Friday, July 30, 2010

Why I'm protesting Liberty Market in August

I'm a huge fanboi of Joe Johnston. He's the mastermind behind Liberty Market, Joe's Real BBQ and other iconic eateries past and present in the Phoenix area. And he's a super nice guy.

But this time, he's gone to far. And I'm registering a formal protest.

You see, I just found out that Joe and crew are launching "Burger Daze" at Liberty Market this Sunday. On that day, and following every day for the month of August, they're putting out one specialty burger. And it's only available on that day. They know how to do burgers right at Liberty Market.

But back to my protest. I'm protesting this on the following grounds:

Exhibit A: Liberty Market is too far from my house to drive there every day.
[caption id="attachment_1500" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="See how far away Liberty Market is from my house?"]See how far away Liberty Market is from my house?[/caption]Putting the pressure on me to drive that far each and every day during the month of August to enjoy each tasty burger is simply too much to ask. It goes well beyond reasonable and customary practices and borders on cruel and unusual punishment.

Exhibit 2: Like I need to add any more mass.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Weighting Game or Why My Ass Doesn't Need To Get Bigger"]Weighting Game or Why My Ass Doesn't Need To Get Bigger[/caption]I'm over two decades out of high school and am not proud of the fact that I've gained an average of 2 lbs. every year since then. Now with Joe pumping out a burger a day, I fully expect my mass to increase exponentially. Which means I'll weigh 896.4 lbs by September. Good thing I can't wear white after Labor Day.

Exhibit III: What am I made of money?
So there's the burger, the obligatory beer, maybe a coffee and most likely one of those GIANT cinnamon rolls... Now multiply that by 30 and you get just under the Gross National Product of Tuvalu. Dammit, Joe! I've got a kid in college and wife with expensive hobbies, man! One of them will have to be sold off to slavery for me to afford this!

So join me in protesting Liberty Market and their insidious "Burger Daze" next month. I figure the best place to protest is on-site. We'll get our message across that way better. And I hear they have some real tasty burgers in case we get hungry carrying those signs.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Phil Plait is the only thing stopping the universe from killing you

"When you're dealing with the Universe, ignorance can be deadly."

One of the baddest quotes from the Bad Astronomer himself, my Dr. Phil Plait. He's been playing all super seekrit with everyone for the last few months, as he jets all over the place filming and shooting his new project. And today, we found out what that super seekrit project is. I give you a sneak peek of a new Discovery Channel series, Phil Plait's Bad Universe!

I've watched it at least a half dozen times already. Partly because it looks so stinkin' cool. And partly because I can say, yes, that man is a friend of mine. He has the hots for my wife, and I have his cell phone number. How the hell do I deserve such cool friends? I don't know. But I'll take it.

Congrats on the pending release, Phil. Know you've got a dedicated household hoping you'll show us how to save us from a universe that obviously wants us DEAD!

And if you haven't picked up a copy of Death from the Skies!: The Science Behind the End of the World by Phil, I highly recommend you do. I wouldn't call it an uplifting read, but it's fascinating none the less. And you can hear Phil read from the book on on the track by the same name on George Hrab's latest album, Trebuchet. (Another person who I'm just giddy to know calls me a friend!)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Skepchick Party Rock Band Xbox Now On Auction

I don't play Rock Band. I'm convinced of an inverse proportional relationship to your skill as musician with the real world analog of the Rock Band "instruments" and how well your performance is measured by your ability to strike or "strum" the shitty pieces of plastic required in said game.

But get a few beers and shots of Knob Creek in me, and that theory can go screw itself. Sort of. I still won't pick up the "instruments", but I will sing.

And at the Skepchick party at TAM8, sing I did. Here's a shot of me rockin' the house to the smooth groove of Stevie Wonder's Superstition. Prior to this post, you could only live the glory that was me on that night vicariously through photos. But now, you can own a piece of history legend.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Signed XBox on Auction"]Signed XBox on Auction[/caption]The Skepchics are auctioning off the Xbox, having first acquired the signatures of such luminaries from the party like... me! Oh, and I suppose a few more. Like these fine folks and close, personal friends of mine (to steal from Phil), in no particular order since I'm not first:

And your money just isn't going to support the drunken abandoness of skeptics in Vegas. At least not all of your money. This is part of the Skepchicks "virtual bake sale", which according to Rebecca Watson, will...

... raise the money to get me to ATL! We’ll auction a few items so that you get cool stuff while I get to attend Dragon*Con, do some outreach, and host Maria’s Star Party (a big success last year raising money for the American Cancer Society in honor of Jeff Medkeff, who once named an asteroid after me).

We’ll be using the eBayz to auction off several items through the Women Thinking Free Foundation, which was set up by Skepchick Elyse to do awesome things in Chicago like fighting anti-vaccination misinformation. Your winning bid will go toward a plane ticket and hotel room for me, and if we happen to raise more than we need then the rest will go to the WTFF.

So get a piece of history. With me on it. And good luck getting what you play to match what's on screen to howthe song actually should be played on a real instrument. Or just set it on your coffee table and use it as a conversation piece.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy retirement to my Mom!

[caption id="attachment_1474" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Vickie and the most handsome boy in the world"][/caption]This is my mom, Vickie. Today she passed a milestone that I'll never make: she retired from her job with the state of Oklahoma after 387 years*. With budget cuts looming and just a few years short of her initially planned date, they offered her an out. Which she took. Smart cookie. She takes after her only and most favorite son. He's the devastatingly handsome little boy wondering how the hell her eyelashes got so gigantic.

[caption id="attachment_1475" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Vickie teaches aerobics to my highschool class"]Vickie teaches aerobics to my highschool class[/caption]So while this is by all auspices a congratulatory post, it's also a chance for me to post a bunch of photos of Mom. (Click any to open full-size.) Hey, she mugs for the camera as much as her son. So the first thing you'll notices is that Mom is smoking hot. The first question you'll have is "did she have you when she was eight?" No, she did not have me when she was eight. She had me when she was 20. So if you know how old I am (hint: it's on Wikipedia), you'll know how old Mom is. Never tell a ladies age. But I can't stop you from knowing math. Nor could I stop her from teaching aerobics during my junior year in highschool to all of my friends. Yes. I assure you it was just as much as a treat as you are imagining. But I grew a pretty thick skin as a Lamarckian response.

[caption id="attachment_1476" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Vickie as The Village Person"]Vickie as The Village Person[/caption]Mom still gets mistaken for for being decades younger than she is. Just a month ago, the lady at the local convenience store referred to her as "my wife". That doesn't mean I look old. No, gods dammit it does not! It means Mom does and always has looked much younger than she really is. And she acts that way too. I recall when she was in her late 30's -- I was in high school -- and she got carded. Carded! She was so grateful, she leaned across and hugged the attendant. And then showed her ID. She was with a friend some 10 years younger than her. Who did not get carded. Hi-larity ensued. Here she is at Halloween in the 70s. She's on the right, you idiot.

[caption id="attachment_1477" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Vickie and NJ"]Vickie and NJ[/caption]She's also the best grandmother you could ask for. I can't speak from personal experience. Instead, I come from this knowledge vicariously through my son. I can't think of a major milestone she wasn't here for -- and that's living about 1,000 miles away from him since he as 4 months old. Talk about dedication. Oh, and he has her good looks too. Not in this picture. This is when he was incredibly fat. He grew into it.

[caption id="attachment_1478" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Vickie and a pig"]Vickie and a pig[/caption]So here's to you, Mom. Congrats on sticking with the same boring, dull and mind-numbing job with the State. Enjoy south Texas or wherever the hell it is you wind up. Or flitter around. Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you retire? I'm looking forward to having you and your band of four loonie girlfriends out here in August. I just hope Phoenix is ready for you and yours. I'll end with a pic of you and a pig. With no explanation. They can just wonder.

Love you!

* - It may have been less time than that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Confessions of a skeptical herbalist

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption=" Skeletons in the closet"] Skeletons in the closet  Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig,[/caption]In November 2004, I seriously considered getting into politics. Luckily the voice of reason -- my wife -- spoke up, with the true fact that I've not lived nearly a clean enough life. It's not that I have a lot of skeletons in my closet. No, I have an entire basement full of them. I'd have to expose each and every one of them before entering a race, and no one would bother to read a press release that long. So no politics for me.

But in the post-TAM glow, I'm compelled to do more work to forward the cause of skepticism, science and rational thought. And just as with my brief flirtation with politics, there are few things I need to clear up, save someone expose them as evidence (heh) that my skepticism is somehow false.

Lucky for me, I've lived pretty much out loud and online since the early Oughts. So my big reveal shouldn't come as a surprise, since it was well documented.

In 2000, I completed a 18-month intensive study of western herbalism. To be specific, the class was taught by a wonderful practicing herbalist named JoAnn Sanchez, and classes took place at the Southwestern Institute of Healing Arts, or SWIHA for short. And yes, it's primarily a massage school. I have no knowledge of the curriculum of the school outside of JoAnn's classes. And quite frankly, I don't care. JoAnn's credentials in the herbal community -- whatever that may be worth to you -- were and remain impeccable. I learned much from her and the handful of other herbal medicine practitioners she introduced to me and the rest of the class.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Healthy or insane shelf 3"]Healthy or insane shelf 3[/caption]Yes, some of what I learned I'd call bunk. But not all. Herbal medicine isn't like homeopathy, which is 100% bunk. To be more specific, there's nothing in homeopathic "remedies", save water. Nothing. I repeat. Nothing. If you think that's incorrect, I encourage you to do some research. Or wait a few days and keep reading. I'll have more to say on the matter of homeopathy and a grassroots movement I'm a part of.

But back to the non-bunkness of some (and that's an important word) of the claims made in regards to herbal medicine. Many plants -- hell, MOST plants -- have chemical compounds with pharmacological properties. Some of these pharmacological properties do effect the human body. Sometimes the effect is small, sometimes large. Sometimes the effect is good, and sometimes bad. As in dead-bad. Just ask Socrates.

So yes, I studied herbal medicine. And yes, I learned a lot. And even more yes, I still used plant-based medicine at home. I also use medicine my MD prescribes. And I use medicine I can buy over-the-counter at my local pharmacy.

While I wish I could say that all the herbal remedies I used had been adequately -- or even tentatively -- studied; I cannot. I, too, fell for the woo. I, too, fell for the "its been used to treat this for thousands of years" bullshit. On some plants. Guilty as charged. Yet the skeptic inside of me never died. He just got over-shadowed by the latent Believer that hadn't been let out since my brief fascination with UFO-ology in high school. Then I learned about the vastness of space. But I digress...

So yes, I know a lot about plant-based medicine. And yes, I still use plant based medicine. AS an alternative to "conventional" medicine? Some of it, sure. If I'm coming down with a sinus infection, I'll take some tincture of Mahonia repens. That I prepared myself. The antibacterial properties of the alkaloid berberine are well documented. Sure, I could go to the doctor and he could give me a broad-spectrum antibiotic, or maybe culture a sample of my snot and pinpoint the bacteria in question so he could prescribe a more specific antibiotic. But I know what I have (in this case) and know how to treat it (in this case). That's not woo. But if I don't know what I have? I'm calling the doc. And if I know what I have but I don't know how to treat it? I'm hitting the pharmacy. Or the doc.

Am I an expert on plant-based medicine? Probably more so than you. And for a handful of specific conditions I'm likely to deal with from time to time, close enough. But I know my limits. And I'll not be so foolish as to suggest a trip to the herbalist is as good as a trip to the doctor or pharmacy. In some cases, it may be. But unless you know what those cases are, don't risk it. Yes, I used to rail against "allopathic" medicine and the strawman of "big Pharma". Yes, I once questioned a doctor -- very, very briefly -- on his prescribed choice of treatment when my son developed a pretty nasty staph infection in his elbow joint. It took me all of about 5 seconds to realize there existed a vast gulf between what I knew and what the trained medical professional knew. Hence, my kid got the best that allopathic medicine had to offer. And kept his arm. As JoAnne taught us, "If I'm hit by a car, don't take me to an herbalist. Take me to the emergency room!".

Retrospectively, I probably couldn't have made it through the intensive program if I had my skeptical hat on. And maybe that would have been a good thing. But I don't think so. I have a hunger to learn new things. My cursory investigations lead me to conclude there was something to plant-based medicine, and I wanted to learn more. Studying with Joann seemed a good choice then. And it still does now. But don't expect me to rush to the defense of all plant based medicine. Nor should you expect me to lump herbalism in with the quackery of homeopathy. More on that quite soon. But for now, I think I've adequately aired out the biggest skeleton in my skeptical closet.

How about you?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Perfect Cuban Mojito

It's hot. And to combat the heat, I've created the Perfect Cuban Mojito. No, it doesn't use white rum. It doesn't use piles of sugar. And no, you probably won't like it. But if you like drinks the way I like drinks, please enjoy.

Evo's Perfect Cuban Mojito
  • Dark rum, probably by some distiller you've never heard of
  • Powdered sugar
  • Seltzer water
  • Key lime juce
  • Fresh spearmint
  • Ice, from a tray. Not a machine. Or a bag. You pussy.

Take four (4) leaves of fresh spearmint and add them to a highball glass. Add one (1) heaping teaspoon of powdered sugar and cover with one (1) shot of fresh Key lime juice. Find something to mash it around with. You aren't trying to pulverize. Simply mash to release the flavor of the spearmint.

Add three cubes of ice, two (2) shots of dark rum that doesn't rhyme with "Brock Hardy" and two (2) shots of seltzer. Add in a new fresh sprig of spearmint to look cool. Stir gently. Drink. Beat the heat.

Happy 4th.