Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Well, my running joke over the past few years was that my New Year's resolution was to not make any resolutions. But this year I think that I am actually going to make a couple and try to stick to them. I think that part of this change of heart is because I am not a spring chicken any more. Now more than ever before I really am at a point where I need to make some changes to improve my chances of staying on this here Earth a little longer. I want to make sure that I am around to see my kids, my grandson, nieces and nephews grow up into men and women. And even though I don't have a lot of it to spare, perhaps I can impart a little wisdom to them along the way.

That is true immortality. Most of us will never write a great novel that will live on and be read after us. Most of us will never live a renowned or infamous life so that our names are recorded in history. But part of us lives on in what we teach to our children and children's children. My grandmother has been dead some 20+ years now, but she still lives on in the lessons she taught me: be decent, polite and respectful to everyone; be professional; have a strong work ethic...

So, getting back to my resolutions...
1. I need to lose weight - my doctor tells me that he feels that I am 100 pounds over weight. Me at 160 is a laughable idea. I have a broad frame, broad shoulders. I was built to carry a little extra weight, be it fat or muscle. But I have to agree 260 is an unhealthy weight at my age. If I can get back down to 200 I'll be happy.
2. In keeping with resolution #1, I really should take advantage of my gym membership. I haven't been since some time in November. Shame on me. Not only do I need to stay active, that's $20 a month down the drain - wasted since I haven't been to the gym.
3. I have a wicked sweet tooth. I always will. I'm going to have to try and keep that in check (he says as he pops another chocolate-covered espresso bean in his mouth LOL).
4. I spend a lot of time online - most of it is not productive. I do not plan on cutting back on the time I spend plugged in, but I want to make a conscious effort to blog more often because it really does help to reflect on my thoughts and sort them out on (virtual) paper. One of my best friends in the world lives in Florida and we do not keep in touch as well as we should, same with my sister in Texas and friend in Arizona. With all the time I spend in front of a computer screen you'd think I'd drop them a line once in a while, huh?
5. I have to be nicer to Bowen. He's going to turn 16 in `09 and the time remaining that he will be living under my roof is getting shorter and shorter. I want him to know that he's got a friend as well as a parent in me and that he can turn to me with his problems and when he needs help. I need to start showing him that...

Five resolutions doesn't seem to hard... I'm curious to see how I do.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Manual Labor

Manual Labor
Originally uploaded by BigMisterC
I love the snow; I really do. I don't ski or snow board - hell, it's been a few years since I have even been sledding. But I love making snowmen, walking in the snow, taking pictures in the snow... I even enjoy shoveling snow as crazy as that may sound.

Sadly, I live in an apartment so I don't get to go out and shovel (or at least I shouldn't have to). But whoever the complex contracts to shovel the walkways and plow the parking lots really sucks at it. Last year I had enough and went out and bought myself a snow shovel because (and this happened yet again on Friday) I would come home from work to find my spot uncleared and the stairs leading into the rear entrance untouched. So I get to do a little bit of shoveling.

But now that my friend Kryston has bought a house I get to help her shovel her nice long driveway. Bowen and I went over to help her clear the snow and hopefully make a snowman but the snow was very powdery so no snowman, just shoveling.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Before & After

Not exactly sheep shearing time in the Coburn house but damn near close. I, like any other self-respecting man who is losing his hair, do the only reasonable thing that can be done with my hair. I keep it buzzed tight. If I didn't I would look like Larry from the Three Stooges - not exactly a look that screams "debonair," right?

But I have been lazy as of late. I hadn't cut my hair in at least a month or so and I was looking rather shaggy. I really knew it was time to buzz the dome again when a coworker looked at me askew and asked me what the hell was up with my hair. I was wearing a beanie cap that morning because it was chilly and I have to admit that I looked like a tamed down version of the heat miser. In addition to this I hadn't shaved in about a week, so my look was starting to border on "homelessness." It was time to take action. Last night I buzzed my noggin with the clippers (no guard), trimmed my goatee and shaved. I felt so much better. Below is the before & after...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I just do not understand...

What the hell was Bernard Madoff thinking? How does an individual go from being the chairman of the NASDAQ exchange to being one of the biggest crooks on Wall Street to ever pull off a ponzi scheme? How does someone who's been in business since 1960 in the financial world come to be this huge fraud? What the hell was he thinking dragging his two sons, both of whom have also been arrested, into this fiasco? How does someone who has donated $25 million dollars to lymphoma reasearch, hospitals, theaters and Jewish educational, health and cultural charities bankrupt the charities that got caught up in his scheme?

I get how people bought into it. A ponzi scheme works and his worked very well because he paid his investors a 10-12% return using the money coming in from new investors. That percentage is high enough above the average yield to make the "investors" happy but not so high that it sets off any alarms that it might be too good to be true. He also made people feel like they were being allowed into an elite class of investors by networking through country clubs and boasting of clients with names like Steven Spielberg and Elie Wiesel as well as institutions like the Royal Bank of Scotland. I'm not shocked that people were fooled and bought into this sham.

I am shocked my Madoff's complete lack of conscience. The man must be souless. His heart must be as black and cold as a piece of coal. To defraud philantropists and charities that held dear the same values that he at least pretended to share and ruin national financial institutions reflects a lack of conscience that I can only compare to a feral, rabid, starving animal. The fact that he hadn't taken a pistol, rammed it in his mouth and blew his brains out at some point over the 48 years that he had bilking his "investors" boggles my mind. How did and how does he sleep at night?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Izyk stays the night

Saturday I went to my daughter's and picked up my grandson Izyk for an overnight visit. I'm not sure exactly what the occasion was but Lynsey was cooking for a party for her mom (my ex) and (I think) her boyfriend Jeff. He was a joy to watch for the night.

Now, I may be a little biased but Izyk is the happiest baby alive, hands down. I hope my daughter appreciates how easy she has it. He only fussed once in over 24 hours and that wasn't even a full-on cry. He ate what we put in front of him without complaint. When it was time to go to sleep I laid him down in his portable crib and that was that.

When my niece Sarah was a baby we watched her on a regular basis for a good part of the first year of her life. Most of the time she cried like someone was trying to kill her. The rest of the time she was either sleeping or eating. It was a real test of mine and my wife's sanity. Really.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kids & Movies

I remember when Bowen was a tiny tot and how if he was cantankerous all you had to do to calm him down and bring peace to the house was to pop one of his favorite movies into the VCR. The ones he love the most were "Tiny Toons Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation", "A Goofy Movie" and "An American Tale: Fievel Goes West"

I was reminded of this because last night and the night before I babysat my nephew Noah. In the past we've watched episode after episode of Barney or Blue's Clues. He's kind of outgrown them (not by much) and has developed a taste for full-length features. Sadly, the only one in our collection that he wants to watch is "Madagascar." We have lots of DVDs of kids' movies including "Monsters, Inc.", "The Incredibles", "Finding Nemo" and my personal favorite, "My Neighbor Totoro" among many others on VHS. Any attempt to watch anything other than "Madagascar" was answered with wailing and tears. So I watched the movie three times in two nights. The fourth time around (God help me) I tried to watch it with the penguins' commentary, but the boy was not having it...

Thankfully his mom showed up about 15 minutes into the fourth screening and I was spared having the film forever burned into my conscienceness for at least a week. A few lines are reverberating through my skull, nonetheless.

"Well, of course we're going to throw poo at him."

"Cut and cuddly, boys. Cute and cuddly."

"I have a crown! It's a very nice one! It's here on my head!"

"You hate them compared to how much I love them"

"Of course we bozos have the peoples"

"Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave."

Monday, December 8, 2008


I learned how to make Lasagna, not so much from my dad as a series of lessons but as a combination of direct observation and osmosis. It was always a big deal in the house - an all-day event. First would have to come the music, meatball music: Dean Martin. My father's term of meatball music is not a slur against Italians, it's the music he needed to have playing in the house in order to create his meatballs. My dish is a pale comparison to his. Where I just quickly brown the meat and mix in some sauce, he started his lasagna by making meatballs. Big tasty meatballs sautéed in olive oil and simmered in his home made sauce hours and hours before the first noodle hit the boiling water. These meatballs were as big as my pre-adolescent fist.

The smell was enough to drive you wild with hunger. The house was alive with the amazing aroma of the sauce, the meatballs made with a blend of ground beef, veal and pork, onion, garlic, oregano, and breadcrumbs. The house would reverberate with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, my dad singing along with all his might. It is one of the most vivid and pleasant memories of my childhood.So I kind of derived my recipe from watching what my dad did in our kitchen. It’s not so much a recipe as it is a formula. I make a fairly big one but it can be scaled down, this version will fill a good sized roasting pan like the one I use to cook a 20 pound turkey.

Two 1 lb. boxes of lasagna noodles
1 lb. ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 good sized onion or 3-4 shallots, chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
Two 1 lb. bags of shredded/grated mozzarella cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
½ lb. ground beef and ½ lb. ground pork OR 1 lb. of ground turkey if you want to be healthier (I actually tend to go a little heavier on the meat, but that’s just me)
Salt, pepper
2 jars good quality pasta sauce
A nice fruity red wine
3 cups grated Parmesan cheese, separated.

In a good sized pot, sauté the onions/shallots, bell peppers and garlic over medium-low heat till almost translucent. Add the ground beef/pork mix or turkey meat. Season generously with salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Brown meat well. Deglaze the pan about a cup of the wine and lower to a simmer. Add the pasta sauce, 1 cup of the Parmesan and let simmer.

In a large mixing bowl mix the ricotta cheese, eggs, a generous dash of salt and another cup of the Parmesan cheese until well combined. Sometimes I’ll add some canned or well-thawed frozen spinach to this mixture but not always. Set aside.

In a large pot (the one I use is large enough that the lasagna noodles can lay flat in the pot), boil water with about a tbsp of salt. At this point I boil the noodles in batches and begin layering. The noodles should not be even close to al dente since they will cook in the oven as well. In the bottom of the pan lay out enough of the meat sauce to cover the pan. On top of this, lay out a layer of the parboiled noodles that have been well drained in a colander. On top of the noodles spread out a layer of the ricotta mixture. On top of the ricotta sprinkle enough mozzarella cheese to cover the ricotta evenly and then sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top of that. Add another layer of noodles, cover with enough sauce to completely cover the noodles. On top of the sauce, again sprinkle mozzarella to cover the sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan. Continue to alternate layers (should be 2 layers each of sauce & ricotta) ending with sauce on top, again covered with mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake at 375° for about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10-15 min until the cheese on top is golden brown and bubbly.

Enjoy with what’s left in the bottle of red wine. (I like Chianti with lasagna…)

Let me know how it turns out!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bitten by the typography bug (again)

A few years ago, I had a vanity URL where I had my pathetic, sparcely updated blog, some of my past design work for various online `zines, some of the advertising work that I had done for, etc... But when the internet bubble burst and I could no longer find web design work I couldn't afford to keep the domain and gave it up. Among the many pieces of dreck that populated my site the one thing that consistently drew traffic to the site and that I was really proud of were the original typefaces that I had created. I would really love to put those up online again but they are all on zip discs tucked away in my closet. I no longer have a zip drive.

I know some of them are out there on free download sites: for example - BigMisterC, loosely based on my handwriting (including a few doodles in the extended charachters including a self-portrait). Not actually made into a font by me, but by a friend Isabelle Trolio. The rest were drawn and converted into digital fonts by me. The only problem is that once you put a font out there on the wild, wild web you will find it being distributed on a hundred different "free font" sites without your permission and that is frustrating.

But in spite of the possible frustration, I am tempted to lay down the semolians to get a new Zip drive, dust off the fonts and start sharing them with the rest of the world again.

What I am listening to right now...

I have Angie Stone's Art of Love & War playing in iTunes. I love Angie Stone and most of what people call Neo-Soul: D'Angelo, Maxwell, Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild but I really don't like the whole Neo-Soul label that has been applied to this group. I don't think they need any qualifiers or modifiers, they're just Soul... Just as much as Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield and the like.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas List

So, at the last family get-together we talked about putting what we wanted for Christmas online. Which makes sense because It has been my experience that as we grow older, more often than not, we get harder and harder to shop for. My dad is a prime example - he is always the hardest person on my list to shop for.

Now I imagine that I am fairly hard (unless you really, really know me) to shop for. But there are always two things that will always cause my eyes to light up: iTunes gift cards and anything with a NY Giants logo on it.

If that isn't enough guidance, here is a more detailed list.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Brine your bird

Turkey has been brined! (And there was much rejoicing!)

This year's Coburn Brine Recipe
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp dried crushed rosemary
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
Remove neck & gizzards, set aside. Place all ingredients in large pot (we have a big, mongo pot and this just about all we ever use it for); place turkey in pot; cover with cold water and refrigerate overnight.

If you've never placed your bird in a brine before roasting it you do not know what you are missing. The meat comes out so moist and succulent. It's awesome.

A dream I just had

I just awoke from the most amazing dream and I had to, upon waking, rush to the computer and try and capture it:

I am a writer for a large newspaper, New York Times, Washington Post, etc and my job is to write articles for a weekend type column that usually enumerates things: Top 10 places to get your pet neutered and be pampered - just really bizarre stuff that no one reads. Since no one, i was thinking in my dream, read them I felt emboldened to fill the lists with poetry or insanely minutely detailed information about myself and/or my surroundings.

What was odd was that the poetry/prose had a three dimensional feel to it. It felt like I was in a giant zip-lock baggie and the words were being poured into the bag (as they appeared on the pages of the column) and I could move through that space. Like I could swim through the minutiae of missed English assignments in Mr. Burke's 7th grade class at New London Junior High. The more detailed and dazzlingly higher the infomation being categorized the closer it was to the outside of the bag it was: the hairs of my left leg enumerated and categorized by length, hue and curliness. As I moved through the data-filled bag of myself and emotions I was also outside of the bag watching how it would meander through the paper's section taking over like an invading fungus on the page, formless and random.

In my dream none of my superiors noticed what was happening but eventually Esquire magazine took notice and named one their Best & Brightest for the 2013 Genius issue.

Dudes at Esquire: If for some unglodly reason anything even remotely like this happens, I want to be on the cover, ok?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tightening the belt

Yesterday we downgraded from our digital 200+ channel cable package down to the most basic (26 channels) package. So I am in a state of semi-mourning: no more CNN, MSNBC, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, History, Food Network, etc... At least a lot of these channels have shows that are available online or via podcast, but it's not the same.

It's just one step among many that we're taking to try and cut costs where we can. I buy my gas at Stop & Shop with my savings card. I've stopped paying into my 403B retirement account every week (new tax laws now make it that I can no longer pay into the plan via payroll deduction anyway). I turned my cell phone off years ago. I stopped playing FFXI online. We're emptying our storage and putting our stuff in a friend's basement (Thank you, Kryston!)

I've been forced to take these steps not just because it's tougher to make ends meet here at home but my job is feeling the squeeze too. I am no longer able to accumulate overtime without prior approval from my supervisor with the goal of all non-clinical employees having zero overtime per week. Less than a year ago I was averaging 8 hours a week of overtime.

Not that I'm complaining though... Don't get me wrong. I can still run to grab some fast food when we don't feel like cooking and we still splurge on Chinese food once in a while. We are not suffering by any means even if we have had to make sacrifices here and there. Make no mistake though, I am not happy that I cannot gleefully laugh along with John Stewart and Stephen Colbert every night.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

1st post

So, new blog... not my first turn at blogging but I haven't done this in a long time. So why start again?

I have no idea... but it helpful to have an outlet of some kind.

First and foremost in my mind is the upcoming election. America is standing at a fork in the road. We've been following the same road for 8 years now. We can look past those 8 years to the time when we decided to hang a right onto this road... it seemed like a good idea to a whole of people at the time, but not me. We could have voted for the guy we wanted to have a beer with or the guy who was probably a geek in school, was picked on and doesn't really seem to have much of a sense of humor. America went with the guy with whom they wanted to have a beer. I was not among them...

Within a year of being elected, W was tested. He faced the biggest challenge of perhaps any president in our history. A direct attack against us on our own soil. Not since the founding of our country has any other power brought the fight to our home turf. Someone knocked on our door and punched us in the nose when we opened the door.

The whole world's collective heart went out to us. Even countries that do not exactly like us spoke out against the attacks. We found out who did and we took the fight to them. And then, all of a sudden we were attacking Iraq. Iraq had no connection to the terrorists who attacked us; Iraq had no WMD's; Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Yet there we were and there we still are. Years later with thousands of Americans dead because of a war that we did not need to fight. Over 88,000 dead Iraqis; the Geneva Convention pissed on; Habeus Corpus thrown out the window; unlawful detention; torture; unprecedented sacrifice of our liberties and privacy; the Constitution trampled upon as power is dangerously concentrated into the executive branch... what the hell happened to us? How did we allow this to happen?

At the end of this year Mr. Bush goes back to his cushy life in Crawford, TX and leaves the country to his successor in considerably worse shape than he found it. In three days we have a chance to choose who gets to pick up the pieces and tries to patch things back together. I've made up my mind who I want to take over but I am shocked to see the polls still so close because the choice is so clear to me.

Who do you think is the guy for the job? The thoughtful, well-educated guy with the funny name or the one who jokingly sang "Bomb Iran" to the tune of Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys?