March 31, 2011

Truth in Advertizing…

Last week MJ and I did our usual thing Saturday, grocery shopping. In the produce area, I was immediately drawn to the oranges, navel specifically. They are my favorite fruit, after cheap bananas. Sweet, easy to peel, juicy, no pits to discard, great source of fiber and Vitamin C, an almost perfect fruit. But right there in front of me was another fruit, called a Minneola. Round, orange with a knob, the sign said they were similar to navel oranges, sweet, east to peel and juicy. Now I am a progressive shopper so three Minneola it was.

I have eaten two of them and so here is my review. Minneola, I am disappoint.

Easy to peel? Not so much. The skin is tough, was difficult to get a finger under and I ended up cutting the skin with a knife to even get it started.

Sweet? Not so much. Not sour like a grapefruit but certainly not in the same class as a navel orange.

No pits? Found several…

Juicy? Well yes, that part is true. Juicy enough to cover my desk, shirt, pants, several napkins and a couple of keyboard keys that are now sticking a bit.

So I go to Wikipedia to find out more about this fruit, to find out who their lobbyists are so as to make a mental note of it when I found out that this mystery fruit is just a tangelo. TANGELO! I have heard of them, cross between tangerine and other citrus fruit. It’s just a hybrid with a good publicist. Much like the kiwi (formerly Chinese gooseberry) and dried plums (prunes) it had an identity crisis and some advertizing genius (sorry collegeboy) got his hands on it and rebranded it with exaggerated claims and promises. Well this is one shopper that won’t get fooled again.

I give the Minneola one penguin.

Why one, not zero penguins you ask. I mean it is fresh fruit, does have Vitamins and fiber so it can’t be too bad. But in the immortal words of a little rascals character…” it might choke Artie but it won't choke Stymie.”

March 29, 2011

Book Review: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

When I was looking for a new book to read, I looked up Krakauer because I had read two of his previous books – Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, and really just enjoyed them both. This, and the fact that I was somewhat aware of who Pat Tillman was and had interest in finding out more compelled me to read this. I was looking for entertainment, thrills and information. What I got was a whole lot more.

Pat Tillman, a California kid, gave up a growing, lucrative NFL career to join the US Army after the terrorist attack in New York City. By the time I was into the third chapter of the book, I was realizing this was not only a biography about Tillman, it was an expose, an indictment of so many and so much of the system, it was difficult to keep it all straight in my own head. This is a story of an innocent, one who is caught up and spit out by a system he trusted. It betrayed him and the American people at every turn. We are shown the incompetence of command, the lack of leadership, the casual nature toward the causalities of war, the unjust system of beliefs that got us to Afghanistan, the history ignored time and time again, the prediction of failure and all of the consequences. We are privy to the lies and deceit, to Tillman, to his family, and to the American people. We see the White House attempt to make his enlistment, a political chip, to make his death, a political motivator and the cover-up, a political inconsequence. We see investigation after investigation whitewashed beyond recognition. We see falsified reports, propaganda for political gain and cover-ups at every level.

When it is all over, we see a grieving wife, brother and mother, an unrepentant military and a distanced set of government officials, all the way to the very top of the White House. What we don’t see is apologies, genuine concern by officials or any commitment to changing the way the business of the military or government is conducted.

What I learned is that it is now almost impossible to believe anything our government says. This book left me feeing sad for the family, contempt for the military and angry at our so called political leaders. It has left me speechless.

I give this book 5 penguins. It is a must read for everyone because, until we all read it and understand how we werwe lied to, they will do it to us again and again…

March 28, 2011

Mass Exodus Update: Remodeling Disaster…

You saw that headline and admit it, you thought well the toilet is screwed up or the wallpaper peeled or the trim paint looks terrible. No, none of these are true but there was a disaster of sorts this weekend that has set us back.

Our current project was painting the living room. The bathroom remodel is done except for a couple of minor things, so we moved on. The living room trim was done, warm cream color, and we went to the local hardware store for some paint. We chose a nice medium green color, very popular right now. If we were staying, we would have gone darker but we want to give prospective buyers the sense of the space and ability to see their things in the room so we went lighter to highlight the size of the room.

After removing the pictures and d├ęcor, there were some grime and cobwebs present so a bucket was prepared with cleaner and rags to wipe down the walls. Mrsfabp was on a sturdy stepstool, went to get down, missed a step and fell on her wing, ...errr... arm. It hurt, felt warm to the touch and the doctor at the ER confirmed our worst fears, broken arm. More specifically, it was a clean break mid forearm, consistent with putting your arm out to break a fall.

She spent the rest of the weekend resting, taking pain relievers (TGFV Thank God for Vicadin) and trying, not too successfully, to sleep. The orthopedist office says they can’t see her until April 6th. We have a great health care system don’t we? Luckily she was able to call a different orthopedist who will see her tomorrow. Of course, she has to go get her x-rays and bring them with her but at least she can get a cast and start the healing.

(not the mrsfabp broken wing, but an incredible simulation of what it will look like tomorrow...)

As for the house, we will scramble and figure things out. Miss Nicole has offered to come over next weekend and help with painting so we will get it and the foyer done we hope.

I just have one question for our New Mexico friends. Do they have step stools in Las Cruces? I hope not...

March 25, 2011

Tangled up in Brew – A homebrew update

I begin by thanking my friend Bill in New Mexico for the title of this and all subsequent updates. Readers know I am a big Bob Dylan fan (see CollegeBoy’s name…) and Bill ran across this song reference on a beer bottle cap. He just retired a few months ago and makes frequent posts in Facebook of on his blog and often mentions having a grip on a nice bottle of something. This is an inspiration to me both in terms of my retirement and having a beer or two when I do. Thanks Bill.

Now to the update. If you read this post you know we were raising questions on where to go with the brewing process were involved in. Well, we made some decisions and up to this point have been very happy with the results. Bottling is a long, tedious process, the worst in the whole home brewing situation for us. It takes hours to clean, sanitize, fill, cap and store bottles of home brew, so we were looking for an alternative,. Someday when I am retired and have a bit more time and energy, I dream of doing “corny” kegs and a kegerator (beer keg fridge) but needed something to do now. I wrote on the sub Reddit-Homebrewing and got a great idea from someone – to reuse a Miller Home Draft Kit. I purchased 1.5 gallon bottles from a brew store, bought a draft kit from a local package store, drank the Coors Light and removed the tap. Two weeks ago, CollegeBoy and I brewed our 4th edition of Blue Canary Cream Ale and put it into the fermentor and last Saturday evening, we put it into 3 mini-kegs, where it sits today. It took all of 15 minutes to keg the beer out of the fermentor and I wondered where this process had been all our brewing lives, It was fast, easy and went without a hitch. In a few more days, we will have tap beer, my own tap beer and you could see the smile from where ever you are.

Next up is to begin a second batch of beer on my own as CollegeBoy is finishing up this semester and then is headed to Manhattan for an internship. So the time has come to do one on my own and I am up for the challenge. The first order of business is to decide on what kind of beer to brew. I have my eye on two different types - “honey” ale or a Sierra Nevada pale ale clone. I am also working on a mini-keg label for the Blue Canary and when I am done, I will also post it here. Watch for the next edition of “Tangled up in Brew” (I just love that name…), a taste of the last batch of BCCA FROM A TAP!

March 23, 2011

Mass Exodus Update: On Remodeling

We are very close to the point at which our home will be listed with our realtor. As you read this, my living room is filled with pre-painted trim, doors, primed window frames, various parts and tools and lights and wall board trim and saw horses. The floor of the bedroom is sticky with wallpaper paste, the sink has paint drippings and we have brought enough garbage to the basement to require another load for the junk man.

Our handyman Jim (who is more than a handyman, he is a friend and advisor and all around one of the best people I know) often talks about the process of remodeling where each project tackled improves the overall look but also spawns additional projects that need to be tackled. This is what happened to our bathroom. Let me tell you about it.

When I lost my leg, we remodeled the master bath to make it accessible. Our plan was to tackle the kids bathroom, that was old and dated if there was any money left over. Anyone who has done remodeling knows however that there is NEVER any money left over so the kids bathroom stayed as it was. Over the course of the past few years, the plumbing was redone and a closet there was reclaimed when we moved the laundry to the main floor but nothing else was changed. It still had the 1970’s yellow fixtures, florescent light over the sink, ugly hanging fixture for light, and a hole in the ceiling where the old skylight had been leaking and was removed, leaving a large hole. It was sad but heck, there was a large framed photo of Yankee Stadium on the wall and so all was alright with it.

CollegeBoy spent last summer working 60+ hours a week for a guy who was renovating an apartment complex in his town. CB worked there doing everything from carrying wallboard up three flights of stairs in the summer heat and humidity to tiling bathrooms and putting in new lights and plumbing fixtures. By doing this he learned some valuable things that I could never had taught him – to work with his hands. (Another lesson was to get an education and stay away from manual labor jobs in the heat of the summer but that is another post altogether…) My dad had that skill, my brother does too. It skipped me. I prefer to think they got the skills, I got the looks. So CB’s summer of education gave him valuable insights.

He approached me for the first time over Christmas break to say he wanted to do something for us and said he would tile the bathroom floor during his spring break. I really appreciated the offer but when I talked to our handyman, he said bad idea because it would require an entire new floor as the current one would not hold tile. He mentioned maybe doing a little updating in there and I approached CB about this and a plan was hatched. It included wallpaper, new sink, toilet, fresh paint on cabinets, new light fixtures and new trim. As this is written about 90% of the work is done but the hardest is complete and we only have a couple more things to finish.

A quick look at the process:
Day One: MillieJupiter and I begin the demo in the room, removing cabinet doors, trim and the old glass shower doors. Mrsfabp primed the upper cabinets and all the doors that out handyman Jim had made for us. (about 5 man hours of work)
Day Two: CB arrives, MJ and I have day off and rest of demo takes place including removing toilet, sink, and countertop, three light fixtures and then a shopping trip to Lowe’s and Walmart for the necessary paint, wallpaper, parts/fixtures and accessories. After lunch we begin to put wallboard on the ceiling and finish about 7 pm. Mrsfabp paints all the trim and the doors in living room work station we set up for her. (about 26 total man hours.)
Day Three: Ceiling has a new coat of joint compound textured, new vanity low voltage lights, new vanity top and sink and faucets, Walls compounded to level out the groves in the paneling, primed and wall paper starts going up – 4 sheets put up. (about 21 total man hours).
Day Four: Almost finished wallpaper, put up one light fixture, put in one vent fan but spend an hour seeing that it does not work and have no idea why, put new doors on upper cabinets, do some of the upper and lower wall trim, door trim on two closets, (about 24 more man hours)
Day Five: Go to get new toilet as the floor model we got has the top stuck on and we cannot get it off to do the mechanics inside. We ran out of trim so we get more, paint it and finish it. MJ and MissNicole finish wallpaper. (about 20 more man hours)
Still to be done: re-stain the vanity in dark cherry, clean out the tub of some debris and clean, caulk the tub surround, add shower curtain, accessories and some decorations to the walls. A couple of hours at most I hope. Man hours = approximately 96, total cost, about $550.

Next up on our ever growing agenda is painting the living room walls, staining the new mantle and wood work in living room. Anyone got some spare time next weekend?

As a reward, we all went out for a steak dinner at Longhorns. We were going to go to Olive Garden but the wait was long and we were too tired. The Sierra Nevada Pale Ale made it all worthwhile. The steaks weren’t bad either!

March 10, 2011

Why I like Twitter

Almost everyone who is under 30 years of age is very familiar with the social networking tool Twitter. With it, you can communicate a plethora of information in 140 character messages that lets people know information you wish to share. As this phenomenon has grown over the last couple of years, its usage has expanded into both good and dubious areas.

One dubious area is the celebrity tweet. Famous people have used twitter or used marketing groups to tweet things in their name. In our celebrity oriented culture, people like Shaquille O’Neil, Wil Wheaton, hundreds of baseball, basketball, and football athletes, sports agents and cultural icons have sent messages and garnered followers. Someone like Ashton Kutcher has millions of followers. CollegeBoy has 350.

The political area is no different as such diverse notables as President Obama, Sarah Palin, Chris Dodd, Boehner, Cantor, and even John McCain have twitter accounts and make their views and thoughts know to literally thousands of followers every day. This may be good; this may not be too good. We shall see.

Businesses use twitter, some very effectively. This may be the field that CollegeBoy gets into – social media marketing. He will be doing an internship in Manhattan this summer at Mediavest, a company that is one of the leading, full-service media specialist companies offering brand-building results and business solutions for their marketing partners. Some of their marketing partners include Avon, AAA, Coke, Capital One, Heineken, Walmart, and Wendy’s.

So Twitter has its plusses and misuses (see Charlie Sheen’s recent meltdown) but remains an effective communication tool. But more than that it can be a source of endless entertainment. No, by this I do not mean frequent updates about some celeb’s drug/alcohol intervention or stay at a treatment facility, I am referring to what could be called “TwitterGames”, a term for the #hashtag fun process.

The hashtag process in Twitter allows one to follow tweets from anyone regarding a specific topic. CollegeBoy and I used it while watching the 2009 World Series in two different states. Items were marked with a Yankee hashtag and statements followed by a variety of people.

Well over the course of the past couple of years, this has sometimes evolved into a game when someone starts a hashtag topic such as unnecessary sequels (Taking of Pelham 4-5-6) or less ambitious movies (The Devil wears Walmart, The average Mr. Ripley.) Possibly the most famous hashtag has been the #followfriday where people suggest someone to follow for the day.

I was inspired to write about this today because of a hashtag I ran across #thingsthedamnkidstodaywontbelieve. It was picked up by Wil Wheaton, who I follow (Star Trek, Eureka, Leverage freak that I am) and is running its way through the twittersphere. A few examples for you:

wilw: There was a time when we answered the phone without knowing who was calling ... EVERY TIME.

GidgetWA: People wrote letters to each other ON PAPER & sent them through the Post Office.

pdunwin: The USA put 12 men on the Moon for less than what we spend on our pets in 4 years.

g33kn1k: There was a time you could only listen to half an album. Then you had to turn the cassette over.

Rdsaucier: Medications did not come in hermetically sealed containers with child-proof caps

dellfalconer: Spam was a canned meat everyone made fun of but ate in a casserole once a week

humbledmonk: There was a time when computer games came on a large square thing called a "floppy disk".

And here is the one I added: Need extra cash for the weekend? Get to the bank before 3 pm on Friday GO INSIDE and make withdrawal

March 4, 2011

Looking for a few good men (or good women...)

Just a quick post here

In a coordinated effort with the crew over at Seth Curry Saves Duke, the blog by Shane Ryan, he and I are doing a couple of cooperative fantasy sports efforts. We are running a March Madness Bracket Pool with a prize to the winner of some CSA Swag - hat, mug, trivet or apron. We are also running a fantasy baseball league. If you are interested in participating in either, let me know in the comment section below, or send me an email and I will get you an invite to either. You need an invite to partcipate, it's free and easy to join and participate and time is running out on both so get back to me quickly. All you need to have is an email address to get registered into the leagues!

March 3, 2011

MASS Exodus: March / Spring 2011 Update

Yes folks, you know it, you love it, can't live without it – the MASS Exodus update is here! And I must admit, it is mostly good news, for a change. So, here is what is going on.

Our new well has been paid off! That failed well did more to set us back than anything else we ran into as all the money we had put away for repairs was sucked up by this. Our CollegeBoy personal loan is also repaid and we have great tasting, super wet, quality water in our home, a nice bonus.

The ceiling in MillieJupiter’s room has been repaired – the leak was from an uncapped, unattached vent pipe that allowed rain into the attic and onto the ceiling. It awaits some cosmetic touching up with the popcorn ceiling effect. Next up on the Jim the Repairman list is replacing the front door screen door – its off to Lowe’s we go on Saturday for the door.

CollegeBoy has generously offered his time during spring break in two weeks to cosmetically redo our second bathroom – touch it op so to speak – new toilet and sink, countertop, ceiling, lights, wallpaper and paint. Hopefully this will be completed the week of March 14th. As a reward, we are planning to brew our fourth batch of Blue Canary Cream Ale that week too and instead of bottling, put it in some portable kegs for the conditioning and carbonation. Two words – Yum Yum…

Mrsfabp and I will be tackling the living room trim this week and if satisfied with the results, will move onto the walls. A couple of other cosmetic touches - new shower curtain in our bath, curtain for storage area closet in computer room, curtain rod and curtains to collegeboy’s room need to be done too.
We have contacted our chosen realtor and she will be coming back out with the official papers to be the listing agent for our house, so it should be on the market with 2 weeks or so. Do any of you know anyone, who is interested in buying a house – nice property, quiet, private, with a new well!

Finally, there is still too much snow to tackle the outside work yet but the list includes window trim paint, garage door surround repair and paint, shed doors and rafter replacement, repair to front picture window frame and replace broken glass in bedroom window (thanks to collegeboy for the line drive that broke it!)

We are continuing to live the mantra / meme: Making the dream of Las Cruces, New Mexico a reality!!