The Fleeca Job: Complete - After-heist party screenshot

Trick Jumps in Grand Theft Auto V

I meant to spend most of my break between semesters catching up on reading like I did last year, but we’re about a week out from the first day of class and I’ve only read through some volumes of the comic book series Grimm Fairy Tales. It’s not bad, but it’s also not the intellectually stimulating experience I want from a book. I picked them up as digital comics a few years ago and never got around to reading them. Maybe they were part of a Humble Bundle, I don’t know. It’s hard to resist the book Humble Bundles.

I’m reading through some more interesting stuff, like Karen Armstrong’s book on Paul the Apostle, St. Paul: The Apostle We Love to HateThe End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I’m also playing Grand Theft Auto V pretty heavily. I picked it up on Steam’s winter sale a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, so I wanted to give this one a shot.

The story mode is good, but I enjoy the online play more, even though it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of load times. I also wish it had more of the story mode content, like items you can find and collect. One thing that did carry over is the trick jumps. Some of them are a headache to get right, mostly because you have to use the right vehicle and avoid killing yourself while pulling off the jumps, or you have to land in just the right spot to get credit for the jump. It’s fun, though. One of the more interesting ones to do are the jumps at the airport traffic circle off the billboards. I made the video below of the jumps, but I feel like I could probably pull off two backflips on the motorcycle before landing. I’m going to give it a shot.

Happy Chanukah!

A Hanukkah poster hanging in the lobby of my mother's apartment building.
A Hanukkah poster hanging in the lobby of my mother’s apartment building.

This is a bit delayed, it being the fourth night of Chanukah, but better late than never!

I saw this poster hanging in the lobby of my mother’s apartment building when we went to visit her for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t aware there were enough Jewish tenants living there for the management to recognize the holiday. Maybe they put up signs for every major religious holiday? Regardless, it was very well done and a nice gesture.

Chanukah is a commemoration of the reconquest of Jerusalem by the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple to God. The oil they had available to light the menorah in the Temple was only enough for one day, but they lit it anyway, while they got to work making more, which was an eight-day process of pressing and purifying. According to tradition, the oil vessel miraculously refilled itself every night allowing them to keep the menorah burning for all eight nights. That’s why Jews today light a menorah each night of the holiday, in commemoration of not just the rededication but the miracle of the oil.

Veteran’s Day Dinner 2013

PVT Elma and Me July 30 1999 Fort Lee VA, AIT
“PVT Elma + Me. July 30, 99 Fort Lee, VA (AIT)”

Ever since I enlisted in the Army and businesses started offering Veterans Day promotions, I’ve tried to make it to a participating business each year. I’m not one to pass up free food, especially when it’s from a place like Olive Garden. I’m just being practical. Besides, I’m a veteran, and in a way, I already paid for it. That’s what the day is about, and I’m glad businesses have decided to give back to the veteran community one day a year in a show of appreciation for the efforts and loss that some people went through, or are still going through, for those on active duty.

The first time I remember going to a restaurant for a free meal on Veterans Day was when I was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I think I went to a Golden Corral or a similar all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant with a group of guys from my unit.  This year, like last year, my wife and I went to the Olive Garden in Times Square. In addition to the free entree for veterans, the restaurant was offering 10% off for family members. I’m not sure if that was 10% off the rest of the bill, or just the other entree(s). I forgot to check and tossed the receipt already, but it doesn’t really matter to me. A discount is a discount.

IMG_3072

The entree options for veterans were limited, but they offered a nice variety of choices. I went with the cheese ravioli. We also got the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and my wife ordered the capellini pomodoro, which she said tasted delicious.  It looked delicious. I also ordered a new drink they have, a blood orange blackberry iced tea. That tasted outstanding.

Blood Orange Blackberry Iced Tea
Blood Orange Blackberry Iced Tea
Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce
Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce
Capellini Pomodoro
Capellini Pomodoro

These guys were outside the Olive Garden. I thought it was pretty cool, so I want to share the photo:

Mounted NYPD
Mounted NYPD

We finished the evening off at Starbucks, which was offering a free tall brewed coffee to veterans and family members.

The evening wasn’t completely free, but the discounts at Olive Garden made our evening out more affordable and gave my wife and I an opportunity to be thankful for my coming home in one piece, to remember those who didn’t, and gave us another reason to just spend time together out of the house. We’re looking forward to doing it again next year.

Chabad Succah in Union Square for Sukkot

My wife and I were downtown last Thursday to get some supplies from Petco. After shopping, we were cutting across Union Square to get to a subway entrance that’s closer to the L train when we saw a booth set up. My first thought was that it was the beginnings of the Christmas market. I mean, it’s early, but why not? The month ends in a -ber, right? And it seems like stores start selling Christmas stuff earlier and earlier each year. But, when we got closer, I realized it was a booth for Sukkot. I thought the evergreen branches hanging off the roof were Christmas decorations, but nope. That’s part of the temporary structure. The roof is supposed to not be completely covered. The entire construction is supposed to be non-permanent, because it symbolizes the temporary dwellings of the Hebrews in the desert during the Mosaic diaspora period (between Egypt and Canaan / Israel).

Chabad Succot Booth 2013
Chabad Succot Booth 2013
Another view of the Chabad Succot booth for 2013.
Another view of the Chabad Succot booth for 2013.
Some guy painting over the decorations
Not sure who this guy is. Looked Japanese with a beard. He was painting over the words “Shabbat Shalom” on the door.

The decorations on the outside of the structure were nice. I didn’t realize how extravagant people can get with these things. If you’re wondering, “succah” is the name of the temporary dwelling. It’s just the Hebrew word for it, and during Sukkot Jewish people usually eat in their succah, unless it’s raining. For more info on Sukkot, click here.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2011

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2011 - 1

After seeing the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular last Friday, my wife and I walked over to Rockefeller Center to take a look at the big Christmas tree.  It’s one of those iconic sights that you have to see to say you had the full Christmas tourist experience in the city.  We’re not tourists, but even still, it’s nice to get out and do the tourist thing.  It helps me appreciate the city more and take advantage of what it has to offer, before I suddenly find myself moving somewhere else.  That’s how it’s always been for me.  I keep putting things off and then before I know it, the opportunity has passed and I’ve moved on.  That’s how I wound up never seeing the Carlsbad Caverns, even though I lived in the area for two years.

Rockefeller Christmas Tree 2011 - 2

Anyway, the tree was looking a little wilted, but we did wait until the it had been up for more than a month to came take a look at it.  Next year, I want to take my wife around to see it when it’s still fresh.  She was very amused to see the ice skating rink just below the tree and had a lot of questions about it.  Maybe one of these days I can teach her how to ice skate, though I’m a bit rusty myself.

Rockefeller Center Skating Rink
Rockefeller Center Skating Rink

The Christmas season is winding down.  In just a few days it’ll be the New Year.  Even worse (and better), classes start again on the 3rd.  It’s just one class, for Winter Session, but it’s 4 hours a day, 4 days a week for three weeks.  It should be interesting.  I just hope we can squeeze in a few more sightseeing stops before we run out of time.  We still have to make it back to the Met!  Hopefully we can do that this Friday, when the museum stays open later than normal.  I’d like to take her to the Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History too, if possible.

Rockefeller Center Christmas 2011 Angel Decoration