A Few Tips from our Wedding

Julie and I are married! We had our wedding a few weeks ago here in the Bay Area, and we had a fantastic time. It’s hard to imagine what could go wrong surrounded by friends and family to celebrate, but regardless, we were glad that all of our plans came together so well.

On our honeymoon, we spent a lot of time talking about the experience and musing about what we would do differently for that 2nd time that presumably will never come to pass. Amongst the tons of internet advice available on how to plan a wedding, we came up with a list of a few things that we thought went particularly well or poorly.

As such, this particularly post has been written in long discussion with Julie who deserves credit for the good ideas here.

1. Use Asana and Google Drive.

We dumped proposals, contracts, guests lists, and plenty more into Google Drive to share with our parents. Having a single place to use as reference and share the schedule avoided a lot of back-and-forth and confusion.

Longtime blog readers know my obsession with task management systems, and I definitely wanted it for wedding planning, too. We started with an empty Asana project, brain dumped tasks, never *cough* forget to do something.

2. Check in on your hotel blocks.

When we booked our hotel blocks, the hotel staff had standard block sizes for us with the understanding that it would be adjusted as necessary. Around the wedding, I found out from guests that the hotel where we were holding most peripheral events was apparently booked up, and we had no idea. In retrospect, we should have either checked in directly with the staff or tried booking ourselves.

3. Test out your wedding dress for dancing.

Julie and I hadn’t danced together in the full get-up until about a half-hour before our first dance. This wasn’t a big deal for me, but it was a big deal for Julie. I would recommend increasing that lead time by several orders of magnitude to avoid embarrassing accidents. Specifically, Julie would have tried walking backwards in her wedding dress during shopping and tailoring.

4. Put your guests in touch ahead of time.

For cliques of friends or family, it’s helpful to plan logistics around transportation and lodging if they know who else will be attending. It can be somewhat awkward for potential guests to ask directly (and accidentally inquire a non-invitee), so I just made a big email list and included everyone on it. I thought all of the social events surrounding the wedding went well and was glad to support that in any way possible.

5. Get lots of sleep before the wedding.

The wedding day itself is long, but even before that, we had plenty of guests coming through with whom we wanted to spend as much time as possible. The casualty of all of the excitement, of course, was sleep. The final 2 weeks before the wedding kept us up late with planning, and that time should have literally been work, plan, and sleep with everything else cut out to make more time for those.

6. Plan the cake cutting.

Through almost the entire wedding, we knew what would happen, but even more importantly, we had someone else specifically cueing or directing us on what we needed to do. The one gap was cake cutting: we went over to cut the cake, and suddenly, everyone was looking at us, and we were just supposed to do it. It was not hard, but it was a surprise after following instructions all day. It’s hard to practice, we should have had a plan there.

7. Direct the DJ.

We are very fortunate to have very enthusiastic dancers amongst our friends and family, but not everything is going to work for the crowd. When the dancing was dying down, Julie told the DJ to “play stuff that people know”, and that re-invigorated the crowd.

8. Step back for a moment and take in the wedding.

One of Julie’s cousins gave us this advice during the wedding, and I wish I had followed it. Once I started getting dressed for the wedding, things never really stopped until Julie and I got in the car and drove away. Having everyone gathered together for us was a awe-inspiring thought, but we were so caught up in the action that I don’t think I ever really took it in. That would have been worth the 30 seconds to hang onto that feeling forever.

A photo posted by Nicole Cross (@43rdavephoto) on

My first 2.5 hours of Overwatch

For quite awhile now, my Tuesday night gaming group has been playing Heroes of the Storm, but with the release of Overwatch a week ago and the excitement around that, we decided to give it a shot. We had briefly played Team Fortress 2 maybe a year ago, but it never really stuck, and I was worried that a similar team-based shooter with classes and objectives might fall into the same category. However, I have a few reasons that it might be more popular.

First, I was guessing it might be a short evening of gaming since Overwatch games tend to go between 5 to 10 minutes wheres Heroes games go for 20-30 minutes. However, 2 1/2 hours later, Julie and I determined it was probably time to stop playing for the night.

Second, the Heroes group tends to be relatively static in its appeal. Just from other friends who happened to be online, however, our Overwatch group ended up including, myself and Julie, a high school friend in Dallas, a college friend in Boston, a coworker and his girlfriend in the Bay Area, and my Spawning Tool partner in Florida. I think it has broad appeal.

Third, we actually talked during the match. Tuesday night gaming started with StarCraft, and my biggest gripe with it is that StarCraft is just too intense: no one talks because it requires so much focus to control your base and army. In fact, I think the only less social “group activity” is watching a movie. Heroes requires less focus, has downtime while respawning, and requires coordination, so it’s slightly better. However, Overwatch (at least how we play it) is casual enough that we had plenty of banter in and around matches.

If you have played TF2, you will totally understand how Overwatch works. If you have played any first-person shooter ever, you will mostly understand how Overwatch works. There are 21 characters split into 4 rough categories each with 2-ish special abilities and a basic attack. With that, you run around a map trying to hold certain areas or push a cart along while your team of 6 fights the other team of 6.

The experience of playing the game is extremely smooth: the matchmaking service found our games within about 20 seconds, which is a huge relief coming from queues in Dota 2 or Heroes that can take minutes. After that, the games will just continue from map to map with short breaks and recaps in-between. Maybe this is standard in shooters these days, but I was pleasantly surprised with that the experience around the game. The matchmaking appeared to work quite well as we stomped through our early games but then started running into more balanced and challenging opponents later in the evening.

The game feels like a Blizzard game in that they took an existing genre, stripped away the complexities developed over time, and offer a more elegant experience. Overwatch is to TF2 what Hearthstone is to Magic, or what Heroes is to Dota 2, or what Diablo 3 is to Diablo 2. Some players will lament how Blizzard removed key mechanics that truly distinguish “skilled” players from casuals, but their games just get to the core of what’s fun and does only that. It may not seem right, but at first, but if you imagine that the Blizzard game came first (e.g. Hearthstone was created before Magic), everyone would call the other game convoluted.

Anyways, I think this game will probably be a keeper. I think we will be rotating back and forth with Heroes on Tuesday nights, but if I can control myself from playing for an hour, it’s really fantastic to have a quick, fun game that doesn’t take at least a half-hour to play (like Heroes) or leave me exhausted (like StarCraft). If you want to play, I’ll be around. Just add me on battle.net, and we can play!

How Realistic is “Silicon Valley”?

Earlier this week, I was asked by someone visiting the Bay Area how realistic the HBO show Silicon Valley is. Well, I just checked my site analytics and surprisingly, only 10% of my website visitors live in California*, so I’m going to pretend like the rest of you are deeply interested in my opinion because you don’t have a first-hand account. Also, I will completely avoid spoilers.

First, my credentials are that I regularly bike past the building that is used as the exterior shot for Pied Piper’s office (evidence from Google Maps). I also have been known to complain about some of the technical explanations in the show. Hopefully that’s sufficient proof.

So to answer the question, I would break down my answer into 2 primary parts. First, TV is supposed to be exciting and dramatic, so crazy stuff is happening to the Pied Piper team every episode. In reality, a startup doesn’t go through a potentially fatal problem on a weekly basis with hilarious outcomes that are often resolved in minutes. I criticize Silicon Valley for often resolving issues in a way such that no progress was made, but that actually might be accurate to the roller-coaster that startups can be.

A real startup probably has a handful of absurd events through its entire lifetime that are the stories that get passed around. Think of it like Full House or Everyone Loves Raymond: your family hopefully doesn’t have as much drama as they do, and usually problems aren’t resolved so easily. However, you have some funny stories about your siblings over years of growing up together that you bring out appropriately.

Second, the humor in the show comes from the totally absurd but also kind of familiar. I can’t say I have ever exactly encountered as dry as Gilfoyle or a buffoon like Bachman, but I am definitely familiar with the stereotypes they’re pushing. And there are a lot of interactions between engineers and non-engineers that aren’t quite as broken as on the TV show but seem possible. My usual feeling is that most situations haven’t happened to me exactly, but I could absolutely see it happening.

Overall, I would say that Silicon Valley is realistic and well-researched but obviously dramatized to make good television. As a software engineer, it’s nice to have a show ostensibly about me so I can critique the details of it. Now I understand what it’s like for doctors to watch House, police offers to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or zombie apocalypse survivors to watch The Walking Dead.

One more thing I want to address are the sets and offices. I don’t know what general perceptions are, but that’s definitely what SV tech offices looks like. The food trucks, open office layouts, and drink fridges are quite accurate for companies big and small here. I mention this because maybe a year ago, I read The Circle and looked up book reviews afterwards. Most of the critiques were fair, but I was surprised by the number of people who insisted that the descriptions of the office were totally ridiculous. Out of the anything in the book, I thought that the office descriptions were some of the most plausible details.

Hopefully that gives you more context on the show, and I hope you’re enjoying it. If you’re not watching Silicon Valley, I recommend it both because I think it’s worth the time and because it’s a good way to destress after Game of Thrones. And yes, I am assuming that you’re watching Game of Thrones because everyone is watching it.

*fun fact: in the last month, there are only 2 states from which I have 0 visitors: Alaska and South Dakota.

Baseball is back!

It’s April, and baseball season is back. So far, it has been a mediocre season for the Blue Jays, but it takes more than 1 season of success for me to get too comfortable with high expectations. As such, I remain pessimistic and await a hot streak to become unrealistically optimistic before having my hopes dashed again.

Baseball season comes and goes every year in roughly the same fashion. However, I as a fan will be experiencing this season in a very different way. Thanks to a winning project at the Baseball Hack Day, I got a free subscription to mlb.tv premium, so I can watch or listen to any tv or radio broadcast for any out-of-market games. As such, it is actually beneficial that my favorite team is located across the country because the games are never blacked out.

So far, I have watched parts of maybe half of the Jays games this season, and I think that might already put me above the total I have watched in any past season. When I was growing up, I mostly followed baseball in the newspapers and listened to Astros games on the radio. When I moved to college, I picked up the Baseball Today podcast. After I stopped listening to the podcast, I caught clips and read online. However, never through any of that was I consistently watching games. Now, I come home and can watch the games on my iPad or Apple TV.

Continuing my shameless plug, the At Bat app is quite good. The UI is easy to use, and the streaming works reliably. Past that, there are lots of fancy features like stats and split-screen, but really the important part is being able to carry the game around with me into the kitchen to have on in the background while cooking. Even if the Jays game is done, I have been watching other games as well. Particularly, I have found myself following a lot of Mets and Cubs games as I try to follow the favorites. So far, I coincidentally have caught every Jake Arrieta game. He’s having a great season.

I’m glad to be able to share baseball with Julie as well. Most of my passion for baseball has been expressed indirectly through memories of plays that happened years ago. Instead, it’s much easier to sit down, watch a game, and discuss the in-game decisions and see the different types of pitches one after another. Baseball is often criticized for being a very slow game, but it has actually been quite nice because we can watch the game passively and tune in every once in awhile between whatever else we’re doing.

Over the years, I have wondered how my life would be different if I actually lived in Toronto, went to a lot of games, spent the time watching games, and actually followed the team. It turns out that it didn’t take nearly that much effort to get engaged with the team again. Baseball is a long season, and hopefully I make good use of my subscription all throughout.

First Thoughts on the HTC Vive and Virtual Reality

In the last 2 weeks, both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive came to consumers as the newest, fanciest virtual reality (VR) hardware available. Maybe you have had an opportunity to try out VR before, but I get the sense that this is the year and iteration on VR that really has the industry excited. Thankfully, my coworker Chris happened to pick up the HTC Vive and brought it into the office for all of us to try it out.

I will repeat the same thing you will hear from everyone else that explains nothing: you have to try it to understand how cool it is. I started out by playing Space Pirate Trainer, a game where Space Invaders-like drones float around you, and you have 2 blasters to shoot all of them down. The game has a few interesting mechanics, such as a shield you can “grab” off of your back, various blaster settings, and a Matrix-like bullet time to help dodge drone shots. Continue reading First Thoughts on the HTC Vive and Virtual Reality

Making a Wedding Registry

I have been telling people that making a wedding registry is a lot of fun: you get the joy of shopping without the pain of actually paying for anything. However, it hasn’t been a senseless shopping spree for Julie and me, and it has required far more deliberation than I had initially thought.

We started assembling our registry a few weeks ago when Julie created a shared Reminders list on our phones. Despite already owning plenty of single-function kitchen equipment, I always have my eye on something else. For example, I needed to fill an Amazon order a few weeks ago and ended up getting a shrimp deveiner. You might think that a pairing knife would suffice, but I have spent many afternoons deveining piles of shrimp to make won ton. As such, this icicle-shaped piece of plastic could change my life as much as a banana slicer or cherry pitter has.71PfUYplvrL._SY355_

The first pass on the registry was easy: I had wanted an ice cream maker for a long time. And a cookie dough scoop. And a cake carrier. And plenty of much more obscure equipment. Although I could only marginally justify purchasing these things myself, it was easy to ask for them knowing we were filling out a registry.

We drove out to the mall and walked through Williams-Sonoma and Crate and Barrel to work on our registry. I feel like a child in a toy store when I’m in Williams-Sonoma: I see lots of things that I want but can’t reasonably get. It’s really easy to see measuring cups and want new measuring cups but hard to get rid of old measuring cups. Knowing there was no cost to it, however, our registry quickly filled up to a few dozen items.

After that, the registry sat unattended on our phones for several weeks. I think we knew that the tough work was ahead and liked the idea of the registry more than actually composing it. It’s easy to want a cookie dough scoop: it’s harder to figure out exactly which of the 3 models of cookie dough scoops is best and will ultimately be the best choice for us.

Two or three weeks ago, Julie actually created the registries online, and we started working through it. I had my “America’s Test Kitchen” cookbook out to the equipment guide section and The Sweethome open on another tab. Thankfully, other, more talented and patient people have tested and rated the quality of many items to find the very best anything. With them at hand, I know which one is the sharpest or which one is the easiest to clean. Some items were easy to pick: there is apparently 1 Bundt pan to buy, and the stores carry it. Some required some effort, such as the Peugeot pepper mill, which is available but comes in a variety of sizes and colors. Others, like the electric kettle, came with suggestions unavailable where we were registering. In those cases, was it even worth registering if we could get the best one?

There has been a surprising amount of soul-searching in creating the registry as well, especially compared to other wedding decisions. Luckily, Julie and I have either been on the same page or disproportionately invested in other wedding decisions. We have split the work on researching different vendors and then picked the best one in a reasonable process.

On top of registry items for new kitchen gadgets, registries often contain replacements for existing items, and those existing items may have emotional attachments for some people. I can comfortably say that accusingly because I have been the problem in our registry. As we ticked down the list of items to register for, Julie innocently mentioned everyday china. At the thought of not using the Corelle plates and bowls that I had grown up using and then selfishly taken from my parents, I immediately became defensive and began rationalizing with Julie why we should keep them.

Julie was taken aback by my emotional response to some lightweight, microwavable plates and bowls, but she did relent after a series of baffling (to her) conversations. That, however, only eliminated one decision, and we next looked deeper into the wide world of fine china and silverware. Unlike functional kitchen tools where you can determine the best model measuring a series of objective measures, china is quite subjective, with which I am of only limited use. Best of luck to Julie with that.

We’re almost done with the registry, and I’m looking forward to having that figured out. I thought it was just going to be a big shopping spree, but we have had to think much harder than that. Although most wedding decisions are one-time choices for a single day, registry gifts may follow us for the rest of our lives. If we don’t make the right choice now, I might die a little every time I try to grate parmesan over the next 60 years.

That’s a big decision that, in some ways, probably matches the significance of marriage much more strongly than most wedding decisions. Not only am I committing to Julie for the rest of my life, I’m also committing to this microplane zester for the rest of my life, though that’s more because I’m too cheap to replace it. At least with the registry, we can make independent choices on specific items to optimize the whole registry in a tractable manner. In picking each other, we’re each kind of a package deal: if Julie wants my vegetable chopping ability, she will also have to accept the subpar dish cleaning job.

I can’t speak for her, but I’m more than happy with that.

Ice Cream Memories

A few weeks ago, the hair on Julie’s cello bow fell off. We found a luthier in San Jose and drove the 25 minutes to an unfamiliar part of town. Seeing the matching address, I pulled forward into street parking directly in front of the shop and the Mexican restaurant next door. The luthier shop itself was a remodeled house built decades ago: violins and viola lined the walls of what once must have been the small living room and dining room.

Altogether, our visit was quick, and we were told to come back in a few days to pick up the repaired bow. Normally, we would have headed straight home, but we saw a vintage-looking Foster’s Freeze on the block on our drive in and decided to treat ourselves to some ice cream.

Took the picture from the car while driving away
Took the picture from the car while driving away

After we ordered and paid for our ice cream, the owner asked if we wanted “one more for the cello” as he pointed at the case on Julie’s back. We laughed, then took the raspberry cheesecake twister he handed us to sit down and eat.

If you’re unfamiliar with the twister, you’re not. It’s soft serve ice cream with a mix-in flavor, like butterfingers or M&Ms. They’re also known as McDonald’s McFlurry or Dairy Queen’s Blizzard. Whatever you call it or whoever makes it, it’s delicious, thick enough to be turned upside down, and comes in sizes larger than any single person should eat. Somehow, combining soft serve ice cream with chocolate bars is exactly as good as it should be.

Most of my Blizzard consumption came on summer road trips with my family. I can’t tell you where any single Dairy Queen is, but I can guarantee you that I could one by driving on a highway for an hour anywhere in the US between 2 big cities. We never considered getting hot food at DQ: it was always about the ice cream, and the blizzards specifically, at that. There are too many flavors for me t confidently have a favorite, but I was always trying something new and hoping that my sisters got something different as well to try.

Even outside of road trips, ice cream was always important in my family. My grandpa kept ice cream in his basement deep freezer for my weekend visits after doing dim sum. He only had the universally derided wafer cones, but I couldn’t complain about a vehicle for ice cream. Once, he got maple ice cream instead of the usual vanilla: it sounds delicious now but apparently didn’t pass muster for 5 year old Kevin. When I performed the rare act of rejecting ice cream, he ended up eating it himself on the patio while I played in a kiddie pool in the backyard.

My other grandparents were big ice cream fans: they had blocks of Chapman’s ice cream their freezers everywhere they went. We would have defrosted slices of cake with ice cream on top. I think they enjoyed it just as much as I did, and I hope they kept the habit even without grandchildren around. Still, they knew that was an easy way to please and share something with us .

My mom also regularly got us ice cream at the mall. I always got SuperKid ice cream at Laura Secord, and we probably covered the 32 flavors at Baskin-Robbins, too. I can’t remember if she got ice cream, too: I hope so. Even now, we still talk about ice cream. A lot of plans are still up uncertain for when my family comes out to the bay area in a few months, we all agree that the Kitchen Sink is a must.

I don’t know many people without allergies who don’t like ice cream, and given how much children enjoy it, ice cream is an easy love to share between generations. Food is a very common way for families to show how much they care, whether it be that warm chicken noodle soup or those soft chocolate chip cookies. Even within food, however, ice cream has a special place: it stays when generations change ethnic cuisines or health diets or just different preferences. It is shared both in the home kitchen and outside to the local ice cream parlor, or in my case, the Dairy Queen in the middle of nowhere, USA. The diversity of flavors makes it both flexible to tastes and enduring as an idea. And it’s something that we can pretty much always use to return to childhood memories.

Of course, it isn’t always the same thing. Last week, Julie and I went to the mall, and I had Dippin’ Dots for the first time.

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I had seen them in malls countless times before and had always been curious. Julie gave a good explanation for why she (and I) didn’t like them: one of the best qualities of ice cream is how smooth and creamy it is. Dippin’ Dots are definitely not smooth and creamy. Even so, I found myself desperately trying to scoop up the last of the melted syrup at the bottom of the cup when I finished.  Ice cream is still ice cream and has some essence that can take you back to other serving you have ever had.

My Super Bowl 50 experience

As hopefully all of you know, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 24-10 at Levi’s Stadium. As a football fan living here in the Bay Area where Levi’s Stadium is located, I got to experience in the game in a few different ways.

First, I saw the Bay Area as a resident annoyed at the effect of tourism. We were warned that millions would be descending upon the city and that traffic and public transit would be problematic. To be honest, however, I didn’t really notice much of a difference as my daily life doesn’t seem to intersect with the public very much.

Second, I saw the Last Monday, I headed up to Super Bowl City, a few blocks of downtown San Francisco taped off for a bunch of booths and free concerts for the public. On the evening I went up, it was relatively chilly, and there wasn’t a concert going on. As such, most of the activity was centered around modular buildings for companies such as Kaiser Permanente, Verizon, and Intel. Most of the things worth doing, however, had relatively long lines that we weren’t patient enough to wait for. Overall, it wasn’t a particularly interesting experience, but I’m glad I went since I would have regretted not seeing it.

Third, I saw the game like any good US resident: at a Super Bowl party. One of my co-workers helpfully “volunteered” his place to host, and we prepared the usual array of chips, frozen pizzas, chicken wings, and other generally unhealthy game snacks. Somehow, the Super Bowl has ended up being one of the great, annual American culinary events alongside Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. However, it is unique in my mind because I don’t think about elevating it with creative recipes or “good” food, per se. I would rather just eat the same bags of chips and bake frozen foods.

I also paid attention to the important parts of the game by taking my bathroom break while the Panthers were on offense so I didn’t miss any commercials. I generally enjoyed the commercials this year: it seems like they have cleaned up a lot of the most outrageous ads, and they generally seem to do fun ads now. I think my favorite commercials were the avocados in space and the prius getaway car. I also really enjoyed the half-time show.

Fourth, I saw the game like a football fan. Specifically, I watched as a fantasy football team owner who wasn’t really rooting for either team but wanted to see a good game. And for a defensive struggle, it was a surprisingly good game. Most defensive struggles end up being quite boring while nothing really happens as both teams stop each other. This game, however, had 7 fumbles and 2 interceptions for a totally wild ride.

Few, singular events end up affecting me in so many ways, but the Super Bowl really has its own culture around it far beyond what happens on the field itself. Like Game of Thrones, I see it as something big enough that it’s worth participating just because everyone else is. So regardless of whether you got a 4-faceted experience like me or if you were rooting for the winning or losing team, at least we all share something to talk about this week.

Farm Fresh to Me

You may or may not have noticed that I never really concluded my dinner table tournament. Despite my claim to be good at maintaining commitments and projects, I definitely stopped well short of goal to cover all of the options. I did, however, make it slightly further than my blog would indicate because Julie and I did end up trying a CSA about 6 months ago, so here’s my extremely belated post about it.

Farm Fresh to You

Farm Fresh to You is a community supported agriculture provider. The idea is that consumers can cut out the grocery store middleman and get produce directly from local farms. There are various schemes of how it works, but the basic setup is that I, as a consumer, pay a farm, and they send me shipments of whatever they’re current growing on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Many people have opinions about the benefits or issues with this, but I was interested in trying it primarily for 2 reasons. First, I would get better, fresher, riper produce. The story goes that produce at the grocery store has to be picked early so that it will not rot en-route before getting to the consumer. Since CSAs cut out that step, the produce can be picked at perfect ripeness. Second, I would get different stuff. I like the novelty of eating, cooking, and cooking with different things. When I go grocery shopping, I will naturally tend to buy produce that I know how to use and how to cook with. With a CSA, I would be forced to use whatever showed up and, as a consequence, try new things.

We ended up signing up at a booth during a community event in downtown Mountain View. Although I could tell that they guy was going through his sales shtick, I felt okay going along since we intended to try a CSA anyways. He got us a discount for our first couple boxes, and in the end, each bi-weekly shipment was somewhere in the range of $30-40.

Delivery

Our box showed up early Friday morning, so we opened it up over breakfast and discussed our options.

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The mix included a few different types of fruit, 2 types of peppers, 2 types of grapes, some greens, tomatillos, and a few other items I can’t identify several months later. Overall, we were quite satisfied with the variety and set about planning how to use everything.

Preparation

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Prior to that day, I could not have told you what was in green salsa. Maybe just green bell peppers? It turns out that green salsa is mostly just tomatillo with something spicy (peppers) in it. We found a recipe for green salsa, and it turned out great. The fresh salsa listed on the same page was not good. I would not recommend that. But the roasted salsa was good, and I definitely learned why I should be less impressed with the salsa options at Mexican restaurants.

The peppers ended up as fajita vegetables for fajita night.

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and we also roasted and sauteed the other vegetables for another meal.

I'm pretty sure we got those potatoes in the box, too. I forgot about those, I think.
I’m pretty sure we got those potatoes in the box, too. I forgot about those, I think.

The butter lettuce ended up as part of our salads. I sadly realized a long time ago that I didn’t know how to make good salads. I think I leaned too much on vegetables (all bitter) without balancing it out. With Julie’s guidance, we stepped up our salad with apple, dried cranberries, blue cheese, and candied nuts.

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The Followup

Given just the text above and the pictures, you might have been led to believe that we had a good experience with it. You would be correct. We liked the CSA enough that we got another 4-5 boxes.

Unfortunately, I don’t think a box ever went that well again. We got the first box on a signup promotion, so subsequent boxes ended up with much less in them. We also noticed that they often were filled with less exciting staples, like onions and green lettuce, which didn’t really taste any better to us than what we got at the grocery store. Because it was just produce, we ended up having to go to the grocery store anyways to fill out our meals for a week.

The final realization, however, came when I went shopping the day after receiving a box and seeing a few of the more unusual items at the Milk Pail. I walked through the store and tallied up the cost of buying an equivalent amount and realized that I would come out far ahead doing my own shopping–which I do anyways. I immediately added a task for myself to cancel my subscription, which took probably another month because I had to call in during work hours to do it, and I’m bad at completing tasks that require phone calls during work hours.

Overall

I had a good experience with Farm Fresh to You. I have realized that I enjoy the process of cooking, and a CSA mostly lets me do that. However, I think I am mostly spoiled to have the Milk Pail just down the street from me, where I can get cheap, local, fresh produce. In the end, the CSA just provided me the convenience of delivering a few of the same items at a premium, and that wasn’t worth it to me.

Here are my rankings:

  1. Blue Apron
  2. Farm Fresh to You (CSA)
  3. HelloFresh
  4. Munchery
  5. Plated

You may be surprised to see the CSA not first despite it being the closest to my normal pattern. Were normal home cooking not an option, it would be first, but I think that I would be more likely to mix Blue Apron into my meals than the CSA.

There’s a chance I will continue the Dinner Table Tournament in the future, but in the spirit of sunsetting responsibilities for my New Year’s Hopes, I think I will declare it done. I will probably continue to blog about food, but it will likely be in a far less structured format.

This post is part of the Dinner Table Tournament where I pull Julie along my need for novel experiences in “staying in” dinner options to generate blog content. I have not been compensated by Farm Fresh to You for this in any way for this post. Yet.

What I learned from Fantasy Football

A few weeks ago, I finished up the latest fantasy football* (FF) season in 2nd place in my work league and 5th place in my friend league. Having played for 3 seasons, I am mostly past the initial disgust about bad luck and mostly jaded about the entire process. Having gotten this far, though, I do have a few different lessons from the experience.

(*for the uninitiated, fantasy football is a game where a group of people (usually friends) play “games” in a season where, each week, your team’s performance is determined by the statistics of how real-life NFL football players perform (e.g. you get 6 points for a touchdown or points per yards gained). Everyone drafts their team before the beginning of the real NFL season, and over the course of the season, you can trade with other teams, pick up and drop players, and change your lineup week to week. )

1. Actual game knowledge can be very deceiving.

“A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” When you’re on a fantasy football website, there are going to be projections and rankings and all sorts of information to help you make good decisions. I have seen a lot of real football fans (i.e. people who actually watch and follow football and not just fantasy) try to outsmart the predictions with some obscure knowledge, but my experience is that typically, the football-naive (but fantasy savvy) people do better. Maybe you heard that your running back plays really well in sub-50 degree games or saw how fast he makes cuts and should crush a slower set of linebackers: the experts probably know that, too, and that he only plays that way in indoor stadums, and that his left guard still has a lingering injury.I think we tend to overvalue game knowledge in fantasy when rankings have already accounted for those facts.

2. Don’t trust anyone. Trust everyone.

Continue reading What I learned from Fantasy Football