11 January 2010

To Grill, or Not To Grill?

This weekend, Emily and I decided to have a couple friends over for a BBQ, drinks, and games.  Friday night, it sounded like a great idea.  All week, it had been relatively cold for South Florida, but Friday was 70 degrees, sunny, breezy, and just beautiful.  Naturally, I assumed the next day would be the same.

I was wrong. Overnight, the 70 degrees was replaced by a cold front, and when I woke up Saturday morning, it was 35 degrees, windy, cold, and rainy.  I was convinced my plans to grill BBQ chicken breast cutlets, with my own homemade BBQ sauce, was ruined.  It was then that I had to make the decision...to grill, or not to grill?

Still undecided, we went to the grocery store and got all the necessary items to have a successful BBQ.  Our friends came over that evening and I still wasn't sure if I was confident enough to brave the elements just for a couple pieces of meat on the grill. We snacked on hors d'œuvres, drank wine, and chatted. 

Around seven o'clock that evening, I decided I would brave the weather and start the grill.  We have a patio so are able to stay dry outside if we choose, but it's not very big.  Being a responsible adult who is paranoid about fire, I knew my only option was to put my grill on the grass, and hope it didn't get rained out.  At that point, it was raining, but not as hard as it had been all day; it was more or less sprinkling. 

I stacked the charcoal in a little pile in my Kingsford tabletop grill (hey now, it's convenient for camping), doused the nuggets with lighter fluid, and set it ablaze.  Surprisingly, the coals, fluid, and flame worked together beautifully and started a nice fire, which roared for a good 5 or 7 minutes before the nuggets became hot embers. 

I was ecstatic! Although it was cold out, now we would have grilled meat to accompany the garden pasta salad and fruit salsa we had prepared.  Normally on a cold rainy day like this, I would have opted for a less summery meal, perhaps a nice bowl of chili, but I wasn't going to let the weather break my stride. I wanted a summer meal damnit!

The meal turned out to be not only a grand idea, but it tasted excellent.  My taste buds and stomach were all pleased with my decision. I am convinced that the meat would not have been as good on the George Foreman grill.  Nothing beats a Kingsford grill, even as small as mine.

Apparently, not everyone is as grill savvy and responsible as I am.  It may sound like a good idea to some idiots, but grilling inside the house is never a good idea.  Too bad a family in North Miami didn't get that memo.  According to SunSentinel.com, this family became ill overnight due to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

So, this family decided it would be a good idea to not only grill "out", but they decided to grill "in".  Now, I can only assume that the parents are either A) foreign and can't read the charcoal bag/grill manual in English; B) illiterate and can't read the charcoal bag/grill manual; and/or C) are just that f**king stupid. Both the charcoal bag AND the grill manual warns in large letters NOT to use the grill inside because even the smallest amount of carbon monoxide is poisonous. 

The article also states, "two parents and four children were overcome by the fumes as the father moved the grill from room to room".  I feel terrible for those children, especially if they were too young to really understand what was happening. But if they were between the ages of 12-18, even they should know about carbon monoxide poisoning...pretty sure they teach you that in school. 

But what truly perplexes me is the father! Not only did he bring the charcoal grill inside, but he moved it from ROOM TO ROOM? WTF??? And what was the wife doing during all this commotion? She must have been taking out the batteries in the smoke alarms because there's no way a smoking grill would NOT have set off the alarms!  Even worse than moving the grill from room to room (who grills in the bedroom, btw?), they probably didn't even air the place out because it was so cold! Floridians are pussies when it comes to cold weather...they blast their heat and shut their windows. I'll bet large amounts of money on the fact that these people closed their windows, blasted the heat, and then used the grill inside.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won't be the last.  Stupid people are fertile and breed like cockroaches. Note to North Miami family: next time, read the warnings on the bag and take a second to rethink the idea of bringing an "outdoor" grill "indoors".

07 January 2010

Claiming Baggage

Everyone has baggage.  But, if you're like me, I LOATHE claiming that baggage whenever I fly. It's not that I'm worried that the airline will lose or misplace my luggage, or someone will steal my overstuffed suitcase; I just hate waiting around after my flight to wait for my suitcase in a crowded baggage claim area. I much prefer to simply use my carry-on, but that isn't always enough, especially during Christmas time when you fill an entire suitcase with gifts to travel back and forth with.

Luckily, I have never lost my baggage. If I ever did, I would certainly claim it.  What I don't understand is people who don't claim their baggage, for whatever reason.  For those of you people who don't claim your baggage, it's up for grabs by anyone, and the people at the Unclaimed Baggage Center aren't afraid to take advantage.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is located in Scottsboro, Alabama.  It was founded in 1970 by Doyle and Sue Owens as a part-time business, but has now become a full-time venture.

According to the Unclaimed Baggage Center website, "in 1978, the Owens incorporated the company and watched it prosper as one of the great 'hidden' bargain centers for savvy shoppers".

The website also says, "in 1995, Bryan Owens, son of the founder, acquired Unclaimed Baggage and directed the expansion which includes the current contemporary retail store that covers more than a city block. The store has many amenities including a Concierge Desk to help guests and Cups Espresso Café - serving Starbucks Coffee and Dippin Dots".

Sounds like this place is a gold mine, but feels to me like a classier, more vintage thrift store.  Approximately 1 million items pass through this store each and every year.  After at least 90 days of intensive tracking by the airlines, the majority of these items are then claimed, "unclaimed". About 60% of the merchandise is clothing, and the remaining items are cameras, electronics, sporting goods, jewelry, books and not surprising, LUGGAGE.

 It may seem there is a shit ton of unclaimed luggage out there, at least enough for there to be a huge store that covers a city block, but there actually isn't as much lost luggage as you may think.  Airlines use sophisiticated global tracking devices and over 99.9% of checked bags are returned to their rightful owners.

Apparently, Unclaimed Baggage actually donates 1/3 of their items to an extensive list of charities. They donate clothing and other items such as strollers, car seats, and luggage to foster care programs.  Other items donated are wheelchairs,  walking aids, and even eyeglasses to charities not only in the U.S. but worldwide.

Over the years, the Unclaimed Baggage Center has encountered very many odd and unique items.  Some of the items include expensive jewelry such as a 5.8 carat diamond, as well as a 40.95 carat natural emerald.  How can people not know they lost these items, and how can they not claim them? 

Other items include a full suit of armor, which is an exact replica of a 19th century original.  A woman who had bought a Barbie at the center apparently gave it to her daughter, who then promptly pulled the head off (sounds like something I used to do).  If her mother was about to scold her daughter for abusing a brand new Barbie doll, I'm sure the mother kept her mouth shut once she saw $500 in rolled bills fall out of Barbie's thin neck.

Not all items at the Unclaimed Baggage Center are for sale though.  "Hoggle", a dwarf/troll/goblin creature from David Bowie's movie, "Labyrinth" is a permanent fixture at the center. A violin from the 1770's is also not for sale.

The center doesn't always keep the unclaimed items either.  Even if no one claims them and the center sees that an item needs to be returned to its rightful owner, even though the owner didn't claim the item, they will return it.  A guidance system for an F16 fighter jet, valued at $250,000, was found in the unclaimed baggage but the center returned it to the US Navy.  Along with the guidance system, a camera designed for use on a NASA Space Shuttle was also found, but the good people at the center returned it to NASA.

Perhaps two of the most frequently asked questions are if the center can help someone locate their lost baggage, or a shopper can request certain items. The answer to both questions is no; by the time the baggage reaches the center, every effort has been made to find the owners.  The baggage the center receives is anonymous and at least sometimes up to 120 days past the travel date.  The center doesn't fulfill personal requests either because that would require dozens of personal shoppers combing through thousands of items and filling orders.

Ironically, the center's website devotes a section of their report to "Travel Tips" to educate travelers about the Do's and Dont's for baggage.  For their sake, I'm pretty sure they put that up there because they have a good heart; if people actually heeded this advice, nothing cool or unique would show up at this center at all and would just be a warehouse full of clothing.

Would you be willing to travel across the country to check out this local gem? I wouldn't plan a trip around it, but if I happened to be within driving distance, I'd surely check it out. Many people say it's worth the trip.

06 January 2010

Cyber Marriage

I've always suspected the Japanese were a little odd and took electronics to the extreme; but I never thought it was possible to take it to this level.

A Tokyo man by the name of Sal 9000 (the only name he would give to the interviewer, and probably his "Love Plus" name), courted a woman named Nene, escorting her on the streets of Tokyo, taking her on vacation to Disney World and to a beach resort in Guam, and getting to know her on an intimate level.  Sal has found his dream woman, a woman who he has now married.

Seems normal, right? Well, maybe I didn't mention that Nene is actually a character in a Nintendo DS game called "Love Plus".

Sal appears to be relatively normal.  He dresses nicely, has nice teeth, and is even fairly attractive.  According to the interview on CNN.com, he claims Nene is better than a human girlfriend.  He says, "She doesn't get angry if I'm late in replying to her. Well, she gets angry, but she forgives me quickly."

CNN.com's article quotes, "Japan's Internet community has witnessed relationships and marriages to avatars, though it's typically been within the confines of the virtual world. Last month, Sal decided to be the first human-to-avatar union. Clad in a white tux, Sal married Nene in front of some friends and Web users watching the ceremony live online."

My first reaction was who was going to stage an intervention and get this guy to a shrink? But it appears he knows that the marriage is not legal, physical, and he understands 100% that it is only a game.  He says, "I love this character, not a machine."

What happens when his DS runs low on battery, or the game has a glitch? Is that Nene's signal for "Honey, I have a headache?" like real women do when they don't want to sexually satisfy their men?

A man named Hiroshi Ashizaki, who writes about game addictions, doesn't think Sal 9000 is an extreme case. He says, "what is healthy about Sal is that he can communicate with people enough to do an interview on CNN and webcast a half-serious wedding." Great. So now we have someone validating this cyber marriage/relationship. It's one thing to be personally invested in a video game, but it's another to be "personally" invested in a video game character!

Ashizaki also states, "Today's Japanese youth can't express their true feelings in reality. They can only do it in the virtual world...It's the reverse of reality that they can only talk about what they feel to a friend in the virtual world." Maybe that's because the entire country of Japan is the computer and electronics mecca of the world and because the rest of the world is hungry for the Japanese inventions, future generations will never know how to communicate without saying things like "OMG", "LOL", or texting 1,000 words per minute?

The world is coming to an end.  Gone is the beauty of human interaction; in its place is a virtual world where everyone communicates through electronics only.  I think I'll stick to my human girlfriend.
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