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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fifteen Celebrities You'd Like To Hang Out With

I made a list some time back, 15 albums I'd take to a dessert (desert? Whichever one means heat and sand, not banana split) island, and I had a lot of fun with it. Thus, I thought I'd do another list.

This particular list is going to be about 15 people of modest to extreme celebrity / fame, with whom I'd like to hang out with and why. Once read, I invite, no, implore you to do the same! A lot can be told about a person by the company he or she keeps!

Here are the rules:

  • These persons can be dead or alive.
  • A candidate doesn't have to be a celebrity meaning, movie or TV star, a public figure is also acceptable. 
  • The reason to hang out with them cannot be of a sexual nature. Sure, we all have our favorite celebs with whom we'd like to get biblical, but that's not what this is about.
  • Doesn't necessarily have to be an actual person, but can be "the guy who..." or "the lady who did..."
  • This list (at least MINE anyway), is not in order of preference. There is no particular rhyme to my reason here. The person I list first is only there because he or she is the first person I thought of, not because I want to hang with he or she more than the others.
That's It. 

SO, without further ad... adieu? Adyoo? ...Delay: 

1 - George Carlin.



I subscribe in very large part to Logic. Without logic, things just don't make sense, right? I love when someone can spin a fine cloth with yarn of logic, and nobody can do that like George Carlin. I also love to laugh, and he makes me laugh very much so. I was very sad when he passed.

I'm not too big on his list of words you can't say, it's not terribly amazing to memorize a list of swears, but to be so funny across such a huge range of topics is real talent.

What would we do though, if we were to hang out? Well, I don't know. I really don't know anything about him personally, such as if he liked beer, or if he watched football, etc. I don't know what we'd talk about, or really even IF we'd get along.

I imagine it would be possible that we'd find ourselves talking about something of which we both had opposing views, and he'd EASILY logic me under the table. There's a solid chance I wouldn't enjoy our day together, I will admit, but by god, it'd be worth a shot!

2 - Richard Feynman.


I love to ask why. I love to learn, and I love to speculate. Science was almost always my favorite subject, even though I failed it in 6th, and 7th grade... Scraped by in High School, and went into Mechanical Engineering in College, only to flunk out of there too... It was homework I didn't like...

Anyway, Richard Feynman's views in the video above echo my own. Beyond being a scientist, he was a fascinating person, I urge you to read more about him, at least here on his wiki page.

He died after developing two rare forms of cancer. He was quoted as saying: "I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring."

3 - Kevin James.


I have a great deal of respect for Kevin James, simply for being a normal guy. He's not hung up on losing weight and he's clearly a large fellow, but doesn't make jokes about it... You know when you see a fat comedian, and you roll your eyes like... "Ok here come some predicable fat jokes...". I always feel like those guys are taking the easy way out... They feel like they're not offending anyone, cause they themselves are also fat, etc...

His comedy show that I linked above is not only pretty much rated PG, but it's a bunch of little things. Anyone who's read much on my blog knows I love to focus on the little things. I've done it here, and here, and here and likely a few other places... 

I'm willing to bet I could eat a couple hot dogs, have a few beers and watch a football game with him, have some good laughs, and a great time.

4 - The Guy Who Drank the First Beer.


Ok, so it's not exactly a celebrity, and no one knows who that person was... But it had to be someone, right?? 

As you may know, I've done some brewing, and some drinking, as detailed here, and I LOVE beer... But seriously, did you watch that video?? The fermentation process is FUNKY! That stuff is ALIVE! And GROSS looking!! 

AND THE DUDE DRANK IT! 

I can picture me, and Kevin James with whoever that guy was, going "He's not going to drink that." Then Richard Feynman saying "Well, honestly, I don't see a problem. I mean we started with the boiled wort, so no bacteria in there, and added yeast, which creates the alcohol, so it's going to kill any remaining bacteria, I think it's safe!" 

5 - Jim Henson.


Arsenio said it best, with some cloth and some ping pong balls he built a dynasty. I loved the Muppets growing up, and still do. My kids love the Muppets, and Jim Henson's creations. 

You know, I don't know a single person who does NOT like Jim Henson or his creations. 

6 - Jason Segel


Speaking of loving Muppets, Jason Segel, in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (which was a great flick, by the way) said in an interview that he'd always loved puppets, and had this idea for a Dracula musical with puppets, and managed to get them to incorporate it into the movie, so he felt like he tricked them into helping him realize his dream. 

I'd love to meet this guy, and ask him how, when he was already in a movie, which included him doing sex scenes with both Kristen Bell, AND Mila Kunis, yet his "dream" was STILL about puppets... I find this fascinating. 

Beyond that, I find him to be very funny, also in a "Normal guy" kind of way.

7 - Paul Rudd.



I will admit that perhaps that video clip was funny because they had good writers, but I find Paul Rudd's delivery to be hysterical.
I've also had a similar discussion with a Subway employee who once told me that they don't have "small" drinks, only medium and large... I once posted about that particular post, and was dismayed to find that at some point, I'd deleted it... But, if you'd like, here's the post in which I talked about the original post...

8 -  Russle Brand.


So, before watching "Arthur" I found this guy a little creepy, but on the funny side of it. Arthur was funny from start to finish, and frankly his outlook on life and how it should be all about having a good time is awesome, and I agree completely.

9 - Seth Rogen.


If you haven't seen the movie "Paul" I highly recommend it. 

As Seth mentions in the video, he's a pretty chilled out guy. I love humor when it's on such a low key casual level. I think Seth and I could hang out and have a pretty fun time. I like to think my sense of humor is pretty much the same as his, or at least what I have seen in his work.
10 - Richard Simmons.


I realize this is a strange one to have on here, but I figured I could do at least one non-selfish deed with this list, and see if there's any possible way I could get him... For the good of the WORLD... To STOP being so god damned creepy and annoying! 

I mean, sure to each his own and all that, but there's gotta be a way for him to just chill the F out, and still be himself, right?? 

I'm willing to give it a shot. Don't say I never did anything for you.

11 - The Cast of Whose Line is it Anyway?


Ok, so this is kind of a stretch, since it's a whole cast of four regulars, and a handful of inter-changeable semi-regulars, but like I said, I LOVE to laugh, and these are some of the funnies people on the whole damn planet.

I'd hang out with all of them, or just one, or any combination of them... I'll let you pick, they're all great. 

That was one of my favorite skits too, I'm psyched that I found it. How do they do so much of that shit with straight faces...?

12 - John Goodman.


One of the coolest guys ever. Everything I've ever seen him in, he's been believable and genuine. Always pretty chilled out. I've seen him in scenes when he's REALLY angry, and it almost gives you goosebumps.

I also loved him in Monsters Inc, as James Sullivan. (Not THIS James Sullivan, mind you...)

13 - J. R. R. Tolkien.

 http://youtu.be/DFcjBzP7H-E <-- Embedding was disabled by request... But, click the link, if you will.

I, like most of the world, am a HUGE fan of the Lord of the Rings movies, and EAGERLY anticipate the upcoming movie, "The Hobbit".

I don't know, like with George Carlin, what I'd talk to him about, but I bet he'd play one hell of a Dungeons and Dragons game. He can be DM. It'd be a good time, if I could learn to understand him. I can't understand a damned word he says in that video...

14 - Ed Norton.


This guy plays roles on every end of the spectrum, from badass in American History X, to a PRIEST, in "Keeping the Faith", to an evil genius in Primal Fear, to The Incredible Hulk.

Something about his intelligence and honesty and charisma makes him incredibly believable to me, and he's got a very lovable vibe. I'm willing to bet he'd be a riot to hang out with.

15 - Patrick Stuart.

 

 I'll admit, I was a big Star Trek The Next Generation fan, but even if you never were, you can't deny how cool Patrick Stuart is. His voice is unmistakable, saying things like "Make it so" or "Engage" or "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot."

Clips like the one above, and the fact that he's a voice in "American Dad" proves he's got a really warped sense of humor, which I dig. 




When I started this post, it was only going to be 5 people, and I thought I'd have a difficult time... I changed it to 15 so that I could not feel guilty if I don't post for the next two weeks, cause it'd be a real respectable piece, but these folks came fast and easily, and I have more still, who I might make a second list with. 

Re-reading, I'm glad I stipulated the "No sexual nature" thing in the beginning, cause I came up with a list of fifteen guys... That was not intentional, there are definitely women I'd love to hang out with, but I'm afraid they'd just become so overwhelmed by me, I'd have to break their hearts and I just don't like hurting people. 

What? 

Anyway, thanks for reading, and PLEASE comment, and PLEASE write your own list, and PLEASE comment back here again when you do, so that I know it's there, and can make it a point to come and read it! 

Thanks!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry CHRISTMAS Whether You Celebrate it or Not!!!

Image brazenly stolen from Classcreator.com
Let me start this post by saying, I'm not a very religious person. Honestly, I'm not even a little religious. I posted about it at the beginning of the year here, if you're interested, and my only other religion-based post, is here. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on either or both.

I usually try to stay clear of religion as a subject, because those who are devout have made up their minds, and will never listen to a thing a secular person has to say. Not only have they made up their minds, but they sometimes want to make up your mind as well. Religion aside, my believes / opinions are my own, and I'll share them if you like, but I'll never force them on another person, thus I expect the same. I get very irritated when someone tells me their beliefs are fact, and that I'm wrong, so I don't do it to others. I make sure to say things like "In my opinion" when saying things, or I just don't say anything.

Christmas: The birthday celebration of Jesus, as least as far as the Christians are concerned. Originally, it had nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity, but it made for a hell of a marketing gimmick, so they changed it.

Now, before you start rolling your eyes at yet another "Christians stole pagan holidays" post (which I HAVE done in the past), I'm not going to bother here... There's enough controversy around the fact (note, I didn't call it an idea though... ;) ) so believe what you will. The fact remains, there was a year end celebration long before Jesus. Jesus came (allegedly) and now there's no year end celebration for the pagans... Coincidence??

ANYWAY. My beef here is that MOST of the world recognizes Christmas at LEAST as a holiday where kids get gifts from a fat guy who spies on us when we're sleeping. Everyone knows what Christmas is, and every one's heard of the Christmas spirit, even if they've never shared in it. It's the spirit if giving, good will, blahblahblah.

My daughter goes to school with a Jehovah's witness, which I have no problem with, whatsoever. To each his or her own. My problem is that if we decide to give greeting cards out, they can't say "Christmas" on them. When the kids get a day to watch a movie, it can't be The Grinch, so they had to watch "Babe". BABE? C'mon. This poor kid couldn't participate in the Thanksgiving play, because of his religion. Thanksgiving?? What does religion have to do with Thanksgiving? Granted I know nothing about Jehovah's witness...ism? but is being thankful against the doctrine? Perhaps they don't celebrate Christmas, but I'm willing to bet they wont be sitting in the classroom on the 25th!

I am not religious, as I've said, but I celebrate Christmas. If there was a Jesus, and it was his birthday, cheers. If there wasn't, then you know what? I've worked my rump (pa pum pum) off all god damned year, I deserve some cologne and candy canes, and so do you. The vast majority is Christian, thus, when in Rome...

But hey! If you're (insert other religion here), and you want to wish me a happy (C)Hanukhah, or Kwanza, or whatever! I'm perfectly fine with that, I will smile happily (I won't even have to fake a smile!) and return the greeting. I don't immediately think you're trying to convert me, I don't believe you're trying to wish me your greeting instead of mine in an attempt to squash mine, etc... I just believe you're wishing me the same peace, love and happiness you feel when you celebrate your holiday, and I thank you.

I am rather upset that because of ONE person's religious views, MY child is denied the observation of perhaps the LEAST religiously precised of Christian holidays. I say that because the religious observe it, and the secular do as well... You don't see crosses hanging in department stores, you see merchandise. You want me to refrain from wishing you a happy Ash Wednesday, that's fine, I won't. But if you can't buy into Christmas because of it's diminished religious ties, leave the people who do, alone, and just let them wish you good will how they know best.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Firsts that I Remember...

The memory is a funny thing, or at least mine is. It "works", which I say in quotations because some might argue whether or not it works at all, in funny ways. There are things that stick in my mind so vividly that I could recall the event in perfect detail, even two and a half decades removed (which would mean the event happened when I was 7.)

I remember a great deal of my childhood, or at least a good deal more than most people seem to, yet you can tell me on my way out the door not to forget to remove something from the car before I leave, and in the twenty paces between the house and the car, it will completely remove itself from my attention. (This happened last week).

For the technology geeks in the audience, I liken this to having a large hard drive, but not a whole lot of ram...

I remember being in diapers, and running around an apartment that we moved away from when I was two years old. My most vivid memory in this place was that one of my brothers (who at the time would have been 15 years old, or so) had Reeses Pieces, which I discovered in his room, and began to eat. I remember wanting to share them with him, but he ran. I remember chasing him down the hall, and thinking that if he ducked into the bathroom, the chase would be over, he'd be gone. Sure enough, he did, and I thought he disappeared.

Some years later, when I was perhaps five or so, we'd moved out of there, but only across the park to another apartment. I was laying in bed, on my side. You know when you're laying on your side, and your pillow is pressed against your ear, and you can hear your heartbeat? I remember that happening for the first time (or at least, noticing it for the first time) and thinking it was the sound of a man in the basement with a gigantic wrench, and he was unscrewing the cap on a large brown pipe... Obviously, because I had my head to the surface, the sound was coming from below. I was clearly too young to realize the basement was two floors away. Hey, it made sense to me, and that's all that matters when you're five.

I imagined once he got the cap off, a large snake would emerge from the pipe... I remember that thought in great clarity, the man wore overalls, and large yellow boots, and a denim hat, like a train engineer would have worn. The wrench was a ridiculously over-sized adjustable wrench. The snake would have been green.

As I grew older, I realized the pipe I was thinking of, would have had to have been the cast iron soil pipe, and the wrench would have been opening the clean out. The wrench probably wouldn't have been adjustable, and the snake would definitely have been brown...

I remember once around the same time that my mother had left me alone for about forty minutes, while she ran up to the video store. Times were different then, I wouldn't leave my six year old alone for four minutes, let alone forty, but I had TV, and honestly would have been fine...

Except that this particular time, I had to go to the bathroom. I was old enough to handle this on my own, of course, so no big deal. Though, I was very interested in the show I was watching. So much so, that I waited a little too long, and by the point of no return, I was only half way up the stairs, and I messed myself.

I was mortified. I remember thinking "That was my last pair of undies, I haven't done laundry yet!" ...Oh yes, I was doing laundry at the age of 5. Believe it, it's true. I don't have the first time I did laundry as part of this post, because I don't remember it... I must have been pretty young! Anyway, by the time my mother got home, I was crying. She asked what was wrong, and I told her. What I remember most about this, was that when I told her I really had to go, and I just couldn't make it, she didn't buy it... "No, I don't believe that!" she said. I still remember the look on her face, as she shook her head when she said that. "Now tell me the truth!" I knew that if I continued to tell the truth, she'd get madder... So I told her "I felt like it." Now, THAT she believed! I got in lots of trouble, but at least the discussion was over.

I remember my first time seeing a "floater"... You know, those funny shapes floating around, caused by the proteins on your eye?  I was around five or six, and I thought it was Wonder Woman's invisible air plane, flying by.

I remember my first prank call... The girl a couple apartments down and I were possibly six or seven, and we decided to prank the only phone number we knew... "0". We called the operator. I don't remember what it was that I said, when it was my turn, but after I hung up, the girl I was with said "There's a strange man in my house and he won't leave!" to which the operator said "Uh huh.". We hung up and called back a couple times, and eventually, we hung up... and the phone rang. We looked at each other, and she answered. The operator called us back! She knew who we were, and threatened to send the police!

We told her we understood, and wouldn't do it anymore. We went about our business for the rest of the day, and by bed time the guilt was gnawing at me. I told my mother "I feel guilty. I don't know why, but I feel like I prank called the operator, and she said she'd call the police." (you know, for example...) She asked if I just felt that way, or if I really did it... I told her I just felt like that. She told me that she'd talked to the neighbor, and my partner in crime had a similar story... only she confessed. Busted.


The funny part about remembering these things, is I see my daughter having some similar experiences, and thinking no one knows what she's thinking... But I do.

Do you remember anything like this from your early years?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Things People Say - Part Two

I have a nephew who, at a very young age used to ask constantly "Cuz why?" and it drove me nucking futs.

Cause, it just is! Jeez!

I guess, it's a pretty common question among children, and rightly so. There's a lot to learn in this word, and how does one learn if not by asking questions? 

It's kind of sad though, that the "Because it is!" answer is so accepted. I think it leads to things being stupid for no apparent reason, yet accepted. I think adults do not ask the question "Cuz why?" enough. If we did, I'd have less shit to complain about, and this blog post wouldn't exist, I suppose, but the world would make more sense. 
For example... (you knew it was coming, didn't you?) Why do people say these things?

Have you ever had someone looking for a recommendation ask you "Hey, do you have a good {insert noun here} you would recommend?" Why is that such an acceptable question?? First, if it's something like a restaurant, then no, I do not HAVE one, good or bad, that'd I'd recommend. If it's something like a recipe, then yeah, I have good ones... Why would I have bad ones? What kind of person collects bad recipes? And why do you feel the need to specify that I should only recommend the good ones, did you think I'd recommend the bad ones, even if I kept bad recipes? 

Hot water heater... If the water is already hot, why do you need to heat it? Isn't it a cold (or at least ground-temperature) water heater? 

I really hate it when people tell me to be careful. My poor wife says it to me all the time when I'm doing something like going out in a rain storm, or using power tools or juggling knives, and I get so aggrivated. I know she's only concerned for my well being.

Still though, I can't help but feel like saying "Oooh, yeah... Good thing you said that, I might have forgotten to be careful..." I try not to though, especially when she says it...

Manners are very important, but I find it interesting sometimes. Saying "Please" for example... It's just a word, right? I mean, you convey that you want something... and you're by default being rude, until saying please. But why? Why is the default negative, and how is it negated by that word?

Feel free not to say God bless you when I sneeze. It's just a sneeze, and I'm allergic to dust, which I have, and cats...which I also have. It's not a demon, I just sneezed. God's busy. I can handle a sneeze without divine intervention. In fact, I'm happier when people don't say anything at all. Especially if I have a cold, and I could be blowing mucas all over my face, I don't need other people calling attention to the fact that I just sneezed. (snoze?)

Don't say "same difference"... If something is similar to something else, then "same thing" would be the proper phrase to convey the idea you're aiming for. It's not the differences you're trying to point out when you're inferring that the thing you said and the other thing are the same. And if there's a difference, then it, by definition, cannot be the same. If it's the same, then there is no difference.

What sayings that people use give you an eye twitch like me?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rant: Events Poorly Planned, and the Gender Wars

I'm in rare form today. If I could sum up the last couple days in an illustration, it would be something like a very angry person, teeth clenched, face red, veins bulging. If I had to sum it up in a gesture, it'd only take one finger. If I had to sum it up as a lead roll in a movie it'd be "Falling Down". If I had to sum it up using only an acronym, it'd be WTF.

I feel like I'm in a Ben Stiller movie. You know, where everything is stupid and ridiculous and a real ironic pain in the ass.

In reality, things aren't all that bad, but I feel like ranting.

Friday was the "Lighting of the Green" here in Taunton MA. "The Green" is the city center, where a half-dozen or so major routes converge. It's said "all roads lead to Taunton". They decorate the bajeezus out of the city center, and shut down all the roads, so people can go and watch as they give speeches and what not, and then light the lights on the green.

Following this lighting, there are rides and activities and vendors, etc. I'm not sure how long the whole things is from start to finish, but we stuck around a couple hours; long enough to have a hot dog or two and blow ten bucks on a fricken balloon shaped like a gigantic microphone.

The frustration though, comes from the Pin... You can buy a pin that allows you to go on the rides and what not. They're eight bucks a piece. The price isn't that big a deal, but FINDING the god damned things took us about forty minutes. You would think there'd be signs or something like "Get your pins over here", right? Nope.

Turns out they were being sold in a couple establishments, and more than likely there were fliyers or something prior to the festivities. I know there was one sent home with my daughter from school, but whoever planned this thing dropped the freakin ball, in my opinion. The info about where to get the god damned pass, if you will, should have been all over the place. Dumbasses.

Next, today is the "Christmas Parade" where they also use the center of town. Guess what they do?

... so you'd think that all the local papers and such would have what time the damned thing starts? Nope. I went to the local papers' websites, and even the city's god damned parks and rec websites. I found the line ups for the parade, who will be where in the parade... But not when! C'MON. Kind of an important thing, right?

I'm sure it was overlooked as something that everyone who cares already knew, but the kids (or the oldest anyway) is only just now old enough to enjoy these things, and we need the details.

I kinda miss old telephones. Who hasn't had a really infuriating phone call? Think back ten years or so, before everything was electronic, when you had to "hang the phone up" to end a call, instead of pushing the "off" button. What's more satisfying than slamming the receiver down after a call that's totally pissed you off. You get the satisfying smash on your end, and you know the person on the other end caught some of if before the line disconnected.

You can't do that anymore! It's so dissatisfying to angrily poke the "off button" when you know the enjoyment of slamming the receiver down. Even if you did have a phone that "hangs up" you're likely to shatter it, or break the circuit boards or something.

I'm tired of commercials where men are stupid, and the woman is totally smug. The only one that comes to mind right now is the McDonald's one where she says "So-and-so's boyfriend things Sundays are just for watching football. What do you think about that", and he panics, but talks himself through it "You're smart, you ordered McDonald's food, you can handle this" and he says "The guy's a jerk".

In my version of that commercial, that guy says "stop playing mind games, you pain in the ass." 

Then there's the one where the mom comes home and the plumber was there just finishing up and says "You're all set" as he sets the wet, dripping plunger down on the counter top. Of course, that makes sense, that must happen all the time, some profession plumber doesn't understand that a web plunger doesn't go on the kitchen counter, but we pardon that fact because A) he's a guy, and B) super-mom has Clorox wipes, and can deal with the stupidity.


How about the one where the guy attempts home improvements, and ends up screwing everything up, and the wife saves the day by calling a professional, and shaking her head at the failure husband, looking piteously at him like "You know you can't do anything right, why would you even try?"

Just now, I saw one for the show "The League" where the woman tells the guy "Go to your yoga class and get less fat." Really? Let's reverse those roles... I don't think I need to say much more about that.

I'm not contesting the fact that the football boyfriend may be a jerk, or that there are men out there who attempt home improvements and foul things up... But think about these as a commercials, and tell me if they would go over as "well"...

A guy and a girl are out to dinner, and the guy is watching the baseball game on the TV. The woman starts talking about feelings, and the guy get pissy. "You know, you're always trying to work on this relationship when I'm busy."

No? How about:

Woman: "I'm attempting to fix the stairs, but things aren't going as well as I thought they would... I'll get it though!" cut to scene: woman accidentally sets a small fire on the stairs, and awkwardly slaps it out with something expensive or something like that. Luckily the guy's there. "Honey, just call the carpenter. You're so stupid sometimes!"

I am all for equal treatment... when it's equal.

How about a commercial where NEITHER of them know what they're doing, and call the professional? Or "So and so thinks Sundays are just for football." "Yeah, I like watching the games, but there's lots of other things that can take precedence." "Well, we can watch the games, but let's do something else fun too."

Do these things drive you nuts too? 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ah, Distinctly I Remember...

The month of December was a lot of things to me as a kid, and not just the month that Christmas was in. For one, it was the month with the first real vacation from school, a thing I enjoyed very much. (vacation, not school). It was finally cold, also a thing I enjoyed. I loved the way the freshly fallen snow muffled the sounds, making the world feel somber and peaceful.

I remember being very young, perhaps six, when my mother pointed out the foot prints left in the snow by the pigeons, thinking they looked very alien. From that point on, every divot in the snow became a track of some kind in my mind. Deer prints, elephant prints, etc.

I would take a few slices of bread (don't tell my mother!), a milk crate, a stick and some string, and try to trap pigeons. Thank whatever god you put stock in, that I didn't catch any. I have no idea what I'd have done with one.

I remember sledding down the small hill near our apartment complex that had a host of cast iron cloths line poles in it for some reason. Looking back, I don't recall them being used, or even being arranged in a logical pattern, but perhaps they were, I was very small. I had a great sled, it was blue and shaped like a space ship. It had brakes, and a sticker radar display on the dash, that I thought tracked pigeons.

I remember the first time I realized that when it rained after it snowed, the top inch or two of snow became ice that could be tunneled underneath. I would bust a hole, and dig tunnels under the ice for my matchbox cars to go through. I'm sure I lost more than a few.

I got in trouble frequently for dilly-dallying (if that's how that's spelled!) on the way home from school, because I couldn't pass up a frozen puddle without stepping on it to break the ice. To this day, I still delight in stepping on the whiter areas of a puddle that had frozen over. Something about the crack of the ice just... I dunno. It's fun. Try it.

When I was NOT so young (ten or so), I used to like to pretend that the snow banks that were created by the plows were small alien space stations. I'd pretend that little inch-high aliens built civilizations in the snow banks, because there were little towers and hollowed out areas that could be used as shuttle bays. I'd crush them dead!

When I was even less young (perhaps twelve?) I built a huge hammer in wood shop. I called it the sledge-mallet. I'd go to the huge snow piles left by plows after they cleared out parking areas, and I'd whale on the FOUR-inch alien's habitats. They were a hardier breed than their one-inch brethren. The snow plows would leave behind HUGE snow boulders (snowlders?) that would ice up, and I'd bust the crap outta them. (Rawr.)

December always felt like a cleaning of the slate. Everything returned to zero, and you started again, much like those folks who make New Year's resolutions... Only it wasn't just about people. Trees were don't shedding and waited for the spring. The world sort of stepped aside, took all it's concerns out of the spotlight and let Mother nature show off her talents.

It's a paying of the piper. We enjoy relative comfort for most of the year, but when winter comes we are most inconvenienced  We put on our thicker clothes in layers, we do more laundry, we bundle up, we drive slower, we are delayed... And at the end, we're stronger for it.

Why I liked that December was the beginning of all that crap, I can't explain. One would think a kid would be happier when it was over... Perhaps it was because no matter who you were, not matter how much better you acted than everyone else (cause we had a lot of those kids) it was a reminder that you weren't. You dealt with it, just like everyone else. The punks, the rich kids, the jocks, were just the same as us slobs.

Or, perhaps I was just demented. Maybe both.

What are some of your memories about the winter / snow / December?


Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Service Industry

I went out with the wife to do some Black Friday shopping, expecting it to be a dumpster fire. I really don't like shopping much, and I can't stand crowds. Sort of stands to reason that standing in the cold during the wee hours, waiting with a crowd of people to go shopping would be sort of a worst case scenario, right?

Now, don't get me wrong here, it wasn't like heaven on earth or anything, but realistically, it wasn't hell either. 

We hit the Disney store first, they opened at midnight, which wasn't too bad. We got there fairly early, did a quick once-around the store. Once we got about 2/3s of the way through the place, the line for the cash registers had actually grown to about 40 people long, and happened to end right about where I was standing. I stood there, while my wife finished the circuit. 

We got some good deals and left. Our next stop wasn't going to be open until 5am, so we had some time to kill. We walked around the mall, just to see what was what. By the time we'd come full circle, the line for the Disney store check out stretch out of the store and into the corridor of the mall. 

We left the mall and went to sit in the car outside of Kmart, which opened at 5. We killed time watching a Netflix movie on my phone. A line began to form outside of the doors at around 4am, so we joined them in standing in the icy New England air. 

The temperature aside, it wasn't unpleasant. There were some nice people with whom we talked and shared stories. When the store opened, everyone headed to the electronics area, while my wife and I went to the clothes. We were done there fairly quickly, but the line for layaway took about an hour to get through. 

This is where I get to the mail point of this post. I don't recall who exactly, but someone who was working there was complaining to someone else who was also working there, about people calling to find out if there was a particular item. "'Nope, we're out, I told them.' If you're too lazy to get out here and get in line like everyone else, then I'm just going to tell you we don't have it." 

I have posted about it before here, if you're too miserable to do your job, get a new bloody job! This is your JOB. You are PAID to do this. It's CUSTOMER SERVICE. Service the damned customers! You're a representative of the place you work for! Not only do you not just tell someone you don't have what they're looking for without looking, you don't freaking brag about it in front of three dozen customers!!

Ok, I just went looking for the old post about this sort of thing, so that I could hyper-link it in the paragraph above, and can't find it... I dunno what happened, I probably deleted it by accident or something brilliant like that. So here's the deal...

I was shopping with my wife some years ago, and as we were leaving we decided we'd hit the "Subway" on the way out and have something to eat. I ordered my sub, and asked for a "small soda". "We don't have small, only medium and large" the girl said.

In my original post, I went into some detail about the smug satisfaction the little High School cheerleader tart wore on her face when she said it, and how I told her that if there was no small, then the one that wasn't large WAS the small, and all that. It was very entertaining.

Anyway, I hope everyone is having better luck than the poor folks being told they couldn't have a small or that their items were sold out are!

Have you had run ins with poor customer service folks like that?

An Old Curmudgeon Speaks

Just wanted to say, I recommend following the Sarcastic Test Guy. If you find the crap I say remotely amusing, chances are, you'll enjoy his blog as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

BBIAB

Hello all! Just wanted to stop and say Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll be back after the turkey digests. :)


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Boys: Charlie and Bruno

We have cats. Anyone who lives in the woods knows you either have cats, or you have mice. Years ago, it started with two kittens that we'd gotten from a neighbor, and brought to my in-laws. Some time later, we ended up moving in with my in-laws, and since then, we've had a lot of cats.

Originally, the two we brought were mostly indoor cats who went outside now and then. As the generations came and went, the brood sort of transitioned from indoors, to out. They now prefer to be outside, and come in only once in a while for short periods of time. They are without question more feral than anything else at this point.

During the cold months, they camp out in the garage where there's some old furniture they can cozy up on.

We've considered taking them to shelters (with the exception of one or two) but the shelters are so over burdened around here, they'd have to put them down. At least right now they're enjoying themselves for the most part. More often than not, they end up leaving. We see some now and then from long ago in neighboor's yards.

I'd watched a documentary once about the most ruthless killer animals (which didn't include humans, by the way. People always seem to forget that Humans are animals!). The list included lions, tigers, bears, hyenas, crocadiles, etc... All the usual suspects. However, the most surprising was the domestic house cat, which came in at number 1.

Out of all the animals that kill proficiently, only the house cat DOESN'T actually NEED to. Take a domestic cat who gets fed regularly; that cat will still kill birds and mice, etc. If not to eat, then why? Because they can?

Evidence of their ruthless efficiency is always readily available in the yard. Living on the lake as we do, their scope is pretty wide.
It's tough to tell the relative size of these, except by the nail heads in the deck. They're on 2x6 planks, so I'd say they're around 4 to 5 inches long.
I took this picture, and then realized the poor bugger was still alive.
Same frog from the picture above. I threw the glove in there to give some perspective to the size, and then the killer "Sunny" came along to check on her kill.
A couple of months ago, while the world was watching hurricane Irene, one of our cats, Abigale, had a few kittens. A few days later, she passed away, leaving three small kittens behind.

My daughter found Abby in the neighbors yard, and she and I buried her. My daughter was remarkably stoic about it, taking it all as a matter of fact. I don't think she cried at all at the time.

Today, my daughter was out on her swing set. Twenty minutes or so later, she came in crying because she missed Abby. I guess it hits kids like that sometimes.

The kittens she left behind were still too small to even walk, so we had to bottle feed them. Unfortunately one, the female died.

The first thing you realize when you're faced with raising orphaned kittens is that you'll need to feed them. The LAST thing you realize is that you'll not only have to clean them, but when they're that young, they need to be helped to go to the bathroom.

You have to get a warm cloth, and wipe their backsides to stimulate going, otherwise they can get blockages.

Me and the boys, post bath. See the little bottle? Notice also the towel. I think that was my third shirt of the day.

They needed frequent baths, because in the beginning they are not very careful where they go to the bathroom. Remember that when you're cuddling with them. Be willing to change your shirt a lot.
As cute as they may be, they're always sort of ugly-cute when wet.
They love being snuggled, and love being together.
This is "Charlie" on the left giving some attitude to "Murray" on the right. Murray is not overly fond of the kittens, but he tollerates them. He's one of the outdoor cats who frequently comes home with battle damage from fighting with god knows what out there. 

That's my giant head on the left, Bruno in the middle and Charlie on the right. Bruno is a snuggler, always happen to sit and fall asleep. Charlie likes to explore and run around a bit before calling it a day.
I produce a lot of heat, especially in my very over-sized bathrobe. Bruno: left, Charlie: right.
Bruno doesn't like the light when he's lounging.

Bruno lounging in the crook of my arm just this morning. Have you ever seen a more content looking kitten?
The attachment I have on these kittens is one that I haven't had on a critter in a long time. As a father of two girls, it's nice to be able to say I have boys too. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Things People Say

Exaggeration is a powerful tool when used correctly. When making a point a little exaggeration can get your point across with a touch of humor and can really make the point memorable.

Some exaggerations I'll never forget:

"Sorry I'm late, I was stuck behind someone at the ATM who was balancing the national debt." - spoken by my brother John, some years ago.

My father to me a month or two before I finished 8th grade - "Pick some electives that'll mean something to colleges, not basket weaving and pothole digging cause it's an easy a."

"Jesus, this asshole's driving right up my ass..." - spoken almost daily by either my wife or myself. That's how we roll this close to Boston.

I have a healthy appreciation for exaggeration. I enjoy them, as I do the English language in general. However, the attention that I unconsciously pay to things like exaggerations doesn't stop there... It's present at all times, so I pick up things like exaggerations even when people don't really realize they're using them.

I don't know why it bothers me, and honestly, I kinda wish it didn't... Perhaps it's some kind of psychological problem my pain-in-the-ass mind interprets the unconscious use as a disregard for something I enjoy, or something like that... Who knows. I'm a pain in the ass. It is what it is. I can' explain it. Fortunately, this is my blog, so I don't have to. ;)

Anyway, there's a commercial for stamps.com where some guy says "There's nothing worse than going to the post office and waiting in line!" ...C'mon. I can think of SKILLIONS of things that are worse than that. How about going to the post office and and accidentally mailing yourself somewhere inconvenient. That'd suck, right? I'd rather stand in line.

Another one is when someone says "I could care less." ...soooo... You mean you care then?

"The LAST thing you want is to..." sorta goes along with the first example.

Double negatives used to bother me a lot, but I have worked on it... English is one of the only languages that doesn't allow double negatives like "I aint got none." Technically in English, that means you got some.

So what bugs you about the misuse of the English (or any other) language?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ah, Om Nom, ah... Om Nom Nom.

It's cold. Today, as I sit in my home office, an unfinsihed room with no heat where I threw some desks and an internet connection, it is 55°F. I'm wearing jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt, thick cotton socks, slippers, and a fleece bathrobe. I am comfortable, save for my fingers, which I could cover with gloves, but that would make typing too difficult.

My continuous trips to the kitchen for cups of coffee keep me moving, and the coffee does a good job of warming, if I don't let it sit too long (i.e. 4 mintues).

I received an email from a good friend of mine this morning that turned my thoughts to food, as my thoughts are frequently apt to do anyway. With his permission, I'll share said email with you:

Man, days like this I only want stew or chowder. It's fall so typically I really only want crock pot food...a thick beef or chicken stew with a biscuit...yeah...

When I eat chowder I like to pretend that I'm a grizzled old fisherman down in the hold of a boat during a cold rain.

When I eat stew it's more of being in a remote mountain cabin next to a fireplace in a blustery snow.

In the chilly morning mental haze of my mind, my first reaction was "No."

But then, as the neurons began to warm up the folds of my brain that hadn't yet thawed out, I realized that yes! Yes there are, and that was really a fun question.

I almost wish I could start this part of the post with "When I was a kid, I used to" but it would only be half honest. Perhaps it started as a kid, but truth be told, I still do it.

My imagination isn't quite as detail orientented as my friend from the email above. I never really filled in the background, or thought about the environment around me. I was more focused on the food I guess. I know, shocker, right?

Broccoli is one of the least liked veggies for kids. I, however, loved it. I used to (and now that I have kids, frequently do again, pretend that they were little tiny trees, and I was a huge dinosaur, eating the trees.

Another food imagination that only worked if I was gigantic is crunchy cheetos. I was devouring a bag of them one day, when I realized that they were shaped like a very small tree branch, which could be wielded as a club by a very small caveman.

These G.I. Joe sized (and apparently invisible) cavemen would grab a cheesy orange club and... well, fly up to my face, I guess, and swing with all their might. To their dismay, I, the giant or dragon or something, would chomp their weapon to the handle. Like a villian throwing an empty gun at superman after just unloading their clip (which amusingly if you recall, he'd duck the gun, after just standing in a spray of bullets...) the cavemen would throw the useless nub of their club at my face, which, of course, I'd eat.

Undeterred, the cavemen would return to the armory (bag) and re-arm to come back for more. Cheeto-cavemen weren't bright enough to realize that doing the same thing over and over would produce the same results.

And so now, it's your turn. I ask you: Any foods you eat that invoke your imagination?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Comes First!

Very appreciated, Nordstrom! 

This blog post was inspired by my good friend Jim. If you appreciate the sentiment in the picture to the left here, I highly recommend you go and read his post that I linked. I'll wait.

Welcome back.

I decided to join in on this because it's something that I feel is important. Not necessarily because of any enjoyment I get out of Thanksgiving as opposed to Christmas or Halloween really, but mostly because I hate the fact that holidays that aren't mostly about merchants making money are being devalued.

My personal favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the smells, I love the food, I love having family together. Granted, I love all these things about Christmas as well, but it's different. During Christmas I'm always wondering if I spent enough money on the gifts that I gave out, or if one person is going to be upset that their gifts didn't cost as much as someone else's or did I exhibit enough excitement over the gifts that I got. Did the givers believe that I really liked / appreciated the gift they gave me? I hate how much emphasis is put on the spending of money. I also hate it when someone spends a bunch of money on me, knowing that I don't have as much to spend on them, and they say "Oh, stop!". Sure, it makes them feel good to give, but it makes me feel like a freaking loser. Thanks, merry Christmas, you ass.

The only requirement for Thanksgiving is that you stop, and you give thanks for the things you have. It's very aggravating to me that because you're not expected to drop a king's ransom on junk for people, vendors try to fast forward over it.

This isn't the only holiday I feel is squashed because it's not a big money maker. Columbus day, for example. There are no Columbus day decorations or flags, or anything like that. I can't even remember the last time I got the day off in honor of Columbus day. Martin Luther King day, is another one.

If this is something you agree with, please post a "Thanksgiving Comes first" post at your blog!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Greatest Minor Disappointments

Disappointment can strike at any time, in any way. None of us are strangers to disappointment, I'm sure. Some may be more familiar than others, but at some point we've all felt the pain of the wind leaving our sails, leaving us crestfallen.

As with most things I blog about, I'm not talking about the most serious cases. I'm not talking about being let down by a loved one, or failing a test, or getting into an accident...etc. Far too serious for my liking. I like to keep things less than severe here.

I'm talking about the little things. I'm talking about the things that you can laugh about only a few minutes afterwards, if not during. I'm talking about the things that seem like a bummer right then, but in comparison to the evening headlines, they're nothing. These are the things that will be a pain in the arse, but won't ruin your day.

I'm talking about:

You get up from your nap feeling satisfied and indulgent, but a bit peckish. You head to the kitchen, a peanut butter and jelly on your mind. You get your favorite jelly from the fridge, and the loaf of bread. You take out two similarly sized pieces from closer to the middle of the loaf than the end, and lay them on the plate.

You're enticed by the softness of it's feel, and the fact that there were no air pockets in the dough making holes the jelly will escape through to fall on your shirt. You spread the jelly on one piece of bread with a silly anticipatory grin on your face, feeling childlike excitement. You make sure not to leave any nook unfilled.

You reach for the jar of peanut butter only to find... no jar of peanut butter.

There are some foods that you could find a substitute for fairly easily from if you had to. Peanut butter is not one of them. When that's what you want, that's the only thing that'll do. Had there been no jelly, you may have been able to do with a different kind of jelly without much inconvenience, or perhaps just a peanut butter sandwich, but just jelly? Maybe it's good on toast, but you already have it on the bread. You don't want to throw it out cause your parents drilled into your head not to waste food, and honestly there's nothing wrong with it... Just... nothing right either!

I'm talking about:

The Redsox. I was watching the crucial game when the Sox were ahead, and the Yankees were killing the Rays 7-0. I went to bed before the end of the game. My wife came home late, and when she woke me, the Sox had just lost. "Oh well," I thought. "At least we're tied with Tampa, we'll play a tie-breaker with them for the final word on the post season."

The next day, around game-time, I put on the usual channel. Hockey?? What the hell? I got onto the interweb, only to find that Tampa came back from a 7 point deficit, and won. Talk about taking the wind out of my sails! I was all amped up to watch what would have been a VERY important game, only to find that like, 18 hours ago, it was avoided.

I'm talking about:

Pulling into your driveway, right when your favorite song begins playing on the radio and you have company waiting for you inside. Do you sit in your car and rock out while the folks inside watch from the living room window? Do you turn it off and head inside, knowing that the song is going to be stuck in your head until you get to hear it in it's entirety?

What kinds of things would you classify in this way?

Having Fun With Gmail Addresses

I'm one of those guys who will stumble across a newsletter and sign up for it thinking it looks fun. Currently I get mail from several places, including, but not limited to:

  • Tigerdirect - cause I love to see how cheaply they can sell refirbished computer equipment that I STILL can't afford anyway.
  • History.com "this day in history" - Apparently this day in 1985, "Take on me" by Ah-Hah hit the top of the charts in the US. 
  • Accuweather.com alerts - Evidentally it's raining in south eastern MA. 
  • Amazon.com - No activation fees when you buy sprint phones with service... 
  • Dictionary.com's word of the day - Harrowing. Extremely disturbing or distressing; grievous. I like learning these high-dollar words, even though in 20 minutes I'll forget them and never use them. It's handy for playing scrabble though.
There are a few others, but I think you get the idea here. There are times when I'm just too busy or disinterested and wont read them at all. Actually, 9 times out of 10, I'll just mark them read and move on.

Occassionally, like this morning, I'll see one that I don't remember signing up for, and "UNSUBSCRIBE" will be very apparent on the email in my preview pane, so I'll go for it. I clicked the link this morning and it took me to a webpage where I could enter my email address and have it removed from their mailing list. So I did. However, it told me that my email address didn't match any in their database.

I sat scratching my head a moment, because my email address is matthewconlon at gmail.com, and they had a preview of it above the box that looked like: m*************@gmail.com... I knew it had to be that address, as none of my other gmail accounts start with M.

I flipped back over to my inbox, and realized that the email was sent to matthew.conlon, not matthewconlon. And yet, it still arrived to me. I did some internet sluthing, and apparently there's a bug in Gmail's system that just doesn't recognize dots in email addresses. So technically, I could send an email to m..a..t..thew.con........lon at gmail.com and it would still get to me.

Further reading revealed that you can also create aliases on the fly by adding a + to your address. Anything following the + is omitted by the system. So ma...........tthew.conlon+themanthe...myth.thelegend at gmail.com would also get to me.

As with any new information, my mind immediate begins to try to figure out what kind of mischief or practical jokes I could use this for. Unfortunately, like myself this morning, no one looks at the email address to which a message was sent if it arrived in their inbox... Other than signing friends up for newsletters like catfancy or pledging donations as them or something like that to "email+payback.for.locking.the.car.windows.after.eating.mexican at gmail.com", I couldn't really think of anything.

So I started wondering what practical use I could get out of this. Given my tendency to sign up for newsletters, it's actually pretty useful. Say I wanted to sign up for a newsletter from walmart (just for an example). I could sign up as matthewconlon+walmart at gmail.com. Then if some day I don't want it anymore, and I've clicked unsubscribe but I still get the damned newsletter (cause that does happen) I can just set a filter to delete anything that comes in to that address.

Another benefit is if I start getting spam to that address, I know who sold my contact information. ...not that I really know what to do with that information other than send a scathing letter to management telling them that I'm onto them, but would they really care? I'd probably just get a coupon for 15% off of any purchase over $600 or something like that, IF anything at all.

So, do you subscribe to newsletters? Any ones you'd recommend? Can you think of anything better to use this gmail feature for?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wordplay

If you stopped by for the blog hop, see my recommendations here.

I've mentioned before, I love words and the English language. I like jokes that involve word-play, and I love to play with words, even when there's no joke involved. I especially love puns.

My earliest memory of getting enjoyment out of words was when I was quite young, perhaps four or five, and my father told me to say "Toy Boat" quickly three times, and I couldn't do it. Obviously, I couldn't do it, cause my tongue got tied at first, but subsequent attempts were foiled because I couldn't stop laughing at myself. "Black Buick" is another.

I was told by my brother that if you get those mords wixed, it meant you had drain bamage.

As I grew older, I found enjoyment in tongue twisters, and found that I was actually quite good at saying them without issue. That's also in that post about words that I linked above, so I won't belabor that point..

I like to say things like, "What do you think I am? Anyway??"

Before bed, I like to shake a tower and get all nice and clean.

One of my favorite songs in grade school was Big Bird singing the alphabet... But he (Big Bird IS a he, right??) was sounding the whole thing out as if it were one word...



I used to draw duct work for a living, and when I'd send the drawings to the printer, I'd say "Someday, my prints will come."

When someone sneezed I used to say "It look sweat, but it snot."

I like to drink beer and tell people "I'm not as think as you drunkle peep I am."

One of my favorite things to do when I was young (and even still, though most of the time I do it automatically now, so there's actually less goofy enjoyment) is to play with names. I used to sound out peoples names backwards, and see if it sounded funny. If it did, that's how I'd address them. It was uncommon that it worked out well enough to stick, most of the time it was just gibberish, but occasionally there'd be a gem. My own name is kinda boring, nolnoc semaj wehttam... Wet ham? Meh.

I actually sort of marveled at how difficult it must have been for J. K. Rowling to come up with "Tom Marvolo Riddle" from "I am lord Voldemort". What a pain in the arse that must have been.

My cousin and I started playing with names a lot togheter, sort of one-upping each other with celebrity names...

Regis Philbin, for example, became Fegis Rhilbin. And then Rhilfeg Binis... or something. etc.

Uma Thurman became Thurma Uman... And then ultimately Thurmumana.

If you're still with me, I urge you to try this... Let me know some of the funny ridiculous crap you come up with! :D

Blog Hop Recommendations

So for this blog hop, I have to recommend three blogs I think everyone else should read.

I don't like to blog about serious stuff, I think the world is full enough of that junk as it is. I like to come here and relax or share a story and a laugh. I try to keep things leisurely here.

As most of the folks I've come across via these events are writers of literature, and are recommending other such folks (not that I have anything against that) I'm going to cover some other bases.

When I started blogging, it was kinda lonely because I didn't know where to go, who to read, or how to even find other blogs, outside of googling for them. Eventually I stumbled upon a few (and it wasn't via that stumbleupon website either.)

Like myself, these folks are just sharing thoughts and stories. They're not selling anything, they just have something to say.

Jim Sullivan (Suldog) does voice-overs for a living, loves critters, and plays softball. Hell of a guy, and can tell a story like it's his job.

With his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, Uncle Skip enjoys a good story, tells a good story, and has a great eye for photography. I know I just shared two blogs for him, but it's the same guy, and he could have just done it all on one blog... Just think of it like one blog, with two separated locations.

Buck is one of the nicest twice-retired guy (USAF and IT industry). I love to stop by his blog especially when I've had a long day at work, or I'm feeling a little tightly wound. He enjoys cigars and a wide array of beer and great music, often posting during happy hour with what he's drinking, and what's on the radio.

That should do it! Unfortunately three folks was the limit, and although I wouldn't get jailed or blackballed for recommending more, I think it wouldn't be fair to anyone whom I recommend, because there would be some who would get omitted... But if you liked these recommendations, when the blog-hop is over, drop me a line, and I'll point you in other directions that you'll enjoy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pay it Forward BlogFest

I've joined a blog hop! The idea of this blog hop is to list 3 blogs you visit and would like to share with others. You sign up for the blog fest (which can be done below - although I think it might be a little late right now... Sorry) and all who signed up visit all the others who signed up, and visit the blogs those folks recommend!

If you didn't sign up, or it's too late to do so by the time you read this, feel free to visit the folks in the list below anyway!

 




Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beef and Wild Mushroom Stew ( From Good Housekeeping's "Soups & Stews")

This recipe was so amazing, I took the time to type it up. HIGHLY recommend making this, if you like the ingredients.



Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 15 minutes
Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and each cut in half
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 package (1/2 ounce) dried mushrooms
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into thirds
2 Pounds beef for stew, cut into 1.5” pieces
½ Can (8 oz) chicken broth (1 cup)
¾ Teaspoon salt
¾ Cup dry red wine
1 Large onion (12 oz), finely chopped
¼ Teaspoon dried thyme
1 Bay leaf

In 5-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add fresh mushrooms and cook until tender and lightly browned and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes; transfer to a small bowl. You will not add these until the stew is almost done. Cover and set them aside.

Meanwhile; in a small bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over dried mushrooms; set aside.

In large bowl, toss beef with salt. In same dutch oven, heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of beef and cook only until browned, 10 to 12 minutes, using slotted spoon to transfer beef to bowl as it’s browned. Repeat with remaining beef. Reserve drippings.

With slotted spoon, remove mushrooms from soaking liquid. Rinse to remove any grit, then coarsely chop. Strain liquid through sieve lined with paper towels. Set aside mushrooms and liquid.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add onion and 2 tablespoons water to drippings in Dutch oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Return beef to Dutch oven. Add dried mushrooms and their liquid, carrots, broth, red wine, thyme, and bay leaf; heat to boiling over high heat. Cover and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf before serving.


Each serving: about 370 calories, 36g protein, 13g carbohydrate, 18g total fat (6g saturated), 87mg cholesterol, 480mg sodium.


This recipe is from Good Housekeeping’s “Soups & Stews” cookbook. I added a couple of notes above, and below are my notes from my first time making this dish. I personally found this dish amazing, although I didn’t stick completely to the recipe, as remarked below.

I was unable to find dried mushrooms. I ignored these steps completely.

I forgot to get tomato paste. I had just made a spaghetti sauce, and added what little sauce was left over, but realistically it was less than a tablespoon and probably not even noticeable.

I do not have a Dutch oven that I can put in the oven, due to plastic handle. I cooked everything in a large frying pan, and transferred to a 4qt bake ware dish.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Five Things New Parents Don't Expect

I've been a parent for six years and a couple months, and a parent of two for two years and a month or so. Nearly every day I marvel at the things that I just didn't see coming.

Before you veteran parents start saying "Well duh," Let me just say that before I had kids of my own, my brother had four, and my wife's brother had a couple, and we were always babysitting someone. We were no strangers to child care when it came time to have our own.

We knew that diapers are gross. We knew that kids like to do what they want to do. We knew that we'd have sleepless nights for a while. We really knew everything we NEEDED to know... What we didn't know, were things that would have been NICE to know... I.E. the things that come from left field.

Of course, there's the obvious list of things that people who have any sort of analytical abilities might be able to come up with. You never knew how much you could love something, you never expected to WANT to stay home on Friday nights, blahblahblah. No. Still not what I'm talking about.

Here are some of the things I've learned that no amount of preparation could really get me ready for. Things that you could have told me about, but I never would have been able to appreciate until I'd experienced it first hand:

1 - Poo
I've blogged about poo before and that blog post is definitely relavent to this topic, so go read it.

Welcome back. I'm sorry to say, I have multiple poo stories.

If you (or in the case where you're male, your wife) is in favor of breast feeding (and I'm not saying I'm against it) be aware that even the smallest of babies can produce projectile bowel movements such that you will not believe, even to the degree that you will blog about it. ...And here, I validate that statement...

We didn't breast-feed one-of-two. However, we did use breast milk. My wife spent most of her life feeding, and then pumping. This way, I could assist with the night feedings.

Now...

One time I was changing one-of-two, and I had her on the kitchen table (with one of those folding changing pads beneath her). I learned that day that breast milk, in addition to giving the baby the anti-bodies of the mother and all the other benefits, blahblahblah, also makes for some explosive excrement. Like a nine-pound water balloon, one of two erupted in a stream of mustard colored poo, that shot OVER the edge of the table I had her on, and all over my shirt.

I was frozen in dumbfounded disgust. Miraculously, there was nothing on the pad, or the table, or the floor... Just me. How fortunate.

My wife loves that story.

2 - Everything is just wetter.
If I had to sum up parenthood of a child under the age of 4 in just one word, that word would be WET. I'm not just talking about drool either. Everything you have to handle in your normal routine is going to be wet. Whether it's slobber on your keys, or spilled formula on your favorite chair, or urine on your bed (which I hope was not something you were used to anyway) or a glass of soda you had on the table that was grabbed or knocked over... EVERYTHING is just wet.

Gross, right? Well, that's not really the worst part. The worst part is that you get used to it! There was a time in my life when I would have said that no way would I ever have human waste in any of it's forms on me. How little did I know.

In the beginning, a pee spot on your shirt will be disgusting, and you'll drop what you're doing and change your shirt. As disgusting as it sounds, and you parents know it's true, after a few years of it, you will examine the size of the spot, and wonder if it'll dry without being too big of an inconvenience. The fact that it's pee isn't as big a problem, but the fact that it's wet means it's cold.

Sometimes your child is going to pee through his or her diaper, and you're going to find him or her in wet clothes in the morning. The first time that happened, I was grossed out, handed the bundle of soppy joy to my wife, and went and washed my hands. These days, I'll check the bed to see if the blanket is wet, and the sheets, feeling around with my hands, etc... I'll even go so far as to smell it to see if it's pee or a leaky cup that I didn't know she'd taken to bed. ...as if it matters right? They're wet, regardless of what it is, wash em! That's how little I'm bothered by it, I can actually be curious enough to sniff.

3-Your Food is No Longer Your Own
Your child will always know when there's something in the house that you don't want him or her to eat. Cookies, ice cream, etc. In the beginning, he or she may ask for permission. Do not assume this will always be the case.

Case in point: This happened just yesterday. I came out to the kitchen, to find 2 of 2 on the table...

Your child WILL attempt to get some of these things after you say no, when you're not looking. Sometimes he or she will get them, other times, not. Getting caught doesn't really matter, as long as the objective is met, and the cookies are enjoyed if only for a few minutes.

The sooner you realize that there's little you can do about this, because consequences of getting caught are not enough to discourage a peckish toddler, the better. You'll just have to take it to the next level.

Before long, you'll find yourself buying these things when you're by yourself. You will sneak these things into the house, and you'll hide them in strange places. Sometimes your kid will find them anyway, but chances are slimmer. Sometimes you'll forget where you put them too, so maybe write yourself a note. You can leave said note in plain sight until your kid learns to read.

Kids are smart when it comes to getting what they want. One of two likes to poke her head out every time she hears something going on in the kitchen. If I'm making for my hidden stash of whatever, even if she doesn't know it's there, there's a good chance she's going to catch me eating it.

You'll find yourself yelling at your kids when they are caught hiding with cookies or something like that, only to realize that you are now frequently do exactly the same thing... You hippocite! (or however that's spelled... spell check doesn't seem to agree with me on that word no matter how I change it.)

4 - Keys Make Great Toys!
You'll spare no expense when it comes to toys. You'll find yourself buying things that you never would have thought you'd buy. Silly things that cost way too much. Puzzles that will never get put together before half the pieces are lost. Books that'll be ripped apart. Cars that will get thrown. Dolls that will get beheaded.

Friends and relatives will shower you with their used toys that haven't been too damaged, or expensive things for birthdays that you would never have acquired otherwise, and in almost all cases, that make noise... It's amazing, batteries in my flashlight die in a matter of minutes... Take a few batteries from the same freakin pack, and put them in a noisy kid's toy, and they will last forever!

Despite the sheer volume of items SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED for kid's to play with, in your home, nothing will ever be quite as fun to play with as your car keys. I once had to burn a sick day from work, because I could not find my freakin keys. I did eventually find them shoved into the trunk of a Barbie car.

5 - Your Paper Is Not Your Own!
This is especially inconvenient to me, because I work from home. Anything flat and blank is a viable writing surface for a creative six (and five, four, three) year old. Any younger than that, the only difference is that the surface doesn't need to by flat or blank. Skin works just as well as paper.

They'll also produce writing implements from unknown places. Pens and markers you didn't know you had, or hadn't seen since long before you had kids will suddenly show up in hands that moments ago were idle.

There are many more, I'm sure, but I thought I'd give you guys a chance to share some of yours. Anything I didn't list? Anything I did list that you would just like to add to?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Little Things

My recently renewed sense of stability seems to have brought with it my abnormal propensity for reflecting on the little things that I enjoy, and writing about said little things in a meandering big-worded style. It’s seldom I get a good post out without at least a handful of parenthesis and …s.

(I forget what the three periods are called, but I’m well aware I over use them… To understand why I like them, try to read my posts and pretend that it’s you speaking the words, turn the three periods into a short pause during which you allow your listener the chance to add a thought, which turns into a slightly awkward silence where they wait for you to get to the freaking point… Not sure why, but I like pauses like that. Gives me a moment to think, and who doesn’t like to irk their listeners a little, right? Anyway, I think I owe you a right-parenthesis… I think I’ll hold on to it for now. I’d make a terrible code monkey…

So like I was saying in the title, I’ve been thinking about some of the lesser appreciated little things that bring us some measure of pleasure, and thought I’d pay tribute. There are enough posts about children’s laughter or playful kittens. I’m not talking about finding $20 in your old jacket, or getting a free lunch when you don’t expect it… Those things are great, but really… What’s the sense in posting about something easy to enjoy like that?

No, I’m talking about the unsung heroes of our superficial pleasures.

I love potato chips, as any red-cholesterol-clotted-blooded American does, but even better than the potato chip, is a potato chip that’s folded over onto itself. There’s a certain crunch it gives as your teeth shatter through it, twice in one bit that can’t be paralleled, even by biting two chips at once.

I was once told by a brother of mine, that if you find a potato chip that’s folded over and it’s touching itself, and you can fit that entire potato chip into your mouth without breaking it, then you get to make a wish. I imagine he told me that at least twenty-five years ago, but to this day, I still do it, and I still make a wish.

It’s a well-known fact, that I am a serious ice cream addict. I have my favorites like anyone else, but I love ice cream in a bowl, and eating it with a metal spoon. I like to take that spoon after removing it from my mouth, and I lay it on the ice cream, and watch the wetness in the spoon slowly freeze when the spoon’s temperature drop. It reminds me of an old Tom and Jerry episode when they flood the kitchen, and open the freezer door, dip some wires from the fridge into the water, and the whole kitchen freezes over like a forest after a New England ice storm. The water slowly, magically freezes, the ice sweeping out across the floor… That’s how the left-behind slobber on the spoon freezes. I highly recommend trying it out. It’ll become your new bad habit.

I love crispy chicken skin. Naturally, it’s the worst part of the chicken, but a slab of seasoned, well crisped chicken skin is a close rival to possibly even bacon. I have a respect for vegetarians, but I can honestly say there’s absolutely no other food that even comes close to bacon or chicken skin. Were I to go the way of the herbivorous, there’d be no substitute for these things.

I haven’t done it in a while (read: over 20 years) but I always used to love smearing Elmer’s glue on my hand, waiting for it to dry, just to peel it off like a layer of dead skin… I know, it sounds sick, and perhaps it’s a little-boy thing, but honestly, it’s a good time. There were a bunch of us in grade school who used to do it, and we’d compete to see who could peel the biggest piece. I find myself looking back fondly on it lately, with school back in session there are tons of Elmer’s glue commercials. Don’t use rubber cement though, it doesn’t work the same, and takes longer to dry. Paste also doesn’t work the same, so don’t bother. Leave it for that weird kid who eats it.

I’m sure I’ve got a ton of these, and I’ll be sure to post them up as I think of them. What are you less obvious little things that bring you pleasure?? Try to keep it clean, this is a family show. ;)

Oh, and here… )

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Making Up For Lost Time

Hello!

It's been quite a while. I've thought a few times on what to post when I came back, but sort of a lot's happened and I wasn't sure where to start... So I guess I'll just start where I left off and catch up. Hopefully I can make this entertaining while I go.

Last time I posted it was during a sort of depressed moment where things were irritating, but I felt the need to write, if only just to write. Shortly after that day, things continued wearing on me, and I just didn't feel like writing either.

I'd been having some anxiety issues for the last few years, and it's never really been a problem for me before... There was a time, maybe five years ago that you could have told me my something bothersome, and I'd say "Huh. Ok, well let's deal with this, what's the best course of action?" In the last couple years, things started bothering me. You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you hear horrible news, like a car crash that might have involved someone you know, or something like that? That twisting, writhing knot in your belly? I started getting that feeling frequently.

At first, I was able to just dismiss it, tell myself I was being ridiculous, and move on. Eventually, simple things like problems at work for which I had no answer... and I work in I.T., it's EVERY DAY that there are problems I have to figure out. It's always been a strength, and all of a sudden I found myself dreading being relied upon for someone's business. Still, I forged ahead, telling myself it was no big deal, I was over-reacting and being ridiculous.

In addition to this, I'd seemed to have completely lost my patience. I've always had a rather hot temper, but generally speaking, I've got a pretty long fuse. This was no longer the case. Little things would set me off in a shouting rage, and I didn't like that. I've got two young kids, and a job for which one NEEDS patience... By the time I finish with work, I only have a couple of hours to spend with the kids, and it's not fair to them for me to be frustrated and angry all the time. 

Finally, I decided to speak with my doctor about it. She asked if I had been getting sad a lot, and I wasn't sure how to answer... Which sort of made me think "yes"... I mean, I wasn't crying or anything, but there were more nights that felt like that last post of mine than there were others. She asked if I was considering self-harm, which I wasn't... Far from it. "Suicide has never crossed my mind," I said. "Homicide, on the other had has been a reoccurring notion, however." She knew I was kidding.

I was put on a low dosage of Celexa. This is an SSRI, and typically given to treat depression, but they find that in low doses it's effective for anxiety. I started taking this on a Monday following a weekend during which I worked. I'm not going to get into the specifics of the job, but suffice to say things didn't go quite well, and were very tenuous for almost two weeks before everything smoothed out.

That said, Monday I felt a difference within a couple of hours. They say you won't, but I disagree. Day two and three were also better. Day four, I woke up an hour before the alarm, and I felt like I was having a panic attack, which I've NEVER had in my life. My heart was pounding, my whole body was jittery, I got the sweats, the chills, and that knot-feeling in the pit of my stomach was present, and would not fade.

"Things are fine" I kept telling myself. "Things will work out, don't worry about it", but all I wanted to do was crawl out of my skin. I read online that this was a common side effect of Celexa after the first few days, and would go away, but it typically took around two weeks. Nice of them to give me a heads up, I thought. Then again, if I'd had any idea I probably wouldn't have stuck with it.

Over the next few weeks, I had a several instances like that, and they'd last for hours, though each was somewhat shorter and less severe than the last. I still wake up a little early, but I find it easier to snooze. Whatever slight depression I'd been feeling has gone away. My patience seems to have returned. The anxiety is by and large gone, but that knot-feeling is still present, if a little different. It's more of a chill that starts at the back of my neck, and goes down into my stomach and sits for a few minutes.

Thanks to those of you who checked back in with me over the last few weeks, the words of encouragement really meant a lot, and had a lot of impact in a time when I needed that sort of thing badly. I appreciate the kind thoughts, and hope I can return the favor some day.

Anxiety is a funny thing, that I only now have a respect for. I always took for granted that because I could just dismiss something as silly, that everyone should be able to. I've always said "you can't do anything about it now, so don't bother thinking about it." I never knew what a luxury that ability was.