Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Email Best Practices

I have come to realize that a good portion of my life has centered around email. When I got out of college I was assigned to the email support team of my company and quickly became the one stop shop for 40,000 employees email accounts, I did that for four years. I also started a small computer repair shop/consulting firm during that time and did a good deal of small business email configurations. During my time as "Computer Joey" (that was my business' name if you didn't figure it out) I also had a chance to talk at schools about technology and how to be safe on the internet. Those talks came to mind when I was building a contact list for my homeowners association. Long story short, I think it would be helpful to list some pointers about incorporating email into your life:


  1. In your email address, refrain from putting any personal information (besides your name) before the "@" sign. Examples of this are: Your birthday (JohnDoe01051975@yahoo.com), your home address number (NancyDoe80@yahoo.com), Any part of your social security number, Don't include your zip code, don't include your age, etc.

  2. If you are still in the work force, try to avoid using "cute" email address names like "SweetSk8rgurl@yahoo.com". If you lose your job you don't want to put an email address like that on your resume, and checking multiple accounts can get tiresome. On the flip side, if you are retired or close to it you might want to avoid putting hobbies into your email address. Example: "Mustanglover40@hotmail.com" could make you an easy target for an internet scammer. They might find an in by sending you an email about Mustangs or classic cars.

  3. Try to avoid using the email account that your internet service provider's (Comcast, Verizon) gives you. If all of your friends know your email address is John.Doe@comcast.net and you decide to change service providers, you will lose that address and your friends might not be able to find you. I suggest signing up for a free account at Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail. They provide a huge amount of space for free and those accounts tie into to other great free services. My personal recommendation is Gmail but you should check them all out to see what you like best.

  4. Try to avoid forwarding chain letters. If you don't know what a chain letter is, basically any email that asks you to forward to all of your friends is a chain letter and spammers can use those chain letters to get your email address.

  5. On that note, whenever you are sending out an email to a large group of people, use the BCC feature (BCC = Blind Carbon Copy). There is always somebody in the group who decides to Reply to All and the next thing you know your inbox is full with generic responses, this will eliminate that problem.

  6. You should not use company email for personal use. You can't control your friends from emailing you something you should not get at work, don't put yourself in that situation. I would also suggest that students leave their school accounts for school only (it is an easy way to find someone).

  7. Don't say anything in email that you would not say to anyone's face. It is easy to form a sense of detachment when you are sitting in front of a computer, remember there is a human being that is going to read that email.


I think that is good for now. Good luck out there on the internet and try to be safe.

Other Useful Email Tips:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

If you have been living under a rock or haven't been in front of a TV lately movie execs finally released the trailer for the movie. It looks great.

I suggest watching it here:
Apple Trailers: WtWTA

But if you want to watch it in crappier Youtube formats - here you go:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 20

Howdy true be-loggers and welcome to Sunday Leftovers. I am not really in the mood to attempt a clever intro (you are probably saying my intros aren't that clever anyway)... so lets get to it!

[Good Times with My Dad]

On Monday night the younger men of the Lombardi (and Taormina) family took their dads out to dinner (well actually my uncle took us all out because he picked up the tab, THANKS UNCLE VINCE). It was a good time because we don't get together much in large groups and never just the men. It was good to see my uncles and my cousins relax and not have to chase after any kids or check in with their wives (I am looking at you Phil). My old man usually has his own thing going on so it is good to see him kick back and enjoy himself.

A few days later I read this article about FDR Park in South Philadelphia and once again I thought about my father and all the time we spent at that park when I was young. South Philadelphia doesn't have too much green space but we were lucky to live close enough to be able to ride our bikes to FDR park. My dad attempted to get me to play tennis with him several times but I was just interested in trying to hit the ball as hard as I could to see if I could get it to stick in the fence (yes I was a total pain in the ass). When you grow up with certain things at your disposal, it is easy to take them for granted... like parks and good families.

If you haven't hung out with your dad in a while, pick up the phone and invite him out. If you go to FDR Park watch out for the Frankenfish (not making it up).

[Web Project Updates]

Date My Beard

I taped Sean last Sunday for a new episode of Date My Beard and we went live on Tuesday. Check it out:



If you are wondering where the catchy music is... well it seems that youtube is stripping out audio of any video that uses copy-written music. They actually muted a video of one of my friends singing some crappy country song. So to avoid any issues with any of content moving forward, I will either make my own music or find copyright free-licence stuff. GRRRR....

New Website: CanadianSexActs.info

I don't know if I am going to be too proud attaching my name to this site after seeing some of the descriptions coming in. Let me rewind: Last week's episode of "How I Met Your Mother" featured the characters using a website called Canadiansexacts.org which is a site that lists all kinds of freaky Canadian sex acts. When you go to the site however, it doesn't tell you what the acts are, it just shows pictures of Alan Thicke (which is pretty freaky). Long story short I registered Canadiansexacts.info and opened it up for people to suggest what the acts actually are. I will warn you now that this web site is not for the weak of heart (there is no nudity, but it is definitely something I wouldn't show my mother).

If you didn't see the How I Met Your Mother Episode, you can watch it here

Don't be afraid to offer your suggestion of what an Old King Clancy is

Google Stuff

For the nerds out there. I just recently set up all of the websites I manage with Google Analytics. Remember in the early days of websites when people had counters at the bottom of the page? Well Google made the whole thing all kinds of classy. I insert a little line of code on my sites, and in a day I start getting detailed usage statistics. Great to know trends and whats sites aren't doing so well. If you run a site, you should check out Google Analytics

[Recipe of the Week: Fusilli al Pastore Ragusa]
Recipe Courtesy of Mario Batali

I made a Pork Roast earlier in the week and I had a good amount left but was tired of just eating roast, so I decided to make it a base for a pasta sauce. I dug around for something different and came up with this. I had my in-laws over and every seemed to really enjoy it, so I hope you do too.

Ingredients

* 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
* 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
* 2 pounds mixed red, yellow, and green peppers, cut into thin strips
* 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
* 1/2 of Ground Pork - NOTE: I used a Roasted Pork that I made earlier in the week diced into tiny cubes
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1/2 cup tomato paste
* 1 cup basic tomato sauce, recipe follows
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 pound fusilli
* 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino or caciocavallo

Directions
In a 10 to 12-inch saucepan, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onion just begins to turn golden. Add the pepper and continue stirring over medium heat until the peppers have softened, about 10 minutes, then add the chili flakes.

Stir in the pork, then add the wine. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, in a large pot, bring 6-quarts water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Stir in the fusilli and cook according to the package directions, until al dente, but not too tender.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1cup of the pasta water. Add the fusilli to the saucepan with the pork ragu. Add a little pasta water, if needed, for moisture. Toss well to coat the pasta, and season, to taste. Divide evenly among 4 warmed pasta plates, sprinkle with the pecorino, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve immediately.


Basic tomato sauce:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
Salt

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Yield: 4 cups

[DIY of the Week: Build a Mini Greenhouse]

With planting seasoning coming up, here is a cool DIY to get a head start on putting some plants in the ground


Build a SeedHouse/MiniGreenhouse! - More DIY How To Projects

[UN-DIY of the Week]

While cleaning the siding of my house I must have managed to get some water in my outdoor outlet which keeps shorting and cutting out electricity to a few plugs in my basement (including my computer & router). It is getting on my nerves and I just wanted to share.

[Conclusion]

Sorry for keeping it brief this week, but I got electrical problems I am trying to fix (in the dark!). Don't take shit from anyone!

Love,
~ Joey

PS: As always, it is best to read my blog its true source: Blog.JoeyLombardi.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sunday Leftover Correction




I made a few minor changes to the section on AIG. I didn't like the way it read. Please carry on with your lives :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 19

Hello true be-loggers and welcome to the 19th consecutive week of Sunday Leftovers. This week I will be discussing the economy, the end of newspapers, and some fun DIY projects that will keep the week interesting. Lets begin...

[House Update]

The work in my back yard is finally done. The team at Sun Viking Landscaping (LINK) did a fantastic job in my yard and the job has completely exceeded my expectations. On the bad news front, I had a neighbor who was not happy with the wheel barrels going behind his property/fence and this little altercation uncovered some very interesting information: My property probably goes back another 20 feet at least into a wooded area behind my house. On the one hand it sucks that I pissed off my neighbor but on the other, thanks to him and my research, it looks like I have 20 more feet to play with back there.

Here are some pictures of the yard:



I am probably going to write up something a little more detailed at the Timbercrest Blog but I am sure you don't care :-)

[AIG Bonuses & Corporate Mentality]

Quick comment on the AIG Bonus "scandal": The government has every right to tax these people on the bonus money they should be using to get the financial industry back on its feet. I could maybe understand the mentality to keep talent in the industry as I am sure anyone working at AIG wants to get the hell out of there...BUT... the company is not doing well and should be using that money to back up investments, not paying the labor pool right now. My company did away with raises and cut bonuses and we are not getting bail out money!

In general, I feel that there is a detachment within corporate mentality regarding what is really happening in real time. Reality doesn't hit until it is way too late. I will say this my friends: Speak up when you see something that isn't right, even if nobody wants to hear it, we have too many workers afraid to tell their bosses bad news.

And on that note, here are 14 tactics to get ahead at work: The Simple Dollar: 14 Tactics...

[The Demise of Newspapers]

Honest moment coming at you: I always wanted to have a side job as a newspaper writer. I don't think I could do it full time or depend on it as a primary means of income, but I always wanted to get paid something to write (paid to write = professional writer), to find a small but loyal audience, and be giving assignments to stretch my abilities (it is easy to write about whatever the hell I feel like). In the last 6 months dozens of newspapers and magazines have folded (actually if you count magazines we are in the hundreds). The shitty economy brought it on, but this was going to happen anyway. Magazines have been putting out weak material for years and the newspapers... unless they are owned by Fox/News Corp they haven't been doing very well.

Newspapers are in a tough spot as people don't want the mess of the paper in their house (you know you know somebody who has stacks of old newspapers in their garage and you secretly are disgusted with that person and never want to be anything like them) and of course getting ink on your fingers sucks. Technology is coming along, but I don't think it is there yet. Let's face it, men like to bring printed material into the bathroom which is equal parts disgusting and brilliant. Bringing a laptop into the bathroom just isn't a good idea.

Technology aside, the generation who grew up with computers does not have an appetite for the news as previous generations did:
1. There is a general disinterest in what is going on in world and domestic affairs
2. Our generation allows themselves to be spoon-fed whatever bullshit some loud-mouthed news "personality" spews without looking into counterpoints
3. Our generation gets their news on the internet via blogs, but where are the credentials and journalistic integrity (don't even try to lie to me and tell me your are reading the Huffington Post ( LINK)!
4. People are shying away from the printed word. Yes I understand you read Twilight and Harry Potter but sorry sweetheart you aren't keeping any doors open.

MINI-RANT: I love how every financial organization likes to say that the Huffington Post is the future of journalism and newspapers. I enjoy HP, but there needs to be another voice, another group of people doing something different and having a different agenda. One stop shopping for the news is never good and as consumers of information we should always demand alternatives.


People who grew up with newspapers will continue to buy them as long as they can but their numbers are dwindling and I am very concerned that there isn't going to be a true replacement or better replacement. As the common man (myself included) finds they have a voice in the massive void that is the internet, what will we choose to do with this freedom? Only time will tell.



[Recipe of the Week:Sage and Caramelized Onion Risotto Cups]
CREDIT: Sugarlaws.com

INGREDIENTS

1 cup arborio rice
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 sheets frozen puff pastry
3 medium sized onions, peeled and sliced thin
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 tbsp butter
1 cup shaved parmesan
4 tbsp chopped sage leaves
18 whole sage leaves
Salt
Vegetable oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS

Roll puff pastry until thin and cut each sheet into 9 squares. Place each square in a mini muffin tin and shape into a small cup. Bake the puff pastry in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, and set aside to cool.

Heat vegetable oil in a small frying pan for a few minutes, until hot. Using a slotted spoon or a strainer, dip the whole sage leaves into the hot oil for about 20 seconds, or until the sputtering has stopped and the leaves have turned crispy. Allow to cool on a paper towel.

Also, heat 2 tbsp olive oil, some salt and the sliced onions in a saute pan on low heat. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions have reduced and caramelized, stirring frequently. When the onions are reduced and dark, add the balsamic vinegar, stir, and remove from heat. Set aside and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, place the rice and 2 tbsp olive oil in a stock pot, stirring the rice to coat it. Toast for about 45 seconds, and then add 1/2 cup white wine and 1 cup chicken stock. Warm the rest of the stock in a saute pan on another burner, and as the rice has soaked up the water, add another 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. When all the stock is gone, taste the rice — if it’s not fully cooked, continue to add 1/2 cup of water at a time until it’s done. When the rice si fully cooked, stir in the sage and caramelized onions, wait about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, and then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter (chopped into tablespoons) and parmesan cheese.

Scoop the risotto into the pastry cups with a melon baller, and top with the fried sage leaves. Serve.

(Full Link: Sugarlaws.com - Sage and Carmelized Onion Risotto Cups)

[DIY of the Week: Gummi Shot Glasses]

Yes I know this is sort of a recipe too, but it is crafty and easy, so let it slide...


Gummi Shot Glasses - More DIY How To Projects

Printed Word Link: Edible Shot Glasses

[Conclusion]

I think I have said all I needed to say this week. Next week I will discuss neighborhood politics and of course find something delicious to make. As always, don't take shit from anybody!

Love,
~ Joey

PS: I recommend you read this blog at: Joey's Blog. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 16, 2009

IRS Refund Checker

Here is a quick and helpful post:

I have been wondering where my federal tax return was, so I called my cousin Anthony who is an accountant if there is a place to check. My man rocked my mind with this site:

IRS Refund Checker

This is the real deal directly from the IRS and you can find out when your money is coming in 2 seconds.

You need to know EXACTLY how much is due back to you, but besides that, great tool.

Good luck and THANKS ANTHONY!

(If you use this, Thank Anthony in the comments!)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 18

Howdy True Be-loggers! Welcome to Sunday Leftovers. Today I am struggling with delivering the column on time but in a condensed form, or holding off a day. I am going to try to squeeze it in before the clock strikes 12. Let's hope I do it!

[Zane Patrick's Day]

The big news this week is that I went to Zane Patrick's Day with Paul and Nate. I wrote about it HERE so no need to repeat.

Here are some videos for those who don't know this show for some reason.





[Home Improvement Update]

The paver patio SHOULD be done tomorrow, so I will take pictures of the finished product my loyal readers can check it all out. I wrote a post about my new deck on the Timbercrest Blog, you can read it HERE.

One a related note... one of my neighbors on the block had some issues with the construction, and I think I smoothed things over with them, but alas, you have to savor the flavors of town home living.

Speaking of flavors (or FLAVA)....

[Recipe of the Week: Homemade Nutella]

This recipe is courtesy of Elena's Pantry: Elenaspantry.com

Homemade Nutella
1 cup hazelnuts
¼ cup cocoa powder
5 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
pinch celtic sea salt

1. Roast the hazelnuts at 350° for 8-10 minutes until they darken a bit and smell fragrant
2. Transfer the hazelnuts to a towel and rub off the skins if you can (I didn’t have a lot of luck with this)
3. In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter, about 5 minutes, scraping the sides as needed
4. Add the cocoa, agave, vanilla, oil and salt and process until well blended, about a minute
5. Store in a glass mason jar in the refrigerator
6. Bring to room temperature prior to serving

Makes 1 ½ cups

[DIY of the Week: Moss-age in a Bottle]

I saw this on Boing-Boing and thought this would be a very cool desk decoration....

Full Instructions - Link: Moss-age in a Bottle

From Boing Boing:
It's no ship in a bottle, but it is a novel way to add some low-maintenance greenery to your desk. With a little bit of patience, you can turn a wine bottle into a terrarium.

While it may not be the first thing you'd think to recycle a wine bottle into, the results are pretty neat. Inspired by the awesome terrariums designed by artist Paula Hayes, seen below, Dr. Vino tried his hand at turning an empty bottle of rose wine into a moss filled terrarium.

I first added dirt to the bottle. Then I ripped off chunks of moss, compressed them and shoved them through the wine bottle's neck with a chop stick leftover from a previous takeout. A few pokes and prods later, I had them all lined up.

After a matter of time with some light and careful watering, the moss grew together into a pretty neat miniature landscape. The results work best with a lighter-tinted or even clear wine bottle, but moss and similar plants can grow pretty reliably in dim light. If you have another creative idea for adding some greenery to your desk, sounds off in the comments below


[Sort of Rant of the Week: New York]

I am usually pretty down on the whole New York is the greatest city in the world theory. I actually hate it when any city seems to get labeled as a shining beckon of awesome. I think any city or place has the potential at any time to be outstanding, so when I see movies dedicated to the "great New York moment" I usually want to punch people in the face. With that being said, the people were very cool this weekend in New York. Everyone was really nice and upon reflection I was actually a little shocked.

One point to New York City, she showed some class this weekend, and I am genuinely impressed.

[Conclusion]

I am done! I have been writing a lot this week and this issue really was a leftover of all that I have cooked up. Check out the blog as I will be doing a few updates as the week progresses. Don't take shit from anyone!

Love,
~ Joey

Zane Patrick's Day 2009

NOTE: I consolidated all of the mobile posts from Saturday into this article. Much easier for you and for me.

A few weeks ago Paul mentioned that there was a Three Sheets event in New York City and we could meet Zane Lamprey, so we called Nate and bought some tickets. The event was great, Zane was very cool and made himself available for the fans. The drinks were not all that hard to come by as we had a system and a group of willing people to make drink runs.

Nate and I got to the Knitting Factory around 1:30. The doors opened at 2 PM and the line was already very long. Within minutes it was MUCH longer wrapping around the block. Paul stayed behind at the hotel waiting to meet up with a new friend named Liz. They met us in line around 1:55 PM and jumped in line with us (The NYC crowd was very cool about that and encouraged it).

We got in and it was like a mad house. We quickly decided to go down two flights of stairs to the lowest bar. This was the base for the rest of the event. We immediately made friends (what's up Tony!!!!) and drank some car bombs. We got to know Liz a little bit and she is a cool person that I certainly hope to see more of her at our social events. Everyone was very friendly and cool.

The day wore on, I kept drinking, I stole a few pizzas for my new friends, drank some more, used the pizza box to hide the effects of drinking too much and then put on a little performance at the front entrance as Nate and I left.

GREAT TIME.


We went back to the hotel, took a shower and rested for a little while. Paul got back with Liz and we made plans for the night. We went to NYC's South Side and met up at a huge Uno Grill. I thought I saw Flava Flav, but quickly dismissed it because what the hell would Flav being at a Uno...more on that later. Tina and Glenn showed up and we headed to a few bars. At this point the day caught up with me and I had my fill of drink and food. I didn't want to be a downer for anyone so I just told the crew I was going to cut out. Nate wanted to go too. So we walked a few blocks to get a cab and who do we run into... FLAVA FLAV!




He bummed a few cigarettes off of Nate and then cut out (he had a very small baby girl with him, so I didn't want to be that asshole tourist asking to take pictures). Nate and I eventually got a limo to take us back to the hotel for 15 bucks and we settled down for the night. Paul showed up an hour later and we were done.

This morning I got up early and worked out at the hotel gym to get the rest of the booze out of my system. My wife was in town visiting friends so she met us at the hotel so we could all go home together. All in all a very good weekend.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Food Blog: Blackbird Review

Authors Note: I am not a professional food critic. I am a guy who likes to eat (too much) and can afford to go out a few times a month. These are my opinions based on my unique experience and should not be taken as a universal fact (unless I say this is an absolute fact).

A few weeks ago, I finally had a meal at Blackbird Dining Establishment in Collingswood, NJ. I know, you are saying "what's your point?", for me this was a victory because I have attempted to secure reservations at this place at least four times with no luck. Is Blackbird ultra-exclusive? No. Its just a small up-scale restaurant with a well trained clientele that makes reservations weeks in advance. On this particular Saturday, we were in luck, I guess the hard economic times freed up some spots and my wife and I with a group of friends managed to snag a table.

Thanks to joys of the internet, I like to look at menus and reviews of the restaurants before I go so there is no fucking around with the menu. I will listen to the daily specials and then make a decision. I checked out Blackbird's site (Blackbirdnj.com) and discovered that Chef Alex Capasso based the menu on a Franco-Italian foundation. Whenever I see Franco associated with food I usually run. I find classic french cuisine to be pretentious and overdone. But I noticed an Asian influence on the menu and figured it was a solid combination.

Unlike many Collingswood restaurants, there is parking across the street for Blackbird which is especially great when you are running late. The restaurant was decorated tastefully and had an inviting feel. We sat down, the wait staff took our beverages to chill them (Blackbird like all Collingswood restaurants is BYOB). Blackbird's menu is very small and focused. Normally I enjoy this but I felt that this establishment could benefit from a few more items. The daily specials didn't interest me, so I had my meal picked out. Thai Chicken spring-rolls for the appetizer and Roasted Rib-eye for dinner. I noticed the wait staff while extremely nice, was moving quickly and I got the idea that they wanted us out quickly. I am okay with the idea of getting people in and out, but I can honestly say I felt rushed (our reservation was for 6:30, so I am sure they had a big crowd coming in starting at 7:30).

I will make this short. The food was very good. It wasn't great, but it was very good. The spring-rolls were cooked well, nice texture, I just wish they had a little more flavor. The rib eye was cooked perfectly, but I felt the portion was a little too small. Yes I am a big guy, but after sharing a few small pieces with the table, I had like 5 bites of meat left, which is good for the waistline but bad for the wallet. The entree should have been priced at around 20ish and it was more like 30ish. The Franco element was clear when the focus of the dish was very much presentation and appearance first (although I have no complaints about the taste). We had a small dessert and went on our way.

I don't know if I was expecting more since we have tried so many times to get a table at Blackbird, but when we finally did eat there, I came out thinking, that place was good, but we could have had a better meal at a slightly lower cost down the street at Casona (I will review that another time). Bottom line - Blackbird is a nice clean restaurant, with a friendly staff, cooks that know what they are doing, but a little overpriced for what you are getting. You can do alot worse.

The Worst Vacation of my Life

NOTE: A few people have asked me to put this story in writing, so your wish is my command...



New Years Eve 1999/2000: While ringing in the Millennium at an airport hotel, my whole crew was kicked out due to another party raging next door. Scrambling for a place to ring in 2000, I called my mom and she offered up our house. My parents couldn't have been any nicer about the situation, but I felt bad bringing 40 people to their house at the last minute and I vowed I would never do that again. A few weeks later Bobby and I both decided to go to Las Vegas for 2001. Over the course of that year both Bobby and I became involved with serious girlfriends and they were absorbed into our ambitious plans. Soon enough the people who organized the 2000 NYE party had also gotten in on our idea. Rooms were booked (Bobby and I were sharing one room with our girlfriends) and tickets were purchased.

My mother volunteered to get us to the airport, Bobby was late and this threw me into a VERY pissy mood. I will be the first to admit that I am very anal retentive when it comes to schedules and time lines and to this analogy Bobby is Lex Luthor to my Superman. We already started arguing. Bobby's girlfriend Eliza was kind of new to all of this (my uptight nature, Bobby's chronic inability to be on time or be organized), so it was a very bad way to start the vacation (I should also note that I am 90% sure Bobby was blaming the lateness on Eliza which was also uncomfortable). After getting to the airport and boarding the plane, we were on our way.



Once we landed in Las Vegas the chaos started immediately. I recall securing transport from the airport to the hotel ahead of time, but that fell through and we had to get a taxi mini-van. We crammed in with other travelers and eventually got to the hotel where we waited for two hours to check in. Things got very snippy in the lobby between Bobby, Eliza, Myself, and an ex-girlfriend whom we shall call Chrissy. Once we got into the room, tensions turned into arguments. Basically the only argument that wasn't happening was between Eliza and I. Chrissy and I went for a walk and allowed things to cool down. I went looking for our other group of friends who had arrived earlier and was already site seeing. We didn't find them so we walked around the strip.

Back at the hotel, we found Eliza sitting outside our hotel room, Chrissy stayed outside and I went in to talk to Bobby. I don't remember the conversation, but things quickly got back to normal (or so I thought). We met up with the other couple, did dinner and the rest of the night was uneventful. The next morning we found out that during the holiday season, many shows are closed because the performers go home to see their families. Extremely long story short: The only shows in town were Wayne Newton and the Blue Man Group. Chris Issak was playing the House of Blues that night but nobody else wanted to go and I was too lame to go myself (I never got over not going to that show). We ended up getting tickets for Blue Man two days out and my college buddy Brock's girlfriend pushed us into doing a Grand Canyon bus trip the next day. We spent the day doing all the normal tourist bullshit and went to bed early because the bus tour started at 4:30 AM. Bobby and Eliza went for a walk before bed and while they were gone Chrissy decided to tell me that Eliza was talking all sorts of shit about me. I found out later that it didn't go down that way at all, but Chrissy was using Eliza to bring up all these issues she had with me and herself. Of course, I was now totally pissed at Eliza and it took YEARS to recover from that when I actually think about it. I went to bed very quietly and angry and didn't say anything (which is a bad sign when you know me). The next morning turned into a train wreck.

I woke up still very pissed off. Bobby of course was running late, so he just took the brunt of my moodiness. I avoided Eliza and she had no idea why, and the small but rational part of my brain was starting to get annoyed at Chrissy for even bringing this shit to my attention when we were all confined into a room together. This would be a classic move that she pulled when we were on trips, but this was the first time in what would become a pattern and I didn't know how to deal with it. Now we were on a bus first heading to the Hoover Dam where we all received a short tour. Two hours in a bus and two hours at the dam, we were down 4 hours already. Another three hours in the bus to get to the Grand Canyon; I will take this time to mention the week between Xmas and New Years is a big travel period for Asian tourist and our bus was full of them (Las Vegas looked like stock footage of a crowded Hong Kong business district during rush hour). During the three hour bus ride people naturally get hungry, and our foreign guests busted out smelly jars of pickled fish and other terrifying items. THREE HOURS. By the time we got to the Grand Canyon I went off by myself. This was a mistake.



I found a moment of peace, sitting at the very edge of the canyon, taking pictures, watching birds soar. I felt a tapping on my back and I naturally assumed it was Chrissy. It was not. An Asian tourist with a very large camera decided he liked the spot where I was sitting to take pictures. Since he didn't speak English, he used the universal language of "push a very large Italian man who literally has one foot off the ledge". Needless to say I did not take the invasion of personal space nor the pushing well, and the tiny Asian man found himself hanging off the cliff for a few seconds. I know he didn't understand what I saying, but damn well knew what I meant. Of course people were looking because the man was screaming like a woman (I don't blame him), so I hurried off before any park rangers got to me. I was now extremely embarrassed that I lost my cool, but very relieved that nobody in my group saw the whole thing go down because that would mean more questions.



In total we got 60 minutes to walk around (20 minutes at three different locations) and then it was 5 hours back in the bus - full of smelly hardcore Asian food. Once we got back to the hotel, I did some walking by myself and forced myself to focus and hold my shit together to make the most of the vacation, I would deal with everything else when we got back. That resolve didn't last long.

Vegas is known for a few things: Gambling, Whores, Lounge acts, and eating. I don't like to gamble, not into whores, and while lounge acts have a certain campy charm, that's not what I was interested in. I wanted to experience all the crazy delicious restaurants and buffets. This was during the time Vegas was trying to come off as family friendly (while said whores walked the strip handing out flyers with naked pictures) so Vegas had a boom of top chefs coming in and setting up shop at the casinos. We didn't get to go to any of them. We went to buffets, but then Bobby and Eliza stopped going to the buffets because Eliza didn't each much and they couldn't justify spending 20-40 bucks just for her to eat toast for breakfast. Rational Joey understood perfectly, but angry Joey was still pissed off at Eliza thanks to Chrissy. The lack of their company while breaking bread added to the problem and we really didn't see them for the rest of the trip (even though we shared a room).

With Bobby and Eliza out of the picture we started spending all of our time with Brock and his very organized girlfriend. She had every minute planned and had Brock, Chrissy and myself running ragged. We ended up getting tickets for Wayne Newton which was such a terrible show that it was actually awesome. Newton was shaking his ass to the old ladies and must have liked the idea of having some younger girls in the audience. I do not think Mr. Newton was happy I was laughing at most of the show, but that was the only acceptable response besides demanding my money back. The next show she lined up was the Blue Man Group. Terrible. I think they hypnotized the audience. Everyone fell asleep at the same time. I checked my private areas later that night for blue stains, thankfully, all clean.



I was really losing it; the lack of private time from activities and sharing a room was getting to me (because of this trip I started a new rule, if you can't afford to get your own room, you can't afford to go on the trip). Brock's girlfriend suggested we go to a buffet at the Rio, it was supposed to have everything. Of course it sucked but I heard her mention a bar at the very top of the hotel where you can see the whole strip. When nobody was looking I slipped off to the 51st floor of the hotel and entered the Voodoo Lounge. It was awesome and a fantastic jazz band was playing, the lighting was perfect and the women and drinks looked very appealing. I heard they did a drink in a normal sized fish bowl and used a whole bottle of rum. Talking to the bartender, I confirmed the rumor and quickly ordered one. He made the drink with stunning efficiency and placed the drink on the bar, adorning it with several straws. Luckily for me, I had no company. I took my drink outside and looked off the deck and onto the city. It had a certain beauty, but superficial like a pair of fake tits. I sat down, listing to the band, enjoying the cool air and drank. My peace did not last long. I felt a tap on my back after a few minutes. It was Chrissy and Brock and they were ready to go. I told them to fuck off, but they kept at it, Chrissy now taking a sip from my drink and making a face - too much rum. There could never be enough, not on this night. Their whines broke me down and instead of making a scene and being a buzz kill for the other customers, I left. I hated them all at that moment. Getting into the cab and setting off for the hotel, I remained silent.

Brock proved to be an interesting paradox on the trip. He was the perfect opposite to his very organized girlfriend. While she micromanaged every minute to optimize her vacation experience, Brock was very much a go with the flow type and seeing where the moment takes you. I enjoyed this about Brock because I was more like his girlfriend and that fact stressed me out. Brock's girl didn't appreciate his unfocused ways and tried to reign him in...this in turn made him rebel. I would get knocks on the door at 3 AM to go out when his wife had a day's worth of activities planned starting at 6. It was too much. The few times I snuck out with Brock proved to be a waste of time because I wasn't into clubbing. I thought I wanted to see the real Vegas... I realized now that this notion was bullshit because as I said, the real Vegas is whores, slot machines, and broken people.



The trip culminated on New Years Eve. Brock and his girlfriend convinced us to get tickets to see Dennis Miller and David Spade live. Bobby and Eliza did not want to go, so once again we were separated. Even though we were bickering all week, I wanted to spend New Years Eve with my best friend... so once again I was in a funk. I am going to make the next part very short: the stand up show was fucking terrible. David Spade had no material and just bitched about his flight for 35 minutes. I fell asleep during Dennis Miller. We were given champagne at midnight and then basically told to get the fuck out. We went outside and the strip was insane. People were drinking and dancing, and I realized I should have been out there having fun instead of paying $150 bucks to catch a nap.

Back at the hotel I saw Bobby and we broke out a tiny bottle of booze and made a toast. We had finally made peace. The next morning we were catching a red eye home. On the plane I didn't say much: I was tired and processing everything. When I got home, I avoided everyone for 5 days, including Chrissy. Eventually things went back to normal for a time. Eliza and I still weren't on good terms, I think took almost two years for us to completely reconnect. Today I can say that I talk to her 10 times more than Bobby and she gets along great with my wife. Speaking of my love interests, the behaviors Chrissy showed on that trip continued to get worse over the years and eventually we broke up. I make no exaggeration when I say I became a new man, a much better man, when that relationship ended.

I learned alot of things on this vacation: Bobby and Eliza had it right, do what you want to do and fuck everyone else (but just be nice when you tell them to fuck off), NEVER SHARE A HOTEL ROOM, and always have free time to relax - it is a vacation. Never visit a place based on an image, do the hard research and see if there is enough to sustain your interests for the time you are there. Have fun on your next trip!

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 17

Howdy True Be-loggers, welcome to Sunday Leftovers! I have been a busy boy this week building several websites which I will be discussing here. Also some not so fun news (since I am doing the personal sharing things), and of course the usual features. Lets get to it.

[Bad News First: Allison's accident]

Somebody smashed up my poor wife's car yesterday. She was making a left out of our development and a girl (with a baby in the car) switched out of a right only lane and clipped Allison's Honda. Not sure if it is a total loss o at the moment, we will find out more tomorrow, which of course is a total bummer. I am working on a blog for the Timbercrest site discussing the need for a light at the entrance of our development. So you will see more complaining in a few days once I get all the facts.

I know I am one to talk, but seriously, slow down when you are driving, especially if you have a baby in the car!

[Websites]

This week I built three new websites one for good, one for business, and one for fun. Let's discuss in that order:

GOOD: Gridiron4charity.com

If you remember last week's article, I helped my cousin with a football camp flyer that supports an Autism charity. I took it one step further this week by setting up a website for the camp. You can check out the skeleton frame of the site as I am still waiting on feedback from the camp organizers. But if you read this blog, live in South Jersey, and have a kid that plays football ages 6-14 please check out:

Gridiron4charity.com

BUSINESS: Misterdoneright.com

My cousin Anthony befriended a really nice general contractor who does excellent work but happens to have a really thick accent which has been hurting him getting jobs. So he asked me to help him set up a website that can do some of the talking for him. Right now we got the domain registered and I am working on getting materials for the site, so this one is really under construction, but keep checking it out...

Misterdoneright.com

Seriously if you need some painting or tile work done, this guy is freaking amazing.

JUST FOR FUN: Datemybeard.com

So after Allison's crash yesterday we had a little pity party with friends. We wanted to enjoy our new deck while it was warm. Sean came over and is still featuring his crazy ass beard. Gorcka said something about someone going out on a date with Sean's beard and Allison was quick to chime in datemybeard.com - game over.

Datemybeard.com
Facebook fan group: DMB Facebook Fan Group

The DNS settings will be active tomorrow and the site will go live then, but in the mean time, check out some of the videos we created for the site last night:

Here is a video on the Top 10 Historical Beards:


Here is Sean's intro video (hopefully there will be more to come)



[Recipe of the Week: Poorman's Feast]

Here is treat: This week's R.o.t.W is a video. Clara has been catching on like crazy on the internet, so I figured I would share...



You think the economy is bad now, listen to this woman as she drops some perspective.

[D.I.Y of the Week: Turn an old suitcase into an Ottoman]

I wouldn't be rocking this in a nice living room, but in a basement, fuck it...


Make an Ottomon Out of an Old Suitcase - More DIY How To Projects

Instructions: Click here for written instructions

[Conclusion]

I know I went a little heavy on the video content this week. I have a couple of articles sitting in the oven waiting to go, just looking for some final feedback before I let them loose. Next week Paul and I will be doing some semi-live blogging from Zane Patrick's Day (on Saturday) so check the blog if you are sitting at home not doing anything. In fact, we will probably be blogging as long as we are running around NYC. Until next week.... don't take shit from anybody!

Love,
- Joey

If you are reading this blog on Facebook, you aren't really reading it - enjoy the true version (with working video) at: Joey's Blog

Monday, March 02, 2009

Productivity Boost: Doodling



In the last few years, I find myself doodling quite a bit while sitting on long and boring meetings at work. At first it was during teleconferences, but it has expanded into actual meetings. I am following everything that is happening, but I need to do more. The other day I found this article that states doodling might be a good thing: Doodling Improves Productivity.

How does it work? The scientists hypothesize the mental load it takes to absentmindedly draw is significantly smaller than the demands of a full-on fantasy, which leads your mind entirely away from the event you're supposed to be engaged in. That trickle of attention devoted to doodling appears to keep you focused in the present time, while giving you a release valve from a frustratingly over-long group session.


The article goes on to say that the boost is for light doodles (like shading in boxes) and not full out art projects. So do you doodle at work? Does it help or hurt your focus?

(Image Credit: Luke Ross & DC Comics)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sunday Leftovers: Volume 01: Issue 16

Howdy True Be-loggers! Welcome to Sweet Sixteen of Sunday Leftovers. As I type this, I am looking out the window and watching the snow fall. Looks like the greater Philadelphia area is getting the biggest snow storm it has seen in years. Let me say that I hate the snow. Hate it. So I am going to wrap that hatred like a fine smoked bacon around this article... Let's do this.

[Blogging]

I know, I know. It is a douche move to blog about blogging: It is like when a writer's man character in a book is a writer (Hi Andrea!). Something has been nagging me for a while, so I figured I would say my peace. Since my first blog, there has been an ebb and flow with my attitude on the posts, and that has been very deliberate. I get freaked out that big brother (a.k.a) my job might be reading these odd little stories and articles I put up. So when the paranoia sweeps over me, the blog post tend to get more professionally toned and the profanities go away. When I relax, you start seeing me make jokes about whores on Vine Street.

So to clear it up for myself and for you the reader, here is the deal: You will never see a blog post about my work or co-workers (unless they are Kam or Tom who are friends in real life), but everything else is on the table. I have been curbing using people's real names in personal stories due those names and stories popping up on google searches. So yes, names have been and will continue to be changed.

I don't know if this little blog will come back to bite me in the ass at a future job interview but I have been honest here and I haven't said anything that has been out of line, so I feel that it represents me pretty well. One thing I am struggling with is how to introduce professional content without really talking about my job which can be tough due to some contract management that I do. I am currently writing a little white paper on how to treat vendors, don't know if I will publish it here or let it languish on my hard drive.

[Gross Out]

Just because I can...



[Quick Fire Reviews]

(Movies)

Role Models:This movie was much better than I thought it would be. Yes, it had a terrible contrived ending, but putting Stiffler and a street wise little kid together was actually a brilliant move.

Taken: Saw this a few weeks ago and forgot to mention it. The plot is a little too easy and implausible, but once you get past it, I have to say I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Let the Right One In: This is a foreign Vampire movie that is very much in the new mold of treating the source material with reverence and taking any trace of camp out of the horror genre. So instead of a creepy child vampire movie, we have a brooding bore fest. Pass on this movie.

Sex Drive: We had this movie on for 20 minutes and then shut it off. Enough said.

Slumdog Millionaire: Like everyone and their mother has been saying, I really enjoyed this movie BUT... I don't think it should have won best film.

The Reader: How can you make a horny old Nazi fucking a 17 year old boy boring? Well watch the reader. OMG she can't read! Really!?! Seriously just watch the Shawshank Redemption for a better version of the perils of people getting out of prison.

(Books)

Monster Island/Nation/Planet: I reviewed the first book in the trilogy a few weeks ago and finished it up last week. Overall, not a terrible series, but not great either. I finished it up because I felt I should. The zombies evolve into super powered monsters... kind of boring. I don't know how, but it was kind of boring.

The Plot Against America: I don't read much alt-history fiction, but the library had it. The idea is that a Nazi-sympathizing Charles Lindbergh defeats FDR for his third term. Lindberg then starts to make things uncomfortable for Jewish-Americans. But it stops there. While things get tense for the families nothing really happens until the last twenty pages and only to incredibly minor characters. The book had so much potential to expose the anti-Semitic politic themes of the 1940's, but instead, it was a very boring story based on a clever idea.

(Video Games)

Gears of War 2: Paul and I beat GoW2. The ending was terrible. The more that I think about it, the sequel improved upon ideas and game play elements from the first game, but the actual flow of the game sucks. You start in a city, go underground, come up, go back underground, go up, go back underground, go back to the city, go back underground, have a fake final boss, game over. Boooo.

[Recipe of the Week: Grilled Cheese 2.0]

I am totally ripping this off of Esquire.com - gotta give credit here, but this sounds good.

Ingredients:
(2) Think Slices of Applewood-Smoked Bacon
(3) Large Eggs
(1) Tablespoon of sour cream
(1/4) Cup of water
(4) Slices of nice whole wheat bread
(4) Slices of Cheddar Cheese
Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste

Start off by rendering two nice, thick slices of applewood-smoked bacon, diced small, in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Crack some fresh black pepper over the bacon, and while it's cooking, whisk three large eggs with a tablespoon of sour cream and a quarter cup of water. Whole-wheat bread or grain bread works nicely for this — lay out four slices and top each with sliced cheddar. When the bacon is just about done, strain out the fat (saving it) and add the eggs to the pan with the bacon. Let them almost set before lightly scrambling them with a wooden spoon. When the eggs are about done, divide them onto two slices of the bread. Sprinkle sea salt on the eggs and then cover them with the other two slices of bread and cheese. After wiping out the pan with a dry cloth, add some of the bacon fat and a tablespoon of butter to the pan over low heat and place the two sandwiches in the pan. Cover and let them cook for about four minutes, until they are golden brown, then flip them over for another four minutes. When the cheese is melted, they're done. Only one pan from start to finish. Makes two sandwiches.

Total time to prepare: 10 minutes

[DIY of the Week: Wine Cork Message Board]

The last few weeks I have been sharing some very hard DIYs, but I saw this one and I thought, simple and interesting... plus it gives you a reason to crack open a few bottles. I have been meaning to put up a message board in my basement for a while, so I plan on doing this when I get enough corks - I might have to hit up my father in law (SHAMELESS PLUG! Kress Wine)

1. Gather wine corks. Depending on the size of your frame you'll need about 50-100. Unless you've had a serious party, this is hopefully probably not something you'd do in one go. You can store them in a glass container for display as you amass your supplies.

2. Cut a piece of peg board or plywood to fit the interior of the frame (your local hardware store will generally do this for you if you know the dimensions).

3. Attach the peg board/plywood to the back of the frame.

4. Using wood glue or a glue gun, glue corks in place either side by side or 2 lengthwise followed by 2 sideways (they look best when the labels show). You may need to cut the a couple of corks (the ones on the side edges) lengthwise to fit the frame (scissors will do the trick)

5. Let the corks dry

6. Hang and get organizing

(Credit: ApartmentTherapy.com)

[Local Charity Alert]

My cousin Anthony asked me to put together a brochure for a fund raiser for the GoodLooking Foundation which is an Autism awareness charity. Instead butchering what they are all about, here is their mission statement:

The GoodLooking Foundation’s mission is to improve the outlook on autism by establishing GoodLooking Centers in pursuit of the following goals:

* Make treatment services more readily available and accessible to autistic children,
* Assist parents with obtaining timely autism diagnoses and critical early intervention services for their children,
* Create a caring and beneficial environment where autistic children can play and learn with each other and their normally developing peers,
* Give parents and siblings of autistic children opportunities to interact with and support each other, and
* Raise the level of awareness and acceptance of autism in our communities

You can find out more about the GoodLooking Foundation here: GoodLooking Foundation



[New Blog: I am cheating on you]

I am starting a new blog on my Home Owners Association website. But don't worry, I will repost the content here so you don't have to go fishing. I am going to document some of the projects going on with my house at first and then go from there. If you are wondering, yes, I plan on being a complete smart ass on that blog too. You can check it out at Blog.Timbercresthoa.com.

[Conclusion]

Don't get buried alive in the snow and don't take shit from anybody



Love,
Joey