fighting the lack of good ideas

dirty jobs

While I wish my cable bill was a lot lower, or that they’d only give me the channels I’m interested in, being able to DVR my favorite shows like Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe rocks.

Setting-up series to just auto-record any time it’s new is teh hotness. It’s the concept of VCR+ implemented in a non-cruddy fashion – especially the magic backup when you’re fast-forwarding too far.

blacksburg is in the news too much

I heard this morning of the murder that took place in Blacksburg VA this past week. There were several other people in the Virginia Tech cafe when this happened, and while they called 911, none tried to stop the attack.

The opening scenes of Boondock Saints has the following excerpt of the priest’s homily: “And I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. They watched as her assailant walked away. Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

I understand wanting to stay out of another person’s business, but not trying to stop a murder is generally considered complicit agreement.

Every one of those folks in the cafe should be brought up on charges for not trying to do something – even had they been unsuccessful, at least an attempt would have been made.

store brands are sometimes better

I shop at various grocery stores, and the cashiers generally look at my purchases a little askance: clementines, milk, ice cream, pot pies, beer, Ensure – they seem to get confused when I checkout with my selections.

I was raised with a thrifty mindset, but am not afraid to spend money for better quality.

For years I’ve preferred store brand cereals – corn flakes, raisin bran, cocoa puffs, cocoa crispies, rice crispies, and chex are all indistinguishable to me when comparing store brand and name brand. Some I can distinguish and just like the store brand more. Cheerios is the only notable difference – fake cheerios are NOT the same as the ones from General Mills.

Trader Joe’s raisin bran, for example, is cheaper than the name brand, has fewer calories, and (I think) tastes better than those from Post or Kellogg.

I don’t go out of my way to buy organic foods to make a statement. Many times I think they taste worse, or the relative percentage change in quality does not match the price percentage shift. Trader Joe’s raisin bran happens to be organic – but the fact that it tastes good and is inexpensive is more important.

I’ve been bitten several times by trying store brand macaroni and cheese. I picked-up a batch from Lowes Foods recently, and am hoping they’re not hideous like the ones from Winn Dixie were. But if they’re decent, then I have a source for less expensive than Kraft mac and cheese. My favorite is Prince brand, but those aren’t purchaseable in NC – and therefore I tend to stock-up periodically when I go home to NY.

Also, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the high quality of the canned strawberries I can get at my local dollar store. Yes. A dollar store. Most of the food they sell is high enough in sodium to make road ice quiver. But the canned strawberries at my local Dollar Tree near NC55 and NC54 are downright tasty – 90 calories per serving, with only three servings per can. That lines-up with my home-made applesauce for caloric value, and makes a nice shift.

They’re also not those supersized strawberries you find in most produce departments of grocery stores; the ones at Dollar Tree are about 1/2″ in diameter rather than 2″. The smaller size makes for what seems to be a more strawberryish strawberry than the giant ones from the supermarket.

Such experimenting has made me want to do more, and so now when I go shopping I try to compare not merely price or calories – but the taste quality. It leads to a lot of sampling, but being able to shave 10-50% off my grocery bill is a nice [eventual] payoff.

eating at home has other benefits

Not merely saving money, but it’s also healthier.

I’ve been eating dominantly at home – either mine or friends’ places – and have noticed that not only is each meal less expensive, but I can eat better food, too.

Don’t get me wrong, those McDonald’s breakfast burritos are awesome. They’re also 300 calories a pop – and two come in the value meal, along with a hashbrown (another awesome-tasting item) which packs another 150 calories.

750 calories to start the day wouldn’t be so bad – if I had a job which involved more movement than typing.

Compare that to 320 calories total for home-made applesauce comprising ~4 cooked-down apples. Or ~250 for a large bowl of raisin bran and skim milk.

For dinner, I could go to Outback and order the Alice Springs Chicken (my favorite!) and spend about $20. Or I could make mashed potatoes and have a filet mignon for about $12. And a six-ounce filet only has about 350 calories in it. A bunch are from fat, but nonetheless – cheaper, fewer calories, and a higher quality of meat.

I’m not paranoid about how much I intake, but certainly eating for less money, while getting better quality, and consuming fewer calories can’t be all bad.

beer, bourbon, and bbq

Last year I went to the Beer and Bourbon Festival at Koka Booth in Cary. My buddy Jeremy and I had an absolute blast.

They’re bringing it back this year in August again, and I’m planning to go again. There are some other shows before and after in the southeast, but the one in Cary is the closest.

If you’re a fan of trying new whiskys, sampling different brews, and maybe grabbing some varied bbq styles, you should consider a trip out.

If you don’t drink (or prefer to have the cheaper ticket), they have a Designated Driver ticket that only grants admission – no beer or bourbon sampling.

The barbecue isn’t part of the all-you-can-enjoy, but it’s priced very reasonably.

the best middle name. ever.

While I typically don’t repost, Seth Godin’s post was awesome.

The best middle name ever

It’s not Warren or Susan or Otis or Samuel or Tricia.

It’s “The.”

As in Attila The Hun or Alexander The Great or Zorba The Greek.

When your middle name is ‘The’, it means you’re it. The only one. The one that defines the category. I think that focus is a choice, and that the result of appropriate focus is you earn the middle name.

Jordan’s Furniture in Waltham was the place to go for that sort of thing. Bocce Pizza and the Anchor Bar were the places in Buffalo when I was growing up. Google is more appropriately called Google the search engine.

Seek the.

Of course, Winnie the Pooh is the exception that proves the rule.”

a [short] review

Regardless of for whom you voted in 2000, 2004, or 2008, and regardless of whether or not you approve of the out-going president, or his replacement, certainly one thing can be agreed-upon.

Less than 8 months after President George W Bush took office, some group of people hostile to the United States flew aircraft into densely-populated buildings in one of the largest cities in the world.

Had our president NOT reacted, Americans worldwide would have been on the road to kill or impeach him. And hostiles worldwide would’ve looked at us as a bunch of pansies who turn and run when the going gets tough.

In 2000 I voted for Mr Bush. I wanted someone else to get the Republican nomination, but he didn’t. I personally could not have voted in good conscience for Mr Gore.

But regardless of who could’ve won, I would not have wished such a monumental situation on any elected official – even those I vehemently disagree with.

Had Mr Gore, or anyone else, won the presidency in 2000, all things being equal, what would their reaction to 9/11 have been? Could anyone else have made a “better” decision with what little data we had? I don’t think so. I think many worse decisions could’ve been made, and I’m convinced that equally valid, but different routes could’ve been employed in prosecuting those who attacked us.

I hope and pray that the man about to take over from Mr Bush doesn’t have another issue to deal with the way Mr Bush did. I’d like to see Mr Obama recant his liberal leanings and at least move to the center, if not be converted to a conservative. But mostly I hope that nothing happens for the term of his presidency – and that he goes home when he’s done the way Mr Coolidge did 80 years ago.