Saturday, March 28, 2009


Why do I scornfully look down upon produce that is made in China at my local grocery store, yet cherish shopping at a Chinese grocery store? Talk about double standards!

What's great about shopping for groceries in New York? Yesterday I was at two Chinese grocers buying stuff for tonight's wedding video gathering dinner. Today, I bought cheese, rice, and cheese bread at a Brazilian grocer, followed by fish from an Ecuadorian grocer, and Peruvian soda and Brazilian juice at my local grocer. :o)

J. Riley, it's gonna be hard to live somewhere where I have to stockpile food in my fridge rather than going shopping for things on a daily basis!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Liverpool is Good For My Health

First of all, the wife has a blog. I suggest you brush up on your Spanish first!

If any of you have had the pleasure of gazing upon my "sleek" upper body (with a hint of jealously, no doubt), you would know that my arms and shoulders are built for typing on a keyboard, not doing push-ups. In fact, I often struggle with doing 10 of them, which is pretty sad. Add on my honeymoon weight to my belly's center of gravity get the idea.

Well, recently I instituted a workout program that coincides with Liverpool's wonderful run of form at the end of this season. Whenever they score, I am so full of adrenaline that I immediately drop down and give them 15 pushups. When it's against a bigger team, I usually can do 20, which is quite a stretch. Well, lately, they have been the top form team in the league, on fire. 4-0 against Real Madrid, 1-4 against Manchester United (!!!), and then this Sunday's game, when they had a chance to go within one point of Manchester United at the top of the table after ManU lost the day before. Not only did they win, but they one emphatically: 5-0! Suffice to say that by the end of the game, my arms were shot - I managed to do 55 pushups over 60 minutes :-o , by far a personal record. If only Liverpool could play everyday, I would look like Mario Lopez...

I'm slowly adjusting to life with a laptop. I am quite happy about being able to clean around my desk now that I've gotten rid of most of the wires that are here and I love that I can hook it up via HDMI to my big screen TV and watch...ahem...borrowed movies. But: Vista sucks. DO NOT UPGRADE TO VISTA! I had to google to figure out how to change the folder settings! In fact, the only benefit that I see is that I can Alt-Tab to the desktop, which is quite handy. Other than that, it is bloated, slow, and full of incompatabilities with iTunes. 4 gigs of RAM should be enough to run Firefox and Thunderbird without the hard drive thrashing as much as it does, it's ridiculous....

J. Riley, you're welcome for the Liverpool update. I know you were all dying to know.... :o/

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Some of you know that I tend to be a bit of an impulsive buyer, especially when it comes to shopping. And even more so when it comes to electronics. I have to admit that the last few years I've kind of fallen behind on the technological curve. I mean, I don't even own a Mac or an iPhone yet, my iPod is a second-generation, 15GB tank (as well as a refurbished Shuffle), and I'm only running 802.11G in my apartment. Sad, I know!

Well, today I put the cranium to work and impulse purchased the dream laptop. That's right, I've joined the masses and have left the desktop computing behind in order to become increasingly mobile. Really, with the amount of traveling I did in my yut, I should have had one for years. I left the desktop behind, indeed: in a pile in the middle of my apartment due to a fried motherboard or CPU. Hmmm....sounds like an intriguing project for the spring might be rebuilding this bad boy into a Linux box to run web-caching and snort traffic on.

I purchased ourselves a Intel Core 2 duo HP laptop running 64 bit Vista Premium and 4 gigs of RAM. Dude, this thing is totally overkill. But for $750, how could I not? It also has a built in HDMI port (crucial for watching streaming Liverpool games on my LCD TV), a built in webcam (hi mom), a monster 320gb hard drive (I was in need of an upgrade from my 80 gigs anyway), DVD burner, media reader, yada yada yada. So far, I am unimpressed with Vista. How the hell can an OS seem slow on a computer like this? Hopefully Windows 7 is an improvement.

But the biggest news is that....drum-rolls please.....I won the lottery!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! $24 million!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well, I assume that I will win it tomorrow because I bought my first lotto tickets today after a vision during my dream last night. In my dream, my dad won $3 billion playing poker with his friends - full house with Aces and 9's. Don't ask me, it was a dream. And then, Erika said her mom had a dream about me and the lottery, so surely that is a sign. After purchasing our laptop, Erika and I proceeded to plan out how we would spend the $24 million that I will win tomorrow and I assure you all that the world will become a better place as a result of this. And we will then be able to afford to buy a Mac laptop (I'd go for the Airbook, personally).

J. Riley, and now I am off to have sweet dreams of writing vows for me and my new laptop.


Things have been a little bit crazy lately, technically speaking. For
the first time in my life, I actually have a computer that has been
fried. Dead hard drive? I've had one. Dead motherboard? I've had one.
Dead computer that involves the pungent smell of burning electronics?
I've got one laid out and dismantled in my apartment. The new
questions is what to do now? Do I rebuild it using questionable items
purchased off the internet, or do I just go buy a new one from Dell
for $270. Or do I purchase a dream of a laptop for $800? Comments are

In other news, Erika and I have been geared up to start apartment
hunting this next month because our apartment management company is
trying to bed us over the barrel and charge us $300 more per month
than what they are offering apartments for new residents. Ex-squeeze
me? Baking Powder? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I live in Astoria and
am already paying more than comparable apartments. I wrote them an
email requesting that they offer me a lower rent and they offered to
freeze my rent for next year, meaning that I would pay only $200 more
per month than what they are offering apartments for new residents. I
don't think so. So I called them up and it sounds like I'm going to
get my way and get them to drop my rent a further $200 per month to
bring it in line with what new residents would pay. Maybe now I can
start saving money for once ;o)!

J. Riley, extra disposable income, no moving expenses, and in need of
a new computer. This will get dangerous...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Something's Suspiciously Amiss

Yesterday, Erika and I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to use one of our gift-cards and something was definitely..."off" there. If you've ever been to a Bed Bath and Beyond in downtown New York City (i.e. the same exact one that I was in), you'd know that this place is amazingly frustrating because it's chalk-full of people, lines out the doors, and people generally not giving a damn about who they run into (typical for the city). Maybe it's the economy, but something was going on there yesterday. We walked in and an employee said "hello" to us. And then the next employee we came across said the same thing. And another. And another. In fact, EVERY worker we came across said "can we help you find something", "good afternoon", etc. Do I look like I'm a gimp or another genetic deformity? What happened to the snarky, stress-inducing attitude in workers? Why aren't they talking on their cell phones to their friends about the latest gossip and instead are helping customers? It was quite eery, seriously. I asked the checkout guy "What happened today, why are people so friendly?" and he said, "We're always like this". you're not. But keep it up!

J. Riley, the first time I haven't been stressed in the place that is heaven for the wife.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Wedding Blog: Wedding Day

The day I was to be married, Saturday, February 14th, 2009, I woke up in the middle of the night in a deep sweat. Was I sleepless, tossing and turning in bed, nervous about the wedding? No, what woke me up was the sounds of my roommate tossing his cookies in the bathroom. I felt really bad for him at that time and checked to make sure he was going to survive at least through the wedding. And the room, despite the fan being on, had no air circulation whatsoever, so it was hot as hell. Another big "plus" for the hotel we were staying at :o/ . I quickly fell back asleep, however, once Stefan confirmed that he was feeling five pounds lighter and marginally better than when he had gone to bed.

My alarm clock was set to go off at 8:30am and it went off to my annoyance. I got up, took a "shower" (lukewarm water dripping from a "shower head" in the bathroom :o| ), and then headed over to the grocery store to pick up some drugs for Stefan, since I knew it was going to be a rough day for him. I also picked out a cheap twist-off-cap bottle of white wine that would be used as my anesthesia prior to the wedding ceremony.

I was amazed that at this hour in Miraflores, the streets were completely empty and the only people out were the gardners grooming the parks. I was pretty surprised, but didn't think anything else about it since this is also the case in New York City on the weekends. The city doesn't move until noon. This is Latin America, afterall, the clock is on "island time".

Anyway, I got back to the hotel, fed Stefan some cheap South American pills that I hoped would help, and checked the time. It was 7:45am. Son of a bitch. The alarm clock on my cellphone has had a bug since the day I bought it. Even the my 7:00am alarm is set to go off on Monday-Friday only (for work, obviously), it goes off on the weekends as well. Tell me that THAT'S not annoying :o| . So, I had some free time to waste before everyone else got up to go to breakfast.

After piddling around on the computer downstairs, the masses woke up and we went to our Cafe Manolo for breakfast, like we did every day. I felt pretty zen-like that morning, and that was before I started on the bottle of wine, which was opened after breakfast about an hour before the noon ceremony while I was getting dressed. There's no good, plausible reason to feel nervous in front of 150 people while you are getting married in a foreign language when wine is cheap and readily available to any paying customer at the local grocery store. It woked during my civil wedding, and it worked at this wedding as well, so a few glasses (or gulps from the bottle, as in my case) of it before a wedding comes highly recommended from your's truly.

Anyway, the phone rang and I was beckoned downstairs by the photographers. They wanted to go up to my room to take pre-wedding pictures and I said "uuhhhh....that's not a good idea", and not only because my roommate had been throwing up all night. The rooms in this hotel are not what you want plastered as your background through sickness and health until death do you part. Of course, downstairs had an authentic vintage look going on that would work well in the East Village in some hipster cafe (think "DT-UT", New Yorkers), but it was that: authentically vintage. As-in, dark, ratty couches, ancient computer, torn up walls, bad carpet, etc. But still, it was better than the rooms and, in fact, it turned out pretty nice in the pictures. I looked like a British aristocrat in my library or study, so that worked out well.

Somebody was supposed to pick me and my parents up in a black car while the bus was transporting our guests to the church, but I didn't really know who it was going to be, when they were coming, or whether they planned on taking me hostage on my wedding day, but sure enough, a nice fellow came and somehow communicated in Spanish to me that he was there for us (and was going to take us to the church). The bus also arrived on time and everything seemed to be in order. It was almost too efficient and unstressful for me to believe.

When we got in the car, the driver gave me the cue card of the things (in Spanish) I was supposed to say in the church so I had the first cram session that I've had since I graduated from college to try to pronounce the words in front of me, whether I knew what they meant or not ;o) (actually, I did know what they meant; basically the same as in English).

We got to the church pretty early, so we were all just hanging out and trying to stay cool. I wasn't really sure how everything was supposed to proceed, but I figured that our wedding planner should be involved at some point and tell us when to get started. About thirty minutes later, she showed up and quickly threw some flowers on us gentlemen, handed the bridesmaids their boquets, and then got everything started. One of the groomsmen was Erika's cousin's husband that I knew and he was trying to tell me something, but I kept telling him to go talk to the wedding planner because he needed his flower. It turns out that two of the bridesmaids didn't turn up on time, and he was trying to tell me (I think) that he didn't need a flower since his bridesmaid partner wasn't there. Of course, I didn't realize that this was the case until he and Stefan walked down the aisle together, mano-y-mano sans bridesmaids.

So the wedding ceremony music started while I was chilling down at the first pew, enjoying the lingering effects of the two cups/gulps of white wine I had drank two hours before. Erika had arrived and was quickly ushured down the aisle by her dad, and then it was game on. Naturally, she looked stunning and was more nervous than me, but that might have been the wine. She ever whispered to me during the ceremony, "Haines, you smell like alcohol". Who, me? ;o)

The ceremony went as ceremonies go, which was good considering the words that I had to read from the priest were actually DIFFERENT than my cue card had been. That could have been bad if he hadn't held the book up for me! I followed Erika's lead with the whole standing up, sitting down, standing up, kneeling down that is involved in Catholic churches. The only awkward part was that he pronounced us man and wife and I thought I got to kiss her then. But then he kept talking and I asked Erika, "Wasn't I suppsed to kiss you?" She thought I was supposed to as well, but the priest kept talking and I was thinking how strange it would be to have a wedding ceremony without that pinnacle moment. A few minutes later, the priest said something, Erika grabbed me and said, "Kiss me!" and that was that!

After the wedding, we had personal pictures and were congratulated by everyone outside the church. One unfortunate thing is that I had gotten a new pair of glasses the week before that didn't tint when I was outside in order to show off my beautiful blue eyes (not!) and not have wedding photos with moderately-tinted "Hello, I'm Justin and I am a child molestor" glasses. This worked out well, except that it was like 1:00pm in the middle of the summer, and the sun was BRIGHT! Unfortunately, in some of the pictures, there is a hint of grimace on my face: Not because I now had a ball-and-chain, but because of the sun that was scorching my retinas. Sun glasses would have been a good idea, I guess....

Then, it was off to our Benz to whisk us away for some pictures. It was nice and and cool inside there and we found a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us, which was a wonderful touch and definitely appreciated in order to hydrate us for the long photo sessions in a nearby park and in the photographers studio before we got to the reception. We didn't get there until almost three o'clock though, so people were eating, drinking, and being merry (especially Erika's best friend, who was righteously sauced beyond recognition when we got there and throughout the whole night. Well done! :o) by the time we arrived.

We did our wedding dance (a Waltz that we got one and a half steps into before we gave up), danced with relatives, sisters, mothers, etc, (during which we fended off Erika's best friend from interrupting) and toasted each of the tables with champagne before we got to sit down to eat something, with a plate of food magically put on my table setting by some unknown persons. I scarfed down my food (which was surprisingly good for a buffet) and enjoyed being at the center of attention for the rest of the night. I don't remember the exact order of things, but we:
  1. ...had Erika's 9-year-old cousin perform a Marinara dance or two for us with her dance partner. She competes nationally in this dance and it's unbelievable that kids can dance like this!
  2. ...danced to Latin music all night (all-good, despite my requests for some gringo and samba music).
  3. ...brought out "cotillon" (costume hats, ties, balloons, etc.) when people started getting tired, which made the party CRAZY on the dance floor.
  4. ...busted out Cuban cigars (thanks Stefan) that I had a few puffs on before it got handed on to someone else for the rest of the fire (Faryn maybe?).
  5. ...dealt with intoxicated bridesmaids trying to take advantage of Stefan in his feeble state.
  6. ...had great interaction between Peruvians and gringos, especially at the end of the night when my sisters and her friends started drinking one-liter glasses of beer :o)
  7. ...unfortunately had the music shut off at about 9:30 because we were at a private residence and everyone was drunk enough anyway :o)
At the end of the night, there were plenty of stories of drunk debauchery, but due to new restrictions on Freedom of the Press in my household, I think I better hold off on ;o).

Multimedia evidence:
J. Riley, obviously words won't do it justic, but it was a great wedding.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Last night after hitting the gym I hit the grocery store to replenish
my empty refrigerator with random things to eat and I ended up buying
a strange collection of food, none of which goes with anything else. I
mean, I bought sardines and chipotle peppers for crying out loud! I
have never bought those ingredients in my entire life, but I remember
reading something about how sardines are super good for you (I hope)
and also a recipe that had some use for chipotle peppers. I couldn't
remember any other part of the recipe, though :o/ .

Anyway, I also found something that I had a love affair with in
Brazil. Every morning we had a Euro-style breakfast (which is a love
affair in itself) and always had these juices on hand with various
tropical flavors. There was one called "Ades" that was a mix of soy
milk and juice (apple, in the first instance) that I avoided like the
plague. I had experimented with soy milk in the past and was
disappointed that it did not live up to my standards of hot-cereal
lubrication that real milk provides. In addition, I bought some for
Erika recently due to her problems digesting our chemical-laden milk
and it was basically disgusting.

Well, to continue to story, our bounty of cashew juice, passion fruit
juice, etc. continued to deplete before I finally gave in and opened
up the soy milk + apple juice to try it. It had the cloudy, chalky
look that I remember but when I raised the glass and it touched my
lips, it was like pure heaven! It was delicious and while in Brazil, I
started making a mental inventory of our local grocery store trying to
figure out where it would be, but I couldn't identify it and could
only find the vanilla-flavored soy milk which I found disappointing.

Yesterday's trip to the grocery store was going to be a search and
rescue mission for my beloved soy milk + juice and while combing
through the Brazilian section of my grocery store, I was disappointed
to see that while they had the cashew juice, passion fruit, guava,
etc. boxes, they didn't have the soy milk + juice. I went ahead and
bought a box of the Ades juice anyway and this morning when I poured
some in my glass and sat astounded at the cloudy, chalky texture of
the juice, I knew that I struck gold! I'm super stoked that I have
found an integral part of my new daily breakfast.

J. Riley, unfortunately I bought the "fruit punch" style flavor that
is too sweet and is giving me heartburn as I type. I hope the peach
flavor (my favorite) that I'm going to buy tonight doesn't let me
down! Look for Ades in YOUR local store's ethnic food aisle!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wedding Blog: Wedding Eve

All/Most/Some/Few/None of you know that I got married down in Peru a few weeks back. Technically, I was already married at the time, but a proper Peruvian wedding was in order despite May's main-event.

So, down came a group of gringos to attend. Fortunately, Nina and Marcus from Denmark had a trip planned for Peru at the same time as my wedding, thus ensuring that Europe was represented along with the contingent from New York, California, and with the South American representatives from Brazil and a mob of Peruvians from all over the country, we had somewhere around 150 people in attendance.

After a late breakfast at Cafe Manolo in Miraflores, during which Katie managed to offend the entire cast of waiting service by sending back her non-scrambled eggs TWICE (leading to hilarious invisibility on the days thereafter), we climbed aboard the bus we rented in order to provide our guests with a city tour of Lima the day before the wedding. Unfortunately, there was a flight snag (understatement of the trip!) and my whole family missed most of the tour that included cruising around the cliffs and parks in Miraflores, walking around old Barranco and Surco, watching a monk dive off a cliff into the ocean, and fine dining at Sonya's, probably the best ceviche I've ever had in my life. Of course, I think I say that everytime I eat ceviche, but this one was special since it had some live piano music and of course was featured on No Reservations. We ordered way way way too much food there and it wouls have been a shame to see so much of it go to waste were it not for a certain Italian who insisted that every fried item and every ounce of rocoto hot sauce was consumed - much to his chagrin, he later realized. Remember: raw vegetables + gringo stomach = bad; rocoto hot sauce = raw, pureed rocoto (pepper); raw rocoto pureed + gringo stomach = bad. Stefan was exhibit A for this hypothesis.

He came down with a violent case of Tupac Amaru's revenge that was befitting of the last Inca himself later that night, when I had the honor of sleeping in his room (in order to avoid seeing Erika on the wedding day). He was not the only victum, either. Ol' Iron Belly Stefan was joined by Jonathon, Melissa, Summer, Daniel, and Nina in feeling Tupac's wrath on the trip, a terrible consequence of being on location for the wedding. Faryn won the award though by coming down with strep throat the day she arrived in Cusco.

Anyway, after our late lunch, we went back to the hotel to freshen up and gather the rest of our guests who had arrived. Oh, the hotel. Okay, the hotel was horrible. Despite what some people say, it was clearly stated on the wedding website that this was the "discount" hotel. But, shoot, I would have stayed here because the pictures looked great on the website. But the picture didn't show shower heads rusting off and spraying lukewarm water outside the bathroom, holes in the walls big enough for a horse to walk through, toilets that didn't flush, mildewy carpet, water dripping from the ceiling, and, the worst offense possible, a SLOW computer with lethargic internet access. Warning to all the googlers out there: avoid La Casa de Sanchez! The only thing good about it was the location, which really couldn't have been better, but there were nicer places available right next door practically.

After picking everyone else up and "cleaning up" (i.e. changing hotel rooms), the bus took us on an eternal ride to downtown Lima that took probably two exhaust-fume-filled hours to get to. The fumes from the ride were so bad that somehow I got an earache with a lot of pressure when we finally arrived. Two hours later, it was gone. It was horrible, frustrating, and made everyone want to gag, which ruined the mood of lovely downtown Lima at night.

On top of that, it was raining for the second day in a row at night. We called the wedding planner who told us that if it rained, we were pretty much screwed because the wedding tent was already up and they couldn't put the rain cover on after it's already up. Man, we were praying for good weather the next day!

Luckily, the last stop downtown turned out to be great for the guests and kind of changed everyone's mood - mine at least! There are some lighted fountains downtown that are just gorgeous and a lot of fun to visit. It sounds boring, but they really are worth visiting if you going to be in Lima at night. Some of them you can play in if you are a child or child-like (i.e. a certain Italian), though a change of clothes is recommended because it can get chilly when you're drenched in the Lima desert-climate at night.

After this, we headed back to the hotel and dropped off Erika and her mom at the apartment, the last time I saw her before the wedding.

J. Riley, pictures will be linked in the next post