Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yeah it's over. An Apology and a Promise: please come back

This will be my last post for Nanoblapomo or whatever it is called. I successfully managed to post something every day. I admit most of that content was garbage.  Too many posts consisted of quick throw away content or where just so poorly written as to be incoherent. I couldn't be bothered to proof read most of them. I feel relieved I don't have to force myself to come up with something tomorrow. 

First the apology.  I am sorry for so much sub par content.  I really just wanted to see if I could put my mind to something and actually carry it off.  I did. I've seen my readership drop by half during this month.  I invite you back.

My promise to you is that I will no longer flood this blog with bad content.

I am trying to determine where I want to go with this blog.  I've had people tell me I really need to just write for myself.  That doesn't really work for a blog.  A blog is specifically outward focused.  It is public on the web.   When I write just for myself I do it in a paper notebook that no one will ever ead.

Experts will tell you you focus on one niche  and build an audience around that.  You should write a weight loss blog or talk about android hacks. I am not going to do that.  I am going to write about whatever interests me. If one post doesn't appeal to you maybe the next one will.  So I hope you will stick around and read my little corner of the web. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Seasonal affective disorder





Time for my usual disclaimer that I am not a doctor or an expert in anything and it would be advised to avoid following any advice I give.

I have not officially been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder(SAD), but last year as winter grew near and the days became shorter, I started to exhibit all the classic symptoms. So like any good internet citizen I self diagnosed. I went out and bought a "happy" light.  They are supposed to help with SAD. I can't tell you if it is effective. I being me, never read the instructions and used it wrong all last winter.

This winter I plan on using it properly until January.  Why January?  The symptoms tend to start dying off in January.  Not just because the days start getting longer.  Here in Illinois it gets really cold in January, that means the air is really clear and cloudless most of the time.  The days during January are brilliantly bright.  This reminds me of a funny story a friend told me.  It was January and he had been working with a Nigerian immigrant. They sat near the window at a local restaurant.  The Nigerian looked out into the brilliant sunshine wistfully and sighed. He turned to my friend and proclaimed, "It's like God is lying to me."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I am and am not thankful for


I am writing this on Thursday, Thanksgiving night. But since I am some place I have no access to the interwebs I’ll be posting it on Friday. I have a trick up my sleeve where I am going to date it Thursday on blogger. Shhhhh, don’t tell.

So in classic Thanksgiving blog tradition I’ll give you a list of things I am thankful for.

First What I am not thankful for:



What I am thankful for:
The internet: Often infuriating, misleading , and detrimental to society, but it has help me meet many new people, expand my knowledge of the world, and have a career.
Jobu: Annoying, whining, and a pain in my butt, but he is a snugly, purring, play machine that loves his daddy. I think about how boring my home life would be without him. There wouldn’t be fur all over everything I own and I would be able to sleep through the night without being woken up multiple times.
Friends: I spend a lot of time with my friends. We argue politics, argue sports, and tell bad jokes. They do more than just keep me company but they help keep centered. Being me I have wide range of friends, from successful business people to down and out drunks.
Time with my Dad: I am thankful for the time I get to spend with my Dad. I know I don’t take advantage of it enough
Mom: She has been one of the greatest example of love and sacrifice I have ever seen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A short rant about my car



Ford Fiesta Sport

I have an approximately three year old Ford Fiesta. It is a great little car, a manual that gets almost 40 mph. I've really liked it so far. Sadly, it has started to have problems.  The check engine light keeps coming on.  When it does the engine loses power like it is about to die. Not the best driving experience.  Stopping and restarting the car usually clears up the problem for a bit.

I called up the dealer a couple of weeks ago and asked to have it looked at.  The only appointment they had available was the next Monday morning.  The problem being I had to go to my parents over the weekend. I ended up renting a car.  I ended up being out of town when the appointment was so I cancelled it.  I hadn't called for a new appointment because the car stopped having the problem.

Yesterday it starts having the problem again.  I called again and the only appointment they have is next Monday.  It's Thanksgiving day on Thursday and I have to head up to my parents.  I really don't want to rent another car.  I guess this is more a rant against the dealer than the car itself.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Music Monday Tuesday edition: Health - Tears

Yeah I am a day late I got confused what day it was yesterday. Yet another video game song.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Lucid Dreaming

I have been a lucid dreamer almost all my life. I remember the first lucid dream I ever had at about the age of eight.  I was walking around a big rock and suddenly got worried their would be wolves on the other side.  Yep a bunch of wolves jumped out and started chasing me.  That's when I realized, hey I made those wolves.  I wanted to fly.  So I flew away into the sky and left the wolves behind.

Thirty years later I still often have lucid dreams. When I am dreaming I try and stay in the dream as long as possible so I can keep using my lucid powers.  The more I use my lucid powers the more conscious I become and am more likely to wake up. I also find the ability to wake up at will quite useful. If a dream gets a little to intense, I just wake up.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

To unfollow or not to unfollow



I may not be one one of the internet superstars with a huge social media presence, but I do follow a fair number of people on twitter and google+. One of the challenges of the social media is when do you unfollow/defriend/uncircle.  I try not to unfollow very often. There are three things that will eventually get me to separate from our virtual relationship.

Your political opinions sound stupid online

If you tweet constantly about politics.  I pride myself on being open to new ideas but at some point the effort in not calling you an idiot becomes to great.  If you agree with me politically tweet all the lame memes and blog posts you want :)

You whine all the time

This harkens back to my empathy post. Yes you are going through some bad times but eventually I just don't care anymore.   The 40th time a blogger whines about their life, the  life they created, I unfollow. 

Consistently vulgar

If you consistently use vulgarity, post  nsfw stuff, or post hateful things.  I followed one person who in response to an incident posted a series of very hateful insulting tweets against a group of people. I tried to just let it go since the person was obviously very emotional about the situation. But three days later they were still tweeting for people to kill themselves.

The google+ advantage

This is one great advantage google+ has over other social media.  You can have people in a circle that you never see.  They will still show up as followed but you will never see their inane posts. I admit my biggest google+ circle is of people I don't ever see.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pictures from Rome

Back in 2008 I spent two days in Rome. It was a quick trip at the end of my longer visit to Monaco. Sadly my camera's battery died before we headed home.  That is when I started my policy of requiring my phones to take normal AA batteries. Below are some of my favorite pics I did take.

As always click for a larger version.


The weather that greeted us in Rome


Had to go to Vatican City of course


That stairway everybody takes pictures of


Rome roofs



Had to go look at some old Roman stuff


More old Roman stuff 



Friday, November 22, 2013

Food Friday: easy black bean chili

Sorry,  I don't have any pictures for this recipe. It is one I make quite often.  It takes about fifteen minutes and makes a cheap and nommy couple of meals.


Ingredients:

  • 24 fl oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 24 oz can of black beans
  • 1 medium onion
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder
  • cayenne 
  • cumin

Chop the onion into moderately sized pieces.  I am a fan of onions so I chop it into about inch square pieces. Dump the black beans and the onions into a pot for approximately 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then add the can of tomatoes with all the juice.  Cook over medium heat for another 6-8 minutes and then season to taste.  I use about a tablespoon of chili powder and a teaspoon of both cumin and cayenne powder.

It's quick, easy, healthy, and delicious.  I always keep the ingredients on hand if needed.  To extend the dish you can add a couple of cups of cooked rice and end up with black beans and rice. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don't worry be happy

I am going to share with you one of the first things I ever really learned about myself.  I have no idea if this applies to anyone else.  I learned it after several weeks when I was really done because of something that happened.  I looked back and my life and realized something really simple.  I am happy when I choose to be happy. I am not saying I have control of instantaneous emotions in response to something.  But if I am still having that emotion three or four days along I am choosing that.  Held emotions are my choice.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stupid human brain tricks

So for lunch I was planning to go to my favorite taqueria, El Charro. They have one dollar taco Wednesday.  Their tacos are some of the best in town. You have to get them Mexican style.  That means they only have cilantro, onions, and lime juice on them. The place is maybe a mile from where I work.  I sometimes walk there but it's kinda cold these days.  I planned to drive but when I got outside I decided I didn't want to waste the gas. So I went to a closer Mexican restaurant I could walk to. On the way back I ran into a coworker who wondered why I hadn't gone to El Charro.  I told him I didn't want to waste the gas and we went our separate ways. On the way into the building it suddenly dawned on me.  I saved probably twenty cents worth of gas but the meal at the other restaurant cost five dollars more.  FACE PALM!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A warm wind at your back and a tornado at your front

Storm
Photo courtesy of flickr user Tim Sheets

This past Sunday I had to drive to Chicago for a special friends 40th birthday. Yet once again things conspired against me. I really think the universe doesn't want me in the western suburbs.

First off the engine light on my not even three year old Ford Fiesta kept coming on. Sometimes when it would come on the engine would lose some power. Turning the car off and back on(Have you tried turning it off and back on again) fixes the problem until it happens again. On Friday during lunch I took the car into the Ford dealership to see if they would look at it. They told me to bring it back Monday. I could not miss this party. So I rented a car for a couple of days.

Next up I needed a present. I actually knew exactly what I wanted to get. I had found it online and wanted to see it in real life. Luckily for me the retailer has a brick in mortar store in my town, or so the internet says. I first looked for the store on the Friday and couldn't find it. So the next day I navigated my fancy Nissan Altima rental car to the store using google maps. The store wasn't there just an empty store front. I mean seriously shouldn't google have been up on that. So this happened.

So Sunday dawns warm and with very strong winds blowing from the south. I had heard the possibility that their might be some strong storms that day.  Nothing seemed obvious on the radar as I set out.  I made good times with the strong wind at my back.  Listening to the radio out of Chicago it sounded like really horrible times were ahead. They were talking about postponing the Bears game.  I made it almost all the way to Naperville with out much in the way of bad weather, even had some sun and the window open for awhile.  All that changed as I got within a mile of my destination. Deep dark clouds rolled above me and a few giant drops of rain splashed against my windshield. Then the storm broke loose.  The wind became a gale and the rain poured down reducing my vision to a mere twenty feet.  I made it but sadly some others weren't as lucky. There were several tornadoes and some confirmed deaths. At one point I was behind a pick-up truck with the tailgate removed and bed liner.  Every time he pulled away from a stop light water would pour out of the back of his truck.

On the way back from the party the temperature had dropped over twenty degrees and the wind had shifted to gale force from the west.  As I drove home I saw a skein of geese trying to fly.  Probably forty of them endeavored to head west.  They frantically beat their wings as hard as possible.  They didn't make any forward progress. They just bounced around in the air.  Probably some sort of metaphor for life.

The scariest part for me was that I drove right through the place were the strongest tornadoes rolled through. If I had only been an hour later.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Music Monday: Underworld Beach



My memories of this song date back to the early nineties when a then girlfriend lent me the cassette tape. I really liked Underworld then. They seemed to harken back to New Wave which I am a big fan again.  Years later, maybe the 2000s, I came across another band called Underworld.  They were an electronic band.  Turns out it was the same band.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, #1) by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, #1)Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I didn't expect much when I was handed this book. First off urban fantasy is not high on my enjoyable genre list. Secondly you mention the word fairy and I do not have high expectations. Turns out these fairies aren't your Disney pixies with wings. These are some dark and tough fairies. The fairy world created here harkens back to the old stories where fairies can be terrifying and unpredictable. The author has created a very unique world that has only been hinted at in others works. I found this refreshing. The pacing is fast and satisfactory. Action follows action and the story is constantly pushed forward toward a resolution.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 16, 2013

People still go to malls. Who Knew.

So I needed to buy a birthday present. I found what I wanted to buy and the store to get it from. On Friday during lunch I drove out to where I thought the store was.  Couldn't find it and didn't have much time to look because I had to go back from my lunch break. So today armed with google maps and the exact location of the store, I set out.  I arrive at my location and it is just an empty store front. Seriously?  You would think google would be up to date on these things.  Since I was right next to the mall I decided to wander around there and look for something.  I couldn't find a place to park.  The entire lot was filled.  This can't be, I thought. Nobody goes to the mall anymore. I go in and the place is packed with people wall to wall. No special event was going on.  It was just a saturday night. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Ode to blogs


Oh blogs how I love you so. Of all forms of social media blogs and message boards are by far my favorite. There are a few reason why I love the blog. Twitter facebook etc require almost real time attention.  You have to keep checking your phone or you feel like you've missed something.  That's an added stress I don't need in my life. A lot of the new social media sites make it much harder to go back and find older posts.  I love reading really old long term blogs.  Fascinating to see what people were doing/saying in 2007 say.  Blogs also lend themselves to a longer format of writing so deeper ideas can be expressed and discussed.   I despise the fact that most corporate social media censors what you see.  You aren't seeing everything your friends posts but what their algorithms think is best. Best meaning generate them the most profit. I blog is going to always contain what the author thought was important enough to write. Your blog is there for you. Corporate social media is there for the corporation.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Using up empathy


We all have a few of those online friends.  The ones who use up our empathy.  They post vague updates and tweets. Going through some hard times, need positive thoughts/links etc...  They then get the desired outpouring of support. The worst are the people who do this for a long period of time. After about the twentieth tweet I have run all out of empathy for you. Maybe they suffer through a real issue, a bad divorce, or health problems.  But they don't share what is really wrong. They want the empathy without really sharing the pain. I fully understand the desire for some privacy but if I don't know the details I cannot truly empathize.

This isn't just an old guy rant about internet friends being fake friends.  I have friends I have never actually met in person who I know a great deal about. We have shared many deep personal things.  I will have the same empathy for them as I do for IRL friends because they are in my real life.  If all I know is a self-censored timeline then I don't really know you. If I don't know what you regret I don't really know you.

Don't go to the internet with vague calls for support. Go to people who actually know you.  Rant over.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Didn't think i would see that

Just the other night I saw a 65 year old man dump his 23 year old girlfriend.  Not something I really ever thought I would see. I mean this is Illinois not France :)


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NaBloPoMo musings

So today is the 12th day of NaBloPoMO and the first time I've really had to struggle to come up with something to post. There are a fair number of things I could post on. But I do a lot of self censoring online these days. I don't do it just to try and keep people having a positive opinion of me, though that is part of it, I also don't want to unnecessarily hurt someone else's feelings. As part of a self improvement program I am doing I am trying to come up with five beliefs about myself that are false. I am having a hard time with it. My number one belief about myself is that I am honest with myself about myself. That belief is either true, in which case it will be hard to come up with five false beliefs, or it's false and it gets to be number one. Lame but I managed to write something. I should have done what wickedfrenchkiss.com did and used somebodies list of questions as a starting point for blogs but it is too late now.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Before the budget, the purge

This is  the followup to yesterdays post.  I guess since I asked you to track your spending for a month I really should post this in a month.  But it is my blog and I'll do what I want.

So now you have an idea of were your money goes.  If you are anything like me you found some surprising if no terrifying results.  I was spending between four to five hundred dollars a month on eating out.  That and random unplanned purchases are where the most of my money went.  Unplanned purchases are when you are wandering through a store and just see something and buy it, fifty dollars for this video game, buy a couple of shirts, etc. I was losing another hundred to two hundred dollars a month on unplanned purchases.

So before I worried about a budget I determined to cut out the waste. I first figured out a clever way to deal with unplanned purchases.  I didn't allow myself to buy anything.  I could not purchase anything that was not essential.  Eventually I allowed myself to buy things If I had saved up the money.  This removed the temptation to buy things when just out and about.   I didn't have to argue with myself over whether I should or should not buy something. There was no discussion just no. I am not good with subtlety.  I need black and white decision making.

You can see my need for black and white in my handling of eating out.  I allowed myself a couple of times out a week.  Very quickly I was back to spending four hundred dollars a month.  Guess you can't win them all.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Rich , happy, and free part2


Remember our mystery quote: "I am happy as long as I am healthy, and I am rich as long as I am not in debt." In part one I talked a little bit about health.  Here in part two I plan to try and give some specific help with finances.

I might have mentioned it in the past but I used to "write" a self help blog called the Slackers Guide to Life.   I still own the domain it just redirects here.  I put write in quotes because I almost never actually wrote anything on it. I divided the effort into a few categories.  One of the only categories at which I had any success was money.  So let me share some of my limited wisdom.

So you are drowning in credit card debt and only making minimum payments.  You make good money but never seem to have enough. The first thing you have to figure out is where all your money is going. I I don't recommend jumping instantly into trying to budget and save money.  Take one month to determine how you are sabotaging you finances.  You need to record every purchase of any kind you make.  There are apps to help with this.  I currently use mint to track my budget and all my spending. But when I started I actually found it better to do so with just  a notebook. I recorded the date, the amount, and what I purchased. Once the month finished I went back to the list.  You can break the expenditures into as many categories as you want.  I went with a simple systems.  I grabbed a red highlighter and marked outlays that weren't good for me or were unnecessary as bad. The rest were acceptable.  

When I finished I totaled everything up.  I was shocked to find that my bad outlays were almost twice as much as the good.  Be cutting out some of the bad things I could literally save hundreds a month. So I recommend trying this for one month to start.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Rich, happy, and free



Earlier in the year I read a quote that has stayed with me since, "I am happy as long as I am healthy, and I am rich as long as I am not in debt."  Sadly I can't remember who I got this quote from to give them proper credit.   As I said, these words have stuck with me and been rattling around in my mushy noggin for months.



I am not healthy and I am in debt. The health thing is what it is, to sound like a professional athlete. I am currently under care for this biggest health problem I have.  Now that places some limitations on what I cad no in the form of exercise. One very important aspect of my health is totally within my control.  What I put into my body would frighten most people. If it the product hasn't been processed or extruded or purchased from a chain restaurant, I usually don't partake. I don't really like eating this way it's just the most convenient.  I often make resolutions to eat healthier. I say as I eat a bag of cheetos. They are baked though.

Because I am just trying to post things during NaBloPoMo I'll write about debt at another time.  Nothing like dragging out a blog post to fill a self assigned schedule.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Blast From the Past: This is Literature?

In a cheap bid to keep nablopomo going I am posting a blast from the past from way back in 2004

Here is the description of an authors first acclaimed literary novel:

Suder takes it name from its protagonist, Craig Suder, a black third baseman for the Seattle Mariners. A failure on his tean, in bed with his wife, and in his relationship with his you son, he walks away from his problems when his manager encourages him to go on leave. (Up to this point things sound good. This is a promising set up for a compelling internal struggle.) The manager, who is also a demented taxidermist, lends Sudar a cabin in Portland, Oregon, and sends him there to get some rest. On his way to the cabin, Sudar develops an obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with "Ornithology." a Charlie Parker jazz standard. He plays it on a record player that he takes with him wherver he goes, and decides that he will learn to fly under his own power. Suder's series of misadentures includes his being pursued by a Narragansett Indian Cocain dealer, an obese gay Chinese man, and his manager, who desperately wants to stuff an elephant Sudar has befriended.



uhhhh..... huh .......... I ..... ohhhhhhh.... brain hurt

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The aftermath of being sick



After almost 4 days of being sick I examine the disaster that is my apartment. All the waste bins are filled with used kleenex.  My clothes, mostly sweatshirts and pajamas are balled up and on the floor from wherever they happened to fall.  Every flat surface is covered in stuff, much of it trash.  And yes a certain odor does permeate the place.  Sadly it is a little too cold now to open up the windows and air the place out.  Guess I'll just burn some incense.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

More fall colors

This time from my balcony. As always clicky clicky for larger size.






Monday, November 04, 2013

Music Monday: Elbow Grounds for Divorce



Big in the UK, I first encountered Elbow in the soundtrack for an episode of Topgear.  I sense fell in love with most of the bands work.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Allerton Park one of my favorite places

 Allerton Park is a large park and conference center near the small town of Monticello, Illinois.  It also happens to be one of my favorite place to visit. I like going there in almost every season.  Fall brings out the best in the place in my opinion.  The crispness in the air, the fall colors, and the slow spread of decay create a bright melancholy.  I love to photograph the place.  Click for larger images.













I got all philosophical as I watched and listen to the leaves fall one by one and looked at the many fallen trees. It reminded me of the scene from The Last Samurai.  "But then I come to this place of my ancestors, and I remember. Like these blossoms, we are all dying. To know life in every breath, every cup of tea, every life we take. "

Sadly the thing that died was the batteries on my camera so I had to take the last few pics with my phone.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Nablopmo 2: and being sick



Most of you will be aware of nanowrimo the national novel writer month. But you might not be aware of NaBloPomo the same thing but for blogging.  You just have to blog at least once a day for the month of November.  I did it last year and will be doing it again this year.  So expect many lame posts over the next month.  Like nanowrimo the point isn't to worry about quality but just to get words on the screen.

Today I had plans.  I have mentioned in the past that my dad has health problems. He is confined to a bed or a chair.  The current house my parents live in is a quad level. That is a lot of stairs.  My Dad is stuck in the main floor.  His bed resides in the old living room.  So my Mom has recently bought a rather nice ranch one story house. Only one major renovation is needed. The chair doesn't do well on carpet so the carpet needs to be torn up and then replaced with hardwood. The bedrooms actually already have hardwood floors under the carpet. So my plan for  today was to head up their and tear up the carpets.  My body had other plans.

I had been feeling like I had a minor cold for several days.  I had a cough, sore throat, and a snotty nose. It wasn't enough to keep me from going to work but it was annoying.  I woke up this  morning feeling horrible. My sinuses were all stuffed up. I had a terrible headache, my throat was raw, and the cough was back with a vengeance. I quickly realized there was no way I would make the two hour drive and then spend all day doing manual labor.  So I had to make the call and tell my Mom I wouldn't be there. Sorry mom.

I did manage a trip to CVS to get drugs of many kinds.  Funny enough writing this blog post was interrupted by me and the cat taking a three hour nap together.


Friday, November 01, 2013

Food Friday: Special Chilli with insanity peppers

With the temperatures dipping low and the days getting shorter, it's time to pull out the stews and chilli. Below is a slightly modified version of my normal chilli recipe. I told my Lebanese friend who loves really spicy food that I was going to make chilli.  He told me he had something for me.  He then gave me what I in a incorrect homage to the Simpsons refer to as "the insanity peppers of Itsoplatilacal".



I have no idea what they are actually called but they turn your mouth numb.

 Ingredients for about 6 servings:

  • Two cans kidney beans
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • some hot peppers  <- my supermarket labelled the two peppers on the left as "assorted hot peppers"  they were less hot then Jalapenos.
  • 16 oz tomato sauce
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • cayanne pepper
  • chilli powder
  • ground cummin

Begin by browning the ground beef over medium heat in a rather large pan.
While the beef is browning chop up the onion and seed and chop up the peppers. Important: if you have insanity peppers don't chop them up.  We are just going to add them whole to the mixture.
After about six minutes of the meat browning add the onion and peppers.  I also like to add in some salt and pepper at this point, approximately a table spoon.  Mix cover and let the mixture cook for another six minutes.
While that is going on get a big pot going over medium heat.  Dump in the diced tomatoes, the tomato sauce and the kidney beans.
Once the meat is done add it and the veggies to the big pot.  Also dump in the insanity peppers whole.
Season pepper, chili powder, cayenne and cumming to a hotness you like.  Remember if you have insanity peppers they are going to add more heat as the mixture simmers.
Leave the pot simmering on the stove for between four and ten hours.





Remove the insanity peppers which should have floated to the top.  The chilli will be best after a day or two sitting in the fridge.
The final result was more liquid than I wanted.  I had actually dumped two cans of water into the chilli but removed this step for you all since it wasn't necessary. It had a nice flavor and was just spicy enough to clear out the sinuses.