Sure Sign That the Lawyers Are Out of Control

Just wanted to let everyone know that the peanuts served on Southwest Airlines are "Produced in a facility that processes peanuts and other nuts" per the warning printed on the packages of peanuts they hand out.  I thought that was good to know, since if I was trapped in a metal tube at 10,000 feet and allergic to nuts, I’d want to know that as I ate my peanuts.  A little late for that, don’t you think?  Not to mention obvious.

The Ignored Social Issue

We hear plenty of talk about various social problems in our world: homlessness, hunger, drug abuse, child and spousal abuse, road rage, lack of etiquette, poor reading scores, AIDS, etc.  However, there is one issue that only this blog and this blog alone is willing to tackle.

I’ve written about this before, but now it has started to spread: violence at classical music concerts.  This week, the Boston Pops had to stop their show because of a fight in the balcony.  What can we do to stop this senseless violence?!?!? 

Brahms not bombs!  Handel and Hayden not shivs and brass knuckles!

Is this what happens when you have people raised on aggressive heavy metal and rap music start to attend classical concerts?  They may need to ban the cannons from the 1812 Overture and start doing pat-downs on the way in.  And what happens when the mosh pits start to Holst?

Please, stop the violence before it gets out of control!

New Ways To Track Your Favorite Bands

I’ve raved about TourFilter before, and now here comes two sites that helps to automate the process based on your iTunes library.  The first is SonicLiving, which take a more manual and web-based approach, where it automatically detects which artists are in your iTunes libraries and you can choose who you want to include. 

The other, slightly easier one to use is iConcertCal, which works as a plug-in to iTunes and creates a visualizer that isn’t a trippy visualizer at all, but a calendar with all your artists on it.

They are both better than Ticketmaster, which continually lets some of my favorite artists slip by while taking great pains to tell me about every Sesame Street on Ice that comes around…

What a Circus!

So if you’re a young, childless couple looking for some fun on the weekend, and you live close to two major metropolitan areas, what could you do?  Go out for a nice meal… dancing… movies… a play…  or you could go to the circus and have a blast.  At least that’s what we did. 

It sounds crazy, and our two fears was that either a) we’d be surrounded by screaming children or b) it would be quite disappointing.  Fortunately, the screaming child factor was kept to minimum, especially after we moved to a virtually empty section after the intermission, and the circus kept us as entertained as 5 year old.   The trapeze act, the clowns, the lions… it is at least as cool, if not even better than you remember it.  In fact, going as an adult makes you realize how much of the show is used as a distraction for other parts of the show.  So while there’s this big daredevil act going on at one end of the stadium, when that is done, magically the tiger cage is all set up with all the tigers in it.  In all honesty, I don’t remember that from being a kid and makes you respect the complexity of the logistics.

I was also surprised/thrilled to see that the circus still travels by train.  While going into Providence this week, I saw the train cars all lined up on the tracks on the outskirts of the city.  It adds to the old fashioned romance of the circus to think about all those clowns and animals traveling by train.

On the other hand, the show started with a commercial for Campfire marshmallows.  Yes, a commercial.  The lights hadn’t gone down yet, but there were about 10 clowns out there, getting the crowd warmed up and doing a promotional bit for the little pillows of sugar.  I can’t wait until the childhood obesity activists get a hold of that one.

Speaking of unadulterated commercialism, our tickets were surprisingly inexpensive, making us think that it is a good value for families to go.  Unless you buy any souvenirs.  Then you might as well take them to the opera – $15 for a snow cone in a flashing plastic cup!  $10 for cotton candy with a paper hat!  $20 for a program!  So you can get IN for only $20 a person, but good luck getting OUT for under $100…

Speaking of modern additions to the circus, what’s a perfectly good innocent family-focused event without someone trying to ruin it?  Standing outside the stadium were two protesters (I’m sure even they would admit it was a weak showing) trying to raise awareness about the animal cruelty that goes on with the circus animals.  Personally, I feel like those tigers are doing alright – I wouldn’t have wanted to be in that cage with them!

The best part though was just feeling like a kid again – but being able to have a beer too.  Whether you’re 5, 25, or 50, tight-rope walkers and lions in cages, and human cannonballs are pretty cool stuff.

No Eric and Daneille, But Still Pretty Good

"Amazing Race" is probably one of the better reality shows out there, as it requires some actual skill to win and takes both participants and viewers to fascinating locals all over the world.   It is one of those shows that you might consider participating in, but that means going through auditions and taking a lot of time off from work if you even do make it on the show, with no guarantee of a reward. 

This past weekend, we participated in an urban scavenger hunt that was like the Amazing Race on a much smaller scale.  Called High Trek Adventure, it takes you through the city – in my case, Boston – trying to solve clues and using only your feet and public transportation to get to each location. 

It turned into a very fun, exciting and tiring day, but one that we’d do again.  We didn’t do too bad – we hardly won, but we found more clues than a lot of teams, including doggedly finding what was the gift of the MIT class of 1892 (flagpoles in the main quad area, in case you’re wondering).   If you want a taste of adventure without taking a leave of absence from your work, this is a great option.  It also gives you a day of great exercise (my feet are still a bit sore) and makes you see more of a city than you normally would.  I had never spent so much time walking through the back streets of Beacon Hill or the North End and saw some parts of Boston that I hadn’t explored before.  I also now know the subway system better than I ever did and after studying up for the race, I now have about a dozen new places in Boston I want to go. 

My only complaint is that I wish it had more historical locals that you had to figure out.  The clues were riddles that you had to solve to find restaurants, stores, etc.  I was hoping for more Bostonian trivia leading you to the location in question. Another company called Urban Dare offers similar experiences and seems to concentrate more on those type of questions.   

Yes, I WILL Have What She’s Having, As Long As Its the Pastrami

I recently have been traveling a lot for work, including three trips to New York City.  I"ve enjoyed the the delicious offerings of NYC delis on previous visit, but recently got to try Katz’s Deli for the first time.  Inspired by an "Cook’s Guide to New York" included as an addendum to Kitchen Confidential (incidently, an excellent book, especially if you have ever worked in the foodservice industry), I went not knowing the the movie history associated with the place.  I walked in and saw the many photos of celebrities who have eaten there and then saw the sign saying "This is where Harry REALLY met Sally – hope you’re having what she’s having!" referring to the famous "fake orgasm" scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally

Chick flick references aside, I went there for the pastrimi.  A relative of BBQ’ed brisket and corned beef, a good pastrimi sandwich is a glorious thing.  A bad one – much more common – is a disheartening gastrointestinal experience.  Katz’s has a unique serving system where you stand in line for a particular meat carver – clearly the regulars have their favorites – and while you are waiting for the meat for your sandwich to be carved (where it is corned beef, tongue, pastrimi or whatever), they offer you a small bite of the meat to sample and keep you occupied while hte sandwich is assembled by hand.  THe whole process is a little confusing, as it is a bit foreign, but the pay off is worth it.

The pastrimi is cut thicker here than at other NYC delis I"ve visited, and this is one piece of meat that can stand up to it.  Tender, juicy and flavorful, you could almost enjoy it without the mustard, if the mustard wasn’t so damn good. I don’t know what it is about deli mustard, but man, it is the only thing that can make a deli sandwich taste even better.   

There are plenty of fancy restaurants in New York City, lots of which will give you a long, luxurious meal at a white cloth-covered table.  But if you want some REAL New York food, you can’t beat a Pastrami sandwich from Katz’s.

Hint, Hint

The addition of tip calculators to just about every model of cell phone has made the basic math of leaving a tip in a restaurant almost obsolete for an entire generation.  I have always been a heavy tipper, not bothering to figure out that whole “before tax” thing – I usually just look at the bottom line, move the decimal to the left one space, and either add another 50% to leave a 15% tip or more commonly, just double it to leave 20%.  If the service was good, I’ll throw a little more in and if service was poor, I’ll round down.  Rarely is service so bad that I take the time to figure out something less or figure it out to the penny. 

Recently though, I came across one restaurant that had an interesting idea: at the bottom of the credit card receipt was a line that said “Be sure to tip your server” and then had the amounts calculated out for you at 15%, 18% and 20% increments.  Personally, I think this is a great idea, since I hate light tippers – I’ve never waitered and that’s for good reason, since I’ve worked in a kitchen and I know how miserable it is to be on the front lines.  Hopefully this gets people to leave a humane tip for these people who are usually otherwise sustaining on minimum wage and depending on tips to make their lives easier.