Thursday, April 30, 2009

There's a Hole in My Soul

Now that Billy Joe's, my favorite weekly junk food restaurant, has closed. I feel an emptiness pervade my being. I used to regularly fill the void with Billy Joe's Mini Corn Dogs (MCDs).

Corn Dogs by themselves are awesome, but putting them in mini-form increases their deliciousness by at least a multiple of 10. All that tasty hot dog and corn bread goodness in a easily ketchup/mustard dippable, hand-held form could quite possibly be the peak of our civilization's culinary prowess.

Yes, I can still get MCDs at the grocery store or Schawn's (like the ones pictured above), but they are not the same. Don't get me wrong, they are good and do in a pinch...but they are nothing compared to MCDs freshly out of the grease of a restaurant quality deep fryer. I've experimented cooking them at home - oven, toaster oven, microwave, and fryer...and you just cannot attain the restaurant quality. I will keep trying, but I fear that with each attempt my memory of MCDs from Billy Joe's will fade a little and soon my mind will fall susceptible to sub-par Mini Corn Dogs.

Hopefully soon, CT and I will find a new weekly hangout that has a greasy, totally bad for you appetizer or entree that will fill my hollowness. I yearn, I yearn...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Give the World a Try

I try to read a new blog every day. How? I just click the "next blog" button and read whatever comes up. Every click brings something new.

A daily photo blog: Ordinary Matters.

A French lady that makes creepy but cool dolls: Illusion's Doll

A guy in Texas that just started chronicling his hamburger journey: Just One Burger

A cooking blog from a non-professional cooking person: Angel in the Kitchen

A Journal of horrible cakes: Cake Wrecks

And those are just a few favorites that I have run across in the past couple weeks. I wish I would have started keeping track of some of them more because there has been some interesting ones that I can no longer find....Blogger, I wish you had a better way to search blogs.

Yes, you will run into a lot of Non-English blogs (what? not everyone speaks English?), but those can be interesting too. You would be surprised at how much you can figure out about a blog even though you can't understand the language. Some are spectacular - exotic pictures, artwork, locations.

So I encourage everyone to give a random blog a try if you have a few moments. You never know what you might find and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

NHL Center Ice on Dish Network
Dish Network doesn't carry channel Versus in their lower quantity channel packages (actually you basically have to go to their highest packages to get it). Which would normally be fine with me, I watched it a little but not enough to justify paying extra $23 a month for it. However, Versus has had the hockey telecast rights for the past two years. So why don't I pony up the cash and pay for Versus? Because I already pay $160 for the NHL Center Ice package that is supposed to provide all the games. During the regular season is it not a huge deal (although it still pisses me off), although I might not get to see all the games I would like, there is usually a different game on that will satisfy me. That all changes with the playoffs though. Versus carries half the games (all the good ones too) and my Center Ice package becomes crap. I think if I pay for Center Ice, I should also get Versus when they are showing hockey. It just doesn't seem right to purchase the "hockey package" and not get the biggest and best games.

This situation has made me hate: Versus, Dish Network, and Center Ice. So good job there.

PS Dish Network - nice how my Top 100 channel package doesn't include Versus or FX, but yet there is 10 religious channels and 15 shopping channels. FX doesn't rate above the religious channels? Right. You suck. Directv is sounding better and better.

End Hate.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Les Miserables - the final post

This past weekend GF-Unit watched the 1998 movie adaptation of Les Misérables...the one with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Claire Danes, and Uma Thurman. It is a decent version of the story. So the next few posts will be related to that. If you haven't seen the movie, musical, or read the book there will probably be some you may want to think twice before reading this post.

After much delay due to illness (I think I got the black lung, Pop). Here is the final in my triumvirate of posts on Les Miserables...probably the last forever on this topic.

Les Miserables - The Musical

The musical is by far my favorite version of Les Mis. It has all the epic-ness of the novel without the slow boring parts...the musical seems face paced and interesting throughout. It is amazing at how well they were able to take this meandering novel and condense it's essence down into the 3 hour musical. You don't feel like you are missing sections of the novel, you still get the passage of time, the complexity of characters, the feelings of good and evil in everyone...all in song. The composers just captured the emotions of the characters perfectly - from the prison chain gang singing "Look down, look down, you'll always be a slave. Look down, look down your standing in your grave." to Eponine singing the ballad of the invisible "On my Own" I couldn't help but be drawn into the characters and understanding of their plight. Rarely will you hear better songs about prostitutes, robbing corpses, and revolution. It is truly a musical manly men can enjoy, as well as, the most feminine of women and everyone in between.

Les Miserables is the musical that got me into musical theater. I had seen a few things and they were OK, but Les Mis was the first time I was blown away. I still use Les Mis as my measuring stick on all musicals I see. It is the one musical that I would recommend everyone see at least once...even if you don't like musicals. The entire stage production is amazing, with large scenery objects transforming from one object to the next at an impressive speed. I find the whole thing well done, and well thought out.

A note on the movie - I think I originally saw the movie in a pre-release with employees of the movie theater next to the arcade I once worked. I thought it was OK but not great. But I hated it. Why? In the version, I originally saw, I swear they had Jean Valjean kill Javert. I swear, that Javert basically forced Valjean to kill by telling him that he would never stop chasing him and his daughter...ever. Javert wanted to die that was obvious, but to have Valjean kill him changed the whole story. I didn't like it. In the movie that GF-Unit watched the other weekend, it did not have this scene...Javert committed suicide like was good and proper. I don't know maybe I have been wrong or confusing something else with the movie for 10+ years. I remember it so clearly though...I wonder if they changed it before the official release (I know that happened with other movies we watched pre-release, but it was never anything as important).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

Record Companies Blaming the Internet

I am tired of record companies blaming the Internet for their dwindling business. I understand their complaint and I am sure illegal downloading has affected their business quite a bit. I think it is also just one of many reasons for their declining business and I would like to see them do something about the other things also...instead of just blaming the Interwebicon.
  1. Artists of Poor and Inconsistent Quality - I don't expect every song on every album to be a masterpiece, but their should be more than one decent song. I can't even count the number of times I bought an album and the entire thing (with the exception of the one single they released) was just utter shit. The single doesn't sound anything like the rest of the album, and the whole thing sounds rushed and poorly produced. After having this happen time and again, it makes downloading the album as a test beforehand seem very logical.
  2. Recordings of Inconsistent Quality - I hate switching albums and having them mixed so differently that you have to adjust volume, treble, bass, each time. Not just a little bit, but a lot. One CD is recorded so softly that you have to have your stereo set to volume 22 for comfortable listening and the next CD almost deafens you at the same level. Lets get some consistency because it is easier for me to download mp3s and have a program level them out, than to remember which CD is going to blow out my speakers.
  3. Price Fixing - I am still pissed about the whole price fixing thing on CDs from about 10 years ago. I purchased many, many CDs in that time frame (literally thousands)...and I'm sorry but the $12 check from the class action lawsuit doesn't really make up for that (BTW I never even got my check, bitches - so I don't consider this matter closed!). So if you are willingly to take advantage of me for years and years, I guess I don't mind it happening to you in return. When a company acts greedy and doesn't care about their customers, it is hard for me to support that company. Treat your customers right!
  4. Extra Tracks - why should I buy a CD in the USA and get a lesser version than they get in Europe or Japan. If I am going to buy a CD, I think I should be getting just as much as everyone else...without having to pay the import price of 5 to 10 times as much. Why should I feel like I am not as important as a foreign market. Sure sometimes the extras are crap, but I should still have the option of getting them at a reasonable price.
  5. MP3s and DRM - really, you are going to encrypt my files so I can't use them easily? Plus what happens when the DRM service gets scrapped? I lose my music. Why would I pay for this feature? And don't say it won't happen, because it has happened already with Walmart, Yahoo, and several others. DRM does nothing but hurt the customer that buys the music legally. If I don't have an option to buy an MP3 without DRM, you are almost forcing customers to download it illegally because DRM is not worth the trouble it causes. Stop treating customers as criminals when they buy music.
  6. I've already purchased this album - many albums I have purchased on Record, Cassette, and CD...but you don't want me to be able to rip my own music (luckily it is still legal at this time), why should I pay full price for a digital format. I would be more than happy to pay something - like half price - I feel that is fair for a loyal customer who has already bought the album multiple times. Come up with a way that I can input music I already own and get a discount for the digital copy and I am there.
  7. You've lost MTV - MTV no longer plays music - AT ALL. This sucks for you, this sucks for me. You no longer have a 24/7 commercial for your music. No wonder people don't buy CDs, they don't know what music is out there any more. I bet this, more than anything else correlates to your lost profits...not downloading on the Internet. MTV was free advertising for you for 20+ years and now you don't know what to do without it. Sure radio plays a little bit of music, but nothing cutting edge or quirky...and people don't listen to the radio as much as they used to.

Please stop blaming the Internet for everything. The Internet is good and can be good business for you if you treat it correctly.

End Hate

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

This past weekend GF-Unit watched the 1998 movie adaptation of Les Misérables...the one with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Claire Danes, and Uma Thurman. It is a decent version of the story. So the next few posts will be related to that. If you haven't seen the movie, musical, or read the book there will probably be some you may want to think twice before reading this post.

Yesterday I talked about the greatness of the book of Les Miserables and how much I loved it. Today I am going to tell you why it totally sucks and I hate it.

Les Miserables (unabridged version) is almost 1500 pages of rich story and characters. The story sections of the books fly by. You will quickly read through a couple chapters, maybe 10, 20, or 30 pages and just when you are really getting into the story...bam!, history lesson. You ever want to know about the history of French nuns and religious orders? Les Miserables contains about 200 pages of that. Interested in Parisian sewers, there's another 50 pages. Argot, the secret language of thieves, your thing? Another long section is dedicated to that. Plus of course there is a little history on prisons, Parisian society, and a retelling of the Battle of Waterloo, among other things.

All of these relate only very tangently to the story - ie: Jean Valjean was in prison, Cosette is placed with a group of nuns, Valjean is forced to travel through the sewers. In the long run, these sections probably did make the book seem more epic...but it also made it very difficult to read. The nun section foiled my first attempt at reading the book. I just could not make it through it. I struggled through the second attempt but I can not tell you how boring it was. The story sections, I would easily read 50+ pages at a time. Once I got to the nuns, I could only stand to read one or two pages in a was that dull. I must say that I did enjoy the retelling of the Battle of Waterloo but the rest of the asides, I could have done without.

When he stays on task, Victor Hugo is an amazing writer...but these interludes where he injects his thoughts and opinions into a history lesson were too disruptive to the story line. I think they did much more harm than good. That is why I recommend everyone read the abridged version that cuts most of the pontification out and leaves just the amazing story.

Les Miserables - it is the best of books, it is the worst of books.
End Hate

Monday, April 13, 2009

Les Miserables - the book

This past weekend GF-Unit watched the 1998 movie adaptation of Les Misérables...the one with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Claire Danes, and Uma Thurman. It is a decent version of the story. So the next few posts will be related to that. If you haven't seen the movie, musical, or read the book there will probably be some you may want to think twice before reading this post.
The movie is decent, however, it is nothing compared to the book. (Editor's Note: I am talking about the Unabridged Version of the novel.) The book is amazing and has so many more details, plot twists, and character developments. The book contains so much information about every thing that it makes the story so into a huge, sweeping, epic. Reading it is not like reading about some one's life, it is more like becoming Jean Valjean yourself. It just such a grand story, covering nearly 60 years of the main character's life. The story itself* is fast paced and you quickly get into the all the characters. I am a slow reader and yet I would devour 50 pages of the story on my lunch break and be hungry for more.

I was enthralled by the story because of it's richness. But I think I identified with it differently than most people. Although I liked and respected the character Jean Valjean, I really identified more with the police officer, Javert. I related to his obsessiveness, to his black and white world view (either something is legal or illegal, there is no gray), and to his morally superior attitude. I think I have changed a lot since then and am more flexible in my thinking. However when I first read Les Mis, I agreed with Javert. Although Valjean was acting for the good of the people around him in most cases, he was still acting illegally and that needed to be remedied by a court or it didn't really count. At this time, I was getting ready to study criminology and had a pretty black and white view of the world on many things. I could see why Javert's moral situation could lead him to drastic action in the end. That is one thing that drew me even further into the being the good guy, the law abiding citizen, the person who follows all rules; Javert was somehow the villain in the story.

I think Les Miserable is an incredible novel and I would suggest it to anyone looking for a good read on the trials and tribulations of the human spirit and overcoming all for the ones you love. However, I would highly recommend going with the abridged version (I'll explain tomorrow). In fact, just hearing parts of the movie almost make me want to pick up the book and start all over again.

*See tomorrow's Two Minute Hate on the book's downfalls.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Doing the Gooing

Cadbury Creme Eggs

Cadbury Creme Eggs are pretty much the tastiest food substance on the planet. I think they are the whole reason for Easter (but I may have my theology a little confused). I've heard many people complain that these delicious chocolate eggs filled with creamy goodness are too rich and hurt their teeth. All I have to say is that you are a bunch of wusses and that the pain is a small price to pay for the scrumptiousness of these candies.

OK, I can see how these Ova of Love could be too much for people who don't have a large sweet tooth, so I have a few suggestions:

  1. Have you tried Cadbury's Caramel Egg? It too is amazing, but filled with caramel instead of sticky sweet creme. The caramel is only about half as sweet tasting as the cream, so the richness is not as over-powering. It is like eating a round Caramello candy bar.

  2. Check out the Cadbury Mini Creme Eggs...AKA Bite Sized (caramel also available). These are just like the regular eggs but about 1/10th the size. Perfect for popping in your mouth for a quick treat...and not nearly as messy to eat. These are actually my favorite way to eat the eggs.

  3. The standard Cadbury Egg is smaller than it was just a few years easier to handle by wusses. Before 2006 a Cadbury egg in the US was 39 grams, they are now only 34 grams. So they are basically diet eggs now! Ha ha, maybe not. Lucky Canadians and Britons still have a 40 gram egg.

  4. Suck it up! These are awesome and only available between New Years Day and Easter. Enjoy them while you can.

Although I am a big fan of the regular and caramel varieties, I am only lukewarm on the other varieties that I have tasted - Chocolate and Mint. Both were OK, but just OK, not great. I have not had the fortune to find the odder flavors like Orange, Berry, or Dream Eggs. Hopefully someday (even if I have to go to England!).

I highly enjoyed the page below on Cadbury's website. Its more suggestive than some porn covers and that made me love Cadbury eggs all the more. Plus "Where will you be doing the gooing?" is just awesome by itself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Went to see The Color Purple at the Civic Center last night. I was actually thinking it was a couple weeks from now but luckily my phone calendar reminded me in the morning. It was the show that I was least looking forward to in this years package...because I really am not one who enjoys going into a play, show, or movie knowing it is going to be a downer. If it ends up that way (like the movie Kids), that is one thing...but if I know it is going to be depressing I have a harder time getting into it. For that reason, I had never watched Schindler's List until a few months ago. I read the book, The Color Purple, about 20 years ago and although I didn't remember a ton of it, I remember that it was pretty much a bummer. I have never seen the movie.

The show did have a little bit of the rape, incest, and beating...all in musical form! but it really didn't seem a huge part of the show. It seemed lacking on the whole point of surviving through hardships but still learning to see the beautiful parts of life. The message was still there but it didn't seem as important. Celie's whole struggle seemed not as horrible as I remember, it often seemed like she was putting up with minor inconveniences than life shaping violence. It was a decent show but it didn't have the gravity that I remember in the book. It left me a little bit perplexed.

I also didn't get the sense of time. The book covers like 40+ years. The play didn't give nearly that sense of time frame. It seemed most of it could have been 5 years at the most. It just didn't give me the sweeping epic feeling like Les Miserables does.

A good show though, I would recommend it to people. I kind of wanted to get a "Hell No" t-shirt, just so I would have a t-shirt that said "Hell No" but I didn't care for the TCP logo on the sleeve...and $25 was a little spendy for a black t-shirt. Now, if it said "Hells Yeah!", I would be in.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

Amazon Recommends

Amazon has a system that where you can rate your music, book, and DVD purchases. Using this system is uses some logic that groups items and will send you recommendations based on what you like. I've rated thousands of items.

This system worked really great in the beginning. You would receive an email like "As someone who has rated Stephen King highly, you may be interested in pre-ordering his new book." That was fine, I often was interested in his new book. It was good. It usually seemed to stay with the same author so wasn't super useful if you kept up with your faves, but for more normal people who don't keep up on release dates and such it was probably useful.

A little later, the system started crossing product lines. "As someone who bought Sin City, you might be interested in the Sin City graphic novels." Again, this was was something that might intrigue me. I was alerted to several books, comic books, DVDs, etc... that I was interested in. This was a little more useful than direct author match but still it was all pretty much direct matching of titles.

It then evolved and doing indirect matching - "As someone who likes JRR Tolkien, you might be interested in the Eragon series of books." OK, dragons, see the reasoning and it still made some sense. Many times it recommended something an author or a book that I would think "I do like that author/book...I forgot about them, let's see what else they have." I used this one a lot. I was always surprised at how accurate this system was with my tastes. I didn't read or buy everything it suggested, but I could tell most everything was pretty spot on.

Finally, it stretched it too far. "We noticed that people who purchased American Psycho DVD, also purchased Everybody Loves Raymond Complete Season 2." WTF? Really? I know they were released on the same day so there probably were a few people that ordered both...but I can't believe it was a statistically significant proportion. It seemed that more and more of the recommendations were becoming like this. I had to unsubscribe because they were just too ridiculous and actually made me angry.

Editors Note - these are not real examples (as I have long deleted all the emails) but examples fabricated to show a point (although they are very close to some actual recommendations that Amazon gave me).

End Hate

Monday, April 6, 2009

TV. Better.

Hetero Life-Pal CT tipped me off to this show the other week. It is a new show on ABC, Wednesdays at 7:30pm. Which was the time slot of Pushing I am not happy about that but at least it is not a cop, lawyer, or doctor show. Of the newer shows that I have seen, this would be my choice to replace Pushing Daisies if it is indeed dead.

Better Off TED, focuses on Ted a Middle Manager/Team Leader of a research team at Veridian Dynamics. VD, is a large company that has it's hands into everything - consumer products, space exploration, industrial foods, and weapon systems to name a few. VD is the kind of large corporation that researches whatever tickles its fancy at the moment, morals, laws, ethics be damned. VD considers nothing impossible...for the right price. Want to weaponize a pumpkin or create cow-less beef? They can do that. Ted is a nice guy working and tries balancing the company's profits with the morally questionableness of some of its experiments. The kind of company that sends you a copy of the bill for any personal calls you made at work each month...not because they want you to pay for them, they just want you to know that they know.

Each episode begins with a VD commercial, which are usually twisted spoofs of BASF commercials (if you remember the "We don't make the products you use, we make the products you use better" commercials). "Power - we make that, Technology - we make that, Cows - um, we don't make that...but we did make a sheep." Always funny.

BOT is like a corporate version of The Big Bang Theory...with science and technology being laughed at but unlike Big Bang, the characters geekiness is not the central comedic theme. Better Off Ted, focuses more on the corporate greed and moral-lessness of the company in general...and the ideas that come from that "We want to freeze Phil for a year, because we think that we can."

  • Humorous spoofs of real life companies - check

  • Geeky science humor - check

  • Research analyst who steals all the coffee creamer - check

  • Company trying to figure out why it uses so much creamer - check

  • Ethically questionable company willing to perform experiments on its own employees - check

  • Mass of lab grown meat name Blobby (don't name it, then you won't want to eat it - don't you remember Chester the Carrot?) - check

  • Ideas that seem really funny and implausible until you realize they are based on real world studies - check

  • Company that uses its daycare service to have the children do such fun activities as "paint the lines in the parking lot!" - check

  • Portia de Rossi - check

All in all, a very entertaining show. Only three episodes in, you can easily get caught up on-line before the next airing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Heart Broken by a Girl (Scout)

I fully support the Girl Scouts and all they do for young girls...not being a girl or nor having a female child, I am not familiar with all it entails but I assume it is similar to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts that I was part of as a child. Teaching skills, giving self-esteem, and just a safe place to have fun with other children.

I try to buy a few boxes of Girl Scout Cookies every year...not just because it is a good cause, but also because they are delicious. There hadn't been Girl Scouts in my neighborhood for a couple years though, so lately it had been hit or miss if I got cookies. This year, not only did I get hit up at work by the mother of a scout, but some neighbor girls finally joined the organization. Ten (or so) varieties were offered with up couple not interesting me at all (the sugar free things, and I have never huge fan of the Shortbreads (Trefoils) or the Daisy Go Rounds). So I decided to be fair and split my order down the middle and order three boxes from each girl.

I ordered one box each of: Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Do-Si-Dos, Thanks-A-Lots, and Lemonades. That was three boxes per girl. Unfortunately, Lemon Chalet Cremes were not available this year since all the local Girl Scout troops were getting their cookies from ABC Bakers - the more boring and generic baker (more on that in a minute). However, the Lemonades were a new one for me and they were awesome...even better than the LCCs.

My cookies from one girl arrived several weeks ago. "Here are your two boxes of cookies!" Two boxes? WTF? I ordered three boxes. I know I ordered three boxes, you told me the total was going to be $10.50...look I wrote it down! I'm sorry, we only have you listed for two boxes. Luckily, one of those boxes was the Lemonades and that surprise helped make up for the loss of the Do-Si-Dos. My second batch of cookies from the other girl showed up about a week ago. "One box of cookies - $3.50!" One box? Are you freaking serious?!? And Thin Mints...the one I wanted the least! No Samoas, no Tagalongs - thats what I really wanted! Dang it.

Girl Scouts - you somehow lost half of my orders for your delicious cookies. This isn't good for customer service or even your bottom line. If my orders got screwed up twice, just think how many other orders may have been screwed up. Maybe you should implement an "Addition" badge or "Order Taking." I know it is not the end of the world to me, but it is disappointing. Will I order again next year? Of course, but evidently orders of three kinds of cookies are too much to handle, so maybe I will just cut it back to the ones I really, really want.

Oh, and I know you use different bakers and they get to name their own cookies...but seriously, why? You would think you constitute large enough orders that you can dictate the name. ABC Bakers, you need to work on your product naming (taste-wise they are great). I hate ordering Caremel deLites instead of Samoas, Peanut Butter Patties instead of Tagalongs, and Peanut Butter Sandwiches instead of Do-Si-Dos. Those names aren't fun, they aren't memorable. They don't have that certain pizazz that rolls of the tongue. Peanut Butter Sandwiches...bleh. That is like calling your Porsche a sports car. Technically it is accurate but it doesn't have the same ring to it.