Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dark Chocolate - Oh, Demon of Deliciousness!

This has to be one of my most-favorite guilty pleasures of all. Deep, dark, rich, taste-bud electrifying, salivary gland enticing, pleasure-inducing flavors ever created on this planet. Dark Chocolate.

The name alone oozes of sinful goodness. Growing up allergic to chocolate, I ate a lot of White Chocolate (which we all know, is not actually Chocolate at all due to its lack of Cocoa Solids). Then as the allergies subsided, my taste buds were introduced to the most common and average of Chocolates here in the US - Milk Chocolate; a sweet, tasty confection not to be
ignored. But oh, you Dark Chocolate, you!

So what is it? What is Chocolate and why the obsession? Deep in the tropical jungles of South America, the Cacao Tree bears large green fruit pods. These 6-12 inch pods weigh about a pound each. Embedding in the pulpy white flesh are about 60 seeds known as beans. These beans are 40-50% fat... a delicious fat known as Cocoa Butter.

These beans are intensely bitter and require fermentation to develop their flavor. Next, these little unassuming beans are dried, cleaned, and finally roasted. Once the shells are removed we have cacao nibs which are ground and turning into a pure chocolate liquid known as chocolate liquor. [My mouth is watering just typing this!] Separate the fat (cocoa butter) from the chocolate liquor and the what remains is cocoa solids. The ratio of cocoa butter to cocoa solids is what defines our chocolate.

Unsweetened or Baker's Chocolate is Pure Chocolate Liquor. But start adding sweeteners and other fats (usually milk) and world begins to engulf the possibilities. In a nutshell, about 25% Cocoa Solids is required for Milk Chocolate (milk being an added fat) and a minimum of 35% Cocoa Solids is required for Dark Chocolate.

But enough science and history... taste it. Savor it. Crave it. If you don't know the difference you can conduct a very simple test. M&Ms. They now make a Dark Chocolate version and the flavor between this and their original formula is night and day.

Regular M&Ms (bring back Tan!) are as delicious as ever. But I've begun to find them ubiquitous, appearing everywhere from ice cream toppings to cupcake decorations, turning batter into faux chocolate chip cookies, living in places it doesn't belong, like trail mix and all sorts other products. I have grown tired of this 'melt in your mouth, not in your hands' snack.

But bite crunch into a new Dark Chocolate M&M and holy smokes. This IS the difference between Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate.

So dig through your kids Halloween Haul tonight and find some Dark Chocolate. Try it. Your grown-up taste buds will dance, your eyes will roll, a deep sigh will emanate from the most-inner core of your being. Return will never be an option.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oct 20 - A Blank Page (or Which "Chris Evans"?)

I open this blog with nary a theme nor idea. Not a clue or a thought of what to write about. The goal, therefore, is to simply ramble along to see what comes out. Come along for the ride... if you dare (mwua-ha-ha-ha-ha).

OK, so that was my best diabolical laugh, but really; I have nothing, nada, zip, nil and zilch. I'm staring at the screen while I also ponder what TV show to next watch on the DVR (I just finished last night's episode of FOX's "House"). I could go back to finish BBC America's "Friday Night with Jonathan Ross" that Mark and I started yesterday. One of the guests was 'Chris Evans' - he's cute and we liked him in the Fantastic Four films.
Unfortunately, instead of a 28-year old hunk, we got a 58-year old British author. As Mark would say, "No Bueno."
Maybe I'll watch Bravo's "Flipping Out" - that Jeff Lewis makes ME look normal (hahaha). Yeh, that's what I'll watch as I continue exercising my fingers on my MacBook keyboard, sip water and try to find a topic. I knew a second Blogapalooza would be tough!

I think if my full-time job was that of "Blogger", I would be better at finding a daily topic. As a paid Blogger, I would spend my days living life... truly living to work and not working to live. Hiking, shopping, visiting a different café or restaurant every day. Maybe try something new weekly - visit Color Me Mine, Volunteer at a School or Orphanage, Sky Dive, try a series of Yoga Classes, give myself a Book to read and then Blog a Report about...

I would Blog about each of these things, maybe for a local website, giving my reviews and thoughts... if anyone would care. I've often thought that if I was to move to a small town, maybe I could review every eatery in town in Alphabetical Order... from the Aardvark Antateria to the Zylophone Zeppolis and everything in between. That could be fun.

Maybe I'd review movies as well... and plays. What fun it would be to get paid for my opinions and my write-ups.

Well enough online dreaming and time for some real dreaming... my new allergy medicine is kicking in and will soon be in blissful slumber (or at least I hope so!).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oct 18 - iPod Obsession or OCD?

I will start with my apologies for my lax Blogging, but life happens.

Anyway, in a previous Blog Why We Must Practice Subterfuge (Sept. 19, 2009) I took you on my journey of acquired a new state-of-the-art 160gb iPod. What I didn't tell you was my entire iPod Saga (trust me, it's more interesting than Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace).

November 4, 2005 - I purchase a used 40gb iPod for $300 (current retail is $400) and my love affair begins. I lot this baby up with tons of stuff, but selectively from my 1500+ CD collection.

June 2007 - I find a lost 80gb iPod in a locker at my gym. I post signs, but nobody claims it. It is filled lots of music I don't own, so in the Comments field, I label all of these as "newpod" and begin to listen to them. The bulk of these tracks are CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) and while some the Rock from groups like Relient K are great, I delete a lot as soon as "he", "him", "Jesus" and "Lord" become overwhelming.

Also, the guy I'm dating has an iPod that's completely backed up to an external hard drive. He copies all his tracks to my iPod and backs up my tracks to his hard drive. This will prophetically save my life. I then spend a lot of time weeding out duplicates. Oh, and I give away my 40gb iPod which (to date) is still functioning.

May 2008 - Now dating a new guy (Mark whom I'm still with), I give him a lot of iPod tracks and he gives me all of his. I again spend a lot of time organizing and integrating these new tracks into my library.

Now, when I say 'organizing' I mean slaving over. I change all of the Artists to 'Last Name, First Name'; I standardize album titles - using things like "(OBC)" to indicate Original Broadway Cast; I find 4k Artwork to add to all albums, I add some 'Composers' (only ones I care to ever sort by); I standardize and limit my 'Genres'; and juggle over 30 Smart Playlists and 15 Manual Playlists. Because my iPod memory is larger than my MacBook memory, it contains more tracks than are in my Library - it IS my Library.

June 2008 - The iPod crashes. Big time! It cannot be read by iTunes, but utilizing a third party software, the tracks can be read on the iPod. They are all immediately downloaded back to iTunes, but some are damaged. I call my 'ex-with-the-hard-drive' (who now lives in Chicago) and he - very graciously - mails it out to me to retrieve the tracks. I also get 's iPod and retrieve his tracks. I now have about 23,000 tracks - including a massive amount of duplicates, triplicates, quadruplicates and hundreds of scrambled titles.

This is not good and causes me A LOT of STRESS (which is why I think it's a form of OCD). In July 2008, I get myself a 500gb External Drive of my own and copy EVERYTHING onto it in separate folders (Old iPod [pre-crash from the hard drive], Old iTunes [pre-crash], current iTunes [rebuilt], Ex's iPod and Mark's iPod). These are then organized on the 500gb External Drive under the title, 'The Complete Library" and the rebuilding truly begins.

Now, since I cannot trust the tracks, I select the one version of the track that I can trust the most (from the ex's hard drive) and load those onto the iPod. I mark them all in the Comments field as "evaluate" and begin to listen to them - all of them. The rest of the tracks in the duplicates, triplicates and quadruplicates in the Library and 'de-selected' but kept (for now) just in case the Chosen One on the iPod is bad. This process takes about a month of me straining over my laptop for hours upon hours after work... sometimes until 2AM, struggling between the Angel on my right shoulder saying "Go to Bed" and the Devil on my left shoulder saying, "Must finish iPod".

I create a Smart Playlist called 'Evaluate' in which every track lives in. BUT, if I listen to it and it's good, I give it a Two-Star Rating and it 'moves itself' to another Smart Playlist called 'Clean', if I don't like the track, I give it a One-Star Rating and it moves itself to a Smart Playlist called 'Delete' and if I like the track and it is damaged, I
give it a Three-Star Rating and it moves itself to a Smart Playlist called 'Replace'.

Scared yet... oh, there's more. Every few days, I have to jive the iPod back with the Complete Library - marking the Clean ones as good, deleting the Deleted ones and selecting or replacing the damaged tracks in Replace.

Over the next year, the 80gb iPod crashes another three times, but this time, the reload is much less painless, BUT I still have way too many version of too many songs and it is taking me FOREVER - because every time it crashes, I loose the "Last Date Played" info so I don't know what's clean! I then come up with yet another system.

Utilizing the BPM (beats per minute) field that I never use, I start putting in various numbers: 1=delete; 3=replace; 4 and 5 are simply four-star and five-star songs that put them into their appropriate Smart Playlists; and 24 is my lucky number so it simply = clean (oh, and a 2 will eventually mean it 'needs' something - maybe it's in the wrong Genre, Art is missing, etc.).

Phew - well in Sept 2009 (as you know from the earlier blog) Mark got me a new iPod. The transfer was easy and complete, but I now alter my game plan for what I hope is the final time and the most concise and thorough play through I can envision.

I create a Smart Playlist called "Play Me!" which contains every track that does not have BPM listed and has not yet been played through and a Smart Playlist called "Played!!" that has every track that's does not have a BPM and has been played. This the playlist I listen to most of the time and each night (or so) I true-up the "Played!!" against the The Complete Library (including deleting all of the duplicates and triplicates now that I have THE good track). As of right now, The Complete Library = 22876 Tracks, the iPod = 19,545 of which 4174 are certified as Clean... only 15,371 to go on the iPod (13 need replacing).

Oh, and if I add something new? I still mark it as 'evaluate' in Comments field, so those have extra steps to integrate after they are certified clean ('Evaluate' is a Smart Playlist and once listened to, they move themselves into 'Add' - another Smart Playlist).

Well... if you have actually made it to the end of this Blog, congratulations! It's only taken me about 2 hours to write it, and if that's not being Obsessed about an Obsession (or OCD), I don't know what is!

[FYI - lately I've been looking at the way the Artist's appear on the screen of the iPod... instead of "Last Name, First Name" I could change it to "First Name- Last Name" but to Sort properly, I'd have to also move the Last Name, First Name information to the Sort By Field!

- somebody please stop me... help!]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oct 15 - Salt & Pepper: Our Ubiquitous Friends

One, a basic mineral; essential for animal life. The other, a dried fruit from a flowering vine. The pairing of these two completely diverse items in Europe (France, I believe) back in the 17th Century was and continues to be a marriage made in heaven.

These two little condiments appear in virtually every kitchen and are on the table at nearly every dining establishment you may frequent. They usually live in little matching glass canisters with a metal lid that contains shaker holes - more holes for Salt than Pepper, traditionally.

Cook anything... anything... without even a touch of salt, and it will be bland. Add a pinch to anything and HELLO!!! the flavors come alive. My grandmother used to add a little to her Watermelon. Watermelon? You have got to kidding me. Ewww. That is, Ewww until I tried it. Wow! What a difference. Try NOT putting Salt in your Chocolate Chip Cookies and you will regret it.

As a big fan of Food Network, I have altered my Salt usage. For starters, Kosher Salt lives in a black container my by stove for cooking. Fabulous. Big, tasty flavors that stick to food instead of melting into it. I also add a pinch to Salads. You'd be surprised. Since switching to Kosher Salt, I actually use less!

Then there's our friend, Mr. Pepper. My Mom used to simply buy a canister of Ground Black Pepper. That's all I thought there was. Then came Peppercorns - simply the un-ground dried pepper. They seemed exotic. And then I found out they came in colors as well with variations in flavor. Although I think Food Network uses White Pepper more aethstetically for visually pleasing dishes (you don't put Black Pepper into White Creamy Soups or Alton Brown will kick your ass) than for the subtle differences in flavor.

I always thought Pepper Mills only came in 24-Inch Wooden restaurant sizes, but NO... one day I discovered that Pepper Mills come in all sizes and shape and materials and you should own one!

Start finding places to add Pepper to zazz up your dishes. I add it to Popcorn. I add it to Macaroni & Cheese (the Blue Box, thank you). I love it on eggs. I even recently discovered Earl Grey Tea. This little black tea (Tazo brand at least) is laced with hints of Bergamot - a citrus fruit. But while I don't taste any citrus, the peppery notes are absolutely addictive. Try some.

The only real point here is my simple request that you embrace our two little ubiquitous friends. Don't take them for granted. Use them. Try them. Respect them. Love them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oct 14 - It Only Takes a Prick for a Jab Well Done

Once upon there was a little boy who had allergies. He was allergic to everything. Rumor has it, he was allergic to his own body chemistry. His eyes were so puffy when he was born, people joked that he looked like Edward G. Robinson (google him if you're too young to remember him). The first baby photos of him weren't even taken until he was three months old! (A real Uggo.)

Over the years, the allergies consolidated themselves to Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Grass (not weed you pot-heads, but lawn grass... as in rolling around in it with his shirt off), Mustard, Ice and I'm sure a few others things (although the memories are conflicting and contradictory - see Conflicted Memories for an alternative universe).

One day, this little boy visited an Allergist (Dr. Lecks of Philadelphia) who scratched his back many painful times until he bled and spit on the Nurse who was holding him (the Nurse yelled at him and his Mom yelled at her!). After that, seven years of allergy shots followed - sometimes once a week, sometimes twice.

This was not all bad as the little boy's regular Doctor kept a little box of toys for his patients atop his filing cabinet. Since this little boy was in so often, he was allowed to root through the box to pick out his favorites after every new box arrived - these were set aside in a special box just for him!

What followed was seven years of nary a sniffle, until one say (in May of 1983 - on a US Submarine Tender in Guam to be precise), he got Congested and it has never gone away. Over time, he grew miserable

Flash forward to October 2007. After about six months of every OTC Decongestant and Antihistamine on the market, someone suggested an ancient Chinese secret (not Calgon Water Softener - click there for a blast from the 70s). OK, so it's not much of a 'secret' but definitely 'ancient' and definitely considered 'Chinese' - although it dates back to Neolithic times which pre-date the Chinese, but as usual, I digress).

Acupuncture. A therapy wherein very fine needles are used to stimulate specific points in the body (in the most layman of terms). Western Medicine is hesitant to embrace it... a large majority of our society still pooh-poohs it (but how can one accept the pooh-poohs from a people who won't believe in a 4000+ year-old medical treatment, but have no problem putting their faith in a less-than 2000 year-old fairytale - but again, I digress).

All I can say about it is (and I HATE needles) that it does not hurt (but it can be a little uncomfortable) and usually I can feel the positive effects by the time I reach my car. After about twelve treatments, my allergies... er, ah... the little boy's allergies subsided for the first time in a long time. He's even gone back for other issues of a digestive nature and found immediate relief.

If you have not tried it and have anything going on that you would prefer not to be going on, take a stab at Acupuncture (pun intended). You will be most likely be extremely and pleasantly surprised at the results!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oct 13 - "Rainy Days and Mond..." OK "...Tuesdays, Always Get Me Down"

I gotta tell you. Rain - not a fan.

Never have been. Never will be. I cringe and duck at every drop, afraid of melting like everyone's favorite Wicked Witch.

No idea why I hate it (and I use the word 'hate' in its strongest possibly connotation). I grew up outside of Philadelphia so am quite accustomed to precipitation. Torrential downpours, the occasional Nor'easter (a Hurricane that ventures northward toward New England.

Zodiacally speaking (my word, copyright 2009) I am on the cusp of Pisces and Aquarius. One a water-bound (and presumably) water-loving fish, while the other is a control freak (ok, so he's actually a 'water-bearer' - but he keeps control the water in his urn). Maybe it's simply my two halves in conflict - one wanted to revel in the watery goodness while the other can't wait to contain it.

Either way, I hate the rain. I don't like the smell of wet concrete (or the worms that inevitably covered the pavement in Warminster where I grew up). I don't like the dirt it leaves behind on my car or patio furniture. I don't like having to drive extra carefully. And I don't like having to drag a wet umbrella into my car.

I do like a lot of the great rain-related songs this unfortunate weather condition as spawned (you can click on the links to hear these on YouTube): Supertramp's "It's Raining Again"; or Eddie Rabbit's "I Love the Rainy Nights" [I apologize for the video for this one ahead of time... the only original vocal version of the song I could find with scary (as in 'bad') PC graphical animation]; but just not the actually dripping moisture.

Thunder, lightning and heavy winds... now THAT'S another story. LOVE THEM! I used to put a lawn chair out to revel in the impending storm. That's probably the one thing I miss living in Los Angeles. Great Thunder and Lightning storms. I totally feel energized when they're going on! Claps of Lightning that shake the walls. Fan-tastic!

But not the rain. Not the wet. Not the gloom. Not the gray. Not the cold. Not the damp.

Give me the sun and the warmth. That's what makes me smile and contented.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oct 12 - Columbus Day: A Celebration

"In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue."

What school-aged moppet didn't learn this little ditty (although I don't think I learned it until Arnold Horshack on "Welcome Back, Kotter"). And growing up, I was taught that America had been discovered by the Explorer Christopher Columbus, an Italian sailing for Spain with his fleet, consisting of the Niñ
a, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The journey was in search of a new trade route to India. Upon arriving in the Caribbean, the area was dubbed the West Indies.

Christopher Columbus - Discoverer of the New World. They had Parades in his Honor (big Italian pride parades in New York). School was closed (some still are). Banks were closed (most still are). No Mail Delivery (no loss for me, they only deliver adverts and junk lately).

And then it all unraveled. I mean after all, how do you 'discover' a place that already has people on it? And what happened to those people? Oh yes, they were pushed aside - essentially invaded by hordes of Europeans who saw these less-developed indigenous peoples (less-developed by their high-falutin Euro ways - any really, aren't the Euros still trying to convince us that they are just a little more superior?)... who saw these indigenous peoples as either savages to be tamed or workers to be enslaved. Ultimately, all were barriers to our eventual Manifest Destiny.

How quickly one man's reputation went from valiant Explorer to genocidal Despot - just in a couple decades. And really for no more reason than people started to THINK about it more. When that touch of Rational Thought began to overtake the Mythical Lore of this one Man, his reputation hit the mud.

Oh how fickle we are.

Anyway, in Honor of Columbus Day, I thought I'd share this fabulously funny routine from American comedy genius, Stan Freberg (check him out on Wikipedia if you are unfamiliar with him). This routine comes from his classic album, Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America, Volume One - The Early Years (1961). Just click below:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

BONUS BLOG - From the Recipe File: Sautéed Liver & Onions with Sour Cream & Dill Sauce

Delicious and pretty easy. Unfortunately, it is not the most photogenic dish, so no image for you to salivate over.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

1 lb Beef Liver
1/2 cup Flour

2 tbs Butter
1/2 Onion
1 cup Beef Stock
1 tbs Sour Cream
Handful Fresh Dill

(served over Egg Noodles)

1. Season Liver with Salt/Pepper.
2. Dredge through Flour.
3. Melt Butter in hot pan and saute Liver over medium heat.
4. In separate pan, saute Onion.
5. Add Sour Cream to Beef Stock (temper if you need to).
6. Add Onions and Sour Cream/Beef Stock mixture to Liver.

7. Cover and simmer on low-medium for 15-20 minutes.
8. Serve over Egg Noodles.
9. Garnish with Fresh Dill.

Yield: 2-4 servings

For more recipes, check out my personal recipes at:

Oct 11 - New Words and Old Worlds

For eons, humankind has been communicating in a variety of ways; some non-verbal and some verbal. As the verbal gained in popularity, the vocabulary exploded and grew and morphed and changed and evolved and became far more richer and precise. No longer was 'red' simply 'red', but evolved into burgundy, carmine, carnation, claret, crimson, damask, garnet, magenta, maroon, oxblood, puce, ruby, scarlet, vermilion - and let's not neglect the adjectives for 'red' like blood, brick, cherry, and fire-engine (from the soon-to-be discontinued MSN Encarta [say goodbye on October 31, 2009]).

And the evolution continues. New words crop up all the time, just as old words lose their meaning or value and disappear. New words can become globally accepted
standards; regional and known by all your friends and neighbors but not by the people in the next town; or have multiple meanings in multiple areas - meaning that words are so widespread and ever-changing that I'm OK with that. New words adapt to better suit the needs of the users.

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, just 10 years ago, common words and terms like iPod and DVR were unknown.
The word 'blog' itself is now fully accepted, but is a contraction for 'web log' or 'we blog' (depending on your source) and is therefore a new term coined around 1999.

20 years ago, 'cell phone
', 'email' and 'laptop' meant virtually nothing sensical (my word for the opposite of 'nonsensical' - now that's a word that makes me gruntled). 30 years ago, a FAX (short for facsimile) was mostly unknown. "CC" means to copy someone on your email, but its origins are as an abbreviation for "carbon copy" - meaning the copy created when you placed that thin blue sheet of carbon paper between two blank pages before you rolled them into your typewriter. Now I only see something like carbon paper at the dentist's office when he's tasting the bite of a new cap or filling. Mimeo? What's a mimeo?

Growing up, we had an old Merriam-Websters Dictionary from the 1940s or 1950s (I think - Mom, if you're reading this, please save that tome for me). My favorite part of that book were the pages listing the new words that had been recently added. These were things like 'x-ray' 'laser' and 'television'. Commonplace words today that were new-fangled back then. Today, terms like 'google' (a verb) and abbreviations like 'btw' (by the way) are now taking root - will they be the new terms or words of tomorrow?

As a great example, take the word 'yahoo'. Ask nearly anyone today in 2009, and you will get an answer related to the popular website/portal Yahoo! The founders chose this word fifteen years ago in 1994 as an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle." The actual definition at the time was more like "a boorish, crass, or stupid person" - a definition that itself had only been around for about 270 years. In actuality, the word 'yahoo' was invented by Irish writer and clergyman, Jonathan Swift in his novel, Gulliver's Travels (1726). In Part IV, our hero, Lemuel Gulliver, encounters a race of hideous deformed creatures - humans in their base form - known as Yahoos. Prior to that, the word doesn't seem to exist.

The word 'bloody' means covered with a human fluid in the US, but in the UK, it is a swear word like our 'f!@#ing' (yes, I know I used a veiled version of THAT word here for my sensitive readers after ranting about its usage only a week ago in my blog The Curse of Cursing?). Same word, completely different meaning in different areas of the world.

'Gay' used to simply mean cheerful and happy. Nobody uses it as such any more. No longer can The Flintstones have a "gay old time" without eliciting chuckles (yes, we're juvenile).

Today new words crop up daily and old words go by the waysides (what's a 'wayside'? "The side or edge of a road, way, path, or highway" - but do you ever use this word in a sentence other than in one of its clichéd phrases? - NO, which means the term 'waysides' has now fallen by the waysides.)

New words are good. Embrace them. Make them up. If you get enough people using them, you've added to the richness of our global vocabulary.

Now if you will excuse me, I'm gonna just culkin it today. (What does 'culkin
' mean? It's short for Macauley Culkin who in 1990 was left "Home Alone." It's therefore now a verb meaning to "stay home alone".)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Oct 10 - Apologies & a 21st Century Saturday

OK, I will start with my apology for being a bad puppy. I have not blogged since my Dental appointment on Wednesday (way back on October 7). Why you may ask? Well, something cropped up at work that threw me off my game for a day (which I will not blog about) and after it was set right the following day (which I also will not blog about), I found myself on Saturday.

So with that out of the way, let's talk about Saturday. Lately I've been finding that my weekends rarely have any big plans. Oh, I have plans... errands and chores, watering my plants (both back and front). Random shopping, squeeze in the gym (before I can no longer squeeze into my pants), maybe run a couple miles... etc.

Today? Well... color me Lazy! My eyes popped up under my sleeping mask (which I've resorted to on Friday and Saturday nights so as not to wake at 6AM like I normally do for work) - where was I? Oh, yes, my eyes popped open at 8AM and fight as I might to fall back to sleep, the brain began churning, so up I popped.

Well... 'popped' might be too lively a term for what I did. Let's say I slowly sauntered into the kitchen to being brewing a few cups of the Magical Elixir of Life (coffee for those non-caffeinated folks). Once brewed, I poured myself a nice mugful with a packet of Splenda and a splash of NDC (non-dairy creamer, cha) and made my way to my comfy leather chair to check email, enter my 90 or so online sweepstakes (don't ask!) and watch this week's eps of "General Hospital" (yay!) from SoapNet.

After that was done, my feet were cold so I decided to lay down again... oh, and watched "Survivor: Borneo" from as my DVR didn't catch it for some reason on Thursday. Anyway, after that I was comfy and lazy and moved on to The Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food" (I am disgusted by what and how much these people are eating on a regular basis!) and finally pulled my flabby butt out of bed to run a couple miles (by now it's about 2:30!).

Coming home, I stripped out of my sweaty stuff and hit the shower. Ahhh that was nice. Came out and took out some trash and recycling, watered all the plants and then sat down to work on my iPod (THAT will be a blog unto itself! but suffice it to say, I have to listen to nearly 16,000 more songs to 'certify' them as 'clean' - again, that's a blog unto itself).

Finally around 5:30, Mark calls with a needed errand into Pasadena to return some shoes and once there, we grab a bite, some Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (note - Pumpkin Latte as returned for a limited time!) and then back to my place where we perused YouTube until 11PM.

What the hell? That's my 21st Century Saturday. Take it back 20 years (when my grandparents were still around). With the exception of taking out the trash, watering plants, running and showering (oh, and the fact that "General Hospital" is STILL on the air), there is nothing about my day that would have made sense the them!

DVR, iPod, Laptop, YouTube, abrevs like "eps" (and "abrevs"), the fact that I can now watch my TV shows whenever I want to (and skip the mostly over-modulated and boring commercials - thank you!) and Splenda - these would all be alien concepts to them and got me thinking about what my Grandparents 20th Century Saturdays were like. I'm guessing chores and errands were still there (I remember shopping with my grandparents for Rye Bread in Philadelphia), but without iPods, Laptops, the entire Internet thing for that matter, and still living in the Dark Ages of Appointment Television, I'd bet their days were filled with much more fulfilling past times.

Have our lives become so entwined with and ruled by our technology that we can no longer simply go to a park and sit and think? Pull out a sketchbook and doodle something? Pull out a camera and just walk around snapping whatever catches our eye? Hey, and in the 21st Century, the camera thing's gotten easier because we don't have to waste 'film' by snapping unnecessary photos (as they did) since most of us probably have a digital camera and can simply delete them. That frees me up to take as many photos as I want and if doesn't turn out, it doesn't. No biggie.

So maybe that's it. Maybe we should be using our 21st Century Technology to 'enhance' our grandparents' 20th Century Experiences? Maybe tomorrow (Sunday) I will make a point of putting more meaningful experiences into the day.

No, not "maybe tomorrow", BUT "tomorrow."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oct 7 - Dentists; Your Friendly Neighborhood Torture Specialists

DzzzzZZZZZzzzzz. DzzzzZZZZZzzzzz.

We all know that sound. If you don't, you're not human and have never had a cavity. I've had one... or three... or... a dozen.

I'm blogging now just as the Novocaine from my latest visit is wearing off (only 3-1/2 hours later). It was for a molar that's been filled three or four times over the years and is now ready for its crown.

Fortunately, I'm insured because the crown costs over $1,000 (even though insurance only covers 50%). Why only 50%? Once a tooth is crowned, the repeated visits for new and larger fillings finally end.

Over the years, I've had braces (twice), two prior crowns, 7-9 teeth removed (including the wisdom teeth before they even broached the gum!), TMJ jaw movement therapy (not as bad as it sounds) and a root canal. BTW, forget the 'horror' stories about root canals. Other than it taking a long time, it did not hurt at all.

Actually I prefer Dentists to Doctors. I've never gone into a Dentist's office with a raging sore throat, runny nose and eyes, horrible cough and have him ask me, "So what brings you in today?" Dentists look in my mouth and can tell me what's wrong! My brother-in-law is a Dentist, although he lives 2333 miles away and is no use to me in times like this.

I'm not sure why people don't like Dentists. Maybe it's the drilling or the sound. And each Dentist is different in their techniques (of course, these also evolve over time).

In the Navy when I had my wisdom teeth removed (mandatory as I was going to be serving on a Submarine), they didn't even put me to sleep. A ton of Novocaine, covered my face and removed the two on the left one week and the two on the right the following week. I felt the pressure and the pulling and saw blood flying out of my mouth. Once it was done and I went to the Mess Hall to drink some lunch. Easy.

I had one Dentist back on Long Island who was a fan of Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) and after my first visit (lol) so was I.

My first childhood Dentist (Dr. Kravitz) had fingers that smelled like Frito's Corn Chips (I'm assuming it was soap related). This was before the latex glove revolution. Which reminds me - how much do you HATE that everything is covered in plastic now? Oh, and I miss Spit Sink. I hate having my mouth filled with liquid and then sucked out with that tube vacuum. Yuck.

Oh, and how about those X-Rays! They've gone from those sheets that need developing to my current Dentist (props to Dr. Carl Farless) who has a PC monitor at each chair and the images pop up instantaneously! How cool is that?

Anyway, bottom line is, support your local Dentist. He (or the rare She) is there to make your mouth better which if having a nice smile isn't enough for you, adds joy to the Art of Eating - and who doesn't want that!

Shouts out to Drs. Kravitz, Lurie, Juliano, Abrishamian/Silkman, Farless and at least three others whose names I don't remember. My 23 Teeth thank you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oct 6 - When Food Becomes Cuisine

Food, sustenance, manna, nourishment, provisions, nutrition, fare, fodder, mess, rations, grub, vittles, chow, cuisine. All words that make our mouths water and our stomachs grumble. Delicious bites that pass over our lips, encounter our teeth and then glide over our tongues on their journey downward into our stomachs.

Food. We all get some daily (hopefully). But over time, my perceptions of food have changed. I remember loving Beets then hating Beets and now love Beets again. The same thing happened to Applesauce (yes, I know I'm weird).

Some foods I've never liked. Cruciferous vegetables were never my friends. Broccoli? Never. Cauliflower? What's the point. Cabbage? As cole slaw or sauerkraut only. Spinach? My Mom would try to sprinkle sugar on it (she did that to Fried Eggplant as well, and it didn't work there either). Bleccch! Peas used to be tormentors (except as Split Pea Soup). My Mom would make me swallow (like a pill) one pea for every year of my age. Asparagus? Ugh, the smell alone kills me. Mushrooms? Smell like cleanser when sautéed
(those standard little button mushrooms are the worst!).

But this blog is intended to be about changing perceptions and expanding horizons. Growing up, Chinese Food was either: a) from this little restaurant on a hill over a gas station near Strawbridge & Clothiers where I only got the complimentary Fried Noodles with Duck Sauce, Wonton Soup, Eggroll, Spareribs and Sweet & Sour Chicken... along with White Rice and Chinese Tea; or b) Chun King Chow Mein at home.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Chun King Chow Mein that used be available on supermarket shelves, it came in a tall red can that included a little piece of red plastic tape securing a second can with the fried noodles on top. It only required heating in a pot. It was not very good. At all.

Then, one day (while in the Navy), I discovered Chinese Cuisine. Oh, it was still food, but oh, what food. I was wandering around Hong Kong during lunchtime and saw this little busy corner eatery (open to the streets on two sides) with a steady flow of business people. I couldn't read the menu on the wall over the woks, but this was a 'fast food' joint. My fast food lunch was a plate of braised chicken thigh/leg covered in some phenomenal sauce atop a bed of piping hot rice. It came with disposable plastic cutlery (green chopsticks) and I sat down at one of the communal tables. This was my first taste of 'real' Chinese Cuisine and it was phenomenal. I now LOVE CHINESE cuisine. Oh, and this delectable plate of fast Asian goodness cost $1.15.

Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Chinese or Italian was as Ethnic as it got (it was the 1970s). And for my money, Italian Food has not changed in decades. Nothing new. No real innovations. But some of the other Ethnic delicacies that have flourished in this country in recent years have totally blown my taste buds out of my mouth.

Simple to complex. Mild seasonings to intense flavors. The Ethnic landscape of cuisine now available simply blows my mind. Thai, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese... all varieties I eat on a regular basis. I look forward to trying more. Korean BBQ, Dim Sum, Moroccan, dozens of African varieties await. South American - light-years away from the Mexican Food I grew up with - oh, that was Tacos on hard yellow corn shells made at home from a kit (just add your own ground beef). And Taco Bell was the only Mexican Restaurant I knew.

The day I found Sushi... my culinary landscape changed forever. Oh, the possibilities and flavors to savor that this ever-shrinking world now has to offer. And thank you Food Network. Worlds beyond the few shows I used to find on PBS (The Galloping Gourmet, Julie Child and the Frugal Gourmet). Now, Good Eats, Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen, the Naked Chef, the Iron Chef and Chopped - all shows that show me that turning my pantry ingredients into something delicious can be easy.

Get me a bib, a fork... and a much (much) larger stomach.

BONUS POINTS QUESTION for my READERS: Post your favorite type of food with your recommendations of what dish I should not miss out on... and instead of the one (1) posting entry, I will give you TWO (2) Entries into my "Follow-Me Now" Giveaway.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oct 5 - Direct Marketing & Robo Calls

The phone rings, "Brrrrng" (OK, so nobody's phone rings like that anymore, but just go with it). You answer, "Hello?" and you hear nothing. Silence. Dead air. You repeat, "Hello?" and the suddenly the other end wakes up, "Hello. Is Mr. Weesberg there?"

At this point, I sigh or hang up. It is a Telemarketer. They call about everything: my credit card (or cards I don't have); my auto insurance (or how they can save me money over my current carrier); offering to lower the interest rate on my mortgage (I don't have a mortgage)... you get the idea.

Robocalls are just as annoying as a pre-recorded voice begins to spew. These are easy to hang up on. I love when I get a voicemail that's from a Robocall and the message starts in the middle. Although, I do get annoyed at the ones that say "Enter 6 at anytime to have your number removed from our list." No matter how many times you enter 6, nothing seems to happen!

Once I decided to mess with them. I got a call from someone (my commentary will be in italics) and the call went something like this: (oh, by the way, I affected the voice of a 'slow adult' - yes, I know, I'm going to Hell)

Me: Hello?
Telemarketer: "Yes is this Mr. Weesberg" (they always mispronounce it!)
M: Yes.
T: I'd like to talk to you about lowering your mortgage (again, I don't have a mortgage)
M: I like ice cream.
T: Oh, that's great.
M: Do you like ice cream?
T: Yes, but right now I'd like to talk to you about saving money on your mortgage.
M: My favorite flavor is vanilla.
T: That's great
M: What's your favorite flavor.
T: I don't know, but I do know how I can save you money on your mortgage.
M: I like saving money.
T: Well, that's what we're going to try to do, save you money by lowering your mortgage.
M: You know what I'm going to do with the money?
T: (sigh) No
M: I'm going to by an Ice Cream Factory.
T: That's good, but not if we don't talk about lowering your mortgage.
(at this point, I switched to my normal voice)
M: Dude, I don't even have a mortgage. I rent.
(and then, without missing a beat...)
T: Then I guess you won't be buying an Ice Cream Factory. Have a good day.

True story. Now keep in mind, at no time did the Telemarketer ask for my parents or anyone else. This guy was did not care who he was trying to sell to. His sole job was to SELL.

I actually find that completely disgusting and reprehensible. This is how the credit card industry aided in causing people to over-extend themselves. This is how (and why) I still get emails from Nigerian Princes, Serviceman in Iraq (who have liberated some of Saddam's funds), the European Lottery, and a host of other very obvious scams to normally sane people.

These Telemarketing Companies should all be ashamed of themselves.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oct 4 - The Curse of Cursing?

Disclaimer - If you are one of those people sensitive to those unfortunate words that have been ostracized by our society as being 'bad' or 'naughty' or 'offensive' - READ NO FURTHER (or your eyes may melt, your heart may stop, your brain may turn into a slimy mush that will undoubtedly ooze from your ears and your soul - should you have one - be irreparably damaged and scarred and you may never be excepted in polite society again!).

OK. You've been duly warned. So know I can say to you... Fuck you! Words are just fucking words that in and of themselves do no harm. Stop worrying about this shit and just fucking deal with it so the rest of us can relax and simply speak normally.

And don't toss your stupid "those who use bad words are just showing how unintelligent they are because of their inability to find a more suitable word" bullshit at us. We're not unintelligent, we just don't see the need to use a made-up stupid word (like frigging) to substitute for our perfectly good work (fucking).

Knock off this fucking shit! Now that I've vented, let's discuss.

The combination of the letters F, U, C and K (when used in a non-sexual sense) is a strong adjective, adverb and verb. A sentence like "What the fuck is that?" (adjective) is far stronger than "What is that?" Pff, that's simply quizzical.

Is there really a suitable 'clean' adjective for the example above? Clean substitutions might include in the world or the heck. I'm sorry. Neither of these properly express the downright horror or surprise of the original.
"What the fuck is that?" tells the recipient your exact state of being at that moment. If the point of words is to communicate clearly and effectively, than nothing is more clear or effective than saying "What the fuck is that?"

Take the phrase "Fuck me!" (used then you screw something up - or in actuality, when you fuck something up). Try to come up with a suitable 'clean' substitute for this one! "Oh my!" (really... not the same); "Gosh!" (please); "Darn it!" (milder than Ivory Soap!). And let's not forget that 'darn' is really just a euphemism for 'damn' - which you religious folk don't like us using.

Instead of embracing 'fuck' - a word we really DO want to use - we've come up with euphemisms for it (a cop out in my book). A e
uphemism is a non-objectionable word that substitutes for an objectionable word. If we are bothering to use a euphemism, then we all pretty much know what that objectionable word is that we're trying to mask. If Truth is all powerful, then using these little Lies on a regular basis cannot possibly be good for any of us. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN!

Some popular euphemisms for our friend Mr. 'Fuck' would be 'frig'
(a new word that everyone knows means 'fuck') or 'heck' (an old word that everyone knows means 'hell' - which in some circles [yes, I'm referring you religious folk again] is itself a bad word). How about calling it the 'f-word' (now you really know what that is!).

Knock it the fuck off and start using this word in your daily life! I've recently seen people using the new word 'eff' instead of 'fuck'. I've seen it used as 'effing' as well. Come on. If you actually write or say "I hate this effing weather" you are using the word 'fucking' as the euphemism 'f-word'. So now you're OK with it?

WRONG. It just means you're itching, nay - dying, to use the real word and are afraid to. Embrace it, use it, love it. Get over it!

And now, we shall discuss a far milder word of dubious controversy that I personally REFUSE to euphemize (and those who do, should be euthanized - but that's another blog). I'm speaking of the word "SHIT". And I'm referring to every possibly meaning there is.

Let's start with what it is. Shit. Dog shit, bull shit... shit is shit. Shit is that brown steamy pile of waste that comes out of every animal on this planet. It is one, simple four letter word that everyone encounters DAILY. For some unknown reason, this poor word is a no-no. I grew up calling my shit a phooey. Others use doodie or doo-doo, poop or poopie or ew, the horribly clinical bowel movement - WHY?!?! What's wrong with the word 'shit'? Besides, the only thing the word doodie is good for is giving us all a smile and chuckle when someone uses the word duty in a sentence and we go 'there' in our mind.

The worst thing I've seen recently is along a walking path in Los Angeles where the sign states that all "Dog Excrement Must Be Removed by the Owner". Really?

You think excrement is a better word? I'd even prefer it if they said 'dog poop' or 'doggy doo' but excrement?!? How deep did someone have to dig to dredge this one up to avoid offending someone. Well, Monsieur. I am offended. It takes more energy to avoid using 'shit' than it should. Funnel that energy into something else.

Further, 'shit' is also a great multi-tasker that can mean 'stuff' or 'junk' - "Get your shit off my table!" Yes, I agree, you can substitute the other two words to sufficient effect, but 'shit' adds just a touch more anger to the party.

If I had to rate you on a Four Star Anger Scale regarding my crap being on your table (another euphemism for this usage of 'shit'), I'd say if you used stuff, your Four Star Anger Level is at a Level 1. Junk says you are demeaning my stuff a little and you're now at a Level 2. Crap is teetering on irate (Level 3) and by the time you admonish me to 'Get my shit off your table", you're pretty much angry and mean it.

So if the want to communicate clearly and effectively, let's not start coming up with words that mean other words when those words are there and awaiting your acceptance and usage.

Now get the fuck off the net and go find some shit to do outside. It's a nice day.

Oct 3 - Just Who Is This Blogger I Now Follow?

Before we continue with Blogapalooza, it might help to know who your Blogger is.

I am a quiet (some would dispute this) shy (until I know you) introspective, humorous extrovert with either a brooding glance or a laughing manner, whistling his way through life, the music in my head drowning out the voices in my head. Scared? A joking center of attention who unconsciously masks an eccentric melancholia. A loner who doesn't like being alone, a restless couch potato, a triathlete, a shopper, your best friend or your worst enemy - well that's not quite accurate as before you become my enemy, I will cut you out of my life and move onward (just ask my father - no, please don't bother).

Born and raised in the Northeast (Philadelphia area), a sojourn on Long Island, transplanted to Los Angeles after a stint in the US Navy and a stab at the married straight life, now happily gay (ah, to be one's self) and looking forward to the latter half of my life. I see my life as a tome... currently working on Chapter Six.

For those of you internet hounds still interested in reading on, I break it down as follows:

Chapter One: The Early Years, Ages 1-16 (growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia);
Chapter Two: Life with Dad, Ages 16-28 (moving to Long Island to reconnect with a father after a bitter divorce at age 8);
Chapter Three: The Navy, Ages 17-22;
Chapter Four: The Single Life on Long Island, Ages 22-28 (also known as, the Music Business Years);
Chapter Five: The Married Life & Moving to LA, Ages 28-39; and currently;
Chapter Six: The Gay Years, Ages 39+

Professionally, other than odd jobs over the summer (High School A/V guy and Boy Scout Camp Counselor) nothing before the Navy (a Yeoman [YN2(SS)] on the LA-Class nuclear submarine USS Atlanta [SSN712]), followed by managerial stints at Record World and The CD Experience music retail chains on Long Island, Costumed Party Performer, ABC/Kane Productions (documentaries and specials) and currently DreamWorks/DreamWorks Animation (both in Los Angeles).

Well, now that you have a little insight as to who your author is, I hope you'll continue reading as the Blogapalooza unfolds as well as future Blogathons.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oct 2 - Concert Review: Loggins & Messina @ The Greek

What year is it? 1972? Loggins? As in Kenny 'Footloose' Loggins? Who's this Messina person?

Well my little porkchops, Loggins & Messina (Kenny and Jim) were a Country/Rock/Pop due from about 1970 to 1976, at which time they split for solo careers - the former doing very well, the latter, not so well.

Jim Messina came from Buffalo Springfield and Poco (to which he eventually returned) and Kenny was a songwriter.

Anyway, it's been nearly forty years and not does their catalog hold up, so do they. The concert was tight and fun and (sadly for me) steered away from all solo material. No ones 'Foot' got 'Loose', Kenny didn't call Jim 'Friend', no 'Zones' of 'Danger' visited, not a 'Vox Humana' in the bunch - and all-in-all (dit-dit-dit-dit dit-dit-dit-dit, I'm... boom-boom-boom) 'I'm Aright', so nobody worry 'bout me.

The Greek was cool on this October eve, the Moon was full, the audience - while not packed - was full of over-weight, denimed 50-somethings happily swaying with their over-sized plastic cups of weak, pale domestic beer. OK, so that was the downside...

The upside was the Music. Kenny and Jim sounded great. The band was tight and the acoustics were wonderful - from flutes to saxophones, amazing drumming and the acoustic offerings from two consummate professionals. The one new song, Lennon/McCartney's "Two of Us" fit this pair like a well-worn comfortable soft leather glove.

If you've ever been a fan of this duo, or even just a fan of good country/pop acoustic sounds, seek out Loggins & Messina in a town near you!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oct 1 - What Happened to September 31st?!?

"Thirty days hath September, April, June and..."

Wait a minute. Take that back... reverse it. From the top.

Thirty Days hath September. Not Thirty-One? Oy. That means today is (or was in most time zones) October 1st and my very first Blog for Blogapalooza #2 is LATE! Let's see... do I have an excuse?

Ooh, I know, "I was busy at work."

Nay, that's just lame. Ummm... ooh, "Big accident on the 134 at the 170 transition and I got home late."

Well, that is the truth, but not an excuse. Mark called and invited me out for nice piping hot bowl of delicious and nutritious Phở." OK, so again the truth, but lame... but oh, look at how good it is! Oh yeah!

But again, lame. Why not blog afterwards? Well, I had to watch "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Glee" - followed by "Project Runway" and suddenly it becomes October 2nd.

So as I Blog about why I had no time to Blog, I ponder what tomorrow will bring as I know I have meetings ALL morning and no time in the afternoon. AND on top of that, I am headed out to a concert immediately following work. Tomorrow's blog? That's easy... a concert review. Sleep tight my little readers.