22 April, 2009

The joys of air travel, part II

I'm back in Boston after spending a very relaxing week in southern California and once again I have a story about an annoying person on a flight. I flew Virgin America for the first time because they were cheap and they had non-stop flights from Boston to LAX. The flight out of Boston was supposed to leave at 7AM but we hadn't pulled back from the gate at 7:10. The pilot got on the intercom and told us that a computer glitch had delayed us. He said maintenance was on the aircraft fixing it and that it would just be another 15 or 20 minutes until we could leave. I thought it was nice of them to inform us of what was causing the delay and figured that everyone else would appreciate the update as well. I didn't take into account that some people would freak the fuck out at hearing "computer glitch."

The girl in front of me had already been complaining about the delay before the announcement. I could hear her complaining almost immediately after we boarded. "Weren't we, like, supposed to leave already?" she asked. The person in the seat next to her either did not respond or didn't shout out the way she did. "This airline is, like, alllllllways late. Every time they are, like, soooo late!" I was quite relieved to be sitting next to a quiet Asian couple who were more interested with the in-seat TVs than they were with the delay. The girl in front continued to, like, complain while drawing out certain words for added emphasis. I was already picturing a typical blond SoCal girl with tons of makeup and tried to imagine using her body as a battering ram to get the door open in an emergency. And then the pilot made the announcement.

"Oh my gawwwd! A computer glitch?! This plane is totally not safe!" Fuck, seriously? She's going to freak out over this? "Excuse me! Hey!" she shouted at a passing flight attendant. The flight attendant turned and came back to her row. "What's wrong with the plane?! I do nooooot want to fly on this plane if there's a computer glitch!" The flight attendant assured her that it would be fixed momentarily and that the plane was perfectly safe. "Are you sure? Isn't the computer, like, really important?" Dumb Socal Girl asked. "Yes ma'am. There are multiple computers on the aircraft and it's just a small problem with one of them." "Well which computer is it?" Dumb Socal Girl demanded. "I'm not sure ma'am. I can assure you that we would not take off if there was a problem though," the flight attendant replied. "Is it the altimeter?" "I'm sorry ma'am, I really don't know. We won't leave until it's fixed though."

I was surprised she even knew what an altimeter was. The woman had already told her that she didn't know which computer wasn't working but obviously shouting out random aircraft terms will help her figure it out. Dumb Socal Girl's panic didn't end here, however. She had to call her boyfriend to warn him that she might not make it to LA because there was a computer glitch that could crash the plane and this might be the last time they ever spoke to one another. I pulled out my book and tried to pretend I couldn't hear her.

I did not encounter any crazy or annoying people on the flight back to Boston. I was sitting next to a 3 year old girl and worried that she would scream and cry for most of the flight. Luckily the crying was limited to a 10 minute period about an hour into the flight. She spent the rest of the time watching TV. Thank you so much for those TVs Virgin America.

16 April, 2009

last night's dinner: Trying to make something from matzos

I’ve already made it quite clear that I dislike Passover this year. I didn’t expect it to affect me other than the lack of work but I forgot that my grandfather keeps kosher for Passover. I had planned on cooking while I was out here but I hadn’t thought ahead about the whole kosher thing. If you haven’t ever tried matzoh you really should just for the experience. The particular brand of matzos that my grandfather bought is “Yehuda Matzos” which, as the package proclaims, was the number 1 rated matzo in 2002 according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Apparently the Chronicle declared that Yehuda Matzos are “crunchy, with a good snap.” Notice that this description does not include anything about taste because matzo does not have a taste.

I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to make that was kosher and not terrible. The only kind of dish I’ve eaten with matzos in it was matzos brie which is basically fried matzos mixed with scrambled eggs. It wasn’t bad but I also wouldn’t say that it was good. Luckily I found a few recipes that sounded pretty decent. I settled on a spinach and matzoh pie recipe on epicurious.

* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
* 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped dill, divided
* 1 (16-ounce) container cottage cheese
* 2 cups whole milk
* 3 large eggs
* 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
* 6 ounces feta, crumbled (1 1/2 cups), divided
* 6 matzos (about 6 inches square)

* Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
* Cook onion in oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
* Meanwhile, put spinach in a sieve and press out as much liquid as possible. Add spinach to onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup dill, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
* Purée cottage cheese in a blender with milk, eggs, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper until smooth. * Reserve 2 cups in a bowl and stir remainder into spinach with 1 cup feta.
* Stack matzos in a deep dish and pour reserved cottage-cheese mixture over them. Let stand 15 minutes to soften.
* Arrange 2 soaked matzos side by side in a generously oiled 13- by 9- by 2-inch (3-quart shallow) baking dish. Pour in half of spinach filling. Cover with 2 more matzos, then pour in remaining filling. Put remaining 2 matzos on top and pour any remaining cottage-cheese mixture over them. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup feta.
* Bake, uncovered, until golden and set, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then serve sprinkled with remaining 2 tablespoons dill.

I halved the recipe since it was just two of us and this is supposed to make 8 servings. I also used fresh spinach instead of frozen, left out the dill and topped it with sliced tomatoes. Instead of soaking the matzos I just briefly washed them in cold water. It was really good and if I ever had some matzoh around the house I would definitely make it again. I usually take a picture of any of the meals I write about here but I hadn’t eaten all day and forgot to take one before we started eating.

15 April, 2009

I've twittered 1000 times

I'm sure I'm not the first to say this but that sounds dirty. To celebrate my 1000th “tweet” I wanted to do something special. Failing to find anything special at all I’ve decided to write all the things I have wanted to post on Twitter since Monday night when I hit 999 tweets and thus began avoiding Twitter. This will also serve to annoy anyone who dislikes Twitter (and I do believe there are a few of you).
  • NU up 5-0 going into the bottom of the 9th!
  • Right behind home plate at Fenway Park. I’ll never get these seats again http://bit.ly/2OaTB
  • 5-2. As Ricky just said, “it’s not a Huskies game unless we blow it right at the end.”
  • 5-3. Do we have another pitcher? Anyone at all? I’d volunteer myself but I promised Patrick I wouldn’t set foot on the field tonight.
  • And that’s the game. Huskies win the baseball Beanpot 5-3
  • Apple, I dislike you quite a bit for waiting until 20 minutes before closing to call and making me run to Boylston Street.
  • Dan and Patrick are convinced that they’re going to get me drunk tonight. Not happening.
  • Patrick’s Mobile Bar & Grill makes some mean kamakazis.
  • Red Sox are down 6-1, they’re off to a rough start this season.
  • Ok, one more kamakazi. But that’s it.
  • 12:30AM. Kicked everyone out so I can go to sleep. I succeeded in not getting drunk.
  • 1:07AM. Why can’t I sleep?! I have to be up in less than 4 hours. Maybe I should have drank more.
  • 4:50AM Fuck it's early. Not enough sleep.
  • I just spaced out in the shower and wasn’t sure how much time had passed.
  • Everything is finally packed and I’m right on schedule. I’m sure I forgot something important though.
  • Forgot my laptop charger. God dammit, might be a few minutes late getting to the Zip Car.
  • Is the Prius supposed to be blue? I thought the website showed that it was silver.
  • @kevin_doyle and @kkobzeff are awesome for coming with me to the airport this early and driving the Zip Car back. Thanks so much guys!
  • The Virgin America counter is playing rock music and has neon purple lights. Wtf?
  • Almost left my keys at security.
  • When I get to LA I have to take a bus to the metro, metro to some station, metro link to Claremont. I think that’s the right order.
  • I’m trying hard not to laugh at this plane. Techno music, glossy white plastic, neon lights. Am I at a rave?
  • Oren described their planes as “an 80s coke dream.” Pretty accurate. Now go vote for his video!
  • There’s a guy on this flight with pigtails, a Willy Wonka top hat, blazer and red cowboy boots.
  • $12.95 for wifi? No thanks, I plan to sleep for most of the flight. Guess I’ll post this 1000th tweet blog when I get to my grandfather’s house.
  • I always drink tomato juice without ice on flights. I should have had them give me the whole can.
  • The guy next to me keeps adjusting his sleeping girlfriend’s head. Creepy.
  • Hope he didn’t just see me type that.
  • Why does Virgin charge $8 for a movie that’s still in theaters and $8 for a movie that’s been out on DVD for two months?
  • The LA Metro is... interesting.
  • Finished The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Didn’t like the epilogue type ending but other than that it was fantastic.
  • This girl on the train keeps staring at me. I don’t know if she’s checking me out or if I have something on my face.
  • In Claremont! Amazing weather. No wireless internet. Will post this tomorrow.
For those that don’t follow me on Twitter I wouldn’t have actually posted all of these. I’m not that obsessed with it. And if you suffered through this and hate me a little bit more then you can blame @mckennalowry for convincing me to get a Twitter account and @kevin_doyle for getting me to start using it after a long hiatus, during which I frequently talked about how stupid and worthless it was.

13 April, 2009

A Saturday evening incident

The following is an account of a recent conversation with two police officers and a rant about Boston law enforcement.

On Saturday night I was walking with MK to my friend Kathryn's apartment. Kathryn lives in Roxbury which is not the nicest part of Boston. Both MK and I lived in Northeastern dorms in Roxbury before so we didn't feel too uncomfortable walking out there at 9:30PM on a Saturday. Still, when we passed an unmarked police car right by the liquor store we were walking into I commented that it was nice to see police presence in the area. MK jokingly said that they would probably stop us to check our IDs, especially since I turned and looked at them as we walked past. We bought a bottle of wine, walked out of the liquor store and turned the corner onto Kathryn's street. We had gone no further than maybe 10 or 15 feet when we heard a siren right behind us and saw flashing lights. Even though we had sort of expected this it still startled the hell out of me. Nobody expects to hear a loud police siren directly behind them.

MK and I walked over to the cruiser and handed the officers our IDs. She remarked to me that she had been right and the cops asked what she had been right about. We explained that we had passed them and thought that they might stop us. The officers were nice enough and joked about MK being a New Yorker while writing down our information. One of them said, "you know this isn't a safe area to be walking around in at night, right?" We replied that we knew. He then went on to say that there had been a murder only two blocks away a month beforehand. This really pissed me off. They're concerned for our safety in an unsafe area yet they are staking out a liquor store to try and catch underage drinkers? I fully understand that purchasing alcohol as a minor is illegal and that officers have every right to ask for someone's ID if they think they're underage. What I have issue with is that the cops don't seem to think that they have anything better to do in a neighborhood like Roxbury other than try and stop college students from drinking. How about driving around and patrolling some of the crime ridden areas? I was angry but I kept my mouth shut.

The police wanted to know where we were going, if we were students, what my job was and where I worked. They asked for our phone numbers and social security numbers. At this point I asked why they were writing all of this information down. We were told that they needed it to prove that they had talked to us. I felt that giving my drivers license should have been enough but if there's anything I've learned in 2009 it's to not talk to police. Even now I regret that I said as much as I did but I didn't really have a choice. If I refused then I'm not sure what could have happened. I watched a video lecture by a law professor and former defense attorney who gave a number of excellent reasons why you should never speak to police under any circumstances without a lawyer. Unfortunately, I know all too well how expensive lawyers can be and can't afford to hire one over nothing.

All in all the police had us there for about 10 minutes. Their attitudes were pleasant and I didn't feel intimidated by them in any way. At the same time I felt they had no right to question us beyond asking for our IDs in order to determine our age and identity. Due to previous interactions with police I have lost all faith in officers to behave correctly and lawfully especially in situations involving college aged students. My trust of law enforcement officials in this country has been lost and I was too worried that if I so much as questioned their right to ask this information then I would potentially be detained or even falsely charged with a crime. I'm not suggesting that all police officers are corrupt assholes; certainly there are upstanding members of all law enforcement agencies including the Boston Police Department. My personal experiences have shown me the darker side of things unfortunately. It might be that the officers were perfectly within their rights to ask us for all of that information and write it down. If that is the case then we are becoming way too much of a police state for my comfort.

12 April, 2009

Another reason to love bourbon

Back in January I wrote that my cousin Oren was in the running to win $25,000 for a commercial he made for Doritos. He ended up winning the money and a trip to the SuperBowl but lost out on the grand prize of having his commercial air during the SuperBowl. He's got a new video for Jim Beam and once again he's a finalist. You can view it and vote at http://jimbeam.com/thefinalists.aspx

You have to register to vote and you which sucks but you can vote once a day. If all of you vote and help Oren win he will personally deliver a bottle of premium Jim Beam bourbon to your door step.* You can see more of Oren's videos at http://orenbrimer.com/ or on YouTube. And just for the hell of it, a picture of me and Oren after surfing in Cerritos, Mexico. Just to prove that I know him since he'll be famous soon.

*This promise is not endorsed or guaranteed by Oren Brimer

09 April, 2009

Conversations in my head. And new blog features!

It's day 1 of my 19 days without work and I've managed to prevent myself from needlessly spending money, but just barely. I decided to check and see if any bands I like are going to be playing in the LA area while I'm there. Turns out TV On the Radio will be playing in Pomona the day I arrive. Cool. Then I noticed that Silversun Pickups are playing TWO DAYS BEFORE I GET THERE. If you've played Guitar Hero with me in the last two weeks then you know that they're one of my favorite bands. I was so psyched to see one of their songs on Guitar Hero so you can imagine how excited I was at the possibility of seeing them. Of course there was still the small problem of my arrival date being after the concert.

I checked online with Virgin America and a flight out of Boston on the 12th was actually $50 cheaper than the flight I had picked. When I tried to change the flight the website happily informed me that I would owe $89. I immediately regretted passing over the $12 travelers insurance which would have let me change or cancel my flight at no charge. Next step was to call the airline. I had been able to change my flight with American once by simply lying and saying that a family member was having surgery. Virgin is smarter than that though. I would have to pay the fee and then fax them a letter saying why I deserve to have the money returned.

I spent the next half hour going back and forth in my head on what to do. While listening to Silversun Pickups.
'Spend $100 and get to see one of my favorite bands perform!'
'I don't really have $100 to spare...'
'But you love this band! You haven't had a chance to see them before and they don't have an East coast tour planned!'
'But... I kind of need the money. You know, for food. To live.'
Singing: 'I've been waiting for this moment allllllll my life'
'Dammit. Ok. I'm going to change my flight. But how much are the concert tickets? If it's more than $35 then I'm not going.'
'It's just $22.50! That's such a bargain.'
'But that ends up being $35 with the stupid ticketmaster fees. And I'll probably buy a shirt for another $20'
'Don't buy the shirt! Just change the flight and buy a ticket to the concert.'
'Can I even get tickets to the concert? What if it's sold out?'

It was sold out. I almost paid $100 to change my flight to go to a concert that was sold out. These conversations with myself are not a sign of insanity and as you can see it actually prevented me from needlessly spending money. Crisis averted.

I also took some time today to change the blog. coming or leaving now has some awesome new features, like a banner! and email subscriptions! Things that almost every blog has actually. We're finally getting with the times. For those who don't use an RSS reader like Google Reader, you can now enter your email into the box in the top right and each new post will be sent to your inbox, just like magic. No matter how desperate I get for money, I will never sell your email to spammers. (Besides, I think everyone who wants a bigger penis has probably already bought the pills the spammers advertise. Seriously, you guys have sent out millions of emails about penis enlargement products, several hundred of which have gone to me, but for some reason you think that sending out just one more will really change my mind? Just fucking quit already.) I've also copied Kevin and Katy by adding another sidebar and my Twitter feed, just in case you aren't on Twitter and really want to stalk me. I'll probably replace that with penis enlargement ads soon.

06 April, 2009

More reasons why April sucks

Contrary to my previous rant about Passover it's actually one of two Jewish holidays that I celebrate, the other being Hanukkah of course. The Passover Seder is fun in that you sit around with your family and friends, eat odd foods, butcher the Hebrew language, take turns trying to read a long list of things in a single breath and drink a good amount of wine. This year, however, Passover has angered me which led to the rant about it yesterday.

Since I work at a synagogue my income revolves with the Jewish calendar. Passover begins Wednesday and lasts for a week so I don't work this Wednesday or all of next week. The week after that is spring break for public schools up here. After Tuesday I have 19 days without work. Just another reason why I don't like the month of April. I'm bored enough as it is and having almost three weeks to myself would likely result in the following series of events:
  1. Spending money I don't have on things I don't need
  2. Attempting to obtain a cat, either through legal or illegal means
  3. Having to pay an extra $1000/month rent because previously obtained cat has killed my allergy prone roommate
  4. Starting my own Nigerian internet scam in a desperate attempt to pay extra rent
  5. Accidentally scamming poor people in Nigeria instead of dumb people in America
  6. Traveling to Nigeria to return the money I stole
  7. Being arrested and forced to share a prison cell with the goat that was detained for stealing a car
I don't want to live with a goat in a Nigerian prison which is definitely what will happen if I'm left in Boston to my own devices for 19 days. The best way to avoid this is for me to take a break from Boston and visit my grandfather in southern California. I haven't seen him since we left Paris in early August. The timing of this trip is actually a little odd since he'll be flying to Boston at the end of April for my graduation ceremony but since I don't know what I'll be doing over the summer yet this might be my last opportunity to go out there for a while. Or I might be unemployed all summer long but I'd rather not think about that possibility. I'll only be out of Boston for a week which still leaves plenty of time to get myself into trouble. Other possible scenarios during my time off include writing a ton of cover letters and posting more absurd blog entries. Both of which are extremely likely.

05 April, 2009

Judaism needs some better holidays

This Wednesday marks the beginning of Passover, a week-long incredibly outdated "holiday" which involves Jews all over the world giving up leavened bread. Myself excluded of course. What is leavened bread you ask? I'm sure Wikipedia can give you an actual answer but for our purposes I'll just say that it's normal bread. Unleavened bread, which is the only form of "bread" acceptable to Jews during Passover, is essentially a tasteless cracker called matzah. Think giant saltines with even less taste to them.

Passover is supposed to commemorate the time when the Israelites didn't have enough time to let their bread rise as they were fleeing from Egypt so they only ate matzah for seven days. Or something like that. So to honor or remember them Jews are supposed to remove all leavened products from their home and eat matzah. Awesome holiday guys. I hope the guy who came up with this one got a sweet golden idol from Moses or something. I can just picture the conversation.

Israelite: Moses, this matzah stuff fucking blows.
Moses: I know but it's not my fault that the women didn't have the bread ready. You guys didn't see the first nine plagues as a sign that we'd have to get the hell out of Egypt soon? Get with the program.
Israelite: Can't you do some of your magic and turn the crackers into French bread or something? I mean, you changed water to blood so this should be easy.
Moses: Look, I can't just go asking god for favors left and right. He just killed a bunch of little kids and I don't want to piss him off. That guy has some anger management issues.
Israelite: Alright, fine. But we should at least make all of our followers suffer through the hell of eating this crap for one week every year. That way they'll know how we felt.
Moses: That's brilliant! Here, have one of the golden idols I confiscated the other day. Buy yourself something nice once we get out of this fucking desert. Although at this rate we'll probably be wandering for a couple more years.

Jews seem to really like holidays that force them to suffer. Besides Passover there's also Yom Kippur during which people are required to fast. When do we get the holidays where people actually celebrate something and then get to do fun things like search for plastic eggs filled with candy? What Judaism lacks is a savior. Once we get ourselves one of those then we can start making up fun holidays. Since nobody is volunteering for the position I'll take one for the team and volunteer myself. I know it's a big job but nobody else seems willing to do it and I think we've had enough of this matzah crap for now. So spread the word! I'm now the self-proclaimed savior of the Jewish people. Give it a few years for me to gather some followers and then I'll cook up some awesome holidays for y'all.

Note: I'm not exactly well versed in the Jewish holidays so if I bungled some of the details then I apologize. Once everyone starts worshipping me I'll rewrite them so that they're more accurate. If anyone was offended by this post then please accept my sincere lack of apology. You should probably stop reading this blog.

02 April, 2009

There's nothing good about April

I've been following Improv Everywhere since I was in high school. In case you don't know they're a group in New York that stage various pranks using flash mobs. They were featured on the tv version of This American Life after they arranged for a hundred or so people to attend a concert of an unheard of band. The band had expected for a few of their friends to show up and instead they had a packed house of people singing along with them and cheering. I always found their missions entertaining. Until yesterday.

I was going through my google reader and saw that they had a new prank posted. Here is the description that they posted.

For our latest mission, 30 Improv Everywhere agents found a random funeral in the obituary section of the newspaper and turned it into the best funeral ever. We picked a man who had very few surviving relatives and then showed up to his funeral to make it truly awesome.
I was shocked and appalled. How could they do something like that? The description and pictures made it worse. It showed only a few people at the funeral when suddenly thirty Improv Everywhere agents show up. The family is visibly confused and someone asks who they are. They only reply that they're friends of the deceased. They stay through the funeral although the photographer they sent was spotted by the priest and told to leave. As it ended one of the relatives chased down an agent trying to get an answer. I understood that the idea behind the prank was to make the family feel that their loved one had a lot of friends but it was all a lie and very disrespectful. If it had been one of my relatives I would have been fucking pissed.

After my initial outrage I went on with my day and forgot about it. Last night I was hanging out with some friends when one of them came across the YouTube video of the prank. As we watched it I explained the whole thing and expressed my anger that they had been so disrespectful. Everyone agreed and once my rant ended we moved on to another video. Then something clicked in my head. Shit, what day did they post this prank? We checked and it was dated that same day, 1 April, 2009. April-fucking-fools. The whole funeral was fake. I felt like an idiot for getting so worked up about it but I had to admit it was a damn good April fools joke.

It's amazing that I hadn't realized sooner that the damn thing was an April fools joke. All day at work I was reminded of what day it was. The six year olds I teach just couldn't leave it alone. "Daniel, there's a monster behind you! APRIL FOOLS!" "Daniel, I'm really sick and have to go to the hospital right now! APRIL FOOLS!" Great job guys, you really fooled me. Their jokes got old really quickly which is why when they came running up to me on the playground yelling about bees I ignored them.

"Daniel, there's a bee hive on the play-set! Come quick!"
"Yeah, April fools. I get it."
"No, really! There's a big bee hive with bees on it!"
"Riiiight. Bees. April fools. Nice one."
"Please come look! There really are bees!"

I reluctantly walked across the playground and sure enough, there was a damn wasp nest with two wasps sitting on it. Congratulations world, you made me feel like an idiot and an asshole in the same day.