Friday, May 30, 2008

Cough And Wheeze All Night, Party Every Day

I need some smart doctor-types out there to answer one simple question: Why is it that whenever I have a nasty cough, it only seems to manifest itself as the sun goes down? The cough just gets worse and worse as bedtime gets nearer and nearer.

In other words, why is my own body forsaking itself by preventing a restful night's sleep? What do I have against myself?

How do my lungs know to begin convulsing by the time I'm on my way home from work? Is my cough affected by the moon's gravitational force? Are there evil spirits nesting in my chest? What should I eat for lunch tomorrow?

The questions go on and on.

So I guess there's more than one question I'd like to have answered.

If you're a doctor, you play one on TV, or you're just a layman with a penchant for medical text books, please let me know why I cough much more at night than I do during the day.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New iPhone Features Revealed - In My Dreams

A sweet breeze is blowing. It seems to be coming from Steve Jobs. With the second generation iPhone rumored to be on the possible verge of potential release, it only remains to be seen from which Jobs orifice this breeze will come.

Can it possibly meet my expectations? Probably not, as you’ll see below.

But at the same time, as an anxious owner of the first generation iPhone, I sorta hope that the second one isn’t too much better than the first.

Alas, that’s the risk of the early adopter. And I accepted that risk when I activated my iPhone nearly 6 months ago. Actually, it was already available for several months before I got one (as a gift from Jaimi – thanks again dear), so I’m nowhere near the earliest of adopters.

But still, I’ll die a little bit inside if the new version of the iPhone really kicks the old one’s ass.

New iPhone will not come with real fish preserved under the clear touchscreen glass...or will it?

Here are a few new features that I’ve heard MIGHT be included in the next-generation iPhone. Keep in mind I heard these inside my own head while I slept - so please spread this around the internet as if I were Steve Jobs’s pool boy, and found some secret iPhone plans in the cabana.

1) Phillips head screwdriver
2) Bullshit detector
3) 32 gigabytes of memory.......built into the headphones
4) Gasoline-powered
5) Silent ringer choices include "Vibrate," “Electric Shock” and “Liquid Explosion”
6) Gaydar
7) Dog whistle
8) Pepper mill
9) 200 gigabyte built-in pornography library
10) Phone itself is redeemable for 100 Starbucks coffees


Monday, May 26, 2008

Never Too Sick For Beer

A little under the weather, but well enough to go on a brewery tour.

Jaimi and I visited Brooklyn Brewery this past weekend. It’s a well-loved microbrewery mere miles from our apartment. I’ve wanted to swing by and take a tour for quite a while. So although I’ve been coughing, sneezing, and generally hacking like a chainsaw, it seemed like the perfect day for a beer outing.

Jaimi doesn’t like beer. She never drinks the stuff - calls it unappetizing, bitter, “sorta nasty,” and all other kinds of names that would hurt beer’s feelings very, very much. So I won’t print them here.

But despite her natural aversion to beer - a highly-caloric, intoxicating, judgment-demolishing beverage often associated with frat boys and rowdy sports fans – she still made the suggestion that we visit the brewery.

It was pretty much the best idea I’d heard since Apple Computer stole the idea for the iPod from me.

Anyway, I was excited that she made the suggestion in the first place. And it promised to be quite an adventure – take the F train to the G train to the street to the brewery to the cup in my hand to the beer on my lips to the beer in my stomach to the urine in the appropriate receptacle.

Our quest was clear. The path was Mapquested (or Google Mapped) and we were on our way.

That’s most of the story right there. We made it to the brewery with plenty of time to spare before the last tour of the day. They have a nice, spacious beer room there, with 8 varieties on tap. I asked if I could bring a beer with me on the tour. They laughed – the answer was clear.

Beer selection at the on site beer tasting facility. 40 minutes didn't give me quite enough time to try all 8 varieties. I only had 6.

The tour began with a visit to the brewing room – a large cathedral-like space with about 6 or 7 giant stainless steel containers along the walls. These silver monsters, I would soon learn, are what hold the beer as it ferments.

That thing behind me has something to do with beer. Or it's where babies come from. The tour guide was speakng so fast.

The tour began with a brief history of the Brooklyn Brewery – who, when, why, etc. We learned that the guy who designed the logo for the brewery, is the same fine gentleman who came up with the iconic “I Love New York logo” – Milton Glaser. He did the work for a small equity stake in the company, along with a guaranteed lifetime supply of beer. Perhaps the best business deal ever struck.

After that, we learned a little bit about which canisters held what, and for how long. The place was closing early that day because of a private event, and it seemed clear that the tour guide – although very knowledgeable and enthusiastic – was hurrying things along a bit.

That was basically the end of the tour. But I still had 40 minutes left to drink beer.

As I sipped a nice Brooklyn Weisse, my cough began to calm, and my headache melted like a polar ice cap. What a fine visit to the brewery, indeed. And despite the abbreviated tour, I'm a big fan of Brooklyn Brewery. They really make some top notch stuff.

From the first cool sip, all parasites and invading microorganisms in my body are summarily executed by this flavorful India Pale Ale.

I learned two very important lessons from this trip to Brooklyn Brewery.

1) Jaimi is a selfless angel.
2) Beer cures headaches, coughs, and probably cancer.

What a marvelous pair of valuable lessons.

What did you learn this past weekend?


Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Trip To Chinatown

Jaimi and I went to Chinatown yesterday. We came back with exactly zero bootleg Louis Vuitton bags. But we did buy a bunch of cheap fruit (cherries for $1.50/pound!). If you're looking for bargains on produce, hightail it down to Chinatown on the weekend. They're practically giving the stuff away. Seriously.

The afternoon consisted of a lovely walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and then dim sum at our favorite spot - Delight 28 on Pell Street.

It's totally dope.

Anyway, here are some photos from Chinatown. Jaimi took some of the better ones - I need to give her credit once in a while.

For some reason, I feel better about buying cheap fruit than buying cheap seafood.

Dim sum - pork and shrimp all over the place.

After taking this photo, we quickly dispatched these dumplings on a highly acidic highway to hell.

This lady was practically giving these cherries away for free. Along with her wads of cash. "Here take my money! And my cherries!"

Chinese Muppets?

This huge pile of fruit - $5. All their profit comes from real estate investments.

Jaimi carefully considers which mango to purchase. The implications could be wide-reaching - she could buy an overripe mango!


Friday, May 23, 2008

My Dream Vanity License Plate

As I was sitting in traffic on the BQE yesterday morning - for about 4 hours, due to a fiery tractor trailer crash somewhere up ahead - I had plenty of time to observe my immediate surroundings.

After all, what else is there to do in a car that's moving 0.8 miles per hour for 3 straight hours? No exaggeration.

At one point, I noticed this truck right ahead of me:

View from a traffic jam: This truck is speeding away from me at almost 0.2 mph.

I know, I know. Pretty hard to miss. It was sitting right in front of me. It's a stupid cold cuts delivery truck. Who cares?

I do.

Let's a take a closer look at the truck's license plate. Here's a slightly better view:

Hey driver, what's in the back of your tru....Oh, never mind. It's clearly described on your license plate.

That's right. The license plate perfectly describes what the truck typically carries in its cargo bay. Absolutely brilliant. How mad were the Oscar Mayer, Hormel, and Armour folks when they discovered that this plate was already taken?

I only wish I had snagged it first for my car. I'd been thinking about it for a while.

Anyway, a plate that better describes the cargo in my vehicle might read:


I don't transport a whole lot of cargo, and my Mazda isn't registered for interstate shipping.

But it's not as if this is the only "Boar's Head Brand" delivery truck in the state of New York. Who gets the privilege of driving the "cool truck?" There must be fights every morning at the distribution center - arguments about who has to drive the "PIGS FEET" truck, or the "HOT SALAMI" truck.

RST BEEF rules both on and off the road.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

New York Photo Festival - What Is Art, Anyway?

I went to the New York Photo Festival this past Sunday. This was the inaugural edition of the event, held in DUMBO, Brooklyn. It seemed like a great success, as the streets of the neighborhood were much busier than usual during the 4 day festival - and when I went, the exhibits were pretty crowded.

The photography exhibits were spread out across 7 or 8 different venues, all within a few blocks of one another.

It turns out that I live right up the block from a couple of these venues. And when I say “venue” I mean previously empty - but ready to be cool – old warehouse space.

So, I’m no photographer by any means. Most of the photos on this site are either taken with a camera phone or “borrowed” from elsewhere on the internet. I spend a decent amount of time trawling for these pictures. But, for example, I didn’t actually shoot the photo of Barack Obama playing basketball, or the one of the entire cast of “Lost” standing in the jungle.

To continue with my furious streak of honesty - I did not take this photo. I ripped it off from the festival's website.

That being said, I do like to look at interesting photos. And there were plenty of ‘em at the NY Photo Festival.

But at the same time, as I looked at the wide range of subjects and styles of photography, I couldn’t help but wonder – why is a photo of an old J. Crew t-shirt hanging in a closet considered art?

The answer? I really don’t know.

And that’s why I’m not a photographer, or otherwise any sort of visual artist.

I could just as easily put together a bunch of pics of what dogs found on the sidewalk and tried to eat, but were foiled by their masters. A piece of pretzel. A dead bird. A popsicle stick. An apple core. Dog shit. The potential list goes on and on. It would be quite an extensive exhibit.

Art? Definitely. And even the dog knows it.

In fact, I think this sounds like a good idea, in terms of art.

Again, this is probably why I’m not an artist.

My brain just gets in the way.

Jaimi told me that an important part of creating photographic art is the ability to choose which pictures to include in your display. So, an artist would know that the picture of the popsicle stick on the ground IS art, whereas the picture of a Kit Kat wrapper is NOT art.

Art? Probably, but I'm not really sure.

I sort of liked that explanation. Leave it all in the artist’s hands, and don’t try too hard to figure out what they’re thinking.

Art for the lazy. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Product Review: The Breville Single Cup Brewer - A Shiny Happy Coffee Maker

The Breville single-cupper: pure magic.

I likes me some coffee. Yes sir.

But I’m the only one in the household (Jaimi is allergic to caffeine, or some shit like that) who drinks it on a regular basis. I wouldn’t quite say that I’m not myself until I get my cup of morning joe – but I do require some sort of hot caffeinated beverage fairly soon after getting up.

So, the problem I’ve encountered is how to make a single cup of quality coffee, without brewing an entire pot. Generally speaking, those one-cup little crap-ass coffee makers are just that – Crap Ass. The coffee always seems to have hefty undertones of plastic.

My Dad’s the same way with his coffee. But unlike me, he just couldn’t put up with any sort of shitty one-cup coffee making machine. So he bought the Cadillac of the one-cuppers – The Breville Single Cup Brewer.

And then he saw how in awe I was of its flashing blue lights and whirring motors. So this past weekend, he brought one up as a housewarming gift for our new apartment.

So far so good.

I don’t think I’ve ever before been inclined to review a coffee maker. They all seem so similar – what’s the point?

But this one is different. It’s shiny. It has some real metal parts. Blue LED’s light the instrument panel, and set the see-through water tank all aglow – just as you’d imagine Gandalf’s coffee machine.

The point is, it looks like a wizard forged this thing from pure glacier water, a handful of pulverized unicorn horn, and the love of coffee.

Anyway, the Breville accepts K-cups (those little foil-topped plastic cups with coffee and filter built right in) or you can use the “My K-cup” system, which allows you to use your own coffee. I feel better using “My K-cup” because you create less waste. And because it’s MY K-cup, goddamit.

You have options for different size cups, and different water temperatures. You can play and adjust to suit your taste.

I like my coffee strong as balls, so I try to pack the little K-cup with as much coffee grounds as physically possible.

Actual photo of actual cup of coffee not actually as strong as balls.

What spews forth from the machine is a little cup of black magic - a dark, rich, smooth perfectly heated cup of java joe.

It’s really quite good. Much better than those one-cup gizmos. And I love the flexibility of using your own coffee, or purchasing the ready-made K-cups. You can also get tea and hot chocolate in the K-cups, for all those non-coffee drinkers in your life.

As I finish my first cup of the day, I not only thank my Dad (and thanks to mom too for the Tupperware!) for bringing this glorious machine into my life, but I thank the kind folks over at Breville for engineering the Space Shuttle of coffee makers.

In fact, I feel as cool as an astronaut using this machine.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Blinds Installation - Ultimate Nightmare

Installing custom vertical blinds is supposed to be easy. They make it look so simple in the little online instructional video.

I guess it’s not completely your fault, Your low low prices, slick website, and fast delivery make it easy to order custom blinds. That being said, the craftsmanship is shoddy and the written instructions seem to be translated from Chinese – by a native Swahili speaker.

So I believe you’re at least partly to blame for making my past Saturday an all-out nightmare.

I should probably mention that we have 7 big-ass windows in the apartment – all around 81 inches wide and 66 inches tall. But several are slightly smaller in width. And, as I found out on Saturday, one would appear to be trapezoidal in shape – not a single right angle to be found.

I used to think that having all of these windows was a blessing and a curse.

However, the painful experience of installing all those blinds has shown me the light.

It’s just a curse. After all, I already know what it looks like outside. I don’t need to be reminded of it while I’m inside. Besides, I can just check the weather on my computer. No need to even peek outside. Black tar paper stapled to the window frames would have done the job just fine.

Really, I just don’t want to be seen parading around in nothing but a top hat and jockstrap – aka, my loungin’ around wear.

But we just had to have the option of looking outside. So vertical blinds were ordered.

Here’s a list – gleaned from hours of personal experience – of how NOT to install your custom blinds.

1) Order wrong size blinds from Also, make sure that you order the head rails in the wrong size, because those can’t be easily fixed and the mistake requires that you order entirely new ones. Money down toilet: $220.

2) Forget to ask co-worker to bring in drill for you to borrow to aid in installation.

3) Purchase new drill, because you forgot to borrow one and you need to put the blinds up before your parents come to town on Sunday. Money down the toilet: $45.

4) Forget to charge battery for drill.

5) Realize at the last moment that the blinds company didn’t send you valance coverings in the correct size. This is the crappy piece of plastic that goes at the top of the blinds and hide the head rails and open/close mechanism Luckily, you never threw away the old ones that were way too big.

6) Go to hardware store to find something that can cut through the tough yet cheap plastic of the valances. Purchase the $20 metal shears recommended by the store clerk. You will never use these shears for anything else, except to hurl at the wall, when you lose your patience about midway through blinds installation. Money down the toilet: $20.

7) Misinterpret instructions, and drill holes too close to the window. Put up the first head rail and valance, only to realize your mistake - which makes it impossible to install the vertical vanes that actually cover the window. Congratulations. You’ve installed a head rail upon which nothing can be attached.

This is sort of what I looked like while installing the blinds - except I don't have a tool belt, and this guy's face isn't perpetually snarled, and bright red with anger.

8) Watch online instructional video, which actually ends up being slightly helpful despite making the installation a hell of a lot easier than it actually is.

9) Discover a simple procedural improvement that allows you to install the head rail without having your girlfriend climb up on to the windowsill with you and hold the head rail up to the top of the window frame while you fiddle around with the drill. (Details of this step is a secret. You’ll have to figure it out yourself.)

10) Spend the next 6 hours actually installing the blinds. Allow the frustration to build.

11) Manhandle head rails into place, as drywall cracks and sputters under the strain – either a) these blinds are not quite the right size, b) you’re installing them at a slight angle, or c) you’re caught in a time vortex and The Island will not let you finish the installation of the blinds.

Sometimes, when I'm installing blinds, I feel a lot like these folks - stranded on a mysterious island where time and space are warped - with little hope of rescue.

12) Shout at the blinds when the vanes keep falling off the head rails. Or when the mechanism keeps falling apart, or getting stuck.

13) Regret your purchase of blinds.

14) Rue the day you are currently wasting while you put these fucking blinds up.

15) Calculate the amount of money it would have been worth to pay someone else to do this for you – about $20,000.

In the end, we did manage to install all of the blinds. It took about 9 hours total. Maybe a little longer.

Now I just sit back and wait for them to fall down or otherwise fail.

If you need help installing blinds – either vertical or horizontal - I can provide consulting services at a reasonable hourly rate. Or I’ll actually install them for $25,000 and a pound of flesh. If you can’t offer that much, then don’t bother asking.


Friday, May 16, 2008

The Mill's Olympics

(My article this week from The Love Of Sports, in which I explore alternative possibilities to some of the Olympics more mundane events. These are unlikely to be sanctioned by the IOC at any point in the next 500 years, but I figured I'd put my opinion out there just for the hell of it.)

The Olympics.

Are we, the human race, really taking full advantage of this worldwide athletic showcase? I know the advertisers and sponsors are milking it for all it’s worth, but could our species make better use of this once-every-four-years event?

Seems like it to me.

So, for the purposes of unfairly picking on a few questionable competitions, couldn’t we come up with anything better than these?

- Canoeing
- 20 and 50 kilometer race walk
- Table tennis
- Badminton

These are all certified Olympic events. No joke.

We put a man on the moon, for God’s sake. And we can’t come up with anything better than competitions involving a very old mode of human transportation (canoes), and the MOST ancient mode of human transportation (upright walking)?

And ping-pong and badminton are great for the YMCA rec room, but less so for a worldwide celebration of high-caliber athletics.

Yes, the race walkers look hilarious when they’re doing their VCR-on-fast-forward penguin strut, but come on. Is it a true test of an athlete’s skill and endurance?

Frankly, I don’t know. All of these events actually look pretty hard to me. I’m sure I couldn’t speed walk for more than a mile or two. And I always come perilously close to tipping the canoe when I’m out for a little spin on the lake with my canoeing buddies.

The beer probably doesn’t help my sense of balance.

I am, however, pretty good at table tennis. If you don’t believe me, I’ll happily meet you in my uncle’s basement for a round-robin tourney. Loser pays the bus fare back home.

All that being said, I mean no disrespect to the athletes involved in these events. Heck, if I were the best in the world at something – anything - I’d relish the opportunity to display my skills on the world stage - even if for nothing more than the chance to hear our national anthem play in the background as that gold medal is draped around my neck.

Also, Olympic medals make outstanding paper weights and drink coasters. Just ask Amanda Beard or Michael Phelps.

So here are a few suggestions for replacement events for future Summer Olympics. These may not be “sports” per se, but I think they would really add to the worldwide spectacle of the Olympic Games. I hope to see these in place by the 2024 Olympic Games in Baghdad.

- Olympic Car Washing: Let’s put some idle hands to work, while encouraging competitive spirit, and attention to detail. This event involves upper body agility, hand strength, and resistance to “prune hands.” Cars to be cleaned are chosen by the IOC. In other words, the International Olympic Committee members’ cars will be washed and waxed on a daily basis during the competition.

- Olympic Children’s Dog Polo: In order to spread the popularity of the Olympics to the younger generation, we need to get them involved at an early age. Currently, there aren’t any events in which only children can compete. (I know, I know. There’s an entirely separate thing called the Junior Olympics – just humor me here.) I can think of no better spectacle than to see youngsters racing around on the backs of big dogs while hacking away at a little rubberized ball with a stick. Exciting. Adorable. Huge liability for insurance companies. Still, you have to admit it would be pretty damn entertaining.

- Olympic Staple Removal: Again, another way to get useful work out of Olympic athletes. I’ve got a stack of papers on my desk that would be perfect for practice, if you’re interested. Requiring nimble fingers, hand endurance, and tough, paper-cut-proof fingertips.

- Olympic Fantasy Baseball: The name speaks for itself. I’m adding this one only because I’m so totally dominating our league right now - and it might be my best shot at ever competing in the Olympic Games. Baghdad 2024, here I come!!!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

How To Stick It To The Man - Volume 1, #1 - Starbucks

Starbucks charges plenty for their coffee - in my humble opinion, and in the opinion of my wallet. And plenty of people drink plenty of Starbucks coffee - myself unabashedly included. I think it's pretty good stuff.

But still, it ain't cheap.

I drive to work almost every day, and usually bring coffee along with me - either home-brewed or from the local Starbucks. Also, I should note that the roads in my neighborhood aren't entirely well paved. And the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway has some rough patches as well.

So, as you can imagine, my daily coffee addiction often leads to 2nd degree burns on my hand and arm, and spilled coffee all over my center console and luxuriously carpeted floor mats (I didn't spring for the all-weather rubberized mats).

Anyway, the simple answer to this problem is - don't fill the coffee cup all the way.

At Starbucks, that usually means ordering a medium (they call it a "Grande" but I still refuse to use that terminology - another shot to the crotch of THE MAN) and dumping some out in the trash or on the sidewalk.

What a waste of coffee and money. Starbucks coffee is much more expensive than gasoline, and will remain so even if oil surpasses $200 per barrel. Do the math.

There must be a better way.

You're in luck. There is.

What I've discovered - drum roll please - is that if you simply order a small coffee in a medium cup (a "Tall" in a "Grande" cup, if you don't want to arouse suspicion), not only will you save 21 cents (Note: 21 cents in New York City - your actual savings may vary) by getting the smaller size, but the Starbucks employees will usually fill the medium cup to the perfect level for taking in the car with you. In other words, they fill it up to a level at which you don't have to dump anything out.

The result is that you get exactly the same amount of coffee as you would have if you ordered the larger size, but don't waste any coffee and save about 10%.

I stick that 21 cents in a jar near the door. By the end of the year, I should have enough to buy a Gulfstream V. Those are the ones that have enough range to fly across the Atlantic or cross-country nonstop. I'll keep you posted.

As fair warning, occasionally you get the unexplicably stingy barista who practically measures the amount of a small cup into the medium cup. But that's pretty rare, in my experience.

Starbucks employees are not motivated to conserve coffee as if it were liquid gold. They do, in fact, regularly dump out the coffee and brew fresh batches during the course of the day. Why not give a paying customer a little extra fresh-brewed love every now and again?

So you're not seriously harming the behemoth corporation by taking advantage of this small loophole - no reason to feel guilty. You're just getting closer to the amount of coffee that's rightfully yours for 2 bucks.

If anything, you're really sticking it to the man - big time - with this little maneuver. And isn't that something you can feel good about?


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Gossip Girl Phenomenon

Part I of the “Things I Shouldn’t Openly Admit To On The Internet" Series.

So I’ve been watching “Gossip Girl” - the smash-hit teen ridicu-drama on the CW (the network formed as the bastard offspring of the UPN and WB networks’ unholy union).

The show - to put it simply - is simply marvelous. And if you’ve never seen it before, I’d describe it as a cross between “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Sex And The City,” and “The Lord Of The Rings.”

It’s sex, drugs, teenagers, and sheer mythical fantasy. I think I saw a wizard ride a unicorn through the schoolyard last episode – handing out inexplicably perfect fake ID’s to all the bar-hopping 16 year-olds on the show, complete with hologram and magnetic stripe.

Ok, maybe no wizards.

But therein lies my only problem with “Gossip Girl” - not that these children are breaking the law, but rather, how the hell do they get into every hot bar or club in New York City? I get carded at ESPNZone when I order a Miller Lite. And I’m literally twice their age.

Anyway, the writers of “Gossip Girl” produce pure magic with their dialogue and intriguing plot twists - despite the need to suspend disbelief from time to time.

Some other highlights:

- Everyone has had sex with everyone else on the show at some point during the show’s timeline.

- You get to see the interiors of some incredibly high-end apartments.

- The cast is very good-looking, and mostly over eighteen in real life, so no need to feel guilty about watching.

- New Yorkers get a kick out of seeing familiar locales on TV – much of the show is actually filmed on location in the city.

- No animals are harmed during production of the show.

- Morality and laws take a backseat to fashion and make-up.

If you haven’t indulged yourself yet, check out “Gossip Girl” Monday nights on the CW.

If you become addicted, don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Monday, May 12, 2008

A New Way To Choose The Democratic Nominee

"Top Chef" – one of Bravo’s most popular reality TV shows.

It’s a tantalizing mix of intense competition, delicious-looking food, memorable personalities, and a hot Indian hostess.

During the first several weeks of each season, it becomes clear who has a shot at the title of “Top Chef” and who does not. But once you get down to the final few competitors, it’s anyone’s game.

Let’s say we’re down to the last two or three. They’re all very talented, creative, and technically skilled. They’ve all received top notch training at the finest culinary institutes, and have served under the tutelage of the industry’s most distinguished restaurateurs.

So how do you choose who goes home?

It’s an almost impossible choice in some cases. But for the past 4 years, the judges have managed to narrow it down to one lone victor.

Chef Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Ted Allen, Padma Lakshi, and various celebrity guest judges use their acutely sensitive palates, and years of eating experience to choose the winner. It may not be scientific, but I trust their judgment. They rarely botch a call.

And unlike the Democratic Presidential Primary race, everyone involved in "Top Chef" knows full well – from the get go - that only one person can take home the prize. There is no nominating convention, and there is no Vice Top Chef.

Also, there aren’t any contenders who refuse to go home when they’ve been beaten, or those that would threaten to tear apart the very fabric of the cooking community by insisting upon remaining in the competition after being eliminated from the competition – mathematically, or otherwise.

If Hillary, Barack, and the rest of the Democrats can’t make up their mind, allow me to suggest an alternative to the current wacky system – one that will leave no doubt as to whom the nominee will be.

Do you smell what I’m getting at?


I have no problem letting these two choose our next President.

And I’ll say this up front: Florida and Michigan, your votes will not be counted in either case, so quit whining.

It would have been much more interesting if we’d enacted this exercise from the very beginning of the race

Would Bill Richardson have been better at baking or frying?

Would Dennis Kucinich have made his famous 5 alarm chili?

Would Joe Biden have raised his voice indignantly, when he discovered that his special ingredient for one of the challenges was cod livers?

We will never know.

But there’s still time for us to discover whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama has better knife skills.

Will Hillary break from her assumed mold and show a surprising finesse for flavorful, fresh ingredients combined in unique and innovative presentations? Or will she stick to her working-class roots, and produce filling and fattening, yet bland and difficult to digest food? Recipes from a Scranton diner, perhaps?

Hillary, when hungry, is not a pleasant candidate. Allow her to whip up some meatloaf for everyone.

Will Barack allow his multi-ethnic background to shine through and exhibit a flair and creativity never before seen in the Top Chef kitchen? Or will he be as bad at cooking as he is at bowling? And accidentally set fire to his Saffron Caviar Shrimp Mango soufflé, and himself. And the rest of the staff.

Obama - as good at cooking as basketball? He has a wicked baseline jumper, and makes a wicked roux.

It could be a disaster for both candidates.

But that’s what would make this – the highest stakes of any “Top Chef” episode ever – such a wonderful exercise in democracy.

Not only would the winner receive $100,000 in seed money to help open a restaurant, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, a gourmet dream vacation in the French Alps, and the title of "Top Chef" - but also, the winner would get to face John McCain in the November General Election for the President of the United States.

I’d so tune in for that.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA - A Review

It’s three in the afternoon on a Saturday. I’m hoping that everyone around me agrees that it’s late enough in the day to start drinking beer.

If not, then I’ll lose their respect. But I’ll get to drink beer.

It’s a toss up.

I use a bottle opener, as this stuff is not twist-off. That’s a good start. This must be a classy brew.

I decide to treat myself, and drink out of a mug instead of directly from the bottle - like it’s a special occasion or something. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the time of the month. I don’t know.

Break out the good crystal. I'm feeling pretty today.

Sometimes I like to let the bubbles tickle my nose as the fizzy head dissipates. It’s like a thousand tiny hooligans spitting at me. But instead of saliva, they spit beer. That, for some reason, doesn’t seem so disrespectful.

Now for the first sip. It’s cold. It’s good. Real good.

I like this beer.

Allow me to elaborate a bit.

This stuff is pretty well hopped. That means it offers a decent amount of bitterness, with a sort of flowery aroma, and slightly fruity undertones. Very little spice, with a smooth finish. It’s not the type of hard-drinking beverage that goes down, grabs a few friends, and comes back up. In other words, you could drink this stuff all evening.

Aw hell. It tastes like good beer, plain and simple. It’s a beautiful India Pale Ale, with a good amount of bitterness and flavor. Not too heavy, but at 6% alcohol you can’t sit down and drink 7 of these without saying something you’ll regret to someone you used to care about deeply.

So I stop after drinking one of these, and move on to something else. More reviews to follow.

In summary, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA is a great beer if you like a smooth, yet hoppy brew. Also, the attractive label design makes this a perfect beer to drink by yourself. You can stare at the label in between sips and resolve to sign up for that online graphic design course from the University of Phoenix or Devry Institute. Setting goals always helps take your mind off the loneliness.

Just another one of the many benefits of drinking good beer.

Rating: 4 out of 6 mills.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Small Mammal Sushi

Spicy tuna; barbecued eel; yellowtail; miso mouse

I don't know. I would probably send this back. I mean, this is really disgusting.

I wanted my pickled ginger and scallion garnish on a separate plate!! Idiots!!


Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Stupid Strong Euro

(This is my weekly article from The Love Of Sports. Basically, I recap a bit of my recent trip to Spain. But even more basically, I complain about how shitty the dollar is when compared to the euro.)

So I’m back from vacation. It’s safe to say that I’m none too happy about that sad fact.

My trip to Spain was eye-opening, to say the least. But not in a sports-related way - for one main reason, which I’ll explain in a moment. Unfortunately (or fortunately for you animal-lovers out there) I didn’t get the opportunity to attend a bullfight while I was there. It’s one of their most beloved sports, perhaps second only to soccer.

Real Madrid is da bomb - Beckham or no Beckham; Ronaldinho or no Ronaldinho.

No, the real eye-opener was the shocking weakness of our good old American greenbacks, when compared to the powerful euro. Twenty-dollar bills? Spaniards now use them to pick up dog poop in El Parque de Juan Carlos I. Apparently, it’s cheaper than brown paper bags.

A 3 euro beer? That’s currently almost 5 of our pathetic dollars.

A Real Madrid t-shirt for 23 euros? That’ll set you back a cool $35, as of this writing.

And how about those cute little soccer shorts for 35 euros (not for myself, I swear). That’s the equivalent of $54.

It’s crazy.

A plate of fine Spanish ham with little delicious olives, and delectable Manchego cheese for 6 euros? $10.

Well, actually that’s a pretty good deal. The tapas over there are great, and a reasonable value.

Still, I can’t help but wonder how many more Americans would make the trip across the pond if it were just a bit more affordable – like in the good old days.

We’d be wise to give some love to old school European currencies – the Spanish peseta, the French franc, the Italian lira.

Wherefore art thou, favorable exchange rates?!?

Being a sports fan in Madrid right now is simply too expensive. Here are current costs of some other sports-related items/services I noticed during my trip:

- 4 tickets to a Real Madrid game (not nose bleed seats), 4 cervezas, and 4 jamon con queso bocadillos (ham and cheese sandwiches): 572 euros + 20 euros + 24 euros = 616 euros = $955

- Authentic “Raul” or “Robinho” Real Madrid Jersey (with or without simulated sweat stains): 80 euros = $130

- 4 tickets to bullfighting (cheaper seats, in the sun), 4 large sangrias, 4 orders albondigas (Spanish meatballs): 80 euros + 32 euros + 28 euros = 140 euros = $217

- Matador outfit (not including red bullfighting cape): 465 euros = $745

- Bullfighting cape: 45 euros = $70 ((I’d just use a white bed sheet dyed with cheap red wine: 3 euros = $4.60, including the wine)

- Tennis lessons (8 weeks, intensive, in Madrid or Barcelona): 1,080 euros = $1,675

I actually would have run out of money halfway through the soccer game. It’s a good thing we stuck to sightseeing and pretty much stayed away from any sporting venues.

So in certain ways, I’m glad to be back in the States. It actually makes me appreciate the relative value of an eight dollar beer at Shea Stadium.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Another Letter To Hillary Clinton

(Back in February, I wrote my first letter to Hillary, offering some urgent advice for her campaign. She didn't listen to me, and now she's in dire straits. So here's another note, offering even more advice. Will I ever be able to get through that tough, thick hide of hers - with my words?)

Dear Hillary,

So you lost North Carolina by a ton, and Indiana was won by the slimmest of margins – less than two percentage points. You actually fell a little further behind in terms of delegate count and popular votes.

You should have listened to me when you had the chance.

In my last letter, I told you to go for the choke hold. It would seem that you misunderstood my intention. And it would now appear that your inability to decipher my advice is costing you.

You see Hillary, I wasn’t telling you to put Obama in a figurative choke hold – via negative publicity about his former pastor, or by focusing on some stupid comments that he’s made.

What I was trying to convey is that you need to get HIM to put YOU in a literal, physical, two-handed choke hold on national TV. I didn’t care how you did it. But I was confident that you could piss him off enough to make it happen.

What a CHANGE that would have been to Washington “politics as usual.”

Suffice it to say, you blew it. You really crapped it up this time, Clinton. Please re-read my last note. I won’t explain it again.

Even so, you’re right. The battle goes on, and you shall fight to the end.

Aristotle once said, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”

And although that doesn’t apply here (and I’m not calling you fat), I think it’s an important thing to note, and could serve as a useful rebuttal to the millions of democrats who are now asking you to step aside – to allow the uppity Obama to steal the nomination from your working class - yet Palmolive smooth - hands.

Some say you have no chance to win, mathematically - that you have no chance, realistically speaking, to secure the party’s nomination.

Others say there aren’t enough delegates left – that even if you won a vast majority of the remaining votes, you still couldn’t technically win.

Mathematically. Realistically. Technically.

These are the words of losers and quitters.

Clearly, you are not a loser. And you have no need for words such as “unattainable”, “inarguable,” or “actually-no-chance.”

And yet, I feel like you need some more advice right about now. I just don’t know if it’s worth pouring my heart and soul into this correspondence.

No matter. This election is too important. I won’t cower in a corner, crying like a coddled weakling.

Hillary, my advice to you is this: STAGE A MILITARY COUP. Just to be clear, that’s a sudden and decisive change of government illegally or by force. It’s your only solid shot at grabbing power.

"Now, Mrs. Clinton hold on to your coffee, cause what you see over there is called a 'big gun,' and the man holding it is known as a 'United States soldier.' He's on our side, so don't be afraid of the face paint."

Hill, hamming it up for the cameras, while internally calculating which soldier is trustworthy enough to help her overthrow the Republican warlords in Washington.

Either that, or let Bravo film a reality show about your campaign. If the ratings are anywhere near those of Top Chef, then the remaining super delegates have to fall in line behind you.

So to recap my latest counsel: either a) overthrow the government via military force, or b) get a reality show of your own.

Good luck with this new and improved plan. I know you can pull it off gracefully. If you go the reality TV route, just let me know when to set my DVR.

Warmest regards,

A big fan of yours and Bubba's since '92,

I was born about 100 miles from Scranton - your hometown,

So you see we're very similar in most ways,

Except for a discrepancy of about 109 million dollars between our bank accounts,

But otherwise we are birds of a feather,

We are soul sisters, even though I am a man,

So best wishes for a successful campaign/coup/reality show

- The Mill


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Funny, Tiny, Fast, Little Car

A wild SMART car in its natural urban habitat - right before 3 toddlers pushed it into the river.

The SMART car, from Daimler AG (formerly Daimler Chrysler).

They're basically the tiniest, most ridiculous looking cars ever built. At the same time, I can't help but find the design charming. They're great, in theory, for traversing crowded city streets - and especially handy for parking in comically small spaces. You can practically park one in a phone booth. Seriously.

Stupid small parking space - Only way to get out of this spot is to ask some kids to help you roll the SMART car onto the sidewalk.

I've seen them puttering around gas-taxed European cities, and twiddling through parking-starved Manhattan - sometimes in motion, often parked on the sidewalk, but never traveling in excess of 30 mph.

But today, for the first time, on my way home from work, on the highway, a SMART car actually PASSED me - at well over 70 miles per hour.

I couldn't believe it. Who knew those things could go that fast? It's got a 1.0 liter 70 horsepower engine. That's slightly more powerful than my vacuum cleaner.

For the record, the SMART car website lists the top speed at an ELECTRONICALLY LIMITED 90 mph. How much faster could this vehicle travel before taking flight? Or going back in time?

Before today, I would have compared driving a SMART car to riding a bicycle while wearing a suit of armor - in either case, you can't go very fast, and if you're hit by a taxi cab you have a reasonable chance of not dying.

I was very, very wrong. At 90 mph, you would definitely be dead if you struck a taxi cab. Not only that, but the SMART car would be reduced to a pile of dust.

The SMART car survives a 0.08 mph head-on collision.

Still, I'd actually have to operate one at high speed before passing further judgment. My guess is that anything over 50 mph in a SMART car would be a terrifying experience - kinda like riding a rocket-powered lawnmower across a frozen lake.

But as that SMART car flew by me on the Hutchinson River Parkway today, the driver appeared calm and composed - insofar as I could determine his emotional state in that fraction of a second.

So now I'm curious. If you've got a SMART car, please let me take it for a spin. And then lift it over my head with one hand.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Madrid Observations

I really enjoy discovering the little differences between home (New York) and the places I'm traveling to.

When I go to New Jersey, for example, I notice that they have a governor who isn't addicted to prostitutes.

In Delaware, I notice how it takes only 5 minutes to drive across the entire state.

While in Hawaii, I notice that we're on a tiny speck of volcanic rock in the middle of a vast ocean - and it freaks me out.

And when in Spain, I notice that they have different urinals and toilets than we have back home.

But there were others things I obseved while in Madrid that may be worth noting - at least, worth noting in my mind.

At first, I thought there weren't very many dogs in Madrid. But I live in New York City - the self-proclaimed dog capital of the universe. Often it seems as if there are more dogs than people in NYC. I'm pretty sure that if you took every dog in New York, and lined them up snout to butt (which is their preferred configuration anyway), this canine carpet would stretch to the moon and back over 500 times.

That's just a guess. But my point is there are a whole shitload of dogs in New York. So anywhere outside of New York will likely appear to have fewer dogs in comparison.

Madrid is no different.

However, after a few days, I began to notice more dogs. This in of itself is not very surprising. Once you've seen all the tourist sites and museums, you naturally graduate to observing the local plant and animal life. Then, you notice stuff like the size of the urinals. And after that, it's time to go home.

The odd thing with Madrid, is the unusually high concentration of West Highland Terriers - aka Westies - within the greater dog population.

I'm not kidding. It was weird. Basically every other dog was a Westie. Don't get me wrong - those things are damn cute. But why would they be so popular in Spain? Why not the lovable Pug, or the adorable Goldendoodle?

I have no reasonable answer. But here's an unreasonable answer: Westies in Spain are actually Spanish babies dressed up like dogs. So it's no surprise that there are so many.

So many Westies, so few Chihuahuas - Real dog? Or baby costume?

A few other observations:

- Tiny elevators in the apartment buildings. These would NEVER pass code in New York. They jam elevators into the empty space of small stairwells. I could have easily reached over the flimsy metal fence along the staircase and grabbed the elevator as it passed by. They must not be nearly as litigious as we are.

- Cool kitchen appliances. Little dishwashers that blend into the rest of the cabinetry (we rented a studio apartment, and it took me 4 days to realize that there was a dishwasher in our kitchen) and combo washer/dryer built into the kitchen so you can do laundry while you cook.

- Excellent tap water. It is very safe to drink, and not the least bit alkaline or sulfurous.

- Good beer. Available basically everywhere. People drink beer and wine with breakfast. Not kidding. The most popular brands of beer are "Mahao" and "Cruzcampo."

The breakfast special includes toast, scrambled eggs, and a choice of coffee, tea, or beer.

- Great Indian food. I think the place is called "Delhi" and everything was delicious. The best part is hearing the servers speak Spanish with an Indian accent. I found it spellbinding.

- Only 10 or so Starbucks locations. I lost track at 9, but I'm sure there are a few that I missed. I didn't actually get coffee at any of them, as that would be tantamount to going to The Olive Garden while in Rome. Most places serve very good cafe con leche, for a fraction of the cost of a Starbucks coffee.

Enjoying a cafe con leche with my left hand while holding a beer in my right hand.

- Spanish people are very nice. We spent a decent amount of time with M. Borja Esteban (the boyfriend of Jaimi's awesome friend Susan). He was a perfect gentleman, fun, and very patient with our limited knowledge of his native tongue. If you're out there Borja, many thanks for lunch, and for car rides to the park and the airport! I should call you "Bro-ja", because you were a real bro to us.

A fine Spanish gentleman (el caballero de gracia) and his fine American lady.

I'm sure I've forgotten some other important observations, but none as important as those included above.

Adios amigos.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pictures From Madrid

So, I'm back from my trip to Madrid, Spain.

The vacation is over.

I am sad.

But on the bright side, I didn't lose my passport, and I didn't fall victim to a professional gypsy pickpocket artist.

The ham was great. The beer was plentiful. The Spaniards were generally friendly and good-looking.

I would definitely go back, and I recommend you make the trip as well. If you've never been to Madrid, it's something like a cross between Cleveland, Barcelona, Kuala Lumpur, and whatever the capital of Peru is.

What I'm trying to say is - they mostly speak Spanish, it's a modern city, there are a lot of interesting historical sites, and pretty much everyone there knows who LeBron James is. Seriously. Basketball's like the third most popular sport over there.

I'll get into more detail regarding my observations and activities in another post tomorrow. But for now, here are some pictures:

Beneath the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain. That's one old fucking aqueduct.

Jaimi and me in front of the royal palace in Madrid. I will own this house one day.

Exercising in Juan Carlos I park. It's just like riding a bike, except you don't go anywhere, and there's a lady and her dog next to you on the bike.

Another pic from Juan Carlos park. Is that the giant hand of General Franco preparing to crush us? We weren't injured - luckily, Jaimi and I are fascists.

Jaimi and her awesome friend Susan. She lives in Madrid and showed us how to avoid the prostitutes, and how to ask for tap water vs. bottled water.

Based upon Susan's reaction, I think I said in Spanish, "I think I'm pregnant, please give me some beer." I meant to say, "I'm thirsty. And I think I'm pregnant."

Wishing we didn't have to return to the U.S. But at the same time, longing for a more favorable exchange rate.

The main post office in Madrid, all aglow for the May 2nd bicentennial celebration of Spain's independence from France. This is what every building in Spain would have looked like if the French had their way.

Another view of the post office during the celebration. Surprisingly enough, the building did not burn down, and no fireworks went haywire and plunged into the crowd.