Friday, July 15, 2011

These are real conversations. For real.

"Girls, change the cat litter please sometime today if we have litter, otherwise just sift it."

2 hours later.

"Did you change the litter?"
"Okay. Everything okay?"

1 hour later.

"Hey, i'll be home a bit late today - I rode my bike."
"Okay. Can you pick up cat litter?"
"No, I'm on my bike."
"I rode. My bike. To work."
"Because I wanted to... hey wait. why did you ask about cat litter?"
"Um because um after we dumped the litter and went to refill the litterbox we found out we were out."
"So what's the cat pooping in until we get more litter? and like for the last 3 hours???"
"Uh.... I don't know?"

they must have brain damage. Only logical explanation.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

how to cook a fucking steak.

NY Strip steak (or any good, decently thick cut- talk to your butcher)

heavy oven-safe pan (cast iron if you have it).
paper towels.
Stopwatch or similar.


Bring steak(s) to room temperature on your counter. Yes, it's safe to do that. Seriously. Stop being a pussy. It's fucking steak. You could likely eat it raw every day and never have a problem.

Preheat the oven to about 425-450.

Put your pan on your biggest burner and crank it to medium-high. Let the pan heat to a point where throwing a drop of water on it essentially makes the water disappear before it even hits the surface. Then let it heat some more. Go to high if your stove sucks.

Dry off the steak(s) with a paper towel COMPLETELY. Sprinkle one side VERY generously with salt and freshly ground pepper, patting it in. Using your fingers, pick up the steaks gently and put them, seasoned side down, in the pan. Only cook 2 at a time, and make sure you have lots of room around the steaks. Start your timer. season the side facing up with salt and pepper. Once you hit 2 minutes, use your tongs as gently as possible to flip the steaks. Try to get them right in the same spot they were in. The top side should look SERIOUSLY good.

After another 2 minutes (4 total now), quickly put a bit of butter on each steak and then take the whole pan and put it in the oven. Depending on how hot the oven is and how thick your steaks are, you're looking at 2-4 minutes for medium rare. Once done, take the pan out of the oven and put the steaks on a plate. Cover lightly with aluminum foil and let them SIT for 5 minutes before serving.

Optional: you can use the drippings in the pan to make a KILLER sauce. throw in some finely chopped white onion and garlic (or shallots - even better), then let those saute briefly. Deglaze with a cup of GOOD red wine or so. Oh, and don't believe anyone that says you can cook with crappy wine - good wines reduce into more beautiful sauces, crap wines reduce into bitter and horrible sauces. period. anyone that says anything different is wrong and needs to be set on fire then deglazed with a box of bricks. Let it reduce while stirring and scraping the bottom for the good bits, then pour over the steaks at the table.

Fucking ENJOY.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is an online boutique eyeglass shop that I first noticed from a writeup in some magazine. WP was featured as the "Netflix" of eyeglass companies due to their "try at home" program - you pick up to 5 frames and they'll send them to you, free of charge, to try on. Return those, and either buy a set... or not. No charge. If you pick a pair, the TOTAL for your set of glasses is $95 SHIPPED. Seriously, try to get anything for $95 at Lenscrafters.

You can't. You really, really can't. Not frames AND lenses. Certainly not frames, high-index lenses, and all the coatings you'd want. My high-index prescription alone at Lenscrafters is around $500... and that brings me to the next part about WP: The lenses I've had from WP have been the best, most accurately ground I've ever had. They carry a 1-year scratch warranty, too - if you need the glasses or lenses fixed, they'll send you a UPS label and repair or replace your glasses. No issues at all. Oh, and those frames? Those independently designed and manufactured frames? QUALITY. Seriously, rock solid and beautifully constructed.

All of the above sounds killer and great, but there's one thing that really, really sets them apart from almost every company I've ever dealt with for anything - their customer service. I've had a few dealings with their service department due to a couple of mistakes (one on my end in my original set of glasses and one on their end) and also to handle some questions and warranty service, and they've been incredible. They respond rapidly to make everything right and take responsibility for their product, work, and their reputation.

I can't recommend them highly enough. If you wear glasses, you owe it to yourself to check this company out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

iPad and MiFi 2200 review

Verizon recently sent me an iPad along with a MiFi 2200 wireless hotspot for testing, which were quite the neat little pre-holiday surprise. There are hundreds of iPad reviews online along with the requisite photos and benchmarks, so my focus today is more on the overall ownership experience of the iPad and the flat-out utility of the MiFi 2200, and whether the pricing is something that can be justified in either case.

The wifi-only iPad pricing runs $499 for the 16GB, $599 for the 32GB and $699 for the 64GB versions. If you want 3g service with it (not available through Verizon at the time of review, but apparently will be coming soon according to rumour), you’re paying another $130 on each version. There are no other differences between the models beyond the storage or 3g capabilities.

The MiFi 2200 Verizon sent was a nice surprise. It’s a small wireless hotspot that’s extremely simple to use. The device is a bit wider and longer than a credit card and about as thick as a small cellphone, making it simple to toss into a laptop bag or a coat pocket while on-the-go. Activation is simple with included software and a USB plug, and a charge lasts for around 3-4 hours, depending on how many devices are being used. One of the neat things about the battery life, though, is that if the charge runs low you can just plug it into your USB port on a laptop and it’ll charge while still broadcasting a signal. Despite all that, the pricing might be a bit of a problem in terms of individual use-case scenarios. Verizon charges $269.99 off-contract, $169.99 with 1-year, and $99.99 with a 2-year contract. Monthly data plans are $35, $50, and $80 for 3, 5, and 10GB plans with a service charge of $10 per GB overages. While high for the average end-user, the device might be more attractive to businesses who have traveling employees, especially if they work on teams (such as accounting audit groups).

On a cold Sunday here in Toledo, I took the Mifi and iPad to a local bar without free wifi service to drink some Bloody Marys, eat some fried food, and watch my fantasy football team get destroyed for what seemed like the millionth time in a row. I hit the button on the Mifi to activate, joined the hotspot on the iPad, and the football app on picked up the live data immediately. I had 4 devices connected during the game at times including laptops and my iPhone, and the 3g connection held up beautifully, delivering data at completely acceptable speeds.

So about that iPad.... it’s cool. I like it. It’s fun. But... I have an iPhone 4, which honestly felt more responsive and powerful. The iPad’s screen also is lacking in comparison to the iPhone 4’s retina display, which is something I noticed almost right away and, once I noticed that, made it difficult to NOT notice. One of the promoted uses for the iPad is for book reading - and while books look beautiful on the screen, there are some blocks that make it an unrealistic reading device for me. The screen is a backlit LCD, which makes it useless outside in daylight. It also tends to leave my eyes feeling strained after less than an hour of reading. I can read my Kindle, in comparison, for hours without issue in any lighting conditions (including in the dark thanks to a killer light-integrated case). I also noticed that the form-factor doesn’t lend itself to using for long periods of time. It’s a bit heavy, and the beveled-edge is uncomfortable in my hand after only a few minutes. I found myself reaching my iPhone a lot more when I was sitting on the couch watching TV and wanted to send an email or look something up.

Still, the iPad does have some compelling uses and features. My kids, for example, wouldn’t put it down. They absolutely loved it for all of the reasons kids SHOULD love a cool device - web, facebok, games - they all work very well, and exactly as advertised on the iPad. I think that this illustrates a good use scenario for the iPad - sitting on the coffee table as a family entertainment device. The battery life, also, was incredible - it went for ages on a charge. The kids were sad on the day I sent it back, for sure.

That limited utility brings me back to the price. I would have a very hard time justifying the $499 purchase for myself (for the 16GB version). As an iPhone user, I don’t see enough of a difference to the utlilty and added features to make me feel it’s worthwhile - but my kids loved it. They used it more than I did by far and illustrated what a family device it was.

I am not personally buying an iPad in this iteration - but Apple could nail my purchase with only a few changes. First, the iPad needs a front-facing camera for video-conference / skype capabilities. This would bring my business-use scenarios right into prominence. Second, the form-factor: release a 7-inch iPad and square off the edges like the iPhone 4’s casing, and it will be much easier to use over extended periods. Finally, the display- initially pretty, but next to the “retina display” of the iPhone 4 it feels dated and grainy. Upgrading it to the resolution density of the “retina display” would go a long way to making the iPad even more attractive.

I also think that right now, the tablet market is just starting to explode. We are seeing tablets from almost every major computer and technology manufacturer - mostly running the Android OS. While Android is still very much in development, it’s rapidly maturing and becoming a more interesting platform. I think that buying a tablet of any sort right now might be a mistake unless it’s deeply needed, as the next several months will be bringing some very interesting hardware to market. Also, the next iPad version is (if Apple’s past product release cycles are a predictor) coming this summer, so waiting for that announcement might make sense as well - especially if you’re enamored by the iPad platform already.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Randi comes out

So the incomparable James Randi has come out of the closet. Good for Mr. Randi - that's pretty awesome. It still, surprisingly, takes guts to do that. I'm sure his family, friends, and close professional associates already knew it, but for the general public to know is a much bigger deal in many ways.

I find it saddening that we're here in 2010 and people still find ways to attach importance to sexual preference. It should, in an ideal world, be no big deal...

Last summer, I took my kids to an outdoor mall. As we're walking up to a store I note a couple of teenage boys holding hands and laughing. I point them out to my kids to say "that wouldn't have happened when I was a teenager, how awesome!" and they looked at me like I was nuts. They didn't see anything but two people who enjoyed each others' company on a date to a mall. I was filled with pride and hope for the future of the country when they told me that... but this dissipated rapidly as they tell me stories of other kids in school who still throw racism, sexism, and homophobia around. Still, it's better than it was 20 years ago. Those kids would likely have been harassed at the least, maybe kicked out of the mall, and very likely assaulted by other kids.

The atheist movement can learn a lot from the GLBT movement and James Randi's example. We need to be OUT. We need to be very clear that we're here and growing in numbers. We need to let people know that the people in their neighborhoods are atheists - the lawyers, the construction workers, the bankers, the stay-at-home-moms and dads, the teachers, the police. The GLBT movement has been effective through their OUT campaign in removing much of the stigma of sexual preference and culture. Hopefully the atheist movement can do the same. Letting people know that they KNOW us will help. Taking the time to let people know that not only do we not sacrifice babies (mmm tasty.... NO WAIT) and that we are, in fact, moral and good people will have the same effect. We still might not be able to get an avowed atheist elected president anytime soon, but we can at least get started on that path.

So thank you, James Randi, for being an inspirational figure. I hope we all can learn from your example.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jenny McCarthy is a moron.

You know, sometimes I feel like I might not say things quite clearly enough, so allow me to clarify my title, please... Jenny McCarthy is a clueless, vapid piece of shit that has caused the death and disfigurement of children. She does this by convincing parents that vaccines are dangerous... and what's the backing of her claim? Really? From Time Magazine's interview with her this week, here are her words:
Later, when Oprah read a comment from the CDC stating that the vast majority of the science to date did not support her assertion, McCarthy replied, "My science is Evan. He's at home. That's my science."
Hey Jenny.... here's MY fucking science. FOURTEEN studies which show there is NO LINK between the horrors you describe and vaccines. Here's some science which shows that measles is on the rise. But that won't affect YOUR special kid, right? After all, HE's SCIENCEY! That's SO AWESOME. Oh hey, Jenny! Look, another study showing efficacy and safety! And wait, what's this? Another study??? OH MY GOD!!

See, here's the thing- either Jenny McCarthy is right, because she learned it from her son who has some sort of vague issues that aren't really well defined, or she's full of shit and a complete fucktard. I tend to believe it's likely to be the latter of the two choices, personally. I don't think there's much room for it to be anything else.

See, science works like this, Jenny: hypothesis -> testing -> evaluation -> did it work? If yes, RETEST WITH LARGER SAMPLES. -> if no, start over. if yes, RETEST AGAIN WITH INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION AND PUBLISH. -> can your results be replicated and do they hold up to peer scrutiny? If yes, continue on this line of research. If no, START OVER.

Or.... we could try option B, which is... your son. Who is kinda weird. And maybe not very smart... but you're acting surprised by that? YOU ARE A FUCKING MORON. What did you expect, that you'd have Einstein for a kid?

I can't think of many other celebrities with a verifiable body count. I guess Jenny has that going for her.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Dear Christians: Stop making yourself look bad. Please.

From what I can tell, the Christian News Wire is a pretty well-respected (in Christian circles anyway) news aggregator for all things... well, Christian. And that's all fine and good- there seem to be some interesting stories linked from the front page, including some nice human interest ones, something about divorce support... and then there's this little gem of a news release.

Basically, the entire article states that Obama's not a Christian. Yeah, this again. He's a secret Muslim set out to destroy us, see, and his belief in the evil and barbaric Koran will somehow cause this country to burst into flames because he doesn't believe in the Jesus guy. Or something.

Oh hell, here... have some tasty tidbits.
The President covered up a white cross and a symbol for the name of Jesus at a Georgetown University speech.
Yeah, there's this little troubling thing... about the separation of Church and State... and uh... the office of the Presidency shouldn't be showing ANY kind of religious affiliation. When giving a speech as the President of the United States, a SECULAR COUNTRY, he's absolutely right to cover that cross up.

President Obama did not publicly celebrate the National Day of Prayer at the White House yet celebrated Gay and Lesbian Pride Month as well as Islamic religious observations at the White House.
I find it refreshing that Obama stopped the politicization of Christianity that had become so common in the Bush White House, personally. And I'm not sure what the pride month has to do with anything. Is it anti-Christian to celebrate diversity or acknowledge that people can have love even with others of their own sex, or is that one of those things which doesn't fall under the "Judge not lest ye be judged" thing?

In the midst of the worst economic downturn in decades, Team Obama spent $150, 000,000 on the Presidential Inauguration ignoring the needs of the poor and struggling across the country.
Uhhh... flat-out lies. Not even an inaccuracy. According to Fact Check's research, "it appears likely that his inauguration will not cost significantly more than Bush’s second inauguration, and could conceivably cost less after adjusting for inflation." Oh, and also? Inaugurations are paid for by private donations to a fund specifically setup for that. Same way it's always been done.

"It is important to note that it was President Obama who made his regular church attendance and the importance of a local church community a major part of his campaign. He stated in the national press that he, 'regularly attends church while on the campaign trail.'
Uhhh... he DID attend regularly, until his church was excoriated in the media from a hypersensitive (and very white) audience who don't understand how black churches tend to work, with very fiery preachers throwing a lot of very extreme hyperbole around to make points. Maybe he learned a lesson about keeping his religious views.... private?

Finally, the White House has said they have not found a church home for President Obama and his family in Washington, D.C. because they do not want to be a disruptive factor for the local church. This is a completely disingenuous and misleading argument. The overwhelming majority of churches in the Washington would love to have the President and his family attend their church and would welcome them with open arms.
EXCEPT... he has stated that he prefers to worship privately. In his home. Without media spectacles and distractions.

It's this sort of stuff that makes me shake my head. How dare he celebrate gay pride month?? How DARE he allow any sort of Islamic observance into a White House that has for many years done... exactly that?

Personally, I'd be happy if the presidency treated religion as something COMPLETELY taboo for public office. Believe what you want in the privacy of your home, or your church - but when you work for a country as the employee of Hindus, Jews, Atheists, Christians, Muslims, B'hai, and every other faith in the country, you need to set your own fantasies aside. Any endorsement of religion by the presidency - even something as small as having a cross on a podium where you're lecturing - is a violation, in my opinion. I find it absolutely refreshing to see a president who doesn't sound like he works for the Taliban, personally.