Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Can You Identify this Bug?

As cabin craziness descended, stuck in-doors at the in-laws while 'the blizzard' caused the NFL (in its infinite 'wusiness') to cancel the Philadelphia Eagles game, I staved off boredom for a few seconds by scrolling through the farrago of photographs on my BlackBerry. There I found the snapshot I got of this creep back in late October with the intention of figuring out what the fuck it was:


So, cloud, any ideas? I went through the easily-available bug identifiers on the Web and have a few maybes (iron clad beetle, oak borer) but all with fatal flaws. So I'm hoping to crowd-source an entomologist for an official taxonomy. Since I don't know one (an entomologist) and if you're generally a fan of advancing knowledge, indulging curiosity or testing the networking power of the Web, your assistance would be appreciated.

Though it would be a fitting prey for such a prehistoric parasite, that's not woolly mammoth pelt in the background of the photo. Which brings me to my next point on the vexing duality of the flokati rug. Think carefully before you indulge in one.

As for pros, flokatis are awesome to look at in both chocolatey brown or creamy white shag varieties and feature miraculously luxurious tufts of wool. Mine at 13' by 9' is great for warming up a drafty, hard-floored apartment and feels great on bare feet.

As for cons, flokatis are heavy as shit (just imagine skinning a woolly mammoth) and tend to shed such that my apartment rather than having traditional dust bunnies has 'flokati bunnies' thriving, reproducing and advancing towards culture in the nooks and crannies. The flokati-maker advised of this risk saying it wears off in a few years and can be helped along with regular raking of the flokati. So I bought a little kid rake at Target and bust it out when the mood strikes to tend my flokati. But we're about a year and half in and I still get rich harvests of wool when I rake it and the natural shedding still produces weekly armies of flokati bunnies, which need collection and management of their own.

Beyond that, the rug is dark and mysterious and its character stretches in this direction thanks to the difficulty of really getting in there and cleaning the thing. The wool is 5 inches deep in places and thick like natty dreads. Stuff falls in and never emerges and I have suspicions of an ecosystem evolving in its depths sort of like the benthic layers of the ocean where nutrients drift down in the form of dead whales and stuff and get consumed in the way of the one thing the Protestant could appreciate about the Indian - scarcity enforcing an economy where nothing gets wasted.

Hence this creeper, and its decided predatory appearance, hunting the thickets of my flokati was disturbing on a number of levels. Most ominously what it leaves to the imagination. If I found this fiend on the surface, what lurks below?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Onto Toronto!

The ride up to Toronto on Monday night was fascinating in the context of the enormous winter storm that scrambled the Midwest and coated it in a thick layer of snow over the weekend. Loved the views from 30,000 feet, including ice flows forming in Lake Erie, and the spectacular explosion of Christmas-lit homes surrounding the airport. Glad to see people still taking the Holiday lighting of homes as seriously Clark Griswold.

Some reason I find airplane rides to be contemplative time for myself and had my share of 'Up in the Air' moments, including a quiet celebration of my 30th segment on Delta this year which seals my second consecutive year of Silver Medallion membership. No small feat this, and one of the accurate representations from Up in the Air, business travelers where their loyalty status as badges of honor and now I see it: there are a handful of things you can't achieve without putting in the time. One is love. Another is airline status.

Not to equate the two, or isolate them as the only examples, but it's true. 30 segments is a lot of flying and it barely qualifies for the bottom rung of elite status.

For this sacrifice, I've earned the right to never pay for checking bags and the occasional upgrade pending availability and other travelers higher-up in the pecking order. Somehow it's worth it. Savings on the checked bag fees is actually huge, considering it also applies to my wife when she's traveling with, and the semi-frequent upgrades to 1st class are like the crack that keeps 'em coming back.

Still the experience of flying is worse now than its ever been. Maybe it's just because I'm doing more of it, or that my latest go was fraught with the nervous expectation and experience of delay, but it was almost comic how much of it now seems designed to skirt the edges of disaster and create delays.

One of the most frustrating is the trend to Smaller planes + Checked Bag Fees = More Headaches for the Carry-On Crowd thanks to gate-side bag checks, which in Toronto on Monday night made for a bone-chilling 5 minute wait on the tarmac for my bag. It was something like 14 degrees outside with 35 MPH winds.

The whole point of carry-on is to save time and money and the airlines have found a way to obliterate that efficiency as well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The LED Xmas Tree

Spurred by the obligatory sense of shame that guilts people into buying canvas grocery bags and giant corporations into buying carbon credits, and all to theoretically offset greenhouse gas output, I had to do something to apologize to Mother Nature for taking a tree into my home for the selfish purposes of a few weeks of holiday cheer.

Hence, the blindingly white LED lights gracing the boughs of my smallish Christmas tree. The packaging extols the energy efficiency of these lights compared to traditional, halogen Christmas lights and says that while they may be up to 10x the price on the front end, the energy savings and karmic value are more return-on-investment than you can shake a stick at. 

Unfortunately, they're not really delivering in the Christmas-cheer department which, for me, is priority number 1 when it comes to Christmas lights. In the name of energy-savings these lights have forsaken warm yuletidey glow for retina-searing intensity and suddenly my Christmas decorating is starting to feel less roasted-chestnut cozy and more glitch in the Matrix.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Charting Philadelphia Landmarks

Instead of working as hard as I could have today, I made this in PowerPoint because I'd always been curious to know:
From L to R: Pat's King of Steaks, Independence Hall, Rittenhouse Square, Citizen's Bank Park, Battleship, Aircraft Carrier.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Off(s)

* I love sensations, but I hate sensation.

*Monterey Jack is in all ways an inferior cheese when compared to cheddar, unless your thing is rubbery texture. (Which, who wants to admit that?) Cheddar always.

*The thing you have to question about social networking is its intrinsic, paradoxical combination of courage-by-electronic proxy and undeniability. It used to take a lot of guts to pick up the phone and call a girl. Now you can just sleaze it up behind the mask of digital media. So the problem becomes the written record of stupidity following you around. Seems like it would have been easier when things weren't always recorded for cringe-induction come morning's sobriety but if anything people aren't deterred (as rationale would predict) but emboldened!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Love and Hate

After the Republican sweep of the house in the recent mid-term elections my brother and I got on the phone to commiserate about the state of politics such that candidates no longer stand for anything and votes are decided largely by what people are against. We decided that this is like most things an outgrowth of the frustration at the hard work it takes to love versus the relative ease of hate. This is one of those eternal themes, and as such was a major subject of the Star Wars films.

Remember how easy it was for Luke to be tempted by the Dark Side? Where power was immediate? But the other side of the Force (light, or good, I don't recall if it was definitively named) wasn't so easy to master. It took work and it took dedication, but the implication was that if realized it was a million times more awesome.

The mundane allegory in our society is love and the fact that it takes work and conviction is something a lot of people find frustrating. They want it and they want it now and ultimately being frustrated in this expectation (any by taking the wrong approach) is what I think sends people to rail against everything policy-related except the universal wish list item of not paying more taxes.

I'd also like to point out that I'm not saying this love/hate dichotomy cleaves evenly across political dispositions or party lines. I don't think it does at all. In fact, I'd wager that most of the love is in the middle where most of us live. That why it's so disappointing to hear wholesale rejection of any policy solutions aimed at addressing this group of haters hijacking the dialog.

Thus bummed out, and on Thanksgiving no less after having contributed to the consumption of no fewer than 4 Turkeys, 2 kegs, 4 cases of beer, and 2 cases of wine in the name of love, goddamit, I'll leave you with this: 

There's a maxim from the sport of kayaking called 'point positive.' I learned this on the Payette River in Idaho and its simple advice is to focus on where you'd like to go, rather than where you wouldn't. Otherwise the avoidables tend to behave like black holes and the aspirables tend to become holy grails.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NBA Basketball

Two Mondays ago as I was checking into the Westin hotel in downtown Charlotte, I felt a large shadow dim my light and looked up to see all 7 feet of dubious number two draft pick Darko Milicic looming behind me to ask the front desk for something. Turning around fully, I witnessed most of the Minnesota Timberwolves milling about in casual, pre-athletic dress in the lobby and noted the team's make-up of recent NCAA tournament stars including Micheal Beasley, Corey Brewer and Kevin Love.

I haven't followed the NBA really since high school and the glory days of Michael Jordan, so this roster of the Timberwolves was news to me and kindled my interested as a dedicated fan of the NCAA tournament. I decided to hit up the Charlotte Bobcats game that night to take in my first NBA game in probably 5 years, but it could be 6.

My Charlotte-resident colleagues advised that the Bobcats were courting a relatively poor product despite a spiffy new arena and more side-show pageantry than you could shake a stick at, and that I could probably scalp tickets after tip-off at significant discounts. This was true to the tune of about 80% off the face value.

So we sat down with a couple of beers amid a crowd that could only have been 25-30% full. A couple of things stood out in the experience:

*There's a lot of gimmickry put up to market bad basketball. I remember the Washington Wizards game I went to in 2005 where the world's bendiest boy was brought out at half time and emerged from a small, plexi-glass case, did some contortions and then went back into the case. They also had a small, RC blimp that went around over the crowd dropping free tickets and, I swear to god, the odd $100 bill. At the Bobcats' game it was more of the same, including the beloved hotdog cannon, but the blimp didn't drop a thing and our half-time show was a ridiculous bunch of dancing poodles on loan from the UniverSoul Circus.

*Michael Jordan owns a significant share of the Bobcats (I'm too lazy to look up exactly what it is) and sat with his girlfriend next to the team on the bench. His posture was surly and removed most of the game, true to the form of his reputation as a big asshole, even when the Bobcats were coming back to win late in the 4th quarter.

*The Bobcats play in a really great arena with all the creature comforts and the basketball was actually pretty competitive between two of the NBA's worst teams. Too bad they can't do more to charge up the crowd and fill the seats, but I suspect all the poodles and hotdog cannons in the world won't do it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dunkin' Donuts Sausage Pancake Bites?

When I was twelve my parents' high societal aspirations were realized in the form of a small equity share in a winery, in Idaho. All of this meant that they shelled out some decent amount of cash up front for: a.) the status it lent; b.) annual receipt of some cases of Idaho 'red wine' never to cumulatively exceed (let alone match) the dollar value of the equity share and c.) invitation to the hoity-toity holiday party at the winery. I don't think there was ever a whiff of a profit, though the wine had cool, Western labels and attained some limited popularity vis a vis marketing space in the Orvis Fly Fishing catalog.

Anyway, I had nothing on the calendar that weekend more important than putting on a gay sweater and accompanying the rents to a party I legally couldn't enjoy. There was a lot of pomp being passed around, like pate and fungal cheese from Europe all candle-lit and set to the soothing melodies of a chamber quartet and washed down with chilled Idaho Chardonnay, misting the outside of plastic cups with condensation.

I was bored out of my gourd and shambled around the scene ambivalently as it dawned on me that nobody wanted to talk to a 12 year old. Then I spotted a waiter carrying a plate of what appeared to be tater tots. Like any red-blooded Idahoan, I would never pass up a tot, particularly amongst the exotic culinary surroundings I found myself in at the time. The tot was familiar, comfortable, home.

I turned on the closing speed and snatched two handfuls from the waiter's tray, and popped one in my mouth without thinking first that they were a little larger than your standard tot. Biting in, I experienced the unique dissonance of food texture expectations flipped upside down. Instead of hot, pillowy potato beneath the crispy-fried exterior, there was a flaccidly-resistant, flan-like firmness followed by a briny gush of hot moisture.

Revolted, I choked and gagged up the uneaten half from my mouth into my hand for inspection and found this strange interloper in tot form with shimmery vittles dangling from the wad of gray-matter at the center of the fried batter crust. Years later I would say it looked a lot like the halved-orb in the Dunkin' Donuts signage for their new Sausage Pancake Bites, but with more guts hanging out of it. (Funny that Dunkin's putting this out there to entice people to try these things.)

The waiter, at first taken aback by my eagerness, was now half realizing the pratfall I'd walked into and relished the opportunity to ask if I'd enjoyed the Rocky Mountain Oyster: calf testicle, battered and fried.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baby in the Corner

Somehow the Halloween candy bucket always ends up looking like this about a week or so into November. How can the makers of Baby Ruth hold their heads up high amongst the other candy products teams at Nestle? This is all the focus group confirmation you need that the Baby Ruth faces a serious preferential challenge.

But I would argue it's one of perception rather than taste.

My theory is that people still think of that floater from Caddy Shack when they're reaching for the candy bowl and it's like, um, let's see Butterfinger or Baby Ruth, no way that shit tastes like shit! I'm going with Butterfinger.

Below the impacted fecal surface, Baby Ruth is peanuts, nougat and caramel, the very same roster of ingredients that Snickers has rode to American candy bar market domination. Curious no?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Voted

No Hanging Chads Permitted in 2010.
Apparently these are important elections in 2010 and in Pennsylvania. Above and beyond the usual, local noise and funk, we had our choice of new Governor replacing Ed Rendell and new Senator replacing the flip-flopped then forfeited seat of Arlen Spector. Rendell out on term limits, the Spector vacancy is sign of changed times.

I had a long chat with my old man last night, who lived through the optimism of the 1950s and came of age in the disillusioning 1960s and has thus seen all kinds of political turmoil. He said he hadn't seen politics as vitriolic as the current Tea Party campaigning by loud, fringe elements of the Republican Party.

The most astonishing thing from his perspective is how the only thing this group of charlatans seems to stand for is opposition to Barack Obama and that this seems like thinly veiled racism. Beyond that, where is the semblance of a plan for making things better? Is there a platform? Any policy?

This kind of campaigning is made to appeal to one selfish sentiment: keeping money in your pocket; and to one end: getting the candidate elected. But the hidden danger is in only knowing what someone is against, you have no understanding of what they are for. Why put that level of dubious intent in Congress?

It's not a popular platform, but we need something to the effect of old British austerity measures to get the country back on track, that is spending less and raising taxes. Ouch. But it's got to hurt if it's going to heal.

The problem is nobody seems ready to take the high road. I'm not seeing a lot of strength in the Democratic corner either. Lots of the moderate Democratic campaigning seems to be about distancing one's self from the dirty-word liberal Obama administration stimulus and healthcare bills, even though the former had to be done and nobody understands yet the provisions or effects of the healthcare legislation. It's too early to put a stamp on these initiatives, but at least they are action. I'd rather err on the side of doing something, than railing against everything.

But it's disappointing all the same that the Democrats have let the Tea Party movement set the terms of the debate. As one sign of how sad this is, consider the story of my sister-in-law, who's living on a conservative island in one of the Main Line's most liberal neighborhoods, Bala Cynwyd.

It's her Constitutional right to display yard signs for the Republican candidates she supports. But this year she's engaged in a saboteur's war with some anonymous liberal in her neighborhood who keeps stealing her Pat Toomey and Tom Corbett signs. Each day she replaces them, and after the 2nd or 3rd theft, added a little direct communication of her own, an additional, hand-made sign baring a threat to donate additional dollars each time a sign is stolen to the Republican cause in the name of the Democratic thief. It's low-blow politics right down to the Grassroots level.

Which still leaves me wondering, if people obviously care so much, why are they so focused on the wrong things? That's not to say that  D or R are the wrong things, because I don't think anyone's getting it right. But rather a plea that we start demanding a higher calling out of our elected officials and supporting those who bring solutions rather than criticism, open-minded cooperation rather than partisan group think.

This will likely be my only political screed of the year, but I hope it makes people think, vote and start paying a little more attention.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Snow

Janky quality* notwithstanding, 11 inches in October is a beautiful thing. It's a La Nina year and that usually means more storms for the Northwest.

*Scrappily rendered from Sun Valley's webcams via SnagIt video capture. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Post-Season Stressball

When the Phillies finally lost after an excruciating series playing the Giants version of fan-torturing small ball, I was at first filled with that peculiarly empty feeling of a sports fan who really wanted it and more or less gave up 3 hours of each day going back to April to watching and loving a team. When all of that caring amounts to nothing it's a really harsh comedown. The second step in the detox, after the emptiness, is a combination of self-loathing and feeling stupid for allowing yourself to care about something as unimportant as sports and giving it that much time and emotional energy.

But another strange thing happened when the Phillies finally lost. I started to feel better. Tonight for the first time since July I watched TV without a sense of obligation or the ulcerated pit in my stomach. It felt wonderful. I felt free.

Yarn Bomb!

Yarn Bombing: the horticultural equivalent of dog sweaters.
So this, apparently, is 'Yarn Bombing' as recently witnessed on 3rd Street in Old City. It appeared mysteriously overnight, perpetrated by unknown citizen hipsters, as if by elf magic, and I suppose is conceived as high-minded, viral, civicdo-goodism but it just looks like B-grade foolishness to me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Swiss Cows and Colds

Yesterday about 4pm a cold hit me like a rogue wave and by 630 I was in bed with sinus pressure, post-nasal drip and the whole sorry bit. This is the second time in my advanced age that a cold has pulled a fast one on me during waking hours. That I've noticed the onset of the illness is the strange part. I don't remember having that experience before. But you're sitting there one minute, alert, active and feeling good when an invisible pall settles down and mucus starts oozing in the unseen caverns in the face.

Good to get this out of the way early this season, I guess. By the time the mutations strengthen the bug and make it really nasty my body will have the right antibodies in the war chest and I should cruise through winter as healthy as an ox. (Oxes are supposedly really healthy.)

Or maybe I just have cows on the brain. I was in Switzerland in September and saw more ideal cows than I'd ever imagined existed though I probably could have connected the dots on the Swiss cheese thing. Anyway, I kept thinking of that line from Fight Club about 'calm as a Hindu cow,' which sounds calm, but I'd have to ask Tyler Durden if he's ever been to Switzerland. Those Swiss cows are seriously calm.

For comparisons sake, among other reasons having to do with Jill's crazy goal of running a marathon this year, I went for a 15 miler in the Amish Country outside Lancaster this weekend to get the read on American cows. We saw lots of cows. In fact it was a bit of an Old McDonald kind of experience out there, with horses, mules, turkeys, chickens, cats, and the wildest species of all, the Amish themselves, cruising around on modern roads with their old-fashioned horse-drawn carriages. 

Deep in the midst of a an exaggerated, low-down, short-shorted groin-stretch one such cart clip-clopped by with about 4 Amish children riding on a kind of shelf affixed to the back of the cart. They were looking otherworldly mature in their 3-piece suits, self-darkening glasses and woolly beards and we locked eyes like aliens from different planets encountering one another for the first strange time. 

Shaking it off, I noticed the specific wear the horse-drawn carts put in the roads and wondered if the Amish pay state or Federal taxes for this privilege. (They compensate my father-in-law with quilts for brain surgery services rendered, so I didn't really feel off-base or bigoted in this assumption.) Later on Google would confirm that they do and my ire cooled. 

But back to the cows, American cows, Amish cows. They're pretty calm too, eating and crapping and making dairy products in the green-beating heart of Pennsylvania. 

Towards the end of our run we came across a field freshly covered in manure that was just starting to reek in the mid-morning sun. The smell was literally over-powering and though you may doubt the science behind this, I'm convinced that somewhere in the noxious fumes I inhaled this bug I have now. 

Which brings me lastly, to Zicam, which is another awful thing I've put up my nose in the midst of my prolonged encounter with cows. Though the intake is something to endure, especially when your wife has to pin you down to administer the first dose, I'm coming around on the stuff. It can actually be inspiring if you surrender to its magic.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Witness David Beckham

Moments later the Union got bent like Beckham.
Thursday night I went down to PPL Park in Chester for the LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union soccer match and got the treat of witnessing some world-famous soccer players at work. Especially Landon Donovan, but especially David Beckham.

Beckham's a bit of a sensation, if you haven't heard, and lived up to the billing Thursday night by acing the corner kick assist for the game's only goal. While setting up his kick the crowd heckling was at a roaring boil that quickly silenced by the score. Beckham seemed to relish the melodramatic role of the Spaghetti-Western villain and did a salty, backwards jig out of the corner to taunt the fans after the goal.

Meanwhile the ladies in the crowd went nuts at the end of the game when, predictably, Beckham tore of his sweat-soaked jersey, which he pitched into the crowd rockstar style, to conduct his post-game interviews shirtless.

This one here pretty much sums up the female reaction to the spectacle:
Notice the coy smirk on the blonde. She's a little embarrassed that she can't help feeling attracted to Beckham. Despite the high-minded approach she just can't suppress the animal instinct.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Munich AC/DC Taxi Cab

Hail this cab in Munich for to get rocked to the follicles!
Rain in Munich made the beer tents at Oktoberfest an impossibility (but also because you need table reservations a year in advance to get in to one of the mythical tents) so we set out in the early afternoon for a snack at the giant Pagoda in the middle of the English Garden and ended up downing several more liters of beer and a couple of those mondo pretzels for which Bavaria is also justly famous.

It started getting dark, windy and raining harder as we realized that we'd need to get back to central Munich by dinner time and the walk in had been longer than we'd hoped to repeat. So meandering through what looked like a nice neighborhood we tried in vain as literally dozens of cabs whizzed by with passengers.

Then this one screeched to a halt and we couldn't believe our luck. The driver was an aging German rocker, possibly a former roadie for Scorpions, in long hair and beat-up black leather jacket. He sat real laid back in the driver's seat, almost standoffish, with one hand casually draped over the steering wheel, and the other (in fingerless gloves) at the trigger of a massive, after-market Blaupunkt sound system with fluorescent light effects.

'AC/DC?' I asked, falling back on the language-barrier defying trope of the obvious, and he said 'Jawhol!' and pumped up the jams and put the pedal to the metal, actually peeling out, and it was wunderbar.

At ear-drum beating volume we rocked out to two obscure AC/DC songs: 'Can't Stand Still' and 'Caught With Your Pants Down' as we rocketed through the darkening streets of Munich towards our hotel on Karlsplatz.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The D is Totally Happening

STP Rocking the Fox with Noise and Fury!
I spent the back half of last week hanging in mucho-maligned-o Detroit, Michigan for work and have to say that despite the preparatory comments by nearly everyone who heard I was going there, I was impressed by the D. Not only because it didn't live up to my gloomy previsions of urban blightedness (if you live in Philly, the D ain't no thang when it comes to bombed-out acreage of post-industrial wasteland) but because it felt like it was actually happening.

Now most of this was because Miley Cyrus was also staying in my hotel, the improbably ritzy Westin Book Cadillac. But a lot of it was also just the general feeling of unexpected energy and the degree to which my co-workers and I took advantage of our situation and sucked the morrow out of Michigan's mightiest city.

Thursday night we started out at the amazing Slow's Bar BQ for the best dry-rub ribs and chicken I've ever had - a must do in Detroit. From there we walked by the old Detroit Tigers stadium, now-razed and ghostly empty save for the original entrance fence and in-field where a few local dudes were playing sandlot style ball.
The Old Detroit Tigers Stadium in Nuclear Winter
From there we proceeded to the obligatory stop at the MGM Grand where I played craps next to a couple of exotic-looking hookers who were having an improbable, slow-burning heater putting $10 chips down on the Field. The Siamese sister hit like 10 of these in a row. Crazy. So we went up a couple hundred quickly ourselves playing the come line and the points until their Pimp showed up and started telling his girls to 'earn yo' money,' in an unconventional twist on hooker productivity management. He started putting bets down on the 'Don't Pass' line, effectively betting against the rest of the table. Then whatever voodoo spells his ladies we're casting started paying off as the Pimp hit 5-6 of Don't Pass bets and I lost $300 in a head-spinning flash. This was a sure sign that our luck had run out.

Or had it? Back at the Westin Book Cadillac we reaped the rewards of suffering through a morning power-outage by claiming a free round of fancy hotel bar cocktails and wondered how we'd cap the evening when I suddenly remembered that the Stone Temple Pilots were playing around the corner at the Fox Theatre. 

Off we went, hiking through the quiet abandoned city-scape of Detroit past the new Tigers Stadium and Ford Field to the Fox. It was about 930 at this point and the show began at 7 with an opening-act, so I reasoned that we'd arrived early in the second STP set. Lame folks were already leaving the show and we bummed 3 stubs in exchange for $15 and breezed in through the side, smokers entrance just in time to catch the crescendo of the show in which STP played their standard hits from the '90s. Scott Weiland I noticed, has grown a bit of a paunch and I think this a good sign considering his traditional skeletal looks were the surface evidence of a life and death struggle with heroin. Very rock and roll, that, but it's probably better in the long term that he's eating solid foods now.

After getting rocked to the follicles we strolled back to the hotel past the set of Amy Heckerling's new movie 'Vamps' starring Alicia Silverstone and caught them shooting a night-time scene in a park which is supposedly passing for New York City.
Detroit set of 'Vamps.' I was asked not to take this picture.

What bears commentary here is that there were 4-5 different shoots (at least) going in Detroit while we were there. That's why Miley was in town and I also shared an elevator and a free joke with Richard Lewis and saw Malcolm McDowell (the white-haired British guy who plays Terence in Entourage) in the lobby. Supposedly Transformers 3 and a remake of classic '80s Swayze beefcake takes on communism flick, Red Dawn, were also shooting in or around town. 

Word from people in the know is that Michigan is heavily subsidizing film production in state by dint of generous tax breaks and a 20% discount on anything purchased in Michigan to support the production and suddenly Detroit is Hollywood MidWest. I can't see how Jennifer Granholm's budget makes money on the transaction, but I guess when unemployment is at 13.1%, you're more worried about cash flow and putting people to work than balancing the budget. Why should Michigan act any different than the Federal Government in this regard?

Anyway, it's definitely contributing to a sense of energy in Detroit that I hadn't expected and very much enjoyed on a couple of hot nights in the D.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Off

If you're not in an airport and reading a USA Today, chances are you stayed in a hotel last night. Keep this in mind next time you're casing a target as part of your part-time detective work.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Losing Season

This is the face of men's rec-league soccer through the Philadelphia Sport and Social Club, where my team of free-agents (the proudly named 'PSSC Adidas') put the finishing touches on a winless regular season last night by scoring an own-goal to break a 3-3 tie late in the second half. Crushing defeat and we finish a sweltering season of abasement 0-7. Yes, thank you, we dreamed the impossible dream and dared to underachieve completely, submitted to rampant old man strength and it was awesome. Chalk it up to character built.

*Special Note: props to Sean last night for taking it like a man and smiling through the pain while I MacGyvered a medical dressing from napkins and athletic tape.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fat Birds

We live behind an Italian restaurant in Old City and most of the time people think hey, what a sweet thing to live so close to this cute BYOB that always smells like garlic, you must eat here all the time. 3 times total, and that's counting the chance encounter 8 years ago when I dined with my cousin visiting from Idaho on our mutual first trip to Philadelphia, so that's really like twice, which is to say living behind an Italian restaurant is more of a mixed bag than anyone not living behind an Italian restaurant realizes.

In 2007, or the last time I was in Italy, I heard some crazy shit was going down in Naples where the civic authorities somehow had failed to pick up the garbage for a stretch of about six weeks in the midst of the sweaty Mediterranean summer. Something about a feud with the mafia and their claims on the waste-removal business, but by and by the normally quaint and can't-miss tourist town slowly filled up to waist-deep in most places of fetid, stinking garbage and while that's about the worst of it (with tourists and residents alike walking around, half-drowning in their own stench-induced vomit) there's also the proliferation of trash-loving vermin like roaches, rats, centipedes and bums.

Here in the Ill it's not so bad, but with City Hall enforcing 'brownouts' on non-essentials like the Fire Dept, we're always a little nervous that waste-removal might be the next furloughed public service if the stimulus continues to wear off.  I'm merely highlighting the worst case scenario of too much Italian unconsumed or undisposed. At present, our trash is removed weekly and our local vermin, consisting of the occasional mouse, are held in check by the neighborhood semi-feral cat whose taste for Italian isn't much.

But the birds, those little nameless brown and gray jobs that you see everywhere (I only want to say nuthatch because it's fun), can't get enough Italian food and are raiding the trashcans continuously for clam shells, pancetta and bathes of alfredo sauce. As a result they've grown as round and fat as hamsters and spend more time on the ground hopping about and squabbling amongst the crumbs than they do soaring in the clouds.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sights, Sounds and More from Chromeo at the Troc

Last Tuesday night the Missus and I stepped out for an evening with Montreal Canada's hottest electro-funk pop duo, Chromeo, at the Trocadero and I wanted to report back on some of the the notable sensations that comprised the experience.

-The sign on the door warned entrants that Chromeo's show features intense strobe lighting effects. This is no joke and so I'd have to conclude that Chromeo in concert is not for epileptics. Sorry guys.

-There were 3 opening acts, the last of whom was an aspirational MGMT with decent musical chops, but like zero charisma. I think that makes all the difference in the world.

-Chromeo got the crowd rocking - particularly the 35 year old dude next to us in the balcony viewing area. We may have been dating ourselves, chilling up there in the balcony with its u-shaped, padded vinyl benches, but I'd have to register a minor complaint about the size of this dudes dance moves. Way too big, like 6-7 feet in lateral distance. Sure, it's cool to get on your feet and shimmy around a bit and clap in time (the 2 and the 4 white folks), but when you're elbowing, kicking and crotch-thrusting into your neighbors with each gyration its time to reign in it a bit. The ground floor in front of the stage is a more apt environment for sweaty shenanigans like this, not too mention that they're generally better left to young, attractive women.

-But mostly shame on the couple behind us too for their equally disturbing interpretive dance. Ignoring the exclusively up-tempo beats, said couple spent the night in a middle-school slow song tangle, complete with awkward pre-coital embrace and aggressive sucking of face. I didn't think the show was 18+,  ( or maybe they had good fake IDs) but who else needs to sneak out of the house just to French kiss for two hours? Making matters worse, our twinkish male-lead in this PG-13 love scene, was actor and director - filming the action for significant stretches of time with the video capture on his smartphone.

-Chromeo's set was short and sweet. They took the stage late and played their most beloved tunes in quick succession, sparing the audience too much of their new or lesser-known work. I for one applaud the lack of bullshit and getting to the point of delivering the goods.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Morning Blue Screen of Death & Other Signs of the Apocalypse

Error Code: 0x5000d64. That can't be good.
This morning I was greeted with the infamous 'Blue Screen of Death' when I logged in to my work station. And for the next hour while IT looked into my shit, I was powerless, paralyzed, gun shy that here was notice the general abundance of chaos and bad news had finally trickled down to the level of the you and the me.

This on the ominous heels of yesterday's blackout in my building after I'd just come home with a couple hundred bucks worth of groceries that required refrigeration and couldn't keep my meat, cheese and other perishables chilly amidst the onslaught of the hottest summer in history.

And I kept ruminating on how fragile we are and how dependent on each other and the technical advances we somehow manage to keep up to make our standard of living possible. What would I know if asked to fix the power grid? Sad to say without PECO I'd be sweating it out by candle-light eating what nuts, berries and vermin I'd be lucky enough to scrounge.

In the 100 degree heat on Saturday, as another example of my existential thinking lately, I'd remarked to CW that it's amazing what a thin band of temperature we can tolerate as human beings, where 32 is cold and 92 is hot. That's a mere 60 degrees difference and it's so important and makes us seem like wimps (and/or miracles) if you take a cosmic view of toughness. On Mercury the temperature swings from -300 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit between night and day.

To which he said, 'well, we're so much more complicated than rocks.'

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill DIY Web Clip

video
Not to assign any kind of higher, cosmic meaning to the Gulf oil spill (cause who believes in that shit?), but the time of the free-flowing gusher neatly coincided with the duration of my brother's unemployment. He was laid-off in late April, just as the Deepwater Horizon oil platform burst into incandescent plumes of gas and literally took a new job this past Monday, just after Top Hat Number 10 (a Flange Transition Spool and  a 3 Ram Stack) corked most of the leak. 

As significant events in both the macro and micro experiences of our lives, the two events will serve as markers for one another and ensure the duration and dates of these chaotic storylines stay clear in memory. Strange how that works. Everyone around at the time remembers where they were when Kennedy died. We'll always have Deepwater Horizon.

Anyway, if you're morbidly fascinated with this disaster as I am, you will find the New York Times excellent interactive oil spill tracker a compelling and sobering little tool. In the Internets abiding spirit of plagiarism and copyright infringement, I  paired it with another of my favorite tools, SnagIt!, to create the clumsy 9MB animation above and call it my own content. 


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's Wrong

As an occasional exercise, typing open-ended questions into Google seems a great way to tap into the troubled minds of a people. Google Suggest will let you know that it's okay, you're not alone in worrying about mostly useless shit by offering up temporally and contextually related searches compiled algorithmically from other users like you. Here in Philadelphia, users like me appear to have one overriding concern - the plight of the punch-less Phillies. Pretty dead-on accurate.

While it's fun to look at this and say, how shallow we are, I actually take it as a good sign that most of the list is comprised of blather and fleeting concern like Spencer Pratt and Kelly Bensimon because it means we generally know which trough to seek for dirty water. What's more troubling is question #3 in the list. How should Google know? And why are you asking? Doesn't this suggest a major reshuffling in the spiritual leadership ladder? Or maybe I'm the one underestimating the Search Engine's ability to provide answers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Nasty Nestling

The creative process of blogging is probably something like a comedian's in gathering notes on the absurdities and adventures of life and revisiting those at a later date to apply a coating of thought. Combing through the photos I email myself from my phone as part of this process, I found this shot from just a few weeks back that I'd almost forgotten having survived: rescuing a nestling robin.

Jill and I went out to play tennis during one of the rash of hot, dry days we've been having around Philly this summer and as I approached the baseline, this clump of gray detritus shot it's head up in the air, mouth agape and let out a shrill salvo of peeps.

Lying just court-side of the hurricane fence and a bunch of neighboring hedges, this little nestling had escaped his tipped-over nest, which lay on a broken branch at the top of the hedge, and crawled onto the court as a last act of survival. And there he collapsed in an awkward heap, prone with nonworking legs and wings outstretched frying on the hardtop court. Without intervention he wasn't long for this world.

Our first instinct was to try to return him to his nest, but the nest was clearly abandoned as it contained the withered, maggot-ridden corpses of his two siblings. So we turned to the Internets which advised a shoe-box nest lined with an old shirt coupled with a tweezer-administered diet of warm water-mushed dogfood.

Within hours our nestling was responding well to our therapy and gaining strength. Every time we approached the shoebox, his little head shot up, mouth wide open, and the stream of peeps came out soliciting gobs of dogfood gruel. From then on he was literally an eating and guano-shitting machine. Which quickly became gross as the bloom wore off the rose of our do-gooding hearts.

Then he started to look ugly, sickly and skeletal without plumage and a voracious appetite and white, nitrogenous, toothpaste-like oozing guano in abundance sullying his shoebox nest and we started to wonder what kind of animal we had saved. Nestlings are hard to identify and we weren't sure if we had gone to so much trouble just to ensure there's one more crow or grackle in the world.

Plus which it was now Sunday and what would we do with our professional schedules with a bird who needs to eat three times an hour during daylight?

Rearing him in our Center City apartment wasn't a savory prospect, nor one that looked promising for the bird. Fortunately, a little more research on the Web revealed the Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research organization in nearby Newark, Delaware. They happily take in rescued nestlings, regardless of the bird's exotic appeal, or mostly, lack thereof. (They get 25 birds a day, mostly robins and grackles.)

We drove him in to this secret facility tucked into the woods surrounding Newark and found a rootsy, but seemingly well-funded little operation like you'd expect Jane Goodall to be running on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, only instead of chimpanzees it's suburban birds in plexiglass containers being nursed back to health and then released in netting-covered woods.

The receptionist confirmed that our nestling was a robin, which, better than a grackle, but by no means the rare exotic we'd envisioned when deciding to rescue. But hey, we did a good deed shored-up on some karma and went on our way.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Off

Do Swede's only seem clever?

Serving Mark Zuckerberg in Sun Valley

At the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley last week, media luminaries from around the globe descended on the central Idaho mountains for a week of R&R and M&A. Many famous deals have been brokered at the conference over the years from the Google YouTube acquisition to Comcast's bid for a controlling stake in NBC/Universal last year.

This year the biggest news was Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg getting duped by a would-be autograph-seeker who turned out to be a process server notifying mighty Mark that he's being sued for an 84% ownership stake in Facebook.

The lawsuit may be frivolous (claiming Facebook was bought for $1000 back in '03 by one Paul Ceglia), but the rush experienced by the process server must have been as real as it gets. As depicted in Pineapple Express, process serving is a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, even when dealing with low-profile scumbags like drug dealers. Imagine when your quarry is Mark Zuckerberg, what kind of assassin's thrill that must bring when you realize he'll be in Sun Valley for the Allen & Co. conference and you head him off at the pass. A perfect plan meets perfect execution as your spring the trap and ambush the biggest name in Silicon Valley.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Heat

Having lived 4 of the last 5 years in San Francisco I got used to the relative boringness of Bay Area weather which consists mostly of non-seasonal coolish weather year round, with a mix of fog and sun wherever you go. The difference between day and night is 10-15 degrees and so is the difference between summer and winter.

Philadelphia has been a wildly different story so far. Last summer was like the European Mini Ice Age with highs cracking 90 only one week in August that I can remember and a pretty consistent track of cool temperatures and steady doses of record-setting rainfall. This continued in the winter with the all-time record setting 10 feet of snow that we got in Center City. And why stop there, thought Mother Nature, before besieging the city with it's hottest summer in a decade and the 8th hottest since regular temperature recording began as a second act.

Critics of global-warming would point to the 10 feet of snow and say, look, proof that the temperature isn't rising. Hah Al Gore!

But all that is anecdotal evidence and at that it may even be evidential support of the data. All we know is that we're putting more energy into the system and what that brings in the local experience of global warming is unpredictable, but more frequent and violent extremes, mood swings if you will, is a likely outcome.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ICED!

One of many highlights from Memorial Day on Nantucket was this early adoption of the 'Icing' viral Internet meme as popularized by the (now defunct?*) site BrosIcingBros.com. The seeds of this moment were laid in advance by a series of covert emails on the concept, a victim was selected and the Ice was presented.

Luckily, I was there to capture the moment and have to say that I think the composition of this icing is excellent. Let's break it down. First, there's the look of pure anguish on the victim's face as he kneels defeated to take the ice. Then there's the triumphant gat hand gestures of the perp gunning down his enemy cholo style with a couple imaginary 9s. Brilliant!

And yet, not funny enough for BrosIcingBros.com. Like any good meme, it relies heavily on UGC. Realizing what comedic gold we had on our hands here, I submitted the photo for inclusion and got this response from the big shots at BIB:

They even  said "awesome ice bro...." Seemed like a done deal right? So I scoured the site for days later and have yet to see our submission get published. So I have to criticize their vision, having witnessed a lot of janky icings getting pub. What gives? What's the matter with our ice?

*Why do I think Smirnoff lawyers have to be somehow involved in this?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Air Force One

When I observed this curious trio of aircraft flying just outside of New York City on Friday, May 28 at 5:43PM, comprised of 1 CH-47 Chinook and 2 AH-64 Apache Longbows painted in stark white, my first impulse was, holy shit, that must be Air Force One, because 'Air Force One' isn't technically the 747 the President flies around on (though it often is) but rather whatever airborne vehicle the President happens to be flying in at that particular moment.

Since it's not practical to fly a 747 into Manhattan, I thought we had a chance here of an incidental Presidential path-crossing, figuring somebody important must be in the Chinook to require a dual-Apache escort out to Newark.

Unfortunately, the President's daily schedule is remarkably easy to come by with some light Googling and multiple sources (including this one) agree that he was probably in Chicago at the time, thus debunking my theory. But still, this was an impressive display of air superiority to witness on a fairly routine commute and thus merits inclusion in my continuous documentation of life's little oddities.

So with that, if anyone has any ideas who this may have been please speak up. My next best guess is Mikhail Prokhorov, aka that wild Russian billionaire who recently bought the New Jersey Nets.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tiny on the Drums

Tryon Street, Charlotte, North Carolina, June 22, 2010 9:16 PM

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mile High Weekend

I'm going to start with some not excellent cellphone photography of a most excellent bull moose that we caught out in the open this past Friday in the Indian Mountains Wilderness above Tabernash, Colorado. So there you go. I only risked life and limb to creep up on this mighty bastard as he munched his riparian seaweed lunch so I could get within 75 yards or so and still just barely within the functional range of my Blackberry Tour 9630. Check out the resolution of 3.2 megapixels at 800% magnification. Impressive no? No.

But the moose, now that was really something. Too bad I couldn't capture it with the available state-of-the-art technology, but he seemed very at home there in central Colorado. Which is odd because he doesn't belong, not really. Moose in Colorado, like the mountain goat, is a man-made artifact. Someone in the late '70s, probably at the compelling behest of John Denver, who seemed authoritative, felt the place would be better off with some appealingly rustic immigrants and before you know it the wilds were populated with strange new beasts. This about a century after grizzly bears and wolves were extirpated from the area.

This wasn't the only human-affected oddity we observed in Colorado over the weekend. May I present the second (glimpses of which are also visible to the careful observer in my moose shot):

Here we have lodgepole pines, the ubiquitous conifer of the American Rockies, dying en masse thanks to pandemic mountain pine beetle infestation. Scientists concerned with the problem, which has killed vast swathes of Colorado forest (among other western states' groves) aren't entirely sure but believe the balance slipped out of control as a result of global warming, which shortened winter and expanded the window of time during which beetles may feed on the trees without die-off due to cold weather.

It was awesomely sad to see mile after mile of Colorado forest where I'd guess 85% of the trees were dead, withered and orange. Devastating forest fires are the inevitable next step and we may be witnessing the extinction of the lodgepole pine, which couldn't adapt too man-made global warming. The thriving moose, on the opposite tack, is a hopeful reminder that nature will survive it's encounter with humanity and its impact on evolution.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Keep Your Receipts

Regular check indeed. What the hell was I doing on Thursday, October 1st of last year that I needed three $0.49 turkey sausages, one 'dessert' and a cup of coffee at 9:41am? I should have been at work where these things are not available. So, I'm not sure, I don't exactly recall ordering this, nor having visited the Corner Bistro, but this receipt was there in the thick stack of confetti gathering in my Costanza-esque wallet. So it's clearly the truth.

I've always wondered why I keep receipts, I'm not particularly vigilant against credit-card fraud and I'm not enough of a tactician to want to parse my own paper trail at the end of the tax year for nickel and dime business expenses to write off. But now I understand.

I do it because it reminds me what I've been up to. Much of my own life remains a mystery to me, particularly that which disappears faster and faster with each year into the thickening fog of my past. So like the credit bureaus, or a noble archaeologist digging through the midden of a lost Indian village, I can mine the history of my purchases to uncover clues about my life and hopefully add to the non-ending quest for self-knowledge.

It's almost like looking at old pictures, only far more mundane, filling in the bulk of life between the victories, and thus probably more accurate as to the true nature of things, in that moment some months ago where the need for turkey sausage, some kind of sweet, and a cup of coffee was the imperative of the day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Some Thoughts

-Day one of the World Cup: I was thinking, after a pair of annoying, low-scoring ties, so far, so boring. 200 years ago, the United States didn't settle for ties with England. Why are we so high on this one? The Founding Fathers would not have been stoked, maybe even badly disappointed, particularly given that goal was complete garbage.

-Day two, I'm really feeling Die Mannschaft after the show they put on drubbing the 'Socceroos.' Having encountered a few genuine Australians in the world, with their 'no worries mate' attitude, acid-washed jeans and near unanimous sun-kissed good looks, it was oddly fun to see their party ended by efficient German workmanship.

-It bears noting that my wife made the most outrageous meal order of her adult life the other day at Beau Monde for breakfast, I guess you'd call it: a mimosa to kick things off then a froment crepe with apples, toasted almonds, brown sugar, caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This was the breakfast of champions that kicked off a day of beer-drinking and hotdog eating at the Phillies' game.

-Speaking of whom, it's been painful watching them slide from 1st to 3rd in the National League East, particularly heading into this month's American League tour de force, already off to a banging start losing 2/3 to the Red Sox before hitting up the Yankees, Twins, Indians and Blue Jays before the month is out. It's hard to image the Phillies coming out of this stretch unscathed, so I've already begun the word-smithing of a cleverly-titled post to the effect of 'The Philadelphia Phaillies' or something like that. I'd be happily proven wrong.

-I reached out to volunteer some time and energy to the Philadelphia Tax Reform movement as avowed at PhiladelphiaForward.org and was met with a disappointing reply of weary capitulation. I hope somebody's still beating some drums on this topic.

-I've been following the story on Sabina Rose O'Donnell's murder since it first broke. I saw her photo on Philly.com and got a chill because back in January she had been our waitress on our lone visit to PYT. It's a terrible shame what happened to her at the hands of a coward and I hope they catch whomever is responsible for this terrible deed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Just Ridiculous

This isn't my first screed on Ticketmaster, and it probably (sadly) won't be my last. This was just so shocking I had to share with the world. I'd like to catch Chromeo at the Trocadero in Philadelphia next month, but at a 43% gouge for convenience, I'll inconvenience myself by walking to the box office. It's nice out today and this might actually be a fun errand.

Monday, June 7, 2010

American Express Foreign Currency Conversion Fee

On my way back from Canada two weekends ago I naturally wanted to hit up the duty-free at the Thousand Islands crossing to shore up on my summer reserves of booze sans tax. While the exchange rate isn't awesome these days, the prices are marginally better and you can also load up on Canadian candy (Smarties baby!) and maple syrup.

So after scoring bottles of Patron, Hendricks, Ketel One and Grand Marnier, I thought I was pretty clever right up until I got stopped at the US Customs and Border Patrol checkpoint and referred to secondary inspection after admitting I'd ignored the one-bottle per visitor rule and actually purchased four.

They lined me up with about 7-8 other cars and had me roll up all the windows and leave the vehicle and not use my cellphone (to call my Al Qaeda friends), while a big Ford truck with a white box in the bed (Mobile Radiation Portal Monitor) slowly puttered down and up the line of cars apparently shooting some kind of radiation to find bombs, yellowcake or other instruments of terrorism.

Satisfied that we were carrying nothing dangerous, CPB let us go and I was off into the States with my tax-free hooch.

Now a fortnight later, I'm checking my American Express bill online and notice this funny little blue dot in the statement next to my duty-free liquor purchase:
...and find that AMEX has tacked on an extra 2.7% to my purchase for the service of foreign currency conversion. Shame on your AMEX for taking the low-road of surprise hidden fees (though I'm sure I was notified in one of those dense, rice-paper pamphlets about my Terms and Conditions), but I guess you have to take advantage when you have the world by the balls? That's nice customer-centric thinking.

I used to think of AMEX as the goto for travel purchases, but knowing that I'll pay an extra 2.7% on top of anything I buy in foreign currency, I'm thinking twice.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Justin Bieber's Purple High Tops

An old story goes that, back in college, I got out of sorts one afternoon while watching MTV and had an emotional 'freak out.' Without willing it, I drifted across the street to the multi-cultural student union building for a smoothie, into which I gently wept over my despair at feeling out of touch with pop culture. The exact stimulus, I believe, was N*Sync, or something like them, on a stage in Cancun amid a throng of thong-clad beauties and their bouncing parts and here was my sudden and overwhelming lack of comprehension. Looking back it was probably just plain old jealousy. My spring break trip to Key West hadn't been so fruitful.

Since then, I've largely reconciled my connection with pop culture. I think in the maturation of (still) pending adulthood, which entailed the erosion of the dream of setting the curvature of cool myself, my efforts to be so have softened to the point that I'm really taking most things less seriously and not expecting much beyond face value. As a result, I've come to celebrate Justin Timberlake's entire solo catalog and I'm not afraid to admit it.

There's no shame in owning up to something that makes you feel good. So another thing I'm going to surrender henceforward is my effort to log and hold people accountable for instances of hypocrisy. We're all guilty of it and pointing it out (usually) as a means to justify something bad you want to get away with is not a constructive exercise. The better thing to do is expect it, since it's human, and get on to the constructive path of forgiving. It's what Jesus would have wanted.

So with my new enlightened attitude, I'm marveling at this new wunderkind, Justin Beiber, who's suddenly up there dancing and singing from the wisdom of his 16 year old perch about love and its travails. He may be an old soul, but the 20 year old me would have rejected this on grounds of dubious voracity. What does a doe-eyed, pre-pubescent Canadian queerbait have to tell me about love?

Then, what would I have to gain by keeping the Beiber at arms-length? That's what the older me has realized and so I'm embracing Beiberama and starting to plumb its pop-cultural richness for seams to lace into my own life.

To wit, these are my new kicks -- Adidas Equations, to be precise -- loosely inspired by a sweet pair of purple kind that Bieber sports and they're driving my wife crazy. Only, not with the teenage fan-girl lust like I'd hopefully envisioned. It's more like crazy with fatigue at my antics, or something such that effects more weariness and ridicule than horniness and adoration.

Still I occasionally insist on these shoes, most recently on the ferry to Nantucket, because my point is this: Bieber doesn't act his age. Why should I?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

May Tripping


From the home base in Old City, I traveled over 5,000 miles across the Eastern United States throughout the month of May as abstractly illustrated in the above SnagIt Editor on Google Maps digital visualization. In real terms, I made round-trip visits from Philadelphia to:
  • Atlantic City, NJ
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Nantucket, MA
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York, NY
  • Rideau Ferry, ON
As much as my itinerant nomadisticity was a journey of man on wheel, rail, wing and hull, what strikes me here at the end of it all was the gastronomic effort involved in literally eating my way through May on the road. En route I sampled an awesome array of distinctly North American cuisine in all of its regional splendor. While the exotic wonders of cajun cuisine in New Orleans, buttered chip wagons in Canada, and Nantucket's amazing Portuguese bread command respect, the core of the culinary experience was far more American: lite beers (and lots of them) plus hot meat, cheese and white bread. 

For the most part I try to watch what I eat. But healthy eating, like exercise, piano-lessons, non-fiction reading and prayer, is a routine easily toppled by the flux of travel. Simply stated, the road is an excuse to scarf all the junk food you can handle. And so this May I happily gave-in to the impulse to eat, and eat I did to end up here in June counting back on the previous month and realizing that I ate literally 3 home-cooked meals, had red meat almost daily and can count among that total cheeseburgers from 10 different sources and 3 philly cheesesteaks (my normal total on both of the above is like 1 per month).

Beefy Highlights:
  • Hot barbecue brisket at the random strangers house in New Orleans on the recovery from being rocked by Pearl Jam at Jazz Fest.
  • Returning to the fast-food burgers of my youth: Wendy's 1/4 Single with Cheese, A&W Papa Burger, McDonald's Big Mac.
  • The simple, yet technically advanced burger at the Crepe Cellar in Charlotte, NC - hand-packed patty, fried onion strings, gruyere and a truly wonderful bun make this the only one I'll refer to as the French Onion Soup of cheeseburgers. 
  • Not 1, but 2 cheesesteaks at Cosmi's - Philadelphia's best 'Philly Cheesesteak.' (Suck it Pat's and Geno's!)
  • Memorial Day Natucket grill-o-rama featuring classic, hand-made burgers on the grill with sliced tomato, grilled onion and pickles and the best weather anybody's seen on that island since the New World was discovered.
It's been real. 

Now as my brother says, it's time to be a homeboy, and for June that means getting back to leafy greens and high fiber to hopefully undo some of the massive damage May must have done on arterial walls and GI tract.   

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Random Fact: Nashville, Tennessee Got a Lot of Rain in May 2010

A somber footnote from my recent trip to New Orleans was that my brother, a last minute addition out of Nashville, Tennessee, spent a good portion of the trip nervously monitoring his iPhone for updates on the deteriorating situation with regards to the Cumberland River and record-setting flood stages back in his home city.

The weather that weekend in New Orleans was strange, frighteningly humid with an endless surge of low-lying  clouds flowing north off the Gulf at 20-25 mph. It was horror-movie, pre-apocalypse style cloud action and everyone just kept waiting for what felt like the inevitable, Biblical deluge. But it didn't come.

With this boatload of moisture coming in from the sea, New Orleans only reported 1.55 inches of rain during those first two days of May while Nashville received 13.56 inches. I'm an amateur meteorologist in aspiration-only, but my feeling is we saw that moisture in New Orleans en route to Nashville.

*Data for this post was provided by Weather.com, which is an excellent website with a lot of delightful drill-down ability for the weather and/or data junkie. Check out the Monthly view for precipitation and temperature recordings, extremes and averages.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Facebook Makes Your Privacy Difficult to Understand

There's a genius working at the New York Times graphics design center who produced the comprehensive visual (from which I happily pimped the above) of Facebook's 'bewildering tangle' of a privacy policy.

I'm generally trusting of all things Internets, including Google's all-seeing eye (well acquainted with the collective id), but it's not a bad thing to be a little standoffish in knowing that the privacy rules governing the web are largely unwritten, or rather, being written by the companies you use everyday on the Web (Google, Facebook, etc.). Your guardedness should arise from the fact that they are attempting to create a market-driven, self-interest supporting code of conduct that balances their business interest against the whip of torts. As with any pioneering enterprise, the law isn't yet advanced enough to cover this ground with prescriptive rules simply because the list of contingencies is branching and broadening everyday with no signs of slowing down or normalizing. So the shake-out of privacy protection will probably happen by dint of these companies being called-out in court for bad behavior, aka violations of your privacy. All I'm saying is be careful how much you share since Facebook is working mostly to capitalize on your personal information as their marketable data. This should bother you only so much as you have ignorantly shared compromising information. The upside is relevant advertising, the downside is martyrdom in the courts. As always, the ancient writ of caveat emptor applies.

In these instances, I like to fall back on the rhetorical utility of my run-in with the naive young coed Boobs McGee, whom I interviewed several years ago at a campus recruiting visit to an elite college in the Northeastern United States. Before the interview, I received a dossier on Ms. McGee (actual name forgotten to protect her identity, which, on second thought, why should I work harder to protect her identity than she does?) with her resume and cover letter.

Naturally, I Googled her and found her Facebook page entirely too-open to the public featuring a profile picture of her busting out of a slinky black dress with some frat-guy chomped down on the upper-middle camber of her cleavage. Whatever her name was, 'Boobs McGee' she instantly became and the jettison of respect only quickened when her self-reported 'interests' included 'My Tits' and 'Cocaine.'

After the interview, I consulted with the career services folks and let them know that Ms. McGee wasn't quite right for us but might be better-suited for one of the open (and far more lucrative) Tiger Woods' mistress roles. Additionally, her professional faux pas might be cited as a parable to all undergraduate job-seekers as to the dangers of over-sharing via Facebook.