Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am a window sitter and I am ok with that

As a kid I never flew. If my family couldn't get there by car it didn't happen. Beach trips were pretty standard, we went to Disney world a couple times but that was about it - more on that later. I branched out a bit when I got a little older (and got my own car) and went on a few road trips to Austin, Houston, Memphis and a few other places, mostly in Florida. It wasn't until I was 24 that I actually flew.

My first flight ever was to London. Seven hours in a plane - more on that later. I think I stared out the window for at least six and a half. Might have been eating the other 3o, not sure and it was dark. I just tried to imagine how high we were and think about how far we really were away from everything else. I never looked back after that. If i was going somewhere, I was flying. Well, if i could afford it at least.

I love to fly. I still look up and see planes in the sky and wish I was on them going to the capital city of wherever.

I took my sister (who is 18 months younger than me) on her first flight shortly after that. We went to D.C. to visit Niki, Lindsey, and the other D.C. Clarks - which would eventually lead to the D.C. experiment currently running at around 4 years now.

All that is beside the point. My point is that I am a window sitter. This is certainly because I have an undying curiosity that cannot be subdued. When I first started flying, I could not understand why everyone didn't want to sit by the window. I mean, a view of the world from 20-30,000 feet? Who is going to wanna miss that? I made it (and still make it) a very strict point to place myself in the seat nearest the outside when picking the little funny chair on the website of whoever. I choose based on view (not too close to that wing) and of what I was hoping to see (right side when flying north over NYC to see the skyline, left side when flying into DCA hoping to get a view of the monuments, whichever side would have the sunset, etc, etc.)

After a while, I decided to give the aisle seat a try seeing as how on any given flight at a minimum 50% of the passengers choose this location (or just end up there.) I can see the convenience of the thing. Getting to stand up, get stuff out of the carry on, walk around without bothering the neighbor, go to the bathroom at will, get knocked in the knee by the drink cart, etc... I must say, with all of its conveniences, the aisle just does not do it for me. And besides, staring over the person next to me to try and get a view it is just not the same. And also sometimes makes the person next to you close the little sliding window thing and look at you funny.

So all i'm saying is that in the end, I will surrender all of ease and convenience of an aisle just to get that view and the realization that I am flying through the air and like Louis C.K. says, "sitting in a chair......in the sky!"

video

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On Reading

Me and reading have an interesting relationship. It's an on again - off again kind of thing that seems to require the perfect book or situation to work. I read two or three at the beginning of this year but started to feel guilty because I should have been reading study material for the LARE exam. There is still more that I should be reading but i'm at that lull between needing to study and NEEDING to study.... I am currently about 30 pages or so in to 4 or 5 books (that i don't know that I am going to continue with) and I am actually contemplating buying another one.

Maybe I just lose interest. Maybe my apartment is just not quiet enough. Maybe it is the T.V. Maybe I just have a really short attention span. Maybe I have too many social obligations. Maybe I just like going to the bookstore and buying books without the intention of reading them.

Oh, well, i'm going to see how this works out. Funny enough, the last girl who rented me a car suggested Ayn Rand's master work "The Fountainhead" which is freaking 752 pages. Let's hope that it catches my attention enough in the first 30 pages to keep me going on.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shooting little paper targets

I am not a hunter and have never had a reason to shoot a gun. I am not a big fan of guns in general and really have no business being around them. The thought that guns are the number one choice of humans who want to kill other humans is pretty scary and I know for every responsible gun owner, there are lots more irresponsible ones. That being said, the draw of trying something I had never tried before got the better of me and I decided to seek out a guide and a controlled, indoor firing range to shoot a pistol.

So I found one of my closer friends here to take me out to a range. He assured me that he had done this many times and was a pro. I told him that he was running the show. The first place we went was an outdoor skeet shooting place. As one exits the car, the sound of 20 to 30 shotguns firing greets you. I flinch for every one. I also look around erratically (and fearfully) at the dozens of additional citizens walking around carrying their second amendment rights on their shoulders. I have entered a war zone and had no idea what I was doing. This was far from the controlled environment that I was seeking and so we chose to move on.

The next place we stopped was more along the lines of what I had imagined from the movies I had seen (which is where I get all my gun-slinging experience.) You sign your name, take a quiz, pick your gun, your targets, and your bullets. This seemed amazingly easy at first because no one really asked either of us what our experience was or anything. They had a different lingo too for instance, bullets = rounds; glasses and earphones = eyes & ears; gun = pistol or revolver, etc. This would have have been useful information for me to retain for later on in this experience.

So we get a 'lane' to shoot some 'rounds' with our 'semi-automatic' 'pistol' and get to it. As we enter what is basically a shoe box with a bunch of heavily armed people in it, the flinching begins again. The gun which my friend the pro has decided to start with was a .22 Ruger which is basically like shooting a bb gun. The bullets are really small but seeing as I had never done this before and was already really stressed from the explosions occuring just 2 feet to my right this was fine. The whole experience is not bad and I am pretty good as far as shooting accurately is concerned but after shooting 50 or so rounds, I want to move on to bigger and better things. For some reason, my 'guide' decides that it is a good idea for me to go and ask for a bigger gun. This is where the gun lingo might have helped.

Being excited from shooting a gun for the first time, I head back to the counter which is now occupied by older more serious gentlemen. I decide to ask for "a bigger gun" which in firing range lingo doesn't fly very well. They then proceed to ask me about caliper, revolver vs semi-automatic, and as my blank stare and continued request for "something bigger than I just shot" continues, the chances of my being able to shoot again diminishes exponentially. They then move to a different line of questioning: "Who the hell are you shooting with?" My friend the 'pro' comes out and they give him the third degree and ask him some of the same questions which he also blows the answers to. They finally present him with a gun and ask him to pick it up. Apparently one of the cardinal sins of the range is picking up a gun and putting your finger on the trigger and holding it up.

It was at that moment that we were asked to "get out of there" and as we were walking swiftly out of the door I kept looking back thinking someone would be chasing for the feeling like we just got away with something really wrong was strong. No one came and this was the first time I had ever shot a gun.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

High Definition, Low Tech


So I bought a High Definition TV about a year and a half ago and I was living in a place where there was already the typical cable box setup so of course I had to get the High Definition channels. That is the reason I spent over a thousand dollars on a stupid piece of machinery to show me what real life looks like anyway, right? Why not "See it in HD?" The trouble with that is that in order for one to "See it in HD", one has to argue with his roommates as to why they now have to split a $140.00 a month cable bill as opposed to a $70.00 a month cable bill. First off that is way too much to ever, ever have to pay for something that actually serves no purpose in the home aside from entertainment, I guess. None of this occurred to me when I was purchasing the TV, though. I just wanted it. Well, after about 6 months, I moved out to my own place (I like to think the reason I had to move was the TV, but it's way more complicated than that) and took a while getting everything all set up and painted, etc. Then, like all apartment goers do, I started thinking about cable and internet options. It was then that I found where my cable wire was. Above the front door, coming out of the ceiling and about a hundred feet (serious exaggeration) from the tv! This may have been a testament to someones laziness or the fact that these used to be military barracks and as I mentioned before, TV's are not really essential to anyone's life. This turned into a classic case of aesthetics vs. entertainment which was then argued in the court of my mind. Not to be partial, but, aesthetics always wins when I am the judge. So I started looking into other options that did not require a wire zig-zagging over doors, book cases, under rugs, etc and not much came up. I finally did some searching on the internets and found a you tube video of this guy who made his own HD TV antenna. Apparently, most new HD TVs have a built in High Definition Digital Tuner that no one uses because they are all hardwired to that stupid cable box that costs so much. Also apparently most local and public television stations broadcast HD signals over the airwaves for cheap people like me to pick up for free. The info seemed legitimate and all I needed to make the antenna was a piece of wood, wire coat hangars, screws and some cable wire. The only thing I had to actually buy was some beers (because doing 'man' stuff requires this and I am pretending that this qualifies) and the antenna converter thing which was about $8.00. So I put it all together and got this medieval looking device that I thought for sure had no use aside from entertaining my crafty mind for a little while. After plugging it in and spending about an hour trying to figure out why it wasn't working I finally had a moment of clarity and switched the TV from "Cable" to "Antenna" (duh, the thing I just built) and quickly got 14 channels, most in HD, all of them digital. Wow. Albeit I don't get ESPN, the Cartoon Network, or any of those 'InDemand' places but as far as regular old channels that people have been getting by with up until recently I get them all. So I stuck the thing in the closet through the wall behind the TV so I didn't have to look at it and it has been working great for a good 8 months now. After thinking about this, I have come to a point in my life where I realize I don't need 500 channels if I can get what I need for the most part from 14. Also did I mention that it is free? Here is a link to the Video.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hi, my name is Jacob and I bake my own bread


Exhibit "A" Bread For Tomorrow's Bruschetta


So recently I came across an article in the New York Times about how to make your own "no knead" bread and I thought, hey this sounds freaking easy enough so I thought I'd give it a try. When I was done, I couldn't even get the squirrels excited enough to the brick that I was left with. I'm sure this was just due to my not having ever baked anything aside from a Totino's pizza or maybe some of those instant cookies at 3am.

Well, anyway I wasn't going to let this discourage me and seeing as how i had to buy an $50 dutch oven to do it i was at least going to try it 2 or 3 more times before i gave up. I did a little research and found a video article on Breadtopia.com (yeah, there is such a place) that had an altered recipe from Cook's Illustrated that used, of all things, beer! Now this is some bread that i can get behind. Anyway, the second, third and 7th attempts have all been great and consumed by co-workers, family, and friends. I never realized how fulfilling or how easy making bread could be. I think I am now officially off of store bought bread. Here's the recipe:


Jacob’s almost no knead bread stolen from the Internets

White Flour Recipe:

FOOD STUFFS NEEDED:

1. 3cups (15 ounces) bread flour with extra for your hands and stuff
2. ¼ teaspoon instant yeast (bread machine yeast)
3. 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
4. ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (7 ounces) water at room temperature
5. ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (3 ounces) Beer – Lager work best but use whatever as long as it isn’t a really dark stout
6. 1 Tablespoon white Vinegar
7. Cornmeal and olive oil for later

NOTE: To make Wheat Bread, substitute 1 cup (5 ounces) of bread flour for whole wheat flour and also add 2 tablespoons honey or sugar in the raw.


KITCHEN ACCOUTREMENTS NEEDED:

1. Oven
2. 5-8 Quart cast iron or equivalent Dutch oven that you are not afraid to put into a 500 degree oven
3. Parchment paper
4. Plastic wrap
5. Kitchen Scale (or not, but seriously, yes)
6. 2.5 quart (around that) glass or metal or whatever kind a bowl you got – this is just used to let the dough rise
7. Flat surface for doing baking related things
8. Skillet for proofing the dough or you can just use afore mentioned flat surface
9. Spoon of some kind
10. Kitchen thermometer of some kind
11. Rack or something to let the bread rest on after it is done again can be substituted with #7
12. Glass for drinking the rest of that beer out of or just a coozie. Whatever.


NOW FOR THE BAKING PART

  1. Ok, so adding all of this together is a lot easier and more accurate if you have a kitchen scale so I recommend that method of measurement. If not, just use the measurements listed above and it should be ok. That being said:
  2. Combine all dry ingredients except cornmeal (flour, yeast, salt, duh) in a 2.5 quart glass (or whatever kind you have) bowl and stir them around a bit until they are just mixed up – kinda like me.
  3. If you are using the scale method, zero it out at this point (can’t tell you how many times I forgot to do this part) and then add 7 ounces water, 3 ounces beer (bringing it up to 10 ounces liquid so far) then add the vinegar.
  4. Start drinking beer
  5. Stir this mess up just until all the dry is picked up in what looks like a big dough ball using a spoon or something like that that you can easily scrape off. I did this with my hands a couple times and I lost a lot of dough onto my fingers which is kinda pointless I think.
  6. Cover with the plastic wrap and then let it sit at room temperature for about 12 hours but it can be as little as 8 or as much as 18. I use a marker to write the time I started on top but that’s cause I’m a ‘weirdo’. The dough will double in size.
  7. Ok, after the dough has risen for the 8-18 hours, smell it and say “This smells kinda funny” or “Wow, this stuff got big and bubbly” then get over it and pour it out onto a well floured surface such as that mentioned above. At the same time, or a little before your weird comments, put a piece of parchment on top of the skillet (enough so that it goes over the edges) or flat surface and rub a bit of oil and then sprinkle some cornmeal in an area about the size of the dough ball
  8. Flour your hands and the top of the dough blob a bit then ‘knead’ it by folding it over onto itself about 10 times. Don’t do it too much because you want to keep some of the air in there. If it is sticky use a little bit of flour.
  9. Then sort of pull up the sides to the center and pinch them together creating a smooth flat side on the bottom. Then mold it in your hands into a roll keeping that ‘pinched’ side up
  10. Then turn the roll over so the smooth side is up and put on your parchment.
  11. Put a bit of oil on top of the dough (to keep the plastic wrap from sticking) and cover with plastic wrap.
  12. Let that sit (proof) for about 2 hours
  13. At mile marker 1 and a half hours of proofing, put your dutch oven into the oven and crank the temperature up to 500 and let it get hot for the final 30 minutes of proofing
  14. After the 2 hours of proofing, take your smoking hot dutch oven out, remove the plastic from your dough, and put the parchment and dough all together into the dutch oven trying hard not to drop it so it keeps its shape. Put the lid back on, put the dutch oven back into the oven and lower the temp to 425 (it is ok if the parchment sticks out and actually makes it easier to get the bread out later)
  15. After 30 minutes of baking, take the lid off of the dutch oven and cook for another 15 minutes or until the internal temperature is around 200 degrees and you have a nice brown crust
  16. After all that, take the bread out, put it on a rack, maybe take a picture of it and send it to your sister and say “wow, I just made bread” or “As God is my witness, I shall never go hungry again!” or something to that effect.
  17. Wait a couple hours (again) for it to cool and make a crust. Then, after all that, you can actually eat it.
  18. Now go clean your kitchen because it is now covered with flour and dough and damn, dough can turn hard a fricken brick after a little while if you just let it sit there.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Yes I Take Karate, No, I Am Not Karate Kid



I was looking for something to do that would keep me in shape and not be boring. That is the simple answer to the question "Why the hell are you taking karate?" I have never been in a fight, never taken any sports seriously, don't really have a big competitive side (although i like to talk alot of trash) and really had no motivation to get in shape. Since I have been living on my own for the past 7 or 8 months, I have been a sporadic lifter of weight and an even more sporadic runner, that is when I'm not watching tv or drinking beer. The phrase 'workout routine' is something that I seem to write down at least once every few months on a calendar or piece of paper or napkin in a bar but i always seem to forget what it actually means. I read a bit and love to cook but the exercise part just never seems to fit into my schedule.

About 2 months ago me and my friend Matt started really studying for the LEED exam and I decided to give up tv and beer and was left with a little void there to fill. I needed something to do that would keep me entertained and help with my mental awareness and also some kind of disconnect between work and going to study. I am realizing now how important exercising is at keeping me happy, energetic, and motivated to get things done. I also like kicking and punching the hell out of things after work and doing pushups (oddly enough). So, I have been going for about a month and a half now and I just got my first belt which is yellow (no, it is not pink like everyone keeps asking me). This is a very physical thing to do and also very challenging mentally. Trying to tell the difference between being too weak to do another pushup or kick or punch and my mind telling me that I can't was a real struggle to get through but I think I made it. Now, if i can only keep it up. I know that i'm in trouble when I start writing "go to karate class" on napkins in bars.