Friday, September 30, 2011

In Which I Take Another Guess

In the world of full disclosure for ingredients in food, I was surprised to see the ingredient list on the front of this juice bottle:

Here's a closer look:

How very carefully worded. Grape cranberry juice drink blended with "another juice" from concentrate. Are they ashamed to admit what other kind of juice is included in this particular product? In my opinion, if it's juice it should be mentioned clearly on the label. I mean, there are only grapes and cranberries imaged on the label. So what, exactly, is the mystery ingredient? Let's turn the container around and check the full ingredient list.

Oh. Carrot juice. 

Suddenly, cran-grape juice with added carrot juice doesn't sound so good. Maybe that's why they kept it off the label.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Which I Seek Advice

My parents run a bakery business out of their home. They specialize in pies, but also have a variety of cookies, biscuits, and sweet breads that are pretty damn tasty as well. They just wrapped up their third year, and have seen a considerable jump in growth over the past year alone where they are branching out into internet sales.

Being the resident computer geek in the family, my parents came to me when it came time to setup their website a few years ago. There hasn't been much done with it, but with the summer season behind them and the holidays approaching, I've been working on getting their website setup with a store so their customers can order and pay for what they want independently. I can handle all of the coding and logistics of setting up the store, but there is one part of the process that I am bit intimidated by.

Food photography.

I've read up a lot online about the basics of food photography, and I think I've got a good grasp on the fundamentals. In my research I've seen a lot of really good photos, and a lot of really awful photos. It was very obvious to me that there is a lot to consider when taking pictures of food, because you ultimately want the food to look appealing.

Does anyone who reads my blog have any experience in food photography? Any suggestions on staging, lighting, or post-production work? Any learned-through-experience type stuff you can pass along? I would greatly appreciate it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

In Which I'm Not Very Serious

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) – The continuing decline in value of the American Brownie Point (ABP) has lots of people talking. The widespread impact has hit the American male demographic especially hard, from the lower class all the way to the elite upper class. Where their tax brackets would normally separate them, these men are now finding themselves as equals when it comes to their hard-earned Brownie Points, and most are scrambling to keep their heads above water. 

“We have no one to blame but ourselves,” says Albert Freehold, president of a private consulting firm in New York. “We should have pushed for standardization of ABP currency long ago. It’s unfortunate that it has taken a crisis like this for the majority of American men to realize that.” Indeed, ever since the American Brownie Point was first introduced in 1959, there has not been much, if any at all, mutually agreed upon standards in regards to their accrual rate and redemption value. 

For those unaware, Brownie Points usually are given to men in relationships who perform random or otherwise unprompted acts of generosity or kindness for the exclusive benefit of the other party in the relationship. These points would be given to the male from the receiving party, and qualifying relationships types range from those who are dating to those who are married. Many would agree that the biggest flaw in the process is that there is no verbal exchange of how many points were given for any given event. Instead, it’s simply understood that points will be given after the act, and that the number of points differ in proportion to the generosity of the act. For example, the amount of Brownie Points given for flowers bought for no special occasion would be understandably less than the amount given when an expensive piece of jewelry is just as spontaneously gifted. One obvious flaw in this system is that the interpretation of the level of generosity of the event is subjective to the recipient. Flowers may be worth a small amount to some, but to others it would be a significant gesture. 

Other factors besides the value standardization issues have attributed to the loss of point value, most notably that the receiving party in the relationship can decide to either void any accumulated points at their discretion (usually following an incident caused by lack of foresight or consideration on the male party’s behalf), or that they no longer consider Brownie Points to be a factor within the relationship. In most cases, however, the Brownie Point loses value in direct correlation to the length of the union. Male parties in long-term relationships are the ones hardest hit by the recent decline in value, as they are finding that their hard-earned points are worth less than those of their comrades who have been in a relationship for less time, even if they were earned for the same type of event. 

“At first it seemed like the smallest thing I did earned me points,” claims Stan Larson, 27. “But after a few years with my girlfriend, she became to expect these things from me, and I no longer earned points for doing them.” Larson isn’t alone in that regard, either. Many men feel they are being shorted on point accumulation because their kind gestures have become accepted as a standard in the relationship. 

There is often curiosity as to what these men use their points for. The currency can be used for a variety of things, like buying forgiveness when an important date is forgotten, or when the trash wasn’t taken out to the street when promised, or when poor decisions are made by the male and grievances must otherwise be paid. Still others cash them in for more intimate purposes. The fact that they can be used for resolving relationship or marital issues is a major reason why so many men are feeling the impact of their decline in value. They are being forced to come up with other ways to resolve them when their points run out. 

The receiving end is not without comment. "Partners in a relationship should want to do nice things for the other person out of genuine desire," says Jennifer Peterson, 31, "not with the thought that there is an incentive for good behavior." In her own history of relationships, however, Jennifer admits to using Brownie Points at one point or another. 

Peterson does bring up a valid point. There is much that could be said about both parties in a relationship needing to do nice things for each other every so often, without incentive, as a way of showing (in another manner, at least) that they still care. Spontaneity is often a welcome spice when mixed into the often mundane flavors of life.

“Brownie Points are an American tradition that is worth saving,” adds Freehold, “but it will take considerable effort from both sides of the coin. It's the science of reciprocation."

Are Brownie Points on their way out? Let's hope not.

A. Nonymous, reporting.


Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Which It's the Bad Kind of Creepy

I was coming up the stairs to my apartment last night and I noticed three things. First, that the light bulb in the hallway light had burned out. Second, that despite my recent proven history of being able to walk up and down stairs for the past 26 years almost without incident, I found myself incapable of walking up the short flight of stairs in the dark without tripping on a few steps. Third, that upon getting to the top of the stairs, there were a pair of eyes watching me, gleaming in the dark.

I froze and tried to focus my eyes on what was so intently looking at me. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw a small figure standing still on the third floor landing. The hairs on the back of my neck started to rise, and then The Boss opened the apartment door, spilling light from inside the apartment out into the hallway.

"What are you doing? Enjoying standing out here in the dark?"

"No," I said defensively. "I was creeped out by something, and I was trying to figure out what it was."

"Where?" she asked.

I pointed at the third floor landing, and just then the motion sensor on the hallway light clicked on. I turned to see just what exactly my creepy nighttime spectator was.

A scarecrow. An intended-to-be-whimsical, season appropriate decorative scarecrow. Starting to feel a little sheepish, I turned back to The Boss in hopes that she hadn't seen what I had just claimed to have been scared by. No such luck.

"Really, Mike? A doll? You were scared by a doll?"

"It's a scarecrow, thank you very much, and in the dark hallway all I could see was its eyes, staring at me!" I protested. "You would have been creeped out, too!"

She turned to go back into the apartment. "Unlike you, dolls don't creep me out."

It'll be a while before I live this one down.

P.S. Happy 64th Birthday, Stephen King!

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Which I Capture

Adding digital cameras to cellphones was one of the best ideas for modern technology. Without that brain child, I wouldn't have been able to capture this:

Feel free to click on the image for a high-resolution version. This was taken on the outskirts of a parking lot. The clouds looked close enough to be able to touch.

Happy Monday, folks.

P.S. My birthday is tomorrow. The big 26!

Friday, September 16, 2011

In Which I am MacGyver


The Boss is calling me from the kitchen, and I'm watching TV in the living room. "What?"

"Did we unpack any measuring cups with the stuff we brought from the storage unit?"

"If you can't find anything in the drawer," I said, getting up and going into the kitchen, "then probably not, no."

"Shit." She turns and looks at the various pots and pans on the stove. "Well, I guess I'll just have to eyeball it."

"Hang on a second," I said. "What do you need to measure?"

The Boss picked up a box on the counter and read the directions. "Three quarters of a cup."

"Hold up for a second."

I leave the kitchen and come back with a Sharpie. Grabbing a plastic cup and one of Baby Badass' baby bottles from the drying rack, I set to work. Doing some math calculations on the fly (while playing eighties action-sequence music in my head), I came up with this:

One measuring cup, six different increments.

I'm not entirely sure how accurate the 1/3 cup measurements would be compared to an actual measuring cup, but I'm pretty confident in the 1/4 cup markings. I mean, eight fluid ounces per cup, right? That's cake when you're measuring out two-ounce increments using the markings on a baby bottle. 

Who knew they'd come so much in handy?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Which I Get Interviewed

A few weeks ago I got an email. It was from a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, and she was doing some research for a special interest piece on how to know when you are ready to have children. Having written a few things on just that subject, she found me through the internet and sought me out for an interview.

We spent a good 45 minutes on the phone the day that Tropical Storm Irene hit Maine, sitting in my office while the power was out. I talked about a few of the things I had written about before here, and some things I hadn't verbalized yet. It was an interesting experience, talking with a relative stranger about something so deeply personal, about some things that even The Boss hadn't heard about. It was nerve-wracking and cathartic at the same time, and it helped me to sort some things out in my own mind, so for that the interview was a good thing.

I don't know if I made any sense at all to the reporter, but I hope I gave some good tidbits that helped towards the article. It is up right now on the Chicago Tribune website, and I've been told that it'll be in this Sunday's printed edition. 

Exciting stuff.

P.S. If I have any readers in the Chicago area, I'll pay you to get a few copies of the paper this Sunday and mail it to me. Shoot me an email if you can help.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Which I'd Be Horrified

If I was a young, impressionable kid, and I saw this at the store, I'd be horrified:

Once I got over the excitement of seeing one of the characters I've seen on TV in something tangible, I'd start to realize what was awfully wrong about it. First of all, she's obviously been in a tragic steamroller accident, because she's very, very flat. I would then imagine that someone tried to save her from the steamroller but only succeeded in stretching her arms out like Stretch Armstrong and giving her gargantuan hands (equipped with cupholders). Thirdly, clearly something bad happened with her legs, too, as they're pretty short. Well, I guess they only look short because of her ginormous arms and torso. 

This is a prime example of going to far for the sake of product tie-ins. When I was a kid, my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle underwear was enough for me.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Which I Am Proud

My daughter is almost five months old. She is an incredible kid, and The Boss and I are always saying to ourselves how lucky we are. A few weeks back I went through all of the pictures I have of her that I've taken since birth, and thought it'd be neat to put it all together in a montage.

So I did.

And so here it is, just a few days shy of five months since she was born, that I officially announce my child to all of you. Here is Amelia Rae, my daughter, from birth to four months.

I am in awe of her every day, and I am very proud to be her father.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Which I'd Turn and Leave Quietly

It never fails. You think you know somebody, and then they go and do something so completely off base that forces you to change your opinion of them. Like my drug growing, hoarding neighbors downstairs. This time, instead of judgmental opinions, I have hard evidence to back up my thoughts.

I had to make a trip down to the basement of our building to reset a circuit breaker yesterday. The basement is a creepy place, dirt floor, cobwebs, and plenty of dark corners for things to lurk in. Armed with my flashlight I quickly reset the tripped breaker, and went back upstairs. To get to the stairwell, though, I had to pass the door to the back entrance of my downstairs neighbors apartment. I saw something taped to the door, so I stopped to look. And of course, the one time I leave my camera phone upstairs, I get something like this:

(Artist Rendering)

Don't get me wrong. I dislike being accosted by tie-wearing mobile preachers just as much as the next person. I just thank them for trying, and send them on their way. My downstairs neighbors apparently take a different approach to protecting their atheism or agnosticism. 

Reactions like this to the religion of others is one of the reasons why we have unrest in the middle east.

Monday, September 5, 2011

In Which I'm Glad I Have the Day Off

Ever have a weekend where you felt like you were running around and never got a chance to catch your breath? Then, when you finally do get a chance to sit down and relax, you remember a bunch of other shit you were supposed to get done? That night's sleep goes by in an instant, and you wake up Monday morning, exhausted, and you wonder how you are going to make it through the day?

This picture sums all of that up.

After an exhausting weekend, thank God I have today off from work. For those who also have the day off, I hope you can relax, have a few cold ones, and savor these last fleeting moments of summer. For those who have to return to the daily grind, well, take comfort in knowing that somewhere in central Maine, one cute little baby knows exactly how you feel.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, September 2, 2011

In Which I Appreciate Electricity

There is nothing quite like the new-found appreciation you have after you get back something you've lost.

Thanks to Hurricane aka "Tropical Storm" Irene, the Badass Geek household was without power for a little over 72 hours. Had it just been The Boss and I, it wouldn't have been such a big deal. With Baby Badass in the picture, though, it was an exercise in patience. I'm very thankful that our power company managed to get our lights on as quickly as they did, because I know there are lots of people who are still without power and will remain that way for another couple of days. 

It's been a hell of a week. I managed to skip out of my regular posts earlier this week due to the power outage, but when I put my mind to the task of coming up with something to write about for today's post, the only thing I could think of was to gripe about being without power. I'm going to take the high road and just move on, and list a couple of things The Boss and I did to pass the time while our lights were out.
  1. Sat in the dark,
  2. Made shadow puppets, most notably Paul the Hump-Backed T-Rex,
  3. Thought about creepy things that lurk in the dark,
  4. Wondered how much a thousand lightning bugs would cost, and if they'd be a reliable source of lighting,
  5. Played a rousing game of "Name That Generator,"
  6. Thought of all the cool things I could be doing if I had electricity,
  7. Simultaneously cursed and encouraged the power company,
  8. Prayed that our cooler would save the contents in our fridge,
  9. Took advantage of the pure darkness in the neighborhood and walked around our apartment mostly naked with the shades pulled up,
  10. Suffered from withdrawal symptoms from lack of wifi but pretended it was from narcotics instead.
Out of all those, the most fun was had with the shadow puppets. We may be in our late twenties, but The Boss and I still know how to kid around.

Have a good weekend, everyone.