Thursday, November 29, 2012

Going Down the Mouth of the Dragon (GDTMD).

A friend, after I mocked him for doing something risky, responded quite calmly and confidently, "hey, gotta down the mouth of the dragon."

This, of course, blew me away. The simplicity and wisdom of the phrase shut me up immediately. I had no comeback for this. I walked into the other room. No more words were ever discussed about it. I understood where he was coming from and I had complete and total respect for that approach.

Recently, I may have gone down the mouth of the dragon, and for now, dare I jinx myself, it seems as though I will be okay. I won't explain what I did, because this is a family blog, but I assure you wasn't very prudent. Generally, when we make decisions to go down the mouth of the dragon, we aren't in our right mind. We're either bored or stressed out. In most cases it's an "in the moment" decision. Might even be impulsive.

Sometimes one needs to GDTMD strictly to come out the other end. Some people don't come out the other and will stuck in the belly. The decision can ruin a life, or make it. Make no mistakes, it's not all glory, but when you make the decision, the consequences seem non existent.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Private Clubs ~ then & now.

There was lots of, what seemed to be, economic diversity where I came from regarding my neighborhood and private grade school. The differences seemed to be a lot more contrasting than they are now. Generally speaking, those who I associate with now, tend to be in my humble income bracket, though I think I'm at the lower end of the average. There are exceptions.

Everyone in my family seemed to be still influenced by the great depression. Cash always seemed tight, bedrooms were cold, as heat was turned down, and barely ever did we eat out as a family. No one really knew how tight things were, or even if they were, but you got the impression things could go under at any moment. This is probably more of a result of anxiety that was nicely passed down to me and one of many reasons why I'd never start a family.

We lived close to housing projects, though I had many friends who were quite well off and had a different approach from our own. Many of these people joined clubs and I had a few friends that were members of such things. This was the 1980s and were, or I was, a wanna-be prep boy so these things seemed quite appealing and while I didn't lose sleep over this, at times I thought it'd be great if our family were members, even though we had no business setting foot into such places.

The first place I remember, I won't mention the name, was just a pool and tennis court club and a decent sized building to change, shower, get snacks, etc. No golf course. It was fenced in and in a decent neighborhood, though near train tracks. Looking back, it didn't seem very elitist, though I was surprised to find out they had a rule that you couldn't play tennis topless (for guys). Not that I ever wanted to play topless, the rule just seemed weird and authoritarian at that time. The fees weren't outrageous, I just checked the site, but maybe it lacked diversity. I have a hard time thinking that that was their policy, but who knows. People who belonged here seemed to all have a similar vibe, upper middle class and white, most probably listened to NPR and voted democrat.

Then there was another club. Others, from another part of town joined this one. One family would join than another would follow. This place was on the river and involved boating, or at least you would think so by the name (again, I won't mention the name). The few people I knew in this club didn't own boats but I guess they wanted to surround themselves around people that owned boats. I got invited once or twice and from what I remember, it had a big dirt parking lot, the tennis courts were on the other side of the property, and the swimming pool was just a swimming pool. There were boats docked in the water I think. I vaguely remember the boats. I remember it being sort of a hot spot for assholes to hang and get drunk and instill that type of faux elitism on their shallow children.

In truth and at the time, in my tiny adolescent brain, both of these places did seem cool. That is, from the outside, on the surface. And, there was a mild disappointment that we weren't apart of such things. But the disappointment didn't last very long and even then the whole scene seemed to be pretty transparent and even annoying and not my thing. Not our thing. It worked out alright to be unrefined, freezing in my bedroom, and eating tacos with hard shells involving seasoning packets on ground meat.

Our unspoken silent war against the excesses and exclusivity of private clubs came to an end in the early 90s when my parents decided to join the Jewish Community Center. While this establishment certainly wasn't on the same level (in regards to snobbishness) as those two places mentioned previously, the JCC did have nice facilities and a decent ping pong table. Think of it as an upscale YMCA if you're not familiar. I think we were members for a year. I used the ping pong tables a couple times then stopped going. It would've been a great resource for staying in shape and meeting people outside my limited circle but I was far too introverted back then to extend myself.

Currently, I'm a member of one private club and this is the Kutztown Fire Company (I've written about it before). This place is beautiful in that it's old school as hell,  cozy, and lacks any kind of "I'm better than you" attitude. It's a place my grandparents could've been members of. It's comfortable. It's true.

My critique of the first two clubs were done in a way to capture my mood about them as a child. It goes without saying people like to rub elbows with people they feel are like minded or on the same level. We need not waste time thinking about the morality of such endeavors or who's smaller minded than the next. That should be left behind with other youthful inclinations. Know where you're at and what you like apart from any titles, groups or status symbols and the blessings will flow.

!(<3 have a good toosdee <3)!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Budgeting/From the 3rd Floor Kitchen of Dainty Bones

Well, it took me 36 years of existence in this painful world to make serious economic decisions regarding my budget. I've been in this apartment for over a year now, and my rent has doubled. This has caused me some financial woes during the end of the month. When I say financial woes, I'm not comparing myself to people at the poverty level, I'm referring to 30-something professionals who are too undisciplined with their cash, leading to light starvation, and the selling off of various items to pawn shops every now and then to afford gas. I'm well aware my problems are small and I'm in no way making myself out to be a victim of this shitty shitty as it is. I'm really quite well. Dare I say content. For now.

What have I done?
Pretty much just one thing. Cutting out going out (Yeah, big surprise). I'm enjoying that cozy apartment I'm spending more on, and entertaining myself through Netflix, and other (clean) Internet sites, streaming channels and sports events, lectures on philosophy and economics, and what have you. If you will.

It's no secret I like going out. I like the local vibe in this town, there are good people here. Some bad. Mostly good. I like eating out a lot too. I like good food. More than anything, I like a good meal. Food, drink and socializing are what make me happy. Food, drink and socializing can also cost a lot.

So, I only drink if I'm at a bar with people. They call that social drinking. That's now gone (or reduced). I do miss the socializing, that's gone too (or reduced). But, I could substitute that desire to interact with the people with a desire to interact with various cooking ingredients and spices, and create some good food that is both cheap and healthy, but most importantly, tastes good. I'm very picky with food, let it be known.

What have I been eating that's both cheap and yummo ~ What I like?
1) Homemade Pizza-
A decent sized ball of dough may cost a dollar, if that, and I can get four or five awesome pizzas from it. I've been doing the Pesto thing a lot now, and I'm too lazy to make it. I can get a jar of that stuff for under 3 bucks which is good for 2 pizzas. My dough is top shelf (thanks to a recipe I stole from a friend). I'm eating just as good as those at an Italian restaurant, and clearly my pizza is better than that college shit they sell in this town.

2) Omelets
I eat a lot of eggs. I make omelets, usually with just mushrooms and/or peppers. Cheap and filling. Good protein. I usually add some cumin in there as well as other secret spices.

3) Beef Smoked Sausage (Hillshire Farms)
It's very similar to Kielbasa though made of all beef. Yeah, it's corporate highly processed beef but fry them up, till the skin is crispy (with a little grape seed oil), add a chipotle, a bit of a habenaro, half an onion (sauteed), and red bell pepper (sauteed), with a little Asian mustard powder ~ then put it all on a bun, and you'll be in a good place. No joke.

4) Ramen
Most people know about Ramen, but I think few push it to its limits. If you're not afraid of a little MSG, then start by frying up some mushrooms, bell pepper, shredded carrots, and meat if you got any. I usually put Sriracha and a little peanut oil in the mix. I then add the water and make the soup. When the soup and veggies and noodles are all cooked, I end with an egg and top it with a green onion at the very end. Quite cheap and filling.

5) Chili
Chili is making a comeback with me, and I can see this meal being a good friend during cold Pennsylvania nights. Have some fun with it though. Most decent grocery stores now have a decent array of dried chili peppers from the southwest. Buy a few, and grind them up, and put them in the mix along with the other standard ingredients. I prefer adding a beef stock and flour to make it all thick. A large pot of this stuff can go faster than you think. And it's economical.

These are just some of my food choices I make at home, and when these get perfected, you can move onto something else. I've been experimenting with Hot'n'Sour soup too, among other things, and if I get that down, I'll put it up. But you will become a better person, and cash won't be as tight, if you decide to eat out less and perfect a few dishes and make them irresistible. (Otherwise, why bother)

((Another big budgeting decision I made was to get a really cheap cell phone, which I wrote about almost two weeks ago, check that out if you care.))

So, gone are the days of fear and panic when I see my balance running low. Instead of being a time of worry, it's now an occasion for opportunity, creativity and adventure in the kitchen. This is to the benefit of the mind and body (and soul). Yeah, it's cliche, but there are really infinite possibilities, spice combinations, ingredients and approaches. Options and choices are always something to be valued and utilized to their furthest potential as you see fit for your own tastes. You're in charge of your own kitchen. Live it up and save some cash in the process, and maybe you'll have something to offer your friends and community.


(disclaimer: These blog posts are not intended or designed to pass on any hidden or secret or profound knowledge, just an honest discussion of where I'm at and what I'm doing. You may find this to be completely unoriginal and uninteresting and that's perfectly fine. Though, they are written with a heartfelt truth and honestly about the things I'm into at this stage. If they are of no use to you, please move on to the next blogger or feel free to comment in the comment section. To each his own.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Friday Afternoon ~ IPhones.Twinkies.Tits Up.

Got a late start to my Friday as usual (Hit it hard the night before). This would be a day to run errands. Started and ended at Radio Shack and scored an excellent cheap cell phone (and plan), since my Sprint plan is done, and I found the IPhone to be a complete waste of money for my lifestyle. From Radio Shack, I went to AT&T to cancel my IPhone plan, and that was quick and painless, really no questions asked. From there I crossed the street and ran into some heads at Wegman's but we'll get to that later.

First and foremost though, not to shit on anything, but the IPhone is completely overrated. My Sprint plan ran out and switched to AT&T because they could give me an IPhone for one dollar while locking me into a ridiculous plan. After tax and fees it came to $107 and some change.

What are you getting:

-A Map
What self respecting American male uses a map or GPS in the first place? WTF.
(sidenote: there are no self respecting American males anymore we've all been feminized and trained to suck off of the government's tit, and anyone actually trying to accomplish anything is seen as either greedy or aggressive...)
-Photo Filters
I get all that on Photoshop, I don't need to snap pictures every fucking second. WTF. Not everything is a goddamn moment.
Fuck the games using the Touchscreen, if you really need games to kill time with a gadget than you're an idiot, learn how to converse with people and enjoy your environs.
So what, I can probably check that on the cheap piece of shit phone if I upped the plan by $10/month
I have an IPod, I have a 1961 Victrola Tube Record Player, and I have a doesn't need to be on my phone.
-Facebook anytime!
The Facebook experience is drastically diminished on the IPhone, for optimal FB usage you need a padded deskchair, and a full size screen - with a jug of green jasmine tea and stuffed grape leaves at your side.
Aside from that, I hated the way the thing felt. I wanted to love this thing a lot, really, I did, and I love Mac computers, but this thing didn't do anything for me, in relation to the monthly payments. I was not blown away in the least. To AT&T's credit they give you 14 days to opt out of the plan, it took five hours to realize what I needed to do. The Radio Shack people hooked me up with Virgin LoPay and now I pay $30/month. And that's how I spent part of my Friday afternoon.
I quickly transitioned into one of my favorite Friday rituals, given it's a payday Friday, and staggered through the aisles of Wegmans looking and feeling like a warn out jackass. Two gentlemen from the Allentown Morning Call stopped me near the international foods section to ask me what I thought of Twinkies/Hostess going under. I was still pulling it together at this point and was caught off guard so I really didn't have any pearls of wisdom or deep memories of Twinkies. I mostly mumbled that I wasn't losing any sleep over this, and that it was business. They snapped about five photos which I'm sure are absolutely asinine. Since then I haven't seen anything on their site, and I don't know if I got into the paper. I'm not losing any sleep over this.
I was in the parking lot, loading my car, when a middle aged gentleman started complaining about how crowded Wegman's was, and I asked him if he ran into the Morning Call people. That provided a smooth change of topic into the Twinkie downfall. He went off on the unions, the election, and the country. He was unemployed, and told me I'd probably have to work until I was seventy because entitlements are going bankrupt (I didn't disagree on that). Like most Americans, he wasn't happy with the government, but unlike me, the direction of his anger was only focused on a small part of the problem, Barack Obama, of course. I feel sorry for those who don't quite have all the answers and political knowledge that I do. You know, those who stick to the same beliefs on which they were raised on, without honestly evaluated both sides. Lacking in principles, morality and logic. I'm so glad I'm not like that. I was polite, and tried to find agreement, instead of disagreement.
On my drive home, I had one more stop, a return trip to Radio Shack to activate my account. I like handling these things in person. That's an ole school approach. Things got activated and I was so delighted with my shit phone and fiscal responsibility for once. I ended up making myself a homemade pesto pizza and rested well, before the wild n crazy Lehigh Valley nightlife was to snatch me up again.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Over 3 Months with the Mazda3 5-door/Skyactive

I'll never be in a functioning relationship with any sort of woman, but I do have a car. And this car is now three months old, if you've been following my blog, as I know everyone does in a devout serious manner. Three months is a decent time period, I think, to give an honest critique of the situation, from a non car expert.

Driving this car is a pretty pleasant, but it's not perfect, and there are minor things that bug me, if I'm to give an honest assessment.

Let's start with the good.
First, the gearbox is great - not that I have much experience with a manual, but it does shift quite easily. It handles fine, like any Mazda should, and that was a main selling point for me. I enjoyed driving the last one I had, and felt good control of the road Unfortunately with this base model, it doesn't come with the more sporty tires and you can feel the difference. If I decide to pimp this thing out, wheels will be the first change. I do enjoy the looks of the newer models, but not sure if I prefer it to the older one that I had. Some people have a big problem with the huge Mazda smile but I'd say it has more of a badass look whereas the first Mazda3's were a little softer looking though with slight strong tank vibe.

It's super excellent on gas mileage, I'm spending much less/week than I did with the '04 model. It's a lighter car and has less power and this thing they call SkyActive which is supposed to help with all that. And it does.


Now some negatives.
The interior is comfortable, and maybe a bit better ergonomically designed, at least for my body, but the radio is cheap. This is because I got the low end model. I'm okay with cheapness though, and I've never really cared for the touch screen displays they have going on in many other cars - I like real buttons, even if they are cheap and plasticky.

I don't care for the slightly spaceship vibe it has going on in the interior, the previous models were more square-ish, though it does look lovely cruising around at night. It also displays your current MPG, which can be fun to look at if you're not eating food or sexting on your droid. The speedometer and tackometer are nice to look at, with a blue-ish feel. They're more calming than the old bright red lights thing they had going on, which slightly reminded me of the streets and alleyways of Amsterdam at night. Which isn't bad either.

The biggest problem I have with this car is that it appears to be sort of weak/sluggish when you pull out from a stop. Maybe that's related to the fuel economy thing, I do not know. The '04 model had more power and you can feel that difference - but that was also an automatic. Once it gets goin' it's great and fun, even for a lame pussy driver like me. I can pretend I'm a racecar driver, though this thing isn't gonna win any drag races - you'll enjoy throwing it around the bends.

((I think 0-60 is 8.5 seconds.))

Happy Ending.
Even before considering the rebates I did get with this car, it was/is ranked pretty high in it's class and I understand why. Other cars I were considering were the Scion xD, Ford Focus (hatch) and the Volkswagen Golf, but due to time, and the models they had in the lot, I wasn't able to try them out, and I'm okay with that. The Mazda came out cheaper after trade-in and rebates than the others. I'm pretty confident I made the correct choice considering all the variables involved.

Anyone looking for something with cargo space, good fuel economy, decent styling and great handling should at least test drive this thing. You might be moved by it in a special way.

Nike Air Trainer 1

I was in the mall, as I sometimes am during my afternoon and I always go into shoe stores and look at the various styles of tennis shoes, or sneakers as they call 'em out here. To my surprise, I spotted the old Nike Air Trainer 1. Not the first shoe I fell in love with, but one of the first, I waited literally 7 months, calling shoe stores in the greater Pittsburgh area to see if they had a kid's size (this was in the late 1980s). Then one dreary afternoon, in a Pittsburgh mall, I spotted them in kid's sizes at a foot locker, just when I was about to give up.

They were the coolest looking shoe at the time. So cool my one buddy went out and bought a pair for himself immediately, of course his were red, not as cool as the green I chose. I used these shoes for everything, and I felt more complete with them on. At the time, it was a pretty new style and approach to shoes. I think John McEnroe wore them as well.

Through the years, I've changed brands here and there, and sometime in mid to late 90s I told myself I'd never wear Nikes again, but these throwbacks have me thinking twice, however the price is outrageous, as is expected.

Are these ugly or cool?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Office Emotion

There's many characters in the workplace. You got your thespians, authoritarians, team players, slackers, and jackasses that remain annoyingly positive, uttering every meaningless word or phrase for the most disgusting kind of enthusiasm. These people make my skin crawl.

I've wondered a lot about these folks (the extremely positive ones), and I'm sure these people pass me off as a sloppy creep who is miserable most of the time. I have theories. I think a lot of them, and I'm generalizing (cause I enjoy generalizing) were through something really rough or tragic, and to keep moving and living life in a functional way, they've forced themselves into this happy face. Most people are oblivious to these masks that they wear, but I'm not. I sensitive to it. I see it and try to avoid it at mostly all costs. I don't understand it. I come from a long line of angry depressed miserable Germans with bone pain and problems. Don't bring that shit around me.

When I encounter these people, they can sense that I sense what's going on. There's an unspoken understanding between me and them. I leave them alone and they leave me alone. It's completely written on my face and how I carry myself that I shit on everything positive and that I have no time for your cliches. You ask me how I'm doing. I say, "One day at a time," and get on with it.

Their positivity is almost insulting to a chap like me. It doesn't come across as genuine. The only people I'm really interested in talking to ever, are those I can discuss my sordid past with, or make poop jokes with, otherwise, don't waste my energy. I understand that there is workplace protocol and I follow it to a "T" by mumbling my brief cliches and moving forward, limping ahead, most likely with my head down.

Fortunately for me, there are only a couple people around here that I can apply this too. Most people keep to themselves and don't degrade me with their "created" perpetual bliss.

((please feel free to comment if you've encountered such people in your own environs))

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Night with Dainty Bones.

I worked until 8pm lastnight, which was election night. Fortunately, I was already suffering from a serious cold and had no energy to go out and follow this year's coverage. I really had nobody in the race and cared little for who won. Instead of being  a positive soul and supportive of most of my friends who were quite happy with the Obama victory I decided to keep quiet and partially shit on their enthusiasm. If it weren't for my sickness, I probably would've been worse. But I wasn't at all disappointed that Romney lost, the guy is a creep. Sadly, his opponent is a creep too.

Lastnight and today even people were rejoicing. Some were even still posting things like pro-choice memes as if Romney was going to reverse Roe vs. Wade and that Obama was the ultimate protector of women's bodies and rights (God forbid you're an Afghan woman in the way bombing attack though - but that doesn't matter - lesser of 2 evils, right?). I'd probably better understand this if it were the 80s or 90s but these things have been well decided and any hyperfocusing/obsession over this topic is irrational and a distraction from far greater crimes and injustices going on around the world in the name of the this president and the one before him. Whatever makes people feel good I guess. Somehow other liberties get pushed to the wayside.

The lesser of two evils seems to be the thinking behind everything political these days. Turn out was lower, I believe, and I'd like to think it was because of Ron Paul's people sitting it out. That's what I did. It will be interesting to see what happens if things really get worse, as they have been, which is what I'm fully expecting barring a miracle of some sort. I'm curious to see if the approach will be more QE's and intervention, which will equal inflation. Look at your food prices already.

As we continue to go on this same path of irresponsibilty we might ask. Who will be the successor to the Peace/Anti-Fed/Free Market movement that Dr. Paul started, and will the GOP finally scrap the Wall Street/Neo-con/Religious Right coalition that is largely responsible for our current problems and their last two crushing defeats to a poor opponent with a lame agenda.

For now, the ACLU and the anti-war left will take another four year break (I stole that from a friends FB status).

F### the idealists.