Saturday, November 29, 2008

I'm just doing the neutron dance

So I was in sunny Buffalo, NY this past Saturday for my good friend's wedding. If you are unfamiliar with the City of Buffalo, here is the highlight reel:
  • Second largest city in New York.
  • Had a population of around 580,000 people in 1950
  • Currently has a population of around 270,000.
  • The city got screwed when they routed the St. Lawrence Seaway around it, thus cutting it out of the commercial traffic.
Buffalo is like the Detroit of the Northeast. I am staying at the Hyatt, which is the largest hotel in the city. It's a little long in the tooth, and in their defense they are starting a guest room renovation campaign. But the hotel doesn't have to, nor does it, try that hard. The Pittsburgh Penguins stayed here last night. Fox Sports is here for the Bills game tomorrow. They basically have the market as no other major chain is going to build a new large hotel here with the amenities.

I'm currently paying 12 bucks for a sandwich at the hotel bar, which annoys me being that I'm frugal. On the upside, it's Beef on Weck, which is a Buffalo specialty. The bread is kimmelweck, a German bread that has salt on it and is quite tasty. So I take solace in the fact that's it is a good sandwich.

You might be asking yourself, "Why the hell are you eating in the hotel bar? Go out and help the local economy. I was an urban studies major in college, so I believe deeply in helping urban centers. However, when I walk outside the hotel this is what I see:This is Main St. They apparently closed it to vehicular traffic years ago and installed a light rail. This is a decent idea when you have a really bustling downtown and parking is an issue. In Buffalo however, parking is not an issue. And as the City of Poughkeepsie found out, when you have a pedestrian mall that is sparsely visited, people stay away. A lack of people on the streets doesn't seem safe to most people. There are studies done that show the greater proximity you are to other people, even if they're strangers, the safer you feel. As evidenced by the photo, it looks post-apocalyptic.

I will post more photos in a little bit

Thursday, November 27, 2008


So this Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks for two things.
  1. The internet Gods have seen fit to grace this very small town in upstate New York with high-speed internet. And my parents for having the strength and forethought to install it so that I might come up here more often.
  2. My friends and family. Edna Buchanan said "Friends are the family you choose." I have chosen very well if I do say so myself. If you can judge yourself by the company you keep, then this day I am truly thankful.
Hope everyone has a turkey coma.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Day of Community Service

So today I spent time with my Little, Carlton. I think I've talked about him before. In case not, I do Big Brothers. I've been matched with Carlton for about 2.5 years. Yeah I know. He's 11. He has Asperger's, which most people now seem to know something about. It's a high functioning autism. So he's really into certain things like the commuter rail or TV. He is a marketer's dream. I had to eat at Dunkin Donuts for three months straight due to their dumb ass flatbread sandwich promotion. He's also not the best with the social cues and he gets distracted easily. This led to problems early on in the match when we would drive an hour to get somewhere, and he'd want to leave 10 minutes into it. It's gotten a little better.

I called him a few days ago and asked what he wanted to do. The conversation went something like this:
G: Hey Carlton, what do you want to do on Sunday? We could hit up the Museum of Science.
C: Umm. I don't know.
G: We could grab a movie also.
G: So...the museum? Or maybe bowling?
C: We've already gone bowling.
G: I know pal, but we've been together for two and a half years so there's a good chance we might be doing something more than once.
G: So we could do the museum? Maybe shoot pool?
C: Muuhfgdfgsdf
G: You want to shoot pool.
C: Yeah.
G: Great. See you at 1.

So I picked him up and asked where he wanted to go to eat. That's how I found myself at McDonald's in Somerville. We both got the #1, but he got the Large size. The Big Mac seemed to shrink as I got older. It wasn't that big in my hands. As a kid, that sandwich was huge. Now it seems like of small. There was a website on the side of the box where I found this gem. I like how the guy's not wearing gloves. Also, I'll trust Fast Food Nation over the website.

Following this, we went to play pool. There's the place in Somerville that's a throwback to the 50's. Sacco's Bowl Haven. Even the name is awesome. We strolled in there and started a game of pool. I brought my new Nikon to take photos. I was trying to show Carlton how to shoot pool. He was more interested in the camera. All I could think of was his french fried fingers all over the lens. As I predicted, he tired of pool about 8 minutes into the game. Good news is that the Bowl Haven will cut the hourly rate in half, if you happen to bring in a kid who can't concentrate on anything longer than a minute.

We grabbed a coffee and a hot chocolate. He put cream in his hot chocolate and I swear I could hear his arteries hardening. One day I have this fear that I'm going to be walking down the street and some guy is going to kick me in the groin. And as he's standing over me, rolling on the ground, he'll say "I'm Carlton's Primary Care Physician. What the hell were you thinking?" I'll just grimace and realize I deserved that.

Then we went to get my car washed. Not in the actual car wash where you put the vehicle in neutral and it automatically washes, waxes and dries. No, the kind with the bays and the high pressure hoses where you put the tokens in and do it yourself.

This seemed like a good idea.

It was about 28 degrees today. Carlton has this incredible ability to spray the water on me and not the car. And then he's yelling at me that we have 1 minute left and the car is still covered in soap. So I sprinted around the car trying to rinse it all off and the water cuts off just after I finish. I pry my frozen digits off the handle of the pressure washer and just sit in the car soaked, shivering and staring at my lifeless hands. He then wants to know where to next.

Then my friends we went to the library. I forgot how much I loved the library. Good books, quiet people reading, some smelly sleeping old people. But they have everything. I picked up 1776 and the Lonely Planet guide to Croatia. Libraries are indeed awesome places that are truly deserving of our tax dollars. It also enabled me to thaw out. Thank you Somerville Public Library.

And then I took Carlton home. 3.5 hours of concentrated mayhem. I love it. If you're interested at all, Big Brothers is always looking for Bigs. Check out this site. Big Brothers and Big Sisters

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just because you have the right....

Sweet Jesus.

Proving that while we all have the right to vote, perhaps some of us might want to read a damned pamphlet or something before heading down to the local polling place.

Not so bling

So on Friday I went to get some cash out of the machine and found that I only had around $205 dollars in my checking account, which when you add it to my savings means that I've got about $613. This means, that unlike the man pictured below, I am having some current liquidity issues.

My friends, I'm not broke. I am putting plenty of money away in the state's deferred comp plan which is good. Especially if you like flushing money down the drain. I swear that I'm going to open my statement from them one day soon and find a bill. I wonder if our fund manager has put all of our money into cash. Though knowing the state, it's probably in Zimbabwean Dollars, which the current rate is 1 USD to 22,410,101,039,302,100 ZWD. No joke. Look it up. Try and buy a candy bar there without an armored car. Impossible. How could you buy an armored car?
Wait for it....

I think I just blew your mind.

So I went to Costco this weekend to buy paper goods and razor blades and a Bond DVD. First of all, my shopping cart alone is probably 10 acres of rain forest. I felt really bad. But do you know how much razor blades cost? Yes, I have the Gillette Fusion. And yes, it's as good as the Mach 4, and yes that was just as fine as the Mach 3. But you try and find Mach 3 blades.

$40 for 16 blades? Are you kidding me? It's not like Heidi Klum is shaving me. Or as if each blade lasts for like 1 month. This my friends is known in business circles as "loss-leader" marketing. You sell the razor for cheap, knowing you're going to hose them on the blades. And it works like a charm. I also have come to loathe companies like HP who give away inkjet printers only to soak me on the ink. Some guy suggested buying razors on Ebay. And looking there, there do appear to be some deals, so maybe my cheap ass should check the internet more often.

Enjoy the holiday if you have it off tomorrow. Whether you do or don't, remember to thank a veteran, for doing what many of us are to chickenshit to do.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What President Obama will bring....

So with the election being over, and history being made, I found some videos that some of you may have seen. I saw the speech on Tuesday night and I will admit that there were some tears. I think the history of it, plus a speech that was poignant combined to make a powerful moment in history.

Now in this video, I'm sure the woman meant that with Obama in office, times will be better and and she will find it easier to pay her financial obligations. I'm sure however that conservatives, freshly stung from the McCain loss, might have a different view. I'm sure some of my friends are right now nodding and saying they knew it.

And this clip addresses that new outlook in a world with Obama, and the worst fears realized for the conservatives. Very well done. Enjoy the weekend people.
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Monday, November 03, 2008

My Brain is Bleeding

I'm sitting in grad school class and I am secretly hoping someone bombs the building I'm in. This is the class where I get read to like a 5 year old. I find it easily worth 3 grand a class. On the upside, it's hot in here and I might fall asleep soon.

I like grad school. Or I did when I began 2.5 years ago. Full of vigor and energy. Wanted to shake my brain free of the cobwebs. (If I look up and stop typing every once in a while, the professor thinks I'm taking notes. HAAA!) It turns out there are probably more cobwebs in my brain now than there were.

Most of the people in this class are pretty good. However there are some who I think have no one to speak to all week long until they get to grad school. They just prattle on and on with little to nothing relevant to the class they are in. It's these kids that annoy me. Because they are mostly kids. Most adults here, and I'd put myself in that category, are paying for this course and as such have the decency to keep relevant comments on the table.

See there he is...the kid to the left of me keeps his hand raised for like 20 minutes. All social convention would tell you to lower your hand. But not this kid. Now he's prattling on about Republican government. And Congress. And Tom Delay. No one cares. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! I wish I could use my mind to make his head explode. Now he's quoting Farenheit 9/11. I think he probably talks to himself in the mirror a lot. Probably used to touch himself more than your average bear too.

I weep on the inside.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Lone Star Thoughts

So I recently returned from a week of training in College Station,Texas. It was really good training on incident management. I won't bore you with the details, but incident management is basically the system used since the 70's to control wildland fires in California. So when you visit Southern California and its not a pile of embers, you should thank the Incident Command System. If you want to bore the hell out of yourself, you can go here for more info.

Some thoughts:
  • As I was driving to Logan Airport, I drove passed a billboard that I couldn't understand. WHOCANISUE? I didn't quite get it. Until I went to the website. How repelling is this concept? The website will allow you to plug in things that have happened and will then allow lawyers to call you who will offer to sue the crap out of anyone. Because remember, nothing is your fault. It's all the responsibility of someone else. And you can get money from them.
  • The flight down was pretty uneventful. Except for the fact that I got to ride in one of these. This my friends is a Continental Saab 340. A 2 turboprop beauty that seats around 40 people. Quite uncomfortable and super loud.
  • My first night down there I ate dinner at a place called Cheddar's. They had a chicken alfredo dish that was the size of my head for $5 bucks. Texas might be the only place where my salary is actually a living wage.
  • As usual, the people I got meet down there were the best part of the trip. A fire chief from suburban Chicago, some awesome firefighters from Burbank, CA and a sheriff's deputy from a county in Ohio. Good times and good laughs, and a bunch of stand-up guys.
  • We went out our final night to a bar called Dixie Chicken for food. Pitchers of beer were $5 and bottles were $2. It was the kind of place that had a sign proclaiming that fighting was punishable by a $300 fine. Oh yeah. We followed that with a trip to Hurricane Harry's, a country bar/club. This is where I saw the 2-step in full force. Hundreds of couples, in costume, dancing the 2-step. It was very different. Much slower than I'm used to.
  • I met a woman whose leanings were so far right that she was almost left. Her husband was dressed as Obama Hood (Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.) I enjoyed that were were different and could talk. Until she mentioned that she hated Fox News because it was too liberal. She wished it was 100% conservative as opposed to 97.5% I guess. I was pretty sure we had nothing to talk about after those words left her lips.
And now I'm back home in Beantown. Currently watching an awful movie called P2, which apparently exclusively takes place on the second level of a NYC office building parking garage. It immediately opened up with more plot holes than Howard the Duck. It pains me even to keep watching. This movie is awful.