Worst Baked Potato Ever

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I normally don’t make a habit of complaining about free food. If someone wants to give me something to eat, they usually either took the time to make it or spent their money on it, so it would be pretty rude to talk about how bad it is, but what if there is something so terrible that you just can’t keep quiet about? It would be an injustice to society not to warn the people about my lunch yesterday, even if I didn’t pay for it myself. It snowed yesterday, and it was a painstaking, not to mention dangerous, driving to work, but we were going to be opened for a few hours, so as a thank you for risking our lives to service the few customers who actually came to the bank in the hours that we were opened yesterday, the company bought us lunch, which seems like a pretty even tradeoff.
 
Since the roads were in terrible condition, our only option for lunch was McAllister’s Deli because it’s located in an adjoining parking lot to the bank. So my choices were either soup, sandwich, or baked potato, and even though soup sounded perfect given the sub-freezing temperatures outside, I was pretty hungry and didn’t feel that soup was adequately satisfy that hunger, so it narrowed down to sandwich or baked potato. I don’t go to McAllister’s often, but when I do, I usually get a sandwich and they’re generally pretty good, albeit nothing special, but I suppose I was feeling adventurous yesterday, so when my eyes scanned across the description for the Spud Ole’, a giant baked potato topped with chili, cheese and jalapenos, I knew that’s what I wanted.
 
In my experience, it’s pretty difficult to mess up a baked potato. You bake a potato in the oven, which is pretty straight forward, then you top it with delicious ingredients, and voila, you’ve got a fantastic meal, but apparently that’s too much for McAllister’s to handle, because the Spud Ole’ was one of the most all around disappointing meals I’ve ever had for a couple of reasons. First, I’m sure we can all agree that baked potatoes are best served hot, correct? I’ve never known anyone to intentionally serve cold potatoes of any variety, so I don’t know if McAlister’s was trying something new and edgy, but the Spud Ole’ wasn’t even warm. If the potato was in fact baked, it was done so many hours before being given to me. Yes, it was cold outside, but I find it very hard to believe that in the short distance from the restaurant to the car, my food became that cold. If I had been stranded on an island and was starving to death, then perhaps I would’ve eaten the potato, but since it wasn’t necessary to my survival, I didn’t eat very much of it at lunch, deciding I would take it home and reheat it for later, so then it would be edible.
 
Later last night I popped the potato in the microwave for a couple minutes, thinking that the lack of heat was the sole problem with the potato, but sadly, I was mistaken. The toppings just weren’t very good either. The chili meat had a kind of gritty texture to it, making me wish I’d gotten something else, or better yet, something from a different restaurant altogether. The bad news is that I ended up throwing most of the baked potato away, but the good news is, I was enlightened to the mediocrity of the Spud Ole’ from McAllister’s, plus I learned something new, that it is possible to screw up a baked potato. I’m not going to swear off McAllister’s forever or anything, but I don’t think I’ll be getting another baked potato from there any time soon, if ever again.

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The Stupidest Commercials in the World

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Does anybody like commercials? Sure, some are funny every once in a while, most notably during the Super Bowl, but for the most part, the other 364 days of the year, commercials are more often than not, either annoying or unmemorable. You might be thinking, probably like many advertisers, that if commercials are annoying, then at least you will remember them, so that when it comes time to buy a certain product that they sell, you will subliminally think of them, only remembering the company name and not the stupid advertisement that they subjected you to during the two hour season premier of Survivor, Kong Island. I disagree, because for me, when I see a particularly stupid commercial, of which there are many, I do remember those companies, making a mental note to avoid them at all costs, because I don’t want to appear stupid by association. Commercials are a part of our every day lives, whenever we turn on the TV, whether it be for the local news or the nightly celebrity gossip show on TMZ, we are bombarded with advertisements, so it would take me a ridiculous amount of time to go through and talk about all of the commercials that I hate, and what I hate about them, so I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of my least favorite for now, and perhaps I’ll revisit the topic in the future if I’m feeling particularly annoyed by the idiocy being force-fed to me.

Given that I live in Memphis, the home of AutoZone, I should probably try and not talk bad about them because of all the great things the do for the community and the city, and the truth is, I don’t have a particular problem with AutoZone as a company, but I absolutely can’t stand the guy in their commercials. I’m not one to normally judge somebody based on physical appearance, but the spokesman for AutoZone, actor Mike Beaver, is the one exception I’m willing to make, because his appearance alone looks so unnatural that my blood pressure starts to rise as I seethe with hate from my living room couch. I have a hard time believing that he actually looks the way he is portrayed in the commercial because he looks so unnatural, which leads me to believe that AutoZone is tampering with his appearance to make him look less appealing, trying to cater to your average Joe American. You don’t even have to look closely to see that it definitely looks like he has something under his shirt, and I’ve been overweight long enough to know that it isn’t fat. I think that AutoZone is stuffing something under his shirt, causing him to appear overweight so that people that look like that, a large portion of the country, will want to buy their products, which is insulting. If you’re that stupid to believe that someone is trustworthy just because they look like you, then have fun shopping at AutoZone, but I for one, will not be marching with the rest of the herd, because looking at Mike Beaver makes me want to take all my business over to O’Reilly Auto Parts.

My absolute least favorite TV commercials are the advertisements for Ford trucks. I’ve never been a big truck guy, but after seeing these ridiculous commercials, I can say with complete certainty that I never will be. The geniuses at Ford really know how to pander to their audience of insecure customers who feel the need to stroke their ego by having a bigger vehicle than everybody else, but for the rest of us, it’s just plain stupid. Words like TORQUE, STRENGTH, HORSEPOWER, and TOUGH are thrown up on the screen at random intervals in big, bold letters, the subliminal message perfectly tuned to the eyes of the insecure. A lot of the commercials are about towing, and I don’t know about you, but the only time I’ve ever needed a vehicle that could tow a lot of weight, was when my own vehicle was stuck, which is why I call a tow driver. A lot of these Ford commercials show their big, manly trucks towing airplanes, which doesn’t really make much sense. Did your plane get stuck in a ditch? If you can afford a commercial airplane, then why would you need to tow it around. Surely you can pay somebody else, maybe a maintenance worker or somebody else, to get your Boeing to the tarmac in time for takeoff. What kind of person sees a truck towing an airplane and thinks to themselves, “I could really use something like that?” These advertisers must think we’re really stupid, and I suppose some people are, because every few months there’s a new commercial shoved in our faces conveying the sentiment that the peak of masculinity is owning a Ford pickup truck.

While those are two of my least favorite commercials, there are so many more that annoy me to my very core, so I’m sure I’ll find it fitting at some point in the future to share with you some others. Blogging is a lot cheaper than therapy. f150 towing airplane

Good Reads for the Long Weekend

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If your weather is anything like where I live, then it’s going to be the perfect weekend to curl up under a big blanket with a good book to read. There’s snow on the ground here in Memphis and the temperatures aren’t going to get above freezing tomorrow, so at least for the time being, it looks like my life is going to have that peaceful white backdrop, which is best complimented by staying inside the warm house, and with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, I’m looking forward to a long weekend stuck inside with all my books. My goal for the year, as it has been for the last couple, is to average reading a book per week for 2018, which is 52 books, and as of right now, I’m ahead of pace having finished 7 books. I’ve told you about the first five, so I’m sure you’re all dying to know about the last two books I read this week. You’re in luck because we’re going to talk about them now.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks: This is the story of a pushover mother who, finally tired of being stepped on, embarks on a trip back to her hometown with her rebellious daughter so she can confront the girl who bullied her in high school twenty years ago. Unfortunately, her bully wasn’t the only reason for her never wanting to return back home, but now that she’s back, she must confront everything. With her outspoken daughter by her side, encouraging and prodding her along the way, Caroline Jacobs does the things that she needs to do, and gains a new friend as her once tumultuous relationship with her daughter, is given a second chance. From the moment I picked up Matthew Dicks’ book, “Something Missing,” in a used bookstore several years ago, I’ve been captivated by everything he has written, and “The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs” was no exception as I stayed up a lot later than I should have to finish the book on a Tuesday night, because I HAD to find out the ending. If you’re familiar with and enjoy the writing of Matthew Dicks, you will certainly enjoy the story of Caroline Jacobs, and if you aren’t familiar with him, it’s time to do yourself a favor and get acquainted, because he’s quickly rising on my list of favorite writers.

I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll: Imagine you are on a train, and you observe something taking place, like two teenage girls talking and becoming acquainted with two complete strangers who just got out of prison. This is how the book begins. As a mother, she knows that if her son was in a dangerous situation, that she would want a responsible adult to step in or to at least get in touch with her so she could try and intervene, but just as she decides to try and get in touch with the girls’ parents, something happens and causes her to change her mind. The next morning one of the girls is missing, and the guilt at not having tried to help is eating her alive. She tries to do what she can, recounting the story and giving descriptions as best she can, but it seems that it’s too little too late, so like the rest of the country, all she can do is wait, and hope for the best. A year has gone by since the disappearance of the girl, but someone is determined not to let her forget her part in all of it, sending her threatening cards in the mail. Told through several different perspectives, the witness, the friend, and the father of the missing girl, “I am Watching You” is a wild and suspenseful ride filled with lots of guilt and questions about what each of them could have done differently, not just on the night of the disappearance. I’m aware that we are less than two weeks into 2018, but I’m going to go ahead and put this book on my list of best books that I read this year.
You won’t go wrong choosing either of these books, or any of those that I’ve read previously. The important thing is that you find something that you enjoy and read. Winter is here, and there are few things as satisfying as sitting beneath a warm blanket with a mug of hot tea or coffee on the table beside you, and a good book in your hands.

Snow Day Survival Tips

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I don’t know where you live, but where I live, in Memphis, Tennessee, we are expected to get quite a bit of winter weather tomorrow morning. I just checked my weather app and it’s saying that there will be some mixed winter precipitation in the early morning hours that will be followed by 1 to 3 inches of snow as the morning progresses, and I couldn’t be more excited. It seems like a lot of people are down on snow, especially adults since the days of skipping school because of snow are far behind us, but for me, I still get that feeling of magical excitement I used to feel as a kid when I would wake up when it was still dark and run to the kitchen to turn on the light overlooking the backyard and seeing that blanket of white while giant fluffy snowflakes cascaded down from the sky. While snow days are great and filled with wonder and beauty, there are still some tips you should keep in mind to make sure that the winter weather won’t affect you in a negative way, so I wanted to share with you some helpful advice to get you through tomorrow should the snow come down in your area.

For a lot of people, driving is a huge concern when it comes to winter weather. We have all seen the horror stories on the news of cars in ditches or stranded along the side of the highway because the weather was too much for them to handle, but that’s good news for the rest of us, because the majority of the people are going to be too scared to get out on the roads, giving us an ideal society where morning traffic does not exist. You might be thinking to yourself that you should probably leave extra early for work, that is if you aren’t too scared to get out on the icy roads in the first place, to give yourself ample time to brave the dangerous roads to make it to the office on time, but there’s no need for that. You can actually leave later than you normally would, because without traffic, the road will be yours, plus the ice will have your car slipping and sliding down the road at breakneck speeds and you will get to your destination more quickly than normal.

It should go without saying that winter weather means that the temperatures are going to be extremely cold, so you’ll likely need to take additional measures to keep your home warm, because snow days are only fun, if you can come in from the cold and warm up. In preparation for this, it is advisable that you go ahead an increase your insurance coverage to pay for the fire that will likely devour your home in an attempt to keep you and your loved ones warm. You may think my scenario is extreme, but trust me, when you’re out of firewood and anything else that will fit into the fireplace, and you have to choose between your family freezing to death or lighting the couch on fire, you’d be stupid not to choose the latter. Prepare yourself. Up the insurance.

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t murder anyone on a snow day. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t kill anybody anyway, but it would be particularly unadvisable on a day like tomorrow, because the weather completely eliminates all the good ways to dispose of a body. Bury it? The ground will be frozen solid, so good luck with that. What about the ever popular disposal method of dumping the body in the lake? The temperature will be below freezing all day, which means that all the lakes and ponds in the area will be frozen over, and I’m no homicide detective, but I think a body shaped hole in the ice will be fairly easy to spot, so make getting away with it easier on yourself, and wait until the weather is more cooperative. You know what, on second thought, just don’t kill anyone ever; it’s a really terrible thing to do.

Hopefully my advice will lead to a problem free and enjoyable snow day that you can look back on fondly for years to come. Pass this along to all of your friends and loved ones, so they can make sure to have a good day too.

Thoughts About Some Books

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Let’s talk about books today shall we? Well, seeing as how this isn’t your blog which gives you zero say in the content decision making, I’m going to do it anyway, because that’s what I want to talk about. I know I’ve already written a book review this week, but I’ve read three books since then, so to keep from falling behind to the point where I have to cram too many books into one blog post, it only makes sense that I do them after several books, regardless of how much time has elapsed since the last one. So here’s what I’ve read the last few days, ranked from least favorite to favorite.

3. Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner: It’s not that this book was terrible, because it was actually pretty interesting, but the other books I read were just better, which is why this one has the lowest ranking. It’s the story of an above average income family living in New York, a father, mother, and their only child, a teenage daughter. Despite having enough money, the household is in disarray as the mother and daughter constantly butt heads, allowing the father to step into the role of favorite parent, which only furcates the mother further. When someone moves into the penthouse apartment above them and begins a renovation project, things take an unexpected turn when the construction crew shows up, causing dramatic actions to be taken. I can’t say anymore without giving it away, but it’s definitely an enjoyable and quick read, less than a hundred and fifty pages, so it’s definitely worth checking out. The one thing I didn’t particularly like about it was how quick everything happened in the end. With all of the buildup in the story, page after page of crescendo, the peak was quick, short lived, and left me wanting more.

2. The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson: Days before her birthday, a young girl witnessed the murder of her dad, sister, her best friend, and her best friend’s mom in the family’s lakeside cabin. Ten years later she is still unable to come to grips with what happened, convinced that the police were wrong in thinking that it was in fact her dad who had committed the killing before turning the gun on himself, because she was sure the man she saw leaving the cabin was somebody entirely different. Her personal struggles and substance abuse keep the police from seeing her as a reliable resource when she sees the man she calls “rat face” driving past her outside of a bar late one night. She’s convinced that he’s the man who killed her father, and if the police won’t do anything about it, then she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands. “The Girl Who Lived” is a fast paced thriller with action packed just over the course of a few days, with unexpected twists and turns around every corner and will keep you guessing until the very end. If you are a fan of suspense and reading late into the night to find out what happens next, this is the book for you.

1. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine: If you’re unfamiliar with Liv Constantine, it is the pen name adapted by two sisters who write together, which for some reason, an unknown notion that I hold, did not appeal to me. I don’t know why, but I just figured that two people writing a book together wouldn’t be as good or flow as smoothly as a single author, but I was an idiot, because “The Last Mrs. Parrish” is definitely one of my new favorites. It’s the story of Amber, a girl who befriends the rich Mrs. Parrish with the intention of getting close to her family, especially her husband, with the hope that she will eventually be able to steal him, and replace Mrs. Parrish with herself. Told from two different perspectives, the first half of the book by Amber, and the second by Mrs. Parrish, it is a very unique and enjoyable read. There are lots of secrets and you come to realize that not everything is what it seems. I would highly recommend “The Last Mrs. Parrish” to anyone that wants a lighthearted and fun read, that is also full of secrets and betrayal.

Wild Card Weekend Day 1

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The greatest stretch of time in all of sports is the month of the NFL playoffs, which just so happen to start today. Unlike basketball and baseball, where a team can lose three games in a series and still move on to the next round, in football, everything is riding on one game, the loser goes home, and the winner takes one step closer to winning the Super Bowl. While my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, had another disappointing season, falling short of the playoffs at the hands of Jason Garrett once again, I’m still incredibly excited about the playoffs, because so much is riding on each game and every team has the same goal, which only one can achieve, so this is the month of desperation, when coaches pull out all the stops, and players give that extra effort, in hopes that come Super Bowl Sunday, they will be the ones hoisting that trophy in the air as confetti falls all around them.

It’s Wildcard weekend in the NFL, which means there’s two games today and two games tomorrow, and while I think the Saturday lineup is slightly better than the one tomorrow, I still think you’re going to want to be glued to your couch for all four games, at least that’s what I’ll be doing any way. First up today at 3:35 on ABC and ESPN we have the Titans and Chiefs, a home game for Kansas City at Arrowhead stadium. Coming into the season, I thought the Titans were a definite playoff team while the Chiefs weren’t really even on my radar as I fully expected the Oakland Raiders to come out of that division, but I was wrong, and over the course of the season the Chiefs showed that they could really be a playoff contender, while the Titans seemed to take some steps backward since last year. I would love for Tennessee to win, but I just don’t see it happening, so I’m picking the Chiefs in what I think will be a very competitive and fairly close game.

Next up we have the Falcons at the Rams on NBC at 7:15 Saturday night, a game that I think could be the most entertaining of the weekend. Coming of an NFC Championship and a devastating Super Bowl loss, I expected the Falcons to pick up where they left off, only this year have a vengeance about them and roll over most of their opponents on their way to winning their division, but they just haven’t looked like that dominant team from a year ago. Los Angeles on the other hand, entered the season below everybody’s radar because of how terrible they were last year, but under the tutelage of first year head coach Sean McVay, the Rams have completely turned their program around and look like a strong contender heading into the postseason. This game will be interesting since Atlanta is a veteran team that has been in the playoff, high intensity situation before while the Rams haven’t been to the postseason in more than a decade. Will Los Angeles rise to the occasion, playing just like it’s any other week of the season, or will they fold under the pressure? I think it’s going to be a very close game, but I’m going with the Rams to get the win today and move on to their first divisional playoff game since January 15, 2005.

Enjoy both games today, and be sure to come back tomorrow morning for thoughts and picks on the final two wildcard games of the weekend to wrap up the first round of the 2017 NFL Playoffs.

What to Read: 2018 First Edition

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It may be a new year, but I’ve got one of the same goals that I had the last two years, read fifty-two books. I’ve fallen short each of the previous times that I’ve made the attempt at averaging a book per week, but I’ve gained momentum, reading more last year than I did the year before, so perhaps 2018 will see me actually reach my goal. As always, I’ll keep you up to date on my progress, reviewing what I read along the way, recommending good reads, and warning you against bad ones, that way you’ll know what to add to your reading list, and what to scrap. Aside from not telling you about them at all, it’s literally the least I could do. You’re welcome. Anyway, the year is off to a good start as I’ve already read two books in the first four days, which might seem like I’m off to a great start, but I started off strong last year, and slid back as the year progressed, so I’m not putting much stock in my quick start to 2018.

The first book I read was “A Stranger in the House” by Shari Lapena, one of the books I got for Christmas that I was probably the most excited to read because of how much I liked her debut novel, “The Couple Next Door,” last year. Much like her first book, “A Stranger in the House” is a very quick and thrilling read, the suspense doled out liberally all the way through, keeps the reader hooked and turning the pages, eager to find out what happens next. It’s the story of an upstate New York housewife who has a car accident, which wouldn’t normally be something to think twice about, but this one is different. Following the car accident, she doesn’t remember anything about that night, why when she left her home earlier in the evening, she did so without taking her phone or purse, or why she didn’t lock the doors, but more importantly, she doesn’t remember what she was doing in that part of town at that time, where a murder had just been committed shortly before her car wreck. It’s very fast paced and with plenty of twists throughout, you won’t be sorry that you picked up this book. While I liked Lapena’s first book, “The Couple Next Door” more than I liked this one, Stranger was a very entertaining read and it did not disappoint.

The other book I read this year was “The Book of Joe,” by Jonathan Tropper, an author I have never read before, but one I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. A bestselling writer, Joe, who grew up in Bush Falls, Connecticut, hasn’t been back home in seventeen years, and has thought of doing so, until he gets the call in the early hours of the morning, informing him that his father had a stroke, and is in a coma in the hospital. Although he isn’t close to his father anymore, Joe feels that it’s his duty to be there, so he leaves Manhattan the next morning, heading for his Bush Falls, where just about everyone in town hates him, since his bestselling book, titled after the name of his hometown, made many of its residents, the people in the town growing up and the inspiration for the characters in his book, look bad as he wrote about them, exaggerating facts and jumping to conclusions about the people that he hated. Now he has to face them, and what follows is an entertaining story of one man’s struggle to survive a trip back home, while trying to reconnect with his estranged family and staying out of the way of everyone that his book pissed off. The pages flow so smoothly and quickly that I finished “The Book of Joe” in a day, and I would highly recommend you checking it out.

Whatever your goals are, whether you want to read more or do something else, like learn Portuguese, I wish you luck, and hope you are off to a fast start. If you want more book reviews and recommendations, keep coming back to the blog, where I’ll dedicate to writing about books at least once a week, and feel free to share this with your friends, because I’m sure everyone could use a good book every once in a while.