The Mean Streets of Burlington

I got nothing against crossing guards. I see their purpose and they do their job well: helping kids cross the street when it’s time for them to start the school day. I drive by two of them on the way to work every day.  The second one carries a bunch of dog snacks for the early morning pet lovers. However, one event witnessed this morning brought me to examine this small, insignificant piece of everyday life in a city with a middle school in the middle of the city.

The intersection was particularly busy, lots of folks bustling to work, lots of kids yearnin’ for learnin’. X-ing guard #1 (lets call him Japeth) is doing his best stop sign impression, allowing a few folks to cross the street. A college student crosses the other way unhelped and unimpeded. However, kitty corner across from Japeth, a father and his young daughter are standing on the corner waiting.  What brought me pause was that the driver of a large white van honked a bit, rolled down his window and told the overly-patient family that they could cross “no worries!”.  Yet they stayed as stolid as Sean Bean on the executioners block. This proceeded as Japeth chose to stay on his side of the street, helping a new pair cross, while leaving the waiting party idle, whereas I turned right.

What’s going on here?!? Yes, Japeth is doing his job and doing it well, but most of the people driving at 7:50 AM on a weekday aren’t crazy dumb road-ragy drivers on their way to the liquor-mart for some early morning bum wine. Dare I say that most people are super aware of the needs of pedestrians in this area, and many are overtly kind to let folks pass. Furthermore, from direct observation, most children under the age of 10 are walked to school by a parent or guardian, who should be skilled enough to communicate with a courteous driver, look both ways, and guide their brood across the street to make homeroom on time.

Not a hemorrhaging blow to common sense, but one that will make for an inspired Quiet Man Drinking Game tomorrow.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Nacho Salad is the Answer

Casa de mi PadreWe have many first-world food epidemics in this country.

Long term, deep-reaching, polarizing problems regarding obesity, high fructose corn syrup, contaminated spinach and peanut butter have many widespread and controversial factors surrounding them, so I won’t waste my time blasting Mayor Bloomberg, advocating local product avocation, or encouraging you to find out where the hell your food comes from.

I’m talking about some low hanging fruit here: food waste.  Each year, about one third of the global food population (or 1.3 billion tons) of food is uneaten, thrown away, or discarded (screw you, moose poachers, that thing could feed a family for six months). Of course, on a macro scale, we as individuals can’t meaning impact production methods of the large companies who provide nourishment our growing population.  One step is to eat everything you buy or make, which should be pretty straightforward.  The Epic Meal Time men eat everything they create, so why can’t you?

Well, sometimes it’s hard to eat everything you purchase.  Ever have a ton of small pieces of tortilla chips left over in the bag that you can’t possibly use to scoop out dip? Ever get slimy remnants of salsa or queso on your knuckles from reaching into the jar? Yeah, it sucks. Modern technology can help with this problem, but implementation is far in the future.  So what can you do in the meantime? Make Nacho Salad.  Yes, the hybridization of Nachos and Taco Salad.

But let me explain: this is quite different than anything you’ve ordered at Taco Bell. No dumb flaky taco shell around your ugly lettuce strips, no solitary plain blue corn triangles to avoid.  Many folks think they are making Nacho Salad by just throwing whole chips into a salad, but they are sorely mistaken.  This concoction is to encourage FULL use of your tortilla chip bag, as well as avoid any knuckle sauce.  The texture difference and heat of the mixture is terrifyingly scrumptious, and demands to be eaten with a spoon. Here’s how you make it:

  • Last fifth of a bag of chips
  • Last third of various Mexican themed condiment jars (salsa, queso, etc.)
  • 3 dashes hot sauce
  • one dash chili powder
  • jalapenos/habaneros, sliced to your liking (optional)
  • 1 can re-fried beans, heated over stove (optional)
  • leftover meat/cheese/nacho-related products (optional)

If there are large chips left in the bag, take bag and punch it to pulverize remaining large chips. Dump contents of chip bag + nacho-related products in a medium serving bowl. Pour heated re-fried beans + remnants of Mexican themed condiment jars in the bowl. Top with jallies/habies + hot sauce + chili powder. Pop in the microwave for 44 seconds. Take out, stir, and repeat microwave cycle until heated through.

Make an dent in food waste and clean out your refrigerator/pantry by making Nacho Salad.  Your taste buds won’t regret it.

The Culture of “Winning”

ryan fitzpatrick

The agony of defeat.

Last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills suffered a second defeat to the hated New England Patriots.  The first loss was took a roller coaster’s path of extreme joy when the Bills were up at the 21 – 7, followed by extreme depression after the Pats tore our defense a new asshole en route to 52 points.  Game two resulted in terrible defense on both sides, but the Bills were in a position to score a touchdown for a one point victory in the final two minutes.  What resulted was heartbreaking to experience, and a terrible way to kick off a short week:

  • two deep passes to Stevie and Donald to get in field goal range
  • a deep ball to Donald Jones just off the fingertips, resulting in injury and loss of timeout
  • a pass to Fred Jackson which results in a fumble/concussion, knocking him out for the game, and the loss of the final Buffalo timeout
  • Completions to Chandler and Spiller to set up shop on the 15 yard line with 28 seconds
  • Interception in the end zone to end the game

Much was made of these last few minutes.  The media has done its job of analyzing the loss to death, really doing their best to rob away any potential focus on the game at hand.  Would the game planning have drastically changed without the two injury timeouts? Undoubtedly.  Should rookie WR T.J. Graham have run underneath McCourty instead of behind him? He says yes. Did Stevie want the ball thrown to him or Chandler instead? For sure.  Did Fitzpatrick play exceptionally until the final play? No doubt.

The loss brings Buffalo’s record to 3-6, making every game a must win to continue the very slim odds of making the playoffs. Due to the Dolphins game tomorrow night, Chan Gailey has tried to move the team forward from the loss and look towards taking down Miami for their first home game since 10/21, which is easier said than done.  What went wrong? Why isn’t this team winning?

I had a terrible high school basketball team. As a sophomore on the varsity squad, we won a single game all year against a school of mayyybe 80 total students. The season felt like a kicked Gatorade bottle to the face, which actually occurred during a mid season halftime. Junior year wasn’t all that different; the team still squandered opportunities and wallowed in ineptitude. During my senior year, we got a new coach and turned things around enough to play (and lose) in the conference championships and earn the right to compete against one of the top seeds in the state, much like how Vermont earns the right to lose to UNC in the NCAA hoops tournament.  What occurred that created the change? Well, we got a new coach that helped us inspire a culture of winning.

With the exception of the starting Center, Right Guard and the undiscovered talents of LB’s Bowman and Brooks, the only difference between the 2011 and the 2010 San Francisco 49ers is the hyper motivational Jim Harbaugh.  We all know how that team has turned around, and has continued into 2012.

Before you accuse me of being an advocate of canning Chan Gailey, for Buffalo I don’t think it’s all about the coach. Players can create a culture of winning just like a coach can.  One factor isn’t the sole answer, though it can be for some teams.  Occasionally, a unique person will come along that immediately creates a “winning” culture.  Jim Harbaugh.  Tom (not Eli) Caughlin.  The problem is, it takes a lot of buy-in and a TON of effort from both the coaching staff and the players to turn a squad that’s used to losing into a team that hungers to keep winning.  That’s the type of subtle frustration that you hear from guys like Stevie.  Gailey is trying desperately to keep pushing the team towards a culture of winning, but some unfortunate breaks have prevented the Bills from getting “over the hump”.  (I can’t say that the interpreted ineptitude and complacency of Dave Wannstedt’s defensive motivational techniques has helped out much.)

Sometimes, it can come down to just a few lucky breaks to change the culture.  Imagine if a few better decisions were made during the Titans game.  What if the last game turned out just a few plays different?  The Bills could have found themselves at 6-4, good enough for first place in the AFC East and having everybody look at this team a completely different way.  But Esteban, along with all the other dedicated Bills fans, will just have to wait patiently until something, or someone, turns this thing around.

Tropical Politics

tropico 4

All hail El Presidente.

Usually Esteban stays away from political points of view since they seem to inspire projectile vitriol to all within earshot, however since it’s an election year I feel compelled to rant on a different angle to some serious silliness. So, without further ado, my thesis statement:

You can learn economic and political management strategies and better educate yourself on what goes into running a country by becoming a dictator in Tropico 4.

Tropico 4 is a PC/console based strategy video game, satirically mirroring the reality of being the dictator of a fictional tropical island chain in the Caribbean.  A supporter of the Civilization and Sim City franchises, this game is right up my alley.  Little did I know that concepts embedded in its gameplay can be spectacularly educational for the common man as an alternative to the partisan talking points littering your televisions this time of year.

The goal of the game is to build your city, accomplishing random goals along the way.  You start off with your palace, some dudes operating a garage and transportation services, a dock, some housing, two corn farms, and $20,000.  You can build many types of farms, ranches, housing, mines, government/civic buildings, tourist attractions, landmarks, etc. and can develop these to a large degree to produce a large sprawling metropolitan area.  However, it’s not as simple as just throwing money into an oil field from the get go.  You must slowly build wealth into a solid economic base all while juggling numerous political factions like Environmentalists, Loyalists, and Intellectuals and their demands.  It’s quite fascinating to watch your city grow into a beast, most likely totally different from what you imagined.

How can a game like this help humanity? By wrapping complicated concepts of nation management into a fun, digestible format.  Here are some examples

Cash does not grow on trees.  Money accumulates either by massive tourism, exports, or a generous gift from the Middle East.  You have to grow your economy with raw resource development, meaning agriculture (bananas and shit) and precious metals.  Other nations buy your goods, and some items are more expensive than others, prompting you to develop industry.  Industry also requires raw goods.  You either produce the goods yourself, or import them, which costs money.

Disaster can strike at any time. Volcanoes, drought, tornadoes, and hurricanes can devastate all your hard work in an instant.  The good news for is that you get some nice foreign aid to help rebuild; the bad news for America is that no other nation is giving us aid. (yet how much aid does America dole out to the world…)

Not everyone is on your side.  In addition to the previously stated political factions, Capitalists, Communists, Militarists, Nationalists, and the Religious join forces with foreign nations to make your life a living hell of complaints, demands, and requests for money.  Increase logging and industry to please the Capitalists, Environmentalists go up in arms and shut down your salt mine. You can’t please everybody at once, but you CAN please those who are most powerful.

Even a few hours playing this build simulation, or indeed any other examples (SimCity 2000 being a fine example) can help broaden your knowledge base of city/nation management; real life concepts of taxes, economy, crisis management, and nation building have been used as the basis of gameplay.  While there’s no way at the present time to introduce the complexity of the real world into an enjoyable simulation, some simplified concepts in games such as this can go a long way towards adding to the knowledge pool.

Don’t Call Him Icebox

His name is Icepack.

No that’s Iceman. He flys F14’s with non “dangerous” pilots because flying fighter jets is a safe profession.

He’s a volunteer self masochister.  Not scared of pain. He welcomes it.  With his face slightly tilted to one side as if to say punch my god damn face, please…just….do it. 

Every so often, you find someone who pleasantly surprises you like a firm ballbusting grab of the groin.

I had the pleasure of meeting Icepack through a mutual friend at “The Dead Poet” in NYC.  The first utterance out of his mouth was “Your brother is a beautiful fucking idiot.”  I knew then that this creature was special.

The rest of the night consisted of performing self castrations with each passing sentence.  He lives life without hope, dreams, or a vague indication that he will ever find glimpses of happiness.  No amount of money would be enough cause he couldn’t spend it.  A Porsche is just a nuisance pile of turd metal that needs to be moved of every other day to the correct side of the street.  When everyone else watches “Pays It Forward” he sees the albino from “The Da Vinci Code” flagellating himself.

I’m not gonn give up

The culminating moment of the illustrious 8 total hours mostly of listening to the man still referred to as Icepack was better than a pro-life next to an anti-life rally.

Bars packed with sucking on the teet of life post hurricane survivors.  Game time decisions were made and no one was spared.

  • Bottle of Seagrams: PURCHASED  
  • Apartment: FOUND
  • Mexican tortas (actually they were all out of bread but pizza): ORDERED
  • Skull shot glass and Icepack: INSTANT FRIENDS

Too soon? I mean…there still is water in Port Authority.

Over the course of the night, I sat and listened while Icepack commanded the room and all of its people.  Bucking, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and Sylvester’s Stallone’s character from “Daylight” combined leadership couldn’t hold a 15$ pre storm price gouging candle to Icepack that night.
Stories from work, his girlfriend, fraternity members named Abraham for whatever reason was orated like a Jewish MLK Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Icepack had a dream that night, his dream…to kick Kate’s ass in Wii baseball.  Rolling over in laugher over his egotiscasshole comments coupled with a disgusting ass kicking, describes what follows next.
At the end of the night, as I walked away from from the gypsy driver who was made to hear about how much Icepack hates everyone included every person inside the cab, I knew how special it is to have men a Godfather of a man.
And his name is Icepack.