Wednesday, June 29, 2005

6 Out of 7

The quote from this article (which I first heard on the radio driving home yesterday) really set my teeth on edge:

After the verdict, Scrushy delivered a public statement, sounding alternately like a preacher and an Oscar winner. He thanked the jury, God, his family, and a bevy of bishops and pastors.

"I don't understand why people are so critical. What's wrong? What happened to the compassion in this world?" Scrushy asked. "You've got to have compassion in this world, folks, because you don't know who's next, who's going to be attacked next."

To quote one of my favorite movie lines (from John Carpenter's "The Thing"): "You gotta be fucking kidding."

Okay, full disclosure time: I pronounce myself guilty of six out of the seven deadly sins. If you want a list of particulars, I can provide multiple pages for each sin. But one of them, Greed, has always eluded me. Now and then I wish I could hit the weekly PowerBall jackpot, but I don't desire excessive "material wealth or gain". Maybe it's because I have no realistic hope of earning more than high five figures per year. Maybe it's because I came of age during the 1980s, surrounded by the worst examples of wanton avarice in my own public high school. Or maybe greed never took hold in my genetic code. Whatever the reason, I don't understand the sin of greed. I have no touchstone for it, unlike, say, anger or lust. I have experienced those sins in full flower, so I understand why people can be carried away on their currents to drown. Not so with greed.

Now, back to Scrushy1 and his ilk. I only have one question for them all: How much is enough? I mean, seriously. How much is fucking enough? Do you, who surround yourself with luxuries and trappings that most of us will never know in a thousand lifetimes, really have the gall to turn to us and ask "What happened to the compassion in this world?" You want to know what happened to it? YOU BOUGHT IT YEARS AGO AND SOCKED IT AWAY IN SOME TAX SHELTER.

Am I angry? Hell yeah, I'm angry. I'm angry at these bozos who preach the "rising tide lifts all boats" line, while knowing full well that folks occupying the bottom tax bracket haven't a prayer of buying a house in their gated communities. The notion of an "ownership society" pisses me off. Maybe I'm just commie-pinko-liberal trash, but I think that the least a state can do is make sure that its citizens are fed, clothed, housed, and healthy. I do believe that we can eradicate poverty in our lifetime with a slight diversion of our GDP.

If Scrushy really wants to earn my compassion, then he should do something to really help people. And encourage all his rich friends to do the same. I mean, really, how much is enough?

1I know that Scrushy has done much good in Alabama. That still doesn't excuse his arrogance, IMHO.

Fruity Matters, Part Deux

So, what do we do with all that fruit we buy at the market? Well, sometimes we do things like this:

Behold! The first cherry pie of the season! Most of the cherries we used were purchased and frozen last summer. Aside from being a little juicy (shoulda simmered the filling before baking), the results were fantastic. If you're local and want a piece I suggest you get over here pronto. This won't last through the weekend, I promise you.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Fruity Matters

Some of the strawberries for sale at the Arlington Farmer's Market this past weekend. One of the best things about meeting, living with, and eventually marrying Sweetie is that she has turned me on to fruit. I eat so much more fruit now than I did in years past. First strawberries, then grapes, cherries, and apples. I still shy away from bananas, but I do have a favorite apple (Suncrisp).

Going to the market has been a wonderful education. I urge you to patronize your local farmer's market!

Dirt Cake and Other News

Dirt Cake!
Originally uploaded by tommyspoon.
No, my FIL isn't shoveling potting soil at the dinner table. That's Dirt Cake, made by my MIL for Father's Day dinner yesterday. Yes, we celebrated it one week later because they were in Florida over the actual holiday. What's in Dirt Cake? Oh, you know the usual things: crushed Oreo cookies and a creamy filling made of softened cream cheese and chocolate pudding. Did I mention the raisins and chocolate chips inside the cake? Those are the "bugs" in the "dirt". Cute and clever, eh?

Speaking of delayed events: I was cast in "Hauptmann" as Charles Lindbergh. This will be the first historical figure I've ever played, so please offer up any and all good Lindbergh references (I'm looking at you, Lemming and Joe). Why the delay in casting? Well, according to the director, she was torn between going for physical accuracy (tall, lanky, blonde) and acting ability. Now I'm not claiming to be the greatest actor since sliced bread, but I am definitely not tall, lanky, or blonde. While I cannot become tall overnight, I can dye my hair and drop some weight. So, hopefully by September I'll be looking very different. If anyone has any suggestions on dropping poundage, pass them along!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Alison's State Meme

States in which I have lived:

1. Virginia (28 years)
2. Ohio (4 years)
3. Washington, D.C. (2 years, and yes, I AM counting it as a state -- they pay taxes, don't they??)
4. Maryland (1 year)
5. Iowa (8 months, probably more including summer vacations)

States in which I have spent significant time:

6. South Carolina
7. Georgia
8. Illinois
9. New York
10. California

States I have visited:

11. Oregon
12. Washington
13. North Carolina
14. Kentucky
15. Florida
16. Pennsylvania
17. New Jersey
18. Massachusetts
19. New Hampshire
20. Connecticut
21. Nebraska
22. Missouri
23. Kansas
24. Delaware
25. West Virginia
26. Colorado
27. Minnesota
28. Oklahoma
29. Michigan

States in which I have slept, but not much else:

30. Texas (But I didn't sleep there, I attended an all-day meeting with no sight-seeing or other amusement involved. I guess that sorta counts.)

States I have only driven through en route elsewhere:

31. Indiana
32. Wisconsin
33. Arizona (I'm couting several layovers.)

States I am missing:

34. Maine
35. Vermont
36. Rhode Island
37. Tennessee
38. Arksansas
39. Mississippi
40. Alabama
41. Lousiana
42. New Mexico
43. Nevada
44. Wyoming
45. Montana
46. Idaho
47. Hawaii
48. Alaska
49. Utah
50. North Dakota
51. South Dakota

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Some days are bouncers who won't let you in

Audition Script
Originally uploaded by tommyspoon.
Auditioned for "Hauptmann" last night. My german accent kept slipping into eastern european, but other than that I felt I gave the director a few choices to look at. Read for Hauptmann, Lindbergh, a handwriting expert, an elderly witness, and a policeman. Callbacks are Thursday, so cross your fingers!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Monumental Question

When you live in Washington, D.C., you get used to monuments. Most are well-known and easily justified, but a few make me scratch my head in wonder. Until the formation of the National Capital Planning Commission in 1901, most architectural features of the city were erected in a pretty haphazard fashion. Many of these "headscratcher monuments" (my term) were built by groups of people who admired a particular person. So they raised a bunch of money, commissioned a sculptor, purchased a plot of land somewhere in the city, and then built their tribute (usually a white male on a horse). This site provides a very handy index of most of the monuments in D.C., organized by quadrant, sculptor, and subject.

IMHO, a few of these headscratcher monuments do not deserve to exist. Why do I say that? Well, I look at it this way: to earn a monument erected to you in the Nation's Capital, you should have done something positive for the nation. At the very least, you should probably refrain from any of the following actions (especially if you are a general fighting a war):

  • Complain to your Commander-in-Chief that "a lack of resources was making it impossible to defeat the Confederate forces" when you had access to more men and material than your enemy could ever hope to muster.
  • State that you were "unwilling to employ tactics that would result in heavy casualties." And you should not follow that statement with this quote: "ever poor fellow that is killed or wounded almost haunts me!" Perhaps you should get out of the whole general business.
  • During the campaign McClellan declared the war a "failure" and urged "immediate efforts for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the states, or other peaceable means, to the end that peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States". However, McClellan added that this could happen when "our adversaries are willing to negotiate upon the basis of reunion." McClellan made it clear that he disliked slavery because it weakened the country but he opposed "forcible abolition as an object of the war or a necessary condition of peace and reunion."

-- tidbits courtesy of this page

So, can anybody explain to me why there is a statue to General George McClellan in the Nation's Capital?

All of this background is a lead-in to the question that TRP posed to me after I gave him my anti-McClellan spiel: "If forced to make a decision, which of the following would you make a monument for? General McClellan? Or Pauly Shore? You MUST choose. The monument would be near the Washington Monument and face towards the Capitol building." So what is my answer? Following the benchmark I set out a few paragraphs ago, I would be forced to choose Mr. Shore. It's just too bad that such an ugly mug would be permanently facing the Capitol Building.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Sacred and the Profane

The Grandest Organ Ever
Originally uploaded by tommyspoon.
After TRP and I sat down in Verizon Hall to watch the Public Forum finals, I pointed to the grand display of organ pipes (pictured) and facetiously stated that this was the "Grandest Organ Ever". "No, it isn't," replied TRP, "it's in my pants!" Whereupon he broke into some mad-scientist type laugher. Yes, this did send me into a fit of HS-quality giggles. Why are you looking at me like that?

During the memorial service for my friend Ken Allison, we sang "Amazing Grace." Ever since my Mom's services four years ago, I have been unable to sing the third verse of that song without choking back tears:

Through many dangers, toils and snares
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far
and Grace will lead us home.

It happened again Saturday, and I was extremely grateful that my Sweetie was there for support. These moments make me feel like a piece of onion skin: so thin and fragile. As painful as these moments can be, I cherish them all the same. I know that both Ken and my Mom would appreciate them as well.

Philly on the Upside

Originally uploaded by tommyspoon.
Visited with TRP on Friday, which is always a pleasure. We spar a lot, but yet only one of us is a boxing fan (guess who?).

Some items of note:

  • I am so happy that EZ-Pass and Smart Tag have merged operations! Having a transponder on my car probably saved me at least twenty minutes on my drive from D.C. to Philly.

  • TRP is one of my best resources for acquiring new life experiences. Back in 1999, when I was in Seattle for a tech conference, he took me to the opera (a modern one, no less) and to a piano bar. In Philly, he took me to the Public Forum finals of the National Forensics League championships. (The photo above is the atrium of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, where the finals took place.) I swore I would just sit back and enjoy the experience, but I felt compelled to take a bunch of notes. We discussed these on the walk back to TRP's hotel, during which some of the afformentioned sparring occurred. I'm sure some passerby were slightly alarmed by our conversation, but we are just two passionate and opinionated men discussing a forensics meet. No worries, folks.

  • TRP may not have heard many car horns during his stay downtown, but he didn't have to drive out of downtown Philly during rush hour on a Friday afternoon.

More weekend notes shortly.

Friday, June 17, 2005

While Awaiting My Sweetie

While Awaiting My Sweetie
Originally uploaded by tommyspoon.
In order to wish all of you a great weekend, I offer you a view out of my moonroof yesterday afternoon.

I'll be on my way to Philadelphia in two hours to see TRP. The next time I see him, he'll be a married man.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Fun With Flickr

Ok, it's obvious I'm going to have way too much fun with my Treo 650 and Flickr.

Here are some snaps I took at my Sweetie's Graduation.

And just so we're clear, she's the photographer in the family. But I am really proud of her!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

In the Weeds

Despite the fact that I loathe most "reality television", I couldn't help but get sucked into Hell's Kitchen on Fox. For seven years, I worked in the restaurant industry, all of them for only one restaurant chain: L&N Seafood Grill. First as a prep cook, then a line chef, then a server, and finally a bartender. I can state with no hesitation that my time "behind the line" was one of the best in my life. I loved being a chef on the line. And I was the Grillman, which meant I got paid to play with fire. Very cool.

Of course, there are some things about the show that ring hollow with my experience.

Observations of a former line chef:

  • Sounds and Words -- I'll give the show producers credit, the show kitchen sounds like the kitchens I've worked in. They are noisy, bustling places filled with shouting people, clanging metal, and the occasional broken dish or glass. But I haven't yet heard the phrase that every restaurant worker (front or back of the house) knows full well: "In the weeds." Being "in the weeds" is not good. It implies that you need immediate help or bad things will happen, such as a table walking out or the ruination of a plate of food. The only appropriate response to someone in the weeds is the following: "How can I help?" Now, I don't expect Chef Gordon Ramsay to help any of the contestants out of the weeds, but what about their fellow teammates? C'mon guys! If one of your fellow chefs goes down, you all go down.
  • Hats -- Um, where are the contestants' hats? When I worked on the line, you had to have your hair covered. Period. Either with a hair net, or a more traditional chef's hat. The law doesn't leave any room for stray hairs in your food.
  • Prep -- On last night's episode, they booted the wrong contestant. Wendy was sent packing rather than Andrew, a decision which makes for great television but terrible kitchen sense. Why, you ask? On the previews for the next episode, Andrew was heard to say something akin to the following: "I wanna own a restaurant! I don't wanna peel a bunch of carrots and potatoes!" Dude, you are so wrong on so many levels. The first month I worked in the kitchen, I was a Prep Cook. What does that mean? Well, it means that every Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 4 PM, I performed the following tasks:
    • Chopped, peeled, and otherwise prepared cases of vegetables. Since I worked in the summers, I can safely say that I prepped several hundred pounds of yellow squash and zucchini. But I've also prepped broccoli, string beans, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
    • Dethawed, deveined (by machine), and peeled (by hand) shrimp. How much? Usually 10 to 20 pounds, depending upon how much was consumed the day and night before.
    • Made soup. New England Clam Chowder and Gumbo were our staples, but occasionally we would make some Conch Chowder or Manhattan Clam Chowder if we had a lot of tomatoes on hand. Now this isn't like making soup in your kitchen. We used two of these babies.
    • Heated up mass quantities of marinara and cheese sauce. Now these were premade elsewhere, but heating them up was a tricky task because it took 2-3 hours, depending upon how chilled they were. I dumped the sauces in really large pots, placed them on a gas range over medium-low heat, and then stirred them every 5-10 minutes.

The line is where I learned to multitask.

All that being said, I still find the show oddly compelling. I'll probably watch for the rest of the summer, and hope that contestant Michael doesn't have some sort of breakdown and wins it all. He's the true Line Chef.

First Grill of the Season

Originally uploaded by tommyspoon.
The menu:

  • Organic Chicken Breasts rubbed with Galena Street Rib and Chicken Rub (4)
  • Asparagus purchased at the Arlington Farmer's Market (1 bunch)
  • Yellow Squash (1)
  • Zucchini (1)
  • Vidalia Onion quarters (2)


Scenes from the (Latest) Trial of the Century

Things that make me scratch my head in wonder:

Outside, the fans erupted in cheers, screaming, "We love you Michael," and jumping excitedly. One woman released a white dove each time a not-guilty verdict was announced, and others let balloons sail aloft in the warm breeze.

When I first saw this lady on TV, I didn't know whether to giggle or sigh.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Not a Luxury

While channel surfing last night, Sweetie and I happened upon "60 Minutes Wednesday." One of the stories was about a program in Baltimore that helps ex-cons leave behind a life of crime and addiction. (For video, click here. Then select "60 Minutes (WED)", and then select "A Way To Keep Ex-Cons At Home".) Sounds like a great idea, huh?

One of the questions asked was one of the "you know what people will say when they watch this" variety: You can't save everybody, so why bother trying? Why? Because a government doesn't have the luxury of picking and choosing whom to save, that's why. Government has to try and save everybody, otherwise what is it there for? As an individual, you can choose to turn your back upon the addict, the homeless, or the criminal. But a government cannot because it exists for everyone -- including the addict, the homeless, and the criminal.

Lately, it seems like our government has freely indulged in this luxury. I think that's why I've been so angry for the last five years.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hey there all you middlemen...

Rock and Roll ain't noise pollution,
Rock and Roll ain't gonna die,
Rock and Roll ain't noise pollution,
Rock and Roll it will survive!
(Yes it will, haha!)

A Night at the Ballpark

Sweetie and I had a great time last night, even though we didn't make it out of the fifth inning. (All the excitement happened after that, natch.) I didn't score the game because I couldn't get over how different RFK looked as a baseball stadium. The last sporting event I saw there was a D.C. United Game during their Championship run in 1996. Before that, I saw the Washington Diplomats take on the New York Cosmos (who had Pele, my #1 sports idol at the time). So I was not used to seeing a diamond where a rectangle usually sat.

Stuff I observed last night:

  • At one point in the third inning, when Tony Armas was ahead 0-2 on Scott Hatteberg, some fan behind me yelled out: "SWEEP THE LEG!" I giggled for about five minutes.

  • I loved watching the field as the sun went down and the stadium lights took over. It was really magical.

  • If nothing else, a baseball game is very relaxing. I'm not sure that more than 100 words passed between us, but Sweetie and I had a great time.

Next time, I told her, we'll see if we can last until the seventh inning stretch.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

My First DC Baseball Game

Sweetie and I are headed over to RFK Stadium this evening to watch the First Place Washington Nationals take on the Oakland Athletics. She got the tix for free from a colleague at her office so dinner's on me tonight.

So, all you baseball folks out there, a couple of questions:

1. Is there anything we baseball newbies should be on the lookout for?

2. What can I do to make the game more enjoyable for Sweetie?

Play ball!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

4 Years Too Late

Well, the last thing my Mom wanted to know before she died has been revealed.

Sorry about that, Mom. Too bad it wasn't Kissinger, eh?