Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot:  I've done a lot of scientific research on this* and almost universally opinions on the Melting Pot are split along gender lines.  If you are confused as to which gender is 'for' and which is 'against', you can determine your own opinion and then check your shorts; or you can read the next sentence.  If the Melting Pot isn't the biggest scam since that whole "keep making that face and it'll freeze that way" thing, then I'm Cardinal Richelieu.  This is a restaurant (and an expensive one at that) in which you pay a bunch of money to cook the food yourself.  That's right, it's just like preparing and eating a meal at home, except you are paying more to do it.  Further, because you have to cook each individual piece of meat separately, it takes you about four times as long to finish.  And then to top it off, when you're finished, you're still hungry.  In a large part because in the end you only ate about a fourth of what you would receive on the plate in a regular restaurant** but also because the whole taking five hours to finally cook and eat your five pieces of chicken, handful of vegetable pieces and six pieces of fruit means that it's actually time to eat again.  Oh and just in case you've forgotten already, you paid a stupid amount of money for this privilege.  But even all of that doesn't top the final kicker.  If for some reason you should get sick because of what you ate there, there isn't a single thing you can do about it.  Why?  Because you cooked it yourself!  True story: the Pook and I ate there and we ordered the entree that comes with shrimp. The next day she broke out in hives and was miserable for the next four days with a violent rash and/or knocked cold from the drugs the doctor proscribed.  Now, if this had happened at a regular restaurant*** we could have complained to the management, asked for our money back or even sued.  But we ate at the Melting Pot, so what do we get to do?  Nothing.  Why?  Because the main reason you get hives from shrimp is because they are under cooked.  And who under cooked the Pook's shrimp?  She did!  And we paid a large amount of money for that pleasure!  So guys, the next time your snook-ums bats her eyelashes at you and asks in the sweetest of voices if you would take her to the Melting Pot, I suggest you answer with one of the two following replies.  First, you could suggest going to Target and buying your own Fondue set, then going to your favorite grocery store and buying the best steak, shrimp, chicken, cheese, vegetables, fruit, wine and chocolate they have, renting a movie and finish by hiring a band to play soft, romantic music while you eat at your own house.  All of which will still cost less than the restaurant.  Suggestion two is to say 'no'.

The Melting Pot: C-

* - Meaning, I've talked to a few people on a few random occasions.
** - Meaning, one in which they cook the food for you.
*** - Look at the line above this one.
**** - And time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pay at the Pump

Pay at the Pump: When pay at the pump first started I was ecstatic.*  I no longer have to walk into the building to pay?  How can this be?  No more standing in a line with several other depressed looking people, none of which want to be there?  No more, prepaying for $10 of gas only to have the pump turn off at $8, requiring you to go back inside and stand in the line of sadness to try and explain it to the attendant for whom English was supposed to be a third language?  How can this be?  Suddenly what was guaranteed to take ten minutes or more, took only three or so.  For those of you afraid of math, that's an improvement of about 70%.  Improvements in efficiency such as that come around very seldom.**  Surely this Utopian dream couldn't be true!  Well, it was true, but it didn't last.  When pay at the pump started, it was a simple and quick 4 step process.  You pulled up.  You slid your credit card into the machine.  You pumped your gas.  You left.***  But this blissfully simple experience has gotten perverted.  Now it is more like a 20 step process.  You pull up.  You select the grade of gas.  You slide your credit card into the machine.  You answer several questions about your life, such as: what's your zip code?  What's your PIN number?  How many dwarves were there in Snow White?  What's the carrying capacity of an African Swallow? Do you want a receipt?  Assuming you answer these correctly you may begin pumping your gas and moving on to the later steps.  I don't want to answer questions.  I don't want to "interact" with anyone or anything.  I just want to fill my tank as quickly as possible and go.  One time on a late night trip back from some other state (possibly Virginia), I pulled up to the dark and lonely pump and got out.  While fishing my debit card out of my wallet, suddenly a voice boomed out from behind me, "Welcome to the East of Nowhere Gas Station."  I promptly wet my pants while it went on to suggest I go inside and purchase a beverage or a doughnut or a small caliber weapon.  What happened to the simple and wonderful pay at the pump experience?  I thought you understood when you invented this thing that I don't want to go inside.  I will gladly suffer the nineteen promotional signs you've now plastered around the pump with enticing pictures of doughnuts and other tasty treats, but please don't talk to me!  At another station I visit once**** they had installed TV's at every pump and they played commercials for you while you were pumping you gas.  What!?  I suspect soon you will need to give blood or take a Spanish test to get the pumps working.  Then they'll introduce a new, quicker and more convenient method of paying.  They'll call it, "Pay at the counter."

Pay at the Pump (when introduced): A+
Pay at the Pump (now): A-

* - Okay, maybe ecstatic is overstating it a bit, but I was happy.
** - Meaning never.
*** - Leaving the unwanted receipt flapping on the side of the pump like a flag.
**** - And only once.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Giant Roasters

Campfire Giant Roasters Marshmallows:

If you were like me and believed that marshmallows only came in two sizes (regular and mini), let me be the first to tell you that you are wrong.  Gloriously wrong.  While shopping at Aldi yesterday we came upon a bag of Giant Roasters.  These marshmallows are shaped the same as their small cousins, but they are about the size of five regular marshmallows put together.  The best size comparison I could come up with is that they are about the same volume as a handball, but cylindrical instead of spherical.*  They are made up of a mere eight ingredients and the first three are corn syrup, sugar and dextrose.  So basically the first three ingredients are sugar, sugar and more sugar.  They taste the same as regular marshmallows, but did you forget about the part when I said they were as big as a handball?  I used to not be that keen on marshmallows, but I have since realized the error of my ways.  During my transformation from marshmallow under-appreciator to devotee, I pondered that the biggest problem with marshmallows is that they don't provide you with a big enough bite.  That problem no longer exists.  I tried one straight from the package.  I took a large bite and still had more than 3/4's of the marshmallow left.  Could life be this good?  While at Aldi, the Pook had an awesome idea and now we were putting that plan into place.  We were making s'mores.  One whole graham cracker (broken into two squares), two pieces of a Hershey's bar and one giant roaster.  We toasted everything under the oven broiler and then assembled.  Biting into it just caused warm marshmallow to squirt everywhere and make a giant mess.  It was awesome.  Little Bear attempted to disassemble his and proceeded to have two hands covered in marshmallow and graham cracker.**  Overall the entire dessert was a culinary triumph that would have been unachievable without the greatness that is the Giant Roaster.

Giant Roasters: A

* - Not that useful.  I know.
** - Which given his predilection to clean hands was bad for him


Thursday, May 10, 2012


Marvel's The Avengers A few years ago they were trying to make a Wonder Woman movie.  As I heard it, evidently the original script, writer, director, etc weren't working out, so they fired everyone and hired Joss Whedon.  Whedon wanted to totally rearrange things, scrap the original script and basically asked for complete control.  The owners/producers refused and Joss left the project.  I have yet to see a Wonder Woman movie, but Joss went on to direct and co-write the Avengers.  This is what you get when somebody who knows and loves his material completely is allowed to do whatever it takes to express that in a movie.  I bet those other guys are kicking themselves now.

Avengers: A+


Monday, May 7, 2012

First Game of Catch (almost)

First Game of Catch (almost): Just before Easter, Aldi had little kid baseball gloves on sale for cheap.  So we bought one to put in the boy's basket.  Being three and an American, it seemed past time he had one.  On Easter morning, after we described the point of the large black and brown thing taking up valuable candy space he replied, "I don't want it" and refused to even try it on.  Several weeks and a new baby brother later, I decided it was time to retry introduction of America's past-time.  Earlier in the day, while we were wasting time channel flipping I turned over to a sports channel that was showing a college baseball game.  The Bear was interested enough to watch most of an inning and I was careful to point out how everyone except the batter was wearing baseball gloves.  That evening when he started getting restless, I suggested that we go outside and play with his ball and glove.  I had retrieved my glove from it's storage place* a few days earlier and the ball and his glove were sitting nestled in mine near the back door.  He suggested we include his over sized plastic baseball bat and the batting tee he'd gotten for his birthday.  Having added those items we were off into the back yard.  Once outside, I set up the tee, but having seen real athletes on TV playing without a tee, he was no longer interested in using one either.  He suggested I set it on the patio and he told me I could leave his glove over there too as he didn't want it.  Hoping that watching me using mine would inspire him to don his, I agreed and we got ready to play.  I showed him how to stand and swing the bat and I backed away a few steps to attempt to toss the ball in such a way that contact of some sort could be made.  "You swing the bat and hit the ball and I'll catch the ball in my glove" I told him.  "But Daddy," he replied, "who's going to fall down?"  Befuddled I asked for clarification.  "Somebody always falls down" he told me.  I eventually realized that what he'd taken away most from watching baseball on TV, was that it involved a lot of falling down** and getting really dirty.  So for the next several minutes, I tossed the ball near him.  He swung the bat and never once made contact, but after each swing he would drop the bat, run a few steps in a random direction and gleefully fall onto the ground.  His glove spent the entire time lying on the ground.

First Game of Catch (almost): A+

* - The trunk of my car, naturally.
** - a.k.a. - sliding

Torchwood (Season 1)

Torchwood: The Complete First Season:  If you haven't heard of Torchwood, it is a spin-off from Doctor Who*.  If you haven't heard of Doctor Who, please stop reading and go away.  Seriously.  In the series, Torchwood is the name of the government** agency that deals with aliens, weirdness and anything else that tends to show up in the Doctor Who oeuvre .  It first showed up in several episodes of Doctor Who.  In the series Torchwood is headed by Captain Jack Harkness, who also was originally from the Doctor Who series.***  Like most new series, I started out expecting some rough edges while the writers/creators figured out what they were doing and the actors figured out who their characters are.  Well, I got it.  Though these rough edges were less like something that needs a little sand paper and more like the Himalayas.  For the first half of the season, I'm pretty sure the director spent every scene telling John Barrowman (Captain Jack) that he needed to "Emote More!!!!!!"  I've seen worse over acting, but never so much packed into so few episodes. Kind of reminded me of that SNL skit with the Master Thespian played by John Lovitz.  "My finger has been cut off! ACTING!!!!!  Only in this case you don't have anything so dramatic as a severed finger.  It's more like.  "My Shoe's Untied!!!!!!!!!!!! ACTING!!!!!!!!!"  The other main character is Gwen.  Who's fine, except she does have a mighty big gap in her front teeth.  So the first several episodes, every time she's came on screen all I could think was, "Mind the gap".  Actually, that's both mean and untrue.****  After several episodes you really don't notice it as much and she has a great accent.  Other characters are: Owen, who despite acting like a complete jerk and looking vaguely like Willem Defoe is the super, mack-daddy of his ZIP Code*****;  Tosh, an Asian lady who's good with computers; and Yanto, who's weird and whose stilted underacting is a stark counterpoint to Jack's overacting.  And if you think those descriptions are too brief and undeveloped, then you've gotten as much about them as the show tells you.  Fortunately, everything gets better as the season progresses and by the end of season 1, the Pook didn't want it to stop and is now asking for season 2.******

Torchwood (Season 1): B-

* - In fact, the name Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who.
** - British government.  Not everything happens in the USA.  Quit being so Amerocentric.
*** - If you don't remember him, he's the guy who can't die and isn't picky about who he's sleeping with.
**** - Mostly.
***** - Except they don't have ZIP codes in the UK, but you get the point.
****** - At the beginning of season 1, she just wanted to make it stop.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lucky Charms

Lucky Charms Cereal: I read somewhere that if you were one of those parents who restricted what cereal your children could eat* because you didn't want them eating a bowl full of sugar that Lucky Charms was the best of the bad for you cereals.  Said differently, that while Lucky Charms is definitely what my mom would call a "sugar cereal"**, it's actually not that bad for you.  In fact, comparing it to some cereals that are considered "healthy", I found that Lucky Charms is often the winner.  Which is good because Lucky Charms is downright tasty stuff.  Obviously it has a huge plus in that it has marshmallows in it.  While I'm off topic (because I now am), I don't really know why they call the things in cereal marshmallows. They have no real similarities to actual marshmallows other than they are both made up of mostly sugar.  Actual marshmallows are smooshy and chewy.  Cereal marshmallows are hard and crumbly.  Lucky Charms' marshmallows come in a variety of colors and shapes and while it used to be a childhood badge of honor to be able to name them all, memorizing them now would be an exercise in futility, as they seem to change them every other week.  The grain part of Lucky Charms is pretty good too and there is a good ratio of marshmallows to non-marshmallow pieces.  One thing I don't like about Lucky Charms is how it changes the milk in your bowl to a pinkish, sugary milk.  About half the time I forgo this and just dump it out.  Finally, from time to time companies will come out with new products that are just a part of their old product and try to use that to break into a new market.  Often this is in the baking aisle.  For instance Reese's has peanut butter chips and M&M's has mini-baking pieces.  I think they should start selling the Lucky Charms marshmallows separately.  I bet you could make some awesome desserts.  Rice Crispy treats with Lucky Charms marshmallows?  Yes, please!  Of course, alternately you could just eat the whole bag by itself.  With or without the milk.

Lucky Charms: A-

* - Then you must be communist.
** - As is that was somehow a bad thing.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Late Night Feedings

Late Night Feedings: Give up large chunks of your sleep for the next several weeks (if not months) to get up and feed your newborn?  To be honest, not something I was looking forward to. Well, if you've never done this before (or perhaps its been a few years and you've forgotten) here are a few different things you can expect to experience.  In the beginning, you never actually get to sleep.  Instead you lie just on the edge of wakefulness waiting for the cries to come through the monitor.*  When they do come and you go to the baby's room you can never be sure what exactly will be waiting for you.  Here are few options:

- A hungry baby, who eats and then goes back to sleep.**
- An upset baby because his hand or foot has come unswaddled
- An upset baby because he is completely swaddled
- A tired baby that is so tired it can't get to sleep.***
- A hungry and tired baby.  One that is so hungry it can't sleep for the hunger pains, but at the same time is so tired it can't stay awake to actually drink its bottle.****
- A completely wide awake baby who is looking for entertainment

This list is obviously incomplete.  But the best part is that the Bean is only five days old and this list is compiled from the things that happened on just the first night home.  Here are a few of the other options I'm really looking forward too:

- Poop Everywhere!
- You stumble into the room to find the baby is asleep.  You stumble back to bed and as soon as your head hits the pillow he starts crying again.
- A hungry baby, only you forgot to make enough bottles to last the night.
- A sick baby
- A baby that won't stop crying for no reason at all!

Lest I have scared off some of you from attempting the joys of parenthood later in life, let me finish with this. After you've finished feeding, changing, reswaddling, whatever the baby and you're sitting there in the dark, half awake, with their little head leaning against your shoulder, while you listen to the soft sound of their breathing, all the rest of it doesn't matter.

Besides, sleep is for losers.

Late Night Feedings: B-

* - Later it gets to the point where you never actually wake up and you zombie stumble around in the dark.  I'm honestly not sure which is worse.
** - Pray for this one
*** - I know, sounds like an impossibility.  It makes even less sense at 2 A.M.
**** - When you get in this situation, just give up