Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I met Satan today...

I just "tweeted" this a few minutes ago, but thought it deserved a longer explanation, and I wanted to re-tell the story here.

Today is Christmas Eve!
I was fortunate enough to have today off!
I had gone to our local grocery market a few days ago (Sunday), and saw that they had some awesome looking Danishes at Wegmans. I decided it was too early in the week to purchase them for Christmas morning desert (Thursday morn), so I thought I'd be smart, and come back on Wednesday to pick up some fresh danishes. Ha. Jokes on me! but wait... back to my story...
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. But it can also be a stressful and trying time of year for a lot of people.
Since I had the entire day off, I thought, I could take my time in heading out to the grocery store. I lounged around all morning surfing the web. Finally around noon, I mustered up the energy and will power to brave the crowds of people.
Off I go about 1:45.
Now, on Sunday night, I was stuck in some awful traffic on a major road because it was full of traffic coming and leaving from the local Mall. Today, I thought I'd out smart all those people and take a different major road that would eliminate that route. It was a State highway that would take me right where I wanted to go.
I approached the on ramp, as I headed over-top the overpass of the highway I just happened to glance left... much to my dismay, all I saw was brake lights and flashing police and fire lights! The major highway was blocked due to an accident! (I felt real bad for the people who got into an accident on Christmas eve). But, since I happened to see all the lights, I had just enough time to avoid getting onto the on ramp and thus avoided sitting in bumper to bumper traffic while they cleared the accident. Score one for me.
I happened then to think of another back road that could get me to the grocery store, and though it was slightly out of my way, it was much better than the other two choices. I was right - there was very little traffic and I got to the entrance way of Wegmans in no time at all.
BUT... as I got closer to my turn, I looked and saw traffic ALL backed up waiting to get into the shopping center that the Wegmans was in! Wow! So much traffic!
I decided at the last minute to avoid all that and continue down the road to Border's book store. I shopped for about an hour, (milling about a bookstore is a good thing to me!) Finally, I had my fill of books (managed to escape without buying anything for myself). Again, I thought of a backroad to get to the Wegmans. Success... it worked out well again to get into the shopping center.
I am still amazed at all the people who decided to go to a grocery store on Christmas Eve! Why?! Was everyone buying fresh danishes? (apparently so, because when I got there they were completely sold out! I picked up the very last "Cherry Strudel").

But... as I was searching for a parking spot it happened... I met Satan!
Of course I didn't realize that's who it was at first...
I was approaching the front of the parking lot when I saw reverse lights come on...
YES! I got a nice up close parking spot!
I put my blinker on and waited for the person to back out of the spot.
I waited... and waited... finally the car starts to back out slowly...
Then I see what the "problem" was... a little old lady with white hair and a handicap sticker hanging from her rearview mirror. Ugh.
I continue to wait thinking... c'mon this is the time for holidays and good cheer, and good will towards men (and women)... but the ol' lady was trying my patience.
She slowly backed up but never turned her wheels! She kinda backed up in a striaght line. So now she had to pull forward again, to turn her wheels and try again...
But now since she's taken all this time, people are walking behind her going into the store... everytime she saw someone walking, she would stop and wait for them to pass!
Ok, remain calm.
Finally... and I'm not exagerating, about 10 minutes have passed. She gets her car turned enough to leave her parking spot.
She drives past me and I got a good look at her... Just a sweet looking little ol' woman. I'm sure she was someone's nice grandmother who was off to bake some Christmas cookies or something.
Then it hit me...
NO! This was not some sweet ol' Grandmother! This was Satan in disguise!
What better way to ruin a person's holiday spirit than to disguise himself and really try to cause chaos and anger and hate than to act like a lil' ol' handicapped woman who can't drive!
So that's a long story to say: I BEAT YOU Satan! Today I did not get angry. I did not loose my patience. I remained sitting in my truck listening to Christmas music while watching her back up and making repeated attempts to leave her parking spot.
To top it all off... the parking spot that I thought I scored so close to the entrance was a special 15 minute only spot designated for people going into the pharmacy! Didn't bother me though. I drove around some more, and parked far far away.
I will say this though... NEVER again - will I attempt to go grocery shopping on Christmas Eve!!!
Lastly... as part of this twisted mental fantasy I conjured up in my mind while waiting for her/him to leave the parking spot... I imagined that as this little ol' woman drove her car out of my perception, and that it didn't effect my holiday spirit at all, that the car poofed out of existence and the demon spawn that was driving was cast back into the firey pits of Hell! :)

Merry Christmas all!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Miso Soup

I tend to use my blog to vent some times...
I happened to think yesterday that I should throw some "non-vent" topics up on occasion :)

Miso Soup!
Ever had it? You should try it.
I think I first had it about 8-10 years ago. My friend married a woman who has a Japaneese mother, and she made a large batch of Miso soup. So my friend asked if I'd ever had it before, I had not. I was not a very adventurous eater, but I was just starting to discover Sushi, and Japanese food in general. Now... I'll pretty much eat anything with a few exceptions... (I'm not crazy about eating any internal organs ie: brains, stomach, liver, etc... I'd probably try it, but the thought doesn't appeal to me.)
Anyway... I really enjoyed the soup and asked if it was dificult to make. He said not really, and proceeded to give me the "recipe".
It's not an exact recipe, it's more like "this is what it's made of, just add enough to your taste".
1) Miso - I was told that Miso is just a slightly fermented Soy bean paste... I just now learned (via wikipedia here) that it can also be made from Rice, and Barley, and that it's made with salt and a fungus (don't think I needed to know that). What I do know about Miso is that there are different varrieties and that I have not experimented with them. I look for the "regular" Miso paste. It's kinda like peanut butter in color and texture. (I think there is also flavored Miso and Red Miso). Buying it can be tricky, because I've only seen it in the Asian food market(s). Several times I can't read the label because there is no english on it. The kind I usually get though has english, and I know it's made specifically for soup. I think it has Dashi already added to it which brings me to Ingredient #2...

2) Dashi or Bonito - again, I've only seen this at Asian food markets. I usually have no problem finding it, but it can take some searching if you can't read the Kanji type. Almost always, I've found it near the pre-mix Miso Soup packets (cheating, but I'm sure it tastes the same). It usually comes in little foil packets or a small glass jar. To be clearer... I believe Dashi is simply the name of a fish stock made with Bonito flakes. So techincally you're looking for Bonito to make your own Dashi. (Dashi on wikipedia here and Bonito here). Bonito is simply fish (usually Tuna, but I think it can also be anchovies) that has been dried, and then crumbled into a powder. So basically, you're adding dried fish powder to water to make Dashi.

3) Tofu! - I think everyone knows what Tofu is but just in case you're not familiar with it, it's basically made from soybeans. It's also called "bean curd". It's Soybeans that have been curdled, then pressed into "blocks". Again, there are different types of tofu, but it's best to use the plain.
Tofu is usually sold as "soft, medium, or firm" - personally I prefer the firm. It has a bit of texture to it, where the 'soft' is enough to barely hold it's shape and bit mushy. Extra firm is good too if you like the texture. There is no difference in taste, just texture. Tofu is in every supermarket now, so it's not difficult to find at all. It's usually sold in a sealed pack, with a liquid (water?). slice the pack, drain the liquid, then cut the tofu into about 1/4" or 1/2" squares.
(tofu on wikipedia). I should mention too... Tofu is extremely bland and tasteless. But it's really good for you, and adds texture to soups or veggy meals.

4) Seaweed - This can be tricky too, but the bottomline is look for anything marked seaweed. I think the techincal term you want is called "Wakame" (wiki). [Be careful though... do not use those "sheets" of seaweed that is used for making sushi. I mean I guess you could use it, but I wouldn't recommend it.] Depending on the market you go to, you might find it in a bag marked as Wakame... The market I go to, has bags and bags of different varieties of seaweed! Most I can't read the package at all, and I like to experiment. My favorite now is this stuff that looks BLACK! It's curly, and small pieces (dried of course). I like this for both texture - and it's cool! You throw one piece into water, and it enlarges to almost 4 times it's size! And then turns to a nice dark green (typical seaweed color). So be AWARE! that it may look like you're only putting in a handful to a large pot, it will enlarge to almost 4x it's size.
The small pieces are great too because you don't need to cut them. If you get the larger pieces of uncut seaweed it's nearly impossible to cut with a knife when it's dry!

That's basically the ingredients there! Most places will also add a little fresh chopped Scallions to the bowl just prior to serving. (It's good, but you don't need them).

Get a large pot.
Fill it with about 8 cups of water. Turn the heat up to high.
Get your miso paste - follow the instructions on how much to use (I think it's about 2 tablespoons per 4 cups) but it's really a matter of taste. You can use less or more depending how you like it. Start with two, and just put what you feel looks right. (I like alot).
Add your Bonito if you want - warning, a little of this goes a long way! And, make sure your Miso paste doesn't already have Dashi/Bonito in it already. Again, I like a fishy taste, so I add about 3 teaspoons (even though my miso paste has Bonito in it).
Add your Tofu. One package for 8 cups is plenty.
By now the soup should be close to boiling (you don't have to bring it to boiling).
Keep stirring gently until all of your Miso Paste is dissolved in the water. It can "clump" when you first put it in.
Last add your Seaweed. Again, this is to taste, if you like a lot, use a lot. I use about a handfull.
Note: the seaweed is salty! So think of that as you add it in.
Let everything simmer for about 5 more minutes and you're good to go!
(The scallions are optional).


If you have a better recipe or have an additional ingredient, feel free to leave a comment.

OH! I should have mentioned this...
When left for a minute or two, Miso soup will settle. The Miso will sink and group towards the bottom of the bowl, with just a clear broth on top. That's normal! Just give it quick stir before taking a spoonful.

Friday, December 12, 2008 complaint

I know... you're saying right now... "What, ANOTHER customer service complaint?!"

Yes. is on the top of my list tonight.
First the disclaimer - I'm a HUGE fan of I order a lot of books and other items, and really enjoy the easy at which money can flow out of my wallet and boxes show up on my doorstep.
That is... until something goes wrong.
A few months ago, I ordered a book.
I have a "prime membership" which basically means I pay a yearly fee (I think it's around $80!) so that I can have "FREE" 2-day shipping. It doesn't make sense to pay for this unless you order about 10 items from Amazon per year, and I do.
So, I get the usual email confirmation that says my order was placed.
I get the follow up email the next day that my order was shipped.
Then the following day (under normal circumstances) I get my package.
Not for this book. I go online to their "where's my stuff" page to find out where my box is...
Only to learn that there is a generic "in transit" status in the shipping status.
Hmm, that's odd I thought, usually there is a detailed tracking list as is with most UPS packages.
I learned (in a round about way, that my item - although the website SAID it was in stock) was out of stock at the time that I ordered it. And that in fact, UPS never got a package, but only the paperwork to initiate the billing. Long story short, about a week later I received a replacement order (at no additional charge).
Well, I'm stuck in the same loop - again.
This time though, I'm more worried, because the package is a Christmas present. I thought I was ordering it with PLENTY of time, but now I'm nervous that they're going to mess me up.
I called and spoke to 2 different customer service representative from India, and got absolutely no where, other than empty assurances that I would 'definitely' receive my package this Monday... and if I don't get it by Wednesday to give them a call. Ya, real confidence there... You'll get it for sure on Monday unless you don't. Nice.
I also emailed the customer service, and also got the same response from another person with an Indian name, who really failed to address all my concerns in my email.
I'm SO frustrated with the entire country of India tonight. How can an entire country take over EVERY customer service phone-line of every major American company? Really Corporate America? You can't afford to pay American's to represent you to your American customers?
While usually, they are overly polite, all you have to do is 'challenge' their canned script once, and you immediately get their attitude. I expect more from you. In this day and age, to be told that your package has been shipped, but we have no idea where it is - is ridiculous.
I have little doubt, that with additional phone calls the problem will be straightened out, (hopefully in time for Christmas), it's the frustration level of dealing with people who speak poor English, and offer zero common sense solutions to a shipping problem.
I asked the woman... isn't there like a "level 2" customer support that I can talk to? And either she played dumb, or she again lied to me, she said no... if I called back, I'd just get to talk to another person from India who will tell me the exact same thing she did. Grrr.
I've learned now... unless the item is shipped and packed by (and not a third party) chances are high that I will have a problem. I'm very disappointed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Verizon DSL tech support = fail

Quick rant...
A while ago, I started looking into what bit torrent is. I'm still not 100% sure I can explain it well, but I have a rough idea. Yes, there are a lot of people who use it to "share" "illegal" songs, and movies... But there are also a lot of people who use it for legal sharing. I had bit torrent working on my imac at one point long ago, but barely used it (found the interface confusing). I also know that it can be dangerous as far as viruses, and other nasties... it's sort of like the secret underbelly of the internet. (wikipedia here).
Well, a month or so ago, I tried to find a TV show on bit torrent. It was called "History Hacker" (a good show, but sadly the History Channel did not pick it up). I found it on one of the torrent sites and tried several times to download it. Nothing. I've since tried a few more torrent clients, and have had no luck at downloads. I kinda gave up on it all.
Well, the other day, I decided to try out a screen saver that I've heard alot about... called Electric Sheep. It creates these fantastic animations in these incredible fractal like movies.
I downloaded it, installed it, and tried running it... no luck.
I started digging around tonight on the electric sheep website looking for some sort of troubleshooting section. I found something that caught my eye... a "port test". Turns out, My port is blocked. Now, I'm a geek, but I'm not an ubergeek. Ports scare me because I don't know too much about them, and I don't want to go opening up my computer to unwanted attacks.
I then realized this is why my torrents were not working either (I swear they worked before, so I don't know if my ISP (Verizon) blocked them without me knowing, or somehow 'flipped a switch'. I thought, it might be worth a call, to see if I could find a nice tech support person to walk me through at the very least, an explanation.
Well, that was a mistake.
First attempt... I get a man with a heavy Indian accent,who starts with asking me some basic questions. (I had already made sure I was talking to the MAC tech support). I tried to explain the problem to him. Well, long story short, he had no idea what I was talking about. I didn't really get angry with him. I realize this is not a typical tech support question, but still. Then... he starts asking me "what virus protection program are you runnig?" Not to sound like a smart-a$$ I asked "This is the MAC tech support right?" (He didn't even get my joke). I realized this was hopeless. I asked if I could talk to someone else. Well, he didn't like that. He got snooty with me, and said "I was about to explain this until you interrupted me"... I apologized, and said "Oh sorry, go ahead" - Then it became comical. He floundered. He started telling me that when I "installed Verizon, that they automatically installed and ran a virus program on my computer called "VISS" - yeah right. I again asked to talk to someone else. He said he'd transfer me. Then a minute later, he came back on the line, and said he can't, that I should just call back again. ugh. I did.
Tech support two... (again heavy Indian accent) - he couldn't understand me when I recited my phone number to him. before I even got started, I made sure he was a mac person, he assured me he was. I asked if he was familiar with Bit Torrent... He asked me 3 times to repeat that... then he asked me to spell it (I assume so he could google it). ugh. This was going no where.
Finally, he fessed up, and said he understood my question about blocked ports, but said I would have to call back during daytime hours, to talk to "premium tech support" and that I should go through the billing dept to get to them. Right.
So, after a good hour spent surfing the web, and 30 minutes of wasted phone calls to Verizon, I'm still stuck here with no idea if I want to try and teach myself this, or just let it go.
Maybe I'll give "premium tech support" one more try.
If an ubergeek happens to find this blogpost, can you just tell me in the comments: Is there any real danger to going into my modem setup and opeing up port(s)?
I found and could prob do it myself, but it sounds scary.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Memory flash

This is a strange post - I realize that. I'm gonna post it anyway.

I just finished a nice 4 day holiday weekend. Sunday, I was a total slug... never changed out of sleeping clothes and never took a shower.
This morning, I started my usual routine which involves the shower. While I was just a tad 'ripe' it wasn't like I was that horrible. But for some reason, I was enjoying the clean feeling, and the warmth of the shower water, and my memory flashed back to some 15 or 20 years ago.
I was in a pretty serious moped accident. (long story, lets just say it involved brain surgery, and I was all put back together again). But one of the things about the accident... I was bed ridden for a long time. (I don't recall exactly how long). But one thing that flashed in my memory this morning with an uncanny sense of reality... how GOOD that first shower felt after I had recovered enough to stand, and risk getting my head wet. It was such an incredibly good feeling! It's hard to describe actually. But since it's only a few days after Thanksgiving, I'll just add this: I am thankful for showers.
I was also a bit stunned at how vivid the memory was. Odd.