Saturday, November 3, 2012

Most appropriately named diner

Last night we met a friend at the Omega Restaurant in Schaumburg, Illinois. It reminded me of my beloved Gregg's in Rhode Island - diner-ish chain restaurant with multi-generational patrons. It was delightful - we arrived at 6 and it was full of senior citizen finishing their late dinners. The bread basket was the size of a huge Easter basket. And the up-charge to add onion rings to my dinner was 75 cents.

The clientele was in their 70s and up (as was our kindly waitress). And here's where the name comes in. "Omega" is the last letter in the Greek alphabet, and traditionally means "the end." So a restaurant full of elderly folk is called "The End?"

Couldn't be. Must be a coincidence. So I asked the hostess what was going on with the name, and she said that it was indeed named after the Greek letter. "It means that this is the end of your journey to find a great restaurant," she said.

I guess this place could indeed be the end of your culinary journey - in more ways than one.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What is useful knowledge?

From the strictest sense, the only real useful knowledge is that which can prolong my life and protect my family. In the 21st century, that includes:
  • Job skills (for economic reasons, and the ability to provide food,  shelter and gummi bears)
  • Budgeting skills (to safeguard the items above)
  • Healthy lifestyle (avoiding drugs, smoking, too many KFC Double Downs)
  • Safety (locking doors, not letting a chimp drive my car, not hanging out in DC's NE side after 8 p.m.)
  • Emotional well-being (to maintain my relationship and my own happiness, which maintains all of the above)
From a less black-and-white perspective, what is useful is more difficult to decide. As a news junkie, former journalist and obsessive reader, my take on knowledge can be summed up as this: more is better. The more you know, the more you can make informed decisions, talk to people about things that matter to them, and understand the world around you. But there's another side to knowledge - whether it has a practical application or not.
I've been following the 2012 election with great interest, and through multiple news sources, throughout every day. I want to know the polls, the newest development, how weather will affect early voting, etc. But what is that knowledge really getting me? I already know who I am voting for, and since I'm not campaigning or trying to influence anyone, the knowledge is basically useless. It helps me talk to others about it, but all it generally does is increase anxiety, uncertainty about the outcome, and puts me on a roller coaster with no payoff. After election day, the results in my life would be the same whether I had spent all those hours following the news or not.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In the future, the only ads will be viral

I think we are becoming resistant to advertising. Certainly web-based ads, but also TV, print (remember that?) and just about anything else. So gone are the ads touting the quality of your product, or connecting it to a positive experience like people running through fields or drinking on the beach. No, the only ads that matter will be ones that are controversial (like the Big Bird nonsense), that are emotional (like the Romney ad where he destroys daughters) or just uniquely clever and memorable, like this below.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Get bent: Why small insults hurt more

There are few more volatile people on TV right now than the outrageously angry Real Housewives of New Jersey (or #RHONJ on the Twitters). This extended family has been slowly imploding for months / years, and now it's at the point where they just yell all the time and resolve nothing.

There's lots of lessons you can learn from this crabby bunch, but one that's interesting is the verbiage they use to lay into each other.

"You Momo!" Translation: You're an idiot.
"Go Scratch!" Translation: Get outta here.

While it may seem weak and ineffectual to toss around silly-sounding phrases plucked from the 1950's, I think it's actually a great tactic when trying to piss someone off.

I was never on the debate team, but I think it works like this: These people absolutely hate each other, and yet they are on live TV and need to appear civilized (at least at first). So the best thing you can do is make your opponent embarrass themselves, or blow their top. You accomplish this by baiting them, and stringing them out over time - a "death by a thousand cuts" sort of thing. That's because if you go straight to the four-letter words, you've basically maxed yourself out, and all you can do is just get louder. But by tossing around silly, disrespectful barbs, the Housewives/bands manage to wound and provoke, and yet leave lots of room for escalation.

Don't believe me? Make like a tree and get outta here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

9 Things you should know about Pink Slime

So taking this opportunity since Pink Slime is now in the news (its manufacturers are suing ABC for $1.2 Billion), here's a few things you should know about this stuff:
  • Pink Slime's real name is lean finely textured beef (LFTB)
  • It's a low-quality and low-fat meat used as filler in ground beef
  •  Pink Slime consists of cartilage, connective tissue and sinews that are removed from bones via machines. It is then heated and treated with gaseous ammonia or citric acid to kill E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria
  • The name Pink Slime was coined by a 2009 New York Times article, but it stuck
  • The fallout from that article and the media explosion that followed led to McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell announcing they would stop using it
  • Due to the bad press, BPI, one of its producers, had to close three production plants, cutting 650 jobs.
  • It's banned in Canada and the European Union. For a while in the U.S. it was only fit for pet food. The USDA has said that "The process used to produce LFTB is safe and has been used for a very long time. And adding LFTB to ground beef does not make that ground beef any less safe to consume.
  • This picture above is one of the only pictures of Pink Slime being produced, and it alone created a media firestor
  • The Pink Slime lobby has the following pro-Pink Slime propaganda sites masquerading as unbiased information - and

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Burn something, get power

I waste a lot of time trying to find free power sources. I'm always wrong, but I keep trying. Like somehow trying to capture the heat or wind generated by subway trains and convert that to power.

But someone thought of a better idea - a portable stove that turns twigs into electricity. It's called the Biolite Stove and it has a thermoelectric generator that turns gassified wood into power. I still kind of don't understand how it works, but who cares - it's cool. It probably produces more power quickly than a solar powered generator, and at night as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rice, rice baby

Liberals love to hate GMOs, genetically modified organisms, but particularly foods. Also dubbed "Frankenfoods" the fear is that these foods aren't safe, and can contaminate other, non-GMO foods through pollination. But as I grow older (elderly?), I find myself questioning this argument.

I decided to research a common rebuttal to the anti-GMO community, which is the health benefits created by infusing rice with Vitamin A. This is really helpful in poor nations, where a lack of nutrients can cause blindness (yikes).

But activist Vandana Shiva isn't buying this defense. According to Wikipedia, her stance is that by "focusing on a narrow problem (vitamin A deficiency)... the golden rice proponents were obscuring the larger issue of a lack of broad availability of diverse and nutritionally adequate sources of food."

Aha! So we shouldn't focus on creating better rice but rather on solving food shortages and other political issues. A fair point, except it's cruel to the people who are suffering NOW. Yes we can stand on a soapbox and push for better food policy and human rights issues, but why not, oh I don't know - stop a few people from going blind along the way? Certainly they could be parallel projects is what I'm saying.

By the way, during my college protest days I used to hand out those "Frosted Fakes" cards (see graphic) at my college cafeteria.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Your grandma sucks in the kitchen

OK, maybe she doesn't, it's a distinct possibility. But you wouldn't it from watching cooking shows - every good meal is compared to "almost good as my grandmother used to make." Or occasionally better, if the person is really blown away.

We have a veneration for age in very few areas in the U.S., but food is definitely one of them. We assume if a recipe is from someone's great, great, great-grandmother in the old country, then it's GOT to be good.

I'm calling B.S. on this entire theory. Cooking is a skill - some people have got it, and some people don't. Even if almost all women cooked daily in the 1950's and before doesn't mean what they cooked was actually good. That's why we have restaurants, right? My mom is an amazing cook, but my grandmother (on my dad's side) - not so much. Her more memorable dish was a drinkable jello (Sorry, bubbie).

So I don't care if a recipe came from the Great Depression, or was invented two years by an aspiring young chef. Good food is good food, and the only way to know is to taste. Save the marketing for someone else.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

CNN fail #4,532

Look at their homepage article about India. See anything wrong?

How about now? Yes, India has 1.2 billion people, not 600 million. They meant to say that 600 million people were left without power. Booooooo

UPDATE: They fixed it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Should news sites ban comments?

Over the past year or so,  kept noticing an interesting phenomenon happening on Fox News - they would suspend comments on certain articles. Not all articles, at first, but ones involving Obama, race or religion, especially Islam. This seemed damning to me - Fox was afraid of the crazies who frequent their site and frequently say terrible, terrible things. So they cut these folks out as a PR move.

It's certainly a good move for them - if your readers are ignorant and racist, that obviously hurts your rep. But for me it's a terrible precedent for a news site to remove readers from the equation. If you're afraid of your readers, what does that say about you?

I brought this up to a journalist I know, and they couldn't have disagreed with me more. "All news sites should disable comments. Nothing ever good comes out of them," they said. The news outlet this person worked out gets tons of crazy comments, and this is common of any outlet whether biased or unbiased. What's more, you need to police these comment in case there are threats or libelous information that needs to be deleted or reported to the police or FBI. So the cons far outweigh the pros.

It made me think back to my days at the Jewish paper. Did we receive pertinent, well-written and insightful letters to the editor? Yes. But we also received ignorant, racist and hatchet pieces, both locally and from national organizations. And this was before social media, when spreading a newspaper's email address and a form letter takes only a few seconds.

So maybe the days of greenlighting news comments are over. Sorry readers, but you blew it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Does education make you a better person?

In my house growing up, education was a prize attribute. We were all encouraged to study hard and go to college. I read a lot, enjoyed learning and now generally make friends with people with similar values.
But it's very easy to get caught up in the belief that more education = better. That people who have more education have more value in society. And, conversely, that people who aren't educated are worth less.
It's an easy trap. People who are able to speak eloquently about a variety of subjects, who have mastered logic or a variety of languages - they dazzle us. And if you have a strong background in liberal arts, spelling and grammar mistakes are cringeworthy.
But, in truth, morality and education have very little in common. I can be a professor in philosophy and still be an asshole. I can have multiple degrees but be a deadbeat dad. I can speak a dozen languages, but never talk to my elderly parents.
And poor people have shown consistently to give more to charity than those with means, who are usually more educated.
It doesn't take smarts to do the right thing. Sometimes it takes a good upbringing, but that can mean as little as having parents who teach you right from wrong. Even if they are penniless, they can still be menches.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Socrates thought literacy was for chumps

Despite Rick Santorum's idiotic comments that aspiring to higher education is snobbery, we seem to agree that most educated (nay, intelligent) people believe that at least LITERACY is a good thing.

Well, Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC) thought you should shut your damn trap about that claptrack. In speaking to a Egyptian king about writing, Socrates commented:

This discovery of yours (writing) will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves…you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing.

Seeing how he was from a oral society and suddenly a new technology was introduced, was he just scared of the next thing? Possibly. But I can also empathizse with him. I remember in High SChool one classmate told me that math was no longer a needed skill because they had a calculator. And maybe Wikipedia is making us less educated but more resourceful.

In Jewish history people regularly memorized the ENTIRE Torah / Old Testament. This is still done today in some ultra-Orthodox communities. In preliterate society, if you didn't remember something it was gone forever, so the importance of the brain and recalling information was pretty vital.

Still, without writing there are limitations of how much society can grow, about trade, and certainly about transmitting knowledge to the next generation. I guess it's a tough call.... wait - no literacy means no comics. F U So-crates.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Groundhog Day has really moved away from its roots

When Stephen Colbert said it on his show, I thought he was being funny - Groundhog Day, the most wispy of holidays, is actually based upon the Christian holiday of Candelmas.

Well, turns out he was right.

Makes me wonder what's next - President's Day is based upon a holiday of Mayan King Sacrifice? Mother's Day is a remembrance of Gaia's first arm wrestling with Satan?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I will never make fun of Monster Trucks again

The Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam rocked me so thoroughly and completely. I was and am still in shock. I feel like a damn fool for being so damn elitist all these years.

We got to the Verizon Center at 2 p.m. today expecting to do some serious mocking and gawking. Instead, the roaring behemoths grabbed us by the ears and didn't let go.

Yes, they were amazingly loud - we needed earplugs even at the very top of the stadium.

But when you spend your whole life looking at regular cars, the power and ass-kicking performance of a Monster Truck stops you in your tracks. Even from hundreds of feet up in the standards you find yourself gasping when they flying screaming into the air. It's a spectacle not marred by wifebeaters, beer brawls or excessive American flag saluting (although there was some of that). Rather, it's a spectacle of serious machines tearing shit UP.

Even the most cynical of us was quickly converted, and we picked trucks and cheered them on:
  • The ridiculous Monster Mutt (complete with doggy ears and a tail mounted on a spring)
  • The Illuminator (a regular truck with neon stripes)
  • The Northern Nightmare (A Canadian truck that people seemed oddly appreciative of)
  • and GRAVEDRIGGER - the truck that was celebrating it's 30th anniversary today. Really.

There was drama, showmanship, skill, daring, danger and tons more. I can't wait to go back.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I need a headshot

To use for business. So I'm uploading one. Mock if you must.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Asinine business practices

So we're talking with potential DJs for our wedding. One guy quotes us a high rate, and we try to negotiate. His response:
"I can't lower my price - it wouldn't be fair to my other clients."
Seriously? Seriously. What kind of person thinks that this is a convincing argument. Why should I care about his anonymous clients who I will never meet and have nothing to do with our wedding? Estupido.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Creulty to Octopi

Some things need to be seen to be believed.