Friday, May 27, 2011

Mushrooms


I love food and will eat just about anything.  I love stuff you probably think is gross.  Like beef tongue, chicken livers, and pretty much any type of sushi you can imagine.

But I hate mushrooms.  I hate them.  I hate their texture mostly.  It's weird, and feels wrong in my mouth.  Slimy, weirdly yielding... they're gross.

Even more than that? Mushrooms are frakking terrifying.  As a fungus, mushrooms are pretty much the only organic matter we eat that is neither a plant or an animal.  More than that? Scientists have a very poor understanding of how mushrooms actually work.  Like there's one type of mushroom that only grows in forests after forest fires and nobody knows why.  Also, most edible mushrooms look exactly like different types of mushrooms that are poisonous.

Oh, and the biggest organism in the world? It's not a huge redwood tree, or a blue whale...

It's a giant mushroom:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-largest-organism-is-fungus

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Weather

Just a little blog today. A bloglet.  A brief thought.

The weather's been kind of crummy here in Chicago for the last few days.  Every time the weather in Chicago is kind of crappy, someone will say this:

"You know what they say about the weather in Chicago- if you don't like it, wait five minutes"

Here's the thing- no one outside of Chicago says this about Chicago.  If you asked someone in Oregon, or England, or Maine about the weather in Chicago they'd probably say something like "Uhhh...I heard it's windy?"

Something I've learned in my 29 years of life is that almost everyone in the US attributes the above quote to wherever it is that they are from.  I've heard people from Chicago, Texas, Virginia, the West Coast and other places say "You know what they say about the weather in (the place I live)..."

So, just for fun, I looked up the origin of that quote.  Here is the actual, original quote:

"If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes."

The person who said this was Mark Twain.  And he said it about New England. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Muppets!



Dear Zeus, Thor, the one Cylon God, and that god-like being from the end of Star Trek V,

Please, please please let this new Muppet movie be awesome.  We (myself, and the rest of the Muppet loving public) have had to put up- in the years since Jim Henson's death- with watching the Muppets devolve into a mere husk of their former glory.  Please let this film be a return to form.

That is all.

Love,

A guy who once did a project in high school worth like 20 percent of his grade for US history and English on Jim Henson and the Muppets

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Arya Stark: My future Daughter, Fingers Crossed


It's no secret that Sean and I are totally infatuated with all things "Game of Thrones" and the Song of Ice and Fire series.  It's full of incredible characters in the book series and portrayed in the HBO series.  And among those excellent characters is little Arya Stark of Winterfell.  She's a total, tiny bad ass and I can only hope that some day, I have a daughter just like her.  And here, ladies and gents, are a few reason why:
  1. She's a tom boy of the finest quality.
    What this means is no pink, no princess dresses, no glitter, Barbies (are Bratz now more cool?), etc.
    I can't remember who said it, but someone said that if their daughter must be a princess, that they have to have a sword (or battle axe, mace, etc) as well.  A fancy lady shouldn't let frills get in the way of kicking some ass here and there.
  2. She speaks her mind.
    I know that in the teenage years, this will bite me in the butt, but I'd rather have a daughter who speaks her mind than one who doesn't speak or worse, says what she thinks she wants people to hear.  I tried the latter and it was an awful time.
  3. She loves her daddy.
    There is nothing better than a good, daddy/daughter relationship.
  4. She doesn't give up.
    Of course this gets her in trouble, but a girl who doesn't back down is WAY better than one that gives up.  You learn better if you "try try again" instead of giving up.
  5. She's resourceful.
    No matter the obstacle, she's smart and creative in her ways to get around it.  A daughter with ingenuity is a great daughter to have!
Now watch me have all boys.  That wouldn't be so bad either.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On Marriage

As I am getting married in less than four months, it should not surprise anyone to hear that I have been thinking about marriage and weddings quite a bit lately.  Most of this thinking has been related to planning.  What will our save the dates look like? Who will cater our wedding? How will we pay for everything?  What kind of top hat will I wear? Generally speaking, when I am not working, sleeping or performing improv, I am doing something related to wedding planning.

But, every now and again I also start to think about some of the larger marriage related questions.  Specifically, I think about these two:

1.  Why am I getting married?

2.  Why am I getting married to Chelsea?

I mean, don't worry.  I am getting married to Chelsea.  I love her.  I've never been more sure of any decision I have ever made in my life than I am of my decision to get married to Chelsea. The question is, why do I feel that way? Well here goes.

Something you should know about me is that I think marriage is a little archaic.  Why do you get married to one person and spend your whole life with them? Well because your parents did.  And their parents.  And all of your aunts and uncles.  And your friends. And the President. And Will and Kate.  And...well everybody who isn't a priest or some sort of weirdo, or some sort of weirdo priest, right?

There is so much pressure from society to get married.  When Chelsea and I were dating, and we dated for seven-ish years, I spent 6 of those years dodging a constant barrage of "when are you getting marrieds?", and "you've been dating for so longs!", and other comments of that sort.  It was annoying, and after a few years it started to make me angry, and then it kind of made me sad. And why do people put this pressure on young couples? Because it's tradition.  Well you know what? Who cares about tradition? Traditions are great sometimes like Christmas, or the Opening Day of baseball season but some- like segregation, or burning witches are pretty dumb too.  Long term, committed, monogamous relationships are not for everyone.  If they were, then there would be less infidelity, and less divorce.  Even if you are the committed, monogamous type, is it really important that the government, or the church recognize your relationship? Does it fundamentally change your long term relationship when it's codified in someone's ledgers somewhere?  What's my point here? I don't think marriage is for everyone.  It may not even be for most people. 

But it is for us.  Why am I getting married? Why am I standing up in front of God (or gods or the flying spaghetti monster depending on your persuasion) and my family and the government and saying "I do"? Well, despite the fact that my Vulcan logic can see all of the flaws in traditional marriage, I am not a creature who makes decisions solely based on logic.  Shocking, I know.  I want to get married because it feels right.  It may not change a lick about my relationship to have some institution or deity recognize our love, but in my heart (the emotional, metaphorical heart, not the blood filled bag in my chest) it is important to me that this all be made official.  Oh sure, there are some logical reasons to get married, tax benefits and other legal rigamarole, but the main reasons I want to get married are spiritual.  We already think of ourselves as a unit, a duo, a family.  Now, we will make the world outside of ourselves recognize that as well.

Also, it's always nice to have a party.  Especially a Steampunk party on an island with all of your family and best friends in attendance.

Onto question 2.  Why Chelsea?

Chelsea Cheyenne Ives is the happiest accident that has ever befallen me in my entire life.  Without going into too much detail, we never would have gotten together if it wasn't for the help of a man by the name of Samuel Adams.

I love her.  But why?  Very early into our relationship, I realized that we are made of the same basic stuff.  We come from very different backgrounds, but we view the world in the same way.  We want the same things out of life.  Some of that commonality is superficial.  It's great that we both love Lord of the Rings and Firefly, but it's more important we want the same things out of our relationship, and believe the same things about humanity.  We are two halves of a whole.

Also, remember this scene from the 2009 "Star Trek" film?



Every time I look at Chelsea, I want to do better. I want to make her life better.  I want to work harder.  The existence of Chelsea Ives is a cosmic dare to me to be a better person tomorrow than I was yesterday.

I want to marry Chelsea because she makes me a better person.  She makes my life better. And I will spend the entirety of our marriage doing the best I can to repay her for that by trying to give her the best life that I can.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

No Deadlifts Allowed


So this is a real advertisement that uber gym chain Planet Fitness is running right now.  The point of the ad, I think, is to show you that Planet Fitness isn't a gym for steroid-soaked musclebound lunkheads, but instead, is a gym for regular Joes and Janes like you, and me.  I get why you would air an ad like this.  Starting a workout regimen can be scary, and it's even more nerve-wracking to think that guys like the fellow featured in this ad will be working out right next to you, and probably judging you.  While Planet Fitness risks alienating a portion of their potential customer base- people who really enjoy lifting weights- they hope to attract even more casual gym goers.

The ads aren't the only steps Planet Fitness has taken to attract the non-Schwarzeneggers of the world.  Apparently, at Planet Fitness, you are not allowed to grunt whilst you lift weights.  You are also not allowed to judge others (I'm not sure how this is quantified, but it isn't allowed, so there).  You are also not allowed to do certain weightlifting exercises- like deadlifts, and clean and jerks.

And that's where Planet Fitness loses me.  I don't like this ad.  I don't like the idea that a gym would purposefully try to alienate anyone who is generally dedicating themselves to improving their strength and health.  In my experience, most serious weightlifters don't grunt too much, and don't really judge you.  In fact, most serious weightlifters will help out a casual weightlifter in pinch.  Most of the people who judge you at the gym are jerks who don't actually know what they're doing, and there really aren't that many of them.

I really don't like that Planet Fitness forbids you from doing deadlifts, clean and jerks, etc.  Why?  Because those are really good exercises!  The deadlift is one of the best exercises you can do for overall strength.  What that policy, and this ad say to me is that Planet Fitness doesn't give a rat's behind about your health- what they care about is your money.

Do you know why gyms love casual gym goers? Because casual gym goers usually don't use their memberships.  They know they should work out, sign up for a 12 month membership at a gym, go regularly for about a week, then promptly stop going. This means the gym is getting 11.5 months worth of dues at no real cost.

Of course statistically, someone who uses a product regularly is more likely to renew their membership/subscription to said product.  So I'm sure the Planet Fitnesses of the world lose a pretty good chunk of potential membership renewals by targeting the casual gym goer and not the gym regulars.  I'm also sure that they make up for that loss with the raft of new members they sign up each year on New Year's Day, and a few weeks before swimsuit season.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Planet Fitness is a business.  The point of a business isn't to make a real difference in the life of a consumer- the point of a business is to make money.  While some businesses do actually make an effort to produce a good product that will make human life a little more worthwhile, others are content to take your money in exchange for what is actually an inferior product.

That's what I have to say on that topic.  If you need me, I'll be deadlifting.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kitchen 2.0

My favorite room in my apartment is my kitchen.  I love to cook, and cooking ground zero is the room with my oven, refrigerator, and pantry in it.  As I have matured, so has my kitchen.  When I first moved to Chicago from Massachusetts and lived with 4 roommates, I didn't own a single pan or plate.  When I first moved in with Chelsea, most of our kitchen stuff was inherited from her grandmother, or purchased with money I got when I graduated college.  As time has gone along, my cooking powers have grown, and I have accumulated some bad-ass pots, pans, and appliances.  Now, I own a food processor, a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer, and a Wusthof knife amongst other neat things.  I have a pantry filled with brown rice, beans, canned tomatoes, and other sundries.  My refrigerator overflows with milk and leftovers, sauces and jellies.  And my freezer! Frozen vegetables, and chicken carcasses for making stock.

Awesome.  Amazing.  Wonderful.  My kitchen cup runneth over.

The ugly side to all of this is that my kitchen was a mess.  I mean, it didn't look like a mess from the outside, but from within? Let's just say, many a time I have lost a pan, or opened a cabinet and had pie pans come careening down- striking my person every which way.  While I use my wok almost constantly, other gadgets, like my old juicer sat in the pantry collecting dust.  Worse- the dust they collected was a horrid, tar-like combination of olive oil and cat fur. I organized my kitchen the same way most people do- without really thinking about it, or applying logic.

Then I read this:

http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2011/02/the-geeks-guide-to-rebooting-your-kitchen/

Lifehacker is a website that shows you neat little tricks to improve your life.  This particular article- based around ideas from the book "Cooking For Geeks" served as my general guideline.

So, over the course of last weekend, Chelsea and I did the following:

1.  Went through every single thing in the kitchen.  We emptied every drawer, every cabinet and the whole pantry.  We took an honest look at the crap we've accumulated over the years, and threw away anything we have never used.  Old humidifier? Gone.  Mint tins from our trip to Disney World in 2007? Disposed of.  That old juicer? Shot out of the airlock into the bleakness of space.

2.  Then we cleaned everything.  We bought a bunch of cleaning supplies and scrubbed down the whole kitchen from top to bottom.  I never knew a kitchen island could get so filthy.

3.  Put everything back in a way that made logical sense.  Normally, you group kitchen stuff like this "Glasses go with other glasses, Pots and pans go with pots and pans, appliances go with appliances", etc. etc. ad infinitum.  Per the article above, we went through a normal week of eating, and reorganized our kitchen to maximize efficiency.  For example, every morning, I drink a cup of coffee, some eggs, and toast.  Chelsea has tea, and either toast or oatmeal.  So, we created a cabinet that contained all of our tea and coffee, some mugs, bread, and peanut butter (our toast topping of choice).  This cabinet is right next to our stove.  On our island, we replaced the old rickety pans and gadgets that were there previously with our most commonly used pots and pans- the wok, the cast iron skillet, some sauce pans, and our frying pans.  The eggs, of course, still live in the refrigerator.  All of these things used to be all over the kitchen.  Now, in the morning, I barely have to walk anywhere when I put breakfast together, where before I had to walk all over the kitchen. 

4.  Actually made all of this look pretty.  We kind of redecorated.  We used our hutch- which has a glass front- as a display case for some cool stuff we have like an old-looking Chinese teapot.  This was set in front of a very nice carved wooden cutting board.

This doesn't sound particularly complicated, but the whole process took place over 2 days and roughly 6 hours.  Was it worth it? Absolutely.  My favorite room is now clean, and more importantly, set up in a way that is logical, and incredibly efficient.

As a side note- I'm going to add pictures to this at some point soon so stay tuned for that.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Improvised Star Trek- Boldly Going

The Improvised Star Trek Podcast has now been going for over a month now and there are now episodes avaiable for download here:

Improvised Star Trek Podcast

Ever wonder how the Gorn reproduce? Or do you love shuttlecraft races? Ever want to know what a holographic Abraham Lincoln thinks of dating? Well now, you can find out.

Check it out!