Now, I don’t usually blog about my personal life…

But this bears announcement:

So my girlfriend Amanda asked a few months ago that I paint for her something similar to the paintings that I’ve done that hang in my condo. For her painting, I chose a picture of a bridge that I had taken last May when I traveled with her family to Bellville, Ohio. (The place where her parents grew up.)

Now, we’ve been dating for quite a while now, so I thought that I would use this opportunity to include a hidden message that I’ve been meaning to ask now for a few months. I hid the message in the painting using a yellow highlighter. It’s invisible to look at, but when exposed to a black light, the message glows like this:

So several Fridays ago we had planned a weekend getaway to visit friends outside of Atlanta. Amanda took a half day off from work that day to get ready, I left work early to set the stage. I had to get her out of her house somehow, so I called her and asked her to go run an errand for me, which she happily obliged. I went into her house, put the painting on her mantle. I replaced the lamps in the sconces that are on either side of the mantle with black light bulbs.

She came home surprised to see me there, but amazed to see her new painting on the wall. I told her that there was more to it than just the painting. We turned on the light, and we started to decipher the message:

Because of the light in the room, I had to reveal the message one word at a time. (It’s more dramatic that way.) We started reading it… she stopped me when we got through “Amanda, will you…” and said, “WILL I WHAT?!?!.” (Needless to say, she was surprised.) I told her we should just keep reading…

We got to the end of the message, I got down on my knees and repeated the question. She said yes!

Slate.com loves me.

I early voted on Saturday at the Green Hills Library, and as I was leaving a man approached me. He looked out of place, like he was campaigning for some Green Party candidate. My initial response was to say, “I’ve already voted, sir.” Turns out he was a reporter for Slate.com, asking folks about their vote in the US Senate race. I explained my contrarian ways, he said that I was the “perfect Slate.com reader.” Here’s how I was quoted:

On the other hand, Tim Morgan, a 30-year-old architect, says he wants the Democrats to take over the Senate. Even though “Ford is depending on me to vote for him,” Morgan says, he can’t pull the trigger–he thinks Ford’s family history is shady, and he finds him a little too packaged. He voted for Corker.

Yes, I know that’s a passive aggressive way to vote. My problem with Ford is that you don’t get elected to Congress at 26 without some sort of special circumstances in place, and the current shenanigans in the 9th district House Race show that those special circumstances are still in play. Of course, Corker was the only Republican that I would have vote for, so at least from my perspective the Republicans made the correct choice. I still harbor a lot of resentment for Ed Bryant from the Clinton Impeachment, though I’m sure he’s a good guy. Coker’s a good guy, too, though it is hard for an architect to vote for a contractor. (And I actually voted for two contractors named Bob.) Chattanooga was already a great place to be before he was mayor, but the biggest reason for me to vote for him was his role in founding Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, a non-profit finance organization that provides low interest loans to promote home ownership in Chattanooga. I worked with this group in college, they are good folks.

For the record, I also voted for the Incumbent, the blogger, I skipped the House race (she’s unopposed), No, and No. I voted for the procedural Metro amendments, but against the property tax referendum.

Sort of related, but on my mind: One thing that bothers me about the new electronic voting machines is that when you enter the precinct you give your voter registration card to a person sitting at a computer. He then looks you up online, and prints out a paper that you sign, giving a paper record that you’ve voted in this election. Then you go over to the electronic, proprietary voting machine, choose your selections, and hit confirm. So there’s a paper record that you’ve voted, but not any paper record of who you voted for. I’m all in favor of the electronic voting to speed election returns, but without some sort physical auditable record of how the votes were cast, how can we know that the results are correct?

I muttered this to the guy at the computer, but he just ignored me.

Inspired by the Funkenswine…

The Printed Instructions

I haven’t been very inspired to blog lately, but the post from Monday over at Mothership BBQ has inspired me to cook.

I first followed the good doctor’s instructions on cookware. I went to Hillsboro Hardware Monday afternoon and purchased a 8″ Lodge cast iron skillet. I seasoned it per the manufacturer’s instructions.

The Tools.

Tonight I went to the grocery store and stocked up on all of the ingredients necessary to make the “B3 Filet.” I went to the Publix in Brentwood, because I thought they’d have a better selection of meat than the Kroger at Green Hills. I don’t really know if it was any better, but it did mean that I had to go down every aisle because I didn’t know where anything was.

Next step, I preheated the oven. The good Doctor recommends that you just turn it up to 11 to heat the oven to as hot as it will go, and to not trust the dial as it will be off. The knob on the stove maxes out at 550, but the trusty thermometer on the inside said it was just 500. Reading ahead in the instructions, I noticed that the cast iron skillet should be “good and hot,” so I just left it in the stove while the oven preheated.

Next, filet prep:

Never mind the vanilla extract, that's for another cooking project...

I used olive oil per the instructions, along with salt and cracked pepper. After the oven preheated, I pulled the skillet out and put it on the burner, with the burner turned up to moderately high heat. My pan was already preheated from being in the oven, so I put the steaks in the skillet.

The instructions say, “Chaos should erupt.” What he should have said was, “Unleash Hell.”

Unleash Hell

I expected a bit of smoke, but I didn’t quite know what I was in for. My condo totally filled with a white fog, the kind that thick rich white smoke that elects popes. I left the pan on the stove and went to open the front and back doors to ventilate the house. Abbydog, being the smart dog that she is used this opportunity to liberate herself out the front door, only looking back after she got outside to wonder if she was going to have to pull a Lassie and go ask for help.

Scene from Backdraft

I went back to the stove and coughing madly I wondered what I should do. I put on my oven mitt and grabbed the pan to go outside out of the front door. Luckily none of my neighbors were out to see me, and finally able to breathe again I had an idea. I went back in the house and went out the back door this time, opened up my grill and set the skillet on the grill. I proceeded to flip the steaks and sear them like the instructions indicated.

Abby remains unconvinced that we are going to survive the night.

I went back inside to assess the smoke damage, I went upstairs and grabbed a fan to help ventilate the kitchen.

At this point I realized that even though my house looked like a scene from Backdraft, my smoke detector had not gone off. Remember kids, always remember to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Gift Ideas for Christmas, Perhaps 9 Batteries?

After the smoke cleared, I took the pan back inside and added the butter and the bourbon. (As Meat Loaf once said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”) I had purchased bleu cheese, but in the chaos I had forgotten all about it. I covered the pan and put it in the preheated oven. For those who are interested, I used Maker’s Mark as the second “B,” it’s what I had open.

It's hot, and you need a pool.

After a few minutes, I pulled the steaks out, and this is what I saw:

Steaks on a Pan

I pulled my “side dish” out of the microwave and plated up the steak and twice baked potates. I grabbed a Miller High Life.

15 Dollar Steak, 1 Dollar Sides...

Cutting into the steak, I noticed that it was just perfectly exactly the way I like it.

Never too pink.

Because she was willing to rescue me from my own stupidity, I made sure that Abby got to share in the spoils of victory.

Note tha this is the first time I've ever fed her from the table, mind you.

The night was not without casualties, however.

I only own one oven mitt.

All in all, I have to say that the “Funkenswine B3 B2 Filet” is the best steak I’ve ever cooked at home. But out of full disclosure, I really don’t cook at home all of that often. Of course now that I have better tools, I’ll have to do it more often.

Things I’ve learned in 30 years…

As demonstrated by the “graphical improvement” that my friends and co-workers have orchestrated to this site, today is in fact my 30th birthday. Here’s some things I’ve learned in that time:

  • If you ever have the opportunity to teach someone Photoshop. Don’t.
  • Change passwords regularly. Hourly, if need be.
  • Lock your computer when you’re not using it. In fact, carry it around with you. (Laptop or desktop, it doesn’t matter.) And you probably want to just go ahead and take it home every night.

Thanks, guys!