Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

This has been a good year for me - full of travel, fun and new opportunities. Rather than listen to me drone one in paragraph form, here's a bulleted list of highlights!

  • I got a new job! And it's only one county away!
  • I walked in three friend's weddings.
  • I routinely experienced the joy of South Florida Public Transit. 
  • I read alot of books, and alot of classics. How did I only just read the Count of Monte Cristo? Amazing book!
  • I paid off my credit card debt - woohoo!
  • Have gotten alot stronger, physically.
  • Spent alot of time on the boat and finally saw Stiltsville.
  • My troop performed at Tribal Fest and we rocked it!
  • I hiked the Cinque Terre in Italy and drove northbound on Pacific Coast Highway. I also travelled to these places:
    • Charlotte, NC
    • Wilmington, NC
    • Columbia, SC (yup, still hate it)
    • Augusta, GA/ Aiken, SC
    • Tampa
    • New York/Brooklyn
    • Key West
    • Paris, Florence and the Italian Riviera
    • San Francisco, Sonoma and Northern California
So some things I didn't get as much accomplished as I would like, but overall I think it's pretty successful.  I don't do resolutions because that implies a one-time goal set, and quite frankly I think that resolutions are generally overambitious and doomed to fail. I am a fastidious planner and obsessively goal-oriented, so here are some of the things I have been planning on, going into the new year:

  • Continue to build a financial reserve (made easier by new job.)
  • Continue to strengthen myself and stay in shape.
  • Get back to karate, now that I have put this knee injury behind me.
  • Pay off a bigger chunk of my student loans of doom.
  • Write and blog more - although this may be at an undisclosed, new location
  • Travel to the following places:
    • Iceland
    • Austin, TX
    • San Francisco, L.A. (via southern part of PCH)
    • Key West 
    • Charlotte, NC and Charleston, SC
    • Chile
I'm excited for this new year. And no, I don't believe that crap about the end of the world.  Fun fact for the road. Rapture was supposed to bring the end of the world - with the world erupting in a ball of flame - on my birthday. Nice, right?

Have a happy New Year! Stay safe tonight, and don't drink and drive!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Miami Perfume

I was on my way to work the other day when this story popped up on WLRN. (Beware, WLRN seems to be having server issues today)

Apparently the City of Miami tapped someone to create a perfume that is inspired by the city of Miami. The reporter proceeded to interview people about what smell best represents the MIA. It's pretty interesting because the responses show a total range of what this city is. From sea brine and Cuban coffee to urine in the streets, Miami is everything.

Apparently the perfume represents more of what Miami is perceived to be - a glamorous seaside party town, but the concept of scent tied to identity is much more interesting to me than the outcome. How would you describe Miami through scent?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy All Saints Day

Where did the year go? Seriously! Wasn't it just New Years Eve last week?

Another Halloween has come and gone. We spent ours at Fantasy Fest, which was just as indescribably crazy as always... Though the traffic was better - I suspect the impending storm kept people away - and our weather was better than here in Miami.

I'm not posting pictures because you don't want to see some of these people wearing nothing but body pant, but here's one of us (costumes made by yours truly)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Scenes from South Florida

I caught sight of these guys at the Boca Tri-Rail station... Kind of cool!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupy Education

So I have been hearing all this news around Occupy Wall Street, and I'm a little disturbed. I understand that people are angry, that they are frustrated and everyone has a right to freedom of speech and to peacefully protest. But I think the best way to make a stand is to ONLY support local business. So I hope everyone there only shops with local farmers and avoids big box stores (so no Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, Publix, Etc.) that will make a much stronger point.

But what I am more disturbed by is that no one gives a fuck about education. Seriously! The educational system is so clearly broken, kids are graduating with NO real skills, but nobody cares. They don't care that we aren't even in the top ten in terms of education worldwide. They don't care that every kid learns differently, but they are expected to perform well on a standardized test every year.

Maybe it's because we didn't experience that when we were in school. But seeing how kids are learning, at least here in Miami, I'm disturbed. I don't want my kids to be taught to a test (when I have them.) Even within my family, my brother, sister and I all learned differently, and we were raised the same way and went to the same schools.

Just a thought, but maybe if we were teaching kids financial skills and life skills at a young age, then they would graduate and understand that signing an adjustable mortgage rate for $500k on a house when they make $32k with three kids is a stupid fucking idea. Maybe then you would see people making educated decisions on what they spend their money on, and what kind of debt they take on.

Maybe then you would have people graduate and start their own businesses and thrive in the community. Kids are all driven to go to college and graduate - half of which with useless degrees that don't get them anywhere. But not every kid needs to go to college. We still need skilled workers like electricians, plumbers, etc. Those people could easily graduate, go into a trade school, and eventually start their own businesses. But they need to be encouraged to do those things.

Every kid should know how to manage a budget before they graduate high school. They should know the differences between different types of loans. They should understand basic financial literacy and know how to save and invest their money. This isn't happening.

We need to also invest in schools not doing so well and support our teachers. You have these stupid fucking tests that end up giving schools grades. Failing schools don't get support and the teachers are punished, but the good schools are continually rewarded. I say let's take a note from the NFL here. What do they do when a team has the worst record? They get first pick. Maybe if we give better salaries to teachers who are willing to go into schools in the hood, and you give them the resources and you give the kids support in terms of guidance counselors, variety of classes, etc. then those schools will start to come up.

I'm not saying we should cut off funding for the good schools, but I am saying we need to reinvest. If you have a school that doesn't do well and teachers know they won't get paid well, what's the incentive?

As it is teachers are barely paid anything, and then they have to beg parents and spend money out of their own pockets just to get basic resources in their classrooms. And I'm not talking about computers, I'm talking about paper towels and printer ink. How sad is that? Meanwhile, postal workers and getting paid much more just to put mail in a box (and in my neighborhood, they can't even get that right.)

Why do we expect things to improve and get better when we don't even support the learning system our kids are in? We are not investing in the future? When will people realize that things will only continue to spiral downwards if we don't make changes where it counts, and that's with our future generation of business owners, politicians and educators. If you want change, make change where it counts.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

United we stand

This morning was no different for me than any other Sunday morning. I woke up, lounged in bed, made coffee and breakfast and browsed my blogs and social networks.

It's not that I forgot that it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (who could, in the 24-hour news cycle) and it's not that I trivialize what happened in others lives, this time 10 years ago. But I don't really think my story on that day is any different than anyone else's. I wasn't there, I was in class. My teacher walked in and calmly told us what happened, but that was right as the first plane hit the first tower and everyone thought it was an accident. It wasn't until after class that we heard the rest, and like everyone else around the world, we each ran home to watch the horrific events unfold on TV.

That's not what I was thinking about this morning. Instead, as I went about my morning, and as I was fighting a semi-losing battle against the weeds in the backyard I was counting my blessings. I am fortunate enough that I CAN go about my morning as usual. I am fortunate enough that I can make plans for the future and live my life without that memory haunting me from every corning in the back of my mind. There are countless people out there who lost someone, who replay that memory over and over as they try to fall asleep. There are so many people will never be who they were before 9/11, who can't erase that memory of smokey stairwells or lose the smell of burning air. There's a whole community of Americans who suffer from hate crimes because a group of angry, hateful people committed this abomination (there are no words to really describe how horrible it was) and there are thousands and thousands men and women here and abroad who are fighting to end terrorism.

I hope something like this never happens again. I hope that people can learn to live with what they suffered through and I hope eventually that people who live with hate and anger in their souls learn to quell those feelings in non-violent ways. And I will continue to appreciate and be thankful for all I have to live with.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Cane's perspective....

For those of you who don't know, I graduated from the University of Miami with my graduate degree in '06, and like all the Cane's fans I know, I am sickened by the allegations surrounding the UM football team right now.

I don't have to recap any of this story, one simply needs to Google University of Miami, read Yahoo Sports and/or visit the Miami Herald site to get the full scoop. What I am more interested in talking about is the mudslinging. The victimization and the demonization that's falling out right now.

I don't want to give any more talk about Shapiro. He's a scumbag looking to buy friends, business partners and fame. He clearly targeted people and took advantage of them, whether students or investors. But he knew how to work the system. He knew if he donated money he could get away with it. Is this whole thing entirely his fault? No. Not really. Why?

Well lets look at the University. You are going to tell me that he involved 70+ students in these things and no one knew? Since when did 18, 19, 20, 21-year-olds not talk about the crazy shit they got into over the weekend? I mean, damn, gossip flies through my office and it flew through my program. You are going to tell me nobody in administration knew? Then they must have been blind, deaf and dumb (and I mean dumb in the sense that they are stupid, not mute.) Come on, that's a crock. But you know what? Student athletes were staying and they were getting money and they let the greed and the need get in the way. And in the process they cheapened the prestige of my degree that I will be paying for over the next 15 years. Take some personal responsibility and learn that standing up to a donor that will cost you your reputation is a hell of a lot cheaper in the long-run.

And speaking of personal responsibility... These players that took these handouts knew that it was wrong. If something seems too much like a good thing, then it probably is (this goes for the university as well.) These players (who are actually only a select few when you look at how many student athletes there are) have greedily taken gifts that only last in the short-term and have made all of their teammates look bad as a result. I recognize that times are tough and the life of a student athlete is busy, but other people find ways.

Also, the media. So many people are taking this Shapiro's stories as totally legit. This asshole is in jail for screwing over thousands of people in a ponzi scheme. From what I have read he has admitted that he is saying all this to strike back at the people who wouldn't stand by him when he fell. Is there 100% proof of everything he says? I don't doubt that he paid for most of the things, and that many of these stories happened. Do I think it's 100% legit? Absolutely not. Things said in rage and revenge are often dramatized to some extent.

Do I think University of Miami is the only school to have this happen? Absolutely not. It's more lurid than most, but every school has this going on in collegiate athletics. Clearly something needs to be re-evaluated on a national level. And administrators needs to feel the pinch just as much as the students.

Don't get me wrong, I love University of Miami. I am a tried and true Cane. But there are alot of people who need to step up and take responsibility. And perhaps this is a wake-up call that your donors don't get to do whatever they want just because they wrote a big check. Afterall, you never know when it all gets taken back because that donor was a scam artist.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things Seen in Miami Beach Before 8 am, Part 1

Recently, my fiance and I moved to Miami Beach. While we have been living here, we have seen an assortment of people, things, odd occurrences and happenings that can only be described as "only on the beach." One of these happenings happened this morning as my fiance was driving to work.

He called me to tell me about this immediately because we both would have busted out laughing and thought that it was really bizarre at the same time.

While driving north through Sunny Isles Beach, he sees a woman and her young daughter, maybe aged 4, running along side the road. The little girl is decked out in a head to toe pink running outfit and is not wearing a shirt. Both ladies are blond, in beach-speak means they are most likely German/European/not locals. Just a bit ahead of them, are the father and son running team, the son this time being about 8 years old, all blond and the boy isn't wearing a shirt. My fiance thinks that the little girl was emulating her older brother by running topless like him.

Now, there is definitely a huge running community in South Florida and especially on the beach. But taking your children running with you before 8 am is a little extreme and an only in Miami moment. First off, it's not normal for little kids to go running. They should be running around and playing with their other little friends, not training for the Iron Man. Second, it's almost child abuse as their little legs have to do double time to keep up with mom and dad's. And third, they were running along Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles, land of giant condominiums and traffic. Why wouldn't you take your small ones and run on the beach a block away?

So, if you see a family of blonds running in this year's ING, it was them. Training the whole family at the break of dawn.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

South Florida Public Transportation

For those of you who don't know, I work a considerable distance away from my home in South West Dade county, and for the past year-and-a-half I have been driving with a carpool buddy, but then she had the audacity to quit on me! As a result I have finally bitten the bullet and started taking the Tri-Rail. I avoided it for a number of reasons, including the time it adds to my commute and my doubt that any sort of public transit in South Florida can reliable. Then I discovered that several of my coworkers use the train and swore by it.

However, it's not that bad. Yes it does add about 1-1.5 hours to my commute, but it's so much less stressful to drive the 25 minutes to the station. So, after about a month and a half of taking the Tri-Rail, this is my list of pros and cons.

1. I save a ton of money on gas and tolls
2. My employer is part of the Employee Discount Program so it's only $75 a month to ride (it cost me more in 1 week to drive)
3. The trains are typically on time, and you can sign up for alerts to find out if they aren't
4. There are shuttles from the station to my job
5. Shockingly, everyone who works for Tri-Rail has been extremely helpful, polite and friendly (this might be a sign of the Apocalypse.)
6. The trains are air conditioned (usually)
7. It's pretty easy to get tickets and refill my pass
8. I get a chance to read and listen to music - this is a great way to decompress after the work day
9. There are generally not that many crazies, as most people take the train to work
10. You can take the train to the Fort Lauderdale airport and save a considerable amount of money by not taking a cab
11. Even when the train is late, you can comfort yourself by looking at 95 with the realization that you don't have to sit in that traffic

1. It sucks when the AC breaks on the train
2. The train is surprisingly busy so if you get on in the middle of the tracks during rush hour, it can be difficult to find seats -- especially if one car has broken AC
3. I have to book it to get to my shuttle so that I don't have to stand
4. I often look like a bag lady with too many things hanging off me
5. You can only buy the Easy Pass at 3 different stations, and their hours are all different and that's highly inconvenient
6. Sometimes people like to ask you if you "have faith"
7. People LOVE to interrupt you while you are reading to ask you if you "like your Kindle." It's very difficult to stop yourself from saying, "no, I hate it. that's why I am staring at it so fiercely"
8. All the stops are open-air. This sucks when it's raining or really hot
9. It's a gigantic pain in the ass when there's an accident on the tracks (the motorcycle accident last Friday shut things down and I didn't get to work until 10:15 a.m. Normally I'm there by 8:30)
10. If you park at the Miami Airport you have to park down the street from the station. It's not a far walk but it's the only station with that set-up and there's no security in the parking lot.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Heat vs. Bulls - A Bird Road Celebration

So, in case you live under a rock, or nowhere near Bird Road, the Heat beat the Bulls tonight. If you didn't get 80 million texts, you probably found out by hearing the horns from across the world. As soon as the Heat won, I started hearing horns blaring. El Hombre decided this was the optimum time to show me how Westchester celebrates these types of events. I have heard about people beating pots and pans outside of La Carretta, but I never quite believed it.... until tonight.

Honestly, words and pictures don't come close to explaining what happens. So I took video. See for yourself... there are no exaggerations:

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Last Sunday I spent the day in Fort Lauderdale beach. El Hombre was at Ultra (out in a hot field with portable bathrooms and lots of people? NOT my scene) and my family was in town, so I made my way up to Broward to see them.

There's nothing particularly special - we didn't do anything crazy or wild. Instead I spent the afternoon playing cards with my little cousins, going to the beach and burying said little cousins in the sand. Later on that night, after dinner, we walked out into the yard, which faces the Intercoastal. Some people were sipping drinks, the guys were puffing cigars and the kids were fishing. After much pleading, I finally agreed to help my youngest cousin (she's 7) fish by holding the pole. Every time there was a tug on the line I would hand it over to her and she would gleefully it in.

Then, out of nowhere we spotted these floating red things in the sky. One of the older uncles was teasing the kids that they were UFOs while his wife rushed in to grab binoculars. On closer look, it was some sort of lantern with candles inside. They drifted higher and higher, slowly burning out while everyone theorized where they came from.

Out of nowhere my little cousin piped up, "I heard that when Chinese people die, their family light lanterns like that to honor them." What an interesting thing for a child to know, and what a great allegory for life that alleged ritual is. Whether the lights just went out, or consumed the lanterns they were in I don't know. I don't think they were released to honor someone's death, more than likely they were released by the yacht wedding that was slowly drifting up and down the Intercoastal, but it was an interesting symbol that resonated and calmed some of the inner turmoil I've been experiencing of late.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Boating in South Florida - Monument Island

Now that the weather is finally hot enough to go on the boat without a windbreaker, El Hombre and I have started venturing out onto the high seas again. Boating is a nice alternative to going to the beach here in the Spring and Summer for a few reasons - on the boat you can explore lots of different places instead of being squashed into one space, you can spend the majority of your time with only a few people instead of the perpetual jam of people on the beach, you don't have to listen to every reggaeton song that's ever been recorded and you can still get sun and be in the water.

Anyways, on one of our recent excursions, El Hombre and I decided to head over to Flagler Monument Island. When I lived on the beach I never really paid attention to this small island with an obelisk just off the Venetian Causeway. In fact, I didn't even know what the island was until I went on the Miami City Tour a few years back.

Flagler Monument Island is just what it seems, it's a small, man-made island in the bay that was built to honor Henry Flagler in 1920. The island monument itself is quartered off by fences, but has statues at each corner of the square base. Though covered with the same trees and underbrush which are typical of all the bay islands, Monument Island is a nice place to tie up your boat and stop for a picnic or a short walk (though I recommend sneakers or some other type of covered shoes if you plan to walk through to the monument itself.

There are trash cans all around the island to dispose waste, but I don't think they are collected too often, and you will see some trash on the island. Don't get me wrong, there is not a ton of litter all over the beaches, but it's definitely there. Fortunately organizations like Ecomb do frequent outings with volunteers to go clean up the island, and in fact El Capitan has participated in this recently.

Can you spend a whole day admiring the beauty of Monument Island? Probably not, but it's definitely a recommended spot to stop for a walk and some firm land - just please pick up your trash and take it with you.

Images below:




Sunday, March 20, 2011

Restaurant Recommendation - Boca Raton

One of my biggest gripes about working in Boca (aside from the commute) is that it's hard to find good, affordable places to eat for lunch. Most of the places around my job are mediocre, and for awhile I had resigned myself to Panera being the best option. Don't get me wrong, I love Panera, but there's only so much you can eat of it.

The one of my coworkers introduced me to Carole's Kitchen, and it was love at first bite. Carole's Kitchen is a locally-owned diner, tucked behind Boca Town Center. Most of the people working there are related to Carole, and the diner is almost an homage to the family, with pictures all over the place. The food is nothing crazy, mainly sandwiches, salads and soups. But they are GOOD sandwiches, salads and soups. If you know me, you know I love soup. I'm a soup snob and I can eat soup every day, summer or winter. This place has about 7-10 daily soups, with a few that are daily staples. Each of the ones I have tried have been phenomenal. They are cooked to perfection, and you can have your choice of a brothy soup, or heavier cream soup. My friend Nat's favorite is the tomato bisque - a hearty cream-based tomato soup, rich with flavor, and perfect paired with one of the grilled cheese's on the menu. My favorite? The Italian Wedding Soup, a lighter soup, with meatballs & veggies. It's delicious, not too salty and super savory. I like it so much that I know it's only served on Tuesdays & Thursdays, and when we venture out to eat, those are the days I try to convince everyone to go.

Carole's Kitchen closes early, it's definitely not a late-night place, but it's a great place for lunch, and it doesn't catch a crazy crowd at noon like most places.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Miami Brunch: A review

Every Sunday we talk about going to brunch, but we never do. This Sunday we broke that routine. I have been hearing alot of things about Sugarcane Raw Bar, and their menu looked interesting so we drove over to Midtown to check it out.

Sugarcane has great decor. We walked into a lush patio area and they immediately sat us outside in the shade. This is the best time of year to sit outside, while seeing that everyone else is 10 feet under snow after all, but I digress. As we looked around, I realized that the restaurant has one major failure - staffing. We were outside at around 1:30 on a Sunday at a place that offers brunch. There were at least 7 other tables sitting in our same courtyard and there was 1 waiter. one. That's setting the poor guy up to fail, I mean, brunch is huge on South Florida weekends, and you have one waiter? There's no way you are going to get good service unless your bussers and runners are epic. Which brings me to my second point. We had to ask for water several times. The bussers were walking around with trays and blank looks on their faces, like they weren't quite sure how they got there and what they were supposed to do.

Our waiter finally got to our table, was very apologetic and quickly took our orders. He had good knowledge of the menu, and checked back a few times to let me know my coffee was on it's way, but the coffee guy took awhile. It was well worth the wait. My cappuccino was amazing, close to what I had in Italy. In between getting our drinks and our food, one foodrunner kept trying to bring us someone else's food. When we got our food, the runner totally forgot to bring an entire part of El Hombre's meal.

My meal was fantastic though. I got the flatbread because I had read that it was a great dish, and it was truly tasty. It was a thin bread with tomato, squash, zucchini, asparagus, mushroom and manchego, topped with an egg. It was almost a little pizza and it was well worth the wait.

At this point our waiter came back, we complained that part of El Hombre's meal was missing and he quickly got us a discount on our ticket.

My synopsis? Food was great and very reasonably priced, but the management needs to work on the staffing, big time. As in, train their bussers and runners (which, honestly, anyone can do) and have more servers working. And make sure their servers maintain the excellent attitude that our guy had.. poor guy was totally in the weeds, but was polite, helpful and apologetic to everyone around us.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Morning

It's a sunny, chilly day and we are just taking it easy for a bit, and this song popped into my head, so I thought I would share. A live, slightly jazzy version of Sunday Morning by Maroon 5. Perfect for lazing about the house, pretending that you don't have to work the next day...

Monday, January 3, 2011


A few months ago, El Hombre procured a boat. No particular reason why, he just wanted one, went on the hunt, and found one for a reasonable price. Once we got it all fixed up, we have been exploring the waters of Miami-Dade County. This past Sunday was no exception. We docked out of Coconut Grove and decided to find some new sites to explore. Afterall, Miami is a different city, even on the water, and there continues to be unique spots even at sea. Stiltsville is no exception.

Ever since I started seeing photos of these houses hovering above the water, I have been fascinated. Stiltsville has been around since the late 20s, early 30s and is apparently a hotspot during the spring and summer months for boaters to hang out on the sandbars and flats on the weekends. But these parties didn't start in the past few years, Stiltsville was one of the original party spots in Miami. Rumored to have been a hotbed for gambling and drinking during prohibition, people have been making their way out there since it's inception, to throw down and have a good time. Kind of fitting now, given Miami's reputation, right?

Now most of these homes are empty, their residents moving onto firmer grounds after hurricanes and storms. Seven homes remain, darkened windows and birds on roofs. The only way to get there is by boat, and stay far off during low tide or you may get stuck. Once we got out there, and found a safe place to drift without getting stuck, we admired these homes on stilts, like giants taking quiet moments over calm, clear blue waters while staring off at El Farito and Key Biscayne. You can't help but wonder what was life like back then. How did people weather the storms, how did they survive? Looking across the calm, serene blue water, did it make up for the terrifying nature of whipping winds from hurricanes and waterspouts? Did they flee conventional life to live free from traditions and societal pressure, and did they get lonely at all? We will never know, but it's interesting to imagine.

Of course I took a few photos:

To learn more about Stiltsville, check out the following links:
Biscayne National Park Info
Wikipedia entry
Miamism Article

If you don't have access to a boat, the South Florida Historical Museum offers a tour by Dr. Paul George, a leading South Florida Historian

Sunday, January 2, 2011

NYE: A recap

New Years Eve in Miami. man. So many people come down here to party their butts off in overpriced, snotty clubs on the beach, hoping to brush up against celebs while clinging champagne glasses. Me personally? I hate crowds and I love fireworks. Typically we hang with friends on the Key Biscayne beach while drinking champagne at midnight and watching the fireworks. This year didn't happen that way, and for some reason we decided instead to watch the orange drop at Bayfront. This time reaffirmed a few things for me:

1. Riding on a packed metromover to an event is always highly entertaining. I don't have any pics or video this time, but watching the traffic, this was definitely the way to go.

2. I hate crowds. I really, really hate crowds.

3. I hate Bayfront. Combining Bayfront with crowds is the worst thing ever.

4. People will get drunk and stupid and get into fights. Everyone will run thinking there are guns involved. Not awesome.

While points 2 and 3 are true, watching people in a crowd at Bayfront is hilarious. Just make sure you are watching your belongings as well. Despite having a cough that sounds like tuberculosis and hating bumping into people, it was actually kind of fun to watch all the different people that showed up. And the fireworks this year were awesome. Unlike the 4th of July a few years ago, the City of Miami put on an awesome fireworks show. I even caught a little bit of it on video for you guys: