Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Polybloggimous Brings You The Straight Poop!

I'm continuing to make sure I keep track of things, that are things, and I'm not sure why, they're things!  The latest thing that seems to have a lot of people's panties in a twist is the discovery that Chelsea Clinton has ordered some really nice toilets for her wedding.  Now I'll admit that spending $3 million bucks on a wedding does seem a little like conspicuous consumption, but hey, who am I to judge.  I'm sure they'll get a whole lot of really really tacky (yet expensive) gifts that they can return to pay for the shindig.  I mean really, isn't one diamond-encrusted sterling silver tea set enough for any struggling pair of newlyweds?

But, frankly, I don't get the bitching about the toilets.  Here's some shots from TMZ of the portable restrooms they'll be using (appropriately named the Presidential Series).

So, I've seen noted elsewhere, there are real porcelain toilets that flush.  And Stereo music pumped in.  And, can you believe how elitist these people are...there's hot water in the sinks for the guests to wash their hands!  They should be ashamed of themselves!

Yes!  The Clintons and their 500 guests in formal wear should be using these things like any other Joe SixPack.

Except for one thing.  Working in movies, I have more than my share of experience dealing with Portable Toilets.  Yeah, I've rented those nasty things before.  And, I've rented the Presidential Trailers too.  It depends on how long we'll need them and who's going to be stuck using them.  1.) If I had 500 extras in formal wear for a wedding scene, I'd rent the fancy trailers.  2.) If the crew had to use them for more than a day or two...I'd rent the fancy trailers.  3.) I challenge you to find any Joe SixPack who's used the basic version and didn't wish there had been something better available.

Personally?  I've opted to hold it for as long as I possibly could before using one of those nasty things.

There is one upside to the "controversy".  I know Bristol and Levi have put off their wedding, but when it happens, will they feel constrained by popular opinion?  I mean, sure, they'll probably rent the VFW hall or the Moose Lodge for their reception, but if there aren't enough toilets there, will they feel pressured into getting something more plebeian for additional facilities?  I'd love to see a shot of the mother of the bride coming out of one of these babies!

Monday, July 26, 2010

So Sad.

You'd think after 6 seasons on Lost, poor Sayid would be able to afford a little tuition.

A Bridge To Everywhere!

Name one bridge that goes over the Hudson River, stops in New Jersey, tries out the East River (while going under the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburgh, and Queensborough Bridge), and then settles on a spot over the Harlem River.

It's the magical traveling Willis Avenue Bridge.

Need a little background?  OK.  First of all, that river on the East Side of Manhattan is called the East River and it isn't really a river at all.  It's a body of water that flows both north and south, depending on the tide and it connects Long Island Sound to NY Harbor.  If you go north up the East River and turn left, you'll be on the Harlem River --- an 8 mile stretch of water separating Manhattan from the Bronx and flowing into the Hudson River.  And there are 15 bridges spanning the Harlem River.

One of them, the Willis Avenue Bridge, has been there since 1901.  It's got a few problems.  The ramps and approaches to the bridge are a mess, causing serious backups and waaaayyyyyy more than their share of accidents.  And in spite of nearly constant repairs, the thing has been falling apart for years.  So we're getting a new Willis Avenue Bridge.

This is all fairly normal --- except for the fact that they decided to build the new bridge 135 miles upstate in Coeymans, NY!

Since the middle of July, the bridge has been on two barges that were welded together and it's been making its way to its new home.  Here's a shot of it on it's way down the Hudson.

I don't know all the ins and outs of the deal, but it's been sitting at a dock in New Jersey for the last couple of weeks and today, its on it's last leg of the journey -- headed up the East River. If you're wondering why it's going the long way around, that part actually makes sense.  When it's in place, it'll be the furthest south span of the Harlem River, and most of the other bridges it would have had to pass are fairly low.  Seven of them are Swing Bridges (they rotate on a central pivot for river traffic), but when they're open, the passage isn't wide enough for the bridge and its tugs to get by.  The bridge, itself, is 77' wide, 350' long, and 66' tall.

So, today, the bridge will go under a bunch of other bridges on its way to, ultimately...being a bridge.  Cool huh?  

For a bunch of reasons, all of this makes sense and it's more cost effective than having built it in place, but I choose to believe it's being done this way mostly because  NYC prefers to do shit its own way!

Edited to Add this shot from the NY Post of the bridge headed up the East River with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fair Warning To Cat Burglars. (The ones who are cat-like, not the gangs of nefarious takers-of-cats.)

Every winter, as soon as the first decent snowstorm is predicted, the news is full of stories about people STOCKING UP on supplies, since, obviously, they'll never be able to get out of their front door again.  And even if they could get out the door, when they got to the store, there wouldn't be any BREAD left!*  I, for one, don't get all that freaked out about about the idea of going out in the snow.  I think it's kinda fun.

Heat, however, is an entirely different thing altogether!  We're undergoing another heat wave on the East Coast. I'm not sure the news isn't overdoing it a little bit, but there is a chance that temperatures today will be suitable for melting Iridium. (Look it up if you must, but that's hot!)
(Look.  It's another one of my really crappy illustrations!)

Well, we're totally prepared here.  We went to the grocery store and stocked up on everything yesterday.**  We have new discs from Netflix. The gist of this is that we may not leave the house again before Monday.  Truth be told, I have no plans to get further than 15' from the air-conditioner aside from sporadic, hastily executed forays to the refrigerator for survival supplies (and frozen smoothies).  

So, all of you thieves who follow blogs and Facebook, waiting for someone to announce that they won't be home and that their place is ripe for plunder, you'll just have to keep looking.***  We'll be right here the whole weekend.***

*Why are people so concerned about bread?  I never see stories about everyone panicking about the supply of beer and Fritos.  Uh...priorities people?

**There didn't seem to be that "stocking up for the blizzard" rush on the store shelves and there wasn't anybody from Channel 7 News waiting to ask us if we managed to get enough ice before the store ran out. Once again...I just don't understand these people's priorities.  It's like they're from another planet or something.

***I don't know whether or not our neighbor has anything planned, but they're that annoying out-doorsy type, so it might be worth checking them out.  Just sayin'.

****If you are part of a gang of nefarious takers-of-cats, just ring the bell.  Teufel's been bugging the crap out of me since 6:00am.  He might be available.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Does A Brown Bear Shit In The Woods? Nah...More Likely In Your Office.

A friend posted a link to this today.  It's a series of 4 short animated films about an Ad Agency Producer making totally reasonable demands of a Production Company Producer and the Askee is thrilled to go along.  Just go watch the videos at the link so I don't have to embed them.

One thing though.  The Production Company Producer may come off as utterly beleaguered in this thing, but I assure you, if he's offered the job, he'll be the one making outlandish requests of his Production Manager and all of the crew.

C'mon guys! You should  give us a break on your rate because, we don't have a lot of money on this one.  It'll be a blast; you'll get to work with this major female front of a white background.  We'll have tons of work for you somewhere down the line.  Oh...just send over your resume' and put the dates on hold...we'll let you know if the guy we really want bails on us.

Just watch the videos...they're hysterical.

This is the #6 Death Star Making All Local Stops. Please Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors.

By now, you've all seen Princess Leia in mortal danger on the subway.  And since you've all been so good, here are some outtakes.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Audrey Comes To Brooklyn. "Feed Me!"

I ran across a rose today that might be some alien species...come to take over the world.  In case it's not clear from the pictures, I've bought cabbages smaller than this beast.

If A Tree Falls In Brooklyn...

This isn't all that exciting, but what the hell.  Yesterday, this huge-assed branch fell off a tree in the next block from mine.  Hordes of people were not injured.  Property Damage is estimated (by me) to be in the tens of dollars. (The car in these shots belongs to a guy who restores them.  I didn't see any noticeable damage, but short of a massive dent, how would you know?.)

I have no idea what caused this sucker to fall down, but it was pretty big...25' or so long and 10-12" diameter where it broke off.  I'll be curious to see how long it sits there before the city hauls it away. (I'm pretty sure the Parks Dept. is responsible for street trees.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Trip Down Memory Lane.

During the 1972-1973 school year, I was in 7th Grade.  I'm not entirely clear on the details, but part of Jacksonville's school desegregation plan called for reorganizing the whole Elementary through High School system of what grades were grouped together.  At least I think that was the purpose.  Anyway, when I was in those grades, Jacksonville had separate Sixth and Seventh Grade Centers, filled entirely by students in one grade.  I ended up at the Douglas Anderson Seventh Grade Center, which is now, according to their website, a High School called Douglas Anderson School for the Arts.  (It appears to be a pretty highly acclaimed school!)

Alas, I don't remember it as such an exemplary place. In addition to all of the Academic and Arts programs they've added, they appear to have installed all sorts of modern air-conditioning!  (I don't think I saw an air-conditioned classroom until I got to 10th Grade.)

Before I get into my experience in 7th Grade, let me remind you of the level of technology we were dealing with in 1972.  This is what a keyboard looked like:
Switchboards looked like this:
(For those of you who don't recall switchboards at all, they were a way of connecting telephone calls.  The lady--it was always a lady--sat there and connected one set of hoses to another set of hoses and then the hose to your telephone was connected to the hose of the person to whom you wanted to speak and then you could yell at each other through the hoses.  For long distance calls, there were intermediary "yellers" who would relay your yelling to the person to whom you were speaking.  It's a little known fact, but submarines were considered fairly useless until the need for Trans-Atlantic intermediary yellers came into being.  This stuff is all absolutely true; ask somebody old.  Oh, and this is where Al Gore got the idea for inventing the InterTubes.  Unfortunately, his concept of having information relayed to artists who would then draw the porn for the recipient didn't catch on.)

This is what photocopiers looked like. 
 They were actually called Mimeograph Machines.  They were really messy and the stencils you had to create to go on them were a pain in the ass...sort of like trying to handle a long sheet of Saran Wrap...coated with lard...on both sides...and the lard is blue!  On the upside, the authorities didn't seem to realize that the smell of mimeograph ink was actually the first gateway drug opening the door for all other adolescent and teen experimentation!  "Hey man...did you get a whiff of the notice about tomorrow's Pep Rally? That was some Primo Memo!"

And just one more bit of old Tech for you...this is what a SmartPhone used to look like!

OK, now that I've immersed you in the era, I'll tell you the little that I remember about about my experience at Douglas Anderson Seventh Grade Center.  First of all, as I alluded to, it was HOT.  You walked from un-air-conditioned class to un-air-conditioned class through various breezeways and across an inner courtyard.  The school was built to efficiently take advantage of prevailing weather patterns so that no breeze could ever find it's way into the breezeways.  The courtyard was dry and trampled so that the only thing other than dusty sand, was a layer of dead pine needles.

The only teacher I can remember was my Algebra teacher, Mr. Walker.  He was a long-haired (presumably) hippie-freak and he was always really nice to me when he told me how badly I'd screwed up the latest assignment.

Lastly, I remember Shop Class. All the girls, of course, were expected to grow up to be Mothers and Wives, so they took Home Economics. (I'd bemoan having grown up in a time when I couldn't take those cooking classes myself, but I'm pretty sure they were only taught deep frying, boiling water and how to bake pre-packaged cake mixes.)  The boys, on the other hand were apparently all expected to need a vocation.  Now, I've got nothing against being able to work with your hands -- I wish I was more adept at it now -- but I'm pretty sure we were all being prepped for a life on an Assembly line.

The first half of the year, I was assigned to Metal Shop.  I have vague memories of heating up and bending some iron.  I remember some big machines for stamping out shapes from sheet metal.  I remember sharp edges and lots of bleeding.  I don't remember ever completing a project.

Wood Shop was a little bit better.  I completed two projects in that class.  First, I built a birdhouse.  I don't think the birdhouse was especially well constructed and I have no idea what ever became of it.  It looked a lot like this:
Maybe the birds demolished it in protest.

The next project went a little better.  I was really proud of it.  I had looked through the plans of various projects we could take on and I decided on the one that spoke to me...a combination Hat Rack/Mirror/Drawer unit that I envisioned hanging in our front hall at home. Dad was going to have to buy the mirror to fit in the space meant for it, but I was doing carpentry! And it really didn't matter that hats had, mostly gone out of fashion.  My Mother's Father might have still been wearing hats at the time, but if he was, he was the only one I knew who did.

Anyway, I actually did a fairly good job on my Hat Rack/Mirror/Drawer Unit.  I had to give up on the drawer part actually functioning and just nail on a front that looked like a drawer, but the space for the mirror was perfect.  There were spaces to hang Six hats! (If Papa - that's what we called him-- brought over any other hat-wearers, it would only be polite to have room for their hats...right?)  And that sucker was sanded and varnished to within an inch of its life.

I couldn't have been more proud than I was the day I brought it home and presented it to my Mother.  And then she asked me what possible use we'd have for a Gun Rack.  D'oh!
(A lovely example of what my "hat rack" might have looked like.)

I wonder who's attic my masterpiece is gracing these days.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For.

If you read my blog even sporadically, you'll know that it isn't the least bit uncommon for me to start a post with no real idea where it's going.  I tend to see something that gets me all in a lather, and I have to comment on it.  And, of course, I want to present myself as the highly intelligent being I know I am. (I'll thank you not to think of Fredo Corleone when you read that: "I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart and I want respect!") 

I know you all rabidly follow any and all proposed legislation in Israel's Knesset. Of course you do!  OK, maybe you can be forgiven if you're not overly concerned by the fact that one small group of Ultra Orthodox Rabbis may narrowly re-define who is and who isn't a Jew.  Even if the subject isn't all that near and dear to your heart, you should read the's pretty frightening.

This post won't be specifically about that. If you want to read something vilifying any of the many factions perpetuating unrest in the Middle East, you'll have to go elsewhere. This isn't even really going to be about my opinion of who should be considered a Jew under Israeli law.  For the record, (and for what little it's worth), this is one area where I think you should let your definition be dictated by your enemies.  One of the driving forces behind the founding of Israel was the putative need for a Homeland...a safe haven for Jews.  If the Nazis categorized you as Jewish enough for an oven, you should qualify for Israel's "Law of Return".  (And, as an aside, I haven't read the proposed legislation, but it seems to pin the definition on traceable genealogy or conversion by the right Rabbis.  Under the first criteria, I'm pretty sure that Jews for Jesus long as they had enough Jewish ancestors before they became...uh...Christians.)

So, what the hell is this post about.  It's about the two party system in the U.S. Didn't see that coming did you? 

As long as I've been paying any attention, I've heard bitching about Democrats and Republicans hijacking the political process and bemoaning the lack of an effective third party.  There's certainly nothing preventing any third (or fourth or fifth or ad-infinitum) party from coming into it's own and getting it's agenda a hearing.  There's nothing in the Constitution about political parties...they just came into being.  And lest you forget, there have been Whigs, Federalist, Progressives, Know-nothings, Bull Mooses (Meese?), Communists, Nazis, Socialists and Reconstructionists...all of whom were actual players at one time or another.  Since the Civil War, Democrats and Republicans have been dominant, but you'd be hard pressed to recognize them as the same two parties over the last 150 years.

But one thing they have managed to do is to inadvertently insert one more element of checks and balances into the Government. Our Government does a lot of fairly stupid things, but having Democrats and Republicans fighting each other tooth and nail over every little thing creates, at the very least, the illusion of deliberativeness.  And, truth be told, a government that's gridlocked is preferable to one that's precipitous.

Over the last couple of years, the Tea Party folks have made enough noise to be taken seriously.  Admit it, even when you're railing against them, you're only bothering because they seriously worry you.  The Tea Party has taken great pains to say that they're not Republicans (few people suspect them of being closeted Democrats).  They try to define themselves as ordinary unaffiliated citizens concerned about over taxation and government intrusiveness.  For the sake of argument, let's take them at their word, for the moment. (If you want to argue about that, please follow the people who left because I didn't want to scream about Israelis and Palestinians.) 

And let's, for the sake of argument, suppose they somehow manage to become a substantial political player over the next decade or so.  Imagine, if you will, 44 Tea Party candidates being elected to Congress in 2018...fully 10% of the House.  No legislation would pass without enlisting Tea Party members to your cause, be it Republican or Democrat in origin.

And, since, truthfully, the main point of commonality among the Tea Party members is disaffiliation, it's actually a given that they've banded together in spite of the many agendas they actually represent.  I don't see the Tea Party remaining unified in any significant way.  And not only, would they splinter into groups concerned by various single issues, they'd ultimately draw off from the Democrat and Republican fringes.

The concept of any kind of coalition government in the U.S. having to kowtow to some tiny fringe party scares the crap out of me.  It might be one thing if I thought that different factions would reach consensus based solely on ideological lines, but that's not how things usually work.  Factions get other factions' votes by promising them support for their pet issues.  I really don't want to envision what Republicans in need of three more votes in the House will offer members from the Southern Evangelical Party for their support.  And if you think I'm being strictly partisan here (maybe just a little bit), I'd rather not contemplate the Democrats in the same situation trying to woo the members of the I'm-OK-You're-OK-let's-do-a-doobie Party either.

 There are 12 parties represented in Israel's Knesset.  The party pushing this new legislation has 15 seats.  Seven of the 12 parties have 5 or fewer seats.  Nobody there gets anything done without lining up support from a bunch of other party's members.

I don't want to sound alarmist; we've got a Constitution and a Supreme Court, so I'm not all that concerned about having citizenship redefined to require membership in a specific church.  And I don't think a proliferation of political parties would make any real difference if someone gets bright ideas about repealing or writing new Constitutional Amendments.  You don't need officially recognized factions to bring the crazies out of the woodwork.  But laws don't need to be unconstitutional to be bad laws.  I'm sure you can think of some without overly taxing your brain.

The Two Party System sucks.  But it beats the hell out of the chaos that multiple parties would create.  In addition to the two parties keeping each other in check, they also serve as a control on their own fringe elements.  I may be kidding myself, but I think that specter might even be enough to scare the crap out of the Tea Party.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Little Bit of Gendzier Family HIstory.

Earlier today, while aimlessly Googling about, I ran across these two documents on the University Of Florida Digital Collection.  I wasn't aware of these, but apparently, my Grandparents on my Father's side both gave oral histories in 1980 for the collection.  I'm not sure of how much interest these will be for most of you, but it's my blog, so...

I'm going to have to go back and re-read both of them, (and do some research elsewhere), but a couple of things stand out and got my curiosity going.  I knew that my Grandfather had been involved in WWI (enlisted at age 17), but I don't think I knew he had been a Sgt., and I still don't know anything about his service in France, much less him being retained after the Armistice to work interviewing German P.O.W.s (as part of a unit he came to suspect was a forerunner to the C.I.A.!).  Also, I guess I never thought about it before, but now I find myself intensely curious how my Aunt Hattie (my Grandmother's sister), was admitted to the country when she was already suffering from polio.  This would have been in 1899 or 1900.

Anyway, here are the oral histories of two of my Grandparents, Harry Gendzier and Belle Finkelstein Gendzier.  I found them fascinating.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Go Ahead. Put Some Words In Sarah's Mouth.

I don't know how I missed it before, but I ran across this picture today.  And I'm at a total loss.  It's like the possibilities are endless; I just can't come up with them. 

So I'm soliciting your captions, photoshoppery, concepts...whatever!

Ladies & Gentlemen...I give you Sarah, cankles and all!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Subway Updates -- Of The Cool & The Not-Cool Varieties!

I moved to NY in 1986.  Coming here from Boston, I thought of the NY Subway system as utterly massive.  No offense, Boston, but unless things have changed a whole lot, your subway system has about 63 miles of track (rapid transit and light rail), compared to NY's 660 (not counting another 200 or so miles of service and yard tracks).  And, can you say 24-hour-service?  Uh-uh.

But the point isn't to be bashing Boston's system, it's just to say that when I got to NY, the system seemed incomprehensibly large and confusing.  There are vast stretches of the system I've never ridden, and I'm pretty sure there are a couple of lines I've never been on.  When I got here, it never occurred to me that the city might ever expand the system.

Well, needless to say, over time, first I got used to the trains, lost any sense of intimidation and ultimately became as jaded as any other NYer. (OK, I'll admit that I'm not one of those people who can actually sleep on the trains and somehow miraculously wake up for my stop.  And if you think people are just attuned to the announcements, you've never heard them on most trains -- they sound like the adults in a Peanuts cartoon on a good day.)  By jaded, I mean that I came to lament the fact that there aren't any trains west of 8th Avenue and once you get north of Canal Street, it can be an awfully long walk to any destination on the East Side.  There are very few cross-town trains and those are mostly just a byproduct of the trains having to make their turns toward Brooklyn or Queens -- and, once again, none of them went further west than 8th Avenue. (Yes, there are a lot of crosstown buses, but I can walk faster than most of them travel.)

So, I'm as thrilled as anyone that the system is being expanded.  And here's a little update.

Not-Cool (but not really a big deal):

Not long ago, I  posted some video of the tunnel boring machine working on the new 2nd Avenue Line.  Well, a week or so ago, there were a bunch of apocalyptic headlines about the workers accidentally drilling through the surface of 2nd Avenue -- possibly killing a Papa John's Pizza Store.  After having visions of Godzilla bursting forth from some subterranean lair to terrorize the city, AND DEPRIVE US OF PIZZA, reading the full article revealed that the 22 ft. diameter, 485 ton behemoth was still placidly grinding away 60' or more below ground.  The "hole" in 2nd Avenue was almost 2 inches wide and had been caused by the bit on a long rod that's used to drill testing and pilot holes in advance of the big guy.  Granted, any run-amok drilling in a city that has multiple layers of intersecting infrastructure underground isn't exactly an optimal situation, but it wasn't really quite the same thing as a hole the size of a house either.


The air-conditioning on most subway trains works just fine, thank you very much.  But the system is not air-conditioned.  Every local news outlet does at least one story each year about how unbearably hot the subway stations are.  If I remember correctly, Union Square usually wins, topping out at about 117º or so.  Since we're going through our second heat wave in as many weeks, I'm surprised I haven't seen this year's crop yet.  I hate waiting on sweltering subway platforms as much as the next guy, (OK, maybe not as much as the poor schmucks who have to wear a suit to work), but on this one, I'll cut the MTA some slack.  First of all, the system started operating in 1904 and the state of the art for ventilation consisted of sidewalk grates. 

As you can see, they work really well for somethings, but not so much for actually cooling the system down.  The other thing to bear in mind is that the air-conditioners on subways work pretty much like air-conditioners everywhere -- they suck in air and cool it, while blowing out hot air.  That hot air gets blown into the tunnels, and the trains push lots of that hot air into the stations.  And everything else about the operating the trains causes heat too -- brakes engaging, the friction of steel wheels on steel rails, 12 bazillion people exhaling -- stupid breathing people!  Anyway, I imagine the system will eventually get enclosed and air-conditioned -- and I'll get my flying car and win the lottery.

Ultra Cool:

I didn't mention that in addition to building the new line running down 2nd Avenue, they're also expanding the 7 Line beyond 8th Avenue, crosstown to Eleventh.  Eventually, they're expecting to expand it further to go up or down (or both?) along Eleventh Avenue.  I can probably count on one hand the number of times I really cared about having a good cross-town route on that section of 34th Street, but hey, it's a step in the right direction.
Hey, it's a half mile from 8th Avenue to 11th -- that's gonna save somebody some shoe leather and sweat.  And the cool part is that they broke through to where they've been digging the Eleventh Avenue Station this week.  And the video is pretty damned cool! (You have to bear with about 30 seconds of Mayor Bloomberg's lovely mug before you get to the cool stuff.)

Ultimate Should Be Cool, But Still Not-Cool Subway News:

If you follow Consumerist, you'll know that for years, Subway Sandwich Shops have been tossing cheese on sandwiches willy-nilly, with no thought whatsoever as to random cheese-overlap vs. proper cheese distribution!  Well, way back on June 1st, Subway announced that Worldwide Cheese Tessellation would be their official policy as of July 1st, 2010.

Surely, I can't be the only one who rejoiced at this proclamation. No more would I risk over-cheesing in one bite and utter cheeseless-ness in the next!

Well, I'm truly crestfallen to announce that two days ago, on July 15th, I visited my local Subway (400 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205), and they have not yet instituted Subway's highly anticipated tessellation reforms. I've yet to convince their sandwich artists that the meat slices can reach from one end of the bread all the way to the other, so I don't think I'm prepared to take on the science of tessellation with them.  I can only hope and yearn for the day when the Corporate Vice President in Charge of Cheese Tessellation pays a visit and holds the requisite training seminar.  Until then, I'll just have to make do with being surprised with what comes in each bite. Except for the last 3/4" of sandwich -- that's always just bread and escaped condiments.

Friday, July 16, 2010

If Only Poor Sarah Had Known About The Beer!

This is for Eric.  It's all his fault.*

*OK.  The poor execution is my fault, but it's Eric's fault I tried in the first place.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm So Annoyed I Just Don't Have The Energy To Quantify It.

I've had a couple of posts rolling around in my brain and I haven't had the energy to put together a coherent post about either of them.

One of them is about all of the Anti-Immigrant chest thumping that's been going on.  I don't know about you, but I doubt that the most vocal voices we're hearing really differentiate between Illegal immigrants and legal ones.  Most of the things I hear seem to represent a deep resentment of anyone being let into the country right now.

The other is all of the Islamophobia going on in my own back yard.  I expect that kind of thing from the deep South and from much of the middle of the country, but NYC is supposed to be representative of the country's melting pot.  And, once again, the arguments are completely disingenuous.

If you haven't been paying attention, there's a very noisy crowd trying to stop an Islamic Cultural Center from being built right there at Ground Zero!  Well, first of all, it's not really right there; it's two blocks away and even at it's full planned height, it won't be visible from Ground Zero, since it will be hidden by taller buildings.  Protesters claim "it's like removing the U.S.S. Arizona and putting up a monument to the Kamikazes who sank it in it's place."'s really not like that at all.  It might be similar to having a Shinto Temple within shouting distance of the Arizona, but while most Kamikazes were Shinto, I'm not at all convinced that all Shinto were Kamikazes.  Oh, well.

The Community Board, which has a say in what new buildings can go up, approved the Cultural Center a few months ago.  The protesters then demanded that the building that currently stands there, an 1857 edifice most recently occupied by Burlington Coat Factory, should receive Landmark Status, so yesterday there was a meeting of the Landmarks Commission to consider the question.

I'm not aware of anyone in the architectural community who thinks there's anything about the building that warrants preservation.  And if that wasn't enough, the meeting remained on topic (the building's significance), for about ten minutes before members of the public started in on "They're going to kill us all and we're letting them".  Yup, it's all about saving the Burlington Coat Factory Building from rampant development.

Rick Lazio, who will be running as a Republican in the next NYS Gubernatorial Election has demanded that Andrew Cuomo (the current state Attorney General and his likely Democratic opponent), investigate the financing behind the project.  To my knowledge, Cuomo hasn't responded at all, and Mayor Bloomberg said something along the lines of "I don't think we ought to make a habit of investigating every religious group's finances without some evidence of wrong doing."

And lest you think this is only about building a mosque so close to Ground Zero,  you might wonder, then, how far away would be far enough?  Apparently Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn (about as far as you can get without stepping into the Atlantic), is too close.  A proposed mosque there is being valiantly protested.  Or maybe if you have to cross another bridge and go all the way out to Staten Island.  Is that far enough?  Nope!  They're protesting that one too.  I think my favorite sentiment, and I'm paraphrasing here, was the old lady who said, "I know they have to pray somewhere, but why here?  I just don't think it's appropriate in a residential neighborhood."


So I guess I'm feeling all proud and patriotic right this guy that Diane Arbus photographed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

LuLu The Wonder Cat Strikes Again.

Today, Jeri posted a picture of Miles looking all adorable and stuff.  Here's the picture I totally stole from her blog.

I just challenge you to look at that cute kitten face and not melt into a puddle of "Awwwwww"!  Well, hey!  LuLu was a kitten once too.  She was adorable and awwwwww-inspiring.  Don't remember?  Just look at her here in her "I'm a kitten and everything I do is cute and I only weigh like a pound, so how much damage could I do when cute equals mischievous" stage.

I told you!  Awwwwwwww!

Well, here's the thing. Kittens grow up to be Cats.  And most of the time, that's fine.  But sometimes, they make you wonder whether or not there's an option to just rent kittens until they start getting big and then trade them in for a new tiny little ball of "oh-so-precious"?

Here's a picture of the little LuLu and Teufel from just a little more than a month ago.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that there's something especially cute and playful about the kitties in this picture.  But if you look at the expression on LuLu's face, you'll have to acknowledge that something else might come to mind.  "I wonder what the hell she's been up to".  " I wonder if she and Teufel are just rehearsing some evil deed."  " I wonder if they're actually plotting our demise." These are just a few of the thoughts that might come to mind.

So let's cut to yesterday morning.  It was something like 5:00 a.m., so GF and I were going about our usual 5:00 a.m. routine; we were dead to the world asleep.  Until a furry projectile came flying up from the foot of the bed.  LuLu!  I think there must have been some claws involved as she used my left foot as a launching point because I started to sit up rather suddenly in surprise.  

For the rest of this to truly make sense, you should be aware that for the last couple of years, Widget has been on a diet.  Every time we fed the beasts, we had to close Widget in the bathroom with her bowl of "Fat-Cat Food" so she'd get a chance to eat it before LuLu and Teufel shoved her aside.  At a recent visit to the vet, we were told that LuLu was tipping the scales at 13 lbs. and that she, too, should be getting the diet food.  Fine!  Now, we'd just feed all three of them the same stuff together in the kitchen. (Teufel is apparently the weight he's supposed to be, but he'll just have to eat more than the other guys.  We have faith in him.)  The point of all this is that LuLu has developed some serious mass.  And she's capable of generating amazing bursts of velocity in very short spaces.  

And there's some mathematical formulas that discuss mass and velocity and stuff like that, but all I know is that when LuLu manages to get her 13 lbs. up to 48.7 MPH in the space of 4 feet, and then she rams her head into your suddenly startled hurts!  And I'm still not sure if the next chain in this little action scene involved my elbow or LuLu's deflected head, but my startled "ouch" was followed by an even more startled "ouch" from GF, who sat up holding her eye and said, "Man! That's gonna leave a mark!"  

Well, we managed to discover that our injuries were bearable and, since it was FIVE IN THE FREAKIN' MORNING, we rolled over and went back to sleep.

For a few minutes.  Maybe ten minutes later, LuLu set off to find and kill some imaginary intruder regardless of where the chase might take her.  So, she came charging across the bedroom and leaped straight from the floor, and managed a perfect landing of all her mass and velocity into the tiniest space her two front paws could hit -- which just happened to be on my cojones. I don't know why, but the phrase "ball-peen hammer" keeps popping into my head.

At this point, going back to sleep wasn't really an option.  Even if I hadn't been in a fair amount of pain, I would have been terrified of whatever else she was plotting.  And I know there was malice aforethought involved.  Nobody's aim is that good by accident, and I don't care what America's Funniest Home Videos might want you to believe.

I'm really not sure what the point of all this is, but if it influences someone to start up that Kitten Rental business, I'll be first in line to patronize their venture.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

She's Aged Exceptionally Well.

I could swear I had this woman as a teacher in 5th Grade.  And she looked exactly the same in 1971.
Well done, Ms. Whateveryernameis!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Doing My Part To Make The Internet ALL-KNOWING!

I don't know about you, but I've come to expect that when I want answers, they'll be readily available on the internet.  Granted, sometimes it's a matter of how you phrase your search, but persistence should be rewarded with elucidation.  And I'm not unreasonable about the whole thing either.  If my search phrase consists of "Can I book a flight on a space ship that travels faster than light?", I'll be satisfied when I find myself looking at a page that just says, "NO!"

When searching for instructions on "How to build a teleportation device in my backyard", it'd save us all a lot of time if my screen just started flashing, "You Can't".
I honestly don't know what this illustration has to do with teleporting, but it showed up when I searched for "teleporting images".  And I thought it was kind of amusing how the guy in 'fig. G' seems to be paying a lot of attention to his if maybe something went missing during the transfer.

Anyway, I find it highly annoying when I'm looking for answers on the internet and I can't find conclusive or satisfying information.  And since I intend to be part of the SOLUTION and not just part of the PROBLEM, this post will serve as my contribution to rectifying this situation.  Ladies and Gentlemen...I give you my recipe for

Roasted Canned Corn
Ya'See, I was thinking about making dinner the other night and we had all sorts of groceries in the house and I found that I had a craving for roasted corn.  But we only had canned corn in the house...some Baby White Shoepeg Corn and some Southwestern Corn Fiesta!  Both of these are fine tasty corn varieties, but neither of them is corn on the cob.  And on-the-cob is the only way I've ever seen corn get roasted.
Mmmmmm! Doesn't that look good?  It'd look just as good without the cob. (Also, please note that if you're one of those people who coats your roasted corn with cheese, we have nothing further to discuss.)
This picture is completely superfluous. I just felt like making the corn look like it's afraid of that kid.  Hell, I'd be afraid of him.

Anyway, I started searching the internet for "roasted canned corn recipes", "cobless corn roasting", "canned corn roasting techniques" and a few other things.  No joy.  Eventually, I settled on "Can you roast canned corn" as a search and found a couple of pages suggesting that I could drain the corn and put it on a baking sheet or in a dry saute' pan, but both said that all I'd end up with was some dried out, burnt-up corn.  This was not an acceptable outcome. (OK, I lied when I said I'm satisfied with "NO" as an answer.)

GF and I started discussing this conundrum.  And I believe she came up with a solution.  The problem, as we saw it, was trying to get a bunch of loose kernels of corn to conveniently place themselves above a grill so that they could get roasted.  The lack of a cob producing a lack of cohesion was the problem that had to be overcome.  And then, EUREKA...she had it! Skewered Corn was the answer!  Corn-Kabobs!

After I finished giggling over this, I decided that someone had to try this method, and that someone was ME!  So, without further ado, join me as I skewer and roast some canned corn.  As I'm typing this, I haven't yet begun the process, so you'll be along for the ride regardless of the outcome. And should it succeed or fail miserably, I have confidence in ONE THING...due to the lack of other information, this post should be right up there at the top of the list when others search for "roasted canned corn".

The first thing you'll learn is that you need specialized equipment.  The skewers you have with a square profile are a little too big.
The flat-bladed ones are way too big.

And the brandy-new, fancy-schmancy skewers you can make into a loop? They won't work either.

Clearly, some ingenuity is called for. As chance would have it, I've got some old 4-wire telephone wire downstairs.  When you pull out the individual wires and strip off the insulation, you're left with solid copper wire that's like 22 or 26 gauge wire.  That's really thin and fits the corn just fine.

Let me acknowledge right up front that there are some distinct drawbacks to using this method.

1. Certain food items combine with unlined copper surfaces TO CREATE A POISONOUS SUBSTANCE that you really don't want to ingest.

2. Skewering a bunch of individual kernels of corn is a mind-numbingly tedious chore. Unless you have someone to whom you can assign KP duty, you might want to just wait until you've got some of the stuff still on the cob before you endeavor to roast it.

3. Certain food items combine with unlined copper surfaces TO CREATE A POISONOUS SUBSTANCE that you really don't want to ingest.
But none of that is either here nor there.  It's not relevant to the fact that I promised to demonstrate how well this works, so I'll bravely charge on. I only strung together a certain amount of the corn onto my "skewer".  (See  #2 above.) You'll note that I used some of that Southwest Corn Fiesta, so there's some little black beans and bits of red pepper involved.  Everything is kinda cooked already when it comes out of the can, so the peppers are a bitch to handle -- they tend to disintegrate.  But it's pretty, and nothing is too good for you guys.
The wired corn goes onto the grill quite nicely.

And it roasts to perfection!

I slid off two kernels and tasted them.  They tasted fine, and had an appropriate texture.  And I'm not dead or experiencing any anomalies with motor functions or cognitive abilities...or am I? Would I know?  Hmmmmm?

So, in conclusion, while I'd consider this method to be, ultimately, a success, I'm pretty sure I've gotten it out of my system. (And no telling what I've gotten into my system.)  I recommend you just dispense with the whole thing if you're too lazy to go to the store and get the stuff on the cob.

One more thing.  It occurred to me that an alternate cooking method might be to just jam the ends of the copper wire into an electric outlet and to cook the corn from the inside out!  But I took one for the team already by ingesting two kernels of copper-tainted corn.  It's someone else's job to risk (almost certain), electrocution and/or blown circuits and/or household conflagration in the name of culinary research.  One hint...this is one of the main reasons that phones now have built-in cameras.  You can have a friend take pictures of your attempt while almost simultaneously dialing 9-1-1.  Let me know how that works out!

Hey, I'll Post Something Real Later.

But, in the meantime, I've run across two new(ish?) AddOns for Firefox that I'm really loving.

Similar Web gives you a list of sites similar to the one you've got open in the window. You can put it in the toolbar to show as a dropdown menu, or as a collapsing sidebar or some other ways of looking at it.  It's pretty useful.

Another one...and this one is actually kind of amazing if you ask InvisibleHand.  Say you're doing some shopping online.  You find what you're looking for and you see the price.  InvisibleHand will show you a small banner across the top of your browser telling you where they've found a better price for the item you're looking at.  Way cool, as far as I'm concerned.

I'll be back later if I'm not too lazy.  Or maybe not til tomorrow.  You'll just have to live with the anticipation.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hot Enough For Ya?

It's really stupid hot here.  I know, I know, it's probably hot where you are, but I don't live where you do, so I don't have to walk to the store in your heat or try to sleep in your heat, or anything.  I'm sympathetic, but I've got my own heat to worry about.

And my brain doesn't work all that well in the heat.  I had all sorts of ideas about what to blog about today but all of them required some effort and going out in the heat and I just don't love you all that much.  But don't worry...I love you all more than whoever came up with the idea of the heat index. I love you all lots more than I love that asshole.  What possible reason could I want to know that even though the thermometer reads 100º, it actually feels like 237º.  This information does not contribute to my mental or physical well being.

Brownstone houses are difficult to effectively air-condition.  Doing it really well means drilling holes, running ducting where it was never envisioned, replacing all of your windows...and probably walls too.  Honestly, the most effective way to air-condition a brownstone is to tear it down, buy the big-ass air-conditioner, and build a new house around it. 

Like many NYers, we make do with a portable unit.  We've got one with an intake and an exhaust hose that run to the window and then the unit sits in the room looking like one of those little refrigerators you had in your college dorm and sounding like the deck of an aircraft carrier during flight operations. (And even with the TV turned up loud enough to hear over the air-conditioner, I could still hear the asshole tow-truck driver who decided to idle his truck across the street from us for an hour yesterday...while he took a nap.)

The air-conditioner has valiantly worked its little ass of and says it's gotten the temperature down to 81º, which feels absolutely luxurious compared to what it's like outside. 

What's it like outside?  Here's a little story from The NY Times City Room. Two things about this story...I love the image of a USA Today photographer stopping to take pictures of a NY Times reporter doing a silly story.  And, this is exactly the type of thing I would have tried and then blogged about today...if only I loved you all more.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How I Managed To Become (Temporarily) Cool.

This post is sorta, kinda by request.  It seems that some of my UCF friends have gotten together in West Virginia.  By all reports, it's been quite eventful.  They've visited Falling Waters, WV (by accident), and then Fallingwater (the Frank Lloyd Wright House they meant to go to in the first place.)  They've argued over the merits and prevalence of IHOPs, Perkins, Waffle House and some other crappy places that really shouldn't elicit such passion, but, well, UCFers can be weird that way.  Today, they went and bought some Fiestaware right there from the factory and they got to see the incomparable mountain-of-shards-too-small-to-even-sell-at-the-factory-seconds Outlet!

But, by far, the most exciting portion of the get together was when they dragged Vince into a little place to get his ear pierced.  (I'm convinced he got some other stuff done too, but they're all keeping quiet about it.) They called me last night and in spite of the fact that I don't think anyone had been drinking, they sounded drunk as hell.

Anyway, although I've retired my uber-coolness, I too, used to be cool just like Vince!  And there was nothing voluntary about it.  Let's step into the WABAC machine, shall we?

The first thing you should know is that I've never been impetuous when it comes to changing my look.  When I was about 11, way back in 1971, I convinced my parents to let me grow my hair long. (It helped that I had older brothers who were already stretching the bounds of hippie-freakdom.)  So, for a number of years, a pair of scissors only approached my hair get my split ends trimmed before my Bar Mitzvah.  In 1976 or so, I started to think maybe I should get a haircut.  I considered the pluses and minuses of cutting my hair very carefully, and then, without warning, I went and got it all cut 1980.  Hey!  These decisions take time!

Anyway, in my early 20's I started thinking I might like a tattoo.  It would be something discrete and tasteful.  By the time I had thought it over carefully, I had reached my late 20's.  And the problem was that by then, everyone else was suddenly getting tattoos...some discrete and tasteful, some less so.  Now, like any young man, the reason to get a tattoo would have been to express my individuality.  With everybody and their mothers getting tattoos, I figured I could be more of an individual by remaining untatted. (It had nothing whatsoever to do with a fear of needles and innate cheapness on my part.  And anyone says different is a dirty, rotten, lying...)

During this same period, I was also thinking about getting my ear pierced.  The first issue to figure out was whether to get the left or the right ear pierced. If you weren't 'of age' in the 80's, you may not recall that the choice of piercing your left vs. your right ear (at least according to urban legend), was a choice of whether or not you were coming out of the closet and announcing your dedication to all things Liza.  Look, I've grown up quite a bit since the 80's, but I don't recall, even then, having been overly homophobic.  But the fact was, I was straight...not that there's anything wrong with that.  And I was still fairly shy and awkward...OK, I was a fucking dork.  I had enough trouble getting a date without having an earring announce I was playing for the other team.  Oddly enough, with this bit of indecision over which ear to pierce, I couldn't find anyone who actually agreed on which ear meant what.  So much for displaying signs that everyone knows.

Cut to 1993.  My skin is unmarked by ink.  I have no holes in any part of my body that I wasn't born with.  I'm in Berkeley, CA working on Made In America, and we're shooting scenes at The African Queen, the store that Whoopi Goldberg's character owns in the movie.  Here, look at a shot of us shooting an interior.*  And yes, those are a carbon arc lights being used...a piece of equipment that throws much more beautiful light than anything regularly in use today.

So, anyway, one day we've got the block (the one your looking at) dressed for some exterior scenes. At one point, I was standing around chatting with Annamarie, Richard Benjamin's assistant on the film.  Somehow the topic of my never having gotten around to getting inked or pierced came up.  And then we were finished chatting and we both moved on to other things...or so I thought.

We had the street dressed with a whole bunch of vendors' carts to give it a funky, happening look.  While waiting for the crew to finish an interior scene, I was sitting outside on the curb talking on my cell phone. (Why yes, chatting on a cell phone out on the street  in 1993 was still early enough to qualify me as either really cool or a pretentious dick.)  While I was talking, Annamarie walked up and told me to move the phone to my other ear.  As soon as I did, one of the street vendors took one of those pneumatic piercing guns and shot a little gold stud into my left earlobe.

I have no memory of who I was on the phone with, but all they would have heard for a minute or so was, "Owwwwww! What the fuck was that?  Damn, that hurts!" 

I wore an earring for the next 7 or 8 years, and damn, was I stylin'!  (I had one earring that looked like a dolphin leaping through my ear that I especially liked.)  Eventually, the earring must have fallen out one night while I was sleeping and I actually didn't notice for a long enough time that the hole closed up.

And that's the story of my short-lived, temporary cool.

Thanks Annamarie.  (I think) I owe you.

I had a hell of a time finding any production stills from this show.  Finally, I located a page on H. Tulanian & Sons' website.  They own the shop we took over and re-dressed for the movie.  There's more pics on the linked site.