Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review


I thought about writing a detailed wrap up of what happened this year, but frankly not a whole lot happened.  Besides a rather entertaining and debt increasing, cruise I am leaving 2014 pretty much the way I entered it.  I am not really down on 2014. It was just a year that happened.

At the beginning of 2014 I asked myself three questions and recorded what I hoped would be the answers:


How do I feel about 2014?

  • Content with what happened
  • Glad to have lived it
  • Willing to move onto 2015
  • satisfied with the decisions I made

How am I a different person after 2014?

  • I am fitter and healthier
  • I think more about how my actions affect me and others
  • I follow through on what I plan to do 

What did I accomplish in 2014?

  • I got out of credit card debt
  • I wrote a bunch
  • I will have learned some of a new language

How do I feel about 2014?  Like I said, it was a year that happened. Not much changed.

How am I a different person after 2014? I am actually healthier. I ate a little better this year.  I also started jogging again a couple of months ago. My resting heart rate has dropped from around 100 to about 80.

What did I accomplish in 2014? I massively increased my credit card debt. Though in the second half of the year I began taking real steps toward lowering it.  I wrote more than in the past. And yes did learn a bit more French.

Reading this post I realize it is kinda lame. I feel I should try and write something profound and moving. I just don't have it in me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

This song give me a happy





Inspired by this post over at A blondering life, I give five of my favorite Christmas movies.  They are in no particular order.





Friday, December 12, 2014

Food Friday: Pumpkin Soup


It's that time of year when EVERYTHING is pumpkin flavored. With cans of pureed pumpkin going for 10 cents, slight exaggeration, I had stocked up on pumpkin. I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided on putting together a pumpkin soup. I apologize for the terrible pictures. They were taken with my horrible horrible phone.


Ingredients (I adjusted the amounts from a recipe for the amount of chicken stock I had on hand):
  • 26 oz chicken stock
  • 1 3/4 cans pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream 
  • one medium yellow onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic (can use less but I like garlic. 
  • pepper to taste




Put the chicken stock, pumpkin, diced garlic, and chopped onion in a pan and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 40 minutes.  Your soup probably will NOT look like mine above.  I had misread the recipe and initially only used 1 can of pumpkin. About half way through the simmer time I realized that there was no way the soup was right and reread the recipe.  That's when I added the extra 3/4 can of pumpkin. Luckily I have other uses for left over pumpkin.  Next time I think I will just use both cans and add a little water.

Anyway, once the soup has simmered you need to blend it to a nice paste. You can use a good stick blender for this. My stick blender isn't good, so I use my stand up blender which has a  nice thick glass blendy thingy(probably a name for this).  I poured in small amounts of the soup blending as I went. Once all blended put it back in the pan and add the heavy cream. 


You can garnish. I didn't bother and just chowed down.  This stuff is actually really good even if it does look like baby food.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Tale of Three Jogs - Illinois Weather


Near the end of October I started jogging again. Every few years or so I get the bug to seriously take up running again.  Serious means being able to run a 5k. I could go all sorts of directions when blogging about running. I could talk about he life lesson learned from the rapid improvement or how it improves my mood. What I am going to talk about is the weather. Stupidly, I've taken up running outdoors as we transition into winter. Even with my cold weather gear we've already had a week were it was too windy and cold to run outside. I might have to jog some on a treadmill... ew.  Most places joke about their weather: "if you don't like the weather just wait an hour".  No place is that more true than in the midwest.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I went for a jog.  The temperature almost hit 30F and  brisk wind blew from the south producing a wind chill of 19F. I wore four layers on top and two below the waist.  My fingers and toes got cold and the cold air burned my lungs.. It was not a pleasant experience. I would much rather run when it is 90 than when it is 20. I think sweating is better than freezing.

On Sunday I went for another jog.  Again a gale wind blew from the south. The slight difference was the 60 F temperature. I only wore a windbreaker and sweatpants over my usual summer running gear.  By the  end of my run sweat soaked my clothes.

After work, four days later, I went for another jog.   This time it was 40 degrees with a breeze and a slight rain falling. I had a good run. The best since I restarted running.

So that is Illinois weather for you.  In less than two weeks we had: 19 degree windchills, 64 degree weather with gusting winds, 40 degrees and raining, and also there was a bonus ice storm mixed in. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Finding Success in Failure



It will come as no surprise but I didn't finish writing the 50 k words for NaNoWriMo. I stalled somewhere around 11k. I wrote nothing for the novel during  the second half of the month. I am trying to see the positive in this failure.  I more than doubled my word output from any previous NaNoWriMos. I also worked through some sticky plot points. At this rate I might finish a single draft of a single novel by the time I'm sixty... maybe.

I have a the quote above printed out and taped to my desks: "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse." If I apply this quote to my near lifelong desire to be a writer, I have to admit I must not really want it. With saying that, I am unwilling to give the dream up. The desire has been to much a part of my life since my teens.

I understand the only way for me to be a writer is to regularly and consistently write.  It is a complete no duh statement, but it's true. Writing has to become a common and reoccurring part of what I do and who I am. It really is as simple as just do it.  I need to find an hour, heck even a half hour, worth of time a day and write. Before work, after work, it doesn't matter when.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

My Favorite P. D. James novels

Like many I was saddened by the news of the passing of P. D. James. I  have long been a fan of her writing. I wasn't so much drawn to the mysteries, though they were conceived well enough. Her prose kept bringing me back. She elevated mystery writing from being about the who done it, to a more conscientious type of literature.  She could be both poetic and lively descriptive. I remember rereading one long paragraph three times.  In it she described a tree in a courtyard. That was it. I have rarely been so into a scene.  I could smell the fall leaves and feel the coarseness of the bark. She also wrote very believable characters and they came from all types and class. James motivates me to try and be a writer.

In honor I give you my top three favorite P.D. James novels in no particular order:

  • Death of an Expert Witness
  • The Murder Room
  • An Unsuitable Job for a Woman


You really can't go wrong with any James novel but I would start with one of those three.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Thanksgiving post

Top five people/things I am thankful for.

The one thing I am most thankful for is m My Mom.She has been a great example of loving self  sacrifice and perserverance in the face of long term hardship.


smoothcat
Fuzzy wuzzy smushy purr machine of wuv!  Though he often annoys me, he also knows just when to curl up in my lap and purr like a mad kitten.

My friends. They accept me as who I am. They don't ask anything from me and yet are always there when needed.

The fact that each day starts anew with the chance to make it your best day yet.

That God is on the throne not me.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lovie Smith's Ten Biggest mistakes as Bears Head coach




Warning today's post is about Chicago Bears football. It's my blog I'll write about whatever I want.


Today, Sunday November the 23rd, Lovie Smith will return to Soldier Field in Chicago where he coached for nine seasons. With his return I've noticed some mythologizing going on.  There seems to be a general trend of turning what Lovie was, a good and solid coach, into a great coach. People seem to forgot how strong the calls for his firing were back in 2010 and how much general criticism he received.

So I am going to list off what I consider the top ten mistakes Lovie made, from least to greatest. 

#10 Trading Thomas Jones

I put this at number ten because this may have mostly been a Jerry Angelo call. Thomas Jones' successful running was taking precious playing time away from fourth overall pick Cedrick "Bust" Benson.  As his nickname implies, Cedrick "Bust" Benson was a complete bust with the Chicago Bears. He went on to have a minor blip of success for the Bengals, but has been out of the league for years. 

#9 Hiring Ron Turner

This one might just be a personal issue with me. I've never liked Ron Turner being hired. He seems to be a classic example of someone elevated just above their competency level. I didn't like when I ran the Bears offense the first time, I didn't like him being the head coach of the Fighting Illini and I didn't like him during his return stint with the Bears. He was the most successful offensive coordinator Lovie had but that aint saying much.

#8 Devon Hester as a wide Receiver

Devon Hester had an electric start to his career on his way to becoming the most prolific returner in NFL history. Wanting to maximize on Devon's abilities Lovie moved him from returner only to wide receiver.  The goal was to have him get is hands on the ball a lot more.  It never did really pan out.  Devon was a mediocre wide receiver and his return ability suffered. What success he had came on bubble screens. He seemed incapable of accurately running routes. 

#7 Signing Jonathan Quinn

I am a bears fan, this means I've seen a lot of bad quarterbacks in my time. Henry Burris, Rick Mirer and several others have bumbled their way around the Soldier Field turf. But the worst I've ever seen was Jonathan Quinn.  New Offensive Coordinator Terry Shea was bringing an exciting and different offense to Chicago.  He demanded a competent backup who knew the system in case Grossman got hurt... again. Shea sold everybody on Jonathan Quinn, a fourth year player that had rarely seen the field. It quickly became obvious why he hadn't been playing. Quinn didn't seem to know the basic rules of football. He didn't seem to have clue what plays were called. He would fall back look around confused as if he had never seen a football field before and then get sacked by large men.

#6 Not Retaining Ron Rivera

Awash with new power, and some might say hubris, after taking the Bears to the Super Bowl, Lovie decided to flex his muscle. Rivera was given many accolades for the Bears effective defense.  He was so highly regarded that he interviewed for several head coaching jobs. Whether Lovie felt threatened by Rivera or he really just wanted to take control of the defense himself, Lovie hired his yes man friend Bob Babbich as defensive coordinator. All the time telling people to "trust me".

#5  Signing Adam Archuleta

To secure the success of his friend, Lovie signed safety Adam Archuleta to a three year contract. Archuleta had been a very good player in his prime, but most NFL observers said he was past it and had lost a step, or two, or three. Lovie, ever loyal to his friends, rewarded Archuleta. Archuleta was horrible and ended up being benched not long into the season.

#4 Hiring Mike Martz

 At the end of the 2009 campaign after three seasons of missing the playoffs, the calls for Lovie to be fired where thunderous.  Many fans thought it was a sure thing.  Somehow Lovie convinced the Bears to keep him but fire the entire offensive coaching staff.  So Lovie was looking for his third O coordinator and also a defensive coordinator since we would no longer be allowed to call his own defensive plays. Lovie targeted some big names to be the new coordinators. There was one problem though.  Everybody knew Lovie was on the hottest of hot seats and it was playoffs or unemployment in the coming year. Who would want to take a job with a high chance of losing it in only one year. That doesn't look good on your resume.  So after over a month, Lovie finally called up his old buddy Mike Martz and offered him the job. Lovie initially rebuffed Martz and wanted to look elsewhere.  Best of all, after specifically saying that d-line coach Rod Marinelli would not be considered for the d coordinator position, Lovie hired Marinelli because no one else would take the job.

#3 Hiring Mike Tice

Beginning to sense a theme? After the 2011 season Mike Martz was forced to resign because of "philosophical differences" with Lovie. The "differences" being that once again Lovie was in the desperately trying to save my job mode. A new sheriff, general manager, was in town and Lovie could hear the gallows being built. Once again Lovie was faced with the problem of trying to find a qualified candidate with the sword of unemployment hanging over every bodies head. This time Lovie didn't bother with the embarrassing month long search and named Mike Tice, who was the offensive line coach, as the new O coordinator.  Tice was horrid and Lovie was fired a year later.

#2 Not cooperating with the media

Lovie was known in Chicago for  having a tense and acrimonious relationship with the media. He provided little access except for the required press conferences and those were usually filled with terse responses. You could sense the contempt for the media members in his face and body language. I get it. The Chicago sports media can be very tough and I find most of them unlikable. But your relationship with the media is your relationship to the fans. I have heard that member of the bears organization encouraged and explained to Lovie that he needed to be amicable to the media to win the fans.  My guess is Lovie didn't care. As long as he had the locker room, it didn't bother him what the fans thought of him. He came off as arrogant rude and condescending.  Fans had trouble understanding how much the locker room loved him. Even during success, fans tended to have a overall negative opinion of Lovie. 


#1 Hiring Terry Shea(Never figuring out the offense)

 For his first year as coach Lovie wanted to have a dynamic offensive attack like the one that led the Rams to win the superb owl.  He tried to get his friend Mike Martz, but that marriage made in hades would have to wait for several years.  Unable to hire Martz, Lovie moved on to hire quarterback guru, offensive genius, and moron Terry Shea. Terry Shea made the previous offense under John Shoop look high powered. Shea was horrible at every aspect of the game. He even manage to mess up public relations when he absurdly gave himself B.  It was not just that the Bears had the 32nd ranked offense that year, it was 32nd by a large margin. They had over 500 yards of offense less for the season than the 31st ranked team.  The Bears fired Shea after his one terrible season. Lovie never did figure out the offense in his time in Chicago. The one season they managed to have a the 15th ranked offense they went to the Super Bowl. If he could have just maintained an average offense, he would have had much greater success.

As I said at the beginning, I do believe that Lovie was largely a solid and good coach who got the most out of many of his players.  I think most of the failures under his regime should really be placed at the feet of general manager Jerry Angelo. If I wanted to do Angelo's greatest mistakes there would be more than ten.

#Honorable Mention "Rex is our Quarterback"


Thursday, November 13, 2014

NaNoWriMo and rediscovering your old work



I haven't been blogging because I have been spending my writing time on my NaNoWriMo novel.  I am technically behind on the  word count but I've written more this time than any of the others. So I consider that a success. I expect that if I do write the entire story it will end up being less than the 50k words called for. Why is that? I am not actually writing the whole thing. I am working out the basic plot elements. How they get form here to there, etc. I am not writing much in way of description or fleshing out every scene.  I have a fear that even if I do get this draft worked out, I won't have the will to go back and do all the hard work to rewrite/flesh out he rest. Means I should probably just give up.  I kid. I kid.

This is my fourth year trying to do NaNoWriMo and my fourth year trying to write this novel. That means I have three other versions of the start.  It fascinated me to look over these other versions and see many differences: not really only in style or plot, but differences in tone. The first one was a little dark with a lot of introspection and internal dialogue. After I realized the first attempt was long and rambling, I tried in the next two to use a flashforward to show that there would be action after the boring bit.  These versions also tried to be a little more lighthearted. In the latest version I've removed a lot of the early stuff where I gave the background on the main character.  This background is very important to justify his actions.  I will try and find some way to organically include this info in the story.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Nanowrimo

NaNoWriMo starts today. As promised I will not be repeating the mistake of participating in it's sister event NaBloPoMo. During National Blog Posting Month people try and make at least one blog post a day.  This led to my posting of several blogs well below the mighty high standard I set. If you don't realize that last sentence is a joke, you must be new to reading my blog.

During NaNoWriMo you are supposed to write 50000 words. That comes to 1666 words a day.  I am sure this year will go exactly as the last four have. I'll write maybe three perhaps four days the entire month and produce, if I really try, somewhere in excess of 1200 words. Mind you, I mean 1200 words for the full month.

You'll notice a graph on the side bar to help you track my failure and shame. So wish me luck. Or better yet, wish me some hard work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: An Artificial Night - Seanan McGuire

An Artificial Night (October Daye #3)An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was not sure I wanted to read the third book in the October Daye series after the second one fell flat. Seanan McGuire takes a step up with An Artificial Night. It is a strong improvement on book two. In fact i would say skip book to entirely. You don't really learn anything during it that is necessary to understand book three.

In An Artificial Night, October goes on a series of dangerous quests to defeat a very old and powerful fae called Blind Michael. We learned some interesting things about “Toby” in this book. I don’t know whether these things are intentional or I am just reading them into the story. She doesn't come off as very bright. Much of the time she really doesn't understand what is going on. I tend to think this is intentional. The world McGuire has created doesn't operate under the normal rules. Things make an internal sense, but not in the way readers are used to. Secondly, despite all her talk of doing everything herself, she’s beholden to those more powerful than herself to succeed. She’s a proxy through which more powerful agents fight. She’s not the loan hero, but a knight on the chessboard.


View all my reviews

Friday, October 10, 2014

Importance of Process

Process is boring. Process is for pointy haired bosses. Process saps the spark and spontaneity needed to be creative. Art works by the explosion of inherent talent that results in the creation of a great work with a minimum of effort. For the longest time I've subconsciously thought this was how artistic production worked. I tried to learn to paint by painting once without any instructions. When it didn't work I quit. I tried to learn to play the guitar by never practicing. If you had asked me I would have told you things take practice and a lot of work, but honestly I just assume talent just spewed out results.  No wonder I have yet to produce my plethora of award winning novels.

A few things made me consider a more formalized approach. I read a blog post  put up by a fairly famous woodworker named Marc Spagnuolo about process. He discusses his process for producing a wood project and even provided a poster of it. Secondly, I listened to a talk by an expert on process.  He really got the point across that process can help make results more predictable and efficient.  My penchant for producing nothing points to some inefficiencies. Finally I realized that my slapdash just hope inspiration takes over approach wasn't working. I decided to develop some processes to go along with different projects.

Below is my current process for writing a blog post.


1. Write down the post inspiration/topic
2. Outline the post. I make sure to get down the basic structure of the post and all the topics I want to mention. The outline is flexible and I allow myself to move, add, or exclude things during the actual writing of the post.
3. First draft of the post. Sometimes this isn't done in the order of the outline but in discrete paragraphs. That I link together in the revision phase.
4. Find and include picture(s).  I want each blog post to include at least one visual element. I'll pick out the images and then try them out in different locations utilizing the preview function in blogger. I'll use pictures I take myself, like with this post, or use free stock photos that are available.
5. Revise.  After finishing the first draft I wait a day or two or three. I can then look at the post with fresh eyes. Is what I wanted to get across clear? Is the post discombobulated? I then rewrite the post.
6. Post.  I have found that posting during the weekdays in the morning local time gives me the most views. *

This process is similar to the one I've come up with for short stories.

* I did some research using Google Analytics trying to figure out when to post and how to advertise those posts.  I found out that mornings between 8 -10 am my time Monday through Firday is the best time to post. For some reason I got in my head that Sunday night would be a good time to post, but the posts then got almost no action at all.  I also get good return on sharing the posts on google+ and twitter.  I gained no increase at all from posting to facebook.  I can explain this easily. I have several hundreds of followers between twitter and google+. On the other hand I rarely use facebook and have only a handful of friends.  Your mileage may vary.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Music Monday: Deadman's Gun - Ashtar Command

Your hands upon
A deadman's gun and you're
Looking down the sights
Your heart is worn, 
And the seams are torn
And they've given you reason to fight

And you're not gonna take what they've got to give
And you not gonna let them take your will to live
Because they've taken enough and you've given them all you can give

And all the storms you've been chasing
About to rain down tonight
And all the pain you've been facin'
About to comin' to the light


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: The First American

The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin FranklinThe First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Finally," this is what all my goodread friends are saying. I started this book seven months ago. What took me so long. First, I don't actually read that much. Secondly, I often found myself pausing while reading to look up some piece of information. I was led down many a wikipedia trail reading this book. Finally, the printer printed on big pages in a small font.

Ok all my excuses are finished, what about the book. I personally prefer learning about history through the lens of biography. Given that caveat, I consider The First American to be one of the best historical books I've ever read. We get an intimate portrait of the greatest thinker of his time if not one of the greatest thinkers in all of history. The author exposes us to a very human Franklin. We see witness his sadness at the breaking of relations with his son, who chose loyalty to the crown over loyalty to his father.

Beyond Franklin himself we encounter a treasure of information about the milieu that produced the revolution and eventually, the United States. I learned more about what lead to the revolution reading this book than I did in all the schooling I had. I highly recommend it to anybody with an interest in the period

"Go on doing great things and loving pretty women"


View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm Back. Hide your sanity.

As you can see I am back and with a new theme.  I thought a fresh start deserved a fresh theme.  This means my old theme lasted a grand total of two posts. Maybe that is a record in the blogging hall of fame.  I pretty much built this theme myself using bloggers html editing option.  We will see how long it lasts. Note if you are viewing this blog on mobile you will not see the new theme.  I pushed the blogger button that is supposed to make your new theme work for mobile, and nothing happened. So if you want to see the new theme please use a regular browser.

I plan on writing whatever I want. So be warned :)
Here's a pic of the old theme for posterity:




Sunday, May 25, 2014

On Hiatus

As you've probably noticed dear readers of my blog, all 20-30 of you, I haven't posted in about 3 weeks. So I thought I would officially announce an hiatus from blogging for a bit. I'll be back, probably, and I won't be gone that long.  I actually have like five posts in various stages.  So this blog is taking a nap for a bit.


even while sick he cheers me up

Friday, May 02, 2014

New Theme

After a little over a year, I decided to update the theme here in wonkyland. The old one had started to feel a little to dark, and the background image was getting stale to me. This new theme seems light and modern.

As long term readers of this blog know, I like to read way back on peoples blogs and see what they were doing years ago. You will often come across posts like this one with the person saying they had updated their theme, background, etc.  At this point it is seven years and four themes later so you have no idea what their blog looked like.  So for posterity, I have included a screenshot of what my blog looked like its first year.


blog522014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cruising the Eastern Caribbean:St. Martin and the everglades

We arrived at St. Martin bright and early. St. Martin is divided between a Dutch and French side.  The boat docks on the Dutch side. I over slept and had to rush to get to my off shore excursion. I even had to skip breakfast. The excursion I signed up for was a jeep adventure tour. There really wasn't much of an adventure.  You all pile into jeeps and drive around to the normal tourist spots.

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Our first real stop was at Maho Beach. It's a small beach that is famous on the internet.  Watch the video I shot below to find out why.


Yep. It's that crazy airport beach.

Unfortunately, one of our jeeps had a flat tire and we ended up wasting 45 minutes of our time waiting for it to be fixed. Next stop was a shopping area on the French side of the island. I should have gotten something to eat here but I just wandered around and looked at the water. Our final stop was the large  Orient beach. We were supposed to spend a couple of hours there but with running so late we only had about an hour. By this time I was starving. At the beach was a very tourist trap kind of restaurant. I ordered a cheeseburger and  can of coke.  The bill came to twenty five dollars.  As I started eating the burger I realized it was pink inside.  I didn't have time to bother with complaining so I just ate around the edges. Did I mention that it was a horrible burger and cost twenty five dollars? Once on the beach, I quickly realized we were on the French side of the island. I wandered up and down the beach for the remaining forty five minutes.

BTW, did I mention the horrible overpriced twenty five dollar burger :)

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After St. Martin we cruised for two days back to Miami.  Since our flight wasn't until several hours after we disembarked, we decided to do an everglades tour.

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Baby alligator.

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Bird showing off(actually drying its wings.)

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See more pictures on flickr

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I break electronics but sometimes I am just dense

I am well known as a destroyer of electronics. I also have a beloved acer aspire one netbook. You can guess where this is going. As a nerd, I use it as an experimental platform for new operating systems. I recently decided to try out a new (to me) version of linux called elementary OS. It is based on Ubuntu and meant to look like the mac. I don't have a review of it. I only used elementary OS for about 3 weeks. My little netbook just isn't powerful enough to run it, or regular Ubuntu. I decided to try out Linux Mint 16 xfce which is supposed to be light weight and easy to run. Good thing I had decided to switch OSes because, the netbook kept locking up within a minute of booting up. I installed the new OS and then got busy so I set the netbook aside.

The next day I tried to wake it out of sleep to search something on the web. Nothing happened when I pushed the power button.   I pulled the battery out and put it back in.  Then I noticed that an indicator led blinked blue 5 times whenever I tried to turn it on. I quick web search showed this to be an indication of a hardware fault.  The netbook is well out of warranty so I just chocked it up to my usual ability to break all things and it had given my over a year of use. For some reason, I decide to plug it back into its power supply and then I went about my day.

Several hours later I came back and gave it one last chance to start up. It started right up. The battery had completely drained itself overnight. For some reason, mint xfce has the default behavior when you close the lid set to just turn the screen off. It doesn't go to sleep or hibernate.  I changed the preferences and now it's fine. Just imagine that if I hadn't plugged it back in I would have thrown away (put in my communities electronic recycling)  a perfectly good netbook. I am sometimes dense.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cruising the Eastern Caribbean: Pics

Our first port of call was San Juan



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Approaching the island of Puerto Rico

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The Fort of San Juan.  The Spanish realized the importance of the port for them to maintain a hold on trade in the new world, so they build this impressive fort. It was assaulted several times but managed to stand until the Spanish American War in 1898.


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Approaching the fort from land like many would be attackers :)

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This stray cat was stalking that pigeon.  Sadly she failed and had to find a different dinner.

Onward to St. Thomas


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After a tour of St Thomas led by a wonderful local I sat out on the top deck of the ship waiting for departure. As I sat there I felt a few drops of water hit my legs. I assumed it was from the people washing parts of the ship. Suddenly more drops hit me and I was forced to open my eyes.  A pleasant rain storm had come over the island. Most of the passengers fled but a few of us stayed around and enjoyed the warm shower.

Well that is enough pics for one post.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Quick Jobu story + bonus pic

Jobu suffers from the late night berserks. It is a lot like what is in this Simon's Cat video.



But imagine it happening sometime between 3 - 7 am and involving a lot more yowling. I hear mreor mreor yowl and then run run run, thump, thud.. crash.  Blissful silence follows for a short time. Then gallop gallop gallop into the bedroom and then.... thud as he lands on my chest. MREOw and he sprints off.

So this morning he is in full on berserk mode.  At least it was seven in the morning and not three. After being disturbed for several minutes I finally decided to get up.   Jobu is very happy. Daddy is up to chase him around. He sprints into the room a look of pure joy on his little fuzzy face. I make the move to start chasing him. He turns around and jets out of the room .. BLAAAM.  His head went right into the door frame. Poor Jobu, how can he be expected to remember were the walls are. He's only lived here for seven years.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cruising the Eastern Caribbean: the Celebrity Reflection


We set sail from Miami about 4:30 in the afternoon and headed into the Atlantic.

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The next day was a day at sea.  I took this time to get used to my new life aboard ship. Being my first time cruising, I really didn't have anything to compare it with. The Celebrity Reflection impressed me.

For the trip, we had a cabin with a balcony. The cabin was nicer than I thought. It was skinny but comfortable. The bathroom really impressed me. It might have been small but it was well appointed with a really nice shower. In the future I don't think I would splurge for the balcony. I imagined sitting out their for hour soaking up the sun in private. In reality I only spent maybe on hour the entire cruise out there. If I wanted to sit outside I did it on one of the top two decks.  

At the front of the ship is the main theater. It's large with nice seating. Most nights they put on a shows. The shows were excellent and featured a really talented cast.  They sang. They danced. They wowed.  Sadly it was their last cruise and the cast  went their separate ways afterwards.

The center of the ship in the lower levels is taken up by some shops, bars, and the casino.  The shops were mostly upscale watch and jewelry shops though not everything was out of the "normal" persons price range. In fact I bought a citizen echo drive watch that without taxes and one sale was actually a few dollars cheaper than I could find it online. I can't really tell you about the bars.  I didn't buy the drinks package going into the trip so, given the prices, I didn't drink much. The casino was much larger than I imagined. It had a whole load of electronic slot machines etc, but also had several tables for live gambling. They had black jack tables, roulette, craps and a Texas holdem table. When at sea they held a Holdem tournament every two hours during the night. It had a two hundred dollar buy in and I kept trying to work up the courage to play but in the end I just messed around with the slot machines a bit.

The main dining room inhabits the other end of the lower 2 decks.  There are two main ways to dine. You can choose the set meal time or the floating meal time.  If you go for the set meal time you eat in the lower level at the same table with the same people everyday.  We chose the floating meal time. You show up during dinner hours, they ask if you want to request to eat alone or with others. We picked to sit with other people, so each night we sat with a new group. I kept running into the people throughout the cruise so it was a good way to interact with other cruisers. The meal consists of three courses: an appetizer, main course, and a desert.  There is a set meal that is served every night but also specialty items for each course.  The staff were amazingly helpful and attentive. Two tips: You are supposed to let the server put the napkin in your lap and let the ladies order first.

The fifth deck has a small area near the rear of the ship, that has three smaller more intimate bars.  I spent a fair amount of time in the ensemble lounge.  After dinner they would feature live music.  Down past the bar are a set of specialty restaurants. I can't tell you anything about the specialty restaurants since I never ate at one.  Most of them required some extra charge and why bother when I could get all the food I wanted already.

Working your way up the middle of the ship you find a few smaller areas.  There is an iLounge. Supposedly the only certified apple seller on the seas.  You can also pay an exorbitant amount if you really want internet access.  There is a game room with tables for playing cards and they even have some touch enabled game surfaces. If you forget your kindle, they have a library.  Sadly the library had no books on pirates. This is my suggestion to the celebrity cruise people Have a section of the library with a selection of books about the part of the world you are cruising.

Forward on the twelfth deck is the spa area. Here they have a massage area, a hair salon, and a very well equipped gym, with a wide selection of free weights and machines. I, being a slug, didn't use the gym.

On the thirteenth deck there is an indoor pool and a couple of pools in the middle of the ship with a lot of area to lay out on the deck. Near the pools is an open area for music and zumba, lots of zumba. Aft is taken up by the buffet eating area. It is open from 6 am to 2 am so you can get some sort of food almost any time.  The food isn't bad and you can have as much as you want.  After a few days it might start getting repetitive but I always like it.  Breakfast particularly shined with a good selection of British and American food.

The top deck is a nice open space with a large grass area a couple of restaurants and plenty of space for sitting out and soaking up the sun.

DSCN0874

Life on board ship can be as laid back or exciting as you want to make it.  The cruise constantly provides events throughout the day and night or you could just eat and sleep and chill.

Overall I have to say the ship is excellent and the crew even better.  The constantly work to make sure every need is met.

An odd not I have to add: I read one review of the Celebrity Reflection from when it first started to sale. The reviewer praised the art on board the ship. I found most of the art to be weird and bad.

Next Up: Pictures

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blood tests and hypochondria

As I've mentioned previously, I am a bit of a hypochondriac. A friend of mines husband has some hypochondriac leanings as well. I am an odd hypochondriac. When he thinks he has something he researches it and get checked out by a doctor. He goes to the doctor a lot.  I'd rather not know.  As if not knowing what is wrong with me means it doesn't exist.  This doesn't stop me from spending hours at night worrying about the phantom disease.

Today I had blood taken to do a complete blood workup. The last time I had that was in 2005 when I had diagnosed myself from the internet with one of the rarest forms of cancer, that would kill me in months.  Obviously, I was fine. Usually I would be tense and worried about the tests but I haven't been nervous.  I assumed the tests would take a week or so to get back to me, but the technician said I should have the results tomorrow or the day after.  I guess I don't have enough time to worry about things.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's the big 41

This random post brought to you by my confused mind after a nap.

Last year was the big 40. The ol 41 just doesn't seem that important. I was thinking that instead of the new year being when we make resolutions and take stock of our lives we should do it on our birthdays. Make it personal.  It also helps if one of you resolutions is to go to the gym because you won't have all the resolutionites clogging up the machines.

I am really good at making plans and lists.  I have notebooks  filled with lists of the ten things I am going to do over the next year to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.  If I am really motivated I may do what's on the list upwards of two or maybe even three days. Maybe someday.

Six years ago today I was on the French Riviera.


CIMG0086

Nice 2008

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Cruising the Eastern Caribbean: The Adventure of Getting There

With the daunting prospect of another midwestern winter before us, a friend and I decided to book a trip somewhere warm during the depth of winter. Boy were we prescient. Unless you have been living in a cave in the southern hemisphere, you know this winter was brutal in North America.

The only criteria I had in planning the get away was that it be warm and all inclusive.  All inclusive isn't usually y sort of thing. Heck I landed at Heathrow in 2012 with no idea how to get to my hotel. My friend had the perfect idea: a cruise. We would be warm, well fed, and able to relax.

We decided on a seven night cruise on the eastern Caribbean aboard the Celebrity Reflection.  I had never been on a cruise before so I didn't know what to expect.  I was promised wonders, with the Reflection being the newest and grandest of the Celebrity fleet.

The Adventure of getting there


Whenever something goes wrong or the unexpected happens to mess up my plans, I refer to it as having an adventure. It makes setbacks in life much more manageable. The bus breaks down while commuting to work: an adventure. Get lost on a way to an event: an adventure.

So the adventure of my cruise began the morning before our flight. I live about a three hours drive from the airport.  I planned on driving up to see my parents and then onward to my friends house to stay the night for a 4:30 am wake up for the 6:30 flight.

I was in the midst of doing the last few things I needed to do before I could load up the car when my phone dinged. I checked and my weather app had put up one of its big read warning signs.  I clicked  it knowing that the forecast had called for the possibility of a small amount of snow. It was a  weather statement warning that an inch of snow would fall in about an hour.  It also said the snow would be lighter further north, the direction I would be heading. Given the mountains of snow we had already dealt with during the winter, I didn't worry. 

Within minutes a light snow started to fall.  I didn't worry. I took a shower. When I came out of the bathroom, I looked out the window. SNOWMAGGEDON had come. A blizzard raged outside with giant flakes causing a white out.  I worried, a little.

Over the next hour an inch of snow fell.  I quickly formed a new plan. Since I had plenty of time I would push back my leave a couple of hours to let the snow plows do their job. After I packed I headed out to get lunch and see what the roads were like.  I slipped and slid some but the roads weren't impassible. The snow tapered and stopped.  My plan seemed to be coming together.

I headed out and drove to the highway.  The snow began again. Slow at first, it soon grew to white out blizzard conditions. I crept along the with a bunch of other drivers. There is no convenient way to get from where I live to where I needed to go. Most of the drive is on a two lane state road cutting through midwestern farm land. I finally made it to the exit onto the two lane road.  Here it was even worse. The road was just a packed inch of snow and ice.  I considered turning around but was determined to get through.  No way was I missing this cruise.

The road was crowded with vehicles and we inched along trying not to end up in a ditch. Going around one banked curve I tried to move over to give an  oncoming semi some extra room. My wheel slipped off the edge of the road I corrected my little fiesta back on the road and then the back end started to come loose. I saw the slowly oncoming semi and  my brain did a very quick calculation. How bad would be this crash?  We were both going under thirty so I would probably be ok.  Just then my wheels caught and with my heart pounding in my chest, I drove on.

As far as I had come, there was no point in turning around so I kept slowly going north.  I passed a few cars in ditches.  The next hour of my life stressed my patience as I kept waiting for the snow to end.  Finally, near my destination the road became clear of snow and ice. Next winter I am moving somewhere warm :)

The next morning began with me waking up on a frigid Chicago morning at 4:30 am. The cold crept in through the window urging me to snuggle deeper into the comforter.  But the lure of warmth and sea proved too strong and I shambled out of bed.  After a taxi ride that seemed to take forever, we arrived at O'hare airport and breezed through security.  Wonders of wonders I actually fell asleep on the plane.  Never before have I managed to sleep on an airplane.  I stayed awake, unintentionally, for the entire overnight flight to London.

The plane landed in a humid and balmy Florida that blew my frigid midwestern mind. Then we began the adventure of finding the bus to the ship. After collecting my bag we were at a loss as to where to go.  Eventually we found an old guy holding a sign that said "Celebrity Cruises".  He directed us to the lost baggage claim area to find a Sheila.  There wasn't really anybody at the lost baggage claim but on the way we passed an older lady with a name tag. I checked and it said Sheila, so I came up with the very original opening of asking, "Are you Sheila?"

Sheila gave me a tag for my luggage and us some tickets to make sure we could get on the right bus.  She informed us we'd have to wait for the next bus. Within minutes she rushed back and told us we were in luck. The bus hadn't left yet.  We grabbed our bags and ran outside into bedlam. There were four buses not quite parked properly,and lots of people just milled about looking confused. No one seemed to be in charge.  For some reason, I was reminded of my life. I am not sure how long we waited there, perhaps an half hour. I didn't care. It was warm and the sun was out.

Finally, the right bus arrived and we clambered into the crowded bus and, with my two carry ons clutched to my chest, waited for the luggage to be loaded. The bus started to pull away and an outcry erupted. "Our bags aren't on the bus!", an old lady screamed.  The bus paused and then started to move again. " OUR BAGS ARE NOT ON THE BUS!"  The bus stopped again. The guy "in charge" said that all the luggage wouldn't fit and that another bus would be bringing the left luggage. The other people seemed very concerned.  I couldn't see if my bag was one of the ones that were left. But I didn't really care about anything in that luggage.  Did I really need my five year old Men's Wearhouse suit I bought for $199.

After a short drive we entered an industrial port area. Railroad tracks crisscrossed the road while trucks lumbered between large oil tanks. It didn't seem like the kind of place to get on a cruise ship but we could see them in the distance.  We rolled deeper into the maze of streets and oil tanks. I checked the GPS on my phone and noticed that yes we were near a port, Fort Lauderdale port to be exact. The problem: we were supposed to get on the ship at Miami port about an hour down the road.  We thought there might be some sort of connecting road to speed transferring cargo etc between the ports.  Apparently not, because the bus driver performed a rather awkward three point turn and we started back out of the industrial park. He finally found the expressway and drove us rather recklessly to Miami port.

At first sight of the ships I realized how huge they are. I knew that they were big but I had no idea just how large.  We got on the ship without any troubles and waited for our stateroom to be ready and for departure.

Enjoy this picture of us sailing away from Miami. 




My luggage did eventually show up.

Next up: A Review of the Celebrity Reflection



Sunday, February 23, 2014

Is that moaning I hear?

I wanted to post this before I left on the cruise but didn't find the time.


While packing for my cruise I kept hearing this periodic sounds.  It sounded sorta of like moaning but not too loud.  I thought maybe one of my neighbors was having a good time :).  I noticed that it got louder while I was in the bedroom. I tracked down the sound.  You might need to turn the sound up on the video below for the full effect.

video


It's not the first time I've caught Jobu snoring.  He woke me up one night.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Is Valentines weekend a big trip weekend?

I am home from work today getting together and done the last few things I need to do before I go on my trip: clean, make sure I've packed everything, play with Jobu so he won't be so lonely while I am gone.  I've noticed the parking lot is still pretty full. Many seem to have taken this day off work.  Three different people have also been loading up their cars like they are going on a trip.  So my two questions.  Is Valentines day a day many people take off work?  Is Valentines weekend a common trip weekend?

Probably won't post till back from the Caribbean so you all have a nice week.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pre-Trip Anxiety

At 6:30 am on Saturday I will be on a plane heading to Florida to get on a big boat and then spend 8 days doing as little as possible.   Yet over the last few days I haven't been excited. I've been anxious. I've been  rundown agitated and unable to focus on things and having difficulty sleeping. I am not anxious about a specific thing.  I am not worrying about the plane flight, or getting sick on the ship. I just have a general sense of unease and of being unsettled.

I have been thinking back and I get this same feeling before trips. Whereas other people get more excited and count down how many sleeps until their trip starts I seem to be trying to make the time before pass as slowly as possible. I had the same feeling before Monaco in 2008 and London/Paris in 2012.  I loved both trips.  I am confused by this.  Could it be because of the list of things I have to do? If I was doing something big like going to live in Paris for six months I could understand but I have no idea why I have this reaction to going on a cruise and sitting in a deck chair. Does anybody else experiences this sort of thing?

Friday, February 07, 2014

So maybe it wasn't Seasonal Affective Disorder and other updates

One of my favorite bloggers, Sara from Sara in Le Petit Village, (reminds me I need to do  a follow friday on her) when she doesn't have enough to make up a whole post will do summation posts of smaller events and comments. With not much going on here except for winter and waiting for my cruise next week, I thought I would do the same.

*Last November I wrote about my self diagnosed, because self diagnoses are so reliable, seasonal affective disorder and my plans to use light therapy to counter it this year.  Well not so fast.  This winter has been horrible weather wise.  I am sure most of you are aware of the horrible cold but we've also had loads of snow storms.  Yet given all this I haven't had a repeat of the messed up sleep schedule, depression, and weird appetite changes. Nothing is really different this year than the last two. I still have my chronic health problem, that seems to flair up more during winter. Most of my life situation is identical. I still eat bad food.  I've only turned on the happy light two times.

*Perhaps it is my expectation of my coming cruise that is making this winter more tolerable. In 2012I solo traveled to London and Paris.  Last year I took a week of work but do to circumstances didn't really go anywhere.  So this year I wanted to go on a real vacation and relax.  I friend and I decided to go on a cruise.  So next Saturday I fly to Florida and get an a big ship and sail to San Juan, St Marteen, and St. Thomas.  I've never been on a cruise before and I am looking forward to doing nothing for 8 days but bask in the warmth.


*A couple of spring ago I decided to buy a new winter coat.  I went to the outlet store and found a really big warm looking coat. Usually $300 I got it for about eighty.  The last two winters have been mild so I haven't needed to wear it often.  Like I said this winter has been brutally cold so I've warn it a lot.  Well It is one of the worst bits of stitching I've ever seen.  I've already lost a pocket. It completely tore out and is held shut with duct tape.  Just today I noticed a bunch of the other stitching is coming loose.  Hopefully it can last till I move somewhere warm.

* The Superb Owl took place on Sunday.  As I do most years I went to a friends place to watch.  A bunch of people come and bring pretty good food, and hey it's free.  All the experts told us it would be a good game.  The two teams were very closely matched with the Denver Broncos getting slight edge.  Well as you probably know it was a blowout. The Seahawks stomped the Broncos from beginning to end.  The game ended up being boring and the commercials weren't even that good.


Saturday, February 01, 2014

My January in Six Second Bites

I used Vine to take a six second video most days last month and have strung them together to show you my cold and boring life.  But he it has a cat in it so the internet will love it


Friday, January 31, 2014

Food Friday: Frittata with potatoes, ham, peppers, and feta cheese

Another cold Sunday rolled around and it was time to find something to eat.  So I went through the pantry to see what I had. I had eggs. I always have eggs.  I had some potatoes, cheese, some ham.  My initial thought was to make the fried potatoes scrambled egg thingy, but then I decided to try my hand at a frittata.  I had never made one before but I had recently watched a cooking show were the chef made one.

Ingredients:

  • Four eggs whisked
  • About 1/3 cup chopped peppers
  • 1/4 cup shredded ham
  • 1/2 cup shredded red potatoes
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350. A frittata is basically a baked egg pie.  I worried that the twenty minutes in the oven wouldn't be enough to cook the potatoes and I hate undercooked potatoes.  So I took the shredded potatoes and dumped them in a cast iron skillet with oil, salt and pepper.  They cooked for about five minutes.


I then let the pan and the potatoes cool for a few minutes. I didn't want them to start cooking the eggs before I had them in the oven.  I mixed all the ingredients together dumped them in the  cast iron skillet and into the oven the whole creation went.



Twenty minutes later I had a frittata.



It was ok if not great.  I would say with a few other things, some toast or fruit, this makes enough for two people.  By my lonesome I only managed to eat 3/4 of it.  I also learned frittatas do not reheat in the microwave well, so I ended up throwing the uneaten part out.  Next time I'll just use three eggs and cut everything by a quarter.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's So Cold...

HOW COLD IS IT?



As most of you may be aware we are experiencing some really cold temps here in North America.  Temperatures have been below 0F for days on end with windchills (what it actually feels like) dipping to -30F/-34C.  Needless to say(though I am going to say it anyway) it has not been pleasant out.

Take this mornings drive to work as an example.  Note: I don't have a garage. Not only were the windows frosted over on the outside but there was also ice on the inside.  At less than three years old I would assume my car would have no trouble starting. I turned the key and the starter motor made a low ru ru ru sound.  Luckily after a few seconds it roared, well as  much as a Ford Fiesta engine can roar, into life. The gear shift felt like it was moving through molasses the fluid was that thickened. The number one thing that blew my mind though was the LCD display panel. LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display ie, there is liquid in there.  The display changed very slowly.  I tried to get some video of it.





And this was after the car ran  for a couple of minutes.  Imagine what it was like when it first started.

I am usually a big fan of winter and snow but I am so done with this one.  I think it is time for me to take up my Dad's yearly mantra of: Next winter I won't live here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Music Monday: Jimi King's Top 30 smooth Jazz songs of 2013

I have to come out. I am a fan of smooth jazz. Or smoothies as we call ourselves during our basement meetings were under dim lights we listen to secret copies of Oli Silk.  Almost everyday I listen to smoothjazz24/7.  It does a great job of annoying my coworkers.

Jimi King, well known in smooth jazz circles, runs the station and recently put together his list of the top thirty smooth jazz songs for 2013.  I made a spotify playlist of the thirty songs from #30-#2. That's correct #2. For some reason US spotify doesn't have the #1 song.   So I've embedded a youtube version of it below the spotify playlist.  Note the songs go from #30 to #2.  Chanps Elysees is number #30




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stagnant in a world of wanderers

It seems that in the modern world everybody spends their lives on the move. People move from job to job, place to place, and in many cases relationship to relationship.  I don't move much.

I follow the blog of a twenty something who in four years has lived in three different countries, wandered aimlessly around the world for six months, and held about eight different jobs during that time. This behavior isn't only the purview of the twenty somethings. I have another online friend who has moved and changed careers three times since turning forty.

I on the other hand have lived in the exact same town (technically it is three towns joined together) for the last thirteen years.  Post graduation I have worked in the same industry. I have now lived in the exact same apartment for five years.  This would make sense if I was married with children.  My town is a great place to raise a family.  But alas that never happened. Perhaps my stagnation explains why every time I visit a new City or Country while traveling, I want to move there. Whether LA, Rome, London, Paris, after a trip I daydream of living in that place. Often I fantasize about mundane lives in these places.  What would it be like to be a bartender on the Cote d'Azur.  I'd clean and lock up the bar and then head home through the ancient streets at three in the morning. You would think I would fantasize about being a famous actor or rich gambler.  Nope I am a taxi driver in Paris or a programmer in London. 


Sunday, January 12, 2014

My New Years Post

The in thing this New Year is not making resolutions.  I am joining in the moratorium. But this doesn't mean I am just going to let 2014 slide by. I am quite sick of just floating about with no intention.  2013 all life seemed to be on hold and nothing changed for the positive.  I do have hopes and intentions for this coming year.  I am going to lay them out in three questions I will answer on December 31st 2014. How do I feel about 2014? How am I a different person after 2014? What did I accomplish in 2014?  Much of this comes from a self-help/life coaching thing a friend of mine helped me through.

How do I feel about 2014?

  • Content with what happened
  • Glad to have lived it
  • Willing to move onto 2015
  • satisfied with the decisions I made

How am I a different person after 2014?

  • I am fitter and healthier
  • I think more about how my actions affect me and others
  • I follow through on what I plan to do 

What did I accomplish in 2014?

  • I got out of credit card debt
  • I wrote a bunch
  • I will have learned some of a new language

Friday, January 10, 2014

Food Friday: Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Earlier this week as Wintermageddon2014(tm) descended on me I knew I would need some good winter food to see me through.  I searched through my pantry and came up with enough stuff to put together a passable beef stew.  Even better I could make it in the slow cooker which makes the whole process really easy.



Ingredients: 


  • About 1lb of cubed beef (It can be pretty cheap because the hours in the slow cooker will make it tender)
  • a cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 16 oz of tomato sauce (I usually use tomato juice but didn't have any)
  • 26 oz beef stock
  • Some randoms peppers that were about to go bad
  • cup and half of potatoes cut into large chunks
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
What I wish I had but didn't

  • Some mushrooms
  • noodles

Preparation: 




Easy peasy, chop up the carrots, potatoes, and peppers.  Then just toss everything into the toss everything into the slow cooker. If there isn't enough liquid to cover just add water.  Put the slow cooker on low and just walk away for eight or nine hours. You gotta love that slow cooker ease of use.

Results:

Like usual I forgot to get a picture of the final product, but it was delicious.  And like most soups and stews it got better over the next couple of days.  The stew can last three days in the fridge or be frozen for several months of storage but with it cold and snowy in nowhere Illinois, mine didn't last.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Special Report: WINTERMAGEDDON2014


No Music Monday this week. Instead you get a special report from our news desk: WINTERMAGEDDON2014!!



The first inklings of the horror to come, came when I was told the expected high for the next Monday was 0. Then came the news of a snowstorm before the arctic temperatures.  As the weekend drew closer the forecast grew more dire. The expected snow amounts increased 2 - 4 inches, 4-6, 8-12 and the expected high for Monday went down and down 0 , -4, -9, -10.  I being hearty midwestern stock didn't worry. Though I did have to cancel a trip up to my parents.

The Saturday before WINTERMAGEDDON2014 dawned nice and warm.  The temperature lingered above freezing most of the day.  I enjoyed the pleasant day by going to my second home, Buffalo Wild Wings and watching the nfl playoffs. On the way home I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things I needed to complete my slow cooker beef stew (Food Friday post coming).  You would have thought the world was ending.  I could best describe the place as a madhouse. People ran through the aisles filling their carts with almost anything. I saw people paralyzed with confusion. They would pick up an item from the shelf, stare at it like they had no idea what it was, and then move onto another item. I laughed to myself.  I thought "you probably will be able to order a pizza tomorrow."  I went home and snugged myself into bed expecting to wake up to snowmageddon.

Sunday I woke up and rushed to the window like it was Christmas morning. Disappointment set in. Barely an inch of snow cover the ground and it wasn't even snowing.  Stupid weather people had been wrong again. It started snowing again but not too badly.  Boredom grew as I sat at home and I decided it was the playoffs and I would go to Buffalo Wild Wings snow or no snow. The streets were all plowed, the mini mall parking lots was cleared.  Many people were out shopping.  I had made a good decision I thought to myself.  And yes the Pizza Hut was open and delivering.

Buffalo Wild Wings was open. At first I sat alone but soon more and more people started coming in.  We ended with a pretty good crowd of almost thirty people. As the customer count grew the weather got worse. My twitter feed filled with reports of impassable roads and accidents.  At one point a Subaru got stuck in a snow drift outside the BWW and some toughened people went out to help dig him out.  It took almost thirty minutes but finally triumphantly, the rescuers returned with the driver to celebrate their victory. We greeted them with a round of applause. We formed a tight band of refugees. It did not matter whether you were a Bears fan, or Packer fan, or even the few 49rs fans who were there.  We surmised that if we ended up trapped it wouldn't be a bad way to spend a night. We had food, a billion tvs, and some benches to sleep on. They had officially closed but let us stay till the end of the game. Worried by the report that they had stopped plowing because the roads had gotten to dangerous I set out home. I trecked home easily. First off I only live like two blocks away so it wasn't far.  Secondly the streets were all cleared and plowed. Once home I covered the windows with sheets and ate my beef stew. Many others were not so lucky.  Before I went to bed I read that 100 semis were stranded.

They predicted correctly about the temperature.  When I woke up this morning my thermometer read -12.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A New Year and a new plan


Any readers left from my old blog might remember several years ago when I tried to live on $100 for a month.  Well to kick off my year of fiscal responsibility and freeing myself from credit card debt I am doing it again this January. What does living on $100 mean? What will I be paying for?  Obviously, rent and other standard reoccurring bills (mobile phone etc) do not count against the $100. Out of the amount I have to pay for food, entertainment, gas etc.

Just like last year I will be cheating.  I have a bunch of gift cards I got for Christmas. I filled up with gas on the 31st and I have a nice stack of video games to play for entertainment.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

A little birdie told me that the Slackers Guide to Life project might just be restarted.  Stay tuned to this space for more info.