Saturday, December 27, 2008

Who would have thought?

My soon to be former co-worker, Mr. Jeff Sterling, continues to astound me, at times by his ignorance, at times by his charisma, and always by his musical ability. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Final(s) Week(s) are Over!

And everything went as smoothly as I could hope for, that is until I missed my very last final by two days. How could this happen you ask? There is this document, several in fact, which publish the dates and times of final exams that when read and properly interpreted, alert one to each and every final exam that is held on campus during finals week. Did I read this document? No. But my professor did, and thus I showed up to an empty classroom, no professor and a final exam that had taken place two days earlier than I had expected. You might be thinking, "Josh, are you sure you're ready for college?" That's good, keep your smart-ass comments to yourself. Thinking is a perfectly normal activity, acceptable for most people in most forms at most times. Just don't let me in on it.

I was able to make up the final, at home, using a laptop, after eating entirely too much of a burrito Angela had graciously brought over for me. Even with the advantage of typing the final instead of writing it out by hand, it was by far the most difficult task of the semester, involving questions such as,
Explain what the consequences of the Protestant ethic were and how it
helped to create capitalist action orientations. In your answer explain
the notions of the calling, predestination and the role of Luther and
Calvin. Explain the two pieces of pastoral advice given when individuals
would ask, “am I one of the elect?” and why this advice was important.
Finally, explain two alternatives to the capitalist spirit, such as
fatalism or pietism, and finally what lead to the “iron cage?”
Which begs the question, "Why would you continue with sociological theory next semester after having your ass handed to you this fall?" And the reason is simple: I don't know. But I will be quite adept at answering multi-part essays on subjects that would normally make me curl up in a ball and cry. And nobody wants that.

I don't quite know how to explain this...

Perhaps it is best to simply show you. The McNamee clan has many rituals, ceremonies and traditions I am only now becoming intimately familiar with, and the latest is the family video project. For this Christmas, Lynn took it upon herself to plan a video present for Sandy and Mac (the folks), which involved a great deal of pageantry, but very little scripting. I was asked to document the following in exchange for dinner, the opportunity not to publicly embarrass myself and a very good excuse for not partaking in the festivities. Before we continue on with the shenanigans, we have some cuteness to get out of the way.

Andrew is the youngest in the family, and while not the most photogenic, he took a moment away from examining the quality of the Christmas tree decorations to give me this pose. As Lynn explained Andrew's starring role in the evening's production, she may have lost Andrew after requesting a chasse followed by an en dedans and finished with a leaping piroette.

Now this girl knows when a camera is about. Morgan never failed to posture for the camera, that is until the end of the evening when her stockings became too much to bear.

It was about at this point that I informed Morgan she was "cut off," but not before a photo with her brother, Cole.

Let the silliness begin! You can only imagine the extent of what one can do with a candy cane, and the innappropriate things that these small children can now do with them. I'm pretty sure everyone was pointing at the neighbor who left his shade drawn as he emulated the dance moves from Footloose in the nude, but it could have been Santa. We'll just never know.

Once everyone had calmed down, we were able to take a few family photos, some of which turned out surprisingly well considering the goofiness of the occasion, including this one of Steve, Charlette, Lynn and Kyle.

How fucking cute is that? (Notice I used a curse word, because it is a picture of two adults.)

How friggin' cute is that? (Notice... well, you get the fucking picture. Oops.)

Sometimes the Christmas spirit isn't really appropriate for young audiences.

And the siblings, or four of them at least.

When will the cuteness end?

They're called snowflakes, got it?

As much fun as the costumes, decorations and silliness was, I want to thank my mother and my father for never, ever subjecting me to this as a child. As much as your parenting scarred me, at least the evidence remains on the inside, where I can stuff it deep inside my heart.

Love to all, and happy holiday wishes...

Yes, I Babysit Too

But seeing as how babysitting is not a very visual activity, I only have a couple photos of Sadie, and my favorite quote of the night from Trysten, who is six, to share with you.

"Why do you need two lightsabers Trysten?" -Me
"Josh, I can't fight four lightsabers with one lightsaber, are you crazy?" -Trysten

And Sadie, a relative cutie and a very photogenic subject.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Final(s) Week(s)

I have completed my first final of the semester for Research Methods, which was much much easier than I would have expected (as always). Tonight is my Media Law final, which is open-book, closed-note and for the midterm, I set the curve with the next closest person five or six points behind me. I imagine I will do just fine thank you.

At the present moment I have a 10-minute presentation to prepare for Friday morning, 161 58" Plasma Televisions to process through my store by Wednesday, a promotional give-away at two local independent grocers to manage (which includes two-weeks of free newspaper and radio ads for my company), one small custom install project and one very large custom install project to manage, two finals next week, Christmas shopping for 20 persons, Christmas shopping for myself, a new place to find to move in to, a cat that can't stop licking himself until he bleeds, and a nasty habit of resorting to cigarettes in times of stress.

The point of all of this? Don't expect me to blog. Don't ask me to blog. Don't ask me to do anything unless it involves me and a massage. I love you all, except for you, and you know who you are.

Monday, December 8, 2008

So this was a little different...

I am constantly inspired by Mike's cooking, and each time I have a new recipe at his house, I attempt my own version of it at home. Instead of the Albacore tuna (which my grocery shop did not have) I tried a Corvina Sea Bass, which I had made once before at Mike's when he attacked his own finger. I pan cooked the fish in a little oil after salting and peppering the flesh for 3 minutes per side. I then added a half cup of white wine, and as it cooked off, I tossed in a small bit of butter and some sliced shallots, then covered the pan. The effect I had in mind was moistening and flavoring the fish, which it did little of either. A better method would have been to sear the fish, then either cover it in the pan with the wine or transfer it to a small dish in the oven, but I did not. I found the fish to be dry and somewhat flavorless, although the resulting sauce certainly helped.

For the pasta, I created my version of Mike's tapenade, only it wasn't as I forgot to pick up the olives. Instead I oven roasted bell peppers, tomatoes and garlic, then peeled each and combined them in a bowl with the juices from the hollowed out tomatoes. I added basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and a bold red wine to taste, then placed in the freezer to cool. And finally, the asparagus, which required a bit of olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 400ยบ for five minutes or so, and you're done!

The pasta was actually quite good, as was the asparagus, but again, the sea bass, not so much. However, my neighbor found it quite delicious and assured me she "licked" every last morsel off the plate. So maybe my food is that good, and my taste buds are not. I still don't trust her. This could be a much better meal.

Our First Cal Game!

Despite Mike's many efforts to invite me to a Cal game, it took two seasons until I could finally attend, and even then, it was the last game of the season, against 0-11 Washington. We took Ruby with us to her very first Cal game, and thus we are inextricably linked, not only by blood, but more importantly, Cal football.

After a 4 and out to begin the first half, Washington punted to Cal, and on Cal's second play, Best ripped off a 60-yard run for a touchdown. For those of you unaware of the final score, the game continued at this pace until Washington broke out a firehouse and showed Cal that while they could not play football, they knew how to cross a river if nothing else.

I intended to bring out the full compliment of photography gear for the game, only to forget the battery packs I had charged the night before. Fortunately, there was a point-and-shoot I was able to make use of to at least have a few momentos of the event.

The day was beautiful after many days of foggy mornings and overcast afternoons, which did not leave us well prepared to keep Ruby out of the sun, much less ourselves. Although the canons that sounded when Cal scored a touchdown (which was quite often) did not seem to faze her, by the end of the first half, Ruby was over it.

So... we found a nice spot on the side of the road, and happiness returned. It's always the simple things in life, isn't it?

Ruby has learned what the shutter sounds like on a camera, and each time the button is pressed, she has a new pose to give you. How friggin' (notice I didn't swear because it's a picture of a baby) cute is that?


Ruby with her Daddy!

Dinner that night was fabulous: grilled Albacore tuna (5 minutes per side) with a pepper, tomato and olive tapenade (apparently the definition of tapende is an olive base, but I thought I would mention the olives anyway, which you will understand from my next post) and a side of wheat pasta in a marinara sauce. Nicely done Mike. And to finish the evening, a concert just for Ruby, although I question the inclusion of, "The world is out to get me" in the playlist.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sometimes Dinner is Just Strange

I enjoy cooking and I enjoy trying new things. When combined, the results can be amazing, satisfactory or in this case, a little strange. I picked up some shrimp because I like shrimp. Simple, right? I'm thinking a little stir-fry, broccolini (baby broccoli), peppers, celery, red onions, sesame seeds, mushrooms and of course, the shrimp. Throw it all on a bed of sushi rice, and I'm done! Or am I.... I also had some prosciutto (entirely too much in fact, it was on sale), and thought, what the heck, wrap the shrimp and broil it!

But wait... does prosciutto and Asian stir-fry really work together? Perhaps not. Forget the sesame seeds and the secret Asian stir-fry sauce then, we're going to stick with white wine, lemon and butter. And I did.

Fry up some tri-color peppers (notice a pattern? I use these in much of cooking, probably should find other veggies to fix on...), add the broccolini, the celery and the red onions, and while not stir-fried (I am wok-less) a similar effect.

Then a sauce. Add the lemon first (entirely too much in my case), then some white wine as the lemon is absorbed by the veggies, and once the wine cooks off, throw in some butter for good measure, and finally, salt and pepper. Plate the vegtables around a packed cup of rice, a few skewers of proscuitto-encrusted shrimp and call it a night.

I cannot say that this dish was good. By itself, the rice was good, as were the veggies (although, again, entirely too much lemon). The shrimp were honestly overcooked, and while still tasty by themselves, the entire dish as a whole was, as my title states, just strange. I don't recommend this one. Fortunately, because I made it, it was easier to stomach than if someone else had served it to me. The sweat of my labor makes it taste that much better, but if you ever make this for me, I will apologize in advance for quietly slipping the food into a napkin when you're not looking and excusing myself to use the restroom.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Work, Start to Finish

I can explain what it is I do for work, but without pictures, I still have a hard time doing it any justice. My latest project is simple enough on paper, but the scale of it all makes it a little more interesting. The home is gorgeous all around, and sits up high atop a hill, all by its lonesome. On the road there...

The more and more I consider actually killing one of these animals for food, the less appealing it ultimately seems. I think if we get to hunt them, they get to hunt us.

On the left, we have the game room. Here we are working with one of my favorite cabinet makers on a floor-to-ceiling piece that will feature at its center a 119" diagonal projection screen, three very impressive speakers hidden directly behind the screen (which has micro-perforations to allow the sound to escape), and a bass speaker inside the enclosed cabinet below. Rear speakers are mounted inside the angled ceiling at the back of the room, and the projector about 18' from the front of the room, hanging from a two-foot pole.

On the right is the family room, where I will be incorporating a 55" LED LCD Television from Samsung with a 5.1 system (In-Wall / In-Ceiling speakers), while all of the equipment will be located in the Master Bedroom Closet down the hall. Each system in the house is controlled by a universal remote that can operate from anywhere on the property.

And the Master Bedroom, my personal favorite for this project. On the left is the custom headboard for a California King (of course), atop which will sit a 1080P front projector, likely from Epson (one of the better manufacturers). Directly across from the headboard is these fine French doors on the right, with a 13.5" trim piece separating the doors from the windows up top. On that trim will be mounted a motorized, tensioned drop-down screen, likely about 9' in diaganol measurement (still need to sort through what will fit) along with a center channel speaker. Both the screen case and the speaker will be encased in a valance to hide both pieces when not in use. Can you imagine? Press a button from bed and within seconds you have your own movie theatre in the bedroom?

In addition to those three systems, the house will feature speakers in every room, with the ability to pipe music from the internet, the satellite dish and the 400-Disc CD Changer to any room at any time they choose, all controlled by multiple universal remotes. As far as complexity goes, again, this is a relatively basic system, which actually makes the system more complex to set up and to operate, unless you know how to do so properly. I do. So when all is finished, I will have some before and after photos, and you can see how this is all done!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I am fortunate to have four families (or is it five?), the blood family I was born into it (and had no choice about) which is now split in two (well, almost three really), the Fausch's, the Manning's and the Travers. Then we have my NA family, also not really a choice, but if it was, it would be an excellent choice (as is the blood family of course). And finally, the McNamee's, my adoptive family, which includes three older sisters, two older brothers, a mother and a father, an uncle, dozens of cousins and many more I don't even know of yet. For Thanksgiving this year, I chose the McNamee's, namely because they are local and I only have the one day off of work, and also because these people prepare more food than a family ten times its size could ever hope to consume. (It doesn't hurt that they are a great deal of fun and very loving as well.) The result? Leftovers, enough to feed me for the next week, as long as I have an affinity for mashed potatoes, yams, turkey, brussel sprouts, broccoli casserole, green beans, carrots, pie and a number of other foods I have already forgotten about.

Steve, who is married to Lynn, one of my sisters, preparing one of three birds (20lbs plus) for today's meal. (It will be easier for you to remember each sibling when I tell you that each's name begins with the letter "L," as in Link, Lee, Lynn, Lorie and Lisa.)

And the dinner spread. In addition to what you see, there was enough food to replenish this supply three times over. I'm not joking.

And the desert table, which again, could be replenished at least three times. The table was actually too small to display everything that was baked and bought for today's dinner.

Okay... now I have to place names to everyone. In the leftmost picture, third in from the left is Russel, MacDaddy's brother (MacDaddy would be my daddy for reference). Third in from the right is David, another adopted son and his wife _______ (I'm still learning). The others? I need nametags. On the rightmost picture, I'm drawing a blank. The guy in the flag shirt is Michael, but I couldn't tell you who he was. Everyone on the right I met for the first time today (same with the missing folks on the left) so I will have to get back to you on that one.

Now this one I can do. Starting with the leftmost picture, on the left, we have Ron, who is married to Lisa (remember, one of the five "L's"), then Ron's father Ron (that's an easy one), then my sister Lynn (married to Steve, the turkey carver), then Alex and Charlotte (Steve and Lynn's two kids)with Steve sitting at the head of the table. Next to Steve is Sam and Jackie, Steve's parents, then two people whose names I have now forgotten, let's just call them "the blonds," then Ron's wife (forgot her name... shit), and finally Alex, Ron's son. Got it?

On the rightmost picture, beginning on the right we have cousin Chris (one of two Chris cousins that I always mix up), who is sitting next to MacDaddy, then Ashley, (I'll explain in a minute), then Ashley's husband, then Keith, who is married to Lorie, and Ashley is Keith's brother's wife's daughter, and Keith is sitting next to one of Lorie's friends from work, next to her is Lorie, and then Bob's wife and Bob, who no one in the McNamee family really knew, but Bob was nice enough.

I suppose it would have been easier to label each person in Photoshop, but I have to be up within a few hours to return to work, and I don't really care enough to do that. If you really need clarification, come over for dinner some night and we'll do it in person. The only soul missing from the photograph (that I care to mention) is Sandy McNamee, our family matriarch. After negotiating with the leftovers (I told her I would forgo stuffing if she would take a picture with me, she countered with making me take the creamed corn which she knows I don't like) and in the end, we both decided that I would take the stuffing, forget the corn, and we would take a photo the next time I saw her. One word of advice when dealing with Sandy: Don't fuck with Sandy. And so I didn't. I will take what I can get, and I get a lot.