State of the Nation

•2013.04.28 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a while WordPress. You’re slice of my virtual social life has gone from being quite large to being almost non-existant. You’ve been replaced and I don’t see that changing, no matter how many tweaks you make.

Users have to come to this site to see the content. It’s not something that rolls across their Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr feeds. Does that put the onus back on me? Somewhat, but I don’t have the time to chase/produce the content that would drive this site. The other properties just make it too easy to type a few words and click submit.

And does a 140 character tweet make sense here? Not really.

So, am I killing you off? No. This is just a “state of the nation” post to let you know that you’ve not been forgotten. You’ve only been ignored.

Lost and Found

•2012.03.02 • Leave a Comment

Last Saturday morning I lost my wallet. Last Sunday my wallet returned. That’s how things go.

This is not a post about how I lost it or how I got it back, but about the canceling credit cards and their replacement. With in 15 minutes of realizing my wallet was gone, I started canceling cards. I had an AMEX and Mastercard issued from my employer, an Exxon gas card (which I never use) and a debit and Visa card from Truliant Credit Union.

AMEX – Logged into the AMEX site, quickly located the link for reporting a lost card, filled out the form and boom it was done. As for the replacement, I was given an option of overnight delivery or 2-3 day. I went with overnight. The replacement card arrived Monday at ~9:30am. Grade for AMEX: A+

Master Card (Wells Fargo) – Logged into Master Card site. This site really sucks, so finding the lost card link took a bit of work. I don’t know who designed this site, but it wasn’t anyone who understands usability. Anyway, once I found the link I was able to cancel the card. No options on replacement delivery. Replacement card arrived Thursday. Grade for Master Card: B

Exxon – Welcome to call center hell. I had my statement and called the number it provided. Welcome to India. I start explaining the situation and I’m told its no problem, they can take care of it. As I’m answering questions, the line goes dead. I call back. Different person answers. I start explaining the situation and again the line goes dead. Take three — yet a different person except this time I am told that they do not handle Exxon cards at this center. What?!? Before this conversation goes dead, I’m given a number to call for Exxon cards. Funny how the first two operators could help me, but the third could not. I call the number. It appears I’m in America now. The operator is confused as why I called this number. I explain the situation and she says they also do not handle Exxon cards and to call yet another number. Take five — I finally get someone who can assist and we work through the process. Total time I would put at 30 minutes. I will say that everyone was personable, especially the final operator (Donna). Card arrived today (Friday). Grade for Exxon C+.

Truliant – Logged into their web site. Located the cancel cards link. Its was a damn email form which means its not an immediate action. Someone would have to receive the email and then act on it. Did I mention that this was a Saturday? Screw that. After hunting and finally locating a phone number (why are these so hidden?), I reached a live and very helpful person. She efficiently walked me through the entire process. Delivery? Not yet. Still waiting… and waiting… and getting more mad. Grade for Truliant, who I absolutely love in all other aspects, D.

p.s. Having no useable cards, I had to go to Truliant to cash a check for funds. The cashier made an off-hand comment about it taking two weeks to get replacement cards. I thought he was joking at the time, but its not turning out to be a joke. It it appears to be a customer service failure.

Shearwater (Not)

•2012.02.13 • 3 Comments

If one of your favorite bands shows up at your local venue and 4 of the 5 members are different is it the same band? Should it even be called the same band?

Let’s say you bought a ticket to see the Pixies. The band walks on stage and you have Black Francis, but in place of Kim, Joey and David you have three people you have never seen in your life. Is it the same? No. Should they be called the Pixies even if they play Pixies songs? No.

So this is the scenario I encountered last night at the Cat’s Cradle. The lights dim, the band walks on stage and what do I see. I have Jonathan Meiberg and four questions marks. No Thor. No Kimberly. So this is Shearwater?

I don’t know the reasons. Maybe Thor and Kimberly either had conflicts or didn’t want to tour, but this is not Shearwater. And what’s bad here is it should not be sold as Shearwater. I’d been okay if it had been sold as “Jonathan Meiberg” — I have seen him solo — but to show up with a four unknowns is not acceptable.

Was an explanation offered? No. Was there any indication there would be a difference in players? No. Look at the NPR article that accompanies the stream of the new album. It shows the five members I expected to see and even talks about Thor’s and Kimberly’s contributions. So what gives?

From the moment I realized I wasn’t getting who I expected, it became an immediate disappointment. I was done and it was all I could do to stand there and take it. This is not to say they weren’t good – they were – but my engagement was zero. I just wanted it to stop.

This may seem like harping, but this is a band I have seen more than any other band. This was show number six (or was it?). I had planned to buy the CD at the show and I didn’t and at this point I doubt I ever will.


•2012.01.19 • Leave a Comment

I hadn’t planned to post this, but since Coach has chosen not to respond to my email I’m making it public. It’s my email response to their order cancelation email, with a few inserts and a correction on the year (I’m still thinking 2011).

I was extremely pleased that Coach FINALLY sent me offer that could be applied on-line versus all previous offers that required a visit to a store. I assume someone at Coach woke up to the fact that not everyone lives in New York where there are multiple Coach stores and that people actually do shop online. Anyway, I knew exactly what I wanted, went to the web site and ordered it. It took a day to get an order acknowledgement (that’s a painfully slow email system you have). It took another day to get an order cancelation (to my great surprise).

I find it pathetic that your web site is not connected to your inventory. You do realize this is 2012, correct? This situation reminds me of the Best Buy debacle of Christmas. Not a situation that invites a complementary comparison.

So what are my takes aways here? The obvious one is that Coach has serious information systems issues [and thus customer service issues]. The not so obvious one is that even though I have a Coach wallet and check book… and that I bought a Coach handbag for my mother for Christmas, [along with the thousands I have spent over the years]… I’ve probably spent my last dollar on any of your products.

Linguine With Clam Sauce

•2011.12.26 • Leave a Comment

Clams have never been high on my list of seafoods, so its rather strange that I have fallen in love with this recipe. Bottom line: its simple and good, the two things I like when I’m cooking.


32 Littleneck clams, cleaned and rinsed [My clams come from Whole Foods]
2 fat garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 clove, crushed
1/2 cup dry white wine [I use Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay]
1 dried chile pepper [roughly chopped or cut up]
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound linguine [1 box/package]
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Before I move on to the procedure, you need to make sure you have a nice sized pot for cooking the clams. I use my pasta pot, but any deep pot will do. If you’re wondering why such a large pot since there is so little liquid and so little clams, try it in a smaller pot and see what happens (enjoy cleaning your stove top).


1- In a separate pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and red chile flakes. Cook for approximately 30 seconds, stirring constantly (do not burn the garlic). Add the can of tomatoes. When the tomatoes start bubbling, cut the heat back to a simmer (about one notch). Stir occasionally.

2- In the deep pot add the wine, crushed garlic and dried chili pepper.

Turn the heat to high. The wine will come to a boil quickly, so have your clams ready-to-go. Add the clams to the pot, spreading evenly, and then cover with the lid.

Shake the pot occasionally. Cooking time of the original recipe is stated at 4 to 6 minutes, but for me its closer to 4. You can time it, peek, or simply wait until the liquid bubbles out (not recommended). You’re looking for the clams to open (opening equals done). Once they start opening, use your tongs to remove them one at a time leaving as much liquid in the pot as possible. Don’t fret if all the clams don’t open. Its typical for one or two to remain closed. Give up on those and toss them in the trash (not fit to eat). The last thing you want is for all the liquid to burn away. If it does, you’re screwed.

3- Drain the remaining liquid from the deep pot into a bowl, straining though a fine sieve or cheese cloth. Set aside.

The liquid might look like the dregs of a session of dish washing, but you would be mistaken. It’s the flavor of the recipe. It’s the gold.

4- Remove the clams from the their shells, rinse briefly to remove any sand and then roughly chop. Set aside.

5- In the deep pot add enough water to cook the pasta and a couple of pinches of salt (follow the pasta box instructions if you need specifics). When the water comes to a boil add the pasta.

6- Add the strained liquid from the clams to the tomato sauce.

7- About a minute before the pasta is ready (al dente), add the clams to the tomato sauce and turn the temperature for the tomato sauce to low.

8- Drain the pasta and plate accordingly (the original recipe states a serving size of four, but for me its two).

9- Garnish with the parsley. Enjoy!

Baking Bread (part four)

•2011.06.19 • Leave a Comment

Part four. Best Part. Time to eat.

Left rear plate has the sliced bread. Right middle plate has freshly roasted garlic. Left front plate has a mix of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 1.

Break off a piece of bread.

Step 2.

Using a butter knife smear some of the roasted garlic on the bread. If you don’t feel like cleaning a knife, just grab the garlic bulb with your hand and squeeze some garlic onto the bread.

Step 3.

Dip the bread in the olive oil mixture. Swirling is absolutely permitted.

Step 4.


Step 5.

Repeat until half to loaf of bread is gone.

Note: To really do this you need a glass of red wine, but I had way too much to do today to include that enjoyment.

Note: This bread is ideal for any soup, chowder, etc. It’s what’s known as a “crusty” bread.

Baking Bread (part three)

•2011.06.18 • Leave a Comment

At the end of 60 to 90 minutes (60 for me), you should have dough that looks pretty close to what you see above (and thus ends the second rise). So what’s next?

Remember that hot cast iron pot in the oven? CAREFULLY remove the pot, uncover and ease the dough into the pot. It doesn’t hurt if the dough is not perfectly centered. Replace the lid and slide the pot back in the oven for one hour.

At the end of an hour CAREFULLY remove the lid and continue baking for 15 more minutes. From a baking standpoint, this is the most judgmental part. 15 minutes is a good estimate, but you need to start checking on it at around the 12 minute mark.

In this instance, this loaf stayed in about a minute too long for my taste (I got distracted).

Once you pull the pot out of the oven you should immediately remove the bread from the pot. You can use spoons, spatchulas or your hands if you are using oven mitts (which is what I do). Set the bread on a cooling rack for ONE HOUR. Yes, one hour. That’s actually the hardest part of baking bread — waiting the hour to eat it.

If you’ve stuck with me through parts one through three did you notice that there was something missing from this process that you should have expected? Think a minute. Where was the kneading? THERE IS NONE. Not with this technique. Sweet, huh?

So what’s in part four? How to eat it.