Sunday, November 06, 2011

They're Made Out of Meat

Prior to today, I had never heard of the author Terry Bisson. I heard this dramatization of his short story "They're Made Out of Meat" at the end of Studio 360 today, and I found it hilarious and poignant. It's certainly piqued my interest in his catalog.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Welcome to Rhode Island. Now Speak English

An excerpt from a conversation I recently had with a taxi driver on the way home from the airport.
Driver: "Are you from here or just visiting" 
Me: "From here"
Driver: "Really? But you speak English correctly"
Me: "Well, I wasn't born here"
For the record, the driver was from Italy and spoke mildly accented English.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Greek Odyssey

We went to Greece last year. I recorded a lot of observations during the trip in the hope of writing about it once we got back, but I never got around to it. Now that a year has passed, I've decided to finally follow through.

June 5-6, 2010
We left Boston on a 6 pm flight to Heathrow. The flight was scheduled to land around 6 am London time, but we made it in 45 minutes ahead of schedule due to a slightly early departure and what I can only assume was a massive tailwind. We took off out of Boston heading south and passed over the port and Castle Island before heading out across the pond. We encountered a lot of turbulence at the start of the flight and overall, it was the most turbulent transoceanic flight I've ever been on. It was also my first time flying British Airways and my first time flying across the Atlantic in a 747.

I didn't get any sleep on the flight. 6 pm turned out to be a very strange time to depart on a short transatlantic flight, since we landed in London around when I'd normally be going to bed back home. My body was nice and ready for a good night's sleep right as the day was getting started in London. Our flight was so early that hardly anything was even open in T5 upon our arrival. It did make for a very easy trip through immigration.

I finally got some sleep on the flight to Athens. My initial impression upon arrival was that it was drier and more mountainous than I had imagined. The first signs of Greece's current economic woes were visible before we even deplaned. There was an armada of mothballed Olympic Airways jets parked on the airfield, including four of their flagship Airbus A-343s

Given Olympic's long history of ineptitude, I may have been reading too much into this. On the ride into the city on the Metro, I saw a few settlements along the highway that appeared to be shanty towns. I'm guessing that they were Roma settlements, but I may just be perpetuating a stereotype.

We arrived at our hotel in the mid-afternoon. It was a basic tourist hotel not far from Syndagma Square. In addition to being one of the tourist hubs of Athens, Syndagma Square is also where the Greek Parliament is located and was the site of deadly riots a month before our arrival. When we arrived, it was fortunately playing host to a beach volleyball tournament instead.

We were pretty tired by this point so we took a nap. After about an hour, I was still tired but unable to nap any longer, so I ventured out on my own. It was a very nice day, about 23 degrees C with a nice breeze. My first stop was Kapnikarea, an 11th century Byzantine church located a few blocks from our hotel. I guess I was expecting it to be covered it colorful mosaics, so I was somewhat disappointed that this was the only one visible from the outside.

I also visited Monastiraki Square

and Hadrian's Gate.

I was surprised by how much the Acropolis looms over this part of Athens. Acropolis literally means "high city", so it shouldn't be much of surprise that it towers over ancient Athens. I was also surprised by the chaotic mix of history, splendor, and squalor in this part of Athens. I really enjoyed all of the tiny streets and alleys.

Michelle and I visited the Temple of Olympian Zeus before dinner. It was the largest temple in Ancient Greece and is still an impressive sight.

I watched an episode of Mad Men on the in-flight entertainment system on the way over where Paul Kinsey, in a failed attempt to save Penn Station, noted that most of the great Roman ruins are found outside of Rome. Perhaps the reason that Athens has so many great ancient ruins is because unlike Rome, it languished for millenia as an outpost of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Had Athens regained its status as the seat of an empire at some point after its brief golden age, surely more of its now famous ruins would have been destroyed in the name of progress.

We sat down for dinner at a touristy taverna in the Plaka around 9pm, which is still early by Greek standards. The restaurant was barely occupied when we arrived though a reasonable crowd was starting to develop by the time we left. The food was good and hearty - moussaka, lamb and potato stew, olives, tomato and cucumber salad, and a delicious dessert of yogurt with honey and figs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sports' Fans

Huey Lewis and the News were my first favorite band. I hopped onto their band wagon sometime around the Back to the Future Soundtrack/Fore! days and rode it for a good two years through the Small World album. In retrospect, that doesn't seem like much in the way of devotion, but when you've just barely cracked double-digits in age, giving a single artist two years on the top of your personal billboard chart is pretty significant.

Huey Lewis and the News were the first band I ever saw live in concert (Meadowbrook, 1988, Small World Tour). I don't remember the first tape that I ever purchased. I doubt it was one of Huey's, but I definitely owned all three of the aforementioned albums as well as their chart-topping 1983 album Sports. If you were never into Huey Lewis and/or the News, you might not get as much enjoyment out of this several thousand word dissection of Sports, but you will probably agree that it's the most insightful analysis of Lewis' career since American Psycho. If all of this hasn't piqued your interest because you never liked Huey Lewis and the News in particular or saxophone-heavy pop music in general, you should appreciate that the only two members of the band, past or present, that have their own Wikipedia pages are Huey Lewis, of course, and saxophonist Johnny Colla.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Paradise By The Oven Light

I've probably been spending less time cooking since becoming a dad, but it feels like I've been doing it a lot more. That's probably because instead of cooking a couple times a week, I now cook once a week and attempt to make enough food in that one session to last four or five days.

That usually means making one big dish, though this week I did things differently and grilled some corn and chicken thighs and baked a meatloaf. I'm not entirely sure what happend, but I somehow managed to make the most delicious meatloaf I've ever made. I started with an old recipe and then deviated from it in several places due to a lack of ingredients, but the end result was much better than it would have been had I been able to cook it to spec. I'm going to attempt to transcribe what happened in the kitchen today so I can hopefully make it again.

1 lb ground turkey (dark meat)
1 lb ground beef (85/15)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 eggs
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1/4 cup pasta sauce (estimated)
1/8 cup chili sauce (estimated)
1-2 tbs barbecue sauce (estimated)
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tbs garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp Sriracha sauce (estimated)
1/2 cup ketchup

Mix everything (except the ketchup) in a bowl, put it into a loaf pan, cover it with foil, and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take off the foil, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, brush the top of the loaf with the ketchup, and bake another 45-60 minutes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Take a Swipe

Swipely was featured on channel 10's Southern New England Spotlight during tonight's edition of the 7 o'clock news. If you look really closely, you can see me hard at work in the background around the 1:06 mark of the video.

The coverage is definitely more positive than the last time an employer of mine was featured in the local news.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Francis "Monk" LaValley

My grandfather, Francis "Monk" LaValley, passed away peacefully on March 13, a few weeks shy of his 91st birthday. My grandfather was a quiet man. For a long time, I assumed that his nickname was a reference to his quiet demeanor. When I finally asked him about it a few years ago, I learned that it was actually a reference to a football star of his childhood, Stanford All-American Jim "Monk" Moscrip. He earned the nickname playing backyard football as a boy and it stuck with him for the rest of his life.

In many ways, his life was the story of America in the 20th century. His parents immigrated to the US from Quebec, and if I remember correctly, his mother never really learned much English. While he wasn't bilingual, he did retain a little bit of French, which he would occasionally interject into conversation. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II. I don't know much about his war experience because I never really asked him about it and he never really talked about it. I know that he went over to Europe aboard the Queen Mary, served as a mechanic, and spent most of his time in England. After coming home, he settled into a solid blue-collar career as a tool & die maker and raised a family. He was a sports fan, a league bowler, an avid fisherman, and a lifelong Ohioan.

My favorite memories of my grandfather are from summertime visits when my parents would send my brother and me down to Columbus for a few days with Grandma and Grandpa. Their house was a wonderful place full of toys and games that we didn't have at home and the special kind of love and attention that only grandparents can provide. It was during those visits that my grandfather really shared his interests with us. He'd take us fishing and take us to the bowling alley. While I never developed into much of a fisherman and only spent a couple of years in organized bowling, I always enjoyed our trips to the lake and the lanes.

One interest that my younger self did have in common with him was an interest in drawing. He had an artistic side that he didn't often show, but he could make a pretty mean freehand sketch. He always enjoyed looking at my doodlings and would occasionally pull out his pencil and join in.

I didn't see him as often in his later years and his declining health made it impossible for him to enjoy most of his old pastimes, but he was always up for a game of cards right to the very end. I'm thankful for all of the time that we got to spend together. He never gave me much in the way of advice or guidance, but he didn't really have to, he just did what needed to be done and let his actions speak for themselves.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Make Room For Baby

Repainting is probably the most universal rite of passage for first time homeowners. Nearly four and a half years into home ownership, we've finally managed to make it though that rite thanks to the impending birth of our first child. After several days of work and several coats of paint, here's the finished product.

I think it came out pretty well. Here's a gallery with some more shots from around the room.