Sunday, February 5, 2012

Right outside your door

I have more time on my hands lately and it has been nice.  To sit and think, to enjoy small things, to get back in balance. 

So Btown doesn't offer much in the way of cultural diversity, wild nightlife, culinary treats, or sunny beaches, but one thing it does have is wilderness.  The crazy thing is, not many people take advantage of it.

This winter has been quite strange in that we had massive snow in October but now the ground is bare and the bulbs are actually starting to break through the ground.  With no snow, it is still possible to hike.

One thing I have always loved is being totally alone in the woods.  Only surrounded by natural sounds and smells.  There is something magical about it that can either make you totally at peace or can scare the wits out of you.

From my stroll around the Quabbin, I now consider this a favorite place.

So early last Sunday morning I found myself on a stroll through the woods.  Frosty ground crunching under my feet, icy water lapping at the shore, deer flagging their tails away from me.  On this day, the woods put me totally at peace.

Friday, March 11, 2011

As far as the eye can see

It seems like my world changes on a daily, weekly, monthly basis....

As I write this, I am mid-trip.  2 weeks... New York, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, New York.

I decided that Hong Kong would be a good place to spend the weekend.  So I'm sitting at a roof top bar... working... blogging... surfing... eating... watching... sipping free champagne.

It is Saturday but, I already did the bulk of my work for the day because I was up at 5 AM like usual.  Then at noon I started my workout.  Today was a 2 hour Zone 2 brick workout.  1 hour on a bike 1 hour running.  It is about 70 F outside so it is great for running.  Victoria Park is next door to the Excelsior Hotel where I am staying for these 2 days.  Today was a flower show which used half the park, I ran laps around the remainder amidst locals practicing Tai Chi, jogging, sleeping, relaxing, or just spending family time together. 

I needed some lunch and had more work to do so I decided to head upstairs.  The food was a buffet.  I had some sushi, a scallop, a small amount of fillet mignon, a bit of rice, and a dumpling.  Amazingly the dumpling sucked.  Usually they are perfect here, but not so in this case.  The rest was very good.  The bartender "Sonny" says the champagne is complimentary.  Who am I to argue?

The thing that gets me is how diverse all the cultures are that I experience, yet they all have so much in common.  Sure, we all have our differences.  I fail to understand how slavery can still exist today, how gender equality doesn't exist, how the environment can be blatantly destroyed.  But, people are people, and we all have our reality.

All these experiences change my view of the world and my reflection on humanity.

With that said...  I long to be home, with familiar sounds, smells, and people.  When I am gone I miss my people.  That means Family and Friends.   I miss the look in their eye and the sound of their voice. 

My life can be surreal....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to make the perfect cheeseburger

I love cheeseburgers.  The people around me know this because I eat them.... often.
I don't think there is anything wrong with eating them as long as it isn't 100% of your diet.
For the Paleo people in my audience, feel free to eliminate the cheese... and the bun.... and just create the ulimate burger. 
I'm a firm believer that your body needs high quality protien to function properly.  If you want to grow, get faster, or kick ass the importance grows exponentially.

Ok so here it is... the magical recipe for the perfect cheeseburger.

It all starts with the meat.
We could get into the whole dry aged vs. grass fed vs. the stuff in the supermarket that is actually dyed red.

If we are gonna talk ultimate, we are gonna go with grass fed.  That means that Mr. Cow was able to roam around and experience a little American countryside before meeting his demise.  Kobe beef???? Don't give me that crap.  There is no such thing.  It is all BS when it comes to burger.  They don't grind any of that stuff up.  By the way, if you have the chance to have a Kobe beef steak, just realize it is pretty much a pile of fat.  I'll take a quality Ribeye or Delmonico any day of the week.

Sorry, let's get back on track.
You want to use a combination of round, chuck, and sirloin in equal proportions.  Look, nobody said it was going to be easy to make perfection.  Make sure it comes from a reliable source because some of the best burgers are served Rare, meaning they have a cool red center.  The meat should end up around 85% lean.

Next, let the meat reach room temperature.  This is important, so think ahead.

Hand form a patty that is about 3/4" thick by 5" across.  When I say hand form I really mean to massage the meat into a beautiful form like a talented artist. 

Next you will need a grill, and it can't be some wimpy grill either.  Charcoal or gas doesn't really matter.  What is important is temperature.  You have to get over 500 degrees, preferably 700.  For those without a temperature gauge this means that you can't hold your hand 4" above the grill for any length of time.  Don't worry about it being too hot.  Just turn it to high and let it get really hot.

Next, put the patty on the grill and don't screw with it, just let it sit there and sear.  Maybe 2 minutes depending on the temperature.  Then flip it and again don't screw with it.  When done it will still be soft like the pad on the palm of your hand. 

There are two important points during the cooking of the patty.
1. the outside needs some black marks
2. the inside needs to be red

The bun can be whatever you like.  Some people like sesame seeds, others like Ciabata, others like onion buns, others like potato rolls.  It doesn't matter to me.  But it must be toasted.  That means coating the bun with salted butter and giving it some grill marks and brown toasty goodness.

The cheese can change based on your taste.  If you want to make me happy it should be a nice aged cheddar cheese slice thick.

Toppings.... the best is just salt and pepper.  But, carmelized onions are good, or crispy smoked bacon, or sauted mushrooms.  Keep it simple to not overpower the flavor of the burger.  Mayo is tasty too.  Ketchup and BBQ sauce should be used only when your beef is sub par and needs to be covered up.

You put all these things together and you will have a beautiful creation.  Trust me, I know.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bangladesh Experience

There are some things in life that no matter what, can not be fully appreciated unless you experience it yourself. 


There is no way I could say I have any level of appreciation for what it is like to go through childbirth.  I imagine it is something that must be experienced. 


No one can say they understand and appreciate war unless they have been on a battlefield.  Myself included.


Ok so a trip to Dhaka is not equal to going to war or childbirth, but let me tell you it isn't far off.
It is something that you truly need to experience in order to appreciate.  It is like no other place I have ever been. 

If I were to say it was dangerous, you would say to prove it with some statistics.  Well, that is impossible because if there were some data it would be wrong.  There isn't some department keeping track of crimes and deaths and robberies.   They happen and people go on with their day.

If I were to say it's polluted, you would want to show how the wildlife has declined.  Well, no data for that either.  But is is pretty easy to appreciate when normal visibility is under 4 km and the water is tinted whatever color they are dying textiles that day.

If I were to say the people were poor, you would want to know what the average wage is.  Put it this way, the IRS isn't auditing the average person because they claimed a "home office" on their taxes.  Who knows how much money people make there.  But, I can say that right now, at this minute my pocket contains more than the annual wages of most people in Bangladesh and my pocket doesn't contain much.

It isn't the worst place in the world, but, it is the worst place I have ever been. 

Before this trip, I had no appreciation for the circumstances and situation in that country.  Now, I am still no expert but I have a much better appreciation.  My appreciation for how fortunate I am has grown by a tremendous amount.  I just can't believe that a place like that exists on our planet. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

New England - a cold slap in the face!

"Across New England, where relatively balmy temperatures prevailed during the winter of 2009–2010, the upcoming winter will be the equivalent of a cold slap in the face, as we forecast much colder-than-normal temperatures."  This is from the 2011 Farmers Almanac website.  It was from August 2010.

I think they got it pretty close.

(it won't be long before polar bears move to new england)

Not to mention that we have been buried under piles of snow.  Roof leaks from endless ice dams have destroyed walls and ceilings.  You roll the dice every time you try to pull out from a side street or driveway because it is impossible to see.  Children are going uneducated because school is cancelled.  Summer break has been eliminated for all schools due to all the days they will need to make up.

If I was going to pick a winter to be outside the country and in a location only feet from the equator, this would be the one.  Fortunately the coldest place I have been has been South Korea and that was only for about 5 hours where I lounged in a massaging chair, sipped cappuccino, and crunched on Milano cookies.

This week I head to Bangladesh for the first time.  I've heard quite a bit about how bad this is going to be in regard to the sheer madness of trying to move about the country.  I think this trip I will bring the video camera to capture the excitement.  Hopefully I have something fun to share when I return.

But, while I am traveling, my heart is always in New England.  I love the fact that there are four strong seasons to enjoy.  As a matter of fact, I think the people of New England will truly appreciate Spring this year.  The complaints of 100 degree days will be a little less this summer as we remember the winter of 2010-2011. 

Now, if you will excuse me I need to go pack my shorts.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Philadelphia Steak and Cheese Challenge - Geno's vs Pat's

Today I find myself in Philadelphia for just long enough to conduct a very important comparison.  Geno's vs Pats.

So this all starts with your standard 48 minutes of flight time from Hartford to Philadelphia on US Airways. My final destination is Greensboro, NC for the rest of the week for meetings. 

Once I was off the plane it was a dash to "ground transport" to get a taxi.  I somehow get screwed up and arrive at the check in desk for US Airways.  So I figure why not check my bag so I don't have to drag it around with me.  So I do.

Then 37 seconds later I realize my coat and hat are inside the bag I just checked.  That was a pretty stupid move I must say.  So I ask "is there any place I can buy a sweatshirt"?  Yes, on the other side of security.

No Thanks, I can take the cold.

So off I go to find a taxi and I find a minivan driven by Steve Wall who is a 300 pound black man originally from Philly.  He doesn't prefer Geno's or Pat's, he thinks Jim's is the best.  On the way I ask him if I will be able to find another taxi when I get done eating.  Steve responds "you'd have to be blind not to find a taxi over there".  Ok, I'll take that as a yes.

So about 200 yards from the destination I look to my left and see a very Vegas like set of flashing neon lights, "GENOS" was lighting up the night sky.

So I say, "boy that is hard to miss" "where is Pat's"?  Steve lets me know it is the small building with the little sign on it.  Then he says "Pat says he don't need no F#(KING lights to sell his sandwiches"  This made me laugh.

This is my first taste of the Philly attitude. 

So I go to Geno's first, I step up and pretend I know what I'm doing "whiz wit" I say with some make believe confidence.  There was a group of asians in front of me who found one of the signs interesting.  It said "this is America, order in English".  About 34 seconds later I had a sandwich in my hand and I was stuffing it into my face with extreme joy.  Keep in mind that due to my new found diet I was "saving up" for this meal by not eating hardly anything all day.

So at this point I'm basically freezing my A$$ off, shoveling cheesesteak into my face and loving every second of it.

So next I stroll over to Pat's and get in line.  There is more of a line at Pat's and they took the ordering much more serously.  So once again I step up "whiz wit" I say as I'm getting the hang of this.  I think it helps to pretend like you are slightly irritated by everyone around you.  This one is even faster, I'd say 15 seconds max.  I was freezing at this point and focused the task at hand.  I have to say, this was a tasty sandwich too but there were distinct differences and I had found my favorite.

Geno's distributed the cheeze much better and layered the meat in a way that made it much more eatable.  Pat's just dumped the cheeze on top and it was a bit of a challenge to get that perfect bite.  The steak, although chopped up, tended to have more stringy bits in it that took away from the eating pleasure slightly.

Overall, Geno's is the winner for me.

I flagged another cab driven by Abolade Desalu from Nigeria.  He quickly told me that Geno's was his favorite too.  Then he drove like a mad man toward the airport.  I don't think he was in a hurry I think he just liked to drive fast.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

20/20 Memory - Your Mind's Eye

Do you have memories from times in your life where you can remember everything from that moment in time?  Maybe it was a significant moment in your life, or maybe just an experience that you treasure.

Some people always bring a camera with them during vacations and they snap photos of everything they think is interesting.  Other people carry the camera but never take it out.  Maybe there is nothing wrong with just allowing yourself to take it all in.  Take a picture with your "mind's eye" and store it away forever.

I have so many of these moments and I can play them in my mind anytime I want.  It is almost like I can go back in time and live it over again. 

Give it a try, close your eyes and go back to one of YOUR moments.  See it, smell it, feel it.

I have some favorite moments to remember... 

Walking into your grandparents home, the different smell, all the treasured old items from their life.  The stories that you have heard before but would give anything to hear again.

Sitting in your first car and realizing you can go anywhere you want.  It doesn't matter how old or beat up the car, I swear I can still feel the seat beneath me now.

Going brook fishing with my father, picking our way through the woods to secret fishing holes.  The moss covered forest floor was so soft, and the branches would catch the line of the fishing pole so I would stop to un-tangle it.  That vibration of the first bite from a fish and the excited yell "I got one!"

Climbing mountains and enjoying that moment when I reach the peak and stop to take in everything around me.  The cold of the sweat on my back when I removed my pack and sat down onto the uneven granite.

I would never trade these memories for a photograph.