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The Pressure Of Too Many Dessert Choices

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This past Wednesday I walked into my local Wegmans on Route 57 intent on buying one of their small Ultimate chocolate cakes. Wegmans serves them 3 ways; the large cake for $16, the small for $8.50 and by the slice at $3.75. For me, the best part of the cake is always the frosting, and the small cake gives you the best frosting to cake ratio. :-)

Ultimate chocolate cake

the cake in its container

My first stop was picking up the cake. I had other things on my mind that I knew I had to buy but I took the slight deviation from my normal pattern and decided to grab the cake first. Usually I’ll walk along the prepared foods section to see if they have soup I like but it’s not the season for my favorite soup so I bypassed it; I don’t change routines all that often.

As I kept walking along, I eventually ended up by the bulk section, where candies, chocolates, granola and nuts reside. However, on this day there was a major change. It seems the day before this particular Wegmans decided to upgrade the bulk section to be like the Rochester area stores… which means they added a bunch more candy and streamlined the entire area. Oh no, the horror!

candy01The horror part is because I have a major sweet tooth. I bought the cake with the intention of cutting it into 4 pieces and portioning it out to myself, based on my recent good behavior. I was also thinking about buying some Breyers lactose-free light vanilla ice cream, though I was going to save it until I’d finished the cake, which would be in 4 days.

Now, suddenly, I had candy that hadn’t ever been sold at my particular store sitting in front of me, taunting me… it was too much! My eyes popped, my mouth salivated, and my brain… well, it kind of froze. I had way too many things going at once; what to do… what to do…

First, this doesn’t only happen in the dessert area; matter of fact, it rarely happens in the dessert area because, before Wednesday, there were only a couple of things I’d ever buy. Often, my consternation comes up when I’m debating myself on which foods to buy that I can cook and eat all week, or at least for a few meals. When I have this issue I’ll usually just stand in the aisle and think… sometimes upwards of 5 minutes.

candy02It might not seem all that critical to a lot of people but I’m not only trying to economize but only want to cook once… and I want to get it right. A couple of times I’ve messed up by forgetting something, and I try to avoid that happening.

This time, sweets, desserts, wonderful treats… what to do… what to do…

Luckily, this Wegmans has a bench in the frozen foods area; I have no idea why they have it there but I’ve always figured they put it there for me because I’ve sat there a few times contemplating my food purchasing choices. With all the sweets on my mind, I needed time to think, and, unlike the food aisles, there wasn’t enough room now to stand in the candy area without blocking access.

I sat on the bench and started thinking and calculating. It wasn’t going well initially and, of all things, I saw my friend Kelvin pushing a cart. That was shocking because he lives near a different Wegmans and I’d never seen him in my store before, but he was buying some things for a picnic that was at a portion of Onondaga Lake near where I live.

I told him my issue and his suggestion was to put the cake back and just walk out of the store. Silly man! Put the cake back and just walk out the store with nothing? Didn’t he know me better than that? He walked away to pay for his items and I continued sitting there, thinking…

I sat there at least 10 minutes. At one point a Wegmans manager came by to check something and asked if he could help. I told him my dilemma that was caused by the new candy area and he told me they’d just put it in the day before, which explained why I hadn’t noticed it when I was there a couple days earlier.

20150819_151638_resizedEventually I came to my decision. I already had the cake and I didn’t want to walk all the way to the bakery to put it back. I also realized that if I bought the candy the way I usually do, in sample sizes, that in my present state of mind I’d have bought so many bags of stuff that it would cost more than the small cake, and that, unlike the cake, it was truly pure sugar (I mean, they now have candy corn and those candy pumpkins… the horror!), and I wasn’t prepared for that kind of sugar rush. I also realized that it didn’t make sense to buy ice cream that I expected I wouldn’t get to until 4 days later; why take up the space in my freezer right?

Once I made the decision my life was easy. I moved on, bought the other things on my list, paid for my items and left the store. Because I share a backyard with Wegmans it’s not unusual for me to stop there almost on a daily basis for small things, but I haven’t been there for a couple of days by now. However, because of the dessert “pressure”, instead of cutting the cake into 4 slices I only cut it into 2 slices. That means I had two major sugar rush days anyway… but it was glorious! lol

I should be fine from this point on. Now I’m prepared for the candy area and, knowing that stuff will be there from this point on, I know I can sample a few things here and there instead of going hog wild and buying everything all at once. That’s a good thing because, of all things, it seems they’re now selling some brand of chocolate covered potato chips that I’m going to have to try; oy!  

Living In One Building In Tokyo

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A couple of weeks ago there was this story about a town in Alaska called Whittier. It was an interesting tale because almost all the residents in the town live in one 14-story building. The school, grocery store, church, hospital and a host of other things are contained in the same building also. Here’s the link to the story.

GreenPark001JapanI found it more interesting than a lot of other people might have because when I was a kid I lived in a similar place. It was called Green Park, and it was in Tokyo, Japan. It was where families lived when their husbands (that’s how it was at the time) were stationed at Tachikawa Air Base. I lived there from June 1963 to June 1966.

The picture above is the only picture I can find from back then, and I found it online. It wasn’t actually legal at the time to take pictures of the outside of the main building at the time so I have no idea who got this one, but since it’s the front of the facility it might have been fine.

We were pretty much totally self contained. It consisted of at least six 3-story apartment units that were attached by a central facility so that we didn’t have to actually go outside if we didn’t want to. For the most part everything we wanted or needed was inside: commissary (grocery store), BX (base exchange), church, ice cream parlor, pool hall, both an officer’s club and NCO (non-commissioned officer) club, and lots of other things. While Dad was gone during the day Mom worked in Special Services; actually, I can’t remember the name but she wore a uniform.

In the 3 years I lived there, I spent most of my time in this building. Of course, unlike Alaska, we could go outside more often than they can there. The facility had an outdoor pool, which I only visited once ever, probably because some idiot decided to push a 4-year old me off a diving board into the water and call that “teaching” me how to swim; I never learned.

I went to kindergarten and first grade to a school that was just off the base so that Japanese kids could come. We walked to get there, following a gated path, walked out the back gate and pretty much walked into the school. I learned how to read at 3 and, because we had a Japanese housekeeper I’d learned Japanese, I was picked to be the translator for some of the Japanese kids, none of whom spoke any English; I never learned how that would eventually work out. If you ask me it partially went horribly wrong because instead of passing along lessons I talked and joked with the Japanese kids all day, and none of the teachers knew what we were saying to each other since all the teachers were American.

Dad_Me_July_63_TokyoBecause I spoke with the Japanese kids, they’d invite me to come play with them. This was somewhat problematic since we were supposedly contained within the base, including barbed wire. However, I was young and small and pretty self sufficient, so without anyone’s knowledge I used to climb the fence, slide under the barbed wire, and go visit my friends. It seems everyone was so certain that we were protected and contained that no one ever figured it out; I didn’t tell my parents until I was in my 30’s. lol

With kids on the base, we could play outside between the buildings. There was no big field for all of us to play on, but luckily there were strips of grass where, because we were small, we could play. I have no idea where older kids played; it was such a different life back then.

Overall, it was a self contained community where, for the most part, we kept to ourselves except for special excursions into Tokyo and surrounding areas. I got to visit Mount Fuji. I got to visit the Ueno Zoo. I got to see the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra 1 1/2 times (there’s a story there but I’ll save for later lol). And I got to ride the high speed trains a few times, which were like above ground subways.

In any case, it was a self contained living space where we all lived and hung out with each other, with the military trying to make sure the civilian population was safe; obviously someone needed to keep a better eye on me.

By the way, the reason it was called Green Park is because it was located in the city of Musashino, which stands for “green park”; fitting isn’t it? 😉  

How Would You Solve The Great Northern Problem?

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It’s interesting to note that Destiny and Great Northern opened close to the same time. From where I live, I’m about 10 minutes from each of them. I’ve gloried in the success of Destiny and worried about what looks like the demise of Great Northern. In my mind, both malls should be doing well, but they’re not.

gn01Many of the pundits believe that Destiny sucks the life out of any other mall in the area. I’m not sure that’s a fair enough statement. After all, Great Northern thrived for a very long time, and only within the last 7 years or so seemed to have fallen on the worst of times.

I’ll admit that on this one I might be out of my league, and there’s possibly no saving it. Yet, if I had my shot (and a little bit of money) here’s a few things I’d at least try to do with it.

1. The mall is missing a major anchor store in the old Bon Ton location, which hurts one end of the mall drastically. I’d take that space, chop it in half, and try to bring in two top tier exclusive garment stores, one for men and one for women. I don’t remember if there’s ever been a men’s store in the mall but having one of each right next to each other in a large space but not overly large would add some spice.

Having said that, since I’m not in the industry and hate shopping for clothes (plus a little older) I’m not sure who I’d try to bring in, but by top tier I mean exclusive, someone who’s not already in the area and is known for top quality items. Anyone have ideas?

2. The mall has only ever had one nice restaurant, which was Ruby Tuesdays. There’s also a food court that includes Friendly’s. In my opinion, with only the one food option, and in the area of the mall where there was little traffic, there was little driving people to consider it as a place where consumers could come to get a great meal and then shop… which is what Destiny has done in the new part of their mall.

If I had my way, I’d have had at least 5 to 7 restaurants in there. I’d have had a restaurant across from Ruby’s, two restaurants down by Sears, one by Macy’s and the other two… I’d have found places for them. Once again, something different than what we already have (one would have had to be Ruth’s Chris; please, someone get a Ruth’s Chris up here), maybe two or three of them being local. They’d all have to offer something different, which means ethnic I assume, not just being “comfort food” places.

The thing about that is it would get the people coming from Oswego County and the areas around Baldwinsville and Cicero and all parts in between to consider going there instead of bypassing it for Destiny; choice always does that.

3. The days are gone where I’m a major fan of live music other than a few major acts and symphonic music. Still, live concerts draw people, and weekends are the strongest time for malls to succeed.

Therefore, I’d create a space where I could have at least 2,000 seats for concerts, which would highlight local acts and up and coming national acts of all types. You wouldn’t only have to have the concerts on the weekends, but that would be a way to drive people to the mall. Also, a deal could be made with the newly created restaurants in the mall to have kind of a dinner and show package, which would benefit both sides.

If there’s not already a preexisting area (my original thought would have been to close a couple of the theaters and turn it into a show area) then move some of those cars that Fuccillo has sitting in a parking lot, build a showcase in part of that space while making sure it’s still attached to the existing mall.

4. This is a different type of thing, but it’d be what’s needed. I’d give not only the new residents but the existing residents a tax break. New residents would get 10 years while the existing folks would get 5. Destiny got a major tax deal that should be offered to other malls, and I think Great Northern could benefit from something like that.

That’s all I have for now, just to get started. I’m not sure if it’d be feasible but they’re ideas anyway. Do you have any ideas you think could help, or are you resigned to just closing another mall and leaving Destiny as the one and only place in the area?  

5 Takeaways From The Asia Food Market In Syracuse

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I’m going to own up to this right from the beginning. This is written from the viewpoint of someone who admits he’s not used to a lot of things. It’s kind of a tongue in cheek review of the new Asia Food Market on Erie Boulevard. I say that because I can’t actually review it, since… well… it’s easier to just have you read what I’m going to write below, which might explain it all. Five takeaways; let’s begin.

20150712_1605451. The first thing you notice is the “scent”. That’s a nice way of putting it. I walked through the doors and… wow! I wasn’t expecting that I must admit. I knew after a few seconds that it was the smell of fish; what kind of fish I couldn’t tell you since I’m not that kind of connoisseur. After about a minute I got used to it; I think we all learn how to do that, especially if we had parents that smoked at some point.

2. Forget recognizing most things. I immediately knew I was out of my element. When I first walked through the doors I recognized half of the produce to my right. Directly in front of me were different types of Asian sauces. The only reason I know this is because some of the names I knew from Wegmans… just not a lot of them.

The thing is, since it’s an Asian market most everything you see is in some kind of Asian script. I used to speak Japanese as a child but I never learned how to read it. Thus, I couldn’t tell you if I was looking at Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, or anything else. I wouldn’t have even known what to ask for.

3. They serve food… but… Back in the mid 2000’s, I was walking around Chinatown for the first time when I saw what my mind interpreted as “dinosaurs” hanging in the windows. I figured out later that those were either chickens or ducks; I was never curious enough to get close.

Well, I had my opportunity on my visit here and… as soon as I saw whatever it was hanging by its neck I dropped my eyes and not only couldn’t look, but I couldn’t even contemplate eating anything there. That’s definitely a stupid American sensibility but I’m one of those people who won’t eat anything that looks like the animal it is. Therefore, I can’t even tell you what else they might have had on the menu.

20150712_155822What I do remember though was looking at a couple of the desserts. I remember the Hello Kitty cake, which is in the picture here, and what looks like those colorful macaroons I’ve seen on Instagram. I’ve always said I wanted to try one of those but after seeing the hanging bird… totally left my mind.

4. There are way more types of rice than what I ever knew. My original intention for going was because I wanted to buy whatever type of rice they use in Chinese restaurants to make their fried rice with. I was hoping that something would stand out and say “buy me”.

Instead, what I found was there’s at least 50 different varieties of rice, and that was just on the shelves in front of me. Goodness, my knowledge of rice is so limited! And almost all of them were in an Asian script, so I didn’t have a chance. I also didn’t want to be “that guy” who walked over to one of the folks working there and asking them the question… that not only didn’t seem proper, but I had a feeling that either I might not be understood or that I’d be given lots of different choices… then what would I have done?

Just to add this, not everything was written in some kind of Asian language, but based on what some things turned out to be I wish they were. Frankly, I’m thinking that if someone had been filming me they’d have enjoyed the facial double-takes I had with a lot of things. Such a stupid American…

5. The last thing that kind of shocked me isn’t that there were more than just Asians in there… though not lots. What shocked me was the number of Africans. I kept wondering if they knew how to read Chinese or Japanese or just recognized certain things. I’d say at least 25% of the customers that were there when I was were African.

Also, much different than Americans, I hardly heard any of them speak, even when there were more than 2 of them together. Goodness, I talk to myself whenever I’m in a store, and two or more of us together… there’s hardly any shutting us up! lol

I had no expectations going in other than I thought it might be kind of exotic. I guess that part is true. I can’t see myself going back, not even for the macaroons, unless one day I have a specific yearn for something. However, I’m thinking I might need to know what that something is first.  

“Would You Rather” Book Tag Tour – My Version

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Well, I guess I started it locally so now I’m going to do another one of these. The previous challenge of this type was called the Creative Blogger Award Challenge, and I included some local bloggers into the next version of the challenge. One of them took it up, Mark Bialczak, and now he’s turned the tables on me to do this one.

books002The tour’s task is to answer the questions below and then tag five other bloggers. Truthfully, it touches upon something I like, which is reading and books, so I’m thinking this should be a bit of fun; who doesn’t like fun? Since I already know two people I’m going to tag, I have some time to kill by answering these questions first. Here we go!

Would you rather only read trilogies or only read standalones?

I like standalone books but with a caveat. I love series because I like learning about a character and seeing that same character, or groups of characters, popping up in lots of books. It’s probably why I love the Harry Potter books so much; each book is a standalone but refers back to things that happened in previous books. The same goes for many of my favorite fictional characters. I like standalone books also, but not having to start all over in learning something about a main character is quite nice.

Would you rather only read male or female authors?

Nope! Hmmm, I guess I should say something more so I’ll just say that in the genre’s I like to read I’ve been impressed by both male and female writers. Once you get into them, most of the time you have no real idea which gender is writing the books. Well, maybe not when it comes to Janet Evanovich but come on, Stephanie Plum is great!

Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?

I’m a loyal B&N fan I must say. I love going to the bookstore and looking at all types of books. I never know what I’m going to walk out with and it might be outside of a genre I usually stick to. With Amazon, you’re usually looking for something specific. Sure, there are tons more choices online but it’s not quite the same as holding a book in your hands.

Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?

Wow, this is a tough one. Back in the day I’d have said TV without batting an eye. As I get older and don’t like watching TV I’d like to vehemently say movies, but I have to hold back a little bit.

The problem with TV is the stops and starts and commercials. The problem with movies is that, if you loved the book, you’re going to question why the director left this or that out, and sometimes they go in a totally different direction that leaves your head spinning.

In the end I’d have to lean towards movies I suppose…

Would you rather read only five pages per day or five books per week?

I’d rather read five pages a day if I had to do something on a consistent basis. Depending on the book, it could take 45 minutes or 5 hours to get through. I’d have the 45 but not the 5 hours every day, even if I was independently wealthy, since only reading books all day would soon feel like an unpaid job.

Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?

Professional author in a heartbeat! Heck, I’ve written the equivalent of 3 books now and around 5,000 articles. Some of them have been reviews but I hate the analysis part and the having to be critical part. Sometimes I think critics think they have to always look for the worst in something, only to have the buyers make they look bitter.

Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?

Kindling beats KindleCreative Commons License Matt Brown via Compfight

I’d rather be a bookseller. That way, I could always pull out new books and, once sold, not have to worry about their condition again, let alone chase people down who didn’t bring them back.

Would you rather read only your favorite genre, or every other genre but your favorite?

Whew, that’s a tough one since I like a lot of different genres. However, if I had to give up my favorite genre then reading might not be fun anymore so I’d rather stick with my favorite at all costs. Man, I’d miss those Star Trek books… sigh…

Would you rather only read ebooks or physical books?

I have to admit that I love the ease and convenience of ebooks, something I never thought I could get into. Yet, when all is said and done, if I could store every book I ever bought and keep them all safe I’d rather have the physical books. I’m glad this question didn’t consider recorded books though. 😉

And now, time to name some folks. The first two are easy; the rest… let’s see who I come up with:

Holly Jahangiri, who started the original trouble with me on the first challenge, is getting named to this one because she’s an author and loves to write and read; her blog is called It’s All A Matter Of Perspective;

Krystal Thomas, my niece who loves books and writes reviews of them on her blog Krystalized;

Josh Shear, who reads a lot of books but writes on a bunch of different things. His blog is named after him;

Brian D. Hawkins, although I’m not sure where to link him (he came & gave me a link, which is below). His primary blog is about blogging, and he’s got a blog where he reviews books but that’s considered a business blog for him. I recently found another site of his that might work but I’m not totally sure. In any case I’m going to mention him and let him know, and if he decides to participate I’m sure he’ll let me know which site to link to.

This last one is even a bigger wild card but I need 5 right? I’m naming Phil Phren, who writes Still Racing In The Street. He’s more of an activist type and writes more about local things but he’s been known to go off the grid, especially where it concerns Bruce Springsteen. So, maybe…? lol

Whew, that was work! The last part, not the early stuff. Now we get to sit back and see what happens…  

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