June 30, 2011

This is why the NBA owners deserve no sympathy

The NBA is headed toward a lockout, the kind of lockout that the NFL is already deep into.

According to some folks who all know more about the NBA than I do, this could be a protracted lockout.

At the heart of the matter is, of course, money. They players want more of it, and the owners do, too.

But all I can see is exceedingly stupid stories like this one: The Trail Blazers have offered former No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden an $8.8 million qualifying offer to stay in Portland.

If you don't know who Greg Oden is, go ahead and click through that link to see his stats. He's played one season worth of games - 82 games exactly - in his four professional seasons. He has earned nearly $22 million dollars in those four years.

I get that injuries are a part of the game and the risks that you take when you sign a player to a long-term contract, but stop throwing good money after bad and offering Oden a raise at this point. He is injured. He is going to be injured or injury-prone his whole career.

Don't give him a raise.

I have no sympathy for anybody in professional sports.

Or for any sports fan who bitches about professional sports and the money involved. If you we want the madness to end, you we have to stop paying attention, have to stop giving any money to these already far too wealthy people (owners AND players).

Lonnieburger Baskets: Stuffed on Vine

Things got interesting when we took a trip to Stuffed on Vine. I'll explain why a little later as it doesn't necessarily impact the review of the burgers and fries but might impact your view on the ambiance. Make sure to read the ambiance and extras section this time, folks, even if you skip the rest.

Thanks to Taste & See Cincinnati for the photo. I'm guessing that's Taste on the right and See on the left.

First off, Stuffed on Vine offers burgers that are a little different. They're stuffed, you see. This means that the burgers are formed around what would normally be the toppings, leaving the burger awfully tall and moist. We'll get to all that, though. I just thought I should warn you in advance in case you had a jaw issue.

  • At some point I have to find a camera that can focus at less than two feet of focal range. Seriously...

    The Girl got to her stuffed burger before I did. I was taking crappy photos. When she did bite in, she suggested that I try the burger patty itself before diving right into the giant bites of the main dish. I'm happy I took her advice. The meat is nicely spiced with peppers - both red and black - mixed into the meat. It left a wonderfully spicy taste and complimented the richness of the cheese stuffing very well. The necessity of the huge, stuffed burgers might lead to the outside's lack of dark, crispiness, but this is a burger that starts with some high quality meat, adds to it with a bit of kick, and then envelops the fillings. Burger - 8


  • If we were truly going with Toppings, then the score would be pretty abysmal because all either of us got on our burger was a pretty pedestrian piece of lettuce. Inside the burger however told a very different story. I've mentioned the stuffed nature of the burgers, and it's impressive how much they are able to fit inside the burger without it losing its structural integrity.

    In my Big Lene was found sauteed onions, mushrooms, green peppers (both very fresh), a couple of hot peppers (and ther were definitely hot), and three types of cheese. With that much cheese melted and gooey inside the burger, I fully expected a lapful of hot lava after the first bite, but I didn't get that. At the owner's recommendation, I gave the burger a minute for the filling to firm up before biting in, and I was thankful for the pause. The cheeses were nicely incorporated, surrounding the sauteed fillings and producing a very moist burger. The sheer amount of cheese in my burger was too much for me, however, and I would order the burger with fewer cheeses next time.

    The Girl went for the Philly Cheese stuffed burger and appreciated the fresh banana peppers and the slightly lesser amount of cheese inside her burger. She asked if she could get the burger without the onions and was happy to hear that all burgers were stuffed to order so customization was possible in any way.

    The stuffed burger is an interesting concept on one well worth trying. I think I would go for a lower cheese one next time. The Big Lene (pronounced lean) was a bit too much for me. Toppings - 8

  • Battered fries...battered fries?! C'mon, folks, what's wrong with simple, high quality cut up potatoes with a bit of salt? Why would you have to mix up a batter to dip each fry in before frying them? It just doesn't make any sense to me. The Girl, in particular, doesn't care for battered fries. Me, I prefer non-battered but can handle the battered just fine.

    The fries had a light batter and were served piping hot, fresh from the fryer. The batter didn't have much if any spice. If you're going to batter the fries, I vote for dipping 'em in something with a little kick.

    The fries were good but not great. Fries - 6
 Thanks to Urban Spoon for the menu images.
  • Tough to gauge here. They don't offer a bacon cheeseburger, so comparison may be a bit off. The Big Lene was $8 and came with fries. A more typical, non-stuffed cheeseburger still offers a 1/2 pound patty for $6 and comes with fries at that price. The Diet Coke was $1.40 and came in a 24-ounce bottle. No free refills here. I'll split the difference between the burgers and go for $7 + $1.40 = $8.40. That's just barely into the seven-point category. Cost - 7

  • Stuffed on Vine has an absolute minimum of pretension. The steam table serving up Sunday dinner (a rotating menu - fried chicken [spicy or regular], garlic mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, cabbage, greens, macaroni & cheese, baked beans on this Sunday) is the original steam table from decades ago. The tile is simple black and white. The walls were plastered by the owners themselves. The men's restroom is a toilet with barely enough room to sit or stand. The drinks come in cans or bottles.

    We spent most of our meal alone with Stuffed with the owner. We arrived around 3 on the Sunday afternoon, so it was admittedly between meals and at a bit of an odd time. In talking with the owner, we found that she had gotten numerous offers to move her restaurant to tonier locales - East Walnut Hill, Hyde Park, further into the Gateway Quarter (the gentrified part of Over the Rhine) - but has refused because she grew up two blocks from where Stuffed now sits. She offers a Sunday dinner because she knows that too many kids in the neighborhood don't get a good Sunday meal, living on burgers and hot dogs, microwaved food all the time. She knows she could raise her prices and get more money in a different locale but wants to keep her prices at a point where the neighborhood folks can walk in and get good, hot food that they can afford.

    Stuffed feels like it's been present forever, sitting high in Over the Rhine (the 1700-block of Vine Street, a good four or five blocks north of Liberty, almost to Findley Playground where Vine finishes its descent from Clifton.) This is all admirable. Ambiance - 8
Other Stuff
  • The social positive feelings about Stuffed (giving back to the neighborhood) is awesome. It's something that white people clearly like. +2
  • The food is made to order, and the stuffed burgers take a solid twenty to thirty minutes to cook. On an easy Sunday afternoon, I don't mind visiting. This time frame, however, knocks it out for a quick lunch. -1
  • At 3:30 Sunday afternoon, two teenagers were shot in Over the Rhine. An 18-year-old died after being shot in the stomach and head and a 12-year-old was shot in the foot by an assault rifle. This took place about a block from where we were eating. We heard the gunshots. We saw the 12 year old being carried down the street after being shot. We watched police tape being wrapped around the telephone pole not twenty feet from where we were finishing our burgers.

    Charlene, the owner of Stuffed on Vine, said that she is worried about the neighborhood, about her daughter who lives with her and her husband above the Main Street bar district, for her mother (The Girl remembers grandmother) who lives above Stuffed. The day before we visited, Charlene had served lunch to Emanual Scott who was shot dead less than eight hours later.

    Stuffed is in a neighborhood that, as one of the other customers on Sunday said, "takes one step forward and two steps back."
    I don't necessarily know how to include this in the ratings. I certainly know some people who wouldn't go to Stuffed because of where it is. I know we didn't feel any worry about planning our visit there, but I'll admit to some trepidation after what happened while we were there. I wish Charlene the absolute best in her business, but she has a huge hurdle to overcome (the location) and a decision to make (to stay and help the neighborhood or move and help her business).
That all adds up to 38 points for Stuffed on Vine.

  • Terry's Turf Club - 45
  • Cafe de Wheels - 44
  • Senate - 43 
  • Stuffed on Vine - 38
  • Five Guys Burgers and Fries - 36 
  • Roxy's - 36
  • VanZandt - 34
  • Gabby's - 34 
  • Oakley Pub & Grill - 34 
  • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
  • Troy's - 32 
  • Wildflower Cafe - 31.25 (scaled from 26/40) 
  • The Pub at Rookwood Mews - 28
  • Smashburger - 28
  • Habits Cafe - 28
  • Graffiti Burger - 27
  • Arthur's - 26
  • Sammy's - 25 
  • Gordo's - 20
You can check out a couple of other reviews of Stuffed - from CityBeat, MetroMix, and coming this month from Cincinnati Magazine (it's in print already but not online until July 1)

June 29, 2011

Solid outing, guys...solid

Oh-for-twenty-seven...thanks guys...

As redemption, Ty Wiggington did actually hit a home run. With Wiggington's game tied at 2-2 in the 9th, the team is now 1-for-29

Governor Rick Perry, Christian

Separation of church and what?

I have no problems with people believing what they want to believe. No problems with people worshiping in gigantic, stadium-sized churches. But it feels somehow wrong to have the governor of a state come out and encourage it this openly and blatantly.

A Revelation

Down in Houston this past week, I tried a snack bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos Limon (that's 'with lime').

They're phenomenal.


Find some.

I'm gonna see if Jungle Jim's can start carrying them.

If not, I may have to start driving down and back, opening up my own corner stand.

June 28, 2011

Free music from Amazon

Amazon is offering $2 free toward mp3 downloading. The offer expires June 30, so make sure to click through soon.

Hanging at the taratata

June 27, 2011

TV Gourmet

Some people just need something to do with their time.

For example, there's Josh and Nadia who have done two editions of TV Gourmet in which they make and eat  foods found on television. In the first edition, for example, they went for the Cheesy Blasters from 30 Rock - a hotdog stuffed with jack cheese and folded inside a pizza - and milk steak - steak cooked on a skillet with milk, honey, and jelly beans - from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

In round two, then, the same two fools returned to try a good morning burger - burger + egg + ham + bacon - from The Simpsons and Rachel's trifle from Friends.

I'm glad somebody else did it so I don't have to.

June 25, 2011

It's decided

The Tree of Life is at the Esquire, and we're going to see it Tuesday afternoon.

I'm looking forward to it in spite of the warnings.

June 24, 2011

Songs for Men

Or, rather,songs about men. All of the songs in today's playlist have a man's name as their song title.

Did I miss any that you can think of?

June 22, 2011

The Rookie

I'm hanging in Houston this morning and feeling nerves.

It's an interesting feeling, honestly, as I'm nervous because I'm going to be teaching this morning, something that I've generally been doing for a decade and a half.

This morning is a little different, however, as I'm going to be teaching my part of an ASM material science camp at the University of Houston Downtown. I'm here as a shadow learning to lead one (or some) of these camps next summer, but at the moment I'm just what's referred to as a shadow, helping the two lead teachers with this year's camp, seeing how to do the ordering, the setting up of all the labs (and there are tons of labs - something like thirteen different lab setups yesterday alone), teaching the workshop, and turning in the expenses at the end of the week.

Yesterday the master teacher who's been doing most of the actual classroom teaching said to me that I was up today in front of the class. She gave me choices of four or five demonstrations but said with no threat or doubt that I was going to be doing that demo in front of the class today. I've been setting up the labs, adding in my comments here and there in the classroom, and helping out with pretty much everything, but I haven't actually been the lead in the classroom just yet in the week's workshop. It's an important step, I totally understand that and appreciate the way in which Caryn presented it to me - no doubt but also no pressure.

And for some reason, I'm nervous.

I've taught for fifteen years. I've lead workshops at national conferences. I've done the demonstration I'm doing today - putting a sheet of copper in a propane torch - a few times in my own Princeton classroom. And yet I'm still nervous.

I'm nervous because I want to prove to myself that I can do this. I don't teach material science. I haven't done every one of these labs in my own classroom - something that most of the master teachers can't say. So I'm feeling a little underqualified with leading these workshops.

I'm nervous because I haven't lead these workshops yet. I'm a year away from doing that on my own - and even then I'll have another master teacher with me and probably another rook like me, too - so this is a new experience.

I'm nervous because the other master teachers are supportive and helpful and nice, and I want them to look at me as being qualified to lead this workshop on my own next year. I know they talk to the folks who are in charge of this ASM material science program, and I want the feedback about me to be positive - because I'm prideful, admittedly - so that those folks - about whom I have some pretty big respect - to hear that good feedback.

And I'm nervous.

I'm not worried. I think things'll go fine. They just haven't gone fine yet, and until they do, I'm nervous.

Which is why I woke up at 5am - forty five minutes before my alarm - this morning and am typing this.

Let's get voting

Go ahead, elect your sticker.

My choice and comments after the jump.

June 20, 2011

Lonnieburger Baskets: Gordo's

Gordo's in Norwood made the Cincinnati Magazine list of best burgers last year, admittedly, down at #35...
#35 Gordo’s Burger
►This modest pub serves an immodestly sized, bulbous burger stacked with roasted poblano chilies, sautéed mushrooms, onions, smoked bacon, garlicky Boursin cheese, and mayonnaise. It’s a good burger that would have been a great burger had the medium rare we ordered not been served well done. / 4328 Montgomery Rd., Norwood, (513) 351-1999
#35 may not be the tops, but it's nothing to sneeze at either, and when Gordo's opened a location attached to Jungle Jim's, we thought we'd hit the local rather than traveling on down to Norde. Admittedly, the new location has only been rolling for a couple of weeks, so there might be some bugs to work out, but we didn't hit 'em on the opening weekend. Sadly, their patio isn't open yet (not that it mattered on this rainy day.) Plus, the eponymous cook/chef is going to be cooking at the new location for the first three months.

See that guy on the left, the one in the Reds hat? That's Gordo. Let's see how he did...

  • Gordo's website describes their burgers as "A Half Pound of Lean Ground Beef Mixed with Bacon, Onion Compote and Mixed Herbs". Well, that sounds just delicious: onions, bacon, and herbs mixed in with the meat itself.

    Sadly, however, I didn't notice any of that in the burger that I tried. What I got was a burger patty that tasted like ground beef and not much anything else. The meat was tightly formed together - the exact opposite of the loosely-packed burgers of Smashburger from last week - and relatively bland. In my entire burger patty, there was only one bite that had any significant flavor to it, suggesting that perhaps a bit more mixing might've helped Gordo's burger making operation. I would be reluctant to suggest that, however, as our burgers were actually a bit chewy perhaps a sign of already having been overworked. The Girl had a bit more flavor to her actual burger patty, but she agreed with the chewy description.

    The best description that I could give the Gordo burger patties was that they tasted like meatloaf, something I'm definitely not looking for in a burger. Burger - 5 

  • Being the diligent and faithful soul that I am, I went for Gordo's pub burger with bacon added (an extra $1). Sadly, they don't offer cheddar cheese, so I settled for an American single. Mine was the top photo. Ooh, with shredded lettuce, mostly melted cheese, thinly sliced onions (only on the left side, though), and two slices of pedestrian bacon. Nothing special to see here at all...keep moving, folks...

    The Girl went with the Gordo's burger which has "Roasted Poblanos, Mushrooms, Onions, Smoked Bacon, Boursin Cheese and Mayonnaise". Sorry, she doesn't like mayo or onions. It may be smoked bacon and all, but it certainly wasn't anything special or worth a whole buck for two pieces. The mushrooms, the peppers, the white cheese squished down for what The Girl described as "all right". Such a ringing endorsement. Toppings - 5

  • Plank fries...steak fries...stale fries...big chunks of salt, but not enough salt... pepper but no actual taste of pepper...warmth at the beginning (clearly thanks to the heat lamp)...spongy middle...blech...Fries - 4

  • I almost feel bad reviewing the ambiance in Gordo's because there wasn't any. The floors are poured concrete. The tables are successfully tabular. There aren't any booths. or carpet or anything soft surfaced. The walls are, indeed, painted. Those walls have some paintings - some of which seem to have something in common with each other - and some televisions - a couple of which have the setting correct so that the image matches the size of the television itself. The restrooms do have doors,but the little restroom entry alcove has floor-length curtains, as do the two doorways into and out of the kitchen. The curtains look cheap.

    This clearly is a place that was ready to open based on the fact that there's a kitchen and tables and food, but the entirety of the feeling of the restaurant is of a place opened on the cheap or without any attention paid to the look of the place.

    The best thing I can say about the ambiance is that there's a bar. There was, indeed, a guy at the bar while we were there. The ambiance isn't offensive but it's just absent. Ambiance - 4

  • Burger $8 + bacon $1 + fries (included) + diet coke $2 = $11...that's a point down from the straight middle...Cost - 4
Other stuff
  • They have a spectacularly thorough beer list. +1
  • No cheddar cheese. -1 
  • To quote The Girl, "our food took and awfully long time to get there." We sat down in Gordo's just before 1:30 on a Wednesday. We intentionally waited until after the lunch rush, so we only saw three tables occupied - including ours - and our food took about twenty minutes to get to our table. The Girl is entirely right. -1
  • I ordered my burger cooked medium. The Girl did, too. Our burgers were closer to medium well. This is apparently a problem with Gordo's burgers as Cincinnati Magazine pointed out (and as I copied up top.) -1
This doesn't look good...Gordo's Pub & Grill got 20 points. That's really not good.

  • Terry's Turf Club - 45
  • Cafe de Wheels - 44
  • Senate - 43
  • Five Guys Burgers and Fries - 36 
  • Roxy's - 36
  • VanZandt - 34
  • Gabby's - 34 
  • Oakley Pub & Grill - 34 
  • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
  • Troy's - 32 
  • Wildflower Cafe - 31.25 (scaled from 26/40) 
  • The Pub at Rookwood Mews - 28
  • Smashburger - 28
  • Habits Cafe - 28
  • Graffiti Burger - 27
  • Arthur's - 26
  • Sammy's - 25 
  • Gordo's - 20
Let's not talk of this again.

    June 19, 2011


    It seemed so simple...
    • 5:30am flight from Dayton to Charlotte - two and a half hour layover
    • 9:30am flight from Charlotte to Dallas - two hour layover
    • 1:10pm flight from Dallas to Houston - and done at 2:28pm
    Looks like it should all work out just fine. There's enough time to grab a meal in Dallas, enough time that even a few delays shouldn't be a problem. Heck, The Girl even dropped me off at Dayton at 4:20 - tons of time to make it through security and onward to the gate. Dayton's a nice little airport. Things should be beautiful.


    The flight from Dayton took off on time right at 5:30. At 5:40, however, the pilot came on and told us we were returning to Dayton because of mechanical problems. Little delay. His words were that they didn't yet know whether it was a little glitch of a significant problem. Could be a quick check or an hour to get it fixed.

    We sat on the tarmac for ten or so minutes and got told it was a significant problem, at least an hour to fix. We got off the plan and were given cards to call US Air's customer service number in case we had connections that would be missed.  At this point, we weren't looking at taking off until 7:30, probably missing my connection to Dallas. The customer service folks were nice and helpful and even eliminated a connection...
    • 1:01pm flight from Charlotte to Houston - longer layover in Charlotte but only one connection - better! - done at 2:31pm
    7:30 became 9:00 became 10:00 became a cancelled flight to Charlotte, so on the phone again (1-888-200-9865 - I have it memorized at this point.) Grab a bagel and an apple from Starbucks. Luckily there's an easy enough work around:
    • 12:05pm flight from Dayton to Charlotte - eighty minute layover
    • 2:50pm flight from Charlotte to Houston (get in at 4:23pm - ninety minutes late, not too bad)
    Still workable. I'm coming to love the Dayton airport. Interesting carpet.

    The only problem is that I don't actually have a seat on the 12:05 flight from Dayton. I'm on standby, and they're hoping people will take their $275 incentive to get bumped.

    Predictably, nobody took the incentive. I'm on the phone again.
    • 1:21pm flight from Dayton to Philadelphia - forty minute layover (tight, tight)
    • 3:30pm flight from Philadelphia to Charlotte - an hour layover
    • 6:20pm flight from Charlotte to Houston - done at 7:55 (now five and a half hours late)
    It's 12:20pm. I've been in the Dayton airport since 4:30 - other than thirty minutes on the plane and tarmac. Grab a chicken sandwich and fries from the little bar. Not a bad sandwich.

    Oddly, I made the 1:21pm flight. Of course, it didn't take off until twenty minutes late and took more time to get to Philly than it should have. So I deplane at 3:20pm to make my 3:30pm flight. Things'll still work fine if the connection's close. I'm taking off from gate A20. We're getting in to...F terminal.

    It's a bus ride from F to A. I get to A20 at 3:46.

    I'm on the phone again.
    • 1:21pm flight from Dayton to Philadelphia - this one's already happened, made it out of Dayton
    • 6:00pm flight from Philadelphia to Chicago - layover ninety minutes
    • 9:15pm flight from Chicago to Houston on Continental - done at 11:43pm (nine hours late)
    I take a walk from A20 to C25 and sit down. C25 is a huge area. It's got tons of space to spread out. So the gate gets moved to C19 which is small, cramped, and hot.

    Thanks, kids.

    The Chicago flight starts boarding at 6:00...for a 6:00 take-off. It's a huge plane with relatively comfy seats.

    We leave the ground at 6:40.

    They make up most of the time in the air, and we get in only ten minutes late somehow. I head to the Continental gate B4 to make sure things are kosher because I had a boarding pass printed by US Air for a Continental flight. The gate's moved to B2. I check in with the gate agent who says, "Oh, you're the one. I saw we had somebody on this flight without a ticket."

    Without a ticket?

    Somehow US Air entered things wrong, and the gate agent said she had to get me a paper ticket. She's on the phone this time. She heads to an office, prints me a ticket, and I'm straight on the plane.

    Seats are a little tight.

    Then my neighbor sits down.

    She's...um...well...she's a little plump.

    Let's just say that quarters were a bit cramped.

    Let's say she had her seat, a quarter of my seat, and a quarter of the seat on the other side, too.

    I wish I had a more story-arc appropriate ending, folks. The last flight was cramped and packed, but we actually got into Houston twenty minutes earlier than scheduled. I got a shuttle to the hotel, and the hotel folks gave me a key that worked just fine.

    So, after getting up at 2:30am Saturday to get a 5:30am flight, I landed in Houston at 11:30pm Saturday and made it to my hotel at 12:40am Sunday.

    Why, yes, I do love flying, why do you ask?

    PS - In case you were wondering, I'm in Houston to help teach a Material Science camp for ASM.

    June 18, 2011

    I'm flying to Houston right now

    June 17, 2011

    Take 2?

    Isner draws Mahut in the first round of Wimbledon.

    If that doesn't mean anything to you, do a little reading about their last match.

    There's a science to these 8tracks playlists

    Science music...take that...

    June 16, 2011

    Our little patch of Earth

    Since we've been homeowners - first in Northside, now in West Chester - The Girl has put in a garden pretty much every summer. Typically she gets the plants in the ground in mid- to late May. This year things were running a bit behind, but at least it looks like it could be a good garden.

    From the right, we've got...
    • black cherry tomato plants
    • tomatillo plants
    • beefsteak tomato plants
    • better boy tomato plants
    • salsa peppers (we think they're jalapeno)
    • poblano peppers
    • bell peppers
    • melrose peppers
    • watermelon
    • pickling cucumbers
    • pumpkin
    • eggplant
    • zucchini
    I'm all down with the peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, and pumpkin. I'll be good and water the other stuff, though, as long as I'm in town.

    Occasional progress photos may be shown throughout the summer.

    June 15, 2011

    Lonnieburger Baskets: Smashburger

    It's been far too long, I know.

    I promise you three burger recommendations in the next few weeks, however, as The Girl and I have visits planned. The schedule has been wonky this quarter at UC.

    On a stormy Friday evening, we got back on our burger quest and visited the newest contender in the 'burbs: Smashburger.

    That picturesque burger certainly would be a solid draw, but it didn't remotely resemble the burgers that were served to either The Girl or me this night.

    • The Smashburger patty is reminiscent of a diner-style, Steak 'n' Shake burger, something that shows the freshness of the grind and the looseness of the patty formation. Check out the pauperedchef for details on the technique. This isn't a burger that's going to be tough, and you can even see in the above photo that the burger has pretty big crevasses in the patty. That's all good for me.

      The outside had a nice crust, but the 1/3 pound burger left enough middle to the patty so that the center wasn't overdone at all. It was a solid medium, about how I like my burgers, and with a nice, beefy flavor.

      The problem with the burger patty itself, however, was that our hands became slippery and slimy pretty quickly from the grease dripping off of the burger. This clearly is not lean beef. This is like 60% lean or something (I jest, I keyed) because the burger left a coating of grease on our hands and in our mouths. It wasn't a good thing. Burger - 6

    • As you can see on the Smashburger menu (Ohio version here), they offer six standard burgers plus a make-your-own option. The Girl went for the Buckeye Burger without mayo, and I chose to go with the standard bacon cheeseburger, done a little more cheaply by choosing to order a BBQ, bacon, and cheese without the barbeque sauce. I did get onion straws which aren't standard for the burger tastings, but I think we'll be okay here.

      The Girl's burger came dressed. Mine didn't. For some reason, I just sort of assumed that lettuce and tomato were standard. Turns out I should have asked for them. Not a problem; the menu said what was on my burger. I just made an assumption that clearly shouldn't have been made.

      The onion straws were, indeed, thin as advertised. They weren't crispy, but that wasn't really expected in spite of the descriptions by the workers that they were both thin and crispy. The important thing was the thinness as The Girl has picked non-thin onion straws off of burgers (I'm talking about you, Habits). The fried onions and jalapenos both probably added to the greasiness of our burgers, but neither fried bit felt overfly greasy.

      The bacon was nicely flavorful but not evenly cooked, leaving some parts nicely crisp while others were still fatty and a bit more chewy than I would like on a burger. The lettuce wasn't iceberg (a plus) but did have a small bad spot that had to be picked off of the leaf. The tomato wasn't tasted, sadly. It's not high summer yet anyway; best to steer clear of tomatoes still. The cheese was standard cheddar, decently melted on my burger, a little less melty on The Girl's burger.

      All in all, toppings were fine. Toppings - 6

    • Smashburger offers two types of fries: French fries and Smashfries. (They have a theme to their menu: smashfries, smashchicken, smashsalads, smashdogs, smashsides.) The French fries are typical shoestring fries, reminiscent of Steak 'n' Shake but a little thicker. The Smashfries are the same fries but with a little olive oil, garlic, and some sort of green herb (we didn't get much of an herbal taste, so we're guessing parsley.) Both fry sides are a buck cheaper if you order a burger, and the Smashfries are thirty cents more for the flavoring either way.

      We got an order of each to try both. The French fries didn't taste fresh are cooled very quickly. They had only the slightest amount of salt and needed more. The Smashfries were warmer but certainly had fewer fries in the basket. Don't know if that's an intentional thing or not, but it was noticeable. If the French fries were a typical serving size, the side was plentiful but not enough for two to share. If our Smashfries were a more typical side, they weren't plentiful but rather passable in volume.

      The Smashfries were tasty as the olive oil and garlic lent a nice flavor. These were more heavily and appropriately salted. They were, however, far greasier even leaving a pool of olive oil in that third picture above. Fries - 6

    • That second photo isn't actually of the West Chester Smashburger. It's a generic photo from the Smashburger website but does show you how an interior is set up. West Chester has more free-standing tables, but it's pretty much that restaurant shown above with an extra ordering aisle/walkway as you enter. The top photo is of our local Smashburger.

      There's a lot of hard surfaces - tile, painted walls, exposed ductwork ceiling - in our Smashburger. This leads to a rather noisy experience. The color scheme of red and white keeps things pretty harsh, too. All in all, Smashburger isn't a relaxing place. It's a place designed to get you in and out with your burgers and to remind you that you're in SMASHburger. This isn't a weak burger joint.

      I didn't like the interior. It's not clean and crisp enough to be White Castle-esque, nor is it comforting and neighborly. It's not a sports bar. It's just loud and kind of in your face without being overly so. Ambiance - 5

    • Burger $5.99 + fries $1.99 or $1.69 + drink $1.79 = $9.77 or $9.47..either way, that's a 5 on a 10 scale. By the way the online menu for Ohio lists adult beverages, but our location doesn't seem to have a liquor license, so those options are covered up with Smashburger stickers in West Chester. Cost - 5
     Other Stuff
    • There's just not much else to say. The bacon was tasty which would probably get a bonus point, but it wasn't evenly cooked, so that's pretty much negated.
    • Apparently they have milkshakes that are handmade, but neither of us tried one, so I can't offer anything there.
    In total Smashburger is a respectable but not special burger joint earning 28 points. There's no attempt to be a local, neighborhood joint or to do anything other than serve decent burgers at a decent price.

    Our Five Guys is located less than half a mile south of Smashburger, and I don't see any way we'll ever be choosing Smashburger over Five Guys. Five Guys has better fries, better burgers, and a slightly cheaper price.
    • Terry's Turf Club - 45
    • Cafe de Wheels - 44
    • Senate - 43
    • Five Guys Burgers and Fries - 36 
    • Roxy's - 36
    • VanZandt - 34
    • Gabby's - 34 
    • Oakley Pub & Grill - 34 
    • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
    • Troy's - 32 
    • Wildflower Cafe - 31.25 (scaled from 26/40) 
    • The Pub at Rookwood Mews - 28
    • Smashburger - 28
    • Habits Cafe - 28
    • Graffiti Burger - 27
    • Arthur's - 26
    • Sammy's - 25
     Next up, visits to Stuffed on Vine and Gordo's.

    June 14, 2011

    At the taratata

    That one's for RuffRyder...the rest are for everybody else...

    June 13, 2011

    My summer opinions

    Already been there
    Desperate to see 'em...
    • Tree of Life - Loved Thin Red Line, and I give Terrence Malick full faith.
    Probably go see 'em...
    Might go see 'em...
    Probably not gonna see 'em
    Kill me if you see me in line...

    June 11, 2011

    I got a feeling...

    ...that today's going to be a warm one...

    June 10, 2011

    Two more blogs to follow...

    Had drinks recently with a couple of PHS grads doing well for themselves and thought I'd give a little shout-out to their projects online and irl this summer.

    Matt Murray (who's been mentioned before around here) is heading back to NYC to be a page at NBC. He'll be chronicling his Big Apple adventures on the Empire Project.

    Josh Kramer is living the dream and heading to Bristol, CT to intern at the mothership of ESPN. You can check his regular sports writing at the Sports Kraze (with a new, non-ESPN-litigating logo.) You can, however, get a glimpse of a couple of the old logos if you know where to look.

    Good luck to both guys. We're proud of ya...

    Just because...

    U2 and friends

    U2 have worked with a number of artists outside the group. Here's a bunch of those songs...

    June 9, 2011

    Five by five: Multiple movies

    Today's rules
    1. All movies must have gotten actual studio releases. Straight to DVD or video doesn't count on this one.
    2. I must've seen all the movies.
    3. The movies must be connected by more than name & theme.
    My favorite triologies...
    1. Dollars - A Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
    2. Toy Story
    3. Mariachi - El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico
    4. Bourne - Identity, Supremacy, Ultimatum
    5. Godfather
    My favorite four-movie series...
    1. Jersey - Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks 2 (none are embarrassing, an accomplishment for a four-movie series)
    2. Batman - Batman (1989), Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin (I'll always have a soft spot for Poison Ivy in B&R)
    3. Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, Crystal Skull (Crystal Skull the only weak entry)
    4. Jack Ryan - Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear & Present Danger, Sum of All Fears
    5. Superman - I, II, III, IV (III and IV weak entries)
    My favorite films made from television shows...
    1. South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
    2. The Untouchables
    3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
    4. The Fugitive
    5. Mission: Impossible
      Honorable mention: The Muppet Movie - not directly based on The Muppet Show, so doesn't quite qualify to me...
    My favorite prequels...
    1. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
    2. Godfather Part II
    3. X-Men: First Class
    4. Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom
    5. X-Men: Wolverine
    My favorite reboots...
    1. James Bond - Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace 
    2. Batman - Batman Begins, Dark Knight   
    3. Oceans 11, 12, 13 
    4. Star Trek (2010)
    5. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (cheating, but it came from a movie)

    June 8, 2011

    Today's project

    Why yes, I am downloading every song from NyeTunes so I can have a complete collection of all the Bill Nye spoof science songs.

    Happy summer, everybody!

    Update: Light, summer reading

    For the tl;dr crowd, here's a summary of yesterday's review post...
    • Pandora's Keepers - very good, 1st half about development, 2nd half about the implications on the scientists themselves
    • Batman: Hush Money - 3.5 on a 5 scale...mostly non-Batman stories about Gotham...especially enjoyed The Broker story
    • Starman Omnibus Vol 6 - Solid A-...great close to the series...tied up all the loose ends
    • The Male Mystique - 85/100...nice beat, you can dance to it...reproductions of 60's and 70's magazine ads...hilarious, worth looking through
    • Spider-Man: The Grim Hunt - 3 stars out of 4...nice follow-up to Kraven's last hunt...neat hunter-spider mythology
    • Anansi Boys - closer to Godfather II than Godfather III...fun listen...wonderful reader
    • X-Men: First Class - Closer to X2 than X3 (that's a good thing)...January Jones is horrible...the rest is lots of fun
    • the last eight are already pretty straight forward and short as they were...

    Actors with Action Figures

    There's a whole lot of the new Marvel boys (Thor, Iron Man, Cap'n America), but the Actors with Action Figures tumblr is well worth a check out.

    Here's to hoping people can help the blogger out and keep this thing growing.

    Kinda sad comic

    Couldn't have said it better, myself. Thanks, Gutters.

    June 7, 2011

    See the ballists ginger up

    Come out and join me this Saturday at the Queen City Festival showcasing some of the best vintage base ball (spacing intentional there) at Heritage Village in Sharon Woods. The games will get underway at 10am, and play will continue until around 3pm.

    Check out some of the details over at the Cincinnati Buckeye's website.

    It's kinda like this...(which you can see more of here)...

    Light, summer reading

    One of my goals for the summer is to read at least a half dozen 'real' books - not comics, not graphic novels, actual non-fiction books. First up will be Rising Tide which I started last week and which counts because I was in summer mode once exams started.

    Let's catch up with the reading done before and fading into summer mode...

    Pandora's Keepers - I've had this book sitting around for a couple of years. I'd been looking for a decent history of the Manhattan Project, and this one showed up on the copier in the office across from my room around that time. I put it by the mailboxes with a note and took it home after nobody claimed in an three or four days.

    Finally got around to actually reading it...

    The books is a biography of the core group of scientists who were instrumental in developing the atomic bombs at Los Alamos: Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence, Robert Oppenheimer, II Rabi, Leo Szilard, and Edward Teller. From their lives before the war (many were European expatriates) to their pursual of the US government's development of the bomb and onward to their post-war lives.

    The book breaks down nicely into three areas: pre-, during, and post-war. The pre-war information is necessary background, needed to explain the motivation of the nine scientists during the war, and VanDemark does a good job keeping each scientist on equal footing, not spending more time with one than any other, and providing enough background of each to flesh out their  motivations and specialties as the story presses forward.

    It is, however, during the war years that the tale truly becomes a fascinating one. The book travels from Lawrence's Berkley super collider to the squash courts below Chicago University's disused football field, from the halls of Washington to the lecture halls of Princeton. In each location we find an integral part of the story, one without whom or which the bomb would never have come together.

    Following the war years, then, VanDemark turns to the repercussions of the Manhattan Project on these scientists and our world. Each of these men had turned to physics in search of the great, pure truths of the universe. They cherished their scientific endeavors because those pursuits were pure, unsullied by politics or practical concerns. Many of them left Europe because the political world had begun to encroach on their pure, scientific worlds. Because of the atomic bomb, however, they found themselves as involved in politics - the lobbying for or against the (fusion) superbomb, the pursuit of security clearance in the face of increased anti-communist fears, their attempts to put the atomic genie back in the bottle - as they had once hoped never to be.

    The book is an outstanding survey of the entirety of those three facets, most interesting to me in the central war years and much sadder to me in the post-war times. I was fascinated to learn the scope of the efforts, particular at Oak Ridge and Hanford, Washington to separate and purify the plutonium and uranium ores. In describing K-25, just one of the buildings at Oak Ridge where U-235 was being extracted from the U-238 isotopes...
    K-25 was the largest building ever constructed up to that time. It was a sight to behold. Spread over 2 million square feet, the U-shaped structure was half a mile long and four hundred feet wide on each side. It was so vast that foremen rode bikes from one part of the building to another. Twelve thousand people, working in three shifts, kept K-25 running day and night, seven days a week...The electricity for these mammoth facilities came from the nearby TVA and an onside powerhouse that was the largest power installation ever built. By war's end, Oak Ridge would be consuming the equivalent of the total power output on the American side of Niagara Falls - or one-seventh of all electricity generated in the United States.
    I can't even conceive of an operation on that scale, and it's one of the things that makes me feel that the development of the atomic bomb was one of the greatest - if possibly most awful (in every sense of the word) - accomplishments of modern science.

    The post-war years help put the entirety of the operation into context for me. The scientists were nothing more than men, and as such held differing opinions about their accomplishments. Each saw the totality of the efforts - the triumphs, the regrets, the celebrations, the deaths caused - in their own balance and dealt with their thoughts as individuals and collectively. Some chose to become part of the military-industrial complex, hoping to exert their new-found influence from within. Others chose to abandon what they had come to see as the hopelessness of physics for the life-affirming discipline of biology. Others chose to see out personal rivalries in testifying against each other, making for some of the most heart-breaking pages of the book in Oppenheimer's trial and eventual removal of his security privileges.

    The book is an excellent and engaging read, and I learned a great deal from it - mostly about the men involved in the making of the bomb but also about the science behind the bomb - particularly about the 'superbomb' and just what the distinctions are between a thermonuclear (aka the hydrogen or superbomb) and the original atomic bomb.

    Interestingly, I found out after reading the book that there were significant accusations toward VanDemark of plagiarism from authors of books on the same subject. Whether VanDemark intentionally plagiarized or innocently didn't give proper credit, the book is an outstanding read and a great exploration of the men involved in the Manhattan Project.

    Hush Money -This one takes a bit of background info to understand what's happening here. You have to know about the 'disappearance' of  Bruce Wayne (from Final Crisis), the destruction of Hush's fortune (from Heart of Hush), and the Dick Grayson-Batman and Damian-Robin all are going to throw off non-regular Batman readers.

    Which could be a shame because these are some great stories. The main storyline is that of Thomas Elliot (Hush) as he continues with his attempt to impersonate the 'disappeared' Bruce Wayne and finds himself as Gotham's philanthropist, giving away as much of Wayne's money as he can manage with his surgically-altered Bruce Wayne face. The responses of Damian, Dick, and the second-tier Justice League is well played here, showing how well they team takes care of their fallen mentor/teammate's legacy.

    Along the way, the series turns to a few other side tales - Mr Zsasz's new identity and scheme, Firefly's firebombing of Gotham citizens, most interestingly the story of The Broker who sells/rents hideouts to many of Gotham's most flamboyant criminals - but sticks with the over-arching Hush story throughout.

    The concept of Batman stories told from non-Batman points of view is interesting and the series well done, but in the end this is just another Batman series, if a very well told one thanks to the writing of Paul Dini and the artwork by Dustin Nguyen.

    Starman: Vol 6 - Grand Guginol - This one wraps up the full Starman run from James Robinson, one of the most heralded comic series of the 1990s and easily one of the greatest single-creator visions of a character in the history of the big two comic publishers (probably there with Sandman). Thanks, by the way, to PLCH for purchasing all of these omnibuses (omnibi?) and for making them available.

    First off, the cohesive nature of the Starman series is stunning. It's clear as the last volume comes together that much - if not all - of these storylines were intended from the first issue of the series, so many threads coming together at once thankfully doesn't lead to chaos but rather to a satisfying conclusion to a fabulous series.

    I appreciated the return to Opal City after the cosmic drifting of the previous volume but saw that the tale of this volume required Robinson's Starman to leave the city for an extended period of time so that things could reach a bad enough state for the fights of the Grand Guginol to have the necessary emotional weight.

    I will admit to being a bit surprised when the Grand Guginol didn't occupy the entirety of this final volume. That storyline wrapped up with a half dozen issues still to go, leaving Robinson enough time to wrap up the numerous emotional storylines that deserved their finality, and Robinson wrapped them all up masterfully, allowing each enough space, enough time, enough pages for each to reach a satisfactory conclusion, a challenge in a world with such a rich supporting cast.

    There is no other way that I would want to read this issues as the omnibus versions contained every lick of Starman's story - that told in the eighty-issue main series as well as all of the various mini-series and cross over issues (other than Batman/Hellboy/Starman, a very weird teaming). Even Robinson's commentary at the end of each volume lent a richer history to the creative process.

    I don't think this is the equal of Sandman, but it's a heck of an achievement and one I'm happy to have read.

    The male mystique : men's magazine ads of the 1960s and '70s is just odd and stylish enough to be fascinating. It's a collection of magazine advertisements promising a sexier, cooler, hipper world if you'll only buy these new slacks, wear this new comfort spray, smoke these cigarillos, and drink this vodka.

    The ads are grouped into vague themes, but the overall theme is much more important as the totality of the ads presents a world where macho was still acceptable, where men were turning both toward and away from a more sensitive lifestyle, where jeans were edging their way into the world but where the coolest men didn't want to wear them.

    The book is spectacular.

    Take a few looks...

    Spider-Man: The Grim Hunt came about as a direct follow-up to and result of the acclaimed Gauntlet storyline (which I haven't been able to find at PLCH yet). Here we get the Kraven family (who I think might've been retconned into existence just for this storyline) trying to resurrect papa who died in the outstanding Kraven's Last Hunt. In order to do this, they have to sacrifice the head Spyder on the grave of Kraven himself.

    The storyline opens with Spider-Man tuckered out after the events of the Gauntlet, something that was apparently organized by the Kravinoff matriarch and that leaves Peter Parker exhausted and suffering from the swine flu (at least he is at the beginning of the storyline, but it mysteriously goes away as a storytelling device pretty quickly). Along comes some kind of mythology of the Spyder clan having always been at battle with the Hunter clan (Kraven being the current incarnation of the perfect hunter, apparently).

    It's a good read and a fun addition to the mythology of the spiders (Madame Web, Ezekiel, etc). I did wonder, as have others, why Spider Woman wasn't a part of this arc.

    Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman is a sequel of sorts to American Gods but one which requires no reading of the former book before stepping in and enjoying this tale. This is the story of the twin sons of Anansi, a god who played a somewhat minor part in American Gods and who opens this book by simply passing away.

    From there, the two sons find each other and live entire sibling lives (sadness, joy, betrayal, competition, fighting) in a short but entertaining time. Through the course of the tale, Gaiman tells a typically enjoyable Gaiman-esque tale complete with humor, rich characters, and ties to already extant mythologies, leading us to a somewhat predictable resolution but not costing us any of the enjoyment along the way. While the end situations for the characters might be visible from a long way off, the ways that they reach their eventual dispensation weren't predictable in the least for me.

    This is a fun read (or, in my case, listen) for Gaiman fans and a blast of a summer read. It's not Gaiman's best work (that's either Sandman or Coraline for my money).

    X-Men: First Class suffers from one of the major problem that plagues the Marvel 616 X-Men: lack of interconnectedness.

    With The Avengers coming next summer and Captain America yet to come this summer, the Marvel movie universe is among the most richly populated out there. Each film leads brilliantly into the next (particularly with the post-credits teaser scenes) but each stands on its own to feet. This film, however, has no real connection to those films.

    This echos the X-world of Marvel comics in which the mutant school finds itself uninvolved in most of Marvel's major crossovers (Civil War, Dark Reign, Hulk No More, World War Hulk), instead being embroiled in its own sub-cross overs (House of M, Messiah Complex). These mutants while existing in the Marvel world are rarely - other than Wolverine - a part of that world, and they are less rich for it.

    Here we find ourselves looking back at the creation of the first X-team thanks to the a-little-too-friendly pairing of Charles Xavier (hirsute and fully ambulatory) and Erik Lehnsherr (aka Magneto). The two bond a little too quickly and turn together (for a while, at least) to gathering and rescuing mutants (conveniently all in the USofA) for the CIA to fight the growing threat of Sebastian Shaw, leader of the Hellfire Club (without the black/white/king/queen hierarchy here).

    The pairing - after a few 'not that there's anything wrong with that' moments and a quick cameo from Hugh Jackman - finds their goals at odds even when both are saving the world from the Cuban missile crisis (conveniently engineered by Shaw to force the quick destruction of the non-mutant peoples of the world).

    The movie is - as the trailers show - highly stylish, an effective period piece set in the swinging sixties, existing in the swinging London of Austin Powers as well as the ring-a-ding-ding Las Vegas of the Rat Pack while populating the world with ascots, mini-skirts, and traditional black-suited CIA agents. Many of the set pieces are almost too stylish, distracting from the story by placing the action in a set just a bit too hip and happening for its own good (the nuclear reactor and lounge on the submarine and the overdone war room being the most problematic).

    Most of the actors take to their parts well, particularly Kevin Bacon and the two X-leads. Some of the other new X-Men can't quite seem to fit themselves into the era, playing their teenage characters a bit too modern for the period piece that the movie it. January Jones was particularly odious, seeming to choose disinterested and bitchy for Emma Frost rather than the too-good-for-this, monied, East Coaster with a witty, kinky streak that her comic character is.

    The actual weakest part of the movie is the CGI which slips a bit particularly in the final confrontation on the beach. The sight of a flying submarine (shown in the trailers) which is then crashed on the beach would have been stunningly realists had it been shown even three or four years ago but looked fakey and hokey in the current day theater.

    It's a fun movie and easily the best in the X-franchise since X2. Hopefully the characters can see their way through the 1960's and 1970's, because there are certainly more stories to tell without ever having to mention the Shi'ar.

    Quick ones from here...
    • Manhunter - Read the first volume...waiting on the second from PLCH...good start...flawed main character...could be fun...
    • Batgirl: The Flood - second volume of the Stephanie Brown Batgirl (not long for this world, sadly)...still fun but lacking the foil of Damian Wayne to play off of...strong Birds of Prey vibe with Oracle doing the behind the scenes heavy lifting and this volume seeing the wrap up (for now, at least) of the Oracle-Calculator storyline...great single issue with Supergirl to close this volume...I'll be sad to see this character go away in September...
    • Hulk: Scorched Earth More fun stuff...continuing to follow Red Hulk (Thunderbolt Ross) as he tries to redeem himself and join the white hats...this isn't a cohesive story arc as many ideas are introduced but not wrapped up in these issues...the standard throw down of Red Hulk and whichever hero he's supposed to be helping got a bi formulaic by the end, but it's still fun...
    • Flash: Rebirth - yet another return of the Silver Age version of a hero...getting tired of this crap...lots of pseudo-science babble about running creating the speed force and the anti-speed force, batteries, positive and negative...dumb stuff...one I'm hoping will be retconned out in September...let Hal Jordan and Barry Allen die, folks...it's not 1980 no matter how much you want it to be...
    • Red, White, and Rock -  great collection of white people oldies (no Motown here, folks)...odd conception as I read further (put out post 9/11 to let people feel good about Amerika)...
    • Randy Newman Songbook, Vol 2 - To quote - "The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 2 feels a bit like the second Greatest Hits album drawn from a career artist's catalog; so many great songs were pulled for Vol. 1 that the sophomore effort seems slightly weak in comparison"...excellent stuff but songs I don't love nearly as much...more for fans that for neophytes...
    • The Fall by Gorillaz - lesser album than Plastic Beach but still fun...
    • Hulked Out Heroes - dumb, dumb, dumb...not fun