Monday, December 7, 2015

Pizza Tour and a Milestone

I checked in at a handful of sites for work last week. When I parked the car on Friday, I had driven just over 1000 miles. I don't know how truckers do it constantly. There's something about that kind of road trip that inspires absurdly unhealthy eating patterns. At least in me.

On the first day, I had to be in Corning before lunchtime. I made it, had a meeting and found out my second stop near Olean had been pushed back an hour. Time for lunch. There were two well reviewed pizza places on Yelp. Both were just a few miles away and I thought the pictures from one looked better than the other so off I went for a slice at Aniello's.

Nice place. OK slice. The crust didn't have much flavor. The next morning, there was snow on the ground and I drove around the Southern Tier almost out to Jamestown. I also managed to get lost and that added a few miles to the drive. When the sun set, I was in Buffalo. I've run into OG Woodfire Pizza on Twitter and the pizza forum. When I found out he was going to buy at a small neighborhood holiday event, I knew I was going to have to stop for a visit.

I got up to the truck and ordered a maple-pancetta pizza and started chatting while Jay went to work. Once we started talking he said, "Wait. What's your screen name?" And when I told him he invited onto his truck. We nerded out talking about pizza and ovens for almost 3 hours while Jay made pizzas for customers. It wasn't busy, the weather wasn't really cooperating with a cold wind and sprinkles. When a customer ordered, Jay said, "OK, give me 4 minutes." A little under 2 minutes to make it, a little under 2 minutes to cook it and the extra time was used slicing and boxing the pie.

During my visit he also invited me to make a pizza in the oven. I could hear Howie Rose: "Put it in the books...December 3, 2015: Jon made a pizza in a wood fired oven." And yeah, even though I need to work on my turning peel skills, it was pretty awesome. Still smiling.

There it is. My first wood fired pizza.

After I left the neighborhood party, I checked into a hotel and wrote out notes on how Jay made the maple/pancetta pizza. It's sweet and salty and cheesy and delicious and would need to be tried at home.

Since there is never enough pizza, I had read that Lovejoy Pizza made a classic Buffalo style pizza. I had followed a few threads on people trying to duplicate this style and was curious. So off I went with my friend Kevin to get a Buffalo Style pizza. It seemed like most Buffalo style pizza was cheese or cheese with pepperoni. We went with pepperoni. I ordered it and was told 20 minutes. This struck me as a little odd. I certainly wasn't expecting the 4 minutes of OG Woodfire but I figured closer to 10. Turns out Buffalo style takes a long time to cook.

While we stood there, I looked around. The place is also know for their wings and I think everything in the shop is coated in a layer of grease. There was a fan pointed at the grill station that was just gross. The only thing that wasn't greasy was the large TV showing the Thursday night football game. They should close for a day and have a cleaning party.

Cleanliness aside, it turns out I don't like Buffalo Style pizza. The dough was oily and flavorless. The sauce was really sweet (although almost all red sauce I have had in Buffalo is on the sweet side). The pepperoni is OK but overall, this was that bland, bready pizza you would expect at a kid's birthday party in a bowling alley. If this is classic Buffalo style pizza, I'm out.

I got back to Albany on Friday afternoon. One of my kids wanted to have a friends family over for pizza this weekend. I had wanted to try something new with my current dough recipe so I made a batch of dough Friday night. Friday night I mixed everything (using a lot less yeast) and did a little kneading. Then I covered the dough and left it in the basement instead of the fridge. About 64 degrees instead of 38. On Saturday morning, I portioned the dough, balled it and put it back in the basement. I made 8 of the doughs for dinner Saturday and left 4 in the basement. Sunday afternoon I cooked up the rest of the dough balls.

I had to give that maple/pancetta pie a try. There are a few things I think I could improve on my technique with the pie, but it is delicious. Definitely adding it to the rotation.

I'm only going to eat salad tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blast from the past

I had told my kids about these, but I thought they were extinct. Removed by people who put "safety" above all other things. Recently, I saw what I believe to be one of the last of these in the wild: The Playground Merry Go Round.

My old elementary school is across the street from my mother's condo. Every now and then when look longingly at the corner where the merry go round used to be. It's a little, plastic climbing wall now. I had told my kids about it and how much fun they were. I didn't think they would ever get to ride.

I first spied this merry go round after a rain. The trench caused by years of happy little feet running in circles was completely filled with water. Our fun would have to wait. Until today. I spun my youngest daughter around, took a few pictures and then hopped on too.

We laughed a lot and it took awhile for the merry go round to slow down. Then she spun me around and took some pictures of me.

My older daughter was in a dance class during our fun. After the class, spun her around too. No pictures though, it was pretty dark by 5:30. I left pretty dizzy, but with no regrets. I'd totally do it again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mets... [sigh]

Not surprisingly, my view on sports championships kind of mirrors The Pizza Cognition Theory. In my opinion, when rooting for a sports franchise, no victory will ever be sweeter or more joyous than the first time your team wins it all.

Let me give you an example. I grew up in Connecticut and went to UConn. The UConn basketball team was slowly getting better and would make it into The Tournament. There was a miracle last second full court pass to a buzzer beating shot that basically caused the entire state to erupt. In Connecticut, this play is simply referred to as The Shot.  Unfortunately, two days after The Shot, Duke and freakin' Christian Laettner beat the Huskies with a last second shot of their own.

In the 1999 tournament, UConn went all the way. And they beat Duke for that title too. I remember everything about the night. We were at a co-workers house. I wasn't sure I wanted to go. I need space to pace and yell at the TV and generally support the team. I remember Duke coming back to tie the game. I remember being frozen and mumbling "not again, not again, not again." But UConn won. And it was thrilling. After the get together, we went home and I talked with my brother on the phone until a little after 3. That year, we spoke briefly on the phone almost every Monday night until the next tournament started. "How are you enjoying week 17 of being national champions?"

The UConn men's team has won the championship three more times. It's fun. We talk on the phone after tournament games. But it's never as good or sweet as 1999. And we don't talk about it all year long.

I was 15 in October of 1986. When the first pitch of the famous Game 6 of the Mets-Red Sox World Series was thrown, I was at a Billy Joel concert at the New Haven Colosseum with both my brothers and my buddy Rick. With Connecticut being the buffer between New York City and Boston, the crowd's loyalties were evenly split. Billy Joel would provide updates every once in awhile in between songs. There was a guy nearby watching the game on a itty bitty portable TV that probably cost a fortune - no smart phones in '86. The guy about died at one point. I'm assuming that was when Ray Knight made an error in the 7th. The concert ended but the game was still going. We hurried back to my brothers dorm at Southern Connecticut College and watched the end of the game in a common room. It was amazing. We jumped up up down. We hugged strangers. We celebrated with a beer in my brother's room (It was a long time ago so you can't be mad, Mom).

In the off chance you would like to relive that bottom half of the 10th inning, here it is, brilliantly reenacted in old school RBI Baseball.

The Mets went on to win Game 7 and their first and only World Series of my lifetime (so far). If they won it all this week, it would have been great. But it wouldn't have been as much fun as '86.

I don't watch much baseball. There really isn't time to follow the Mets. Instead, I follow a few people on Twitter who keep track of the Mets for me. Watching Daniel Murphy play was incredible. That was an amazing streak of home runs. Yes, he made some bad errors but without Murphy, there's no doubt Citi Field would have been dark this weekend.

This October was fun. And yeah the Mets lost, but they did it in classic Mets fashion - as painfully as possible. Maybe they'll make it back soon. I'm ok if it takes a little while. My kids will be older and could watch more than the first inning. You only get one shot at watching that first team victory. It would be nice if the girls could really enjoy it.

In other news, Chase Utley still sucks.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Another "We're Out"

The Mets just lost so I'm going to complain about something stupid and petty and stupid and I would have probably let it go if the Mets didn't just lose. But I'm going to bitch and moan....about ketchup.

I like to think that I'm usually sympathetic to mistakes. I get it. Things happen. I already wrote about running out of stuff already here. I get it if a special sells out. And I get it if you thought you'd have enough but you misjudged and ran out. However, if there's an easy opportunity to restock what you're missing, I don't understand why a restaurant's management wouldn't just take care of it.

Tonight, the restaurant was out of ketchup. Our waitress explained that they were out and offered a bowl filled with some to-go packets of Sysco ketchup. As it turns out, the fries were good and I wouldn't have put ketchup on them anyway. Disaster averted...for me. I'm going to guess that 75% of the plates coming out of the kitchen come with fries. Other diners got stuck with crappy ketchup, or just had to go without ketchup. I know, tragic right?

At 5:30 on a Sunday with football games and a World Series game later, they're looking at some demand for ketchup with a night full of fries and burgers on the way. All they have is teaspoon packets filled with ketchup no one wants.
There's a supermarket across the street. They sell ketchup. So does Target, BJs, Walmart and lots of other places. Buy a few bottles, squirt some in a little dish and give it to people that request ketchup. If you got lucky and caught the hours right, Restaurant Depot would have cases of it. Problem solved until your next Sysco delivery, your servers don't have to uncomfortably explain that you're out of ketchup, and your customers will be happier without old packets of crappy ketchup.

There are many difficult aspects to the food service industry. Finding ketchup is not one of them.

Did I mention the Mets lost? And I may or may not be drowning my sorrows with adult beverages. The ends of games 4 and 5 were brutal.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A dissenting opinion

Last week I went to see The Book of Mormon at Proctor's.

I thought it was an extended episode of South Park, had a few good laughs (one very good laugh) but really wasn't anything special. It wasn't hilarious and like many things Matt Stone and Trey Parker do, the play devolves into a series of dick jokes. I kind of feel alone in this opinion. Everything I had heard about the play basically said it was the best/funniest thing that ever came to Broadway.

I must have had a stunned look on my face when the lights came up for the intermission. My wife asked, "Are you OK?"

"I thought it was going to be really funny. I guess my expectations were too high," was my reply.

Then we spent the intermission keeping track of the Mets on a phone.

The second half of the play was better than the first. The play builds to a climax, that even I thought was humorous while making a very thoughtful observation about faith. That quickly went away when half of the cast started wagging fake dicks. That particular scene was funny and good and thought provoking and not made better by another dick joke. Especially since most of the scene already relies on a callback to a joke about fucking a frog.

When the play was over, they entire crowd jumped to their feat to give the cast a standing ovation, leaving me and my wife sitting there, looking at each other thinking, "Seriously?" The idea of giving this performance a standing ovation hadn't even occurred to me. I guess every kid gets a participation ribbon and every traveling Broadway play at Proctor's gets a Standing O.

I don't go to the theater often. And I'm cheap. So while walking back to the car, I couldn't help but wonder what I would have rather done with the $200 I had spend on the night (tickets plus a sitter). The last time I saw Springsteen was cheaper. If you're in New York City, you could go to The Comedy Cellar a handful of times (and laugh harder) for that money. That's also a lot of pizza. I stopped thinking about it once the list was sufficiently long.

On one hand, the play made me think about haves and have nots, faith and organized religion. There was even a kind of catchy song that was stuck in my head for a little while. And in the other's another dick joke.

My father would have said, "It wasn't terrible." My grandfather would have said, "Uch. They make up a story."

They'd both be right.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Burger time

I was recently invited to go on a local burger tour with the past Tournament of Pizza judges from All Over Albany. How can you say no to that?

For the past few years, I have tried to only eat our own beef. For the most part, I've been pretty good. When you get a side of beef, you end up with a lot of ground beef. I'd guess about 100 to 120 pounds of it depending on the year. That's a lot of meatloaf, tacos. nachos....and burgers. I've got to tell you, our beef makes a kick ass burger. I think a Prinzo's hard roll puts it over the top, but that's a minority opinion in the house. If you are looking for a cheap, white bun I'd recommend visiting a Stewart's.

Here's a summary of my thoughts on the four burger joints we visited one fun Saturday. The complete All Over Albany write up of the burger tasting is here and this is a link to the fries and kind of a wrap up.

Bun: I'd never seen a bun branded before. The only think I can think of that compares is a toaster Darth Vader toaster that burns "Star Wars" into the slice. This was a toasted potato bun and had a little sweetness to it.
Meat: The burger was well done, not much beefy flavor to it but it had a nice amount of fat to it.
Toppings: Plenty of nicely melted cheese, there was also a French's style mustard taste that I'd skip if I were ordering for myself and the lettuce and tomato were there but nothing special.
Fry Texture: Nice and crispy on the outside and very soft inside. Kind of like a mashed potato.
Fry Flavor: I really liked these fries. I think I'd try to order them well done to compare.

So while this particular burger wasn't spectacular, it made me think that if I came and ordered a burger specifying my personal burger preferences, I could get a pretty good burger here. And the fries would be hard to stop eating.

Burger 21
Bun: I liked the bun. It was lightly toasted, but the  burger removed any toasted texture.
Meat: Well done but still juicy, fatty and very rich. I did a double take on my first bite. There is no mistaking this for lean.
Toppings: There was lettuce and a very good slice of tomato. There was also a lot of yellow mustard, ketchup and mayo that combine into a special sauce. Too much sauce that also took away from the bun.
Fry Texture: These are a McDonalds style fry with not much too them. They're just salt delivery device.
Fry Flavor: I thought they had a little bit of an off after taste.

I get that fat is flavor in a burger. That said, I thought the burger was too fatty and McDonald's does a better version of these fries.

Bun: Toasted, but very soft and didn't hold up
Meat: Good flavor but I didn't notice the crust they they are known for having.
Toppings: Lettuce, decent tomato, good pickle chips, ketchup, mustard and some incredibly strong red onion. With the onion on the burger, that was all you were going to taste. I like onion, but I took it off.
Fry Texture: Thin and very crispy, but a little greasy
Fry Flavor: not much there

I had heard good things about Smashburger. Maybe this was an off day. I liked the beef, but the overall burger was unimpressive. The fries were nothing special.

Five Guys
Bun: light toasting, good flavor, and I liked the sesame seeds. Only bun of the day with seeds.
Meat: Not much crust, but good flavor and juicy
Toppings:A lot of mayo (too much), best lettuce of the day, a decent tomato, ketchup, mustard and some very strong diced onion. Maybe I don't like raw onion as much as I thought.
Fry Texture: crispy but soft on the inside
Fry Flavor: Salt. There was a lot of salt on this batch of fries.

This was the only shop I had visited prior to this tour. I wasn't impressed at that visit and never understood why people liked Five Guys. I can definitely see the appeal of that burger now.

Out of these shops, where would I go back for a burger? BurgerFi would top the list for me. I liked the restaurant and I'd like to see how they build a burger to order instead of right off the menu. And eat more of their fries. Too bad you can't make a Franken-Burger and fries combo with the best aspects of each place.

When the tour was over, I popped into to Whole Foods for a few things - basil and mushrooms for pizza on Sunday plus a bottle of seltzer - then headed home. Once there, I proceeded to fall into a minor salt induced food coma that probably involved some loud snores. When I came to, we had been invited out to diner by another family. After a day of eating burgers, I drove the family to Red Robin.

I just had a small salad. Timing is everything.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Almost time to go curling

I bring it up every once in awhile, but I am a member of the Schenectady Curling Club. Yes, that game one ice with brooms and rocks that is strangely hypnotizing every 4 year at the Winter Olympics. Sure, it is kind of a silly game but games by definition are silly. Anyone can throw a dart or hit a golf ball. The hard part is making the dart or ball go where you want it to go more often than not.

Anyone can push a stone on ice. Getting it where you want to go is the challenge. To me, the best shot is one that requires everyone on the 4 person team. The skip (team captain) calls the shot, the shooter takes the shot, but the shot can't get there without help of the sweepers. In some cases, I think the ideal shot is not within the realm of physical possibility without sweeping.

And like in Bull Durham: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes there's a blizzard. Think about that for awhile.

However, it doesn't matter if you win or lose. After the game you hang out with the team you just played, have a drink, talk about the game, life, tell jokes, stories (especially curling stories), or lose it's still a good time. The club members really couldn't be nicer.

I'm bringing this up because if you have ever had an interest in curling, this is the time of the year to look into it. The Schenectady Curling Club is having open houses this weekend (October 2nd and 3rd). At the open houses you'll get a little instruction on how to play, get out on the ice and throw a few stones. Pick up a broom and give sweeping a shot. The open houses a free and you can pre-register with EventBrite. Then, if you like it (you're going to like it), you can register for Curling School. At Curling School, you'll get some more instruction and on ice practice so you'll be ready to play in a league. Curling school costs a few bucks, but if you join the club that cost goes towards your membership.

Here's a link to the club's Open House webpage with all the details.

Maybe I'll see you out on the ice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Playing WIth Concrete

Well, when I wrote last, I had some compacted stone surrounded by sand. Today, there is a pretty damn level 6 foot square concrete pad.

When the guys building the pool had a trench open to run gas and electric, they also put in a conduit line to bring electric to the oven. I started by digging a trench from where that line ended to where the oven was going to be built.

The conduit got glued up, and I back filled the trench. I had made a box out of 2x6s, picked up steel rebar. The box had to be set and leveled, which was actually a little harder than I thought. I made some stakes to keep the box moving and tightened everything up with some deck screws that I already had. I decided to stop chasing the square-ness of the box. I was pretty close. Definitely less than a quarter inch, probably closer to an eighth. And it doesn’t really matter because it’s just a base. Level, would be nice too, but not absolutely critical.

Once the box was squar-ish and level-ish, I put down some poly that was left over from the pool construction and laid out the rebar. The goal was to cheat a little toward the edges of the slab since it will be the most loaded area. The rest were spaced at about a foot. After they bars were laid out, I used some steel wire to tie most of the intersections together then lifted the rebar mat up to a handful plastic stands to keep the bars higher in the slab. Not too shabby. And surprisingly level.

When I posted a similar picture of the form on Twitter, I got this from Gary Dake (President of Stewart's Shops).

Still can't believe he saw the picture and then took the time to comment. Gary, if you're reading this, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE bring back Butterscotch Blonde ice cream.

By my calculations I needed a little less than ¾ of a yard of concrete. I’m not sure why, but concrete is ordered in cubic yards and no one ever includes the cubic part. Yards. It’s kind of like a square of roof, but volume. This works out to a ballpark 30 bags of Quickcrete, 80 pounds each. I lined up a mixer and was preparing to make half a dozen runs to Home Depot or Lowes to get 30, 80 pound bags of concrete mix to my house. This did not sound fun. It actually sounds kind of crappy. By the time I actually put each 80 pound bag in the mixer, I’m guessing I would have had lift and move each bag 4 times - onto a cart, into the car, out of the car, over to the mixer.  I have a dolly that might have helped. I gave one of the larger concrete plants a call. One yard delivered would have been a little over $400. Ouch. I get it. While they were delivering a tiny amount of concrete to me, they could have been selling 10 times the amount to someone else so there is a premium on small batches for one time customers.

While I mentally prepared to throw out my back moving bags of concrete, I heard about another place. Clifton Park Concrete. I think I’m kind of blabbing out a well kept contractor’s secret here. Clifton Park Concrete is a small operation. One guy. One truck with a 2 yard capacity. Compared to the bigger trucks, it looks kind of cute. And the owner/operator could not be a nicer guy.

I called and set up a time. He called about an hour before the delivery to confirm. I had originally planned to do all this myself. Another one of those self imposed tests – if I can do this on my own, maybe I can build an oven. The guys at work convinced this was a bad idea in case something went wrong – flat tire on the wheelbarrow, screeding (leveling the top) is much easier with two people and more hands makes lighter work. So Ryan offered to come over with a back up wheelbarrow and some other concrete tools.
The concrete truck came about 10 minutes early. Ryan wasn't there yet and I started moving concrete without him in my brand new trusty wheelbarrow. This was its first workout. I had about half of the form filled and I was raking concrete to fill the corners, when the truck driver asked if I wanted help screeding. So we ran a 2x4 back and forth across the form leveling the concrete. I think I got another wheelbarrow of concrete into the form when Ryan appeared. He took over moving the concrete while I raked concrete into the corners of the form. We leveled up the rest of the pour and I went to get a little more concrete in the wheelbarrow for “just in case.”

Turns out Ryan is much better with a trowel than I am. After he left, I covered the concrete with plastic to try and slow down the water evaporation. Latter in the afternoon when the kids got home, I made them feel the warm concrete. The heat of hydration is part of the chemical reaction of concrete curing. They were as impressed and as young girls get touching a warm sidewalk get. So, unimpressed.

A few days later I broke off the forms. Ta-Dah! A slab of concrete waiting for an oven.

To celebrate, I made pizza Saturday night. Here's a Utica Greens (with homemade pancetta) pizza. It's a little bit of extra work to make this pie, but I really like it once in awhile.

If you have a small concrete pour – the minimum order is a yard – I can’t recommend Clifton Park Concrete highly enough. For just under $250 (tax included), he delivered a yard of concrete and drove off with the extra. Yes, it could be more expensive than the Quickcrete. Figure 30 bags of Quikcrete is about $130. But if you add $75 for delivery or have to rent a mixer, the price is actually pretty good. And it is significantly faster and a lot less labor. We were done, everything cleaned up and the slab covered, in under two hours. I doubt that would have happened mixing 30 bags one or two at a time. So for all your kind of big but not huge home concrete projects, call Clifton Park Concrete. I plan to call again in the spring for the upper slab of the stand.

Clifton Park Concrete (518) 348-1044. (No credit cards).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Base

I get it. It looks like a sandy mess. But this is big.

This is the very beginning.

In the never ending saga of having our backyard redone, the patio has been installed. And at one end of the patio, there is the little 3 foot by 7 foot bump you see in the picture. For most people, those bump outs are where you would put a propane grill so you wouldn't lose patio space. In this case, the bump out is in front of where the future wood oven will be built.

The patio builders left me a nice pad of crushed stone for a sub base. I've already got wood for a form and yesterday I picked up some reinforcing steel. An aside, should you ever need a little bit (or a lot) of any metal, you should contact the Metal Supermarket on Broadway. They're pretty much across the street from the new Druther's restaurant. Very friendly people, reasonable prices and quick service. I called after 4 on Friday and my bar order was ready before 9:30 on Monday.

Earlier tonight, I dug a trench into the pad where some electrical conduit is going. The base will have an outlet or two and if I choose to install lights, the power will be there. Tomorrow, I'm going to try to build the form.

The current plan is to put in this slab and then finish the landscaping. I'll use the winter for research, planning and drafting. I'm also keeping my eye on Craigslist for a wet saw. There's one that sounds perfect, but it's in Corning. Anyone heading out to Corning?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Kindness of Internet Strangers

A few years ago I stumbled onto the pizza making forum and I love it. I could spend hours and hours sifting through posts there. I’ve learned invaluable pizza lessons. I’m more of a reader than a writer on the forum but I do chime in once in awhile.

This spring I spent a lot of time doing searches on pools and maintenance. In the course of those searches I found another forum - pool forum. Trouble Free Pools. Turns out that pool forum people are just as nice and helpful as pizza forum people. Who knew? Ready for something else that blew my mind? You can pretty much take care of a pool with a testing kit, bleach, Borax and baking soda. The active ingredient in bleach is the same active ingredient in pool store chlorine – just different concentrations. If you are in a Walmart or Target and you see someone buying 16 gallons of bleach, they are most likely taking care of their pool and not cleaning a crime scene.

Now, I don’t want to bash any local pool stores - don’t have any experience with them other than a quick pickup of chlorine. But…I have read many stories where people have gotten terrible advice from professional pool people. I guess like anything, all pool experts are not created equal. According to the forum, the test strips you dip in pools are very unreliable and having your water tested at the pool store can often be wrong too. The home testing kit I got from the forum is pretty easy to use. I kind of feel like a chemist using it. There is a lot of add 5 drops of this, swirl then count the number of drops it takes to change color. I've also kind of matched the colors on the test strips to better numbers from my test kit so I sometimes still use the strips as a quick ballpark check of the water.

I’ve read through the pool school a few times and I think I have the hang of it. I’ve learned about cyanuric acid (a stabilizer that helps keep chlorine in the water). The right amount of cyanuric acid is good – and necessary. Too much is less good. Way too much and it’s time to drain water from your pool. Without the forum, I think my cyanuric acid level would be rising into the less good category now. I’ve also read up on the forums way to shock a pool (SLAM – Shock Level And Maintain) in case I ever need it. So far so good. I haven’t needed it. There's also the pool math calculator which gives pretty good estimates on what adding something to your pool will do.

When the forum talks about clear pool water, they mean you should be able to drop a quarter in the deep end and be able to see if it’s heads or tails. This picture was taken with my phone. The quarter is in front of the sneaker on the floor of the pool. The zooming in isn’t the clearest. What do you think?

Standing there, I could tell it was heads. Not as easy with the phone picture. So far, the only problem I’ve had using the Trouble Free Pool forum’s maintenance methods is that I can see every speck of dirt on the floor of the pool. And since the pool is surrounded by sand, it’s been driving me nuts. But that's slowly changing. Some more construction started this week.

Anyhow, if you have a pool – in ground or above ground – you might like looking around the Trouble Free Pool forum. I’ve learned a lot there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Some thoughts on The Valley Cats at the Joe

I've been to 2 Valley Cats games so far this summer. The first was with the elementary school on opening day. The second was tonight with a group from work. So in no particular order, here are some thoughts:

The minor glitches seem to be getting worked out at the stadium. On opening day, our tickets came with a hot dog, bag of chips and a small soda. I waited in line, got everybody's food and asked for one of those card board carriers. I was told they were out of them. I guess it happens, but the ball park had been open for less than 2 hours at this point in time. Someone behind the counter very kindly helped me bring the food to our seats. Also at the home opener one stand ran out of beer, the soft serve ice cream was coming out of the machine kind of melty and it seemed like the new register system was having issues with credit/debit cards. I didn't see any of that tonight.

The food at the Stadium is not good. It could be good, but it is not. Granted you're not expecting a delicious meal there, but I don't think it would take much effort to make the food significantly better. My advice would be to eat a sandwich before heading out to a game.

The guy that is dressed up like Uncle Sam has a lot of energy. But not as much as Charlie the bat boy. Charlie never stops moving. And most of his moving is running. A local newspaper should do a piece on Charlie. Part of it should be having him wear a pedometer to count how many steps he takes during a game.

During a break in the game tonight, there was a condiment race between Ketchup, Mustard and Relish. On their way off the field, Relish wiped out on his bike. Looked like it hurt, but Relish popped right back up. I hope Relish is OK.

People LOVE tee shirts that are launched using a 3-person sling shot. On second thought, I'm not sure LOVE is a strong enough word. 

Nothing happened at either game, but if you are close enough a ball could easily come at you very quickly. Like serious injury quickly. For the opener, we sat in Section 250. Tonight we were a little closer in Section 230. Section 230 seemed riskier to me. Less reaction time. I felt like I had to pay attention to every pitch in case a foul ball came at the kids so I could try to knock it down. I'm not sure why parks don't put up more netting.

If you are going to a 7:00 game, get seats on the 3rd base side. If the sky isn't completely overcast and you are on the first base side, be prepared to spend at least 90 minutes staring directly into the sun. We learned that lesson the hard way last year. I don't think I'm ever going to sit on the first base side again.

During another break in the game tonight, there was an ad for the Recovery Room on the big screen. My kids say the kid in the ad also appeared on a recent episode of KC Undercover on the Disney Channel. Apparently he was the boy that liked the little girl who isn't actually a little girl, she's a robot.

Overheard this interaction between a father and his son:
"Wait. No. No. Stop licking things."

I have successfully convinced my kids that the tennis ball thing after each game is a complete waste of money.

My kids don't like fireworks. We take off before they start.

The Valley Cats are very good a capitalizing on the other team's mistakes. When the other team makes an error, The Cats score at least one run. Happened in both games this year. Saw them do it last year too.

For those of you keeping score at home: In the program, the Cats had two players that are number 8. Tonight, one of them was actually number 9.

The shortstop for the West Virginia team made a beautiful play followed by and incredible throw to first. I would have liked to see an instant replay of that one.

I enjoy heading out for a game with the family and the Valley Cats are an entertaining team to watch. So far, they are undefeated this year while my family is in the crowd. Maybe we'll head out for another game or two. But next time, I think I'll introduce the kids to tailgating and we'll do most of our eating in the parking lot.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Made up definitions

Every now and then you hear a word used in a way that isn't a Webster's Dictionary definition of the word (or even an Urban Dictionary word). What makes these words special is when that definition is clearly understood by several people and frequently used.

Powderize is a real word - make into a powder by breaking up or cause to become dust. My family has a different definition for the powderize.

Powderize: the act of adding powdered detergent to a dishwasher.

I powderized the dishwasher. Can you start it when you're done with that glass?

My new favorite kind of made up word turns gluten from a noun into a verb by adding "ize" - glutenize. To glutenize is to take a food item that was originally gluten free and cross contaminate it with gluten making it no longer safe to be eaten by people with celiac disease. Most of the time, it's butter.

I just glutenized this butter.
That's OK, the gluten free butter is over there.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Theater Camp

My kids have attended a few camps offered at Hudson Valley Community College. A bizarre side effect of these camps is that every now and then one of my kids receives mail from HVCC. Nothing makes you do a double take like getting the mail and seeing college flyers addressed to your 3rd grader.

Over the past two weeks, my oldest daughter attended a theater camp at HVCC. At the camp, the kids were split into two groups and each group of kids wrote a short play that was performed this afternoon. There was some adult directorial guidance, but for the most part the creative process was kid driven. The first group, which was mostly elementary school kids, wrote a play about good kids and bad kids and how the bad kids had a secret cave with a button that caused some earthquakes. In the end, every one was friends again, but the bad kids were starting to plan turning Iceland into Greenland and Greenland into Iceland. The play was complete with a song and dance number.

Maybe I'm over analyzing, but the play appeared to be strongly influence by what's going on in elementary school pop culture. Coming to the Disney Channel later this month is a made for Disney TV movie called the Descendents. It's the story of the children of the worst Disney Villains that grew up in exile and are being welcomed back into "good" society by a progressive prince or king or whatever. The control panel in the evil cave wasn't unlike the control panel in the movie Inside Out and everybody getting along is pretty similar to the anti bullying message these kids see on a daily basis. Which brings us to the mostly older group (with some younger kids mixed in):

The name of the second play was "It can Wait." It's about texting while driving. While there were definitely some comedy mixed in with the drama, the play opens with a group of girls driving to a movie, the driver is texting, and all of the passengers in car are killed in an accident. My kids aren't old enough for me to have experience with this age group, but I believe the same analysis of present day influences holds true.

My main takeaways from the second play:
1. I think most kids that are going to learn how to drive in a few years have been bombarded with enough "texting while driving kills" messages to scare them out of texting while driving once they get on the road.

2. The reporters in the play were working for "YNN - Your Nosy News" which makes me think that the preteen age group is unimpressed with television news. The reporters were nosy, a little rude and were played with an "anything for ratings" attitude. Television news isn't going to cut for that generation. Maybe weather reports, but that's probably it.

3. In a town council scene, the vote is tied at 2-2. The town council leader stands up and declares she will have to cast the deciding vote and then wonders which way to go. Two council members pass her some money and she quickly votes with them. Wow.

I didn't become completely disillusioned with politicians until my late 20s these kids are making bribe jokes before 13. Jaded before they can drive. In five or six years, there is going to be a wave of voters that aren't going to watch television news so they won't care what politicians say on television news and they are already under the impression that elected officials are routinely bought. Not sure if any politicians stop by this corner of the web (not sure why they would), but 6th, 7th, and 8th graders are unimpressed with you.

I wonder what kind of play high school actors would have written.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Variations on a Theme

I like diners. They usually have huge menu's with something for everyone. Although, why some one would go into a diner and order a seafood and pasta dish is beyond me. Stick with the classics.

I'm fairly repetitive with my diner orders. If I am going for breakfast fare, it's usually two over easy with home fries and rye toast. Maybe some pancakes get thrown in there depending on the diner. When I'm not having a diner breakfast (which has nothing to do with the time of day), it's a turkey club with fries.

As luck would have it, I wound up in different diners on Friday and Saturday night. When I was eating on Friday, I had no idea I was going to have the same dinner on Saturday, so no pictures. And I wouldn't have given it much thought except the two turkey clubs were so different.

The sandwich construction was identical. Basically a BLT on the top half of the club and turkey on the bottom.

Toast: On the first club, the toast tasted like it had been salted. It was as if the fries got put on the plate and then everything got hit with salt out of a shaker. The second club had toasted white bread. Although, one time at this diner I didn't specify "toast" and it came out plain white bread. That's never happened anywhere else. I specify "white toast" now but that's the kind of thing that would make a veteran diner waitress look at you funny. "Of course it's toasted! We've been a diner for awhile now."

Turkey: The first club's turkey tasted like deli meat. The second club's turkey tasted and looked cooked in-house.

Lettuce: The first club had very pale looking iceberg lettuce. The second had nice, dark green leaves of lettuce.

Tomato: The first club had that food service Styrofoam tomato. The second one had juicy, red tomato which was actually a pleasant surprise  after having seen crummy tomato wedges in a side salad.

Bacon: The bacon on both sandwiches was your typical diner bacon. Club #2 was a little chewier than Club #1, but the difference wasn't as stark as the other components.

When I was eating the first turkey club, I knew it wasn't anything special. It really wasn't until I started eating the second one that I realized how bad the first sandwich was. Now granted, turkey Club #2 wasn't the greatest turkey club I've ever had. Not really close. That distinction goes to a long gone diner/cafeteria in Boston. There is a special place in my heart for Anne's Cafeteria-I loved that place. But Turkey Club #2 was definitely a decent representation of the form that brought shame and dishonor to turkey Club #1.

Turkey Club #2 come from Capital City Diner on Western in Guilderland.