Saturday, November 29, 2008

One Year Anniversary...Plus a Day

I missed my blog's official one year anniversary, which also signifies the (not quite the same date) one year anniversary of Sean Taylor's death.

You've all heard about my Thanksgiving, so I won't talk about that.

Most of you don't care about my sports entries, so I'll be brief on that, too.

Arizona State finally won a game again. They tied an NCAA record with four defensive touchdowns (zero offensive touchdowns) in a Beamerball-esque win over UCLA (jerks didn't accept me to law school). Then, immediately after, ASU basketball (undefeated and ranked 15th in the nation) lost to unranked Baylor in a preseason tournament. Losing teams follow me everywhere.

Virginia Tech played in one of the more significant games we've had in recent history today. Not only was it our final regular season game, but it was senior day for a great class of guys. It was against in-state and now conference rival Virginia. Virginia needed the win to become bowl eligible. Virginia Tech needed the win to return to the ACC Championship game (despite three conference losses...the stars aligned for us this year) for the 3rd time in 4 years. If we win the ACC, it will be the first time a 4-loss team earns a BCS bid. A win today gave us our first undefeated season at home in about 6 years. Our offense was pretty good until it got into the red zone. The endless frustration there continued. But I like what I saw from Tyrod Taylor for the first time all season. Defense was not as good as last week, but still great.

Lots of crazy wins in college football otherwise today. The ACC went 3-1 against the SEC (very very unexpected), with the only loss being FSU to Florida (very expected). Georgia Tech surprised Georgia, Clemson routed South Carolina, and Wake Forest handled Vanderbilt.

Redskins host a Plaxico-less Giants tomorrow. Pleeeaaaaassseee win it, Skins. I hate the Giants and their strong chance for repeating as Super Bowl champions.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 6: Aftermath

As I type this, I'm eating my first round of leftovers (not counting the plate of food we made late-night while people were here). I made a white meat turkey sandwich with mayo, cranberry, and stuffing, on whole wheat white bread (from the farmer's market).

Last night's dessert didn't get a write up, so I'll touch on that now. We haven't gotten into the pumpkin spiced pudding pie yet, but the traditional was fantastic. We had it fresh out of the oven with frozen Cool Whip (Mel's thing, I had never heard of serving Cool Whip that way, but it was good).

We had a couple friends over last night for drinks and relaxing after dinner. It was nice. We all stayed up kind of late just shooting the...stuff.

Mel and I are both resisting the overwhelming urge to go out and spend money on Black Friday. We're trying to convince ourselves that the crowds aren't worth the prices. I'm probably going to do some online shopping after she goes to work at 5.

Last thing for now before we go run errands...just want to thank everyone for reading yesterday. I checked my counter and I had 130 readers from 31 different countries and 112 cities visit my blog. My previous record was about 35 people. I had no idea so many people would be interested in my Thanksgiving experience.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 5: Couched

And we finally sat down to eat. After a great, long day of cooking, we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I've been trying to enjoy the moment, as they say, recently, rather than constantly think about what else I could be doing at any given moment. It's a hard transition to make, especially since I have no idea why I'm not capable of it in the first place.

But I enjoyed today. Except I found myself easily distracted.


Dinner was a monumental success. The turkey was cooked perfectly (thanks to the advice from my dad, my sister, and Mel's mom). I carved it, albeit slightly unconventionally, successfully as well.

Turkey: A+

The green beans turned out a little wet. Still tasty, but very runny and not quite as casseroley.

Green beans: B-

The mashed potatoes were a very good consistency. Very creamy, a little lumpy (how we like it). Could have used a little more unhealthiness for flavor.

Mashed potatoes: A-

The sweet potatoes were out of this world. I wish I could divulge the secret recipe. I saved them for last.

Sweet potatoes: A+

Stuffing was good as well. I had already gotten a taste of the stuffing other night when Mel jumped the gun on cooking T-day style. I knew what I was getting into this time around.

Stuffing: A

Cranberry sauce was quality. I'm not a big fan of cranberry in general, but it was a great complement to the rest of the dishes.

Cranberry Sauce: A

We made little whole wheat dinner rolls that I was not too fond of. I didn't ask Mel what she thought of them, but neither of us went back for seconds.

Dinner rolls: C

Our appetizer might have been the crown jewel. Brie baked with honey, almond slices, apple slices, pear slices, and halved grapes. Served over toasted wheat French bread and Breton crackers (greatest crackers in the world).

Brie and Cheese Platter: A+

Overall grade: A+ (Yep. I used a very complex formula to determine this grade. You wouldn't understand if I tried to explain it. It is a combination of hours worked, ingredients included, enjoyment of experience, pleasure of company, taste of food, quality of work space, and other elements).

I'm being encouraged to mention that while Melissa is eating her third serving, I have yet to return for seconds. Dessert!

The whole spread. Bon appetit!

I'm carving away. Antsy to get eating.

That's the young man himself, basking in all his glory.

Us. Obviously.

The brie and fruit platter.

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 4: Home Stretch

The turkey is out and cooling off. Hopefully it's cooked all the way through. I had to run home while Mel showered to pick up the closest thing to a carving knife I could find (funny, the things you forget about until the last minute). I showered while she put the finishing touches on some of her creations.

We're still waiting on stuffing and for now, the potatoes are just potatoes, not mashed. The sweet potatoes and the green beans are almost done cooking as well. But it's getting close. The brie is smelling fantastic; I just pulled it out of the oven. It's waiting for us to eat it as an appetizer.

The first cocktail of the night was met with mixed reviews. Cranberry vodka in apple cider with some fresh lime juice squeezed in. Mel is a bigger fan than I am. I might just have wine or beer with dinner.

We're thinking about having some people over after dinner for a pot luck dessert (maybe), relaxing, have a couple drinks, play some games kind of after holiday. I miss the Melting Pot post-dinner Thanksgiving parties at the Masons. Maybe we can start a new tradition like that here.

Back to work. Thanks for reading. We're almost set for dinner. No pictures this time around. Don't take it personally.

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 3: Coming Together

Cranberry concoction: check.

Brie with honey, almonds, pears, grapes, and apples: ready for baking. (I didn't mention this in the last blog. But I have pictures to prove its existence. Read on.)

Mashed potatoes: boiled and ready for mashing. (We took the peelings from some of the potatoes and fried them with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, gray salt, and pepper and snacked on some homemade potato chips).

Sweet potatoes: mashed and ready for cooking, casserole style. The recipe is again being omitted to preserve secrecy (McD Specialty Dish). Waiting for marshmallows (added against the head chef's better judgment for my sake).

Green Bean Casserole: ready for baking, mixed with chopped mushrooms soaked in Worcestershire, organic cream of celery soup, unsalted butter thinly sliced on top. Waiting for crispy onion toppings (the salad kind, not the canned).

Stuffing, pumpkin pie, dinner rolls: coming soon.

The apartment smells like holidays. We're pushing on.

Beginnings of the green been casserole.

Hot potato jacuzzi party!

Sweet potatoes, mid-mashing.

The brie plate, reminiscent of the Middleton's experience.

Our own potato chips. One of the most successful parts of the day, thus far.

Ingredients, before my Ginsu chopping was employed.

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 2: Prep Work

I'm getting dirty looks for writing while I should be working. But I'm doing it anyhow. I have a reputation and I don't want to disappoint my readers (one of whom is separating herself from the "reader" category, despite being one of my biggest advocates and placing herself squarely in the "girlfriend doing all the work" category, the existence of which I was unaware until now).

I candied some pecans. But they may have to be redone. We didn't burn the nuts, but some combination of the butter, the organic honey, and the organic brown sugar burned in the pan. The burner was set a little high, I'm afraid, and the 'simmer' step may have been unintentionally replaced with the 'burn' step.

At about the 45 minute mark, I popped the oven open to check on the turkey. It's starting to brown a little bit. The smell is indescribable. Something about cooking your first T-day turkey. Magic. We pulled it out and sucked some juices from the bottom of the cooking tin and squirted them right back on top. We're not sure if the turkey is supposed to be filled with juices on the inside as well. We're hoping that's normal, and treating it as such.

We're starting on the cranberries as well. We put a bag of fresh cranberries in a big sauce pan and poured in water and organic sugar. Boiled for awhile. Note to readers: raw cranberries have a unique talent. They can make your cheeks contort in unimaginable ways. Very sour. Recommendation: avoid at all costs.

I just scrubbed the potatoes and gave them a pre-mashing bath party. They were cooperative.

We just QC'd the pecans. Synopsis: "Those are definitely burnt."

We mixed up the makings for dessert as well, and it is currently chilling in the refrigerator. Literally. Ingredients: Cool Whip, reduced fat graham cracker crust, pumpkin spiced pudding (sponsored by Bill Cosby), a pinch of cinnamon and some vanilla extract (I might have overapplied the 'niller).


Pecans...a little burnt. But still looking delicious. The taste test proved that our ingredients and ideas were good. We missed on the execution.

'Tater party!

Stirring the cranberry goodness.

The Bird. We tried to think of a name. Mel was a little amused and disgusted when I said "This will be your final resting place, young man" as I deposited him in the cooking tin. So we've just been calling it "Young Man." Yea, weird.

And into the oven we go.

The first stages of golden-brownness. Smells magical. This is pre-re-basting.

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 1: Breakfast...ish

We got a late start to the festivities today. After waking up, we both went out on to the porch to enjoy the perfect 70 degree, sunny day. I just built our bistro patio table yesterday while Mel was at work, so the porch is on its way to being functional, finally. Pictures to come later of the apartment, now that it is mostly furnished. Back on topic, I'm going to post several times today as we prepare our first Thanksgiving dinner together (and first without our families, whom we miss very much). It's a strange feeling missing my first family holiday. Hopefully it's not something I ever have to get used to.

Breakfast...ish (We ate around 1pm):

Protein Pancakes (quantities omitted to preserve sanctity of secret recipe):

Whole wheat pancake mix
Fat free organic milk
Apple Sauce
Ground Flaxseed
Organic raw sugar
Organic local honey
Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
Kashi Go Lean granola clusters
Vanilla extract
Egg whites

Mix it all together. Cook. Enjoy with butter and organic maple syrup. I think we're on to something good with these (not to take full credit, we were inspired by US Egg), but we didn't get the amounts quite right. Much like the infamous Pumpkin Bread Bungle 2008, we had a little doughy-ness, and not quite enough sweetness.

While we were preparing that, we threw some turkey bacon on the skillet and snacked as we invented. I think today is going to be all about snacking while working.

(On a soft, unrelated note, as I write this, the Lions v. Titans game just ended. They are doing a T-day montage with family pictures of every single member of their broadcast crew--from director down to key grip--with a sort of sappy/happy song in the background...very touching)

I started work on the turkey, too. I'll get to that in the next post. Here are some illustrative pictures. Hope everyone enjoys their holiday.

Happy Hokie Day!

Prepping the turkey. We're pretty excited about it. Notice the pictures hanging in the background...I finally hung our first art yesterday. Mom, you might recognize those (obviously they are too small to really see) as the three prints from Taliesin West (technically, two from Taliesin and one from Falling Water). We're both hooked on new artwork, hoping for a desert/southwest theme (scenic, reds and oranges and yellows, cacti and sunsets, things like that). I'm a fan of kokopellis. Not that I'm asking for anything.

The spread. Couch, courtesy of the Gulleys. Table, courtesy of IKEA.

Having a great time cooking up some flap jacks.

Squeezing in the organic local honey. Helps me with the allergies, hopefully.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Story of George P. Burdell

Came across this today. Pretty hilarious.

A student of mystery, a student of legend - the forever student remains alive somewhere at Tech

Like all enduring legends, the story of how George P. Burdell made his debut at Georgia Tech has remained a mystery. But a likely account was told by William Edgar "Ed" Smith, BS 30, to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Magazine in 1977.

Smith, an Augusta, Ga., businessman, claimed creation of Burdell in 1927, when he was filling out his enrollment papers. He decided to turn in duplicates on George P. Butler, his high school principal and a staunch University of Georgia alumnus. After writing in George P. Smith got cold feet and finished the entry with the last name Burdell, the maiden name of his best friend's mother.

Smith then added Burdell's name to the class rolls. He even took duplicate tests using Burdell's name, altering the handwriting just enough to disguise his writing and fool the professors into believing Burdell was indeed a student in their classes.

By 1930, George P. Burdell had taken enough tests to "earn" a bachelor's degree from the Institute - he later received his master's degree and he became an official alumnus. At the same time, he has managed to maintain his student status.

During World War II, George P. Burdell served in the armed forces on many fronts, his name appearing around the world. He was listed on the flight crew of a B-17 bomber, flying 12 missions over Europe with the 8th Air Force in England. However, when a Tech graduate became the new operations officer for the crew, he immediately recognized the name on the flight log, and Burdell's flying days were over.

When Georgia Tech computerized its class-registration process in 1969, Burdell signed up for every course - over 3,000 credit hours. And despite subsequent fail-safe procedures to prevent it, he did so again in 1975 and 1980.

The spirit of George P. Burdell remains alive. He continues to post letters to the editor, baffle insurance salesmen, and get paged at football games. He's also displayed a generous nature - his signature has appeared on numerous product rebate checks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brighten Your Day

This has to cheer you up, no matter what might be bothering you.

Live Puppy Cam

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another Open Letter

Dear football,

I hate you.

Yours truly,
Sam (and Jon and Jay)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Camelback Mountain: Conquered by Day

In the words of Ice Cube, today was a good day.

First of all, it was Veterans Day, so thank you to all who fight for our country. And thanks for the day off, and making sure it landed on my worst day of the week (on campus from 8:30-3:30).

So, to celebrate the day off, I--along with Melissa--conquered my first mountain. I've hiked before. I've even hiked on, around, and up mountains. But never have I 'climbed' to the summit of a mountain. Especially not in the desert. But on this day, we conquered Camelback Mountain. (Don't let the photos fool you, the path we took did not have handrails. In fact, I'm a little annoyed we were unaware of such a path, though I would feel like I cheated if we had found it and used it.)

Our plan was to take the Summit Trail all the way up, but accidentally found ourselves on the Cholla Trail (any Spanish/Native American speakers who want to pronounce this for me?). It is 1.5 miles. Sounds laughably easy. But it is also 1,200 feet up. A little harder. Then the description says "This trail is recommended only for experienced hikers. There are steep, rocky sections with drop-offs on both sides. Difficulty: Strenuous and difficult."

You're probably thinking what I'm thinking. You can't use a word in its own description! Difficulty=difficult? C'mon. That's like wearing a Jordan Knight shirt to the NKOTB reunion tour. Really?


This hike started off pretty easy. It was a winding, beaten path with man-made steps in the rock. We had a leisurely stroll up the side of the hill for a bit. Then, once crotchety old Camelback lulled us in to a false sense of ease, the steep, craggy rock faces struck! We were on hands and knees, literally climbing sheer rock walls. Ravines on either side of us screamed imminent death (no, not imminent enough to get me that life flashing before my eyes experience I was robbed of last week). The constant danger of scorpions, rattlesnakes, desert tortoises, and chuckwalla lizards stalked us as we endured the climb. We came across a ferocious, fanged ground squirrel, who quickly scurried away to warn the others of our approach.

I took a video of the panoramic view at the summit. But apparently, my camera doesn't save videos once pictures are taken after it is recorded. Twice now, I have lost videos (one of Willie "Big Eyes", and now one of this view) as a result of this camera that I was rushed into purchasing. I'm not saying I want a video camera (digital? HD? sure!), I'm just pointing out that Christmas is around the corner.

But the views were spectacular. Tomorrow, I imagine muscles we didn't know existed will be sore beyond belief. I can't wait to sit through four hours of class in indescribable pain. Yay, exercise!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dear Health Care,

This is an open letter to health care.

Over the years, I have been stricken with--and suffered from--more injuries and illnesses than I can count on all my digits. I generally avoid the doctor whenever possible. I'm not saying I don't trust doctors as a rule, I'm only saying that I've never had a doctor fix me properly.

I had chronic ear infections as a kid. I was treated locally, and on a case-by-case basis, each time. No consideration for the reason I kept getting them ever came up. Now, I have poor hearing.

I had nosebleeds as a kid. One doctor suggested I have my blood vessels in my nose cauterized. It sounded fun. I assure you, it's not. Imagine someone striking a match, blowing it out, and then--quick as they possibly can--sticking it up your nose. That's what it feels like. And I still get them all the time.

I have bad knees, and have had them for as long as I can remember. It took visits with (I want to say dozens) probably five different specialists. It took at least that many before the first one said I had a legitimate, diagnosable problem. He called it chondromalatia, which means 'soft cartilage' in some stretch of Latin. No cure. Chronic pain persists to this day in both knees.

If that wasn't enough, I blew out my right knee on a touchdown scoring play in football (it got called back on a horrible decision by the official, who claimed I stepped out of bounds when I was about 3 yards inside the line), tearing my meniscus and MCL. The first specialist I saw misdiagnosed me, so I walked around in pain for about 3 months (the time he said it would take to heal on its own). The second guy suggested surgery, and I jumped at the idea. Better than another three months of pain. Little did I know that surgery was really painful. I had my knee scoped and then went through a couple months of physical therapy. Range of motion is almost back to 100%, and chronic daily pain persists in both knees (I favor one or the other, and the one getting the extra pressure hurts as a result).

Then, the genetic sinus problems. My first sinus infection was misdiagnosed as mono, then a common cold, then allergies (great work, Schiffert Health Center). The allergist poked me with 42 different needles containing common allergens before announcing I had zero allergies. None. In a family where three people are allergic to cats, one person to almost everything, one almost deathly allergic to many types of nuts, I managed to escape with no allergies whatsoever. Nice. So, five years and 7-10 sinus infections later, I lost hearing in both ears. Imagine being under water...that's how my hearing made everything sound. So, I went to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) and it turned out the only part of my sinuses that was not clogged with anti-infection muck was my nostrils. My Eustachian tubes were so clogged that water from my ears couldn't drain and I lost hearing. My ear drums had too much pressure on them to vibrate. More surgery! The doc promised this would reduce all my sinus problems forever. They went in through my nose and drilled open all 6 sinus openings in my skull, widening them for better drainage, and sucked out all the mucus and goo that had accumulated with some sort of sinus vacuum. Then, they put tubes in my ears (no swimming or showering without ear plugs), which stayed in for about a year, until they became partially dislodged and disrupted my hearing again. The surgery itself was awful. I will avoid the nitty gritty of the recovery, but the bottom line is - avoid at all costs.

And now, two years later, I have my fourth sinus infection since the surgery. If it's possible, I'd say my sinuses got worse after the surgery, which cost me (and my parents, who were generous enough to help out) thousands of dollars because the health insurance policy I had was a scam (maybe not really a 'scam,' but I was sure surprised that I owed about $8,000 for surgery).

And the ASU health center is far worse than Virginia Tech's, if that's possible. One hour, two paper forms, three nurses and doctors who each asked all the same questions I answered on the forms, and a pharmacy wait later, I have a sample pack of antibiotics and a generic nasal spray that was prescribed "forever."

So, modern health care, I appreciate everything you have done for me. Thank you for putting so much of my time and money to good use.


What we're really learning here

ASU law student fights off burglar, holds him until the police arrive.

This kid is a 1L. I don't know him personally, but he is a friend of friends. I heard about this last night and found the news article. Pretty crazy stuff. From what I hear, the student is about 270 lbs, and the poor burglar was maybe half that.

Good for him though. That's the kind of thing all guys hope they'll have the cojones to do if the situation arises. Under similar circumstances, I like to think I'd have the same success. Hope we never find out.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith

I went with a couple other law students, some siblings, and some significant others (mine included) to a jazz club in Phoenix called Rhythm Room to watch a performance last night. My contracts professor, along with his wife, three other top attorneys in the Phoenix area, and six random musicians, are all part of a 10-person rhythm and blues band called the Repeat Offenders. They do cover songs, mostly. But they were very good. My professor plays the drums. I think he was happy to see that a couple of his students came.

After their show, however, we were treated to a little old-school jazz magic. Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, who has toured with the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Rolling Stones, among many others, was the headliner. He has been nominated for several Grammys. We got to hear him play for a $4 cover at the door. Nice little surprise.

We bought one of his albums on the way out. I'm listening to it as I write this. It's sort of inspiring, I guess. It's called "Born in Arkansas," and his son told me it is his best compilation. I had him sign it to Melissa, but I think we struggled a little with a language barrier. I don't speak jive, and he doesn't get yankee. So it's signed, "To Merissa; from Willie Smith," and he drew a cartoon caricature of a circle with two huge eyes.

Sadly, his eyes aren't really all that big. But he plays a mean harmonica.


I had a near-death experience the other night. Melissa's apartment is on the third floor of the building, overlooking a courtyard with some concrete dividers between the mulch 'gardens' and the grass, and more concrete walkways spiderwebbing throughout. She had just gotten new screens in her dining room windows (three windows wrapping around a corner). We had them open, opting for fresh air instead of running electricity, since the weather has been perfect since she got here. I was walking by her, squeezing between the dining room table and the window when I got bumped (accidentally) into the window. My entire upper body went through, knocking the screen out in the process. Mel managed to grab hold of me just enough so that I could regain my balance in time to watch the screen plummet to the ground and smack the concrete garden divider.

But I got cheated. My life didn't flash before my eyes. I didn't see any lights. I didn't get a flood of happy memories. I just sort of blacked out for a minute. I hear all these wonderful stories of visions before death. I didn't get a single one. It almost makes me want to go out and intentionally defy death again so that I can see what it's all about. Maybe when I go skydiving or something.

Until then, take my advice. Avoid near-death experiences until I can report a little more fully on what they are like. Don't try this at home.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm back...and hitting the ground running

I have had too much going on lately. Unfortunately, the first thing that suffered from the line-item veto was my blog. I have to have my priorities, right? I've realized that keeping up with my blog kind of runs concurrently with my moods. When I'm enjoying things and not too stressed, I write more frequently.

Today's entry is to announce a personal accomplishment of sorts. We started running again. I've been thinking about starting for awhile now. It took Melissa coming out here and thinking about it with me to get us both to actually do it.

Problem number one: how long of a run is realistic in our present conditions? Problem number two: how do I figure out a good running path and make sure it is a reasonable length?

Well, number one we chalked up to a guess and check solution. Number two was a little more complex. Fortunately, I remembered my brother mentioning a web site where you can map your runs. After racking my brain trying to remember the site, I began to search through his blog (which lacks a search function, apparently). I found the first entry that had a fitness meta-tag and clicked that. Right before my eyes, I see a link to Somewhat creepily, when the site opened, it was already centered over my house in google maps. I guess that's a cookie's work?

So, I mapped out a run of about 1.88 miles. Seemed reasonable. We woke up at 7am, debated going back to sleep, but then got up and got a move on. We made it about 1.3 before walking, but I won't say who quit first.

I'll try to be back here in the blogosphere more often. Just having trouble finding the time these days. Someone should have told me law school was so time consuming. I'm just trying to get everything done early today so I can watch the Redskins walk all over the Steelers (and hopefully have their defense outscore the Steelers' defense by 30 points in fantasy).