Monday, August 31, 2009

Ready for Some Football 2009

I can’t hardly believe it. The 2009 NFL season is upon us.

It seems like just the other month when I was spending every Sunday watching football, drinking beer, and tracking the stats of my favorite fantasy players – it feels like just yesterday that I was wasting a colossal amount of time on the pointless pursuit of fantasy football fame and glory.

I finished the season in 6th place, out of 12 teams. That’s nothing to email home about.

So I waste some time every Sunday during football season. It’s the truth, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But what do I do the rest of the year – during non-football Sundays?

Well, let’s take a recent Sunday for example. I did laundry yesterday. That’s some useful work. And I went for a 6 mile run, which is also useful for maintaining my girlish figure. I didn’t drink beer, which is a nice respite for my liver and kidneys. I prepared a batch of pickles, which is a delicious diversion from an otherwise mundane weekend evening. I also went silverware shopping with Jaimi. Which is…

Maybe it was a useful Sunday, chock-full of completed tasks and successful errands. That’s all about to come to a screeching, crashing, whiplash-inducing halt.

Our 2009 fantasy football draft is this coming Friday. It marks the beginning of some things – like staring at the TV, beer in hand, blankly watching football games for hours on end. And the end of certain other things – such as doing anything useful or interesting or healthy or valuable to the planet on a Sunday.

But Sunday is the Lord’s day. And He is telling me to watch football. He is also telling me to place a bet on Peyton Manning’s Colts right now, and that Arizona rookie Beanie Wells is way overrated and injury-prone. Finally, He welcomes Michael Vick back to the league, although He doesn’t plan to welcome him to Heaven in 56 years unless Vick stays true to his promise and saves a bunch of abandoned dogs.

The Lord loves dogs.

And I love football season. But also I love dogs. So the Lord and I have something in common. I would also agree that Beanie Wells is injury-prone, although not sure about him being overrated. On that point, my Lord almighty, we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

And so on Sunday, the Lord’s day, we shall watch the Lord’s game – NFL football. And we shall praise He that hath wrought thy game of blessed pigskin. For thou shalt not dismiss thy favorite team for not making the playoffs last year. And thou shalt not boo thy starting quarterback because he hath just thrown four interceptions.

Thou, as a fan of the Lord and His holy Game, shalt remember last year’s story of the Cardinals of Arizona. For it was then that thy holy servant Kurt Warner, led thy team of holiest of holy Cardinals to the highest Bowl in the land. And he threw a touchdown. And it was good.

But the Steelers ended up kicking the Cardinals asses, so I guess the Lord is more of a Pittsburgh fan.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Writer's Block

Often times it’s tough to come up with blog post topics, especially for me. Some blogs focus on something specific. For example: cooking, U.S. politics, submarines, Battlestar Galactica, The Jonas Brothers, the iPhone, old school hip hop, infomercial products, Legos, Quentin Tarantino movies, fashion, Scandinavia, Shetland ponies, single-malt scotch, black and white photography, muscle cars, your mom, artificial plants, artificial limbs, artificial flavors, and so on and so forth.

But for me, on this blog, I can write about whatever the hell I want. And that’s the point. I don’t want to limit myself. No one puts the Mill in a corner. Or in a cage. Or on a leash. I am as free as a bird, when it comes to blog topics.

So how do I choose what to write about? Well, first I look at current events. Then, if nothing interesting happens in the news, I write about my own life. And if that’s painfully boring as well, then I’ll just write about dogs or fantasy sports.

There’s really no art or science involved in the choice. And rarely any thought. But sometimes I write poems that rhyme, which must be fun for you to read.

And that’s really the point. Fun for you is fun for me. I write about whatever I want to write about. But somewhere in the back of my mind – the way back – I consider what others might enjoy reading. Occasionally though, I’ll completely ignore the part of my brain that considers such things as other people’s thoughts and feelings.

One might call this sociopathic. I call it blogging.

You’ll notice there aren’t any ads on this site. That’s because I was kicked out of Google Adsense for cruel and unusual click activity. I didn’t even bother pleading my case. Because I don’t want any ads defiling the unadulterated fun we’re having over here at I Am the Mill. Those ads are for people who want to make money. And I’m too well grounded to think that I could ever make any money from advertising on this website.

In conclusion, it’s clear that I couldn’t think of anything good to write about tonight. Ted Kennedy’s passing is not particularly funny. Healthcare reform is getting old. North Korea has quieted down recently. And I haven’t done shit all week. So this is all that’s left.

If you have any ideas for blog topics, please let me know.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

What the Hell Happened to the Summer?

I was looking at a calendar today – in order to help me organize my busy life – and it struck me down like a taser to the temple. The summer is basically over. And what do I have to show for it?

During summers past, I’ve gone on vacation and come back with a decent tan. I’ve worked odd jobs and saved up some cash. I’ve exercised like mad and gotten myself into halfway respectable shape. Why, there used to be a time when my pectorals didn’t droop, and my triceps weren’t mono-ceps.

In other words, I used to make something of my summers. But this summer has come and gone with nary a whisper of improvement or progress. I’ve spent most of my time doing what I do the rest of the year – going to work, eating, sleeping, drinking beer, and managing fantasy sports teams.

Also, I write something on this blog from time to time.

So what have I done to make this summer stand out from the rest of the year? When my grandkids ask me, “Hey Granddad Mill, what were you doing during the summer of ought nine? During the first 50-year reign of King Barack I. The famous summer that brought the loss of Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, AND Jared from Subway (sorry in advance, Jared). The summer that witnessed an embryonic phenomenon known as the iPhone, begin its rapid ascent to direct cerebral implantation, and Apple Computer’s subsequent overthrow of organized society via mind control and free wireless music downloads directly into the cerebellum.”

I’ll be left speechless – because I won’t have any stories to tell about this summer, and also because we will all be living on the moon by that time, and sound doesn’t travel well in the super-thin lunar atmosphere.

In any event, the summer is officially over in less than 2 weeks. What could I possibly accomplish between now and then that would make this summer worth remembering?

I’ve been working on a swine flu vaccine, sure. But it’s not ready yet.

I’m in touch with Kim Jong-Il about giving up the nukes. But we don’t have another playdate until October.

I’ve cured AIDS in a test tube, but accidentally dropped it in the laundry room – where I do most of my infectious disease research.

And I unified the theories of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theories of general and special relativity in my sleep. But promptly forgot the salient points of my unified theory as soon as I woke up and realized that I had failed to record Top Chef on the DVR.

So it could have been a pretty great summer. And now time is running out. I’m afraid this may be a summer to forget.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Michael Vick and the Eagles – An Epic Conundrum

Dress me in an ironic Vick jersey.

Since the announcement, I’ve racked my conscience. I’ve spent countless hours watching Michael Vick highlight reels AND visiting I’ve pored over documentation regarding the United States penal system and its limited success in rehabilitating criminals. I’ve cried myself to sleep thinking about those poor, poor fighting doggies, and what Vick and his co-conspirators did to them.

But I’ve also found myself in a cold sweat, awakened in a sudden fit – paralyzed with excitement. The only taste in my mouth a faint tingle of Super Bowl glory. My only vision - emerging from the inky blackness of our New York night - Vick lined up left of center, with McNabb to his right. Brian Westbrook in the backfield, and DeSean Jackson on the outside.

The defense doesn’t know what the fuck to do.

The center fakes the snap to McNabb, who goes left, while Vick crosses his path and receives the ball. Westbrook fakes a handoff and Vick keeps the ball. He fakes a pass to Jackson, and then fakes another pass to McNabb. He jukes right, stutter steps, and spins just out of reach of a flailing linebacker.

He’s toying with them - for lack of a better analogy – like a squeaky hot dog chew toy.

Then, it’s off to the races, as Vick sprints down the sideline - as if he’s chasing a mechanical bunny – and scores the touchdown.

Eagles win. Again.

Mike Vick will do this all day long. He also makes a mean cheesesteak.

But at the same time, I really like dogs. And I can’t really forgive Mike Vick for doing what he did. And then again, he’s an incredible athlete. If he’s even in semi-game shape, he could provide an incredible offensive spark for my beloved Eagles.

Love of Eagles vs. love of dogs. Michael Vick vs. Cesar Millan.

I guess everyone does deserve a second chance – especially if they can help the Eagles win a Super Bowl. I might have very well been singing a different tune if Vick had signed with the Giants or the Cowboys. But he’s an Eagle now. And until he’s pulled over by the cops in his SUV, and an unregistered handgun is found in his glovebox – along with 2 ounces of marijuana and some child pornography - I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Although I would recommend you keep him away from your dog(s) for the time being.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Ikea Workout

I can barely lift my arms above my head. My legs are as stiff as an old NFL lineman’s.

I’m totally exhausted this morning, and I think I know why.

It’s called the Ikea workout. And it’s one of the best workouts on the planet. Forget about spin classes or pilates. Don’t bother with cross training or weightlifting. The only thing you need is a nearby Ikea and a gallon of Gatorade.

It didn’t start out as a planned workout, but rather, a trip to Ikea to buy some sorely needed storage furniture. We needed some shelving in a bad way. We were jonesing for some cabinets. We were like meth-heads - but instead of meth, it was a filing cabinet and a bookshelf we absolutely had to have.

While we were at it, we also grabbed some Swedish meatballs at the cafeteria.


Anyway, after loading up our cart with about 12 flat-pack boxes stuffed with Swedish-engineered fake veneer and particle board, it was time for an attempt to stuff it all into the car. The heaviest box was 71 pounds, and about 6 feet tall. On a side note, that’s about the size I need to get down for my wedding in order to fit into my tux - my Bar Mitzvah tux.

After figuring out how to operate the fold-down rear seats in my new Ford Fusion (took 10 minutes to figure it out, even though you just need to pull a couple levers in the trunk – totally not Ford’s fault) we started to load the boxes.

In all fairness to myself, I did most of the heavy lifting – and pretty much all of the sweating. Jaimi was a good project manager, and she did help with some of the more unwieldy items, but I didn’t see her break a sweat. Whereas, I was drenched after 15 minutes of packing the car in 90 degree heat and 110% humidity.

This part of the workout really worked my biceps, lats, glutes, and quads.

But that’s just the beginning of the workout. The next step was disembarkation of all the boxes at our place of residence. The drop-off. And it needs to be quick because I was double-parked. It would suck to get a $110 parking ticket after saving $100 on delivery charges by bringing it home ourselves.

So in an effort to get everything into the building before Five-O noticed my illegal park job, I worked up another sweat. And hit my calves, triceps, and forearms with some serious burn. No pain no gain, I always say.

And still, this was just the beginning of the workout.

The real hard part, as many a frustrated Ikea customer knows, is the assembly. It mostly works the hands, lower back, and neck muscles. This is the 10 hour segment of the Ikea workout, and not only does it work your physical muscles, but it also challenges the mental muscles that controls the desire to throw that partly-assembled cabinet out the window or through the wall. Not only that, but it thoroughly works the emotional muscles that keep you from crying during times of intense stress and fatigue.

What makes the Ikea workout such a great way to exercise is that you can really see the results right after you’re done. No, you may not look any stronger or more ripped. And you may be the same weight as before – minus a gallon of sweat. But when you look around the room and see four or five new pieces of Swedish-designed furniture – hand assembled in the good ol’ U.S. of A – your chest swells with pride just a little bit more than after doing a set of Perfect Pushups.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

The Mill's General Store

This recession won’t end. The economy keeps shrinking, and jobs continue to disappear. Fuel and food prices fluctuate, wages shrink. The flowers for our wedding are going to cost thousands.

In this economic environment, one needs to prepare for any eventuality. That’s why I’m making my own pickles.

I’ve been brewing my own beer for several months now – and it’s becoming rather drinkable after several tries. But humans cannot live on beer alone. I mean, you could probably survive for a month or two, but scurvy would inevitably set in – you’d lose your teeth, your hair, your fingernails. And although you might think it would be cool to tell girls that you’ve been living off of nothing but beer for the last two months, your lack of teeth, hair and fingernails, and the yellow pallor of your skin – from liver damage - would be a serious turn-off.

So you’ll also need to eat something else. And what else can you make at home that lasts a long long time? Besides beef jerky, which will probably be my next challenge? Of course, the answer is pickles.

Pickles are salty, delicious, preserved vegetables. I feel almost naughty eating them, because they’re delicious AND vegetables. Vegetables are supposed to taste like crap. Also, pickles are fat free, trans fat free, cholesterol free, and hormone free. They last forever in the fridge. They are a crowd pleaser. You can pickle nearly anything. Anything.

Pickles are magic.

And beer is also magic, for similar reasons. Plus beer makes you drunk. That’s why I now make my own pickles and my own beer – my own magic, if you will.

I am a wizard.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Momofuku Ko: A Restaurant Review With Photos and Rhymes

Since opening well over a year ago, David Chang’s Momofuku Ko is still one of the toughest tickets in town. The computerized reservation system requires that you not only have a super-fast clicking finger, but a dedicated T1 line as well. I thought about laying fiber optic cable directly between our apartment and Ko’s server – located somewhere in central Virginia – but decided instead to use my work computer in order to snag a reservation.

You see, at precisely 10AM the reservation system opens. Reservations for the week ahead are shown, including the current day’s - but only reservations 6 days hence are likely to be available, because those are the ones that are new to the system. Anyway, I’ve been trying on and off for the last 16 months or so. It’s common knowledge that you have about 3 seconds before all the spots are gone for the new day’s rezzies.

Somehow, through deftness and agility, intelligence and charisma, strength and will and matching socks, I was able to get a reservation for two this past Sunday – at 9:50PM. But hey, it was a dream come true, even if it was a bit late for dinner. I’d read a number of reviews about how great the food is. A 10-course tasting menu featuring some of the most imaginative dishes imaginable by anyone’s imagination. Imagine that.

All in a cozy setting, in which you’re actually served by the guys making the food. Sounds pretty cool.

And the food was indeed excellent. I really liked the grilled trout. And the deep-fried short rib. And the Cold dashi broth with crawfish, sea urchin and some fresh peas and leafy greens. And who could forget the scallop sashimi, or the poached blueberries with olive oil and cr̬me fraiche ice cream Рand a schmear of pepper ganache on the side.

It was all wonderful. I only wish I had some pics to show you of all the dishes. You see, unbeknownst to me, Ko had instituted a ban on photography – over a year ago. I’m not sure how I missed that. I guess I only read the reviews written before the place was overrun by critics and bloggers, with their flashes blazin’ and their shutters clickin’.

Forbidden photo #1 - Homemade biscuit with pork rind.

Forbidden photo #2 - I think it was tomato tempura.

Sure, I could see how that could be real annoying. But I had an iPhone. A sleek, silent, unobtrusive iPhone. Like the USS Nautilus, slipping beneath the waves on its maiden voyage. Plus, I was sitting at the end of the counter right near the bathroom. I’m sure I wasn’t bothering anyone.

And when the cook first told me no photos were allowed, I really, truly thought he was joking. So I said, “Seriously?” And he said, “Yes (asshole).” The “asshole” being implied by his unflinching stare, and the switchblade he used to pick a bit of swiss chard from between his razor-sharp incisors. I wasn’t the first asshole to try to snap a photo of the amuse bouche. And I’m sure I won’t be the last.

Also, there was no switchblade. The guy actually seemed pretty nice after our little no photo encounter.

Anyway, I did get a few photos. And I have conveniently pasted them throughout this post. In addition, I will summarize my review of Ko - in rhyme - as follows:

We went to Ko on Sunday - my buddy Dan and I.
I took the F train subway. It's easier to fly.
Brooklyn to Manhattan - Jetblue doesn't fly this route.
If I were to take a taxi, "Hey cabbie!" I would shout.

I urinated once, towards the end of the dinner.
From previous expansion, my bladder's now thinner.
I gave the handle a touch, and the flush was quite sudden.
I'm glad they didn't serve a roast leg of mutton.

I wish I had pics, to remember the meal.
For 100 bucks, it's not quite a steal.
The bathroom was nice, the shots are below.
The toilet was new: a Kohler Low-Flow.

I've focused too much on the restroom at Ko.
The food is the highlight. The flavors. The show.
Please excuse my tangent, it's sophomoric at best.
I'm feeling regret bubbling up through my chest.

The food was great, I liked the grilled trout.
The staff seemed tired, like an old man with gout.
I was reprimanded once, it won't happen again.
The scale goes to eleven, but I give Ko a ten.

Aforementioned toilet with sensitive flush mechanism.

Me grinning like an idiot. "Oh boy, I'm so naughty for taking a photo in the bathroom!"

My CIA training prepared me well. This is a classic under-counter spy shot. If the counter wasn't in the way, we'd have photos of the food. But also, then the food would be on the floor.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

If You Can Imagine It, Then It Can Be Returned to Costco

A friend of mine - who will remain anonymous in case the Costco Gestapo is monitoring this blog – recently tested Costco’s famous return policy. According to their website:

Merchandise: We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD / MP3 players and cellular phones.

How to Return: For an immediate refund (including shipping and handling), simply return your purchase at any one of our Costco warehouses worldwide. If you are unable to return your order at one of our warehouses, please email customer service or call our customer service center….

If you request an item be picked up for return, the item must be packaged and available for pick up in the same manner as it was delivered.
If your order was delivered “curb side,” it will need to be available for curb side pick up.
If the item arrived to you in a box, it will need to be in a box at the time of pick up.

Not only can you return anything at any time – except for certain electronics – but they’ll even pick it up from your house!! It sounds too good to be true. But is it?

So our good unnamed friend – let’s call him Diego Montoya Villa Lobos – decided to give it a try. Diego had purchased a set of golf clubs at Costco – 4 years ago – and was looking to buy a new set. He was no longer satisfied with the old clubs because they were, well, old I guess – and no longer shiny. And who wants 2 sets lying around the house anyway? Why not return the old, used set for a full refund, and use that money towards a brand new set?

But hadn’t Mr. Montoya Villa Lobos used the clubs in the interim? Wouldn’t Costco be crazy to accept these old, used, scuffed up clubs as a return? Hadn’t he used the five-iron to clean out his gutters, and the sand wedge to probe for….well, never mind.

Yes, yes, yes and you don’t want to know.

Furthermore, he didn’t have the receipt and may have bought the clubs using someone else’s membership card. He really couldn’t remember. It had been 4 years, for God’s sake.

And as crazy as it sounded, and with enough egging on, our good friend Diego gave it a shot. What did he have to lose, after all? The return policy is right there in black and white.

So without subjecting you to any further suspense, Mr. D.M.V. Lobos was indeed able to return the clubs for a full refund. They didn’t even check the condition of the sand wedge or the five-iron. They just counted the clubs to make sure they were all present and accounted for.

The moral of this story is most definitely that you can pretty much return anything you ever bought at Costco at any point in the future, no matter what. Receipt or not. Half-eaten or not. Burned by fire, damaged by the wind, covered in molten rock. It makes no difference. Costco will take it back.

And that is why, my friends, we should all shop at Costco.

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