit too hard... the ball was bouncing around on the wheel for something like 17 years and finally it tinkers to a hault. On red. The dejected gamblers sulk away, having put everything on the table. I however, am determined to get my $50 back. $100 more on black. Again she spins that wheel just a little too fast and just after my 60th birthday, the ball rests. On red. The rest of the tenacious who were smart enough to keep some of their bankroll in their pocket slink into the forest of slot machines. I am not losing my money. $200 on black. Red has now hit 9 times in a row. It can't hit 10 can it? Is that even possible? After the pit boss tells her to slow down the wheel, she flicks the ball into motion, and as it orbits the wheel, I realize it is possible, that ball does not know where it landed last time, I just put $200 on a 49% chance of winning. Again the ball rests. Of the original ambitious group, I alone remain, and along with a few newcomers, we watch as the wheel spins around, bringing that ivory little ball into view, resting in a bed of black. With a smile I took my 400 and walked.

A friend who was watching the roulette game play out told me I have great affects. That might be the best compliment I have ever received, she is a psychologist. I do not want to talk too much about gambling, but it is kind of the main reason for going to Vegas, the main reason Vegas exists really, so I have just a little more to say. I tried my luck at the poker table a few more times, probably spending another 4 hours or so playing, and in my entire time at the table i still saw nothing better than 2 pair. I was able to bluff my way into a profit once and I walked away even after about an hour of play another time, and I dropped 100 one night when everyone else was dancing at a club, though I don't consider that a loss really, I think it is worth $100 to get out of dancing. After such terrible luck, I swore off poker for a couple days and it wasnt until the last day that I sat back down at the table. I saw off Chris and Zack to their plane at 1 pm and had 12 hours till mine left, so I thought I would take another crack at the poker table. I sat at the Flamingo and play was going pretty well, I even hit better than two pair! Twice! It was great! until one hand... I was up about $50 to $250 and had A 10 to give me top pair, top kicker on a 10 7 4 flop. This old guy who had been trying to bully me around all night raised the flop 15, I doubled his raise, and he went all in on top of me, he had me covered so it put me in for around $230. After little deliberation I called, the guy showed his bluff, flipping KQ, and I was comfortable with my 10s. Flop came a K, I am now beat. River blanked and there goes my money. And just to add insult to the gross display of luck, the dealer pushed all the chips my way, thinking somehow that I had a pair of aces, so I got a good look at what was rightfully mine before her evil mistake was pointed out by everyone at the table. I was playing some good poker, and I was not ready to call it quits, so I put another 200 down at the table. I immediately started rakeing in the pots. There was an obnoxious lady at the table who would not stop giving me her money. It was all little 30, 40 dollar pots, but it was adding up, and her hatred for me culminated in one hand where her pocket Qs met my pocket Ks and I took her for all she was worth. It wasnt luck, she was just a bad poker player and I was on my game, the board was all low- 73427, she could have easily gotten away from pocket queens there, and I garnered a call there with the loose play I had been displaying. I sat for about an hour and a half with my second $200 and turned it into $700 before standing up, finally a triumph at the poker table, and 2 hours before I had to go to the airport. I needed that.

So all in all my vegas gambling experience went quite well, and my Vegas experience otherwise was even better. The Paris hotel we stayed in was wonderful and thanks to a little schmoozing, which Chris picked up while living in Vegas for a month, we got a nice room with a great view, overlooking the pool and the Bellagio fountain. It was a great place to crash after a long day at the tables or in the sun, and to wake up in the morning and head down to the huge pool we were overlooking. I would reccommend the Paris, but of course the only comparison I have is the Imperial Palace, which is well known to be one of the lowest quality hotels on the strip. We of course had our voyage downtown with a couple we met at the pool, that was a good time. Downtown seems like the most Vegasy part of Vegas to me, it is the epitome of the bright lights and over the top everything that makes Vegas what it is. And on my last day I headed over to the Rio to check out the WSOP main event, maybe that is what gave me inspiration for my successful run at the poker table later that day. It was cool to watch the best in the business do their thing, but I only recognized a single face in the crowd, though one of those people will soon be the recipient of the most prestigious title in the poker world.

And now I am back in the burgh, staying at Jon's for the next couple days and then flying back out to Philly just in time to start moving stuff from Jersey over to PA northeast of Philly. It will feel good to live in PA again. Even if it is Philadelphia.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jersey June

The past few weeks I have really been trying to find the finer points of the state of New Jersey and Philadelpha. Can't go wrong with a trip to the beach right? Or shore as they call it around here, which I think is because a beach implies sand, and the Jersey shore seems to be lined with dirt rather than sand, so "beach" might be inappropriate. My home for the rest of the last year has been, well:And now the closest I get is:
But hey, its better than nothing. Other than a trip to the shore, Kari and I also went to a jazz concert at the winery we visited a couple weeks ago, about 300 people showed up, and let me tell you, an odd crowd comes out of the woodwork in Jersey for a jazz concert. We were fortunate enough to put our lawn chairs next to a man who seemed to be posing for a photoshoot during the concert, I took it upon myself to capture a few of the good ones. With my new Nikon P6000 by the way!
So we enjoyed the jazz and wine, munching on some grub we got at a place called The Grilled Cheese and Crab Cake Co. We got... a grilled cheese and a crab cake, both delish, and of course went to visit our friend Giorgio at his restaurant. It was a good day in the dirty Jers.

Another adventure worth noting was our trip to the Mutter Museum. It is run by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and used to be open only to teachers and students for educational purposes. It houses all kinds of specimens exhibiting every medical anomaly you would ever wish to know existed. With siamese twin fetuses preserved in jars, well over 100 human skulls with holes eaten away by syphilis or chopped with an ax, tape worms, tumors, skeltons, every body part preserved in a jar, books bound in human leather, the famous "Soap Lady", well it was enough to make your skin crawl for days, and enough to satisfy even the most disturbed minds.

So, I have been having my fun, and now it is time for even more. With the 4th of July approaching, this is the time of year that my pyromaniacle disposition is most acceptable. It is liberating. I am headed back to Pittsburgh today to spend the 4th and on the 8th I will be flying out to Vegas with my friends Zack and Jon to meet up with our friend Chris who will have been out there for 41 Days and 40 Nights. And itisnow time to go pack andmake important decisions like whether I am going to bring my Heeleys or not, check back later for updates on how much money I have won.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ice Cream, Wine, Jazz, Poker. Life Is Good.

The month started off with a wedding, A fairly standard affair, outdoor, had the ceremony in the same spot as the reception, which is a great idea, had a splendid time with the family, and the occasion was ended properly with a supremely trashed automobile for the new bride and groom. The culprits are still at large.

June 11th brought something amazing. The Scooper Bowl. It is an ice cream festival held in Boston, and Kari, the wonderful person she is, took me there as a late birthday present. Ice cream. Everywhere. There were 9 vendors touting about 50 flavors of ice cream, each had 3 out at a time in little cups, I guessed them to be around 4 ounces. Haagen, Ben, Jerry, Breyer, Robbin! They were all there! And they were all showcasing their finest flavors. Maine Lobster Tracks, delicious, nothing to do with lobster. Zesty Lemon Sorbet, I heard from multiple people walking away from the stand "Wow! that really is zesty!". And it was. Rock n' Pop swirl! It popped in your mouth! Bailey's Irish Cream, tasted like the real deal, it seemed illegal they were giving it to kids. But the best flavor, without question, Ben and Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. They held a contest for the best flavor, and after all the votes, on all 50 flavors, Oatmeal Cookie Chunk won with a full 25% of the vote. It is that good. I ended up eating 25 cups of ice cream, that was one of each flavor that each stand had up (skipping a couple boring repeats like chocolate), and at 4 oz. a cup, thats almost a full gallon of ice cream. That is a lot of ice cream. Enough to make even the most lactosetolerant person become intolerant... hah, dang that was good though. The trip also introduced me to New England for the first time, with the drive up to Boston, a stop in Providence, and a day walking around Boston, I was really impressed. Boston is a beautiful city, not too big, clean as can be, good food, I give it an A. Makes me appreciate some things about Pittsburgh, spending so much time in other big citys, like in Pittsburgh there is not an obsession with tourism being beaten into your head around every corner, you dont have to pay $50 to park for a day, you can find comfortable little places to stop that arent one of a thousand exactly like it in the world. But it was a great city, it really was. Plus, there is ice cream everywhere.

Back in Jersey, we were looking for something to do, and it may surprise you, but South Jersey is a certified wine region, there are lots of vineyards in the area. We went and tasted wine, schmoozing with the other clientele, ended up chatting with the chief of police (there for his monthly "inspection"), his father, and a local italian restaurant owner. I will say at this point, it is great to go out with two young attractive ladies, Kari and her friend, you seem to get lots of free stuff from guys. The Italian restaurant owner, Giorgio, invited us to his place, and when we showed up he took a seat with us, gave us an appetizer and a bottle of merlot from the local vineyard, then a "real bottle of wine" from his home town in Italy, then one of the cooks came out and gave us a bottle of his home made wine. After giving us dessert and shots of espresso and sambuca at the end of the meal, I went over to say by goodbye and thanks and got sucked into conversation with he and a friend at the bar. We ended up staying another few hours at the bar chatting with Giorgio and his friends. We had a good time, and I feel like I must reccommend, not only because of the hospitality but because the food was incredible, that you must go there if you are ever in the unfortunate predicament of being in South Jersey, it will be a cherry on your hot sludge sunday.

Like I said before, I caught the New York Fever when Kari's parents took us last month, so I was back last weekend to see Jamie Cullum play Carnegie Hall. We bought a $1 bus ticket that got us in at 9 from philly, and spent the day walking around the city, had lunch at S'MAC which only serves variations of mac n cheese, toured the Metropolitan Museum of art, walked through Central Park, took some busses, took the subway, and after walking something like 10 miles we took our seats in Carnegie Hall to watch the jazz genious unfold on stage. When we got to our seat, we were in the second to last row in the highest balcony in the whole theatre, so we... upgraded, a fairly simple process, you just scan out some empty seat and look like you know where you are going, nobody asks questions. We ended up right down on the rail on the third balcony, pretty close to the action. The show was incredible, with a modern jazz opener that had a great techno twist, and Jamie took the stage with a storm with his piano acrobats, some wicked improv, he took the stand up bass, trumpet and the drummer with a snare out into the audience and set up a little jam session in the middle of the aisle, just flowin for 10 minutes or so, it was groovy. Truely an amazing concert, the only bad part was at the end, the audience gave him a screaming loud standing ovation for something like 10 minutes after he left the stage and he didnt come back out for another song. After I got home I looked on his twitter and he apologized for not coming back out, saying that they would absolutely not let him. Stupid. Still. Awesome.

I am just starting to come off my high from the concert and just getting pumped for my trip to Vegas in a couple weeks, the excitement just keeps comin. Other than that, I signed up for a soccer tournament in July and I am trying to get myself in suitable shape to step onto a soccer field, I put an add trying to sell myself on craigslist, that hasnt panned out, so I sit around a lot, doing things like writing blog posts, looking for what might be a real job sometime in the distant future, creating sweet buisiness cards! check these bad boys out! I printed a few out and dang they are sweet. If you want me to make one for you I will, you can even pick your card of choice, what else do I have to do?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Evolutionary Explanation for Altruism

In a previous blog post I addressed the topic of altruism and devised a hypothetical mechanism for its evolution through Darwinian theory. The subject of evolution and more specifically the philosophy of altruism and how it came to be really intrigues me, as is evident from that post. Mark sent me a couple links to articles that address the issue and I was amazed by how similar the arguments presented were to my own, particularly in the first article "An Evolutionary Explanation for Altruism". They talk about insects primarily and get into the necessity for a complex social structure, taking a similar path to their conclusion. The second article talks about this transition to a society that interacts on a level that allows the benefits of altruism to be seen, which is a potentially problematic phenomena, and I think he tackles it with grace. The third article builds further on this idea, focusing on the human race and offering a real life scenario for the theory to play out.

My previous post on the matter

1. An Evolutionary Explanation for Altruism

2. Competition, Loss of Selfishness Mark Shift to Supersociety

3. Altruism's Bloody Roots

Let me know what you think!

They call me the rambler

It seems that evolution would have led to a population that was predominantly female. If there were a population of 10 humans, 5 female, 5 male, then only 5 offspring could be produced in any single reproductive cycle, but if it were, say, 9 women and me, then there would be 9 offspring every reproductive cycle, and if those progeny were again 90% female, the cycle would continue with reproduction at a much greater rate. Now these days, with over population, such an increase in the growth of population would be undesirable, but i'm talkin back in the days of nomadic tribes and whatnot. And this does happen in a lot of populations, a greater ratio of females to males, for the aforementioned reasons of the increased reproductive efficiency, however, humans do not experience this, leading to the conclusion that males are essential in the fitness of the species. It is easy to see why this might be in said nomadic tribal days, what with the males hunting and gathering, it was a full time job that a group of 9 pregnant females and me would not be able to fulfill. Things have changed though, and females are able to raise children on their own, all they need from a male is some... "seed". I don't think that the day is far away that we will be able to control the sex of our children, and when that day comes, I feel this could be the end of a paternal era. I am not necessarily saying this is a bad thing though, in a world where there are 9 females for every male, well, I think a lot of problems would be solved. I don't really know, but it seems like 99% of sex crimes are committed by males, but in such a world, with such ratios, I think that just about any guy could find someone. Wars would change drastically, with countries not willing to sacrifice their males, the lines would be saturated with women, and the squabbles would be over totally different things, like which country gets to have the pink flag with a purple heart on it and a little kitten in the middle of the heart, or they would just start whining about random stuff that happened years ago once a month for no reason. With such a high density of estrogen operating together on a day to day basis, entire continents would experience the sorority house effect, you know what I am talking about, leading to mass chaos once a month, maybe it would just be a national holiday, maybe it would unite the countries and serve as a platform for world peace. Males would be reduced to nothing, like the little spiders that mate and then get eaten by the female, but the human race would go on without us.

I am not sure what that was all about, I am currently in the car on my way to my cousins wedding, I just started writing, but really guys, now that I think about it, just keep that in the back of your mind. So, I took up a new hobby a couple years ago, it is a rare one, but not unheard of. I try to actually dry my hands in the air dryers in bathrooms. It is a time consuming hobby, but it has its rewards. While spending time at the dryer, you get to read the clever bits of wisdom that people leave etched into the metal. Place hands on butt. Rub vigorously. Tops all. They get all that just by erasing letters! how clever! Or my personal favorite. Push button. Get bacon. It is because the red wavy lines in the picture coming out of the dryer look like bacon. And then sometimes, you get to experience exciting advances in hand dryer technology. If you find yourself near the MOMA in New York, it is worth a stop in to use their hand dryers. The Dyson Air Blade. Instead of a leisurely 15 or 20 minute zephyr that you get at a normal hand dryer, it is an exhilarating 10 second gale force blast, wicking the moisture away from your hands.

In other news, I read this morning that you are supposed to use "at least an inch long strip" of toothpaste when brushing your teeth, I read it on the tube of my Crest Pro-Health toothpaste. What happened to "use a pea sized amount", that is what it always used to be. I think the toothpaste people are just trying to get a little more turnover in their product, with an "inch long strip" being an estimated 4 times the volume of "a pea sized amount". Crafty. So, they say to contact a doctor if you ingest more that the amount used for brushing, but the amount is now significantly more, so the amount used for brushing is more than the old amount used for brushing, so I foresee lots of accidents with people using the "pea sized" toothpaste, but using an inch long strip of it, and then if they swallow some, they wont be worried because it is the amount used for brushing, but really it is 4 times the amount used for brushing, so they will end up dying.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New York

Although I have lived my entire life in the eastern US, I have never traveled to our nations capital, New York City. I know, right? I felt so ignorant, I never got to see the Empire State Building where the president lives, the washington monument proudly holding up the torch as he crosses the Delaware, the eiffel tower, which is the tallest building in the world! All of this was practically right in my back yard and I never experienced it. Until now.

Turns out there was a lot of disappointment on the trip. George Washington looks an awful lot like a girl, turns out the president moved to washington somewhere, probably seattle, and the eiffel tower... well it looks like someone played a game of Jenga with it. No but really, I was shocked by the condition of ground zero at the WTC, there is still substantial structure from the foundation of the towers that is still standing, they block off any view of the site as best as they can, maybe because they dont want people to witness the lack of progress, it was really rather disheartening. I thought we would get the rebuilding underway as fast as possible, just to show we can bounce back, show our tenacity, our strength... but... apparently not.

Okay, well other than that, my trip to New York was pretty darn awesome. I went with Kari and her parents, who were attending a furniture convention in Manhattan, because that is her dad's business, and we were invited along, how could I pass up a furniture convention?? I know you are thinking that sounds supremely boring, but it was actually really interesting. Every booth had their one big idea, their niche in the market, some of which were... a little over the top, but some of them were really cool. I am not sure that I would be able to furnish a house with satisfaction out of the entire thousands of pieces in there, but it was pretty cool to see. Some of my favorites were a chair that was like a weeble wobble, you could swing around on it, windows that had a crystal layer inside that would be completely opaque until you ran an electric current through them, then they were crystal clear, and a chair that had arm rests that kind of went backwards behind the back, so you leaned back and out your elbows on them, kind of forcing you into a reclined position that just made you feel cool. Plus, in addition to all this excitement, we also got to visit the other convention going on at the time, and for those of you who are thinking that the furniture convention sounds like the epitome of bore, I give you: the stationary convention. Stationary. Like paper. 1000 exhibits of paper. Kari and I walked through 5 different stands and that was more birthday cards and frilly paper than anyone should ever have any interest in seeing.

But really the convention was just a small part of the trip, we did our touristy rounds. Mr. Evans had a few places he wanted to go, from previous trips to the city or advice from friends, and we spent one evening cruising the city finding these places, with a little help from Goog411. The trip getting there were usually as interesting as the destination itself, with so much to see, even just people watching would be enough to stay occupied. My favorite stop was a little bar called McSorley's that had been open for 155 years. They brew their own beer, light and dark, and thats all you can get, and thats all they need. The place was packed, we waited in a line to get in, and there was only scrunched standing room once we finally did get in. The beer was good, not great, the best part about it was the atmosphere, when you walk in, guys walking around with 6 mugs in each hand, pushing their way through the crowds, you have to fight your way to the bar, a little scared that you will order wrong and get thrown out like the soup nazi, well when you get your beer, you enjoy it. And we did. We also found a noodle place called Momofuku that was recommended and looked pretty good, but like the rest of the city... way too crowded. We went to Madame Tussaud's wax museum, which I was not expecting much out of, the idea of seeing a likeness of J-lo and george clooney was kind of lost on me, my disinterest was made apparent when, in the first big room of wax celebs, I was leaning against a counter, zoning out like I have been known to do sometimes, and a couple guys stopped to look at me, then waved their hands in my face to see if I was real, haha, I tried to keep in motion after that. Further into the museum they displayed historic figures, like Louis Armstrong, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, that was pretty cool to see, also the skyscraper that is the 7'6" Yao Ming, the rather unimposing 6'4" Michael Jordan, the tiny little jockey man Bill Shoemaker things like that were interesting, plus at the end I bought a little bag that looks exactly like a piece of pizza for a friend (Stofko, you know its you), so it was a good stop. We went to see the Blue Man Group, which was an impressive show, and really funny. And Kari and I also went to a comedy show in Times Square to escape the rain that decided to spoil our explorations. A high school prom party went to the show also, and therefore became the brunt of most of the jokes for the evening, it was a good time.
So, all in all New York was an amazing place, Mr. and Mrs. Evans, thank you for that experience. That is a whole lot of city, and I can't wait to get back there to experience more of it, I actually just bought tickets to see Jamie Cullum play Carnegie Hall on June 20th, I guess I caught the NYC fever.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I have been spending the last few weeks in Philadelphia at Kari and Brooke's apartment, and have just been sitting around enjoying life, far too busy doing nothing to do anything, like updating the brog. I was not sure how I felt about getting back into the world, out of the excitement of life on the boat, I didnt know whether I would be changed somehow, unsatisfied, unstimulated by everyday life back how it used to be. I am the type of person who has always needed a bit more to keep my brain satiated, and I have been dealing with it my whole life, so sure, sitting in an apartment all day isnt quite as exciting as sailing the Bahamas, but I am back in America, a land practically made for ADD, and I am stumbling and video gaming my way through it.
As I wrote about before, I cooked up a feast for my temporary roommates a few days after I got there. After a $100 trip to Wegman's, which is a pretty awesome grocery store, I had all I needed to create my masterpiece, which I thought up while sailing one day, using my salt water spotted notes to guide me. The word of the night was sushi, and if you know the people I was cooking for, you would say I am crazy, they will never eat sushi, but just read on. I bought 2 nice cuts of strip steak, some nice colorful peppers, onions, tortillas, and of course some sushi rice. These were the main ingredients in my steak sushi roll. Instead of nori (seaweed) I used the tortilla shell, layed in the steak and veggies, and once rolled and cut the results were delicious and a good looking dish. The next dish was in the same vane, a sushi roll made with grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, with a 4 cheese sauce for dipping. I also made a steak sauce like the white sauce you always see in Japanese steak houses, and it was pretty delicious with the steak roll. I got some tuna and salmon as well and made some more traditional rolls, my favorite of which was the roll I made last with all the leftovers, consisting of salmon, tuna, red peppers, cucumbers, and avocado, though the others I made which were different combinations of the aforementioned ingredients were all pretty delicious. I am still planning on doing a write up at some point about cooking, maybe I will get into specifics there if anyone is interested.
So I have all this stuff. My stuff. The stuff I own. All of it. Most of it is in Indiana at my parents house right now, some of it scattered around at various houses of family/friends, and all of it is right where it belongs. I think I heard the definition of home as “a place to put your stuff”, which is really a joke, but I think there is some truth to it, which I suppose also defines me as “homeless”. Now that does not mean that I wouldn't have a home if I wanted one, because I know there are many places I could go to put my stuff, but that takes such a commitment to a single place, a commitment that I am really not able to make. Over the next year I will be living in California, Indiana, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey, which means that I will be living out of a suitcase again for another year, and really I am ok with that, but I have stuff somewhere, stuff that is just sitting there, and I feel like it should be being used... but that requires a home. So, I am not going to have a home for a while, and my stuff will have to deal with it.