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Years ago, after a long night of acting like a 24 year-old in Chicago, I was tricked by a lawyer into helping our mutual friend move during the winter. While many hilarious things happened that weekend, I remember it most vividly as the first time I saw an igloo. A real igloo like in a cartoon.

It was in the tiny back yard of the walkup we were moving into, and it was the first thing we noticed when unloading the U-Haul. We stopped and stood around it asking each other questions. Who built it? Where did the idea come from? How did the roof work? Was it warm? Later, we would speculate on what our future wives would be like, as young men do, and hope we found partners who would be as interested in igloos as we were.

On 1/13/2011, a blizzard hit Boston and dropped almost a foot of snow on the ground. My office was closed for the day, giving me the first snow day I’d had in years. My friend Jim texted me to see if I had any good ideas for how to spend the day. “We’re building an igloo” I wrote back. And it began.

Without any research or preparation, we trudged out into the mushy gray urban snow and picked up some cardboard boxes from the local grocery store. We headed out to a nearby park and started construction without any real plan. I’d tried to build one years before and failed miserably (I blame the snow quality).

Laying the foundation

We cleared a ring in the park and began making bricks by packing snow into the cardboard boxes. We noticed each successive layer of bricks compacted the lower levels, turning them into a solid ice-like wall. During construction we bumped the walls several times, noticing the increasing toughness throughout the day. Working with freshly fallen snow was definitely a big help.

After setting the foundation down, most of the discussion was focused on the curvature of the wall and forming the roof,  the most difficult part of the construction. The roof was also the most popular topic of discussion for passers-by, who posed for pictures in front of it and told us how awesome it was. We also began building an archway entrance and planned on adding a keystone to hold the arch at about 4 feet off of the ground. This part did not work out well.

It turns out architects since the beginning of time had been using the concept of an inverted caternary arch (Wikipedia) in building construction. A caternary is basically a parabola-shape where the bricks all lean against one another and somehow the whole thing stays up. In an igloo, the bricks successively bend more and each ring holds up the one above it (in theory).

Walls beginning to curve in

We stacked successive bricks closer to the center and got the walls to bend somewhat. The right side curved too quickly and collapsed a few times in the process. After about 5 hours of work, we called it a night when we finally managed to close the archway and get a few more bricks onto the top layer. The roof ended up with a sizeable hole and we felt it was incomplete, but then again we were exhausted.

Roof viewed from below

After breaking for dinner, we returned to the site and found someone’s spraypainted graffiti tag inside. I would have preferred something more imaginative than random letters, but it gave the igloo some character.

Here are some pics of the final construction – it’s not bad for a first try and we definitely learned some ways we can improve the process. For one thing, we could have bought a contraption that helps build perfectly-sized bricks in half the time (link).

The front view

The side view

The final structure was not perfect (like this one) but we were pleased with the result. It was quiet and somewhat warm inside, but more importantly, it was fun to build. I hope it survives for a few days.

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imageThe KLF are probably remembered as an early-90’s techno group that dressed in cult robes and did a duet with Tammy Wynette. They also were the #1 singles artist of 1991, adopted esoteric sci-fi novel philosophies, wrote an ironic book about how to have a #1 hit, defaced billboards, took out cryptic ads in music magazines, and videotaped themselves burning a million pounds sterling on a Scottish island. The KLF retired by performed at a music industry showcase concert which ended by fired machine-gun blanks into the unsuspecting audience (ok, over the audience) and left a dead sheep outside the door, after which they announced their retirement and deleted their entire back catalog. People don’t really understand what the hell they were about, but they were at least interesting.

You, on the other hand, are a coward who writes graffiti in bar bathrooms and have never accomplished anything. Please go back to scribbling fake website names with sharpies.

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Is this face supposed to sell clothes?

This lady scares the crap out of me every time I pass by.

A friend send me these two pictures of a barbershop in Detroit from many years ago called “We Be Cuttin Hair (and stuff)”. It’s a great name and the storefront art is pretty amazing also.

He also sent me the less awesome Google Street view pic of what’s there now.

Okay so first off, I’ve been around a lot over the last two months, and I haven’t faithfully conveyed in picture or word what’s been up. The short version is that I’ve been on a project in Geneva and flying back/forth a bunch and somewhere in there spending a day in Zurich and Sofia, Bulgaria. The reason for so little communication is that most of these places are pretty boring and Bulgaria is not the type of place that is exactly fun to visit. Somewhere in there I went to Lake Tahoe for the weekend, so I’ll post that afterwards.

Today is July 4th, 2007 – actually the anniversary of my landing here in New York (plus a day or two) so it ends up being kind of a reflection on my time here in the big city (when I was in town, at least). I’m in the process of leaving town to somewhere undecided and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I really appreciate all of the great things about New York without being irritated by the many annoying parts.

So in celebration of the great parts of NYC, I went with friends to Coney Island for the day. We started off trying to catch the famous Nathan’s Hot-Dog Eating Contest, famously dominated by a Japanese teenager for some years. This year, of course, the rumors circulated of an eating-related jaw injury and possible title-loss to some other guy who looks like Peyton Manning. The crowd was abuzz.

I popped out of the subway and found a ginormous crowd of people who all were thinking it would also be cool to watch people cram inhuman amounts of pseudo-meat into their moo. I have to admit – I should have shown up earlier. You know when stuff is on ESPN, you need to show up a lot earlier. Turns out the other guy won by downing 66 dogs and buns. Not clear how long before he barfed everything up.

Anyhow, I tried even going to the other side but all I could get was this enormous Ketchup bottle in my face so I decided to go for some non-competitive eating of Mexican food followed by the Cyclone (surprisingly great for being a million years old), the Tilt-a-Whirl, Pirate Ship, and bumper cars – all classics.

All of the rides for some reason had airbrushed backgrounds from the early 80’s, and my favorite dated ride was straight called the Break Dance. Much nausea and junk food was observed

Then we stopped by the Sideshow by the Seashore, aka the Freak Show. The first thing I noticed was the reference to the Luna song “Sideshow by the Seashore” and the references to mermaids made a lot more sense. Man I wish they didn’t suck so much now.

Anyhow, the Freakshow was great because it hammered home the great American circus tradition of promising a bunch of crap and then taking your money. It felt right. The highlights of the show included sword-swallowing, fire-eating, a contortionist, and Chuy the Wolfman (Interview), who I saw on PBS once.

All in all, it felt good to get back to America’s roots of cheap entertainment and delicious junkfood. I did the most American thing I could and promptly went to sleep in the middle of the day. I woke up to catch the NYC fireworks off of my roof. Here in New York, they do two big displays – one off of lower Manhattan and the other over the East River, and from my meager NoLita 5-story apt roof, I could see both okay. The East river one seemed more elaborate.

Nonetheless, a solid day appreciating all of the great things in America which I miss when I go to stupid Switzerland like restaurants open all day and everyone speaking English. I’m glad to be here in the US and I’ll definitely miss NYC.

Two friends agreed to combine their bachelor parties and a group of 20 or so of us rented an amazing house near Lake Tahoe for the weekend.
The highlight was cruising around the clear deep blue lake in a speedboat amidst the mountains and enjoying the sun.

Last night at the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights, New York I saw The Arcade Fire in concert. In short, it was amazing – they put on a great show and are very pro-fans. During the encore, they played “Wake Up” after inviting all of the fans in the front onstage (including me and my pals). To quote my friend Matt, “It’s always a good day when you end it up on stage dancing with a band.”

The venue is amazing and the restoration job is incredible. If you get the chance to see a show there or just visit, definitely do so.

Okay, so after much bitching I finally have seen some celebrities in NY, although oddly, only on the subway. I kind of assumed they took cabs everywhere but apparently the subway is even convenient for them.

First I saw Carson Kressley, aka The Queer Eye guy. This one was a weird sighting since it was all people trying to get to work by 9am and the train was packed. Dude was wearing so much pink he looked like a lawn flamingo with enormous sunglasses. Just a wild guess, but I don’t think he was trying to blend in.

Second, I saw Little Carmine Lupertazzi from the Sopranos, AKA Ray Abruzzo. I live near Little Italy so it spooked me to see faux Mafia types running around in the neighborhood. Then of course he got on the subway with me. I’m a big fan of the show (although its final episodes are really tanking quickly for some reason) so I wanted to grill him for spoilers but I didn’t. IMDB tells me he has been in shows like Trapper John, Riptide, Falcon Crest, and 21 Jump Street.

Finally (today) I saw Ajay Naidu, AKA Samir from “Office Space”. (Coincidentally, appeared in one episode of “The Sopranos”) This one was hilarious since I was on the subway and staring at him like I knew him from school or something and he noticed. We exchanged hellos and then I felt bad – I figure he’d probably want to be left alone. Of the three, he’s really the only one I would have wanted to talk to, largely about Office Space, but it seems like people largely leave famous folks alone in NY and that’s probably why they live here.

I’ll stop complaining now.

A certain someone I know likes to make this gourmet dessert I like to call “Cookie Soup”. It’s like having Oreo cookies with milk, only you just say fuck it and go the whole way. Be warned: this is only for serious sugarheads. The recipe is:

– Several Oreo cookies
– Bowl
– Spoon
– Milk (whole is best)

Combine ingredients and let sit for 5 mins. Cookies will get soggy and you will get mushy Oreos and chocolate flake-infused milk solution.

According to it’s creator, it’s more efficient and less messy than the traditional dunking method. I have to say, it’s pretty good, and I don’t usually like sweets. Give it a whirl and post your reviews below.