Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Top 5 Albums from Beginning to End

After a lot of thought (and debate), I came up with my Top 5 Albums I Can Listen to from Beginning to End. Here they are:

1) Legend - The Best Of Bob Marley And The Wailers:maybe I cheated a little bit by picking a greatest hits album. How can you really go wrong with this album? Every song is a hit, I actually know all of the words to each song, and it always relaxes me and puts a smile on my face. It might also be the most universal album (heard and revered throughout every culture).

2) Supernatural - Carlos Santana:this might be the only album that I actually bought twice (someone "borrowed" my first copy). The album has something for everyone (Latin jazz, R&B, rock, spanish rock) and a diverse group of featured artists (Dave Matthews, Rob Thomas, Lauren Hill, Wyclef, Mana, Eric Clapton).

3) Evolution of Robin Thicke - Robin Thicke:this may be considered too new to be on a Top 5 list, but its my list. When it first came out, I played it on repeat on my iPod. Its the perfect CD to play when you have dinner guests over, trying to set the mood, or listen to in the office.

4) Voodoo - D'angelo:this might be my "sleeper" pick. How did this album not get more acclaim? It epitimizes soulful and funky. His first album was great, but this sophomore effort completely beat it out - who said that sequels can't be better than the original (Godfather II, Terminator 2, Karate Kid II)?

5) The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole:this was my sentimental pick. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without this album. I grew up on it and refuse to get anyone else's Christmas album. It is an essential must have and I will admit that if my iPod plays a Nat King Cole song in July, I will most likely not skip it.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout

I try, emphasis on try, not to fall victim to all of the Facebook quizzes and viral "25 Things About Me". The LivingSocial application is the latest rage - you rank your top 5 everything: favorite albums, TV shows, sports teams, and you can go on for eternity. Recently, they had a Top 5 Beers which I had to think long and hard about. I credit my appreciation of beer to the unlikeliest of souces: my college friend Dave (AKA Davo). Although I never drank beer in college (I transitioned from Bacardi Limon to Southern Comfort to Vodka), it wasn't until Davo introduced us to Belgian beers, that I ever even considered beer. He discovered it while doing the "Beer of the Month Club" (he also put us onto to different cheeses when he did the "Cheese of the Month Club" - cranberry chevre, anyone?). Once we got a taste, coupled with the much higher alcohol content (8.5%-10.5%; regular beer is 4%), we never turned back. WARNING: taking a case of Duvel camping with you is not advisable (amongst the casualties the next morning: someone's charred blanket, toilet paper doused with lighter fluid and thrown into the fire, and all memories of the night before).

Davo also introduced us to Brooklyn Brewery seasonal beers and I go on a yearly hunt to find and stock up on Black Chocolate Stout. This year, I found a deli in the East Village which keeps them well stocked and $14 per 6-pack. The Black Chocolate Stout is only available in the winter and is a treat if you are able to find it. If you pour it into a glass, it looks like very dark coffee and tastes like the Spanish soft drink Malta with some added punch. Weighing in at a whopping 10% alcohol, its surprisingly easy to drink and has notes of chocolate and coffee. Its perfect by itself and with a rich dessert (cheesecake).

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fantasy Baseball for Dummies

I've been playing Fantasy Baseball since the 1993-1994 season - when my team consisted of Darren Daulton, Mike Stanley (who seemed to hit a HR every game), John Kruk, Jeff Bagwell, Carlos Baerga, Jack McDowell (22 Wins), Phil Plantier, and Chuck Carr (58 Stolen Bases). In my virgin season, I had my greatest free agent pickup: I discovered Pedro Martinez as a lowly middle reliever on the Dodgers.

According to my Yahoo Sports trophy case, I've been in a Fantasy Baseball drought - the last time I won First Place was 2004 (I finished in Second Place in 2006). Being a post-draft optimist, I believe this is going to be my year. I refined my draft strategy from last year: load up on offense (I didn't pick a pitcher until the 7th round where I had to pull the trigger on Chad Billingsley), pick a catcher near the end (last year I drafted Bengie Molina who lead all catchers with 95 RBIs - this year I landed Jorge Posada), and wait on relief pitchers (the position is too unpredictable and you can always pick one up on the waiver wire). Here is how my team looks:

C: Jorge Posada
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Dan Uggla (who I officially have a man crush on)
3B: David Wright
SS: Stephen Drew
OF: Carlos Beltran
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury
OF: Torii Hunter
Util: Carlos Pena
BN: Mark Reynolds

SP: Chad Billingsley
SP: James Shields
RP: Brian Fuentes (K-Rod had 62 SVs with the Angels)
RP: BJ Ryan
P: Ricky Nelasco
P: Derek Lowe
P: Zack Greinke
BN: Randy Johnson
BN: Scott Baker
BN: Troy Percival
BN: Kevin Gregg

My only fault in the draft - although I'm a Yankees fan, I'll be forced to root for David Wright / Carlos Beltran (on the lowly Mets) and Jacoby Ellsbury (on the much hated Boston Red Sox). My biggest sleeper prediction: Cameron Maybin on the Florida Marlins (he'll be good for 40+ SBs).

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I just finished Malcolm Gladwell's latest book Outliers: The Story of Successand it's his best one so far (I wasn't overly impressed by The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference or Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking). The book analyzes why some people succeed and how success is more than just intelligence and hard work. It discusses the similarities of Bill Gates and The Beatles, explains why the majority of professional hockey players were born in January, why Asians exceed in Math, the difference between "practical intelligence" vs "analytical intelligence", and the 10,000 Hour Rule (to become an expert at something, you have to do it for 10,000 hours). The book seemed to digress at the midpoint (I don't know why he dedicated 47 pages to the "Ethnic Theory of Place Crashes"), but it tied everything together at the end by applying the theories of success to the author's family history.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Bizarre Foods (London Edition)

Before heading out to London, I DVR'd every show on the Travel Channel about London: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and Samantha Brown's Great Weekends for travel tips, ideas, and food suggestions. London isn't considered a food mecca, but here is a sampling of the things that I ate:
  • Potted Rabbit on Toast with Jam (@ Rules Restaurant): Potted rabbit looks like grey meaty tuna fish. Its served with a thin layer of yellow fat on the bottom and you're supposed to spread it over toast and add jam. It was surprisingly good and took my "odd food virginity" away.
  • Venison / Pigeon / Rabbit / Guinea Pie (@ Rules Restaurant): Who would have thought that a pie with four different meats would taste so good? The meat had a beef appearance with a white meat in the middle. The delicious pie crust and brown gravy really complimented the meal.
  • Black Pudding: Black pudding is sausage made with pig blood. I had it as part of the "traditional British breakfast" which consists of eggs, back bacon, (two thumbs down) , sausage, hash browns, beans, and a tomato. Maybe I didn't have "proper" black pudding, but I wasn't much of a fan (it seemed bland and dry).
  • Haggis (@ Boisdale of Bishopsgate): Haggis is minced sheep pluck (sheep heart, lungs, & liver) mixed with spices, onions, and oatmeal. Although it sounds a bit unappetizing, I couldn't believe how great it was - it was like a spicy moist meatloaf. I had it with a shot of Johnnie Walker on top and wished I hadn't - the alcohol overpowered it and dulled the spices.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

London for Dummies

I recently came back from a business trip to London and had a great time. I flew the red eye on Friday to recover from the jet lag and to have a whole weekend to explore. I saw the majority of the sites (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge, etc) and partook in all of the traditional fare: fish and chips with a few warm pints at a pub in Wimbledon, "high tea" (late afternoon tea with scones, clotted cream, and jam), and riding the tunnel (its not for those with claustrophobia or anyone taller than 6'2''). Here are a few casual observations:

  • Everyone goes out - it was a common sight to see 3 generations eating together (grandparents / parents / grandchildren) and couples going out with their kids in strollers.
  • They are having the same banking and bailout issues that we are having (its amazing how intertwined our economies are and how universal greed is).
  • There are no garbage cans (due to the threat of terrorism), but the city is surprisingly clean.
  • Their bacon (called back bacon) is thick, fatty, salty, and not cripsy (I was a much bigger fan of the sausage which had a lot of taste).
  • Every bathroom has two doors before you can get in (supposedly this is done for health code reasons).

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Monday, March 2, 2009

The Curious Case of Revolutionary Road

I just saw Revolutionary Road and can't believe that it wasn't amongst the nominations for movie of the year. The movie follows a young married couple (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) with 2 kids living the "American Dream" in the suburbs. Neither one of them is happy: DiCaprio hates his mundane office job, Winslet is a housewife who gave up her dream of becoming an actress, and they both feel the "hopeless emptiness" of the life that they created. One day, his wife suggests escaping the rat race by selling their car/house and moving to Paris. She was going to become the breadwinner by getting a lucrative secretarial position while her husband was free to find his passion. They tell their neighbors and co-workers of their plans and set forth planning their escape.

So what made the film great besides the powerful acting performances and subtle nuances between characters? I found it completely thought provoking - why do we toil with jobs that we are unhappy with? Why do we give up on our dreams when our circumstances change? Is the "American Dream" a complacent delusion? Why do so many marriages lead to unhappiness? Does your life end when you have children? The funny thing is that the voice of sanity in the movie comes from the most unlikely source: an "insane" person.

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