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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's All Downhill From Here

In 1968, Andy Warhol famously stated that "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Fast forward 42 years, and my opportunity for fame arrived.

The location:

The Backdrop:
Bottom of the 7th Inning. Padres lead 5-4. I'm sitting in Suite 48, drinking a beer, and technically participating in a "work event". Due to a last minute colleague cancellation, I was able to bring JD as my healthcare-sector technical advisor. Early in the game, we laugh at the little kid sitting next to us with a mitt, as we joke about how impossible it would be for a fly-ball to ever reach our section. Todd Helton is at the plate.

The Opportunity: 2 and 2 count. High fastball down the middle. Helton takes a huge cut, but is a little late and little low. Ball ricochets off his bat, starts flying towards the upper deck.


The Reaction: My two bosses to my left duck and cover. They are not looking for their moment of fame, just for survival. In contrast, I put down my beer and quickly prepare myself. My moment of glory has finally arrived after 25 years on this planet. 60,000 eyes and innumerable TV viewers are watching. As the ball spins towards me, I start contemplating my victory celebration. I'm pretty sure i'm going to go with a "who has two thumbs and just caught a fly ball... this guy" joke.

The Outcome: The ball is to my left. I reach over the wall for a deft one-handed barehand snag. The ball hits my hand. My hand smashes into the wall. The ball pops out of my hand. Tears pop out of my eyes. My 15 minutes of fame are over, and all that is left is the booing of the crowd ringing in my ears. And a searing pain in my left hand.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Steal of a Deal?

In addition to being a child prodigy (note: she is not child prodigy), Darwin's cousin Sir Francis Galton coined the term "Nurture vs Nature". An interesting debate about the relative impact of genetics vs environmental situation, I think the whole concept is a little bit of an oversimplification and can't be decided with a blanket statement that one is correct while the other is incorrect. (This is in contrast to the Chicken vs Egg debate which I think is quite simple, answer below in postscript). In reality it seems to me that there are individual outcomes that rely primarily on nature (inheriting a rare disease such as Huntington's), outcomes that rely primarily on nurture (language/religion), and then others that are a blend (weight is influenced by genes, but also by lifestyle). In my life however, there is definitely one trait that is completely dominated by nurture; The love of getting a good deal.

My parents love getting good deals, and I have been raised to do the same. My earliest memories of shopping are at the grocery store, where my mom taught me the all important "price/oz" metric, as well as the fact that buying generic versions of many foods (caveat, there are a few foods such as Orange Juice and Ice Cream cake where the generic brand just sucks and should not be purchased) is a way of getting an identical product for less. I've have applied these tenants to my life with usually good results and financial savings.

That being said, a recent dinner at the Thailand Cafe in New York with JC and CA was not a good result.

The Thailand Cafe is a great restaurant in the LES. Not surprisingly, it serves Thai food. As I was recently in NYC for a weekend, I had to return for a dinner. The three of us sat down, and as per the usual behavior of restaurant patrons, we immediately started looking at the drink menu.

The Facts and Figures:

Bottle of Beer: $5
Specialty Cocktails: $8
Nightly Special: Buy one Specialty Cocktail, Get one Specialty Cocktail FREE!

Displaying a high degree of mental math, I quickly came to the conclusion that the ASP (average sales price for the n00bs out there) on a Specialty Cocktail was only $4, 20% lower than a beer!
Holding alcohol content constant, this seemed like a great opportunity and gave me a 20% margin of safety in my enjoyment of cocktail vs beer. (i.e. even if I liked the cocktail 15% less than a basic beer, I was still getting a better deal!) I spent the next four minutes arguing to JC and CA about the validity of my findings, and then the waiter came.

CA was less than impressed with my theory, and ordered a $5 beer. (THW internal thought- "what a sucker!")

JC saw the wisdom in my theory, and opted for the specialty cocktail route. (THW internal thought- "at least someone here is rational!")

I have tried to find the drink menu online but it was to no avail. Suffice to say the menu contained all the traditional cocktails (mai thai, miami vice, cosmo, long island ice tea, etc) as well as some less traditional cocktails (blue lagoon, thunder devil, etc).

THW order 1: Blue Lagoon
JC order 1: Mai Thai

Round One Results: As the name suggests, the Blue Lagoon was electric blue. The most probable ingredients were Windex and Moonshine. I took one drink, gagged, and pronounced it undrinkable. JC had slightly better luck with the Mai Thai. It was murky brown, had a bright pink umbrella, and seemed to be comprised of rotten limes and 151. In a display of good faith, JC offered to switch drinks with me after we each drank half. In a display of even better faith, I elected to give him 98% of my blue lagoon instead of only 50%. JC choked down the remainder of the BL, while I surreptitiously hid my half of the Mai Thai behind the napkin holder. CA enjoyed her Kirin and looked on with amusement.

THW order 2: Coconut Breeze
JC order 2: Elected to let CA pick out his drink, received a Thunder Devil as a result.

Round Two Results: Despite the dismal first outcome, I still felt good about the plan. Yes, the first drink sucked.... but at least I got a little alcohol (emphasis on little, as at this point I have drank 2% of a BL) in my system and my second drink was going to be awesome. And even better, in a rare lack of judgment, JC mistakenly let CA order for him and was about to be getting what appeared to be the worst tasting drink in the history of mixology. So the combination of these two utility-enhancing events were going to return the value of my decision into the positive column.

Sadly I was wrong.

A coconut breeze straight up sucks. A mixture of coconut tanning oil, vodka-RAZZZZZZZ, and some other unidentified worm flavor, I took a 3% sip and quickly pronounced it undrinkable.
The one ray of light however was the Thunder Devil. Allegedly comprised of Tequila, Rum, Vodka, Creme de Coca, and COFFEE; the true ingredients were a more sinister mud, toxic sludge, and the dregs of whatever alcoholic beverages the bartender could find on that given night. Suffice to say, it was more than undrinkable; it was poisonous. CA continued to enjoy her Kirin and look upon us with amusement.

THW Order 3: There was never suppose to be an order three, because that would imply I would need to make an order 4. However, in an attempt to be opportunistic, I quickly responded with a "long island ice tea" when a backup server (who had not brought out my second drink) asked me what I wanted for my second drink. (clearly the sub-rosa mai thai was out of view, so she thought I was entitled a second free cocktail.) Inexplicably, CA decided to inform that waitress as she was walking away with my order that I in fact had already gotten my two drinks, thus turning bonus drink (which would have brought my ASP from $4 to $2.67) into the start of another 2 for 1 debacle.

As you can clearly guess, the long island ice tea was...... Undrinkable.

In a last-ditch effort to recover from my follies, I asked for just a beer on my last free drink. Sadly the waiter informed me, the specialty cocktail deal was limited to Specialty Cocktails, so I had to order another one and that he couldn't get me a beer. I pleaded and begged, but it was to no avail. As there literally was nothing I could possibly get on the menu, I asked instead for just a Coke. And sure enough.... A Coke was "NOT A SPECIALTY COCKTAIL".


Worst economic decision of my life. Ended up paying $16 for 2% of an undrinkable Blue Lagoon, 3% of an undrinkable Coconut Breeze, and 1% of an undrinkable Long Island Ice Tea.

The silver-lining to the story: The perverse joy I experienced the next day when hearing about JC's ThunderDevil/MaiThai/BlueLagoon induced hangover.

P.S. As promised, the answer is: CHICKEN. In a nod to Fermat, I will leave it at that. Perhaps later on I will reveal the proof.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Natural Disaster Analogy O'Day


K-T Boundary Event Impact: Blair's Reserve 16mm Scoville Crystals

Hurricane Earl :?


What a JOKE.

Also while I'm talking about FAIL... Am I the only one that realizes that Google Instant Search SUCKS?
What is this guy smoking:

"Google Instant Could Evolve into Ultimate Universal Search"

The constantly updating search and retarded autocomplete are so annoying. Yes GOOG you are smart, but No GOOG you do not know what I want to search for, and you are just annoying me with your attempts to get in my head. Seriously, are these really what you think the four most likely to be asked questions starting with "Why...." are going to be? Even Miss CLEO could predict how incorrect that is....

Time to get short $GOOG, they are losing their touch.

P.S. Also one final thought- LMAO at the new Itunes upgrade. Talk about an aesthetic step backwards, that new skin is hideous.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Two Random Stories? I Think Not

Story One: In December 2002, PH and I participated in a grandiose squash tournament entitled the "Tennis and Racquet Club Holiday Juniors Open". As it happened, this event occured neither at a tennis nor a racquet club, but instead took place at MIT. Anyway, I was in my second year of playing and he was in his first, so this was likely one of the first tournaments we had ever been in. While I can't fully recall the actual outcome (I seem to remember beating PH in 4 in the finals, but maybe that's just wishful thinking), one specific incident from the tournament vividly stands out; PH's first round match. After warming up against his opponent, they come off court for a final drink of water before playing. PH spins his racquet (some busty thing like this as I recall) for serve, and the opponent calls D. Sure enough, the D-Spot. As expected, the opponent elects to serve. In a less expected move, the opponent turns to PH and in loud voice says


I think it took PH 5 points to get over his laughter to where he was able to actually hit the ball, at which point he ran off a 3 game win in quick order. After the match the opponent slunk off the court, and was never seen in the squash world again. So while the Meatgrinder might have retired from the game, the word was firmly cemented in our lexicon and is still used today.

Story Two: A logical step in a hot sauce connoisseur's development is to get to the point where he makes his own sauces. Years of experience with different flavors, types of peppers, and heat levels provide a wealth of potential combinations to try. Personally, I am really intrigued to create a scotch bonnet sauce with milk chocolate, a Serrano sauce with apple vinegar, and a Jalapeno sauce with SOUR PATCH KIDS. Obviously to make such a sauce, you need a device that is able to chop foodstuff up into small pieces. While a n00b might think that a blender is the requisite tool, a food processor is really the way to go. After doing some research factoring in market reviews, my disposable income, and the potential monetary upside from inventing Sriracha's replacement, I decided to go with the Black and Decker FP2510S. I mean come on, it's a must-have for a serious chef!


I bought the food processor from Overstock. The clever part of that decision was that I got 10% off from my purchase. The dumb part of that decision was that I now am part of Overstock's mailing (spam) list, subjecting my poor gmail account to 10+ emails a day. However, I received a beauty of an email today that made it all worth while. Unlike the overused and factually incorrect "LOL!" of today's youth, I actually burst into auditory laughter upon receipt of the below email.

After a long hiatus, The MEATGRINDER lives on!