Phoebe

State Birds

My newfound appreciation for bird watching has been a fascinating walk down a feathered path of fun. Perhaps unsurprisingly, with my bird appreciation came bird judgement.

I can’t help it! Some birds are beautiful rare sights, others are everywhere and not exciting. The Mourning Dove is the perfect example. While I will forever love their sorrowful call, we’ve nicknamed them pig-birds. Mom D is famous for describing them as being so fat they have no option but to squeak every time their feathers squeeze their bodies in flight.

So it was with trepidation that I looked up the state bird of Connecticut. I secretly hoped for the feisty American Kestrel or the predatory Northern Harrier. Perhaps the shimmering ruby-throated hummingbird or the adorable Eastern Phoebe (a scraggly little Phoebe is shown as the feature image to this post)!

Nope. It’s the American Robin.

Okay okay, American Robin. Not the worst choice. We didn’t choose the Mourning Dove. Now let me see what other state birds are out there…

(note: to view chart below you’ll have to ‘read more’ of this post)

StateBirds

WHOA REPETITION! WHAT?!

Two other states have the American Robin! 29 of the 50 states have shared birds! 26% of all states are either the Northern Cardinal or the Western Meadowlark.

HOW CAN THIS BE?!? There are TENS OF THOUSANDS of birds to choose from. Why would any state ever duplicate a choice?! I agree that most people are drawn to the popular birds but what a travesty that so many states lose a chance for distinction. I think it would be far better to choose a bird that personifies the state than to choose an obvious name that all will immediately recognize.

American Robin? At first it was a weak choice. But knowing that it’s a duplicated choice makes it worse. Come on Connecticut! You can do better!

Cheese1

The Cheese Files vol. I

For years I have been a tepid supporter of the state of CT. To me it’s summed up in its choice for state bird: the American Robin. How… unoriginal*.

YET! Since moving to the Connecticut shoreline my enthusiasm for my state of residence has skyrocketed! It’s like someone took a salt and pepper shaker of awesome and seasoned the shoreline with cultural and culinary gems.

Jen and I found one such gem a few weeks ago:

Fromage of Old Saybrook

It is the cheese shop to end all cheese shops: Perfectly cute and full of far more than just cheese.

They have about 240 kinds of cheese, all sorts of coffees and spices, and adorable kitchen tools and organizational bits that make home dining even more of a pleasure.

After three trips in about four weeks, Jen and I have decided to try every single cheese that the shop has to offer. We’re checking them off one at a time and I have decided to review them in a reoccuring feature called the Cheese Files.

Each cheese will be rated on its taste, its price, and its independence (edibility without cracker, honey, or bread)

This week? Fromager Des Clarines: Jean Perrin Comte.

This French cheese comes as a full wheel packaged in an adorable little wooden box slightly bigger than a hockey puck.

Cheese1

This cow’s milk cheese is soft and smooth. We served it’s creamy goodness warm with honey, almonds, and cranberries atop green apple and crackers – though it appears that the experts recommend eating it at room temperature with a spoon. It’s mild and does not need to be accompanied by cracker, honey, or other supporting character.

Overall this cheese was exceptional, although a bit pricy coming it at $16 for the wheel.
Taste 3/4
Price $$$
Independence: High

Next up? I’m not sure just yet. I may review the cheeses we’ve already tried or try another soft mild cheese. Either way, I can assure you that we are starting on the mild side before venturing into the realm of smelly cheeses. The potent cheeses occasionally require mental preparation.

*
more than just boring the American Robin is also the state bird for Michigan and Wisconsin. This seems such an odd circumstance considering that “state anything” should really be meant to define some uniqueness and originality. I’ll save this rant for another post.

**

http://www.thomasdux.com.au/products/fromage-des-clarines

Comcast

Recently we had a Comcast issue at work and I got the pleasure of working with technician. We needed our work done after hours so we requested a 5:00pm start time. Our technician arrived right on time and got to work.

Quickly it was determined that we would need a new modem. No problem! our technician had one. All he had to do was call up the main office and have them switch it over.

Our Comcast technician then proceeded to call Comcast.

He was put on hold.

we waited.
and waited.
and waited.

30-40 minutes later, Comcast came back online and took care of the 5 minute task.

Despite the fact that I had to wait just as long as he did, I was overjoyed that the injustice of Comcast hold time had to be endured by the Comcast tech. The only thing that would have been better is if they had come back onto the phone and promptly reported that they’d have to transfer him to another department.

What is your news source?

I use Flipboard on my phone for quick access to basic news. I’m subscribed to the following:

News, 99%, Business, Fast Company, The New York Times, Art, AlJazeera, Business Insider, In the Boardroom, Leadership Unstruck, Apartment Therapy, Food52, and Sports.

When I’m in front of my computer I tend to use AlJazeera and CNN (so sensationalized!)

I’m always looking for better news sources, anyone care to share their favorites?

Absurdity

At Alicia’s recommendation I recently sought out some guitar etudes to improve my technique. The book I found is a series of guitar etudes written by Allen Kreutzer. They are a well known group of etudes that target various specific skills. I try to spend at least 20% of my practice time going through these etudes.

I’ve been working on these etudes for about 8 weeks or so. Last night at my guitar lesson Tony casually mentioned that he studied with Allen Kreutzer.

What?!

Let it be said that this is pretty much how every single discussion about influential musicians goes with Tony.

3DFood

Dinner Matrix

Everyone has their go-to meals; those quick easy dishes that you fall back on week after week. For Jen and me it’s Zucchini Pasta, chicken tacos, and cashew chicken stirfry. But as someone who loves to try new dishes, I want to make sure that sprinkled in between these sustenance staples is some culinary creativity.

But Wait! How do we choose what to eat each week? For us it’s mostly random, perhaps influenced slightly by the weekly sales circular. This doesn’t seem right to me. We need a more strategic approach.

Enter Excel.

Jen and I made a list of all the dishes that we frequently duplicate. Not just our go-to’s but all of our favorites. We then rated each across three criteria:
Ease, Health, and Deliciousness

I charted these on a 3-Axis chart (z-axis is deliciousness rated from 1-3)

3DFood1

3DFood

Honestly, not too many surprises here. We don’t bother making really complicated food unless it’s delicious. And the more delicious the food the higher tendency for an unhealthy experience.

While this chart in itself is not a solution to perfect planning, it allows us to balance a week of dinner choices across this scale. We next have to create a series of constraints.

1. Weekday eating shouldn’t be more complicated than ‘tricky’
2. Only 10% of meals can fall into the unhealthy or fatty range
3. No dish can be made more than once per week
4. Deliciousness must be maximized

I was working on a linear program for a bit, trying to have Excel’s solver define for us the best dinner solution. But for the life of me I couldn’t quite get the constraints right.

I’m losing my touch.

Sander on Literature

This week, during our carpool to work, NPR was talking about banned books.

Sander: “I agree that some books should be banned.”

Mike D: “…”

Sander: “For example: all those books that they make you read in high school. I think Ethan Frome should be banned. Literacy would skyrocket by 80% if that no one had to read Ethan Frome.”

Mike D: “ha! That is actually an excellent example. I hated that book. Though I don’t remember much about it. Something about a sled accident.”

Sander: “A guy is sad in the winter for 230 pages.”

Good Ole Fashion Books

This weekend Jen and I swung through the local Library to grab some fall reading material. I tend to switch back and forth between science fiction/fantasy and non-fiction. And since my most recent book was all about the design and construction of Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence, it was time for me to blissfully surrender to fiction literature.

But I needed a recommendation. So I decided to start crawling through the unread books on this NPR ‘your choice’ list.

Here’s the start of the list:

NOTE: the formatting is way easier to read if you open the ‘read more’ link below.

Lord of the Rings: Yes
Hitchikers Guide: Nope
Ender’s Game: Yup
Dune: Yes
A song of Ice and Fire: Negative
1984: Yes
FahrenHeit 451: No
Foundation Trilogy: Yes
Brave New World: Yup
American Gods: Yes (didn’t like it)
Princess Bride: Saw the Movie – didn’t know it was a book
Wheel of Time: No.
Animal Farm: Surprisingly not
Neuromancer: nope
Watchmen: yes
iRobot: yes
Stranger in a strange land: Reading it now!!
Kingkiller Chronicles: Yes

and then after these first 18, with the exception of Stardust and the Time Traveler’s Wife, I haven’t read any! That gives me a paltry record of: 13 out of 100. 13%… Terrible.

What’s your science fantasy literacy rate?