Spicy food avoidance

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There’s a lot of Mexican food in Denver, which sounds like a pretty good deal. But I’m finding as of late that I can’t deal with spicy food anymore. And I don’t have a long history of liking spicy food in the first place, so maybe it’s not that my insides are looking like the sleeve on a wizard’s coat, but that there’s some kind of psychosomatic training issue that stands in my way.

When I grew up, we never ate any spicy food, ever. Ever. If we made tacos, they were out of the Ortega kit from Kroger, and half the time I would put ketchup on them. Probably the spiciest thing I ate in my first sixteen years on this planet was that shaker of red pepper flakes that’s at Pizza Hut, and when I did try it, I was so immediately shut down, I never wanted it again. This was long before Elkhart was overrun with Hispanics, so there were no bodegas or good restaurants. (And for the record, I think it’s kindof hilarious that the Hispanic population exploded there, given the number of geriatric racists in the town.) There was this local chain called Hacienda that was about as Mexican as John Wayne in a Klan robe, and later I worked at Taco Bell, but that was it, until I got to college.

In college, I avoided spicy food. This wasn’t hard, because there weren’t any Indian restaurants in Bloomington, and the Mex places were more like Tex-Mex, with fajitas and shit, and not really hot items. I guess the Chinese places did have some hot numbers, but I stuck to sweet and sour pork. Otherwise, I avoided anything with any amount of chile or spice in it.

I remember one time being in Chicago with Simms and Bennett, and they were totally Jonseing to go to this Indian place. And for whatever reason, probably because the only Indian food I ever had was the stuff Simms was trying to make in his kitchen, I really didn’t even want to try it, so I just ordered a Coke. Simms and Bennett had all of this shit, and were chowing down and saying “Oh man Konrath, you have to try this Dal, it is fucking incredible”, and I was like “well, this Coke is pretty good. Can I go find a hot dog cart or something?”

You also have to realize there is some subset of the tech culture that worships chiles like they are christ on a cross. I don’t know why; it’s the same reason geeks get into Star Trek – maybe it’s nature, nurture, the quality of the product, but it just happens. So half of the places I work have had all of their machines named after various types of peppers, and the sysadmin that does that usually has that big chile pepper poster on the wall of their cube. The insanity goes to the point of flying to New Mexico to get raw peppers and then dry them, or growing them yourself in your apartment like you’re getting a pot harvest going. But the one thing common was this huge machismo pissing contest about the hottest peppers, about getting the craziest most insane sauces, finding the hottest green sauce at the most obscure restaurant, and turning the lunch product of beans, beef, and a flour tortilla into some giant test of manhood and individuality.

And if you ask anyone in that situation, “why the hell do you even like chile peppers?” they will give you some great philisophical discussion that makes no sense. And I always wondered, did I need to be born in another state or country to get this? I mean, I absolutely hated my first beer, but after a few months, it was a taste I acquired. I didn’t drink beer in the way I drank Coke though; it’s something about the way you let the flavor set in, what you ignore and what you focus on. An example: I have been drinking tart cherry juice for my foot, because it supposedly helps because of some enzyme. So I got this stuff at a health food store (if you see cherry juice that says 100% juice at the grocery store, 10 times out of 10 it is 4% cherry juice and 96% apple or pear juice blend. They can legally say “100% juice”, they just don’t say which juice.) and I poured a glass of it and drank it, just like I would drink a glass of grape soda. And it was HORRIBLE. I couldn’t finish it. Later I talked to Simms about it, and he said to get one of those little nyquil cups and drink it as if it was medicine. So I did that, and no problems. I could easily do four, five, six shots of the stuff if I treated it as medicine and not a tasty beverage.

And that always made me wonder if I needed to approach the food differently somehow, like ignoring the pain when you’re in the dentist’s chair. After I moved to New York, I started eating Indian food, and I slowly worked up to hotter dishes by doing this. And it wasn’t bad – I was eating the food for the experience, more than the flavor. I don’t really know how to describe that, but I worked my way up to hotter and hotter things. (Although one time I was trying to eat a vindaloo and I had a front tooth that was slowly working to the point where I needed a root canal, and that hurt like FUCK and set me back a bit on hot foods.)

So here I am in Denver, and we went to this place called Rocky Mountain Diner, which is sort of cowboy-esque in its theme, and has a lot of giant plates of hearty food, like chicken fried steak smothered in gravy and whatnot. And last night I ordered the chimichanga. Now, from what I remember, a chimichanga is basically a small burrito that is tightly wrapped and then deep fried, and you cover it with sour cream and basically take a year off of your life. But when I got my food, it was slightly different, like maybe it was pan-fried, and it was smothered in this green sauce. And when I took one bite, my system basically shut down, and I knew my intestinal tract would be about as stable as the current Somalian government for days. I felt a need to eat a few more bites, but it ate away at my tongue so much, I just couldn’t do it. And it baffled me as to why I could eat the most fiery Indian dishes back in New York, but I couldn’t touch this stuff. Maybe I have some dental work coming up that I don’t know about? I have a touch of a cold, could it be that? I don’t know, but it bothered me a bit. I always hated having tons of dietary or culinary preferences, so every time I ordered at a restaurant, I would have to say “hold the sauce, hold the mushrooms, hold the peppers, hold the cheese, hold the meat – actually, just give me an empty plate and a glass of water and charge me ten bucks.”

I did go get the cure thismorning – McDonald’s hash browns. You drunks know what I’m talking about. Man I love it when I manage to get to the golden arches before 10:30. (Actually, that time varies widely these days, so don’t fuck with me about how it’s really 11:00 or whatever.)

I’m starting to hate eBay. I have a million auctions; I have allegedly like a thousand dollars in auctions that have closed or will close. I have two people who owe me money. I have no packages to ship out. I have made about $100 on this sofar, and I’m more than a week in. I wish I could push a big red button and just say “ALL AUCTIONS CLOSED! SEND IN YOUR FUCKING MONEY NOW! GO! GO! GO!” but I have to wait. That means I’m going to the My eBay page 900 times a day.

Oh! I got us Rockies tickets for the 4th of July. Box seats, as good as the ones we had for the Devil Rays, except we don’t have to watch the Devil Rays. It’s against the Mets. I have no idea how they are doing – I will have to read up – but the show will have fireworks, and we have kick-ass seats, and if it’s 200 out, we can duck back into the ACed clubhouse. I actually walked to the box office to buy the tickets, and I got there at like 6:07 and they closed at 6. So I ordered online. I will go back down there and pick them up, if that’s at all possible.

If anyone wants a good laptop, I am selling my old one on eBay, but I haven’t listed it yet. It’s a P3 with 128M RAM and Win98SE, so it’s no speed demon, but it is ultra small and light, so it’s a great road computer. I think it’s worth a couple hundred bucks. More info if you need it, but I thought I’d mention it here first.

Speaking of, gotta go box up some crap that just sold. Whee!

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Another “not in New York anymore” moment

I had an “I’m not in New York anymore” experience yesterday. I’m selling a bunch of stuff on eBay to try to finance a new laptop and to free up some space in my apartment. I’m also at the point where I care a lot less about collecting stuff, and would rather just have the stuff I need, and cash in the bank. So there are a lot of big-ticket items on there, and I’m amazed at how much profit there is in selling collectible coins and money. If I knew this earlier, I would have carefully invested a ton more in silver proof sets and gold bullion coins.

(And if you’re interested, I’m not hard to find on eBay. But please don’t fuck with my auctions. The last thing I need is someone running up the price on something so I get to pay all of my fees in duplicate.)

Anyway, my first auction ended on Monday, so I boxed it up, and prepared myself for the dreaded trip to the post office. See, in New York, the PO is slightly less comfortable than an unlicensed proctologist with rusty equipment. Rude staff, long lines, maybe one or two people per hundred customers, small lobbies, bulletproof glass, bad hours, and no convenient locations whatsoever. But now, I loaded up the package in the car (instead of hauling it on the subway), then found the place a few blocks away. It had a huge parking lot and plenty of open spaces. The inside was giant, and had separate stores for supplies, passports, and even a section for stamp collectors. Through some scheduling fuckup, I arrived right at noon, and expected a horrorshow. There was nobody waiting, and four clerks available. The guy that helped me was really nice, made small talk, and wasn’t behind two feet of solid lexan with a little tank turret slit. I was out in two minutes. Jesus, is this what life is like in the rest of the country?

Also last night, I got this really strong weather deja-vu. It was really hot all day, I think it even broke 100. We went out to Safeway after dinner last night, and the weather had this really eerie resemblance to many of the nights in 1992 I described in Summer Rain. The still air of the day broke down from the temp and gave the atmosphere this charged, energetic quality. I always thought this was because I endured the hundred-degree heat with no AC, and when it dropped at night, it felt good. But I spend all of my time in the AC now, so it must be more of a heat/humidity thing. I think in New York, this never happened, because the whole place is a concrete radiator, and the winds are broken up by the buildings, and you never have that rapid of weather change on a regular basis. But here, and in Bloomington, the air has that really specific taste to it, and that brought me back.

I almost wanted to re-read SR last night, but then one of two things will happen: I will think the writing is horrible and cringe-worthy and get all depresso about it, or I will suddenly want to write a similar book but maybe in Seattle or maybe in Elkhart or whatever, and I’ve vowed that I can’t go back to writing that kind of stuff. I mean, I’m not writing anything else these days, but if I was, it would need to be more like Rumored.

I’m currently reading the Anthony Kiedis bio, Scar Tissue. It’s not bad. He had a pretty weird life starting out – his mom was a hippie, his dad was a drug dealer, he got into some after-school specials as a child actor, his dad used to hang out with Sonny Bono, a really weird survey of events. I’m just to the point where the band starts, so we’ll see how it continues.

I am walking again, and off steroids, so that’s good. I won’t be running any marathons any time soon, but I hope to start taking some walks to get my legs back to normal (or better). I also, for whatever reason, want to learn how to canoe or kayak. I’ve canoed before, but not in a long while. I don’t know about the kayak – it sounds okay, except for the flipping upside down part, which would freak me out. But there are some very cool lakes around here, and if I could find a place that I could give them $20, and then paddle around in the middle of nowhere, and maybe take a camera with me, I think that would be a good waste of time and money. Another thing I wish I could do is cross-country ski, but I don’t know how hard it is, or if it would fuck up my ankles or knees. Also I don’t know how much balance it requires, because I’m damn lucky I can walk upright, let alone do anything that requires coordination.

Okay, time for dinner.

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Rockies – Yankees

Yes, another baseball game report, but this is the big one: Yankees versus Rockies. Another annoying bulleted list:

  • This game was HUGE. I got there about an hour early, and it was roughly three times more crowded than last Friday’s game. (The Yankees are a bit more popular than the Devil Rays.)
  • The ten dollar lot across the street was charging $30.
  • There were an insane number of Yankees fans. There were more Yankees jersies and hats than you’d see at Yankee stadium for a home game.
  • Also present: lots of large bald men with no necks acting like assholes. Also lots of loud-mouthed women with orange tans, frizzed-out frosted white hair, and pure black eyebrows. It was like being back in Astoria.
  • For $60 each, our seats were shit. Section 149, row 20 – that’s straight back from first base. It’s the worst of both worlds: you can’t see the scoreboard, and you can’t really get a good look at the field. They’re also uncovered, and not near any food.
  • Sarah had to meet me there a half hour late from work, so I had to fend for myself. See above about no food – it was a real struggle just to get a hot dog and a water. The lines at everything were completely insane. Every hot dog stand was like a confessional at the rapture.
  • There was a guy sitting in front of me that looked just like James Cromwell (aka George Sibley from Six Feet Under). He had on the old-timey hat and the nerdy dress-casual clothes and the whole deal. While I was sitting there, about three dozen people tried to cut through his row, and he got more and more pissed, which was both funny and annoying.
  • The stadium SOLD OUT. It was probably twice as full as Friday’s game. Even the nosebleed seats were sold out. (And nosebleed might be a literal term, given anything above the 20th row in the top deck is above 5280 feet.)
  • I don’t think I’ve seen a single Asian person since I moved to Colorado, which is somewhat amusing considering I used to live in a neighborhood where I was the only person not born in China. Well, over from us was a whole gaggle of Japanese, all holding up giant posterboard letter-per-person signs spelling out MATSUI.
  • Sarah pointed out later that each team had a player named Matsui. They were probably rooting for Hideki, but maybe they support their country and not just one team.
  • I mentioned that maybe if they wanted him to pay attention, they could have at least spelled out the sign in Japanese.
  • The lady next to me was this typical Long Island piece of shit that had the “New York is the best city in the world and we’re so much better than anything else, although I don’t actually live IN the city, just way the fuck out in Long Island” thing going on. Which brings me to my next point.
  • I don’t know if I am a Yankees fan or not. When I was in New York, I was a Yankees fan, because so many of my coworkers were Red Sox fans, and I was sick of hearing about it. And there, a Yankees game had a lot of tradition to it, and it was a nice little thing. It was like going to Coney Island and getting a hot dog at Nathan’s, or going to Times Square and beating a homeless man with a lead pipe: good fun for the whole family, in the spirit of the Big Apple. But I’ve found that when you leave New York, the kind of people who still associate themselves with New York are the pathetic, soulless assholes who are trying to cling onto this fake ideal as a way to define themselves. And part of that fake ideal is being a total prick. Yankees fans HATE it when people come to Yankee Stadium and cheer on the other team. Why is inundating the Rockies’ stadium and acting like an innsuferable prick any better? It isn’t.
  • I suddenly found myself surrounded by 40,000 of these assholes. I also found I was suddenly the biggest Rockies fan in the universe. I wanted them to win the World Series at this point. Hell, I wanted them to win the Superbowl, the Masters, and the 08 presidental election.
  • Jeter got the kind of response that George Bush would get at a conservative christian gun show. If you remember that Being John Malkovitch movie where he crawled into his own head and only saw John Malkovitches, if Derek Jeter did that, it’s pretty much what it looked like, with all of the Jeter jerseys out there.
  • You can get a Yankees fan very pissed by loudly saying “Now A-Rod, is he the one that admitted he used steroids, or is he still denying it?”
  • It’s also funny because I don’t think any of the Rockies players except maybe Helton could actually afford to buy steroids.
  • The game started really fast – pitch, out; pitch, out; pitch, out. I thought we’d get to the 8th inning at 0-0 in 20 minutes.
  • Pretty much every Yankees pop to the outfield was effortlessly caught, which became more and more hilarious as the game progressed.
  • The Yankees were having real first-base problems due to a lack of a certain someone who is injured right now. They called in so many people to play first base, I seriously thought maybe I had a chance to get down there for an inning or two.
  • To me, the only thing funnier than watching an NL pitcher with a batting average of like .130 come up to bat is watching an AL pitcher with a .000 have to bat at an NL stadium. I swear Mussina was going to start crying every time he got to the plate.
  • It was sort of pissing me off that Jeter could get to first base and the crowd pop was bigger than the first Beatles concert at Shea Stadium, but when the Rockies scored, people were largely like “yeah, whatever”.
  • Torrealba hit a home run, and I thought the Dina Lohan clone next to me was going to have an aneurysm.
  • The biggest tension of the game was in the 8th, when the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs, and Posada came up to bat. This was right after Hawkins came in to pitch, relieving Fogg, who had a good seven innings. Anyway, every Yankees fan in the place was absolutely, positively certain that Posada was going to hit in a grand slam and end the game. Strike, strike, strike. Much hair pulled and obscenities shouted. First the Sopranos go off the air, then this. These people had nothing to live for, except maybe the hopes that Billy Joel would do a summer tour.
  • Some Rockies fans started getting more vocal about things toward the end. The George guy in front of me kept shouting stuff, like yelling “postseason!” when A-rod was at bat.
  • Also, it appeared that the rockpile (i.e. bleacher) seats were all bought out by drunken Red Sox fans, who started chanting “Yankees suck” and questioning if Johnny Damon’s mother was in fact married when he was conceived.
  • I gimped up at the end of the 8th to try and get closer to the doors, which was a bad idea, because the entire deck was filled with people, and I had to struggle to see the last of the game. Then Mr. Damon struck out, and it basically became Kent State. The team with the highest payroll was beaten by the team with the third-lowest payroll, and to a contrarian like me, that’s good baseball.

Photos here, although they aren’t that groundbreaking if you saw the last two sets.

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Have a root beer!

I’m going to babble on about root beer. I can think of a couple of distant memories from my childhood that somehow make root beer important to me. One is that when I was a little kid, maybe three, I had this plastic cup. I think it was one of those sippy cups, but you could take the top off or maybe put a straw in it. But the cup was brown plastic, and the outside of it was textured like a root beer barrel, with a fake imprint of knotted wooden boards. I probably didn’t drink much root beer – more like Hi C – but it was my favorite cup forever, and I think even twenty years later, that thing was still knocking around my mom’s kitchen cabinets somewhere.

The other thing is that when we lived in Edwardsburg, Michigan, there weren’t many culinary options, except for “drive to Elkhart”. But there was this drive-in restaurant, one of the only places to eat in town. (From what I remember, there was a sit-down dinery type place that we very occasionally hit for a Sunday brunch, and I seem to remember a hole-in-the-wall pizza place, but I don’t think we ever ate there.) Anyway, this drive-in was a local and independent that resembled an A&W, but had its own branding and details. It still had all of the old-school trappings though: carhop service, the menu with a big metal button you pushed to place an order, the trays with the rubber hooks that hung onto your car window. Fries were in plastic baskets; broiled burgers came in foil envelopes. Even thinking about the food now makes me wish I could drive two thousand miles and order ten of everything. But the big thing was the root beer: cold, frosty, sweet, and served in glass mugs. I think the restaurant had some sort of baby bear/mama bear/papa bear sizing theme, although I could be hallucinating that. But I do remember us kids got little tiny root beers, but the adults got a huge mug. That root beer, the taste of that super-cold, super-sweet carbonated soft drink is what always sticks in my head as to what “good” root beer should be.

I should add that in my adult life, I’ve been to two surviving A&W restaurants that weren’t the bastardized mall franchise versions. One was somewhere in Southwest Washington or maybe Northwest Oregon, and was across the street from a putt-putt golf course where I went for an afternoon. It was this strange octagon shape, with an inside restaurant and outside drive-in stalls that were closed. The other was near Cornell, that little town that neighbors Ithaca that Mick Foley is from, and I’m too lazy to look it up. Anyway, this was an honest-to-god A&W and still had drive-up service. I bought the biggest size glass mug, which I still have. I also got a quart of root beer to-go, and they pulled out a plastic milk-type carton and filled it from this big tap that resembled a beer keg’s tap. I drank the whole thing on the way back to my hotel because I had no fridge, and that put me off of root beer for a bit. But now I wish I had one of those taps in my kitchen.

Come to think of it, there was a bastard A&W in College Mall in Bloomington. It was somewhat scary, and I think they didn’t have hamburgers at all. They had a hot dog that was passable, with cheddar cheese and bacon bits on it, but their hotdogs were very nitrite-y and also overpriced, and the place was always very skeevey anyway. The root beer came out of one of those bag-in-box fountains, just like any other soft drink at a fast food joint, and in a wax-coated paper cup, didn’t do much for me. But it still had a faint connection to its drive-in lineage.

I’ve tried a lot of root beers in the past, and I think what I like contradicts what “serious” root beer connoisseurs might enjoy. First of all, any of that vanilla creme shit is off my list; I really don’t like it, especially when it’s a really fakey, artificial vanilla taste. It always tastes like some kind of cough syrup to me. Any of the creme soda versions of root beer are, to me, not root beer and are removed from the discussion. There are also a bunch of sub-categories of root beer that either I don’t like or that should probably not be in the same division, like black cherry or any of the other cherry-oriented root beers out there.

I think one of the other major axes of division is the general taste. Stuff like A&W or Hires are pretty far in one direction, with very little taste and a lot of sweetness to it. To me, that’s where it’s at, although you can go too far in that direction and get a really synthetic taste. (Buy a fountain root beer at a Burger King in an airport, and there you go.) You can go off in the other direction with much more sarsaparilla, birch beer, or anything that tastes slightly more bitter, rich, or has more “root” or “beer” to it. Don’t forget that the “beer” comes from the fact that old timey root beer was actually brewed. Instead of jetting carbon dioxide into giant tanks as big as your house (which is how Coca-Cola does it), people would mix the flavor, some sugar, and a bit of yeast, and let it sit for a while to ferment. (Hey, that’s where the barrel comes from!). This makes a root beer that has much more of that darker flavor. It can also add a percent or two of alcohol to it, but who’s counting.

(And yes, I tried this. In college, I worked with a couple of people who were all about brewing beer, and they got me hooked up with a store that sold the yeast and flavoring. I tried a two-liter test, and it turned into liquid poo. Plus it’s cheaper to go buy a 2-liter of A&W at the corner store than to fuck around with your own brew for weeks. Still, there’s a certain romance to the idea of making your own mix, although I’m too lazy to try again.)

Format is important. A giant icy mug of fresh draft A&W with a tall head: good. A can of A&W from the supermarket: not as good. A fountain-poured A&W from the food court in a paper cup: maybe bad. Glass is important; even if you have a two-liter from Kroger, pouring it in a real glass mug with some ice makes it twice as good. When IBC first came out (or when I first saw it anyway), that was magic, because it was at a point when glass bottling was going away for Coke and Pepsi and others in favor of the 2-liter, and here were these six-packs of amber old-school bottles that made it all better. (I loved drinking those in the halls in my dorm, so the RA would freak out thinking I had a real beer.) So glass is good, maybe for a temperature thing or a taste thing you get from metal cans, but maybe it’s just nostalgia.

(Before I forget, I will mention that Hires root beer has a different meaning if you work around computers a lot, and that always trips me up.)

(Oh, also gotta pay homage to Tom Sample here. From the NecroKonicon:

 "Have a rootbeer!"  On McKinley road, somewhere before Mishawaka and South Bend and on the way to IUSB, there used to be an ice cream place that had a sign out front in the summer of 1990 that said "Keep cool! Have a root beer!" Somehow derived from this, Tom Sample and Jon Konrath had a ritual of yelling "Have a root beer" at pedestrians to scare the living shit out of them.

)

I’ll mention two other brands that don’t really fit into this classification. The first is Barq’s; it’s been around forever, as a smaller or regional brand. But it got bought by Coke and pushed nationwide in the late 80s. I remember it really exploding around 1994. This was a weird time for soft drinks; Coke was trying to get OK Cola going (which didn’t), and the Crystal Pepsi mess had just went over. A million boutique brands were flooding the market, and the majors were trying to keep up. One second it was tea, like Snapple. Ten minutes later, it was refined water, like Clearly Canadian. This was a great time for the consumer, except that you might get hooked on a product that went away in six months.

So Barq’s came out of that, and it was different. First, it had caffeine, which is good. It also has less sugar content, which supposedly gives it more “bite”. It doesn’t have less sugar for the sake of any heavy flavoring, though. And it’s less carbonated than other root beers. I like Barq’s in theory, but I find that the carbonation makes it sort of “heavy”, and it just sits in my stomach and makes me sick. I think my fondest memory of Barq’s was when they had those stick-on tattoos included in each box. Right before a second date with someone, I put this giant heart with an arrow through it on my chest just below my shirt line, and did the “hey, I got a tattoo yesterday!” and freaked her the fuck out.

The other root beer that doesn’t fit the model is New York Seltzer. Back in the day, they had these clear or almost-clear sodas that had a flavor to them. My favorite was the grape, but I also enjoyed the root beer, which had just a faint amber color to it. It didn’t taste like a strong root beer, but it also wasn’t like these flavored water drinks that are flooding the market now. They also came in glass bottles, which I loved. I remember first getting turned onto these when I was in upstate New York for a couple of weeks in 1988. So the memory always reminds me of sweating it out in the Catskills, watching Morton Downey Jr. late nights on local TV, driving around the Hudson River valley for hours to see a historic plaque, and that sort of thing. Good times. I heard a rumor this stuff came back, but is horrible, so what can you do.

The reason I got on this trip is that we were at Cost Plus and I bought this party keg of Virgil’s root beer.. I have to admit, my only motivation was that I really thought the idea of root beer in a keg was cool. So I got it home and completely stripped down and reconfigured the fridge so I could get the thing in there upright, and left it for a few hours to cool. This was a real party keg made out of metal with welded joints and the whole nine, not just some plastic hokey deal. To get it rolling, I had to pop open a valve on the top, which released a huge hiss of pressurization built up from being thrown around the back of the Subaru for an afternoon. Then I turned and pulled out a little tap, and root beer magically flowed into my glass mug, at first producing a ratio of head to liquid of about 18:1.

Virgil’s isn’t bad stuff. The carbonation is a little low for me, and it has a very dark taste to it. It’s microbrewed, all natural, and they take great pains to tell you it isn’t like the stuff made in giant vats. You can taste the difference, and it’s not bad, but it reminds me that the stuff that takes me back isn’t this. The novelty of the gravity-pour keg is pretty overwhelming, though – I wish I could get Coke like this, except for the part about the fire department having to cut me out of the house and load me onto a flatbed truck six months from now. The keg has its downsides: you’re supposed to drink it all (just over a gallon) in eight hours, and I’m the only sweetened soft drink drinker in the house, so that didn’t happen. It also takes up half your fridge, and I have no idea what to do with it when it’s done. Also, spending $20 on a gallon of root beer is sort of ludicrous, considering you can get two 2-liters of Dad’s for maybe $2.50. But you gotta try new things, right?

Anyway, that’s my nostalgia trip for today. And now I must go, because I am inexplicably thirsty.

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Rockies – Devil Rays

You’re probably sick of seeing pictures of Coors Field, but we went to the game last night, and my photos are here. Here’s another bulleted list of the details:

  • This game was against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, which happens to be John Sheppard’s most favorite subject in the world to talk about that doesn’t have to do with book publishing.
  • While I don’t find this story about Rays’ Elijah Dukes threatening his wife by sending a picture of a gun with his cell phone that hilarious, I do find it hilarious that all of the “targeted” ads on the web page are all ads for cell phones. It’s like they’re saying “and if you want to threaten your wife like Dukes, buy a Blackberry from Verizon!!
  • This was a Friday night game, which meant high energy levels, aka high blood alcohol content.
  • We got there early, partially because of my gimpdom, partially to get a bite to eat first, and partially because the first 5000 fans got a free Brad Hawpe jersey t-shirt. I was thinking that would be handy if I ever had to paint a room or something, but they didn’t give out Barney-purple shirts, just white, so maybe I will keep it in reserve for some future game. (I mean, provided I don’t wash it once and it turns into a GI Joe doll outfit.)
  • We ate at the chophouse place on the northeast corner of the field again. I had a buffalo cheese bratwurst again. I still liked it, but I’m becoming less enthused by that restaurant, because the line and how they put together the food is totally fucked up, and if even three people are ahead of you, it’s like a 20 minute wait. But still, it was good.
  • Sarah got club box seats from work. I thought this just meant we would be sitting in the first deck, case closed. But really, when you get to that level, it has a sealed-in, air-conditioned concourse with fancier food and drinks, nice furniture to sit at, access to the outside patios that circle the outer part of the stadium, and they only let you in if you have club tickets. So that was really nice, especially the air conditioning part, because it was like 90.
  • Our seats were in the second row, section 238. That’s right between third and home. I thought the tickets might not be as good as sitting in the 100-sections, but since we were right up front, they were pretty decent. You also get a little bit of a lift in elevation that makes it easier to see everything.
  • We also had food and drink service from our seats, which was new to me. Some dude ran around and took your orders. I got some pretzel bites, but they were borderline horrible. I should have stuck to nachos, or maybe cracker jack.
  • I saw someone splinter a bat in the first couple of innings, which was neat to see up close. No bat to the beer guy’s head, though. There were still many fly balls in odd places. There was also a fan interference fuckup when someone hit to the right wall, the Rays first base ran to get it, he pretty much had it, and some dumbfuck reached out over the wall to catch it and dropped it. People weren’t happy about that, but at least it wasn’t at Wrigley Field.
  • I forget who pitched for the Rays, but late in the game, ther were some very colossal fielding fuckups by their pitcher. Once something really stupid happened, like someone hit a line drive that bounced in front of the mound, hit the pitcher’s arm, and then dropped to the ground, and it took him like 45 minutes to figure it out and get the ball to first base.
  • Both Atkins and Hawpe hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning. They were both the typical 5280-foot-altered hits where the ball went way the hell up, then picked up additional lift like the second stage of a rocket, and floated out. With four runs in the first inning, it got really lopsided really fast.
  • They did this thing for Frontier airlines between innings, where they use a bungee to shoot a fly ball out and some fan has to catch two of three to get a free ticket to fly anywhere on Frontier (which is probably a lower value than the aforementioned super-shrink t-shirt.) Anyway, they have the dude go back like 100 yards, and the cheerleader types fuck up the bungee and the ball goes like ten yards, three times in a row. So they just gave him the ticket anyway.
  • This drunken whore chick sat right behind us and would not shut the fuck up. She sortof looked like a trashier Mischa Barton type, and had to mention every alcoholic drink she’s ever drank, every female friend she had a major falling out with because guy friends are so much better, and every guy she’s ever fucked. Why does this happen at every game I go to?
  • In the 7th inning, there was this huge chain where all of the bases got loaded, and then people kept hitting in single-base runs, pushing the score up to 9-2.
  • At the top of the 8th, I needed to gimp up the stairs, and the bugs were starting to come out, so we decided it would be nice to watch the game from inside, and slowly work our way toward the exit. We did duck back in at the bottom of the 8th, when there was another three runs.
  • In the top of the ninth, the Rays needed to hit in ten runs to tie it up. That didn’t happen.

Overall, not a bad game. Lopsided, but the Rockies are slowly growing on me, at least while they’re winning a few games. I’m sure that will change when we see them play the Yankees on Tuesday.

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On the Road, on crutches

I started rereading On the Road. It’s been a while, and even though I’ve read it a dozen times, I always find myself on vacation or living in a different spot mentioned in the book, and the reread mixes with the firsthand to create something new. I have this old orange-cover paperback edition, the 25th anniversary one, that I bought for $2.49 at that old used bookstore at Third and Jordan, the one with too many books in too small a space and a crazy lady running the place. Anyway, I always swear I bought a new, not-falling-apart edition and then realize I was thinking about Orwell’s 1984. (Although even with the new version, I still read my falling-apart paperback I got at TIS in the summer of 92 for a polysci class that was somewhat mentioned (fictionally, of course) in Summer Rain.

Kerouac was in Denver, of course – that’s how the book starts. And everyone around here is “Kerouac-Kerouac-Kerouac” and/or “Larimer Square-Larimer Square-etc”. Kerouac didn’t live in Larimer Square though, although Neal Cassidy did as a kid, when the place was a wall-to-wall beggar-filled shithole. Now it’s a hip and trendy shopping mall type thing after they bulldozed all of the historic buildings and built martini bars and expensive clothing stores. Still, it’s interesting to hear Kerouac’s descriptions of an old-timey Denver with the same crossroads as the current one. It’s kindof like when I read parts of John Sheppard’s up-and-coming book and dug the stuff about the old Lowry AFB, although it’s all strip malls and condos now.

Speaking of Lowry, I’ve gotta go out there tomorrow to an arthritis clinic. Yes, the foot is still fucked up. On maybe Monday, after my last shot wore away, it was at about the same point as when this all started. So yesterday was the internist and more prednisone for the next 12 days. Today was a podiatrist at the same hospital, and a deeper shot of cortisone into the ankle. Tomorrow is a surprise, because I booked for like mid-July, and they called today and asked if I could come in. So mostly paperwork, prodding, the same stupid questions, but maybe the rheumatologists there have a better idea on a long-term plan for this shit.

Until then, I am so fucking sick of telling this story that I just tell people I’m on crutches because I’m an attention whore. Or because of the dotcom crash. Or global warming. Or George Bush personally came to my apartment and hit me in the ankle with a tire iron. The only problem with that is the person might start talking about dubya and not shut the fuck up. The worst part of this is talking to doctor after doctor after nurse after intern after billing representative about what happened and when I was diagnosed and if I can move it this way and if my great-great-grandparents ate shellfish. Imagine every stupid question you’ve been asked in the last ten years, and then imagine being asked all of them a dozen times a week, and that’s just the forms you have to fill out to see the doctor. I don’t know which one of you got all EFF privacy-fucking-apeshit about health care places implanting an RFID chip in your ass to store all of this, but fuck you very much for stopping that technology. If I had back all of the time I’ve ever spent filling out the same stupid form in doctor’s offices, I’d seriously have another five years of my life back.

Today’s worst moment (other than the giant tentspike needle they put in my ankle joint) was this total bitch of a receptionist who INSISTED I was on an HMO and needed to walk downstairs and get a referral form and then walk backup. I did not have the heart to tell her a) I was in a waiting room full of gimps, all of us with walkers, canes, crutches, wheelchairs, and Rascals. None of us could walk downstairs if a gunman was spraying lead with an AK down the hall. And b) I AM NOT ON AN HMO. THE CARD DID NOT SAY HMO. THE FILE DID NOT SAY HMO. THE PEOPLE AT THE INSURANCE COMPANY DID NOT SAY HMO. LADY, YOU WORK IN A HOSPITAL – GET SOME FUCKING HALDOL IMMEDIATELY.

The good news is that I can mostly walk now. Oh, I couldn’t get any more Vicodin, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Sarah’s uncle was here all week, staying with us. He was taking a class at DU – it’s mostly online, but he came in for this crash course where you’re in lectures from 7am-9pm each day. So we didn’t see a whole lot of him, but he’s a cool guy and we got in a good roadtrip to Colorado Springs for an excellent dinner at the Blue Star, and a day trip out to Idaho Springs, plus a quick spin around the DU campus, which is damn nice. Sarah’s sister Liz and brother-in-law Matthew were also in town yesterday and today, and we’re going to a picnic at Matthew’s. They’re on an Ohio-to-LA car trip for some professorly conference stuff at UCLA, but it’s good to see them for a bit. The only thing that I suddenly realized is that I just about have her family tree down, and I will have to re-memorize various titles, like “Sarah’s sister’s husband” will become “my brother-in-law”. Of course, when I told Sarah last week that she has already become Aunt Sarah because she’s been buying my nephews and niece crap, and she sort of freaked the fuck out over that.

As an aside, I am still not used to the girlfriend => fiancee thing. I mean, I have no problems with being engaged, it’s just when a car dealership or realtor or secretary asks, the first thing that pops out of my mouth is still “girlfriend”. If they ask “married?”, an “almost” sometimes works. Sometimes it’s easier to say wife, and that bothers me less. It’s shorter, doesn’t have the accent, easy to pronounce. Sometimes to fuck with healthcare people, I say partner, and let them wonder if I’m some huge biker dude’s shackjob. We were somewhere, I forget where, and some clerk either said “Mrs. Konrath” or “Sarah Konrath” and we both sort of freaked out. I’m not into the name change thing or the hyphenation. You’re born with a name, you keep it until you die, unless you become a musician or something. It took me long enough to ferret out all of the shit online with my old address, I couldn’t imagine doing it for my name too. Anyway.

Lots of baseball coming up. Sarah got free club seats from work for tomorrow’s game. It’s against the Devil Rays, and provided none of their players shoot their wives or knock up any 17-year-olds in the next 24 hours (which is probably like even money in Vegas sports books) it will be interesting. We also have tickets for the Yankees-Rockies game on Tuesday, although Sarah can’t go because of work. I am reluctant to go dump the spare ticket on StubHub because then I might end up sitting next to some total joker for nine innings. (And no, this one won’t go extra. I’m guessing 24-3.) If you have a good pal that is not a total social leper and needs a seat, I would be willing to work a deal. (Like a hefty discount if they’re willing to not be an annoying fuck and/or take the bat to the head if that happens again.)

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Rockies – Astros

So I just got back to seeing the Rockies-Astros game. Rather than try to write this up in any cohesive way, you get a bulleted list:

  • Coors Field is really nice. It does remind me a lot of Miller Stadium in Milwaukee, except if you’re sitting right of the plate, you see a giant mountain range on the horizon.
  • The stadium is literally one block from my apartment. I cross one street, cross another, walk a block, cross a street, there’s the north entrance.
  • I had to gimp in on the cane, but for whatever reason, that meant I did not get searched, while I watched a group of schoolchildren getting wanded.
  • Aside from the typical hot dogs and cracker jack, there’s a microbrew attached to a semi-nice restaurant. I went there (because buying a bunch of to-go carryable food and a gallon of Coke in a giant bucket is a lot less fun when you have to carry it all in one hand) and I got a spicy buffalo and cheddar bratwurst. It wasn’t bad.
  • My seats: extend the line from third to home in that direction, and I was 15 rows up from the wall. If you’re sitting down, the dugout is immediately to your right (I mean right across the aisle immediately) and half of your field of vision (to the left) is the net, but everything to the right is a really good view of the field.
  • Walking down all of the steps to my seat was absolute murder. I knew two things: I could not under any circumstances go to the bathroom, and I would most likely be killed when trying to get out if I stayed the entire nine innings.
  • Over half of the attendees were either geriatric or pediatric.
  • I left the house and it was 60, so I wore a jacket. When I got to my seat, it was very hot and sunny, so I dropped the jacket and cursed the fact that I would be getting horribly sunburned. Seven minutes later, a cloud rolled in, it looked moments from a t-storm, and it was 60. Repeat this 297 more times.
  • The game starts. I am amazed at how young NL players look. When I was a kid, the Astros looked like giants. Now they look like scrawny punks you’d see loitering outside of a 7-Eleven.
  • They seem to change the ball out an insane number of times. I read somewhere it’s because of the humidity. They keep the fresh balls in a humidor.
  • One of the first Colorado hits is a massive home run. Based on what John Sheppard has told me, I assume there will be about 28 more home runs this game, due to the altitude.
  • …Well, except there is a freakish windstorm, and there are bursts of 20-25 mph winds going right at home plate. Hank Aaron could hit a full-on slam to the back wall and have it end up behind the umpire.
  • Because of said winds, at least ten pop fly balls go up, behind the batter, over the net, and land within 20 rows of me. In good health, I probably can’t catch a pop fly if the ball’s painted orange, so I’m somewhat scared shitless since I can’t walk or run, I don’t have a glove, and it’s cloudy out. And given my luck, I absolutely know I will get beaned, and some other fuck will take the ball away from me.
  • Of the women from age 20-40 ate the game, 95% of them have the same exact haircut.
  • There’s a group of grumpy old men a few rows in front of me, all of them taking score on paper. At least one of the vendors knows them on a first-name basis.
  • I really want to root for the Rockies, but they’re fairly pathetic. Houston scores four runs in two innings; the Rockies can’t even hit the ball, and it’s their stadium.
  • A group of women in their early twenties sit a few rows behind me, at about the 5th inning, and they will not shut up. Their overly loud conversations were about the most inane things, and they were so stupid I don’t even remember. But when certain Rockies players came to bat, they would SCREAM AND SCREAM their names. Their first names, only. It was not based on most popular players – I think it was largely based on who they wanted to fuck. I would have assumed they worked at a tanning salon or something. But later I deduce from their excessively loud conversation that they are third-year medical students.
  • The game got worse and worse, and I promised myself that if the Astros got ten points ahead, I would leave.
  • Here’s where it gets interesting – Lance Berkman is at bat for the Astros. He swings, and loses his bat which HITS A BEER GUY IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD. Beer guy hits the deck, Coors is everywhere, and the crew of white-haired old ladies that check your ticket stubs freak the fuck out. They try to stop the game; cops are all over; paramedics jump out of nowhere; everyone is standing up to see if there’s anything cool to see. (The game does not stop, BTW.) One of the old ladies took the bat, and everyone in the section starts chanting “GIVE HIM THE BAT! GIVE HIM THE BAT, YOU STUPID BITCH!” I mean, if you get clocked in the head with a bat, you might as well get to take it home and put it on the bookshelf as a conversation piece, right? Also, everyone in the section started chanting for Berkman to apologize to the guy, and he didn’t. So everyone booed, and only because of the fact that nobody outside of our section could figure out what the fuck was going on, there was no riot.
  • I decide maybe I should root for the Rockies.
  • It looks like it’s about to pour rain, and I feel a drop or two. I also realize that it will take me 45 minutes to climb the stairs to the main level. See above comment about being trampled.
  • Top of the 8th. 6-4 Astros. There’s no way they’re going to pull out of this one. I get up and leave.
  • At home, I get on MLB.com. THEY PULLED IT TOGETHER IN THE LAST INNING AND WON 7-6!!! FUCK!!!
  • From now on, I am not leaving a baseball game, even if it’s 28-1 at the bottom of the ninth and the stadium is on fire.
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XMLHTTP and dress shirts

I redesigned the front page of rumored.com, so go check it out. If you’re bookmarked rumored.com/index.html, that won’t work anymore. I won’t bore you with the details – just go to rumored.com and tell me what you think, or if your browser dies a horrific death. The style stuff is not done, and might never be, but I spent forever getting the rollover and image stuff working. It uses Ajax do to the random image thing – I have wanted a simple project that uses Ajax, so there you go. It was still a major pain in the ass to get working. I will eventually get more of the site’s pages reworked, but it’s a slow process. I also want to rewrite my photos page, because it sucks, and I also want an easier way to get all of my photos up and to ditch flickr.

Okay, here’s a question that I’m sure I will not get an answer to. Last year, I went to a Men’s Wearhouse and bought three or four dress shirts. The dude there measured my neck, measured my arms, and said “here’s your shirt”. I tried them on in the store, but it’s possible I was high, or maybe the torture of the place made me say “fuck it, whatever” and throw a credit card at the dude. But the bottom line is that I have these shirts that mostly fit my neck, and the sleeves are about right in length, but the shirt basically looks like what Tom Hanks wore in Big when he shrunk back into a kid. Seriously, the armpits are about down to my waist, and the sleeves hang like they belong on a wizard’s robe.

So today, in a fit of stupidity, I took every single dress shirt I owned, threw them on the bed, and then tried them on, one at a time. I took notes and the fit and general status of each shirt, wrote them on an index card, and stapled them to the hanger. After a few hours, I found that the shirt that fits me the best is from Target, and I bought for like eight dollars. Second place is a shirt from the Gap, which fits me about like those pants MC Hammer used to wear, prior to getting busted by the IRS. In a distant third is a $50 shirt that looks like something you’d wear parachuting.

My first question/thought was to take all of these shirts to a tailor and ask if they could be ripped apart or hemmed or whatever the hell a tailor does. Does that work? I don’t know. I’d be willing to pay like $20 or $30 a shirt to get that done, if only to avoid the next option.

The next option: buying a bunch of shirts from some store that has sizes that fit my disproportionately large neck. Look, this shirt problem is not because I have a giant gut. These shirts fit fine over my almost-giant gut. It’s that the entire shirt industry’s crazy idea that if you measure someone’s neck, you know exactly what the rest of their body is like. And they figure that if I have a 20-inch neck, I have an 87-inch chest. I thought maybe if I went to Saks or Nordstrom or something, I could throw money at them and get an odd-sized shirt. And of course, it’s the absolute worst time of the year to buy any mens’ wear.

So yeah, dicking with XMLHTTP and worrying about dress shirts: it’s been an exciting week. I do have tickets for the Rockies game tomorrow, so that will be interesting. And then we have a huge spate of various family coming in to town, so lots of fun, and I’m sure there will be lots of eating at fancy restaurants.

Oh yeah, speaking of fancy restaurants, we went to this place on Saturday, and I have totally forgotten the name, but it was a Japanese/Mexican fusion place that was absolutely incredible. One of the appetizers was this little sterno grill type thing, but with a stone on it, like one of those black stones you see in a zen fountain you get at Brookstone’s. And it came with kobe beef, little chunks of it, raw, and you threw it on the grill, counted to five (or ten, whatever), and then ate it. Also for my entree, I ordered this Indian tandoori chicken, and it was probably the absolute best Indian food I have ever had, ever. And it was a Japanese/Mexican place. It also had a very cool interior, a huge curved bar with like three bottles of everything ever made that could get you drunk, and we were barraged by staff members asking us if everything was okay or if we needed anything. It cost way too much, but it was good.

And now, lunch.

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Larry’s dad

Larry’s dad died the other night. There are a lot of very heavy things running through my head about that. First, Larry’s dad died. And I feel bad for Larry and his whole family. I mean, if anyone could deal with a situation, it would be Larry; I think if he lost three limbs from a freak case of gangrene, he would still be riding around on his motorcycle a week later using a broomstick and some duct tape to shift gears, as if nothing happened. The dude has seriously seen Papillion far too many times to really be affected by anything short of a close nuclear strike. But I do feel bad for the rest of his family. And while a lot of us seem to be either dealing with or avoiding our parental units, it seems that Larry had a genuinely decent relationship with his old man, and that makes the whole thing a damn shame. So my thoughts and condolences go out to the whole Falli clan.

To a lesser extent, the whole death thing really fucks with me. As an atheist, I don’t believe in many of the stock things you’re supposed to say at this time, and I really feel like a vegan at a hog roast. In some way, death doesn’t bother me, but it bothers me that I can feel that way when others are truly affected. And others have mentioned that they thought at some point later in life, I would have a schizoid episode and the grief of 40 years’ worth of funerals would all hit me at once, and maybe that’s true. I don’t really know.

There’s also the issue that I have a dad the same age as Larry’s, and he’s not exactly running triathalons these days, and sooner or later, I’m going to get the same phone call in the middle of the night. And that used to be an abstract concept, but now it really fucks with me. Even more, I am 23 years younger than my dad, and my doctors are bitching about my blood pressure and cholesterol, and the whole thing makes me think I should eat nothing but wheat germ and vegetable shakes and buy a treadmill and put it in front of my computer, because seriously, I’m going to snap my fingers twice and I’ll be 60. Fuck.

—-

I went to the doctor yesterday. My foot got all better after predisone, and after a ten-day course, I stopped, and then the foot got worse and once again looked like a canned ham with toes. I went in and they decided to give me a cortisone injection in my ankle joint. This involved first giving me a couple of shots of lidocaine, and then pulling out some fluid, and then the actual injection. Because I go to a residence clinic, this meant the tiny exam room was filled with my doctor (a resident), an attending, a med student, and a nurse, plus a big old cart of supplies. I had to sign a waiver before they could give me the shot. The med student asked me a barrage of stupid questions that weren’t entirely stupid, but made me think she read about five paragraphs about gout in college and now for the first time had a real live case on the table. So yeah, the “do you eat shellfish” stuff was annoying, but maybe that helps in the long run, and she won’t misdiagnose her first real gout case in the wild, like 80% of the docs who have stared at my feet in the last decade.

When I’ve had the same procedure done in my toe or my knee, it was by a solo orth surgeon or podiatrist, and the banter consisted of nothing but “okay, here we go”, followed by many jabs of needles. This time, there was a whole mini-lecture of shop talk, with the attending saying “you want to go in shallow into the meta-subcarpal-lingual-inner-whatever and then turn to the left”, which was weird. The injection itself was not bad, at least not as bad as the inter-joint toe injections I had before – I was pretty much confessing to war crimes I didn’t do during that one. But any injection that first requires other injections is not that fun. This time, they used one needle apparatus and multiple syringes for the draw and the shot, which means I only had one hole in my ankle. It also meant I looked down and saw this giant piece of hardware stuck in my ankle for no reason.

I think the oddest thing is that when he was pushing fluid into the joint space and sort of jockeying around my ankle to get more in there, I had this really intense sensory memory experience. The injection, or the way he was pushing, felt entirely like one of the large-bore intramuscular allergy shots I used to get in my arm. And for a split second, it was like I somehow mind-melded with some ancient memory of being in the Elkhart Clinic in 1980. In that millisecond, I remembered all of these distant facts of the place – the hospital smell of the air, the bell in the elevator, that paging bing-bong sound in the office, the chairs, the cotton alcohol rub, the downstairs lobby waiting room. It was all so strange that all of that hit me at once, as if I touched an alien obelisk and was suddenly infused with the knowledge of another planet’s cultural secrets. I always thought smell was my strongest sense, but having my inner cells pushed around by a few moments by a liquid infusion seemed to trump that.

Anyway, the shot did good, although it was not as magic as I would have liked. I also got two prescriptions to try, and I am now on colchicine, and hoping it won’t make me shit my pants in the near future. I also got my blood tested – see previous discussion on cholesterol. I know I have high cholesterol. I know I can’t radically modify my diet without becoming a basket case. I know I could not have any of these problems if I ran five miles a day. I can’t do a treadmill on crutches. So there.

I think I’m starting another blog of technical stuff. I always run into a problem when I’m coding or writing and spend half the day researching it, and then find the stupid answer, and six months later, I’ve forgotten and need to start all over again. So I should be writing these down. And since 90% of the ruby on rails docs I find are consultants who do just this in an effort to scare up work, maybe I should do the same.

Okay, busy day. Gotta get on it.

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