Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Clean Your Oven Without Oven Cleaners

Unless you rigorously wipe down the inside of your oven after it's cooled off following each meal, you're bound to end up with charred food crust that can stink up your kitchen. A more manageable plan is to clean the oven after every few uses -- maybe every week or month, depending on how often you use it.

Mother Nature Network tells you how to do the chore without relying on chemical-heavy cleaning sprays. You can whip up your own cleaning concoctions with ingredients such as baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar. For tough grease stains, opt for dish soap, a sponge and elbow grease. The article recommends using a self-cleaning option sparingly, because it uses a lot of energy.

In order to make the job easier, place crumbly dishes on cookie sheets to prevent spillage. And disobey instructions on frozen pizzas that command you to place them directly on the rack, opting for the pan-cooking alternatives when available.

How to clean an oven naturally [Mother Nature Network]

Friday, February 24, 2012

Shows I Watch

Here are the shows I watch and consider myself an expert on, alphabetically:

The Big Bang Theory
Breaking Bad
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Family Guy
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The League
The Life and Times of Tim
Mad Men
Napoleon Dynamite
New Girl
The Office
The Simpsons
Sons of Anarchy
30 Rock

These are shows I watch casually, don't have much expertise on but could still write about:
Game of Thrones
True Blood
The Walking Dead

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Supreme Court Will Rule On Affirmative Action In Colleges

In a case that will likely have ripple effects across this country's higher education system, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case brought by a Texas student who contends that ethnicity-based affirmative action kept her out of the University of Texas. The university uses ethnicity as a factor in admitting a quarter of its applicants, with underrepresented minorities given an edge over others. The student sued because she thought she would have been admitted had ethnicity not been a factor because her grades were better than many candidates who were admitted.

According to the L.A. Times, the case could possibly end affirmative action at public colleges. Many states, including California, no longer allow such policies. UT, however, is out to preserve its admissions process. Its president told the paper "The university is firmly committed to a holistic admissions policy that is narrowly tailored to achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body."

The issue is a contentious one, with vigorous arguments on both sides, but I think it's tough to rationalize basing admission standards on anything but merit. If there's any segment that's underrepresented and worthy of preferential treatment, it's economically disadvantaged students who lack the resources and connections of their wealthier counterparts. Skin color and heritage should not be a plus or minus on a college application.

Supreme Court to consider affirmative action in higher education [L.A. Times]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Things I've Given Up For Lent, Back When I Did That

1. Chips.

2. Soda.

3. Chocolate.

4. Video games.

5. TV.

I'm fairly certain I didn't pull off any of these. I was a decisive failure at Lent.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The 5 Dumbest Holidays

1. Earth Day. Every day is Earth Day. We do so much for the earth every day -- we kill all those annoying trees that are always growing out of it, relieve it of those pesky oil reserves and warm it up by getting rid of those obnoxious ice caps -- and all it does is thank us by whining and demanding its own holiday.

2. Arbor Day. You don't see chainsaws and napalm demanding their own days, do you? By granting trees this elite status we're simply playing favorites. Also, the word "arbor" is stupid. If this were known as "Tree Day and By The Way Napalm Sucks," I would move it down a few spots.

3. Presidents Day. This day does not represent an actual important date in history. It's just a median point between two president's birthdays, and a sign that the holiday makers are too indecisive to pick the better president and go with his birthday as the day we don't get mail or garbage pickup.

4. Groundhog Day. If not for the amazingly great movie based on this holiday, this list wouldn't exist because the day is by far stupider than all other holidays combined. But because of that movie, there's not only a list but this day doesn't even top it, and has fallen all the way down to number four. See what a good job you did, Bill Murray?

5. Boxing Day. Although most people think it's actually the national anthem, the song "Oh, Canada" is actually a coded, sarcastic rebuke to the country's silliness for having goofy holidays such as this, as well as its own Thanksgiving.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Daily Money Shot (And Money Crashers) Reviews Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel

Daily Money Shot -- excellent blog title there -- reviewed Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel last week.

Here's an excerpt:

Just beneath the surface of the sarcasm are actually some pretty good tips. But the way it’s presented provides a sort of caution against being so cheap you actually come across like an ass. No one should ever place money and frugality above ethics, morality and basic common decency. It is possible to take frugality too far, as the book points out in a humorous way, but it’s also possible to be careful with your money.

Update: Money Crashers also checked in with a review.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Top 5 Reasons The Hunger Games Is Bullshit

1. The concept is ludicrous. No matter how deranged people get in the future, they'll never think it's cool to watch 12-year-olds claw each others' eyes out for entertainment value. And they certainly wouldn't think it's cool to watch 16-year-olds massacre 12-year-olds. If the competition's minimum age was 16 the story would have been less forcefully melodramatic and more believable.

2. "Katniss" is a stupid name. And now these books are probably inspiring others to name their daughters that, making our world more annoying and unlivable.

3. The writing is distractingly choppy, with horrible transitions between scenes.

4. Its biggest calling card is that it's "better than Twilight." So is dog excrement.

5. Too many people like it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The 5 Game Systems I've Played The Least Yet Still Own

1. GameBoy Micro -- A little while before Nintendo release the DSi, it came out with a miniature GameBoy Advance. This thing is so small that I once accidentally washed and dried it with my clothes. Somehow it still works.

2. RetroN 3 -- Plays NES, SNES and Genesis games. Problem is, so does the Wii, which made me re-purchase and download just about every game I had for those consoles and still care about years before the RetroN came out.

3. IXL -- It's a book-shaped system with kids' games with a terribly unresponsive stylists. My kids hate it and it gets buried underneath a pile of Leapster Explorers and LeapPads, but I feel too bad for it to get rid of it.

4. iPod Touch -- I admire its capabilities and its pocket-friendliness, but I just never have a use for this thing. The games are OK and free and it plays movies, but there are always better alternatives available.

5. PSP -- The Vita has rendered this thing obsolete, but the PSP never really was the cutting edge of anything. Instead it was a promising misfit that spent all its time beneath the bleachers, got tatted up and did too many drugs.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Review: Safe House

Safe House plays out just like a romantic comedy, only with slightly more explosions, car chases, hand-cuffings, ear-yankings and stabbings with glass shards.

You know how it goes. The leads meet cute, maybe at a park bench or perhaps in an interrogation room in South Africa. They vow to spend most of the rest of the movie together, either because they’ve found true love or because one is constantly pointing a gun at the other’s pancreas. Then comes the inevitable misunderstanding that separates them, which can be maybe an unwelcome visit from an ex or an orchestrated diversion complete with disguises and an orchestrated cover story provided by the international media.

This breathless bromance, which arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day, pairs People’s Sexiest Man Alive 1996 Denzel Washington with Sexiest Man Alive 2010 Ryan Reynolds.  Sure, they may rough-house and insult one another a bit – after all, Washington plays a suspected double agent on the loose with sensitive material and Reynolds is the greenhorn CIA agent sent to track him down – but deep down, you just know they really, really like each other in the same way grabby UFC fighters seem to when they’re writhing around on the ground.

The non-romantic element of attraction is certainly there. Reynolds knows Washington is a bad boy, but he’s convinced he can change him in ways that waterboarding could not. In turn, Washington wants Reynolds to come out of his patriotic shell and live a little.

Just as in all romantic comedies, there are more than a few ridiculous leaps of faith you’re asked to make in order to buy the charade. For instance, it’s tough to buy that the consortium of Western spy networks couldn’t capture Washington for years, yet Reynolds gets him back in his grasp with the ease he delivered one-liners on the show Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, a great show which is inexplicably still not available on DVD. Ahem. But back to the review.

Also, Washington’s fighting skills are a bit exaggerated and bizarrely unbalanced. He can take down a room of highly-trained agents with ease, and break out of a car trunk, take control of a vehicle and survive a rollover crash, yet is powerless when a rookie agent cuffs him to a wall.
Despite all the silliness, or perhaps because of it, Safe House stays interesting as it shepherds you through genuinely surprising twists, brutal fisticuffs and some plotting every bit as clever as MAD magazine’s recurring Spy vs. Spy feature.

You can probably find a better way to spend a pre-Valentine’s weekend night, even if you’re alone and just flipping through channels on TV. But one thing’s for certain. You sure as heck won’t be able to find Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place on, because the world hates you and refuses to ever let you see that  show again.

Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Robert Patrick, Sam Shepard and Brendan Gleeson. Written by David Guggenheim. Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Rated R. 115 minutes. 

My novel, Stormin' Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The 5 Funniest Super Bowl Scores

1. XXIV: 49ers 55, Broncos 10

2. XLII: Giants 17, Patriots 14

3. XLVI: Giants 21, Patriots 17

4. XX: Bears 46, Patriots 10

5. III: Jets 16, Colts 7

Thursday, February 02, 2012

My Favorite Financial Tip

Is included on page 5 of this MainStreet post. It was an honor to be included with this awesome group of money masters.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The 5 Worst Colors

1. Pink. Women who wear it are just conforming to the stereotype, while dudes who do the same are trying too hard to say that they don't care what others think about them. In doing so, they're proving they care way too much.

2. Brown. By far the most boring color. It's dirt. Its message is "I need to be improved upon."

3. Off-white. If you're going to be white, go all-out. Off-white is just phoning it in and is the epitome of willful imperfection.

4. Neon yellow. Makes your eyes bleed. Should be co-opted as a government weapon.

5. Grey. It's the brown of the off-off whites. Eeyore can keep it.

For the record, the best colors are bright orange and bright red. Both emit power.