Monday, February 16, 2009

On Tap

Just in time for Mardis Gras, I decided to splurge and get a unique keg. Unique in Zimbabwe maybe. It's Miller Time. Yes, Miller Lite is on tap.

As they say, if you don't like it, bring your own.

I did clean out the kegerator though, so there is that.

I'm pretty sure I'm all here

Has anyone ever time traveled? Well, if you haven't, then I suggest you head on over to Jonah's in East Peoria. And you don't even need Doc Brown, though, who would refuse him?

Valentine's Day, after our Menards saga, we went to Jonah's Fish House for dinner. I made reservations several weeks ago using Open Table (I highly suggest). We arrived at 6:45 for our 7:00 reservation to a packed house (well, it is Valentine's Day). I sauntered up to the hostess station to let her know we had arrived. She found my reservation and then proceeded to utter this phrase, "I'll put you down as partially here, come back at 7 to check in." Right then I quickly thought:

  • There are only two of us and we are both here
  • I don't remember driving my Delorean
  • Did I request "snotty hostess" on Open Table?
  • I wonder what Joe's Crab Shack's phone number is?
  • Am I being punked?
  • Is this a Monty Python sketch?
  • This is possibly a bad/weird sign

So, I ask her, "Just to clarify, I have told you I'm here but I need to come back at 7 to tell you I'm here again?" Her response, without batting an eyelash but with a heavy does of snide and a dash of unmitigated gall, "Yes",

Ooookaaay then

No seats in the bar so we find some benches to sit on. We did enjoy watching patrons mistake the bathroom signs (that's what happens when you get cute with the names, Whalers and Maidens) and almost run into a column. Promptly at 7 I went up to the hostess and announced, "I checked, and I'm all here". I'm sure she loved that but I could care less. I asked how long the wait was and got "20-25 minutes".

I found a table in the bar and brought Rachel over to possibly get some drinks. HA! No waiter in sight and the bar tender seemed to be on an internship from the Illinois School for the Blind. OK, the waiter was in sight at one point, when I was at the hostess station he came zooming by uttering curse words under his breath. So, in hindsight, probably good he didn't serve us, I like my Jack and Cokes sputum free.

Expecting a long wait we were surprised to hear my name 7 minutes later. NICE! We even got a seat by the window overlooking the Peoria river, not too bad, and the employee parking lot, interesting placement.

The waitress was very nice and took our order promptly. She even had one of those hand-held computers to put the order in. Our salads were tasty and the calamari was very good. The bread was...bread. Now our entrees arrive. I had Marlin and Rachel had Scallops. The Marlin was overcooked and the Scallops were barely plural (just 3). Not too impressed.

I will say the dining room staff were excellent, prompt, courteous, and efficient. But the food is the ultimate sticking point and for the prices they were charging, I will not be back too soon. Afterwards we surmised that we would have been happier at Red Lobster.

Another failed Valentine's Day dinner. But hey, if the relationship is fabulous and the Hallmark Holiday dinners are bad, I'll take that any day.

Menards, how I love/hate thee

Saturday we opened the paper to find that Menards was in the last day of a 15% off sale so we zoomed on over there. As you may remember from my previous post, my outdoor spigot had burst (even though it was an anti-siphon one...) so I needed to replace it sooner, rather than later.

We arrived and quickly found the spigot (more expensive than the others of course). Then we decided, "Hey we haven't liked our cabinet knobs for a while, so why don't we find new ones?" We looked over all the choices and decided to get some cool metallic black ones (33 of them). We thought they would go better with our cabinets instead of the shiny brass colored ones. -- Side bar - I genuinely like the previous owner as he saved me a lot of work and I generally liked his taste, buuuut, I have no idea why he loved shiny brass. And I mean LOVED. It's all over the place. I feel like I'm back in high school marching band surrounded by instruments. -- Anyway, we grabbed those knobs (@ $4.74 a piece, important later) and picked up some other odds and ends (solar security light, a wrench, and new toilet handles, again with the brass).

We get home and immediately install the new knobs. They look pretty cool and we are satisfied with ourselves.

I'm cooking along putting up the security light, installing the spigot (found out why it froze, whoever installed it didn't let it slope so the water couldn't get out, good times), and puttering around. I go inside to thaw out my hands when Rachel voices what I was thinking, "I think the knobs aren't quite right." Alas, I had to agree they didn't fit with the kitchen so we took them all off (thankfully we still had the bags) and headed to Menards. Return was no problem (along with the toilet handles, universal my ass) and we looked again. Found some we liked but knew we could get them slightly cheaper online.

Then we went to Lowe's, looked again, and found the same ones we liked, only cheaper than online, SOLD! Cut back home and reinstalled the knobs to our satisfaction. I know, our lives are awash in excitement.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How many times must I learn this lesson?

As those who may know me can attest, my short term memory is not what it should be. Yes, I can remember quotes from movies I’ve seen 10 years ago but I can’t remember when it is trash night. So, this leads me to my latest lesson.

Last month I received the monthly gas bill from NICOR and was greeted by a $159 bill. Now, I know this is winter on the prairie but that seemed a bit outrageous. Confused, I called NICOR, and after entering my account number, phone number, blood type, and astrological sign was welcomed by a lovely representative…who asked me for my account number. Now I know this is a dead horse that has been beat from here to Des Moines, but why ask me for this twice? Very annoying. Anyway, the nice lady tells me the meter was estimated and not an actual reading. She said I could go out and read the meter so they could adjust the bill but since:

1. I’m lazy
2. It was below zero outside
3. The meter was on the dark side of the house, thus receiving no sun, and thus not melting the two foot snow bank (probably why the meter reader estimated)
4. I forgot
5. I’m lazy (sense a trend?)

I neglected to read the meter figuring the next bill would be correct.

Flash forward several weeks

I open my new NICOR bill and find a $140 bill. OK, this is getting a bit old. I look through all the gas industry jargon (therms, obscure taxes, plans for World domination) to discover the reading was actual. Yikes! What is going on here? I have the water heater set a little past the middle indicator. I keep the thick drapes down in front of the two single pane windows (thanks for not replacing those, previous owner). We close off the third bedroom. We keep the furnace thermostat set below 70. Wait, what’s that brain? You say the furnace rings a bell? You remember something about a filter?

Cut to me opening up the electrostatic furnace filter. I grab the metal filter and the thing looks like Courtney Love’s hair on her wedding day. It is chock full of cat hair, dirt, pollen, and various detritus. The only things missing are used hypodermic needles and small animals.

I go upstairs to clean the filter (upon which it says to clean every month; I’ve lived there 10 months…whoops!) in the kitchen sink. I quickly find out that is a bad idea as this leaves mud in the sink. After much cursing and scouring with Comet, I am pleased to have a clean filter and a sparkling sink. I let the filter dry and then take it downstairs to put it back in the furnace. Just as I’m closing the hatch and feeling proud of myself, I look at the side of the furnace. There the previous owner wrote to clean the filters (thanks). Filters you say? As in plural? @#$@#$@!

Let’s pause for a moment here. Before I continue with this story and the twist ending, let me regale you with the meaning behind the title of this post. See, this is the third time I’ve learned the furnace filter lesson.

The first time was way back in 1999. We had a president who could not only speak in clear English (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman) but also diagram sentences (“It depends on the meaning of ‘is’”). Gas was under $5 a gallon and Iraq was remembered as that little way we got to watch on CNN. A strapping young man was living with his best friend in a magnificent apartment. Across the street I was living with my best friend Lynda in a pretty cool apartment that had the unfortunate characteristic of possessing windows made in 1950. Not sure if any of you remember but the 99/00 winter was very cold and very windy (yes, I know I am describing every Central Illinois winter).

Lynda and I quickly found the windows, doors, and walls in the apartment were less than stellar. You know that candle trick people use with windows? The one where you hold a lit candle next to the window to see if it flickers? This is supposed to show you if there are any drafts. Our windows, the “draft” was so strong it blew hot wax into my face. After suffering a couple nights of frigid temps (I slept in sweatshirts, thermal underwear, socks, three dogs, and a sleeping bag) I went to the hardware store to buy out their winterizing section. After covering the windows and doors with plastic the temp inside got better but not as warm as it should, I remembered one of my chores from my parents’ house, changing the furnace filter. I went over to the furnace and found a filter that looked original to the apartment. After much cursing I threw the filter at the apartment manager’s door and then bought a new one. Much better after that.

Now comes the second time. I had been a religious filter changer ever since moving into my house on Lynx Ln. Every month I changed it (OK, I missed a couple of times here and there, this is me we’re talking about). Well, fast forward a couple of years and I’m going through a tax status change while also trying to sell the house. During this I forget about the filter when one day I hear a not-so-good sound from the furnace. I take a look and find the filter almost bent in half and coated in dirt (was Pig Pen living with me?). Roughly $200 later we replace the blower motor. This brings us back to yesterday.

So, now I need to repeat the steps only this time I decide to use the hose outside since we’re having freaky 60 degree weather. I take the filter outside, turn on the hose; get ready to spray, and nothing. @#$@#%@# Oh wait, I shut off the water to the spigot to prevent freezing (for once I’m smart). I go back inside, hop downstairs, and find the shut-off valve. Turn it on and am greeted by a stream of water hitting the workbench. @#$$&#$%^#$%#!@ Apparently I congratulated my brilliance too soon as I didn’t bleed out the pipe before it froze. Great.

Now I get to clean the filter in the sink again only this time I minimize the dirt staining (see, I’m learning!) by rinsing off the sink periodically. Take the filter back down to the furnace, put it in, and quickly surmise my weekend will now be spent replacing a busted pipe.

On the plus side, the house was much warmer that night… One of these days I’ll learn.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Movie Reviews

Thought I would give some movie reviews. Scale is 1-5 trees, 5 being the highest.

V for Vendetta
Interesting movie that was quite hard to follow at times. My guess is the director and writer wanted to parallel the government in the movie to W's administration, albeit quite ham-fistedly (is that a word). I liked the fights scenes and the set decoration but had trouble understanding the dialogue since they used very strong English accents. Normally I have no problem understanding accents but these were a little difficult.
3 Trees

I really enjoyed this movie and thought Liev Schreiber and Daniel Craig did a very good job. Interesting that Craig has now played two vengeful Jews (the other was in Munich which was excellent too). Both actors portrayed the conflicting emotions well. The dynamic between the two is smooth and you have no trouble believing they are brothers even though they look nothing alike.
I had read an excellent book about the Bielskis called The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy about a year ago. The movie did a great job transferring the story to the screen and didn't skim over their situational ethics. Afterwards I wanted to go out and kill some Nazi's.
4 1/2 Trees

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Good SciFi/Fantasy movie about Vampires and Lycans (werewolves). If you've seen the previous two Underworld movies you definitely want to see this one. It is a prequel and helps explain a lot of what went on in the first two. Bill Nighy predictably steals the show and you just have to love the way he pronounces his lines. The special effects are muuuuch better this time around.
3 1/2 Trees

That's all I can remember of recent movies for now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Weekend

OK, now that I got the venom out of my system in the previous post, let's get onto happier things, namely, my weekend.

University night and there was a pretty good sized crowd. The Thunder even wore Rachel took Friday off for mental health and because she's jealous that I get payday Fridays off. Can't say I blame her for being jealous and I was happy she had the day off with me. We spent the day taking down the rest of the Christmas decorations, picking up, and watching movies/TV. Later that evening we met my Dad and Mark at El Porton (best Mexican restaurant in town). We then went to the Prairie Thunder hockey game. Friday night was Illinois WesleyanIWU green sweaters that they auctioned off after the game for charity.

The game was great as we won 5-3 with new player Jars getting a hat trick and Standish almost getting one himself (his shot on the open goal hit the pipe, oooh, two hockey lingos in one post). We all had a good time and Dad enjoyed his first visit to the Coliseum.

Speaking of Standish, the guy is maybe 5'6" on skates but is faaast. He has great passing skills and has a nose for creating plays. I don't expect he or Jars will be around for too long. Let's enjoy them while they're here.

Saturday we decided it was time for a trip to Peoria. Why would we go to Peoria? We wanted to visit Big Lots (ours closed down last year) and Burlington Coat Factory, and to see if the Bennigan's there was still open. Since I didn't print out a map we of course got lost. I drove all the way around Peoria and finally called Burlington for directions. Once there Rachel found a jacket and I found that I was not the target demographic for this particular store. Unless of course I was looking for a fake Chinchilla coat or a derby hat to match my suit.

From Burlington we traveled to downtown in search of a Monte Cristo. No luck though, the Bennigan's was closed. I truly hope some chain buys the recipe. Oh well. We had a good backup though, Joe's Crab Shack. Joe's was very delicious. We had a pot with Chesapeake seasoning and an appetizer platter with crab dip (I highly recommend), some jalapeno crab balls (that's what she said), and popcorn shrimp. All washed down with some Blue Moon.

After Joe's we didn't want to truck all the way back to the North side of town for Big Lots so we decided to try and find the one in East Peoria. Well, we got a nice tour of East Peoria and Germantown Hills (recently expanded into Polandtown). I stopped at a convenience store and naturally the lady was new and hadn't heard of Big Lots. I looked it up in the phone book and saw it was on E Washington street. The lady said the street was on the other side of the highway. Away we drove in search of bargain prices only to discover the street was W. Washington. Dejected, we gave up and decided to head home. We got on the highway and, lo and behold, what do we find but an exit for E. Washington st. Deliverance at last. We found the promise land and then spent an hour and a half perusing their wares. Actually, I spent the last half hour laying in a recliner but that's beside the point. Oh, and some of you are wondering why if I looked in the phone book, I didn't call the store for directions. Exactly.

When we arrived back in Bloomington we stopped at McDonald's for our free Big Macs. Yes, we got free Big Macs. If the Thunder score 4 or more goals in a game everyone in attendance gets a free Big Mac the next day. Victory was delicious.

Once we arrived back to our humble abode we played some Rock Band 2 on the Wii.

Super Bowl Sunday was spent cleaning and watching TV. Included in the viewing was Puppy Bowl V on Animal Planet. A very enjoyable two hours. Late we went over to our friends Amy and Scott's house to watch the game. The game was pretty boring (save the 100 yard Int TD) for the first three quarters. Luckily the fourth quarter was great.

The Wells Fargo Wagon is a' Comin Down

Only this time they aren't delivering mail or money. This time they are picking our pockets and laughing all the way to the roulette table. Check out this article

To steal from SNL, Really? You took $25 Billion of tax payer dollars and you are spending part of it on a rewards trip to Vegas? Really? And not just any hotel, you chose the Wynn and the Encore. Why not choose Bellagio while you're at it? Why not order up lobster, Kobe beef steaks, Cristal, and caviar? How about serving Bald Eagle? Do you want rose petals strewn about the rooms every night?

I'm sure their argument is that they have to reward their top producers or else those people will leave. I call bullshit for a number of reasons.

  1. These are the same producers that generated thousands of sub-prime loans.
  2. Where are they going to go? Is there a big market for mortgage brokers right now?
  3. If the above two are false, why the lavish spread? There isn't some other way to reward them?
  4. Forget that, you took $25,000,000,000.00 from us. Many tax payers are out of work because of a problem YOU helped create. And now you spit in our face?
I for one am not giving any business to Wells Fargo until the present executives are gone. And then I will track where those executives go, and not give their future employers any of my business. Here are their names:

Howard I. Atkins, Senior EVP, Chief Financial Officer

Patricia R. Callahan, EVP, Office of Transition

David M. Carroll, Senior EVP, Wealth, Brokerage & Retirement Services

David A. Hoyt, Senior EVP, Wholesale Banking

Richard M. Kovacevich, Chairman

Richard D. Levy, EVP, Controller

Michael J. Loughlin, EVP and Chief Credit Officer

Mark C. Oman, Senior EVP, Home and Consumer Finance

Kevin A. Rhein, EVP, (Card Services and Consumer Lending)

James M. Strother, EVP, General Counsel, Law and Government Relations

John G. Stumpf, President and Chief Executive Officer

Carrie L. Tolstedt, Senior EVP, Community Banking

Julie M. White, EVP, Director of Human Resources

I know I probably sound like a raving madman but this really cheese's me off. I just can't fathom the lack of ethics and corrupted thought processes this requires. Do they have no common sense?

I hope this pisses other people off as much as me.