miles and miles from somewhere

June 15, 2012

June 10 had arrived.  I awoke with apprehension.  Had I packed everything I needed?  Would the weather hold?  Would my legs hold?  Would I make it back in time to play?  And probably most important, would they have coffee? 

It was time for the Tour de Cure; an annual ride that raises money for the American Diabetes Association.  This was the second year I was riding and a few things were different.  For starters, the event had moved from Mendon Ponds to RIT.  This meant most of the non-cycling activities would be indoors and probably most importantly, there are parking lots.  In addition, for some reason, in what I can only call a moment of insanity, I had volunteered our band, Sinzibukwud, to be one of the groups providing entertainment at the event.  This meant I needed to ride and play. 

The ride started at 7:30 AM, the band was set to play at 2:30 PM.  I had done the calculations in my head for two weeks.  16 mph average would net me 100 miles in a touch over 6 hours with no stops.  17 mph would get me 100 in just under 6 hours.  In fact, I had a spreadsheet.


So really, if we left right at 7:30 and I rode 17 mph average, I could be back by 1:30 which would give me one hour to recover, change, eat, and set up my drums and play.  So I had that in mind.

Over the last month, I had been raising money for the event by asking my friends and coworkers to donate money to theADA.  My offer was to ride 1 mile for every $5 which would give me 100 miles at a goal of $500.  I named the miles after the donators so at this moment, I will walk you through the ride, mile by mile, donation by donation with as many memories as I can muster before they disappear into the ether of my mind.

The ride started with a nice four-mile jaunt along Bischoff Boulevard.  We had been treated to a great live version of the national anthem and were ceremonially led out by the Red Riders (riders with Diabetes).  We circled part of campus before heading out to the road chuckling to ourselves.  The announcer had reminded us that we needed to be mindful of vehicles and ride only two abreast, but as we rolled out, we were five and six people across taking up the entire right lane.  We all knew that wouldn’t last long and the Police at the intersections knew that too as they let us roll by with waves and shouts of encouragement.  The next four miles were some nice rolling short hills that the map called Zielinski Whitewater Way.  I’m not sure where that name came from by I stayed alert and kept pedaling as groups started to form.  Within the first ten miles you can sort of feel out who is going to ride hammer down (really hard) from the start, who is planning on spending the entire day in the saddle, and all those in between.  I still wasn’t sure where I fit in.  Fortunately we came up to Sample Street that was a five-mile section with a downhill grade and some nice flat sections.  I looked for my fellow team members in their Xerox International Cycling Team jerseys.  Want a unique way to network with coworkers?  Try introducing yourself while you pass someone at 22 mph on the flat.  I think his name was Keith or Kevin, but I guess it could just as easily have been Howard.  He was riding a recumbent bike and had ridden the last 7 highlander rides (I had done the last three) on that recumbent bike.  I’ve never ridden one of those things but all I know is it took all of my strength standing and mashing on those pedals to make it up some of the hills in the highlander so I figured this was a strong guy to ride along side.  We continued on to Lynch Lane and at some point during that stretch I started paging through my odometer.  I knew I needed to be somewhere around mile 16 by 8:30 but had told myself I would only check the total miles once an hour.  At the first check, I was at 13.7.  That meant, I needed to make up some time.  A quick mental note observed that we didn’t exactly start right at 7:30 so I was probably doing just fine but by the time we climbed the hill into Avon after turning onto Kent Hill Road, I had moved on from my new friend to stop at the first rest area. 

The rest areas at these events are phenomenal.  I’m not sure if you’ve ever gone on a solo ride but here are a few things you have to do.  You pack your pockets full of energy gels, snacks, sandwiches and water bottles.  If you are alone, you really have to plan your stops.  Where will I buy more water?  How will I walk in to a store and still see my bike?  What if I need to relieve myself?  Well on one of these rides, you don’t have to worry about much of that.  At every stop they have water, Gatorade, bathrooms, sandwiches, bananas, pretzels, apples, and energy bars.  That left my three back jersey pockets free to hold my cell phone (cozy in it’s plastic bag), contact eye drops, sunscreen (to reapply at least once so my skin would not protest), and my energy gels. 

I skipped the first rest stop and may have skipped the second too, at this point; I needed to refill the bottles so it was a quick hop off the bike, refill, back on and heading back downhill.

I had caught up with a few other Xerox team members who were ahead of me but were at the rest stop a bit longer.  We road through some of my favorite rolling hills through Avon including a nice five mile stretch on Korvin Way, two miles on DiPiazza Drive and a fast down hill on Adas Avenue

Another hour had gone by and I was now at 32 miles.  That meant I had made up some time from the first hour but was going to be pushing it to get back by my goal time.  I was still with two Xerox comrades and was happy to sit behind them to catch a bit of a break from the breeze.  Both are stronger riders so there’s really no shame in sitting back.  If only they were a little wider, they could have blocked more wind.  The five mile stretch of Burkin Boulevard produced my first real decision point.  Well actually my second.  Earlier in the ride I had the option to pull off the 100 mile route onto the 62 miler (metric century since it is 100 km), but that was so early in the ride I had yet to do my calculations.  At the end of Burkin Boulevard I would have to decide if I wanted to circleConesusLake or skip it.  Circling it would guarantee I would finish with 100 miles, skipping it would virtually (barring flats, bonking or other mishaps) guarantee I would finish with time to recover before we played.  At this point in the narrative, I submit to you the one act play of my brain talking to itself.

Aaron’s Brain:  Actually, what you need to do is use the length of the slide and the height of the slide platform to calculate how far out you’ll need to place the landing zone for that playground in the back.  When are you planning to order rubber mats for that thing anyway?  Oh, hey, I don’t want to interrupt your thought process here but you might want to think about skipping the lake up there.  You know how far we’ve gone?  About 37 miles, you realize that means you have 63 to go right?  And how are we feeling?  Legs good?  Feet okay?  Hands?  And how’s that butt doing?  Still comfy on that seat?  I didn’t think so.  Imagine another 63 miles of that, pal.  You want to do that to yourself?  Don’t forget, you still have to sit on your drum throne and move your arms and legs in rhythm when you get back.  Okay, here’s what you should do, you skip the lake, check the time when you get back and you can circle campus a few times to finish the 100.  Deal?  Good, now can I get back to my calculations?  Thanks.  (End scene)

It’s scary in there sometimes, but I think you got the idea.  I peeled off to the right as a group of riders went straight ahead to circle the lake.  I rode into Lakeville and stopped at the fire hall rest stop to refresh my drinks and sunscreen.  Every one that was there looked at me when I rode up.  “Hey, you’re the first one here, you must be really fast!”  “How come you came in from that direction?”  I had to explain my predicament.  I needed to finish the ride in enough time to play and was skipping the lake and there would be plenty of riders behind me that were happy to eat the subs but it was only 9:30 and I just wasn’t quite ready for turkey thank you though and you guys are great to be here helping and where is the bathroom and is this Gatorade and okay, I’m off.

Riley Road wasn’t any fun but I can’t blame Doyle for that.  Last years route gave us a nice long down hill to Lakeville and we were heading in the opposite direction this time which meant a nice, long uphill out of town.   I was alone now, no other riders in site.  They were all, including the fast guys who were way ahead, still circling the lake.  Either that or they had skipped the rest area and there wasn’t anyway I was catching anyone anyway.  So I settled into a rhythm and just started pedaling and thinking.  I’m not going to share what I was thinking because honestly I don’t recall other than “keep pedaling, you should have a gel, drink some water, remember that one time when you were riding the other way and a bug flew in your mouth, that was funny.” 

Phelps Avenue was a nice mix of hills.  I say nice because don’t forget, if you go up, you also get to go down.  I hit my top speed on one of these hills and probably could have gone faster if there wasn’t a stop sign at the bottom (I slowed down in an appropriate amount of time, no need to leave half my tire on the pavement).  


  Not the fastest I’ve ever gone but still fun!

As I looked ahead before turning onto Stoll Street, I saw more riders.  I had met up with the metric century riders which meant I would no longer be alone with my thoughts.  Meeting up with other riders can be both good and bad, at this point, I was hitting mile 47 and 48 and approaching 50 while they were somewhere around 20.  I’m not quite sure what that means but the thought went through my head during a quick rest stop, only refilling water and eating a banana, then it was through Geneseo, down Ross Road, a quick turn onto Kovnat Drive, and a sweep right to Renault Way.  

The next few sections were a bit of a blur.  I usually hit a mental wall somewhere between 55 and 65 miles.  At that point, if you told me you would give me a ride back to the start, I’d hop off the bike and jump in your car.  If you told me I had to continue, I’d nod and keep going.  It’s always a weird section of any trip.  There is this point where you don’t think you can go on, but you know that if you can get past that point, you’ll be fine.  I’m sure runners hit that mark in marathons somewhere near miles 17 and 18.  I am not a runner.  On the occasion that I do a 5K, I hit that point between miles 1 and 2.  So yeah, not a runner. 

Weitzel Street made me sit up and exercise good riding position which included a fortunate stop at a fire hall in York for what would be my final stop.  This was at mile 76 for those who rode the lake or mile 61 for me.  Either way, 24 miles to go and I had found two pacers.  Soon after pulling away from the rest stop, two guys passed me wearing Genesee Beer jerseys.  I sped up a bit to see if I could stay with them and I could.  Now I had company.  I called a few “car backs” out to them so they knew I was sticking around and just rode third wheel.  Now I was watching the clock.  Candidori Avenue gave way to Palmer Hill which led to Werzinger Street and Blair Boulevard.  I had no idea we would ride down so many boulevards but there we were anyway.  I started checking my average speed.  I was at 17 mph.  Okay, now we can calculate again.  17 puts me at just under 6 hours, I have stopped four times I think, each for just a few minutes, that means when I get back, probably two circles of campus and I’ll have my century.


 My new odometer gives me average speed which is nice so I don’t have to calculate it in my head. 

The only issue at the time was I had no clear idea how much further I really had to go.  I had estimated the lake was 15 to 20 miles around and my cue sheets had long ago been rendered useless due to some sort of dampness the source or which has yet to be confirmed.  So now I was just hanging on to the end.  We rode through a few more towns, skipped the last rest stop, rode through an impromptu misting station set up by some nice kids with a hose and as the temperature climbed to 92, we stumbled upon Blaber Hill.  

Over the course of the day, the temperature steadily climbed.  When I told people later that I rode this past Sunday the response was always, “oh man, it was so hot that day, how did you survive?”  The nice thing was, we started early and got a lot of the riding out of the way before the heat really kicked in.  I really only felt the heat when I stopped at a rest area, stop light, or when my speed dropped going up a hill and I felt it climbing those last few hills.  One of my fellow travelers announced, “Four hills to go” and they started.  

At this point, four separate routes had converged into one.  The century ride, the metric century, the 40 mile and 25 mile rides were all together.  We were passing families with kids on little bikes, people on mountain bikes and hybrids, all pedaling to the finish.  It was a moving parade of sweaty, tired people.  As I turned onto Miner Way with a few short miles to go I noticed a few things.

1.  it was windy

2.  the campus seemed a bit less flat then I recalled when we left

3.  I was rather tired

So I did what any sane person would do, I crossed the finish line.  85 miles complete, in less than 5 hours, and I was heading to my car at 12:45 with plenty of time to change, clean up, eat lunch, drink some water and relax before setting up the drums and playing a 1 ½ hour set of tunes for my fellow fund raising riders.

“What?  Only 85 miles?  Quitter!  What’s the matter with you?  You promised 100 miles!  I want you to finish!”  Relax, I had no intention of leaving it at 85.  We played a full set much to the delight of several kids who danced with balloons while their parents sat and smiled.  Most of the riders were getting ready to leave, just getting back from their rides or having lunch while we played.  I was done, toast, finished.  At one point I stood up between songs just to give my legs and butt a rest.  I struggled through one song where I had to hit high notes.  You would think that spending 5 hours in bike shorts would help you hit the high notes.  You would be incorrect. 

Now, let’s skip ahead a few days shall we?  On my birthday, I countered a lousy trip to the dentist and a decent (but not overly exciting) meeting by taking a half day and hopping on my bike as soon as I got home.  After all, I needed to finish.  So it was that a quick cadence ride on Marks Drive, Feliz Avenue, Maslin Circle, and Trombley Trail found a quick 15 miles to complete my century ride.

Image 100 miles 

Image   5 hours and 50 minutes

So what have we learned from this experience?  Get out as early as you can and find a few good pace setters.  The more you stop, the slower you’ll be (seems logical right?).  Don’t try to do too much in the same day.  Always wear a helmet.  You know what? I’m not sure we really learned anything from this experience.  Next year, we’ll just leave the band out of it; I’m riding the full 100 and will beat that time!


HLN is not for stress relief

February 24, 2012

Everyone has stress in their job.  I was trying to think of a job that didn’t have some sort of stress and couldn’t come up with anything.  Here are a few thoughts:

Bartender – what if you make the wrong drink

Day care employee – their entire day is stressful, they try to keep kids alive an entertained

Toll booth worker – how can you be sure that the person driving up isn’t going to spit out their coffee on you

CFO – will anyone believe you didn’t dump your company shares before retiring just out of coincidence

See?  It isn’t easy.  The key to stress is how you deal with it.  My method is twofold.  I play the drums once or twice a week and workout every weekday.  Both are a great stress release, or they were, until I moved to a gym that has televisions in the cardio room. 

I have a very common ailment.  If there is a screen in a room that has moving pictures on it, my eyes are going to be drawn to it.  I’ve given up fighting it.  In fact, if I’m watching a game at home and my wife wants to ask me something, I have learned to pause the game (thank you, DVR) and in some cases, turn off the monitor so that even the still images are not causing a distraction. 

For that reason, if I’m in the cardio room on the bike, spinning class, treadmill, rowing machine, etc. I’m watching the screens.  At any given time there are four channels broadcast.  ESPN, HLN (headline news), NBC (on the local channel) and whatever network shows The Price is Right at 11:30 AM.  Since I am a fairly normal male, I’m usually watching ESPN but my eyes can’t help being drawn to HLN on a regular basis.  This is especially true during spin class.

Spinning is an interesting class which most people by now are familiar with.  You ride a stationary bike that allows you to make the pedaling harder or easier by spinning a dial or pushing buttons.  Usually you have a spin instructor talking you through hills, sprints, jumps, etc.  The class has music that plays while you ride.  It’s basically aerobics on a bike and you don’t have to be that coordinated.  So one would think that this would be distracting enough.

One would be incorrect.  I sit on the same bike twice a week and right over my head I can see Headline news.  The monitor is actually pointed out in to the cardio room so I’m really only watching at an angle but it is enough. 

So what does this have to do with stress?  Have you ever watched Headline News for an hour at a time?  Maybe you have.  Have you ever done it while you’re sweating and breathing hard?  You know what?  Don’t answer that.  Here is what they show on HLN in that hour. 

An aunt is accused of killing her five-year-old niece.  She was punishing her for eating a candy bar. 

Some school gave a nine-year-old girl four shots of HPV vaccine without consulting with her parents. 

The king and queen of Sweden have their first grand child.

One of the Kardashian’s is having a baby girl.  She already has a son.  You can go to our webpage and tell us what you think about her having a girl.

A former teacher is accused on forty counts of lewd conduct with his students.

Sarah Palin thinks that Obama’s first four years have been a complete sham.

Newt Gingrich says the one word to describe him is Cheerful.

The republicans are finally done with their debates.

Google knows everything you are doing even if you are not online.

Everything you do on the Internet is going to come back to haunt you.

A woman is protesting the wars by not paying her taxes so the fed is suing her.

There was a reporter doing a live report who kept talking while a car crashed into a taxi behind her.

Colorado had record winds and snow and a number of homes were destroyed.


So, let me ask, are you feeling relaxed now?

follow this if you can

September 4, 2011

I moved to Rochester, NY the day after I graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications.  I was going to be a radio DJ and move west in two years.

The first radio job I could get was with WXXI, AM 1370, an NPR affiliate in Rochester.  I was interviewed by Bud Lowell and took over the Sunday morning announcing gig that was the 6 AM to noon shift.  Lee Strong trained me for my shift.  He also worked for the Catholic Courier.

I mentioned to Lee that I was a drummer and he told me one of his coworkers at the Courier was trying to start up a band and would have him call me.  This man was named Rob Cullivan.  Rob was a songwriter, singer and harmonica player.  He was trying to form a band and was interested to see if he could do it without a guitar player.

I enlisted my younger brother, Jeff, as the bass player and was introduced to Andy T. on keyboards and Paul Hansen who played percussion.  Paul knew Rob through some sort of Brockport connection.  The band was called the Moonmen.

When my first lease ran out on my apartment, Paul invited me to move to the house he shared with three other people.  At that point, I was not only doing the Sunday morning shift at WXXI, I was also producing two talk shows: Bob Smith’s “1370 connection” and Susan Harf’s “Real Life with Susan Harf.”  I was also working a sales job for a buyers club and making very little money.

My brother used to come up on Monday night to practice with the band, spend the night, spend the day Tuesday, then practice Tuesday night and drive back to Ithaca since he was attending Cornell at the time.  On one of the days he was staying with me he found a list of job openings that one of my housemates had printed out and left on the table.  One of the openings was an operations position at Ambrosia Software.  I interviewed and got the job.

I met David “Cajun” at Ambrosia Software.  He was in charge of customer support or something like that and had a basset hound named Rufus.  He also hosted a show at WITR called Rochester Sessions.  Rochester Sessions hosted local bands and had them play for an hour on Tuesday nights live in the studio, no audience, just them and the host.  Cajun wanted to learn to run the board and not host, since he knew I had a radio background and was in a band, he invited me to host.  I took over hosting duties for the next two years and he, with the help of Ed Trefsger, took over engineering duties.

One night we had Bob Prong and his Salt of the Earth band.  This band was a four piece including Bob on vocals and guitar, Tom Chamberlain on vocals and guitar, Chris Clinton on bass and vocals and John “Frenchy” French on drums.  They came in to the studio and insisted on playing with the lights off to set the mood.  Frenchy played on Bob’s electronic drum kit.  I was not impressed and found them pretentious.

My brother was no longer playing in the band I was in and we had moved on from a group called the Moonmen to be called the Druthers.  We had a new bass player, Kip, and a new keyboard player/singer, Don Anonymous.  Rob Cullivan, Paul Hansen and I remained in the band.

A few months later, I happened upon a show at the Blue Sunday coffee house.  I do not recall the name of the band but it was two guys, bass and acoustic guitar and I recognized a few of the songs.  We were sitting at the bar when they came up and told me I looked familiar.  I told them they were on my radio show once and they introduced themselves as Chris Clinton and Tom Chamberlain.  They were still playing and needed a drummer.  I had a practice space, we arranged a practice session and Ned Pepper was born.

At one time, the druthers and ned pepper shared a practice space but that is not the point of this discussion.  One night, the guys in Ned Pepper were trying to convince one of our friends, Dawn Botting, to be a bit of a manager and book shows for us.  That conversation didn’t really turn out with her doing that but she had brought with her two other friends, Daisy Hutchinson and Lisa DeJohn, who hung out with us while we were making our sales pitch.

A number of months later I was at a show at Water Street Music Hall and happened to see Dawn with someone else.  I was introduced once again to Lisa DeJohn.  A year and a few months later we were engaged.  Four months after that we were married.

So, Rochester, WXXI, Lee Strong, Rob Cullivan, Paul Hansen, Ambrosia Software, Cajun, WITR, Tom and Chris, and Dawn, led to Lisa.  It was quite a journey.  I left a lot out but still got to the happy ending.  Well, perhaps to the “to be continued” part.

quick cycling math

August 27, 2011

My younger brother got me into cycling sort of.  He was the first to get a road bike, after a nasty road rash incident on his friend’s bike one summer.  I’m not sure why he got the urge to purchase his own but he did.  Then he started watching the tour de france.  Then I started riding again, mountain bike first, then my wife bought me a hybrid, then we debated between a Harley and a road bicycle.  It was decided I would have a lower risk of death on a road bike so that’s the direction we went.  Never mind the incredible cost difference, better health, etc.  My brother sold his bike (he lives in the Richmond, VA area so it’s not like we got to ride together anyway), and moved where he doesn’t have cable so I basically took up cycling and following the tour de france since he couldn’t anymore.  However, I started getting more into it, going for long rides on scheduled vacation days (instead of golfing which is what I used to do, the advantage being when I turn the handlebars I know where my bike is going, I can’t say the same for my golfball).  I also started following professional cycling, not only for the tour de france but all year around through the cyclocross season, the classics, the three tours and domestic races (I visit Pave and VeloNation on a daily basis, not during work hours of course).  I admit, it could be a problem.  Of course, my wife likes to do impressions of Phil Liggett now so I guess it can’t all be bad.

Anyway, I’m now watching the US Pro Cycling challenge which is based in Colorado and they just flashed Levi Leipheimer’s statistics on the screen.  He’s 37 (one year younger than me), 5’7″, six inches shorter, 136 pounds.  Are you kidding?  No wonder I feel like I’m dragging a ton of bricks up climbs while I watch him fly up a mountain, and he’s not even one of the better climbers (look, he’s good, he’s really, really good, I couldn’t hold his wheel unless he handed it to me as his mechanic after a flat).  The guy is 66 pounds lighter.  Go ahead, do the math, I’ll wait.  Okay, got it?  Did you get 192 pounds?  Yes?  Well then go back to school or get out your calculator.  That’s 202 pounds (weighed after my ride today of course) which seems at least a bit normal.  Of course, when I do my health assessment for work it tells me I’m overweight.  I find that funny since I do everything I can to stay in shape.  Anyway, every time I climb a hill I think about how fast I could climb it if I weighed 136 pounds.  Of course, that would mean that I was 12 years old, or whatever age I was when I actually weighted that much.  Crazy.  At least I know I’m probably burning more calories with my ride than Levi when I ride.  Plus, my arms are bigger and oddly enough, I have more hair.  Go figure.

how to make an omelette

August 17, 2011

this is how I make an omelette myself:  take three eggs and let them warm up to room temperature if you have time, crack them into a bowl and whisk with a fork until bubbles form, pour into a pan on medium low heat with a bit of melted butter, flip once and fill with whatever you have in the refrigerator that might taste good (cheese, peppers, onions, mushrooms, sausage, tofu), fold over, plate and serve

this is how a politician makes an omelette:  a politician is too selfless to ever make their own omelette, they would like to make one for you and hope that you like it.  they will first take your order and remind you they are up for re-election in November, a year and a half away.  they will ask you to repeat their order because they were too busy worrying about raising campaign funds for their next campaign to hear what you were saying.  they will go away and make the omelette.  they will come back and hand you a plate with dried toast.  you will ask, where is my omelette and they explain that one of their other constituents came into your house while they were making your omelette and that person owns a company that needs a government contract so that person gave the politician a contribution and received your omelette along with some toast.  these are the pieces that were left on the plate.

this is how an elite professional football player makes an omelette:  are you kidding? they don’t make their own omelette, they have people who do that for them.  in fact, they will often order an omelette with all the fixings, usually with the help of their agent to make sure they get just the right type of cheese.  halfway through the omelette, they will decide they need a different kind of omelette since they saw a player on another team eating one that looked better.  the agent will negotiate the new omelette and will handle any complaints and interviews asking why the first omelette seemed so good at first but suddenly wasn’t good enough.

this is how Chuck Norris makes an omelette:  according to the internet, without breaking any eggs.

Michele Bachmann Turned Overdrive

August 15, 2011

Hey Iowa, thank you.  Thank you for the straw poll results that I didn’t even know existed.  Thank you for declaring that MBTO is now the front-runner to go up against our sitting president.  Thank you for reminding me that there is more to you than corn fields and Hawkeyes.  You have launched what is sure to be a crazy storm of off the cuff remarks and anecdotes from the lady with the 5 kids from her husband Ace.  It was amazing to watch her start the spin on Meet the press this past weekend and I can only imagine that it will only get more insane from here forward.  Please make sure that when you hold the primary, since you get to do that because you’re Iowa and a juggernaut of political discourse, that you have a two person debate between Michele and our lady of the other miracle Sarah Palin.  I think you could probably book that on pay per view and sell it to college audiences as a drinking game.  Our sincere thanks, New York (the western part, not the down state city part, I think they think you don’t exist).

27 dresses

February 28, 2011

Awards shows: where people who are paid to pretend for a living award other people for being the best pretenders.  We watch for the entertainment and I know I’m not the first, or last to say that the Oscars last night was less than entertaining.  Never mind that the guy from Pineapple Express (if you ask me who he was) or General Hospital (if you ask my wife who he was) completely sucked as a host.  Never mind that the winners were way too predictable even though I watched a total of zero movies that were nominated (with the exception of Toy Story 3 of course, I do have kids after all).  There was really only one reason to really watch the show: to figure out how many gowns (or in one case, tuxes) Anne Hathaway could wear during the course of a show. 

It reminded me of an otherwise forgettable remake called Bedazzled.  The only reason to ever watch this was to see Elizabeth Hurley (a fine-looking actress even if she was a fembot after all) in various costumes throughout the movie.  It cracked me up that Brendan Frasier’s character never hit on her instead of his infatuation with his coworker but that’s not the point.  The point is, Anne Hathaway pulled that stunt during the Academy Awards and that seemed to be the only thing that kept it interesting.  I Googled the question, how many dresses and received this response: 7, plus 1 pant suit.  Thank you interwebs.

“thanks for the bread”

February 27, 2011

Continuing in our grand tradition of “enjoying” restaurants out of our comfort zone, I present to you our experience at Joey’s Pasta house in Penfield, NY.  My wife and I do not go out as often as we like since it requires coordination of a baby sitter, our schedules, a decent night to dine, perhaps a show, etc.  This often puts a substantial amount of pressure on the evening when it arrives.  This is not entirely fair to anyone involved but if you have kids and have to get a sitter because you don’t live near your parents or relatives, you probably understand.  (In fact, even if your parents are around, you still probably understand.)  That means that wherever we go, we’d better not be disappointed.

I’ve shared before some harrowing experiences at local establishments with initials in the name.  Perhaps I need to expand that to just names in the name.  A friend of ours suggested we try a place called Joey’s Pasta house in Penfield.  It has become a very busy restaurant known for its homemade pastas and sauces.  My wife made a reservation early in the week, we got a sitter and everything rolled along smoothly.  We arrived ten minutes early and were seated right away.  There were water glasses already poured, a dish with olive oil, a tomato/olive mix and garlic butter was sitting there and soon after we were seated a basket of bread arrived.  All was good.

We opened the menu, looked over a few things and wondered where the wine list was and how good that might be.  We watched our neighbor table, about two feet away from us, receive their entrees.  I closed my menu, having made my decision and we started on the bread.  We watched people moving around us, the hostess, who’s station was on the other side of the window from my wife (they could have communicated very well with hand signals), moved around sitting people, arranging the schedule, etc.  Each of us had two pieces of bread, sipped some water, looked at the menu again, and watched our neighbor table’s server return to offer them boxes for their entrees. 

Notice anything missing?  No one, not one person ever stopped by our table to greet us, offer us drinks, take our order, or really do anything other than drop off a basket of bread.  I looked at my watch, 25 minutes from sitting down we stood up, took our coats and walked past the hostess on our way out.  My wife very kindly said, “thanks for the bread”.  The hostess turned to me as I walked past and said, “what happened?”  I looked at her and said very plainly, “nothing, that’s the problem.  We’ve been here longer than 20 minutes and no one has taken our order for anything.  Thank you.”  She offered an “I’m sorry…” as we walked away.

The place was busy, the bread was tasty, the water was water, and we really enjoyed our dinner, at Lento.

Department of Health and Human Services warns against Craigslist Congressman Valentines

February 13, 2011

– Washington, DC

The Federal Department of Health and Human Services today issued a statement warning against using the “Craigslist Congressman” pose for Valentines greetings.  “We would like to suggest that men across the country refrain from taking pictures of themselves flexing in front of a mirror to send to their Valentine.  Our recent health reports show a majority of American men are overweight, especially following football season and we feel it would be a detriment for the overall physical health of the nation’s wives and girlfriends if we don’t keep such pictures from ever seeing the light of day.”

Verizon Wireless and AT&T have noted a spike in texts containing pictures going from accounts with male names to accounts with female names.  “Not that we actually check the pictures or account details or anything,” noted a spokesperson for AT&T, “but we do know the gender of the account owner and tend to monitor bandwidth usage.”  He continued, “We are wary of this sort of thing ever since the Brett Favre picture texting thing.  People tend to copy cat this sort of thing.  While I don’t think this is as bad an issue considering the content, I cannot vouch for the physique of many of these men sending pictures.”

The first Craigslist Congressman texting near fatality on record occurred outside a Walmart in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Sylvia Platt was leaving the store with a full cart when she received a text from her husband.  “I just thought he probably needed me to pick up some extra bacon or mayonnaise or something.  The next thing I know this picture pops up and that’s when I fell.”  Sylvia reportedly lost consciousness and was found lying in the middle of the parking lot with her cell phone clenched in her hand.  “It took me a second to figure out what it was.  I haven’t seen him with a shirt off since our wedding night and quite frankly we were both pretty drunk then so he was blurry at best.  All I can say is the man needs some sun and perhaps less bacon and mayonnaise.”  Her husband could not be reached for comment.

A spokes person for the Federal Department of Health and Human Services explained that they are working on a government funded program to assist those who just can’t help themselves.  “We are working with a few interns who are very good with Photoshop.  Our plan is to provide a site where you can upload your driver’s license photo and we will put your head on the top of an acceptable torso.  This will at least keep people from passing out in Walmart parking lots.  We do not want to encourage that behavior.”  The department hopes to obtain $2.3 billion in funding.  “Most of that will go to our lobbyists of course, as is the custom.  We hope to have this site up and running by mid 2013 which is pretty damn efficient by government standards if I do say so myself.”

on time warps and broken suitcase handles

January 10, 2011

I wrote the following on the Delta flight from Detroit, MI to Las Vegas, NV a week ago and did not have time to post it until now.  Enjoy:

Travelling always yields its share of stories and mishaps.  All too frequently we can find ourselves waiting out delays in the crowded solitude of an airport while friends and family send us encouraging words.  We’re used to the pat downs, the lines, the lousy food, the cramped quarters.  Really, everything there is about travel tends to have a negative spin.  This story is not much different.

This morning I departed our homestead for the wonders of Las Vegas.  Or at least as many wonders as I’ll be able to see since my itinerary is rather full from the time I land until I return with work related tasks.  Departing Rochester, NY is never all that difficult except that you have to connect out of a real airport somewhere along the line; mine today was Detroit, MI via Delta airlines.

The first thing that struck me upon my arrival was the security line at the airport, it stretched from the center security checkpoint all the way to one end of the terminal and looped back around.  I joined the line with little trepidation since I had plenty of time to make my flight.  Sleep had been rough the night before due to an ongoing nervous habit of missing my flight because of a faulty alarm clock.  My freshman year of college I was an Air Force ROTC cadet at RIT.  We used to have a class called Leadership Lab at 6:30 AM every Tuesday.  The very first Lead Lab found me waking up at 6:45 and running across campus.  I stood outside the room contemplating my next move before walking in confidently and sitting in an empty seat.  The seat was for the cadet commander (our highest ranking student officer) who was doing a presentation at the time.  Since then, I’ve had a bit of a phobia.  So this means whenever I have a flight the next morning (which thankfully isn’t often) I tend to sleep fitfully at best combining waking moments of brain surfing with dreams of missing my flight. 

Back in line, we were moving rather smoothly forward and then time stopped.  Or at least it seemed to.  There was a woman shouting “Roberts…we have six minutes to board the flight, six minutes.  Hurry up.”  This was referring to group of students from Robert’s Wesleyan College who were headed somewhere on an AirTran flight.  Using my incredible powers of 5:30 AM deduction, I figured out their flight was going to take off soon and this woman was hurrying them along.  Those of us in line wondered how they were going to pull of this feat.  “Roberts…we have six minutes to board!”  My fellow line people exchanged looks, I wondered if someone was going to wager on the potential for them to make their flight.  “Roberts, we have six minutes.”  Wait a second, didn’t she say six minutes two minutes ago?  Once again came the call:  “Roberts, six minutes”.  What was going on?  Were we in a time warp?  Had time frozen for the Robert’s kids?  I know some of the religious schools answer to a higher power, but one that could stop time? 

I thought this through as I made it into the security section.  I added two laptops, a digital video camera, my coat, shoes, belt, coat of armor and sword to the pile of things to slide through security.  The person working the security belt asked how my morning was going.  I told her rather well considering the hole in the space time continuum.  She smiled and wished me a nice day.  Next it was on to the body scanner.

“Please take everything out of your pockets, face that direction and hold your hands up” came the order.  “Now step outside and wait until you’re given the go ahead.”  I stepped out, the guy with the ear piece told me to stay put, and then he got the call in his ear.  “You’re all set.”  So no pat down, that did not find me disappointed.

All was progressing smoothly, perhaps too smoothly.  We boarded the tiny jet plane for Detroit, were airborne and arrived on time.  “Your carry on luggage will be plane side in the breezeway for you to get.”  I sort of like leaving my luggage there instead of finding room in the overhead bin.  Of course, as I approached the luggage rack, my attitude shifted.  Gone was my eye catching blue luggage tag.  In fact, gone was one side of the metal holding my top handle on the bag.  Gone!  This is metal.  What sort of monster had given that a mighty tug?  I was fuming.  What sort of person breaks luggage for sport?  Well, at least I have the side handle…the thought kept me cruising through Detroit’s airport labyrinth.  I arrived at the new gate on time, exchanging text messages with my wife back home who had put our daughter on the bus.  She couldn’t believe the handle was broken either.  Then came the clincher.  I rolled down the new breezeway, put my luggage on its side and grabbed the side handle.  Looking down I noticed that this too had a broken piece and I was now without either handle!  One flight, one trip, one simple task: move bag from one spot and put it another, could not be accomplished without someone breaking my bag in two places.  Was it someone in Rochester or Detroit?  A combination?  Do they mark specific bags for breaking and take care of each handle at the departing city and arriving city?  These are mysteries that will baffle me through the remainder of the trip.

 For now, I’ll sign off though.  I spent part of the flight fighting sleep to finish a work related book then cut up a live recording from a show my band played this past Saturday.  The guy in front of me keeps smacking his head against the headrest and another person keeps farting.  Airline travel continues to rock.  Like these six pretzels I’m going to eat.