Friday, February 27, 2009

The Lottery

The Illinois Lottery has a jackpot of $171 million and the drawing is tonight.

Several of us at work have gone in on a pool for it.

That got me to thinking, “What would I do with my life if I won and never had to work again?”

First, I would move into a 2 bedroom apartment on the 60th floor of Marina Towers where I currently live. Right now, I have a studio apartment on the 49th floor. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the whole wide world. Really.

Isn’t that a nice realization to have? – That I already live exactly where I would if I could live anywhere in the whole wide world?

I had been thinking about moving to a larger place outside of downtown, but now I know I really don’t want to.

I’d also buy a nice apartment for Lorraine and her family on the 59th floor connected by a spiral staircase because I have a “thing” for spiral staircases. And for Lorraine and her family.

I’m currently enjoying dates a whole lot but they’re awfully expensive. (The fruit, not the activity). If I became a millionaire, I’d buy all the dates I wanted.

I would give my employer two week’s notice. I wouldn’t quit on the spot even though I’d be tempted. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that you never, ever burn bridges.
You’ll always be surprised at the occasions when a bridge is required.

Even though I don’t particularly enjoy housecleaning, I don’t think I’d hire a maid. I enjoy my privacy too much and, besides, she might eat some of my dates.

I’d still use public transit because I really, really enjoy riding trains and subways.
A lot.
I wouldn’t want to give that up.

I’d travel to Iceland, Russia, India, and the high Arctic.

I would not travel to Hawaii or California or any resort that has “Buena” in its name.

As far as charities, I hate it when I’m watching something really good on PBS and it’s constantly interrupted by donation requests. So, I’d donate enough money to my local PBS station so that they would never have to conduct a pledge drive again.

Other than that, I think I’d be a pretty happy millionaire.

I’ll keep you posted on tonight’s lottery.


Bad! Naughty! Wicked Octopus

For some reason, I love this story.

It seems that a resident octopus at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium curiously tugged on a valve, resulting in the aquarium being overflowed with hundreds of gallons of extra water during the night.

Office workers arrived the next morning to find their office floors soaked. Fortunately, there were no casualties resulting from the octopus's mishchievious little prank.

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French Toast Gone Wild

Oh my goodness, this sounds good.

Why can't IHOP serve this?

I am SO going to make this for lunch tomorrow. After all, I always have freshly grated nutmeg on hand.

Marscapone and Marmalade Stuffed French Toast

6 eggs
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons orange zest
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
8 slices (¾-inch) day-old brioche
16 teaspoons mascarpone OR cream cheese
8 teaspoons orange marmalade
2 tablespoons butter
Maple syrup, for serving

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, sugar and salt.
Lay the brioche slices flat on a clean work surface. Spread one side of each slice with 2 teaspoons of the mascarpone. Spread 2 teaspoons of the marmalade over the mascarpone or cream cheese on half of the slices. Place the slices together to form 4 sandwiches.

Working one at a time, dip the sandwich in the royale, letting it sit about 1 ½ minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining sandwiches.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter has melted, add 2 of the sandwiches and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining butter and sandwiches.

Cut the French toast "sandwiches" in half and serve hot, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with maple syrup, as desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, courtesy Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Inc.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Random Thoughts

I’ve been crazy-busy at work this week (traveling again) and haven’t even had time to blog during my lunch hours like I usually do.

So, some random thoughts. . . .

If I had a dog, I’d name it “Ouiser” after Shirley MacLaine’s character from Steel Magnolias. It wouldn’t matter if it was a male or female dog. Ouiser would be a great name.

I’ve always had sort of a crush on Juliet Binoche. I’m comfortable enough in my sexuality to admit it.

“Babette’s Feast” has got to be the greatest movie of all time.

I never watch any documentaries or movies about gangsters or the mob.

I like to emulate Dave Barry and Erma Bombeck in my writing.

Sean Hannity is what’s wrong with this world.

I wish sausage McMuffins were good for you.

No nation should have a military. War is stupid.

I’ve always thought atoms are solar systems in another dimension.

The number 2 looks bitchy and mean.

Taupe is the most boring color ever.

I’m proud to share the same birthday as Erma Bombeck.

There’d be a lot more good comedy and music if Gilda Radner and Janis Joplin had lived a lot longer.

I’ve met the following celebrities: Jim Nabors, Dom Delouise, Dave Barry, Helen Kleeb, and Barack Obama.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Birthday Night

This past Friday night was an incredible evening of fun and birthday frivolity with my friends, Miss Healthypants and Liane and Iwanski.

Normally, I’m not “into” birthdays at all, but this was a Big One and I pretty jazzed about it.

MHP and Liane met me at the skating rink at Millennium Park right after work. (It’s just across the street from where I work, I was there already).

Here are a couple of little videos of moi skating about. Pretty good for an old guy, eh?

Click here

Click here.

I was definitely having fun and, as you can see, the skating rink at Millennium Park is such a happy place.

Then, we ambled over to our favorite Thai restaurant for dinner. On the way, we stopped to procure some wine and I got carded!!!!

I was just tickled to death about that and proudly showed the clerk named Latashia my driver’s license making note that I was, indeed, fifty years old.

I told her that she just gave me the best birthday present EVER.

She told me that they had to enter in everyone’s date of birth in order to ring up any sale for alcohol.

But still, it was great to get carded -- specially having just received a solicitation in the mail from The Scooter Store and having made an appointment for a colonoscopy.

The rest of the evening was pure, unalloyed laughter and pleasure. It’s wonderful to have friends like these with whom one can celebrate the big days.

I really am a lucky guy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Morning Scene - Birthday Card

Tomorrow is The Big Day when I turn 50 years old.

Holy Crap, it got here fast.

Anyway, as I was flipping through my mail yesterday, tossing the junk into the recycling bin and noting the birthday cards, (both of them) I burst out laughing right there in the lobby of my apartment building.

I received a mailing from, none other than, The Scooter Store!

The comedic potential of that really made my day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sufi's Choice

Last night, I saw a documentary about the “whirling dervishes” in Istanbul and was really captivated by it.

The dervishes are actually Sufi monks whose twirling is a form of prayer, signifying how all of creation is related to God.

Also, the music is supposed to have divine qualities, so I liked that too.

Also, it turns out that there is a Universal Sufist meditation and prayer center here in the U.S. and it’s located at a Shaker village in Massachusetts.

Oh my goodness, that is so cool!

Hell, I’ve done pretty much everything else in my life. Becoming a whirling dervish at a Shaker village is one more thing I could check off the list.

I like the hats.

Click here to see a video of them

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Donna Summer Meets Funkytown

The other day, I was rummaging through my medicine cabinet and found an old bottle of Ralph Lauren’s Polo cologne for men.

Do any of you remember that stuff? I wore it all the time during college.

Anyway, I spritzed some on and that grassy, herbally scent instantly transported back to 1980 – twenty-nine years ago. One spritz and I was practically dancing at clubs again to the sounds of Blondie, The B52’s, and Funkytown.

Oh my goodness, we had fun back then.

I wanted to download Funkytown to my iPod and went searching for it. Instead, I came across this really cool version of it which combines Donna Summer’s I Feel Love with Funkytown.

I’m sorry, but I really like this bad little piece of music.

I downloaded it to a URL for you. Click here.

Isn’t that just deliciously horrible?

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Morning Scene - A Mystery

There’s something strange going on at the elevator where I live.

Each morning when I leave for work and summon the elevator, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a small item left on the wall panel – a pen, a stick of gum, a piece of candy.

This morning, it was a lollipop. A cherry Dum-Dum.

Somebody’s got a little sump-sump’n going on.

I have no idea what it could be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scary. . .

I've always been fascinated by roller coasters, but I think the envelope is now being pushed with regard to their intensity.

Here's a photo of new one opening up in England in which the first drop is actually steeper than verticle.


Woman Misses Her Flight

I had heard about this recent video of this woman who just COMPLETELY loses it after missing her flight.

Finally, I watched it and could NOT stop laughing.

It's true -- airports can be frustrating, especially when your flight is late and causes you to miss a connection.

If you fly, just know that sooner or later, it will happen to you.

Somebody should have told that to this poor woman. Geez!

Anyway, click here for a really good laugh.


Morning Scene - Carbide and Carbon Building

The Carbide and Carbon Building at 230 N. Michigan Avenue is the epitome of art deco style. Built in 1929, its 37 stories rise 503 feet tall and became a Chicago Landmark in 1996.

Originally designed for office space, it was converted into the Hard Rock Hotel in 2004.

It’s polished black granite exterior and gold leaf top were meant to resemble a champagne bottle.

I really love these buildings from the Jazz Age that dot downtown Chicago.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

A Tragedy Ensued

I remember seeing this woman on TV recently, Lee Redmond, who has not cut her nails in almost thirty years. She holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest nails.

Here's a photo of her.
Well, apparently, she was recently involved in a car accident and while her injuries were not life-threatening, she lost her nails.

I wonder what the first thing she is going to do now that she's no longer encumbered by these things?

Several things come to mind. I shan't mention them here.

Friday, February 13, 2009


While the Iwanskis were away in Florida attending a wedding, I performed my duty as a kitty-sitter for their two cats, Autumn and Hattie.

It doesn’t involve much. About every two or three days I go to their apartment and perform my kitty-duty. Basically, it involves the following:

1. Verify that they’re alive.
2. Give them some canned food.
3. Check on water supply.
4. Pet them a little bit.
5. Scoop the litter box.

The thing is, Hattie is a scardie-cat and apparently flees and hides the moment I come in the door. I don’t know how she can tell it’s me (a stranger) rather than Iwanski or Miss Healthypants coming in the door, but obviously she can. Maybe it’s the way I insert the key or something.

At any rate, I never see Hattie at all. She hides very well.

The only way I can verify that Hattie is alive and well is by means of analyzing the amount of kitty-poo in the litter box. If there’s way too much for one cat to produce within two days, then it’s a pretty good assumption that Hattie is, indeed, alive and functioning properly.

Autumn, on the other hand, is my buddy. She gets lots of attention when I visit and, subsequently, gets to eat all the canned food I dish out. As I spoon out the canned food, I’ll announce to Hattie (wherever she is), “Okay, Hattie, if you’re going to unsociable then you get no Whitefish and Tuna in Savory Gravyyyyy!”

After that, I scoop out the litter box. Miss Healthypants says I don’t really need to, but I would think it might be nice to have a clean one if I were a cat.

Maybe not.

Their litter boxes are in a small closet near the front door. I scoop out their little productions into a plastic bag which goes down the trash chute. No big deal.

Well, when they got back from Florida, Miss Healthypants called me and very politely asked, “Ummm. Did you happen to close the closet door when you were here?”

Apparently, after I had cleaned out the litter boxes, I shut the closet door. I guess I’m just sort of used to closing closet doors and did so without thinking. So, for two days Miss Autumn and Miss Hattie had no access to their facilities.

I felt so bad for them. I got to empathizing with them. After all, how would I feel if I had been locked in an apartment with no access to a toilet? . . . .

I know! . . . It would be terrible! Especially for poor Autumn to whom I had just imparted an entire can of Whitefish and Tuna in Savory Gravy.

Poor thing.

Anyway, their pets seemed to be okay. The Iwanskis didn’t return home to exploding pussycats or anything. I’m sure I’ll never make this mistake again. When it comes to litter box maintenance, I guess it’s a live-and-learn type of endeavor for me.
That is, if I’m ever allowed to be near their cats again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Passport

My passport expired a few months ago and I finally applied for a new one today. I really hate not having one, knowing that I can’t leave the country on a moment’s notice if I want to.

It’s not like I gadabout all over the world and leave the country on a moment’s notice. Far from it. I went to England back in ’86. I had to have a passport when I obtained a Canadian visa back in ’97. But other than that, I’ve not put one to much use.

However, now you need a passport to get into Canada so I’d better have one on hand if I ever decide to spend a weekend in Toronto. I’ve been saying I was going to do that for the past eight years, but the land of the Maple Leaf has yet to see me cross its border since then.

I thought I might need to show my birth certificate so I pulled it out in case I needed it. What really shocked me was that it had that old, musty book smell – you know what I’m talking about. I like that smell, but not on the document that has my baby footprints on it.

Traveling in and out of Canada has always been interesting. When driving, the Canadian officials would be ever-so cheerful and practically wave you right on in. They wouldn’t even check any of your documents and you’d hardly even have to slow down.

Upon returning, the U.S. officials were quite intimidating and would often surprise you with various questions. What did you buy? How much did you spend? Do you have any Canadians in the trunk?

Things like that.

If you were flying in or out of Canada, things would get a bit more cumbersome. It was usually best to have a passport, but you could get through with just a driver’s license. You'd have a scribble out a customs form. There were usually lines to wait in.

Getting across the border on a train (Amtrak) was an entirely different story. It usually took an hour or two. The train would stop, some very serious-looking officials would board the train accompanied by some very serious-looking sniffer dogs. You would have to fill out customs forms, show a passport and point out your luggage in the overhead bins.

Occasionally, you’d see a passenger escorted off the train and into a little building. They usually wouldn’t return.

I was once with a very non-serious friend of mine on the train while traveling from Toronto to New York. The very serious-looking official asked him if he had anything to declare and my friend replied, “I declare I don’t know how your run a country without ice!”

I couldn’t help but laugh and I’m glad we didn’t get whisked away in the little building.

Hopefully, my passport will arrive soon and I’ll be free to vacation in some exotic locale. I don’t have any plans as of yet, but you never know.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Ten Least Favorite Foods

Now that I’ve listed my ten favorite food items, I think I should follow it up with my ten least food items.

Can you tell that I like talking about food?

Here they are, beginning with my least favorite.

1. Any organ meat. Liver, kidneys, heart, or anything that comes from the inside of an animal really makes me gag. I tried steak & kidney pudding once. Oh my goodness, no wonder the British are so dour.

2. Raw garlic. Even slightly cooked garlic is too acrid for me. I’ll also pass on the garlic bread, thank you.

3. Raw onions. Again, too acrid. I’ll usually pick them out of whatever they’re in. Cooked ones are delicious, though.

4. Lima beans. They have no taste and the texture is like eating little lumps of clay. (I do like butter beans, through - - they’re completely different)

5. Sweet potatoes. Maybe it stems from the ubiquitous, syrupy-laden stuff you see at Thanksgiving, but no, I really don’t like their taste in any form.

6. Radishes. They’re just too “burney” and not in a good way. I don’t like horseradish either. Both have a “skunky” flavor to me.

7. Chocolate ice cream. I’m not big on chocolate to begin with, but chocolate ice cream just tastes bitter and “dirty” to me.

8. Chicken enchiladas: I don’t care how carefully they’re prepared, you’ll always come across a piece of fat, gristle or cartilage while eating them. And that makes me gag.

9. Canned chili. Same as Number 8. You can add beef stew to this list for the same reason.

10. Raw cauliflower. Sure, let me feast upon a dry, crumbly, tasteless vegetable.

Top Ten Favorites

After my “balut” experience this past weekend, I thought I’d reflect my ten most favorite foods of all time.

Balut will be absent from the list.

You’ll also notice an absence of sweets. Strangely enough, I really don’t care much for sweets, really don’t like dessert as a course, and always fast-forward through anything to do with sweets on a cooking show.

1. Pasta with butter and parmesan cheese. Hands down, this simple dish has got to be my favorite. Any kind of pasta will do.

2. My mom’s lemon-peppered fried fish. She catches her own and knows how to wield a filet knife and a skillet.

3. Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. I don’t have a favorite place in Chicago that makes it. They’re all good. Toppings aren’t really needed either.

4. Oysters. On the half shell or batter-fried. No other way but those two.

5. My uncle Nathan’s fajitas. His recipe has actually won awards.

6. Beef in Szechuan Sauce at my favorite restaurant, Lao Sze Chuan. It teases that fine line between pleasure and pain, oh so well.

7. Tom Ka Kai soup at any Thai restaurant. I really love that infusion of lemon grass and coconut milk.

8. Pasta Puttanesca. Spicy, with black olives, capers, tomatoes and anchovies. Whatever lady-of-the-evening invented it, she was on to a good thing.

9. Refried beans. Only the real stuff cooked in lard with do.

10. Chicken Tikka Masala. I know it’s not authentically Indian, but my goodness, I love the stuff.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Balut - - It's Not That Bad!

I was raised in an isolated town of 1,700 folks way down in south Texas.

How isolated was it? Picture the coastline of Texas.

Can you find Houston?
Now can you find Corpus Christi southwest of that?

Okay, now find the mid-point between the two.
There’s nothing there, right?

Okay, that’s where folks in my home town went to have a good time.

Anyway, I grew up there until I left for college in 1977.

There was absolutely nothing interesting to eat. Really. I remember being 12 years old and my family driving 30 miles just to eat pizza for the first time. This was 1971!

Five years later, we drove 30 miles, again, to eat at the first Chinese restaurant in the same town.

Hard-to-obtain pizza and bad Chinese food was the height of my culinary dining until I left my little-bitty-home-town.

My mom and grandmother who raised me, were not that adventurous either. I remember finding a packet of lasagne noodles in the grocery store when I was ten years old. I’d never seen anything like that before and my mom made it known that if I wanted to try lasagne, I’d have to make it.

(There’s a photo of me at ten years old in the family photo album. I was smiling and assembling a lasagne in the kitchen. Ha!)

My mom did try, on occasion, to expand her culinary repertoire, but not much. I remember one instance in the early 70's when she tried a fancy “Chicken al ‘orange”. Mind you, this was the early 70’s when all recipes consisted of getting single women out of the kitchen really fast . . . .

. . . My mom’s “chicken al ‘orange” consisted of smearing a roasting hen with Tang and shoving it in an oven.
. . . Yes, “Tang”. Instant Breakfast Drink.
And you know what?
It was pretty good!

So, my loving upbringing made me long, so much, for anything from other lands.

If any food item was unusual to me, that meant “excitement.” After all, my whole life on the rural south Texas coast had been the antithesis of anything exciting. . . .

I’ve always heard about “Balut” eggs in the Philippines. They’re the fertilized duck eggs that had been allowed to develop a duck embryo half-way, then cooked and eaten.

Wow! The Philippines are seven-thousand miles away and these “balut” eggs are only eaten in Manila. - - The perfect “foreign” food for me.

Anyway, the wife of one of my staff members is from the Philippines and was graciously able to obtain a “balut” egg for me last week. I anxiously brought it back with me and cooked it according to her instructions.

Keep in mind that the “balut” egg is a duck egg in which the fertilized embryo has been allowed to develop exactly halfway. - - A duckling hatches exactly 36 days after fertilization, so the balut eggs are harvested at 18 days.

They are then refrigerated in order to stop the development of the duck fetus, and then boiled. If they are harvested any less than 18 days, the fetus will be too soupy; any more, it will be too crunchy.

Here you go, my friends!

I shall take you on a step-by-step "balut" experience!. . .

. . . So! I boiled my balut egg for 30 minutes according to instructions by a Real Filippino Balut Expert.
("Expert" = She immigrated here seventeen years ago)

Here it is before boiling. It is a tiny bit larger than an hen’s egg and sort of has a blue-greenish hue. It would not stay in the center of the plate, but kept rolling around.

I boiled it for 30 minutes and then cooled it in the fridge.

I tapped it on the counter, and it was definitely “not” a boiled egg. It was much more solid and heavy.

A “balut” egg is supposedly, the perfect snack. One is supposed to peel the top of the eggshell off and there will be a good amount of salty liquid - - a bit of “soup” with which to being one’s lunch. It's basically "amniotic liquid" soup.
You could probably dump it in a bread-bowl and add sour cream and cheese.

I peeled the top of the shell off and there wasn’t anything to slurp. I cracked the top of the egg and here’s what it looked like:

No slurping of amniotic fluid was available.

Dang. I hate it when that happens.

Anyway, I expected a foul smell, but was really surprised. It smelled like a sweet crab or lobster. Not fishy or stinky; just like a faint crabby sort of smell.

I peeled more of the shell away. It was definitely a thicker shell than a hen’s egg.

I could see the veins developing inside the egg. It was definitely a solid thing.

I got the whole egg peeled and took a little bite of the white part. It tasted like an egg combined with that fake crab stuff.

I pulled the egg in half. There was definitely an “egg” half and a “duck” half”

I dissected the “duck” half apart.

I was surprised to come across what looked like “dark meat” on a turkey or duck.

Then, I scraped some membrane away and Voila!
There was the head of the half-formed duckling nestled among a good bit of fat.

Don't you just love it when that happens?

The “eggy” part was quite separate from the “meaty” part and both seemed to take up half the egg. I can see why the Filipinos admire this food item as an “all-in-one” snack.

I tasted the “eggy” part and it simply tasted like a very rich egg.

Like I said, this “balut” egg surprised me and really did not have an off-putting smell. It really did smell like a sweet crab or sort of like a lobster.

So, I sliced off the head of the little fetus with a sharp paring knife.
It's improtant to have a good, sharp, paring knife for when one needs to slice that duck fetus-head away.

The rest of the fetus-in-fetu appeared to be nothing more than duck meat; there were no “guts” that I could see.

However, there were definitely a few wet feathers. Can you see them?
I did not expect that.

I recently saw a video of Andrew Zimmern eating a “balut” egg in the Philippines. He’s the host of Bizarre Foods and he goes around and eats the most disgusting foods imaginable.

When he tried a “balut” egg, he was surprised and said something like, “It’s not that bad!”

I did not want to chawmp into the whole “balut” experience, so I simply popped the head of the duck fetus in my mouth.

I really did. I ate the duck-fetus head first.
When it comes to duck-fetuses, "head-first" is always my philosophy.

During all this testing, I could only detect a strong smell of really sweet crab.
But when I popped the little duck-head fetus in my mouth, and chewed, I was awfully surprised. . . .

At first, it tasted like really strong lobster, which was interesting, but then I was hit with an overpowering taste of really musky chicken liver.

I couldn’t swallow it.
I wanted to swallow it, but I just couldn’t.

That brings me to my other philosophy of life:
Sometimes, you just need to spit it out.

The thing is, I can really see how “balut” eggs would be an appealing food item in the Philippines. I really can.

It’s just that the taste of chicken livers really does hit my “gag reflex”.

Duck-fetus heads seem to do that as well. I'm sorry, but they do.

If I enjoyed that “livery” taste, then balut eggs would be fine and dandy.

There was no “crunchy” texture of bones or duck-skulls to masticate upon. The crunchy-thing is just an urban legend, apparently. Whoever is spreading this around, they should be stopped. After all, I ate the head.

The texture was simply that of a very firm fried egg.

The thing is, I really sort of liked the “lobstery” smell and taste of the balut egg. They are definitely a rich-rich-rich food item and I can really appreciate how they came to be popular there in Southeast Asia.

If I were in a Manila market and a balut egg was offered for less than five bucks, I'd snatch it up. Again, I can definitely see why they are appealing.

Another thing is, the balut egg with which I had been supplied had been under refrigeration for three weeks and I wasn’t totally sure that it was safe to consume.

After all, a duck unfamiliar to me had been lain it in Manila, it was flown to St. Louis, shipped to a market in Missouri, purchased, refrigerated for three weeks, supplied to me in a styrofoam cup, and driven across Illinois . . . Hardly the sort of food item one should be heartily gobbling down.

But I will have to say this -- If I’m ever in Manila and presented with a balut egg on the street, I would smile and happily partake of it now that I know what to expect.
Locals in any country just love it when you do that.

The thing is, I’ve wondered about this food item for the past twenty years. It was the stuff of legend and always sounded disgusting.
Now, the mystery has been solved!

My goodness -- I really loved eating Chinese food for the first time when I was 14 years old near my home town. - - And I’m just tickled to death over eating “balut” and knowing what it’s really like.

The 14-year-old in me who seldom got to eat Chinese food is just giddy!

Bottom Line: If you like a rich, lobstery, chicken-livery, salty-tasting thing, then have fun and chawmp down on a “balut” egg when visiting the Philippines.
I know I will.

Balut - - “It’s not that bad!”

PS: I've saved the rest of the balut egg/meat, frozen in a baggy just in case any guests (you) want to sample it.
I'll always have leftover balut on hand.
After all, what are friends for?

It's what I do.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Balut for Dinner Tonight

One of my staff members followed through with his promise of providing me with a balut egg. I have it in my refridgerator and plan on cooking it tonight.

For those of you who don't know, a balut egg is a delicacy that's popular in the Philippines in which a fertilized duck egg is boiled and eaten.

The thing is, they allow the little duck fetus to form halfway before cooking it.

You can be sure that I will post photos of it for you. In the meantime, here's one for you:



I’ve been fascinated by the woman who recently gave birth to octuplets. It turns out that she had six fertilized embryos implanted, two of which split into twins thus resulting in eight births.

She already had six kids, so now she’s got fourteen -- all under the age of seven. Oh, and she’s a single mother who lives with her parents because she’s been on disability for the past few years.

The door-slamming in that house is going to be mind-boggling.

I also must admit that I’ve Tivo’d 17 Kids and Counting. It’s the weekly series featuring the Duggar family who have 18 kids, ranging from 21 years of age to 2 months. The worst thing I can say about the Duggars is that they home-school their kids and insist on teaching them that the world is only four-thousand years old.

I like kids. I really do. And there’s a part of me that’s always wanted to have a kid of my own. I haven’t done so because:

1. One needs female this-and-thats in order to produce a kid.

2. The kid might mess with my Tivo.

But the main reason I don’t have a kid is because they’re expensive. I make a nice salary but - - - kids are expensive!

I can see it now:
Kid: "Daddy, I want a Wii-Pod for Christmas!"
Me: "People in hell want ice water."

Yes, the Duggar kids all seem to be well-provided for. The family is frugal, they buy second-hand clothes, and, admirably, they don’t buy anything on credit. Moreover, they've raised a bunch of kids who seem to have been instilled with an astounding amount of altruistic values at a very young age.

Such a selfless family value seems to be lacking an awful lot these days. There is a lot that I admire about the Duggars, and yet - - -

They have 16 kids under the age of 18.

What if they got divorced and mom got custody?

If child support is $600 per month per child, Daddy Duggar would have to come up with about ten thousand dollars per month in child support.

If they each got eight kids in the custody battle, each parent would have to pay five thousand dollars per month in child support.

Neither parent went to college and I seriously doubt that either of them would have the potential to earn enough to support a tenth of their brood.

Still, we should wish them only our best.

I shouldn't be judgmental toward parents. After all, I've never been a parent, so I should only be saying to myself . . . . . perhaps. . . hmmmm. . . . . .glass houses?

And, most of all, let's always keep in mind that the little ones of these families will probably be reading our blogs ten years from now.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Room at the Inn

Last night, I checked into a Holiday Inn near Springfield and looked forward to sleeping late the following morning. (My first meeting was at 1:00 pm the next day and only an hour away).

The check-in person asked if I wanted a smoking or non-smoking room. I thought that was strange, thinking that smoking wasn’t allowed anywhere anymore anytime.

I requested a non-smoking room.

“Is the third floor okay?” he chirped.

“Sure,” I replied dryly.

Well, it turned out that half the third floor was smoking rooms. Within two hours, my sinuses were raw and I knew I’d better remedy the situation. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s really important to do everything one can to stay healthy on my marathon Illinois trips. That includes avoiding the discount hotels where cleanliness can be iffy.

I called the front desk and asked to be moved to a non-smoking floor.

He said there was no room in the Inn.

I went to Phase Two of my request. I told him I was really sensitive to smoke and that if I’d been told that this floor allowed smoking, I wouldn’t have checked in.

He said he didn’t have any rooms at all, so I went to Phase Three.

I asked that I not be charged for this room and that I’d check out and go elsewhere. After all, it had only been two hours.

He said he couldn’t do that. I’d be charged for the room.

So, I put my knowledge of accommodating people with disabilities to work. After all, it’s my job.

I reminded him that I was only staying one night, I’d be gone in the morning and asked if he had a wheelchair-accessible room on hand for me.


I figured that they would always have one or two on hand if anyone using a wheelchair showed up and I was right. (I verified that no one with a disability would be needing it).

I was very nice and polite to him all through my phases, but I was persistent. After all, there was no reason I should have to pay a hundred bucks to sleep in a nasty hotel room.

So, I had my nice, pristine, accessible room on the first floor. Yay.

Well, it turned out that the person in the room next to me had a guide dog.

A big guide dog.

A big guide dog that began freaking out at 6:30 this morning, barking and barking and barking.

Woof woof woof!. . .

. . . Woof woof woof woof!

. . . Woof woof!

. . . Woof!. . . . . woof-woof!

Then, someone set off an alarm. Since I was in an accessible room, some very bright lights began flashing in my room as well as the ear-piercing alarm beeps.

So much for sleeping late.

I walked into my wheelchair accessible shower and began my day. . . .

Eating Healthy

Well, I was bound and determined to try and eat healthy today while "on the road."

I started off great. Breakfast at Dennys did not consist of an obscene Grand Slam Mega-Salt-Pork monstrosities. No, I got creative and ordered a bowl of oatmeal, ($1.89) a side of fresh fruit (1.89) and a large glass of tomato juice.

For lunch, I passed by a Cheddars, a Hooters, an Olive Garden and a Dead Lobster. Instead, I went to a boring little Subway and noshed on a tuna sandwith with spinach, cucumber, tomato, pickled peppers and Lite mayo.

Good boy.

Tonight, I am in a small town in the far northwest corner of Illinois. I was dead tired and totally didn't feel like sitting at another restaurant. I just wanted something I could snatch up and eat in my hotel room while watching CNN.

Damn those Whoppers. . .

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bumper Sticker

The Republicans have often criticized Obama, saying that he was "just a community organizer."

Well, a friend of mine saw a bumper sticker today that read:

Jesus was a community organizer.

Pontius Pilate was a governor.

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Executive Pay Caps

Okay, so President Obama placed a $500K cap on salaries for any executive whose company received a bail-out.

Then, Wall Street execs began banging on their high chairs, claiming that in order for these companies to remain competitive, they needed for them to keep the executive bonuses intact.

Hmmm. . . .

Okay, that's like having a bus driver who drives his bus into a ditch. Then, says that in order to get his but out of the ditch, he'll require lots of monetary incentive to do so.

But all it shows is that he's a lousy bus driver and shouldn't have been behind the wheel.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

In Blago's Back Yard

I’m tired.

It’s been a long day of meetings and traversing hither and yon across southern Illinois.

I began the day in Mt. Vernon which is south of Effingham. Then, I had a meeting in Centralia which is southwest of Effingham. Then, I drove to East St. Louis which is west of Effingham where I had another meeting in the afternoon.

Now, I’m at a Holiday Inn just outside of Springfield which is northwest of Effingham. It’s also where Rod Blagojevich lives. I'm practically in his back yard. I’ll be sure to say hello if I see him during this trip. (I actually saw him and his hair at my workplace in Chicago about four months ago).

I hate to say it, but I’ve totally blown off eating healthy while on this trip. For lunch on Monday, I had a double Whopper (add mustard). For dinner last night, I had a double Whopper (add mustard). They’re just so damn tasty and convenient.

I tried to eat healthy tonight at Denny’s. I noticed that they had Boca Burgers on the menu (the vegetarian burger) so I ordered that and a salad instead of fries. The waitress was an elderly woman and I felt so sad for this poor woman who was obviously having to work well past retirement age.

My order arrived and it was a double cheeseburger with hash browns covered in cheese. I didn’t have the heart to ask her to take it back.

Tomorrow, I have an afternoon meeting in Bloomington about an hour away. That means I can totally sleep late in my Holiday Inn abode and I am SO going to do that.

After my meeting, I’ll drive to the tippy-top corner of northwest Illinois where I’ll have two meetings on Thursday.

Tomorrow, I’m going to do my absolute best to eat healthy. It will be a challenge seeing that I’ll be dining in America’s chain restaurants, but I think that with a little creativity it can be done.


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Monday, February 02, 2009

Effing Around in Effingham

I'm on my work-related, round-the-state trip around Illinois and am currently in the southern part.

On the way to southern Illinois is a town called Effingham. Every time I mention Effingham to anyone, giggles seem to ensue. I can picture the following scenario:

"Are we having turkey for Christmas dinner?"

"No. We're having an effing ham!"

Anyway, the most notorious thing about Effingham is this giant, 200-foot cross that some guy constructed there on the side of the highway. It's really huge. I tried taking a photo of it from my car:

Here's another photo of it from their website:

Like I said, I don't know why it's there, but it is.

I do have one idea as to its presence, though.

If you drive just a little farther south on Interstate 57, you'll see a giant billboard for an adult super-center. It's pretty skanky, so I couldn't help but to pull over for you and take a couple of photos of their signs.

Just like the cross, one cannot help but notice them:

I really get a kick out of the juxtaposition between these two notable sights in Effingham. But here's why I think the cross was put there:
If anyone from Effingham visits Adult Time Porno Emporium, they have to drive right past the giant cross in order to get back into town. Maybe the producer of the cross envisioned Adult Time patrons seeing his cross and suddenly feeling compelled to empty their back seats full of adulty entertainment items that they had just procured.
Who knows. . .
Here's another thought I had:
If Jesus had been crucified on the Cross in Effingham, perhaps his last words would have been:
"Hey. I can see Adult Time from up here!"


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Evening Scene - Sunset

For some reason, the sunset view from my balcony was awfully purdy this evening.

Illinois Trip

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm getting ready for my round-the-state tour of Illinois to visit my staff members.

I'll clock 900 miles during the next week and, actually, I'm looking forward to it. You see, I'll only be in a meeting for two hours with each of the six staff members, but will be traversing the bleak, winter-swept countryside of Illinois by myself the rest of the time.

Just me and my iPod and my rental car.

For someone who's basically an introvert, that's a slice of heaven.

I'll be leaving Chicago in the morning, heading to Champaign, then to Mt. Vernon, to Belleville, Bloomington, Sterling, and Freeport, then home.

I've discovered that I like Hampton Inn Suites to stay in and (I'll admit this, too) I really really like Denny's to eat in. Their grilled chicken salad with a big glass of tomato juice just rocks my world.

It should be a fun week.