Monday, April 30, 2012

YUMMY!: Savory Pork Patty

I have a cooking blog called "Cooking for Numero Uno" and I've posted a few recipes of culinary creations there over the past few months but I thought I'd just post them here instead. So this begins a new series called "YUMMY!" replacing that blog. Now I'll have 2 dead blogs under my Blogger account. Oh well. At least this one isn't likely to go dark anytime soon, I would hope.

For the past week or so I've been getting a lot of emails through a Facebook group I joined. The group was created by some old high school classmates since they're planning a 30th anniversary reunion. It'll be in Rhode Island of course so I won't be attending (but I wouldn't attend even if I still lived there since I didn't really care for high school or my fellow classmates LOL).

Anyways (as Rhode Islanders are want to say) these emails got me thinking about high school and one of my favorite things about then was the hot lunches. Weird, huh? Most kids hated them and would avoid them like the plague, but for some reason I preferred them over some sad brown bagged crusty old sandwich...go figure. Hot lunches in those days were a hell of a lot better than the fast food unhealthy crap they serve these days.

One of my favorites from the cafeteria were those minced and breaded pork patties shaped like a little pork chop and served with pork gravy. For years I couldn't find any equivalent until I saw Banquet had a Savory Pork Patty frozen dinner with a very similar tasting meat when comparing to my memory of those school lunch offerings.

I decided to try my hand at recreating my childhood comfort food with a more hand-crafted home-style flair. The result is what's offered below, my version of a 1970's cafeteria staple. I've paired it with my version of yet another old skool fav, mac and cheese.

click pic for close-up


1 pound pork sirloin, hand-minced (yes, a bit of knife work, but this gave it great chunky texture...if you'd rather have smooth, then use ground pork)
2 slices whole wheat bread, finely cubed
1 tbsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. chicken broth powder
1/4 tsp. ground sage
1/2 cup Panko seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt, pepper and Zatarain's seasoning to taste

Mix these ingredients well in a large mixing bowl. Shape into patties. If you want to take the time and try to shape them like pork chops, go for it.

Coat liberally in more Panko breadcrumbs and fry in a butter/olive oil mixture in a skillet 'till golden brown on each side.

Top with some pork gravy from a jar.

Mac and Cheese was simply penne pasta cooked to just al dente, then drain reserving about a half cup of the boiling liquid. Mix with butter and jarred cheddar cheese sauce as well as some good grated parmesean. Pour into baking dish, top with more parmesean and bake at 350 degrees 'till topping is melted and pasta is bubbling.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Twenty Years Ago...

One of the most life changing events I've ever experienced happened about 20 years ago this week. In commemoration of this anniversary I'm re-posting a FLASHBACK post I wrote back in October 2005 on this blog.


FLASHBACK: April 1992

Smash!!

In disgust at his "perfect life", I reached into the far left cabinet near the sink, pulled out one of my leaded crystal goblets I bought several years earlier, rarely used but kept for special occassions, and hurled it at Wayne's closed bedroom door shortly after he bid me goodnight, went into his room and closed his door. It shattered loudly into a million pieces.

Wayne was a friend of my best friend Linda.

Linda introduced me to Wayne in 1990 with the hopes we would be a match. Linda loved playing Dolly Levi, Matchmaker. She even did it, in a way, for a living through her Friends Program at the Blackstone Valley Center for Retarded Citizens. She arranged for dates among the clientelle of the program. She and I while I worked there and even after I left Blackstone Valley, supported this important social resource for the developmentally disabled.

We went one one date and although he had a great personality, I knew it would go no where as a relatonship.
1. He was way too hairy on his body, and was balding on his head, big turn off for me.
2. He was one of the most swich fags I've known outside of the bar queens. I need a man.
3. He had a very long nail on the pinky finger of his right hand . I mean, really about 3 inches. He said it was just a "fashion statement" but I was convinced that it was for snorting coke. (It turns out as years went on and I got to know him that it was indeed just a fashion fad.)

I didn't reconnect with Wayne until Christmas of 1991.

On December 7, 1991 I encountered one of the first major instances of frustration with trying to come clean from alcohol abuse.

I had resolved a week earlier to rid my life of alcohol. I had noticed that I was drinking an average of a case of beer a week and it was affecting even my non-drinking thinking...that is, even after the hangover and subsequent sobriety, I was left with periods of doubt, ineffective thinking, and diminished cognitive abilities. I was also gaining weight again having lost the 50 or so excess pounds I gained in 1987. I was up to 240 lbs.

On this day, I opened my fridge and saw on the condiment shelf an unopened can of Coors Light. (That was my favored beer back then).

Within seconds I was one my knees in front of the open fridge, crying my eyes out. I was torn. I wanted so much to drink it, but I also so much wanted to not drink it.

For alcoholics out there, I think only you could relate. The feeling is so disturbing. You don't know which impulse is really you...the you you have supposedly known all your life.

Eventually I succeeded in dumping the beer down the drain but it was not the end of my struggles over the next few months.

Around Christmas-time I knew that living alone was a detriment...too much freedom to drink. I found out that Wayne had just moved to a small apartment in a gay-enclave area of Providence, but wasn't really happy about the size of his loft studio apartment and the high rent.

I arranged through Linda to meet with Wayne again. Other than our ill-fated date, Wayne and I had been together in the fall of 1991 to arrange and attend Linda's 40th birthday bash with rented limo and reservations at her favorite Arabic restaurant in Worcester so it hadn't been that long ago I had spoken with him. (I had seen him at at least one Blackstone Valley theatrical event he was working for as well...he worked at Blackstone Valley Center (BVC) with Linda...at the time I was working for Northern RI Assoc. of Retarded Citizens (aka NRARC))

Wayne and I got together and subsequently went out to our favorite club "12 Caesars" a few times.

Though now we were on a purely pluetonic relationship, we bacame very close friends very quickly.

We both agreed it would be a great idea to rent an apartment in a safe neighborhood in Providence together in February 1992.

By March we had found our perfect apartment. Affordable, spacious, and recently remodeled. the landlord, Dan, a yuppie/preppie himself, immediately realized the value of renting to gays and was head-over-heels in desire to have us sign the lease. Wayne and I felt it was the right place so we signed a 1 year lease with him.

Wayne and I were on very opposite shifts so even though we now lived together we didn't really get to know each other fully, early on.

He would wake up around 6 am to go to his 8 am to 5 pm job and I would wake about 9 pm to go to my 11 pm to 8 am job. He liked to get at least 8 hours of sleep so he usually went to bed around 9:30. So we'd see each other for about 1/2 hour each day.

Even though I initially wanted to stop drinking altogether, I slowly found myself easily slipping into a habit again.

I sanctioned some of the drinking, at first, as sleep-endusing assistance.

Since I was on a thrird shift schedule, I needed chemically help to overcome fatigue during work hours...easy enough! COFFEE!! and I drank lots of it. But when I got home in the morning I needed to wind down in order to sleep while the sun is up, the neighbor kids are playing, the cars zooming by, etc. So I started taking nightcaps. At first just a few beers before lying down, but I felt I needed more and more so I eventually bu April was up to a 12-pack and half a fifth of bourbon every 2 days.

That fateful April afternoon I had run out of Jim Beam after drinking a few beers and a few shots of the remaining bourbon. I got in my car, drove to the neighborhood package store (can only buy liqour in Rhode Island from package stores), bought another fifth of Jim Beam an brought it home.

Wayne came home at 5:30 or so and I could hear him outside playing with the neighborhood kids. The little rugrats had been part of the reason I was still up, they were loud and obnoxious little punks. Still Wayne got along with them and I could hear he was enjoying entertaining them. Wayne is the type that gets along with anyone! He generally likes all kinds of people!!

I don't remember waht occurred over the next few hours but all I remember is feeling that he didn't care about me. He cared more about the little neighborhood brats than he did about me.

For some drunken-induced reason, this pissed me off greatly.

The throwing of the glass though, was a total impromtu impulse. And, within seconds of doing it I was shocked at what I had done and come to realize I was so NOT in-control!!

This was the first time in my life where I felt I was not capable of controlling my own actions and it scared the hell out of me!

When Wayne came out of his room and questioned me in shock about why I had done what I did, I couldn't come up with any reason. I just started to ball loudly and Wayne came over and hugged me and held me while I cried harder than I ever had on his shoulder for what seemed like hours.

The next day I vowed to never drink again.

I handed over the remainder of my Jim Beam to Wayne, he stored it away and he took on a few Al-Anon meetings to be able to deal with his alcoholic roommate.

I "came out" as a recovering alcoholic to work, friends and anyone else who would listen. I was free of the effects of alcohol in my life and proud of it.

I went on a subsequent diet and fitness program and turned my life around.

I lost over 65 lbs., adopted a philosophy of healthy living, stayed sober totally for at least 4 years and kept slim and fit with regular exercise for at least 6 years.

The New Blogger Dashboard Is Here

Well we've been warned.

But despite the wishes and pleas of old codgers like me who have grown fond of the old way of blogging, Blogger has finally rolled out their new (and improved?) format.

It seems like it has a mash-up of familiar old features and the new ones that were introduced in the previously optional interface put out a while ago.

Happily, the typeface and essential feel of posting seems the same.

I'm happy.

For now.

As we know, Google loves to fuck with shit, even if it's working out fine. Who knows how long this current compromised GUI will last?

Let's hope for a while.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

SCRAPBOOK: Yearbook Pics Class Of 1982

An old classmate of mine from high school was so good to have scanned the entire senior class pictures from our yearbook and posted them to his Facebook page.

Just when I think Facebook is worthless crap, it shows it can be a great resource for sharing and archiving. Especially things that others have lost.

As I wrote in a previous post, my copy of the "Quiver" was reportedly a casualty to a basement flood some years back, so it was quite a nice treat to find this online source. Thanks Denis (the kid, now man who scanned them).

I may have alluded to it before in many posts, especially FLASHBACKs that I was not entirely smitten with my high school years. In fact, I hated high school. I can't recall a time in my now lengthy life since then that I've ever hated a situation I was in as much as I did then.

Thankfully, the fog of time and many, many beers since then have tended to dull if not obliterate my memories of those days. I do remember having few friends. Especially by my senior year, having been shunned by John and distracted in total by my more adult life both at my job (HoJo's) and on the gay club scene, I really just glided through that year in a daze, not being able to relate to my "peers" in school anymore. I was beyond it all.

Here's a few selected pages. I'll point out significant faces for you...

Here in the above scanned page on the bottom left is one of my only friends from that year Richard B. We used to play paper wargames and admired heavy metal rock bands. We and our other buddy Stephen loved gross out jokes during lunch and basically we were the Three Super Geeks. One time, after Science Club, we were horsing around in the hallways and we accidentally busted a glass divider wall. We hauled ass and didn't get caught.

Here, coincidentally in the same position on the previous page as Richard is Stephen G. (I don't know why I'm only typing their last initials, you can see their full name under the photo. I guess I don't want some fuckhead Googling their name and coming up with this page and having something to say about my posts.) Stephen, BTW, is dead. He died not long after graduation (for which he was awarded the class honor of "Salutatorian"). Car crash. Very sad. Richard and I went to his funeral. Eerie to see his quote "Stephen plans to become an engineer." Never had the chance.

Here in the upper left corner is John N. The boy I was in love with. I've written numerous times about him in various posts. Remember I flew to Germany (well, actually West Germany then) to stay with him in '85? We had a troubled relationship. During this senior year he wouldn't even acknowledge my presence as we passed in the halls. *Le sigh*

That dweeb in the upper right...yup, that's me. So young and naive. Like the song chosen as the theme for the prom I attended, "Do you know where you're going to?" Clearly, you look at that face above and he didn't. What is it Walt Whitman said about the innocence of youth? Ah yes:

Youth, large, lusty, loving--youth full of grace, force, fascination,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace,
force, fascination?

Day full-blown and splendid-day of the immense sun, action,
ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close with millions of suns, and sleep and
restoring darkness

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vegas Vacation Video

Here's some video I shot while on vacation for my birthday earlier this week.

Viva Las Vegas!

It may have been cobbled together on a last minute whim but I think I did pretty well with my few days in Vegas. The cost of the whole trip was less than $600 and I was able to accomplish almost everything I wanted despite the tight budget and minimal time.

First off, one of the biggest savings is, of course, the fact that I don't really get into gambling much. In fact, I spent only about 20 minutes total at just two video poker machines before my loss of a whopping $14.75 became too much for me to bear. I cashed out and never looked back.

Another big savings was airfare. I went with Spirit Airlines and got a great rate by dealing directly with them; better than all the aggregators like Orbitz and Priceline. What's more, I saved an additional $30 by buying the tickets at the airport rather than online.

The cost of accommodations were dirt cheap! The aggragators were all touting Imperial Palace as the cheapest (other than way off the strip) at around $45 a night but I went directly through the hotel site and got rates at around $25 a night! Now the room was definitely not luxurious and opulent. The hotel is big and located in the heart of the strip but it's seen its better days come and go. Very dated and kinda grungy but not too bad. Better than Motel 6.

Now what wasn't cheap on this mini-vacation were the things people all say are a great value in Vegas: food and drinks. I guess if you're a gambler and use your Player's Club cards you get discounts, but for plebs like me, we pay full price. I paid an average of $7-$10 per drink and food was twice the restaurant prices here. Even fast food joints...Subway sells foot-long subs for $10!

I got in late Sunday night after an evening flight from Orlando via Dallas-Ft. Worth. (A vending machine at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport dispensed gold-colored Statue of Liberty dollar coins as change. First time I've seen them.)

After a short ride from the airport in Vegas, I checked in and even though I was tired from flying (in very uncomfortable seats) and it was 1:30 in the morning Pacific time, I got my second wind and went down to the Strip to check out the late night vibe and energy. Reminded me very much of Bourbon Street, only much, much bigger!

While I was walking and gawking, some lady walking in front of me jokingly asked me if I was stalking her. She said that it was usually the other way around in her case. I giggled thinking she was just being friendly, then she said "So where are we staying tonight?" I realized that she was actually a hooker and she was propositioning me. I must have blushed as I walked faster to pass her and leave her behind. Thankfully, she didn't pursue me. Yikes!

The next morning (my birthday) I up woke up around 8:30 and went down for breakfast. They have a great looking home-style breakfast joint in the hotel but after being put on a waiting list and checking out the prices, I decided to skip it and got a egg muffin at a nearby food court concession.

I had a plan to walk the south part of the Strip as much as my feet would allow and though it took me the better part of the rest of the morning and early afternoon, I was proud that I'd done it.

I walked through the gardens in the back of the Flamingo hotel. I could see that the gardens of the Aces casino in "Fallout New Vegas" were modeled after this. Also, if I ever come back with Ric, he'll no doubt be thrilled to see that they just opened up a "Carlos and Charlie's" here.

From the Flamingo I made my way meandering through casino floor after casino floor, shop area after shop area through pretty much each of the hotel casinos heading south. (Bellagio, Cosmopolitan, Aria, Paris, MGM Grand)

At Excalibur I was starting to feel the burn so I made my way back, this time trying to hit the hotels I missed on the way down. (New York New York, Monte Carlo, Bally's, Caesar's Palace)

Once back at home base (Imperial Palace) my dogs were screaming so I grabbed a $1.99 foot-long hot dog and a tiny $1 margarita and went up to my room to soak my feet. I'd bought a 12-pack of Coors soon after I checked in the night before and still had several of them so I got a bucket of ice, chilled them off and sipped a few while enjoying the live band music from the outdoor bar below.

Yeah, another reason the room was so cheap...there was always booming music playing 'till 3:30 am each night and, during the day, construction noises from an ongoing demolition of old shops...right below me. I loved it but I'm sure some guests didn't.

Later that night I went to my first Vegas show, "Legends in Concert" an ensemble of celebrity singer impersonators. There was Dean Martin, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga and Elvis. Talk about a motley crew! They all did a fantastic job too, especially the Michael Jackson. I got pissed though when they wanted 35 dollars for a posed photo they had us take with the Elvis guy. I knew it would cost extra (Hello, I'm from Orlando and know about these type of photos) but not THAT much. I offered $20 but he wouldn't take it so I declined. It looked cool though. Bummer.

After the show I decided to start exploring in the north direction and went to Venetian where I saw the famous shops on an artificial interior Venetian canal, complete with gondolas. There I saw the shop Michael Jackson spent tens of thousands of dollars at for very gaudy home decor pieces.

As I was leaving the Venetian, I lucked out as the Volcano at The Mirage was just starting one of its shows.

I was still a bit pooped from all the days walking so I headed back towards home base and decided to go to the bar that I could hear so blaringly from my hotel room balcony. It was mostly a young, raucous crowd that didn't mind plunking down lots o' cash for drinks. (my one Corona cost $7) The bartenders had this shtick where they tooted whistles and performed acrobatic feats of flashy liquor pouring (ala the Tom Cruise classic "Cocktail") It was interesting to see their skill but now I knew why they were over-priced...it's all about the theater. That was Vegas, in my opinion...all about the theater.

The next morning I munched on the leftover half of a Chipotle burrito I'd ordered the night before and washed it down with some more of my ice chilled beers. Drinking at 7 am? Yup. It's Vegas. (Well, like I need that as an excuse.)

At about 9:00 I pocketed a couple of cans for the road and trekked northward. I got to Wynn and decided that the blisters on the bottom of my feet were large enough so I bought a bus pass and took the double decker bus to the Stratosphere. Here I spent a good half an hour gazing down from my lofty tower at the vast sandy-colored landscape of the wide, flat Las Vegas area. In the distance, huge craggy mountains framed the valley insulating the city from the rest of the world.

The rest of the trip was just more wandering and discovering. I had lunch at Harrah's buffet...it was good but not much better than a Golden Corral...I don't know what all the hype is about Vegas buffets. Went souvenir shopping and rode the crowded bus some more.

Late that night I flew back home by way of Chicago, took a cab home from OIA since I felt too tired to wait for the bus and crashed in order to be ready for work that evening.

Overall, I'd say I had a blast. My three wishes for the trip I mentioned in the previous post held up. I was able to walk an estimated 2 to 3 miles without collapse. I didn't lose too much gambling. And I survived the impact of almost non-stop drinking. Actually, I guess 'cause I didn't drink a huge amount at once, I sipped it throughout the day and night so I never got drunk and had no hangover. Woo hoo!

There it is, my little Vegas vacation. Nothing very scandalous and juicy I'm afraid.

Oh well, there's always next time!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Sin City, Here I Come

I was talking to June last night saying how my little birthday vacation was coming up in a couple days and I wanted to get away but was too penny pinching to spring for it. She repeated what must be her personal motto for life: You Only Live Once. I thought about it and decided she was right. I needed to loosen up those purse strings and live it up a little.

I thought of a simple little trip to the Brevard County seashore or maybe even Miami but then I started looking, just for the heck of it, at rates for another destination a little further away and with a lot more potential for fun. After a few hours of research all across the internet, I found some phenomenal rates and, well, I decided to go for it...

I'm headed for Vegas, Baby!

I leave tomorrow night and arrive just about as the clock strikes twelve (in that time zone) and I instantly turn another year older. (That's how it works, right? LOL)

The ultra-budget airlines I'm taking actually charges a baggage fee even for carry-ons so I'm not going to be taking my laptop so I wont post on location, but expect a recap post soon after I arrive back home later in the week.

I only wish three things for my trip:

1. To have the stamina and leg strength for lots of walking. (No repeat of Washington 2008)

2. To not lose too much in the casinos.

3. To not end up like Nicholas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas" (Yikes! Just on beers, that'd be quite a few gallons!)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

VIDEO SCRAPBOOK: Bizarre TV Commercials

Living without the luxury of a DVR, I must, unfortunately, endure commercial after commercial interupting my television viewing. And it seems like the programs are getting shorter and the commercials are getting longer. Ugh! What a pain!

But when you get treats like the following wacky commercials that are so bizarre you end up literally rolling on the floor laughing your ass off, it kinda makes up for the vast majority of boring shit. Kinda.

Here are clips and montages of some of my favorites:

LOOK AT YOU!



This weird looking lady giving her testimonial about some weight loss pill cracks me up every time I see her. Look closely at her facial expression!

SONIC GUYS



Love the Sonic Guys! And now they're back. Still haven't eaten at a Sonic yet, even though I drive past one every day.

IN THE BOX!



OMG how I love the little girl screaming "In The Box" as she kicks the box behind her. I edited and compiled this video, BTW. You're welcome.

FAMILY AUTO MART!



Gone from our Central Floridian airwaves for a few years now, but I fondly remember this used car dealer and his crazy ads. Miss you, big guys!

Another Games For Windows Live Nightmare

So I was on Steam and saw they were offering "Age of Empires Online" as a play-for-free option. Hmm, cool, I thought. I'd seen the reviews and screenshots of this game and it frankly looked like a downgrade in both playability and graphics compared to the previous title in the series "Age of Empires III", but if it's free, eh, why not...

Games for Windows Live is why not!

Oh, I've struggled with them before and its convoluted, bug-riddled, unintuitive and outright fucked up initiation process for any new game connected with them is beyond frustrating. It's one of the main reasons I avoid buying boxed DVD-ROM games (aside from the fact it's hard to find PC games at retailers anymore) since so many have you register through this system.

SIDE NOTE: As I'm typing this in Blogger Dashboard I'm reminded of another frustrating application fail: the spell check on this! So far, it says that "screenshots" "playability" and "unintuitive" are spelled wrong. Um, no they're not, Blogger!

The game downloads, which took nearly an hour since I'm at work and using wi-fi. Then another 45 minutes after trying to start it from the Steam client as it downloads patches. So after almost 2 hours I should be ready to play, right?

Wrong!

After the initial splash screen, there's a long wait (maybe 3 minutes?) as I stare at a graphically cartoonish load screen. (The graphics are designed in a cartoonish style, seems to be a new fad for games. Cop out is what I say!)

Ugh! Blogger says "cartoonish" is spelled wrong too.

Finally a screen appears with a "Play" button.

Click.

Sliding down from the top comes that fucking Games for Windows Live sign on window.

But after I sign in, it asks for the Product Key.

For a free game?

Usually, if a third party title is going to ask for a product key, Steam will furnish it when you download. It wasn't offered for this game.

Searching the help forums of Steam, Age of Empires Online and Microsoft doesn't help much. It's like the monkeys are running the zoo.

After 2 hours of trying to find a resolution to simply inserting a license key and failing, I'm gonna call it a night.

The game didn't look that great anyway.

I think this guy from one of the forums says it best (barring the typos) when expressing his feelings about Games for Windows Live:

This is an excellent way to showcase the wonderful world of Games for Windows.  Not being able to play a free game is a nice touch.  I also can't get the marketplace to load and the launcher is no help at all for finding a solution.  You've taught me a valuable lesson here... I wont buy games that require Live to work and now I wont be playing the free stuff either for the same reason.  Bravo... you're really reaching an untapped market of animosity.