Aug. 17th, 2017 04:22 pm
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I'm back home in the USA and back in the saddle at work. The past few days have involved:

1) Waiting for Air France to deliver my luggage. When I had to clear customs and take a bus an mile at de Gaulle airport to catch my second flight, I had suspicions my bag would be MIA. What was irritating was, when it didn't show, there was an Air France agent standing at the luggage carousel with a clipboard with my name on it. They knew my luggage didn't make it, but made me wait to ask about it! Not happy.

2) Got the first real American steak in 19 days. It was delicious.

3) Got the first real American hamburger in 19 days. It was also delicious. The place I visited for the burger, Shanahan's, also installed a piano bar. I sat and partook for a while.

Now home and thence to my first personal training session in three weeks.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I'm sitting here in the hotel bar at Kaunas confusing the waitresses. (I think that when a Lithuanian orders vodka he does so like an American with bourbon - ice or neat.) Anyway, I've toured the highly walkable city of Kaunas, the Pittsburgh of Lithuania.

I say Pittsburgh because the city is at a river junction (two, not three rivers) and because of location it's been a trade and military hub since people moved into the area. Also because it's between two rivers, the streets tend to flow parallel to the river, making a hash of a grid system.

Kaunas is a very walkable city. They took two semi-major streets and made them pedestrian only, and said streets flow into the very car-unfriendly Old Town. My hotel is a block from the eastern (modern) end of that walkway, which is about a kilometer long. I've walked it both ways.

The old town is quaint and old, and I've visited all of the sites to see. Unlike Pittsburgh, Kaunas was a capital at various points in its history, but it largely retained its "down home" feel.

Getting here was a bit interesting. First, I messed up my ticket, buying something from Lufthansa that didn't allow me to check baggage. 100 Euro later, I'm in business. Then the flight from Frankfurt to Kaunas involved two buses - one in Frankfurt taking us to the ass end of the tarmac to walk up the stairs to the jet and another bus in Kaunas taking us to a temporary terminal in a tent. All the while, I'm stuck in the middle of an Italian tour group. (Read, a bunch of pushy retirees who speak no relevant languages and insist in talking loudly enough to prevent one from hearing any announcements.)

At Kaunas, my hotel had a taxi waiting for me. The driver, a kid in his early twenties, got me to the hotel, although I was amused at his musical tastes - American Top 40 via a local FM station.

I had dinner at the "Zalias Ratas" restaurant in Kaunas Lithuania. First, please note grammar cops - in Lithuanian, one uses quotes where in English we would use italics.

In any event, one walks down a very unpromising alley to a little wooden house sandwiched between various more modern buildings. Inside, its cozy and rustic, but, per Travelocity and my stomach, it's the best traditional food in town. It's also damn cheap - I ate and drank for 20 Euros. You have to know to look for it, but it's worth it.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I apologize for yesterday's radio silence. In the AM I was busy doing disaster recovery testing at work, and in the afternoon I cranked out 1500 words on a short story. Here, in order to fill some space, some lessons learned.

1) I no longer need a tire air pressure gauge - my car has tire air pressure sensors.

2) Meat thermometers only work if you take the meat being tested out of the oven.

3) A five-pound boneless rib roast for five adults yields at least a pound of leftovers. (Good thing I like rib roast.)

4) If you have a 41-inch waist, you need to buy 40-inch pants with expandable waistlines. They don't make 41-inch waists, and 42s fall off.

5) the cocktail whiskey old fashioned is a dangerously mild-tasting drink.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Posted here for archival purposes:

1) preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2) Take a Pyrex pie pan or other small baking pan and line the bottom with aluminum foil.
3) Take two thawed chicken breasts, lightly coat with olive oil (both sides - about a teaspoon per breast) and sprinkle on some Cajun seasoning (both sides).
4) Bake the breasts. For typical ones, 16 minutes. For larger ones, 20. For Pam Anderson Specials, 24 minutes.
5) Halfway through baking, pull the breasts and flip them. If you have bacon, put half a strip (raw) on each breast. If you have cheese, toss some of that on. If not, just flip and bake.
6) When the chicken is done, put it on a plate and eat it.

Because you lined the pan with foil, cleanup is a snap. Also as you can see above, you can dress up or down the bird to make several variations on a theme.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Thought #1 - Trump

It seems that many of Trump's opponents assumed he would do what he said he would do, and many of Trump's supporters assumed Trump was exaggerating for effect. Given some of his staff appointments so far, I think the opponents were more correct.

Thought #2 - Grocery Stores

When I first moved up to Chicago, I took to doing my grocery shopping at Jewel's. It was close, cheap and nicer than what I was used to downstate. Well, a couple of months ago a new grocery store, Mariano's, opened up near me. It's much nicer, equally cheap, and has better selection. It's my new grocery store.

Thought #3 - Writing

On Sunday, the plot of a new book came to me as if via dictation. Unfortunately, it's a sequel to a book I haven't found a home for yet.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Let's get right to it.

1) On July 28, 1932, the U.S. Army 12th Infantry regiment commanded by Douglas MacArthur and the 3rd Calvary Regiment, supported by six battle tanks commanded by Major George Patton violently evicted the Bonus Army from their Washington, D.C. encampment. The Bonus Army, composed of unemployed and desperate WWI vets, wanted payment of around $600. It's a reminder that we got the New Deal because it was that or Fascism.

2) The Russians Are Bullying Our Diplomats Too. Remember that when Trump asks his friend Putin for help.

3) Calling American breakfasts what it often is: dessert. Much of American breakfasts, from yogurt to muffins, has the same sugar content as equivalent amounts of ice cream or cake. Please note, South Beach Diet followers, that traditional bacon-and-eggs breakfasts don't have that problem.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
As part of my ongoing Battle of The Bulge I recently wrote of portion control. For those not clicking through, the gist was I was taking a recipe that feeds 4 and making 3 meals of it.

For two weeks running I've been implementing portion control. Last week, I made a pot roast, which I get three 8-to-10 ounce meals out of. This week I made a hamburger casserole. Again, it feeds four, so I divided it into 4 portions and froze 2 (individual) portions. Also soon to appear on the menu are baked fish. I bought on sale at the store four individual packs of ready-to-bake fish.

More updates from the front as events warrant.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Don't worry about loosing weight - you'll eventually find it. Speaking personally, this has always been my experience.

There are a number of causes of this "feature" largely related to eating too much and exercising not enough, but one of the causes is portion control. This Saturday, I make my standard recipe of spaghetti, which I ate with a salad. I had leftovers, so this week I had two meals of spaghetti and salad.

Except my recipe makes enough for 4 people - 4 hungry people. In short, I ate 33% more than 1 serving of spaghetti.

This is in part because I like my recipe, and in part because, when looking at the 3rd spaghetti dinner of the week, a 4th dinner is not that appealing. There is a solution - namely freeze say half of whatever I cook, thus allowing me to eat the other half in a more portion-controlled manner.

I've been reluctant to do this, in part because it's what old people do. Then I noticed the gray hair in the mirror (it's above the size 2X gut). Hello, freezer.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
My parents were in town for a routine visit. As part of that visit, we went out to Ditka's for dinner. I usually order a CC and 7up as my pre-dinner drink. (Interesting history of Canadian Club whiskey here.)

Last night, I ordered a Sweet Manhattan instead. (Man does not live on Canadian Club alone.) Everywhere else I've ever ordered one of these drinks, it came in a rocks glass over ice. Well, at Ditka's, it came in a martini glass with no ice.

Since the drink is the same alcohol, one would think it would taste the same prepared either way. One would be wrong - the straight-up version tasted both stronger and otherwise different. It was good, just different, although I prefer it over rocks.

Variety is the spice of life.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Today is my last regular Rotary meeting of the year. In honor of that, have a couple of links.

A) You may have heard of Airbnb, a service that allows you to rent out spare rooms via the Internet. Well, this guy's dad died because of an Airbnb rental, and he notes, " The irony is that amateur innkeepers who couldn’t be trusted with the banal task of photographing and marketing their properties are expected to excel at hospitality’s most important rule: keeping guests safe and alive."

B) An interesting article on how technology drives culture: Friday Food Post: The Economics Behind Grandma's Tuna Casseroles.

C) In the "the globe isn't warming department, really" comes this: The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit to coincide with an inundation.

D) The publisher Angry Robots is having an open submission period.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
About two weeks ago, we had our first snow in Chicago. So, since my new association doesn't like us to store propane grills in our garages (and it's a massive pain-in-the-ass to get my grill to the garage) I dutifully went out and covered it before the snow hit. Well, the snow melted, and we're expecting 50s today, so the grill is uncovered and in operation. More updates as events warrant.

(Yes, I am tired of the bullshit that passes for politics at the moment.)
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I'm not going to Rotary today due to Daye Jobbe events, but I will be off-site. Have some links:

A) An interesting thought as to why US voter turnout is so low.

B) Supposedly, it's here transparent aluminum.

C) Presented without endorsement - the long con of Republican party "activists".

D) Rabbit starvation, or starving to death because of a lack of fat in your diet.

E) in the "picture worth a thousand words department:"

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Like the label on the tin says:

A) Pasted here for my convenience: Cherie Priest's key lime pie recipe.

B) Kameron Hurley is wise on how much money one makes by writing books.

C) We're used to seeing the stylized maps of the London Tube. Here's why: the real map is almost too complex to use.

D) A preview of my cruise costume (and yes I have white pants for it):

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Been saving this up...

A) An interesting thought on police misconduct. The author compares fear of police as equivalent to the fear of terrorism. Both are random events that could happen to anybody anywhere, where as other forms of violence can in theory be avoided.

B) What do you eat in Antarctica? The hot dog soup actually looks pretty good, but then one does not get to be my size by being a picky eater.

C) The title says it all Yes, Virginia, people of color do fucking read SF/F.

D) Speaking of science fiction, an interesting anthology having a Kickstarter.

E) Here's a video on the cause of the Civil War:

Was the Civil War About Slavery?

New Video! "Was the Civil War About Slavery?"What caused the Civil War? Did the North care about abolishing slavery? Did the South secede because of slavery? Or was it about something else entirely...perhaps states' rights? Col. Ty Seidule, history professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, settles the debate once and for all.For more information on the Civil War, check out The West Point History of the Civil War, an interactive e-book that brings the Civil War to life in a way that's never been done. Click here ->

Posted by PragerU on Monday, August 10, 2015
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
After a fun weekend, I'm back to the salt mines at work. Since you don't care about my job, herewith a few thoughts about the Weekend That Was.

My parents were up for a visit, and so Saturday night we went to the Old Vilnius Cafe in Darien. It's a small place, and serves highly authentic Lithuanian food. Think pork, chicken, cabbage and potatoes. Lots of potatoes. Good food, but the sampler platter was enough for two, and we each got one.

After I sent the parents back downstate, I went to a matinee of Jurassic World. On the second weekend, the Sunday matinee was still full, so we'll be seeing sequels to this one. The plot and acting were okay, which is okay, since the real reason anybody goes to these movies is to see who gets eaten by a dinosaur and who doesn't.

Lastly, I watched the last few episodes of the TV series Justified. (I've been DVR-ing them and was behind in my viewing.) I liked the conclusion. I also like the fact that they did conclude the series. As I've said before, some stories have a sweet spot beyond which they get stale.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
For some reason, yesterday LiveJournal wouldn't let me post. Today (so far) it is, so have a few thoughts.

Thought, Trivial

I, like most people, have a manual can opener at home. It was lousy, and when it broke I bought an OXO Good Grips. Wow! The improvement between my el-cheapo and the (less than $20) OXO was like night and day! The new can opener is like cutting butter.

Thought, Writing-Related

Posted on Jim Hines' blog As a black writer, my talents, skills, and credentials are always under suspicion. Simply because Noah Scott, the narrator in my YA novel, Hollowstone, was a black teenager, I was accused of author insert by white colleagues and readers alike. On the flipside of that, I caught heat from other white critics because Noah wasn’t gay and I failed my people. And because the publisher traditionally markets to blacks and audiences of color, white critics were the first to claim that said publisher was not a legitimate operation.

Thought, Picture Worth a Thousand Words Edition

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Sad News

First, Terry Prachett's Facebook page is announcing he just died. He was diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's in 2007, so this was not entirely unexpected. I have to admit, I've not read much if any of his stuff, but he was a fan favorite and a well-liked person.

Random Thoughts, Presented Randomly

A) trade-show attendees know the "booth babes" phenomenon - easy-on-the-eyes women hired to stand around a trade-show booth and suck in customers. This guy has empirical proof that babes do not convert to sales.

B) You can't win at publishing. Money quote:
Look, writing for money, particularly writing for a living is very hard.
It really is.
You know what else is hard to do for a living?
Everything is hard.
You’re not entitled to this shit being any easier.
Writing is really no different than any other trade, craft, or profession. Anything you do for a living requires awareness and effort and consistency. Fiction just lacks the traditional markers. No one hires you to be a novelist at their novel writing company...

C) If you've been out to dinner at any casual dining restaurant recently, you've noticed that lobster tails are ubiquitous on the menu. Everybody's selling them, and I wondered why. Thanks to global warming, there's a glut of lobster on the market. When the article was written, lobster was going for $2 a pound. It's not clear if this year's hard winter will push prices up or down - the Maine shrimp season didn't happen, so more boats will be out lobstering.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Like the label on the tin says:

A) A depressing article on the sickest town in America.

B) An interesting old picture - Ladies of the Revolution!

C) A pilot and his co-pilot, the cat.

D) Here's a detailed breakdown of male and female Hugo award winners by year.

E) From IO9, a visual illustration on the amount of meat we eat. The amount has doubled from 1960 to now.
chris_gerrib: (Me)

For the second time in a row, on my trip out from Midway I was ushered into the "TSA pre-screen" line despite not being actually "TSA-pre-screened." It was nice - leave your shoes on and your laptop in your bag. I've decided the trick to getting in that line is arriving at the airport looking like a middle-aged businessman. Since I happen to be a middle-aged businessman, that's not a hard look for me!

On the other side of the TSA coin, my checked bag got searched both ways - I had the "we searched your bag" note from TSA in it. I think the trick there is to show up at the airport early and be a single traveler, thus fitting a profile. (Mad bombers only need one bag and hate to miss their flights.)


While in KCMO, my party went out for official Kansas City barbecue. We asked a couple of locals where to go. A city cop mentioned "Oklahoma Joe's" but said it was a takeout joint in a gas station. He said it was "good but a bit ghetto." The consensus of opinion for take-a-cab-and-dine-in was Jack Stacks, specifically the Freight House location. (KC claims to have invented the shopping mall, and they have a lot of them.)

While at Jack's, I ordered their "Jack's Best" signature platter. It was baby-back ribs, a beef rib and "burnt ends." Burnt ends are a KC-specific item, and they are the burnt ends of barbecued beef briskets, cut into cubes. I found them hit-or-miss.

Tomorrow - thoughts on the con itself.

3 Ayem

Nov. 26th, 2013 08:46 am
chris_gerrib: (Me)
My wake-up call today was 3 in the AM, because I was serving as airport shuttle service, and my shuttle-ees had a 6 AM flight. I got them to the airport, went home, and got an hour nap on my recliner so I'm good.

I noticed that I hadn't posted much about my recent California trip. This is not because the trip wasn't fun (it was) just not perhaps as noteworthy as some of my others. Death Valley is unique, but nowhere near as spectacular as the Grand Canyon or a redwoods forest. I did have a thought, namely groceries.

While staying outside Death Valley, in the tiny (or at least highly unpopulated) town of Amargosa Valley, NV, I ended up gossiping with the "local" Schwan's delivery man. I put "local" in quotes because the guy was based in Pahrump and covered several thousand square miles.

For those not in the know, Schwan's sells all kinds of frozen groceries, and they deliver (apparently anywhere) in distinctive beige trucks. When I was a kid, we briefly bought stuff from them, but apparently Mom could find the same stuff cheaper at the local supermarket.

There is no "local supermarket" in Amargosa Valley. The nearest supermarket is in Pahrump, 50 miles down the road. And Amargosa is, by local standards, fairly close to the big city. There are several towns in the area even more remote. In short, frozen food delivered to your door is a big deal out there. Food for thought.


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