Monday, December 20, 2010

Engage The Traffic and Crosswalk Sensors Already!

It's a good thing that I don't drive to work these days so I can avoid experiencing one of the most retched,  heinous, and impeding pet peeves known to vehicular traffic - drivers not pulling their cars up to traffic signal sensors.  If only I didn't also walk to the Metro instead and experience the equally disturbing unpushed crosswalk button plague, life would be good.

It's really easy; just drive to the white line as seen in every intersection drawing ever made.

If you, car in position #1, typically want a traffic light to change sooner, then you must drive over the traffic light's sensor lines in the asphalt (unless it's an old fashioned light that just uses a timer).  There's no need to be a few car lengths away from the stop line.  Just stop your car before the stop line and in the sensor's area and we'll get along just fine. It is in this magic pavement position (MPP) that cars are failing to enter and failing to help traffic move.

There are several types of traffic light sensors, from laser detection, to hoses filled with air, to wire induction (the most common).  You can tell an inductive loop sensor when you see a rectangle line in the asphalt just in front of a traffic light's stop line.  When a car rolls over wires in the asphalt, it increases the induction of the circuit below.  This difference in induction alerts the traffic light that its cycle should change to accommodate a car.  None of which happens outside of the MPP.

Just make it to this MPP and we'll get moving in no time!

I simply want to be as efficient as possible when I'm on the go.  I don't think of myself as a terribly aggressive driver (who does?), but if people are preventing me from moving efficiently, they need to know the error of their ways.  Just pull forward so I can get going.  If you drive forward just a few feet, all of us waiting in the left-turn lane will get to our destinations faster.  And guess will you. Engage the giver light!

I can only guess that drivers do not pull up to the line because they fear being rear-ended and even pushed into pedestrians.  With some luck, you have your foot on the brake and won't lurch too far because the driver behind should not be moving terribly fast either.  Just don't pull into my crosswalk.  A car lurching forward yields the following mathematical proof:  vehicular inertia + my femur at bumper level = pain and crutches for me.

Just your usual 13-light signal in Germany.

My unnecessary need to travel efficiently continues when I'm walking in the crosswalk.  Why is it that so many people don't hit the pedestrian button at a crosswalk?  If it's fear of germs, then the person should also be wearing a mask for the car fumes and a bodysuit to save their skin from the air.  Just use your winter gloves or your elbow or just about anything.  I don't care.  Just hit the button.  There's no other way tell the traffic lights that we're waiting to cross.

It's not as though you can miss the button.  It's at waist level, often accompanied by a sign imploring you to press it.  What else do you have to do while standing there looking at traffic?  Pedestrian buttons are not new and are really easy to use.  Just press the only button on the pole and soon we'll have the right-of-way.  It's that easy!  Even you, button unpusher, can't mess it up. 

Pretty tough to press it just once, right?

I won't be insulted if you pressed a button that I just pressed a minute ago.  I'd rather you double-check my work than to have us not cross the street at all.  In fact, some crosswalk buttons have lights above them to tell you that they've been pressed.  With a light above the button, we no longer fear insulting the person standing there by pressing the button; now we know whether or not the person is oblivious to travel fluidity.

It's simple.  Light on, button was pressed.  Light off, press the damn button!  Finally, crosswalk button technology has advanced to that of the elevator button. And if all this time the crosswalk button is fake, I'll continue pressing it out of stubbornness and blind faith that one day it'll make a difference.

One way to get the universe rebooted and safely cross an intersection.

So move your car up to the line to tell the traffic signal that your car is there and press the crosswalk button to tell the traffic signal that you're standing there.  Use the people movement technology available to us and we'll get where we're going efficiently.  Together.

Friday, November 12, 2010

McRib Taste Test - I'm Not Lovin' It

"OMG!  The McRib is back!"

"Gotta get my McRib's the best!"


I've read far too many Facebook posts about the wondrous taste of the McDonald's McRib sandwich in the last week.  I've never tried one, figuring it could never match the hype.  It's not like it would become my favorite McD's meal, topping my two cheeseburger extra value meal with sweet and sour sauce for dipping french fries, right?  I don't see how a patty of mystery ingredients pressed into a pork rib shape and covered in BBQ could elicit such outspokenness from college educated adults on my news feed.

Never one to turn away from digestible curiosity and family pressure, I took the plunge to find out for myself.  $3 to $4 later the McRib was mine.  I made sure to order my go-to extra value meal as a backup just in case this 450-calorie, 890-mg of sodium(!) godsend chock full of 24 grams of fat didn't make my mouth water.  What better way to undo the exercise I enjoyed and calories I burned than a McDonald's dinner.

Let's begin with what techie fanboys call, unboxing the goods.

Nothing says temptation like "TANGY TEMPTATION" IN ALL CAPS.

 I quickly learned that some of the sandwich's charm is its messiness.  I should've asked for it to be sliced in half my way.  Oh, that's Burger King's tagline.

Nothing like an uninspiring first impression.  Just a bun with BBQ sauce and the mystery "meat".

Bite #1 was just okay.  The meat had little pork-like flavor, the BBQ sauce was good and sweet, but nothing worthy of fanaticism.  The bread was dry, but who eats anything from McDonald's for the bread?

Oh, so there really are onions and maybe two pickle slices in there somewhere. 

Halfway through the McRib and I was finished.  There was no discernible flavor to the meat, the BBQ sauce was too sweet after a few bites, and as usual for a McD's sandwich there were far too few pickle slices.  The McRib failed its test.

McDonald's knows you give your customers what they want, even if it's to offer a bland sandwich every few years.

 When the McRib isn't widely available again after this month, remember that I chose to throw half of mine away.  Like anything hyped beyond belief, the McRib is nothing special.  My two cheeseburgers with french fries in sweet and sour sauce never tasted so good.

If you want a sandwich that matches the hype, go for a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich combo with a frosty.  Add some McD's fries with sweet and sour sauce and you're good to go.  Even better, it's always available.  OMG!  THIS IS THE BEST FAST FOOD SANDWICH EVER!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

NOTM: Man Microwaves Perfect Bowl of Oatmeal

Washington, D.C. - The scientific method of trial and error has lead to a new wave of federal grants to study the relationship between thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and whole grain oats.  On Tuesday morning, Morris Herlis microwaved the perfect bowl of Quaker Instant Oatmeal for his breakfast at work.

 Offering six grams of fiber and assorted whole grain oat ingredients including: pyridoxine hydrochloride, acesulfame potassium, and maltodextrin.

Morris said that he had been experimenting with water content, bowl structure, and microwave time for several months.  He worked tirelessly to find the best way to cook a bowl of oatmeal without making a mess in the company microwave, lest he hear from senior marketing specialist Beth Steinkatz who Morris called, "the kitchen cleanliness police chief".

"I don't really know what I did to cook my oatmeal for two minutes straight without spilling over the bowl's edge," Morris said humbly.  What is clear is that Morris reduced the amount of water used to an amount between too much and too little, used a deeper Crate and Barrel Roulette Blue Band Bowl, and got very lucky.

The bowl that cooked a perfect packet of maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal.

An underachieving overthinker, Morris spent each morning trying different combinations to cook his Weight Control oatmeal pouches.  Unable to grasp the concept of recording each test's settings to fine tune the next day's controls, every cooking event was an absolute shot in the dark to not spill.  Like stumbling upon a wad of 100-dollar bills, Morris has not been able to cook a clean bowl of oatmeal since.

"Each morning I shake all of those oats and powder into my bowl, run it under the water cooler, and toss it into the microwave for two minutes," Morris said.  "I use the light inside the microwave to watch the oatmeal bubble.  Sometimes I act too late to stop some slop from going over the edge, but I clean it up at least.  I always get blamed for a messy microwave even though it's impossible for oatmeal to shoot up to the ceiling and look like tomato sauce." 

Looks like somebody forgot to put a paper towel on that Lean Cuisine.

A newly self-minted expert on heat conduction and dispersion, Morris said heat transfer journals and books increased his understanding of the forces at work.  "Anyone with half a brain knows that Welty, Wicks, and Wilson were talking about my oatmeal's properties in 'Fundamentals of Momentum, Heat and Mass Transfer.' NOTM pressed Morris for further explanation. 

"They claimed that 'A fluid is defined as a substance that deforms continuously under the action of sheer stress' which I also observed when I added too much water," Morris said.  "My oatmeal is the best example of compressibility's effects yet.  Those guys should have used my workday breakfast to better relate to a bunch of college kids."  Morris claimed he has read more than the free preview pages on, but NOTM has no reason to believe him.

Somewhere, someone understands how this graph of thermodynamics applies to a bowl of microwaved oatmeal; and it's not Morris Herlis.

The key to observing a bowl of microwaved oatmeal, Morris said, is to keep the kitchen lights off so the microwave light is not washed out.  Using this revolutionary method, Morris observed that his oatmeal had, in fact, survived 120 consecutive seconds without spillage.  He jumped in the air and pumped his fist.  Unfortunately, no co-workers were in yet so they could not celebrate with him as Morris undoubtedly thinks would have happened. 

Morris opened the door and grabbed his steaming bowl without his trusty heat dispersion paper towels.  Despite the ever-increasing skin burn, Morris tried to carry the bowl to his office by saying, "owww, owwww, hot hot hot."  It was not enough.

Morris dropped his perfect bowl of oatmeal, choosing to make a mess of the hallway instead of third-degree burns.  An hour later, oatmeal was still soaking into the carpet, prompting Steinkatz to say, "looks like you can add this cleaning job to your tomato sauce artwork in the microwave."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Twice a year, during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I atone for an ungodly number of sins committed in the last year and reflect on the events of the last 12 months. There's also a prayer for those in need of healing, but for the last few years I've spent most of that time clearing my mind and enjoying the bubble of quiet around me. The sound of silence can be intoxicating.

I've been beyond fortunate during the prayer for health as of late. Mindnumbing events have been few and far between. My life in a vacuum where bad things don't happen often and prayers aren't necessary has magically trotted along, obstacle free.  No GPS route recalculating necessary.

Until this one.  My catalog of those in need of healing had a waiting list and even I was on it. This was a rough year for me.

It sucks when your immediate family isn't running on all cylinders.

Around the start of 5770 (September 2009 for the Gregorian calendar followers), I separated from my wife. Asking for a divorce was the hardest, most difficult thing I've had to do. Great times were had over the years, but I had to do it.

In July of this year, I was hit with a stunningly fast double whammy. First, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then, my sister was robbed in broad daylight in a populated area and received a black eye and unconsciousness for being kind enough to give directions when the (quickly apprehended and currently jailed) POS asked.  There was a lot on my plate that even I couldn't digest in one sitting.

It sucks having immediate family members to keep in mind during prayers of healing. I'm not used to it and I don't want to be. I've thought of grandparents, a friend or two, and a pet, but not my dad and sister. What happened to my cocoon of normalcy?

Damn skippy this had better be a sweeter year!

I turned 30, blinked, and my innocence was lost. Suburbia childhood, protected from bad people and bad events, home alarm system to boot, was summarily eviscerated. The grass is brown on the other side. Bad stuff happens, but not to my inner circle.  I'll wakeup soon enough.

Yet, running back to Never Neverland is not the answer. Running around obstacles only ignores problems and gives them time to grow larger. Bursting through challenges is the only way to go from here on out. My family has given me the tools to take house money even when the game seems rigged.

It started small, but I worked through the year's events. I saw a therapist a few times to get my mental bearings and learn more about myself. I sent get well cards. I bought my sister her favorite stuffed animal, Tigger, to of course help her bounce back. I started dating the maker of the world's only Quad Pie, who will be referred to in this blog as QP from here forward.  Things are already working themselves out.

You have to believe that all of us land on our tails and bounce right back.

My dad starts treatment next month with bursts of radiation 20 days in a row for his very treatable cancer and my sister has finished her physical recovery as bubbly as ever.  With the prayer for healing said for my inner sanctum and personal reflection finished to start 5771, I realize that shit happens and we all have to deal with it.  It stinks, but even manure brings nature to life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NOTM: Man Fails to Receive Google Alerts About Himself for Another Week

Gaithersburg, MD - While trying to figure out if any of the clearance bath rugs were actually worth purchasing at the Target in the Rio, area resident Morris Herlis glanced at his Blackberry and fell into a solemn stupor.

He was a failure in life for yet another week.

An artist's Minesweeper rendition of Morris Herlis' failure to exist in Google's servers.

"I just don't get it," he said.  "Why am I not recognized by the greatest popularity measurement stick?"  Morris was referring to Google's search engine.  He created Google Alerts for any mention of his name on the web, in the news, and in image captions.  "I do all sort of boolean search techniques based on my name and never even get a nod of existence in this world.  What do I have to do, land an airplane on the Hudson River?"

A pretty drastic way to set off Google Alerts about yourself.

Morris admitted to NOTM that he does not do much to increase his presence on the web outside of liking his aunt's vacation pictures on Facebook and ordering tube socks on

"At least Facebook recognizes that I like things, sometimes other people like the pictures too so they sort of see me.  I'm not invincible ya know.  Or is it invisible?  I never keep those straight.  Whatever Wonder Woman is, that's me.  No wait that didn't come out right."  Morris probably meant her airplane.

How does Wonder Woman find her invisible plane?  Why use it if she's not invisible too?
NOTM visited Google's corporate office website in Mountain View, California.  Unfortunately, the travel budget did not allow for an in-person visit to see if that forwarded email of Google's office is legit.

Nevertheless, NOTM held an in-depth interview with Beth Steinkatz, senior global communications director for international human branding applications analysis for Montgomery County (MD) and Guam, about Morris' plight.

"I don't know who you're talking about," she said.

Beth Steinkatz (not pictured) did not appreciate NOTM's hard, investigative reporting about Google's practices.
After speaking with Morris, he moped along toward the front of the store, knowing that another seven suns had set without an Internet packet mentioning his name; that was until he reached the Target cashier.  

After giving the unnervingly always cheerful red polo-shirted employee his license to verity his credit card payment, he heard, "thanks Mr. Herlis and have a good day."

Sunday, August 01, 2010

NOTM: Man avoids geese $h!t on the sidewalk

Shady Grove Metro Station - For the first time this summer, area resident Morris Herlis made it from his house to the Shady Grove Metro station without getting Canadian geese $h!t on his shoes.  Morris was overwhelmed when NOTM caught up to him on the Metro platform during another delayed red line train departure.

"It's really hard to put into words what I'm feeling right now," Morris said.  "This is just an epic moment for me and the generations of walkers who came before me, struggling to keep their soles free of green gunk.  On the other hand, I guess speaking to you means that putting the moment into words isn't as hard as I made it out to be a few seconds ago.  My bad.  What was your question again?"

Few have the will to battle this disgusting path.

Witnesses said that Morris triumphantly raised his arms when he reached the station's turnstiles and its geese free zone.  Geese frequent the Shady Grove Station property and surrounding sidewalks, leaving walkers a challenging course to avoid geese droppings.  A clean walk is unheard of.

Beth Steinkatz saw Morris' celebration unfold.  "I had just picked up my copy of the Express when this guy starts hootin' and hollerin' that he was 'finally $h!t free' so I just ignored him like the other crazies.  I figured he was on some hallucinogenic trip.  I mean, who yells that they're 'free of $h!t?'  For all I know he was celebrating a good bowel movement.  Now you might understand why it was weird."

The next generation on their way to making another sloppy sidewalk.

Morris' daily one-mile walk to the station is full of geese gifting peril.  From the moment he reaches Redland Road, the cleanliness of his shoe bottoms is at risk.  "[The geese] think nothing of using my sidewalk for a toilet.  I bet they wouldn't like it if I took a dump in their swimming holes," Morris said before realizing that their swimming holes are also sources for his drinking water.

Morris zigged and zagged around the marks.  "Man, I tell you, I was highstepping my way like a Plinko chip.  I ignored bicyclists passing me, baby strollers in the opposite direction, and some old lady on the ground who come to think of it might have been my neighbor with the bad hip."
A Plinko chip's movement is based on avoiding geese droppings on sidewalks.

Close to his goal, he was confronted by a gaggle of geese eating grass along "his" sidewalk.  Undeterred and brazenly determined, Morris flapped his arms and mocked the geese with a few "Ka-ka" calls.  The geese ignored his incendiary acting and made sure that his walk home would be much more difficult.  "I was tired, but I had to keep going; I wasn't gonna give up like a Nick Arcade contestant when my movements weren't recognized.  Someone has to know what I'm talking about."

These kids don't get frustrated in Nick Arcade.

A minute later Morris had made it to the station turnstiles, devoid of Canadian geese and their presents.  Unfortunately for Morris, while he was doing a celebratory spin, he stepped in a puddle and soaked his shoes, socks, and pant cuffs.  Arriving at work with clean soles had to wait.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

News of the Minutiae (NOTM): Man Empties Dishwasher In Record Time

Rockville, MD - Area resident Morris Herlis nearly fainted in exhaustion after a perfect performance putting away his dishes, cups, utensils, and bowls on Sunday night.

At 9:12 p.m., after devouring a Foreman grilled steak and microwaved can of corn, Morris found no room to jam his plate into a sink already full of cutlery chaos.  The dishes were piling up and he had to do something.  Something as drastic, life-threatening, and utterly unimpressive as emptying the dishwasher.

In 1956, only four percent of homes had dishwashers.

Morris said, "I just wanted to get it done and well, I concluded that if I moved quickly and put things away faster, it would take less time. Neat concept, right? Kind of like pulling a band-aid off quickly is easier than pealing it away, hair by painful hair."

Morris ripped his Band-Aid with the speed of a sprinter and didn't break anything, displaying the grace of a dancer he's never been confused for. "I was moving fast," he said, "like that Usain Bolt fella and moving like one those people on Dancing With The Stars; one of the ones that isn't like Buzz Aldrin of course."

One way to pre-rinse your plates.

Morris unhinged the dishwasher door and dove right in, ignoring the blast of steam in his face. He wasn't going to be stopped, even when hot cycle temps reach 160 degrees F. 2nd-degree burns be damned. 

In the blink of an eye, plates, cups, and bowls were evacuated to their cabinet shelves.  Morris considered throwing the plates like frisbees, but didn't want to make the jump from amateur to all-madden too soon.  That, and square plates with dried ketchup, because he doesn't pre-wash, don't fly well.

Awwww, so cute!

Next, he grabbed handfuls of utensils, some of which weren't handle side up.  He learned that skin and serrated knife blades don't mix.  Sure, he got blood on some formerly clean forks, spoons, and his one spork from the Maryland House's Roy Rogers, but you also don't stop Baryshnikov to tell him his split-sole ballet shoe is untied either.

At 9:15 his performance began.  1 minute, 48 seconds later the dishwasher door was closed and a man celebrated his fastest dishwasher emptying ever in a blog.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I Ate The Last Non-Oil-Covered Oysters In New Orleans

I made my first visit to New Orleans last month for work and all I have to show for it are pictures of food, food, Bourbon Street, and more food. So please enjoy and salivate.

I expected to be overwhelmed with Saints championship signs, but I only saw this little poster by baggage claim.

So that's what the French Quarter looks like without the vomiting, public urination, and beads.

Bourbon Street was either overrated or I'm just getting older. It wasn't much other than trashy blocks of tourists who are there to make the scene they've heard about. A self-fulfilling night to be sure.

Every bar said it had the strongest drinks in the area, but it seemed like all drinks were wayyyyy watered down. I did what I could to fulfill the scene, but it shouldn't have been impossible to do on a Thursday night.

If you weren't drunk enough last night, here's a bar in the mall serving hurricanes all day.

New Orleans' homecooking is pretty simple…just add shellfish to rice and beans with a little spice. It was tasty, but I wasn't wowed.

Check it out! Who knew you could keep Kosher in this land of oysters, shrimp, crawfish, and crabs.

I tried some Pralines because that's what Wikipedia suggested I do. They were just okay, even all 6 flavors I tried from Southern Candymakers.

Lots of beads and masks to be found.

Chris Paul was much taller in person than I ever expected.

Mmmmm, oysters at Acme Oyster House, also known as the best meal during the four days I was in town. Might be the final Louisiana oysters for a long time.

The charbroiled oysters were spectacular. Finally a meal with some real flavor.

The two dozen oysters I ate weren't anywhere close to getting me on this board. I'd have to eat 15 dozen. The record is held by IFOCE Sonya Thomas who downed 52 dozen in a little over 10 minutes.

The shortest escalator I've ever seen…

…that is until I saw a picture of this one in the Garden State Plaza Mall in my NJ neck of the woods.

I swung by Mothers for a 50/50 po'boy – ½ fried oysters and ½ fried shrimp. It was good, but again, it only tasted how I expected it to taste. There are no surprises with New Orleans cooking.

A steamboat on the Mississippi? Who knew.

That tugboat's heading straight for that shark fin!

A sole saxophonist playing along the Mississippi's Riverwalk.

Walking a mile in the heat and humidity to eat Café' du Monde was worth it.

I didn't know what a beignet was before this trip, but I sure am happy that I do now.

Café du Monde's food offerings consist of the fried dough and powdered sugar concoctions. I had no trouble finishing them off.

A final sunrise on the mighty Mississippi before heading home.