Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A long walk

Yesterday I sat and thought. That's all I did. I thought about pizza and Aimless and Missy and probably some other things, too.

You may be wondering, "Who's Missy?"

Missy is figuratively and literally the girl of my dreams. That's all you need to know. (I've mentioned her before; long before I ever hit the road.)

Anyway, I've been really bummed out lately. I need to get out of here, and Aimless has become just about pointless, so I've come up with perhaps a new direction for Aimless: I think I'm going to walk from here all the way to New Orleans, in an attempt to raise money to help Katrina victims.

From what I understand, New Orleans is STILL a freaking wasteland, and that's just not right. This is the United States of America. Almost three years after the hurricane, when people go to New Orleans, they expect to see a reasonably fixed-up city, but it's not fixed up. Not even close.

If I do this... Unlike most charitable organizations, every cent I raise will be used to help Katrina victims. I won't keep any of it for myself. And unlike Aimless, I think people might actually get behind something like this.

So what do you think?

Oh yeah, I walked three miles today on a tread mill, carrying my backpack (loaded to about 50 lbs). After a break, I walked another mile without the backpack. Interestingly, I can't comfortably walk any faster without the backpack than I can walk with it; maybe 0.1 MPH faster. (The difference is that I can walk all day without the backpack. With the backpack, I need to rest about half an hour for every hour I walk.) I'm going to get myself in a little better condition before I leave this time (if I ever do actually leave).

Aimless Video Evidence

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

One pizza myth (of many)

From some web site:

Step 5. Try spinning the dough in the air. This is certainly not required, but it's a lot of fun! It also helps to make the dough more round, as the centrifugal force causes equal amounts of pressure to be thrown out in all directions, helping the crust to form into a perfectly round shape.
This seems to make sense, but it's not entirely true. Having tossed thousands of dough balls, I can tell you with all certainty that perfectly round [hand-tossed] pizzas emerge only from perfectly round dough balls (unless you use a round template to trim the dough).

If you start with a round dough ball, you end up with a round pizza. But if you start with a square dough ball, you're gonna end up with a mostly square pizza, no matter how many times you toss it.

Aimless Video Evidence

Thursday, February 21, 2008


For approximately exactly the last 21 days, when I've watched hockey games on a certain regional sports channel, I've noticed a series of public service announcements for Black History Month. In these "ads," a black man named Kendall Lewis tells a short story about one of many historically significant black athletes, like Jesse Owens, Jim Brown, or Jackie Robinson. When he finishes telling the short story, a voiceover kindly informs me that "McDonald's is a proud sponsor of Black History Month, celebrating black history 365 days a year."

So I'm sure you'll be airing more of these ads 9 days from now, right, McDonald's? Or maybe you'll be funding a neverending series of books on black history? Yes, that must be it.

Aimless Video Evidence

Some random stuff

For those of you who thought I'd given up on the pizzeria opportunity a few weeks ago, I hadn't. I gave it another chance. (The only way you would have known is if you'd read the comments to a previous post.) But as I said last night, I'm pretty sure it's all over now.

I've recently taken a new direction in my quest to make the perfect pizza. About two weeks ago, I created a naturally leavened starter (usually termed "sourdough" starter). To begin the starter, I simply mixed 4 ounces of water with 4 ounces of flour, adding no yeast or sugar and keeping the mixture covered loosely overnight. The following day I removed all but 4 ounces of the mixture, added another 4 ounces each of water and flour, then stirred the new mixture. Each of the next few days, I removed half of the mixture and added another 4 and 4.

After the first couple days, the mixture became slightly bubbly and had a somewhat "sour" smell (clearly indicating that it had aquired some wild yeast), but it essentially did not rise in the bowl. It behaved that way for a few more days, but on about the fifth or sixth day, it took off (probably because I placed it atop the oven while the oven was hot).

Oh yeah! Now we have some serious fermentation. At this point, the mixture had doubled in volume, contained lots of pretty bubbles, and had a strong smell of alcohol. With this sudden burst of wild yeast activity, I began feeding the starter twice each day. Early in the day I would remove all but 4 ounces of the starter and add 8 ounces of water and 8 ounces of flour. Then, sometime after midnight, I'd do it again.

For about the first week, I'd just dump the part of the mixture I'd removed, but at this point I was ready to start using it. So for about a week, now, I've been using 8 or 12 ounces of starter every time I make pizza dough. Because the starter is always a 1:1 ratio of water and flour (by weight), I know exactly how much water and flour to add whenever I make a new batch of dough. For example: If I begin with 12 ounces of starter, I need to add another 10 ounces of flour and another 3 ounces of water for a moderately soft dough. But if I begin with only 8 ounces of starter, I need to add an additional 2 ounces of both flour and water (12 ounces of flour and 5 ounces of water). Regardless of how much starter I use, I'll almost always add 1-1/4 tsp of salt.

There are two reasons why this process is so easy: 1) Every batch of dough I make is based on 1 pound (or 16 oz.) of flour; and 2) I forgot the second reason... Measuring ingredients by weight (rather than volume) makes everything 100 times easier and more consistent. (The only reason I measure salt by volume is because I don't use enough salt to get an accurate measurement of weight. If I was making a pizzeria-size batch, I would measure everything by weight.)

Now that I'm using this starter to leaven my pizza dough, my dough consists of only three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. No yeast, no sugar, no oil.

Is that cool or what? (If you're not sure: Yes, it is cool.)

Now that my starter is thriving, I keep it in the fridge (rather than on the counter). By keeping my starter in the fridge, I don't have to feed it every day (because cool temperatures retard fermentation). Instead, I only need to feed the starter once a week. However, because I make a new batch of dough every two or three days, naturally I feed it about every three days.

You should try it.

Well, I was going to mention a couple other things here (like what you asked about, Jeff), but I think I'll just call it a day for now.

Aimless Video Evidence

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

All things stupid

Yeah, uh, it looks like the pizzeria opportunity is no more. And I'll tell ya what: I don't care. In fact, it was me who ended the talks, sorta. I really wanted to work something out, but someone's girlfriend was unwilling to make a really small concession that would have made the rest of her life a lot easier.

Like "Someone's Girlfriend," 90 percent of small business owners base their business decisions on hope and faith. (The other ten percent actually succeed.) There are a lot of people out there who fancy themselves as businesspeople, yet don't know the first thing about business. It's funny, sad, and disappointing all at the same time. Unlike most small business owners, I'm not stupid enough to accept a deal that puts me in a no-win situation.

So it looks like I'll be hitting the road again soon, but not for at least a few weeks because I have over ten pounds of Grande mozzarella in the fridge right now that I'm not going to waste or freeze. Whenever I do leave again, I don't know if it will be Aimless or if it will just be my personal, private escape from all things stupid.

Aimless is the one thing on this planet that's all mine, and I might just keep it that way.

Aimless Video Evidence

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Regarding Florida

"John Doe" from Florida e-mailed me this morning with the following message:
i'd just wanted to say that i graduated from a florida high school and the people that were useless, alcoholic, slackers with no morals whatsoever, never attempted anything in their life, are the ones who are the police officers. i dont know how this happened. the police system in florida is terrible, racist, and overall not kosher. i'm sorry you had to deal with that and hope that your later travels to florida aren't so terrible. there are some good people...i promise! (just avoid confederate flag bumper stickers)
"John" did not include his e-mail address on the contact form, so I decided to respond here.


I know there are lots of good people in Florida. I just had a frustratingly tough time while I was there. I'm glad you realize I have not judged all Floridians based on the actions of a few.

There is a lot more I want to say here, but I can't seem to spit it out right now. Thanks for your feedback.


Aimless Video Evidence

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Jersey boy

If things work out right, I'm going to hang out tonight with someone I met on the road last summer. I've mentioned Jason Stanish at least once before on this blog, and I also uploaded a [bad] picture of him shortly after I met him in early July at the Madison, Wisconsin TA. As a company driver, he couldn't give me a ride, but he did let me sleep in his top bunk (even though he's not allowed to do that, either).

Anyway, Jason called me a little after noon today from somewhere north of Atlanta. He's bringing a load to Columbus and should be here sometime this evening, as long as he's able to stay legal. (I figure he's probably at about the Tennessee-Kentucky state line right now.) The cool thing is that his company has a terminal right down the street from what used to be my longtime hangout bar/restaurant. (I rarely hang out or drink anymore.) It's about a 15-minute drive for me.

If he makes it all the way to Columbus, I'll probably invite Jason to stay at the house tonight. I want to make him a pizza, partly because I've been making the most incredible pizzas lately but also because I'd love to hear what New Jersey taste buds have to say about my pizza. (Like New York, there is good pizza in New Jersey, so Jason might have some useful feedback about my pizza.)

In case you're wondering: Yes, Jason does think I'm an ungrateful piece of shit.

Aimless Video Evidence

Monday, February 04, 2008

New York state of mind

Here are a couple reasons why I love New York City: 1) New Yorkers actually walk, read, and think; 2) The major pizza chains have been almost completely unable to set up shop in Metropolis.

So why are the Big 3 pizza chains so invisible in NYC? Because New Yorkers aren't mindless consumers. (Remember, they read and think.) Most New Yorkers can't even comprehend how the rest of the country bears to swallow Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's.

Oh, so New Yorkers are stupid because they can't comprehend anything, right?

No way. If you can't figure out why chain pizza blows, maybe you should schedule a trip to New York. It's the only place I'll actually pay for pizza.

Aimless Video Evidence
You can contact me at 614-738-3867.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Wow, what a game!

I've been kinda rooting for the Giants during the playoffs, mostly because they played the Patriots so close in Game 16 after the Patriots destroyed everyone else on their schedule. And with Tom Brady's arrogant response to Plaxico Burress's prediction several days ago, I couldn't help but root for the Giants tonight, too. (Yeah, Brady, the Giants had no chance to hold you to only 17 points, did they? Yet they only scored 17 points and still beat you. Ha Ha.)

Way to go, Giants. Great game.

Aimless Video Evidence
You can contact me at 614-738-3867.

Friday, February 01, 2008


A few nights ago my buddy Jeff called me. As we talked about food and restaurants, he mentioned a BBC show called Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. The title sounded familiar to me, but I had no idea what the show was about.

After Jeff described Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares to me, it reminded me of a show I used to watch on Food Network called Restaurant Makeover. Here are the basic premises of Restaurant Makeover:
  1. Independent restaurateur realizes he or she is in deep shit, so he or she contacts Restaurant Makeover, begging for help.
  2. Restaurant Makeover sends a chef and a designer to the failing restaurant (along with a camera crew) to assess the situation.
  3. Following assessment and consultation, the restaurateur decides how much money he or she is willing to invest in the makeover, then Restaurant Makeover matches the owner's investment up to a maximum of something like $20,000. (If the owner contributes $15,000 to the project, then Restaurant Makeover puts in another $15,000. But if the owner contributes $30,000, Restaurant Makeover tops out at $20,000. Something like that, anyway.)
Yeah, Food Network used to not suck.

Anyway, since Jeff told me about Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, I've managed to catch four episodes, and I love it! The premise of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is as follows: You and your restaurant are in deep shit, so you called me, Gordon Ramsay, a proven successful chef and businessman, to come here and work my magic because you realize that 1) You're losing your ass, and 2) I know how to save your ass.

Although it is kind of similar to Restaurant Makeover, it has plenty of differences. First of all, it's an hour long (rather than half an hour). Second, the star (Chef Gordon Ramsay) is a filthy-mouthed, no-bullshit motherfucker. Sometimes his communication style is a little too, um, let's say, uh, sometimes he's a real asshole for no apparent reason. But mostly he's honest, straightforward, and reasonable. He's there to fix a problem, and fixing that problem is his only objective.

In every episode I've seen so far, Gordon Ramsay proves that independent restaurant owners tend to be the stupidest people on this planet. Everything he says makes complete sense, but even though the owners know they're doing something horribly wrong--even though they're about to lose everything--most of the owners become combative and refuse to follow Gordon's advice. Some of the owners eventually overpower their huge egos enough to follow Gordon's advice, but some of them don't.

And you know what ultimately happens to each group, respectively? Yup, the listeners win and the non-listeners lose.

I tried doing something kind of like what Gordon Ramsay does. I've offered my services to several failing pizzerias, essentially for free, in an effort to help them turn their huge failure into success, partly because I like helping people and partly because it was an opportunity for me to prove that my skills, talents, and intellect are pretty freakin' valuable.

As you may already know, I never got shit from it, nor did I ever get a chance to prove anything about myself. All I got was ripped off.

For example, when I went to Charleston, South Carolina, thinking I'd finally found the right opportunity, I quickly learned that I was dealing with the two stupidest people alive. (I can only blame myself for failing to recognize this side of their personalities before heading to SC.) After busting my ass for them, usually off the clock, and sharing very valuable ideas with them, all they did was attack me. Like Gordon Ramsay, I cared more about their restaurant than they did. Even though I made it very clear from the beginning that my objective was to fix things that needed fixed, they apparently expected me to perpetuate a process that generates $200 a day in sales.

Some people just don't get it. $200 a day is not good. $200 a day barely pays for the cost of sales. Forget about paying for labor and utilities and all that other stuff (like the elusive "owner's salary"). You simply can't do it.

If you only bring in $200 a day, it's because you're doing something VERY wrong. If you want that to change, you must stop doing things wrong and start doing things right. If you can't figure out what you're doing wrong but you are lucky enough to find someone who can figure it out, don't fuck that person over.

I didn't fail Sonny's Pizza. Sonny's Pizza failed themselves. When you refuse to allow people to help you, you cannot be helped. I learned from it; they didn't.

Sonny's Pizza no longer exists. (I never got paid for my time on the clock, either.)

(Oh, I'm just dying to find out how and why this post makes me ungrateful and negative. So hit me, anonymouses.)

Aimless Video Evidence
You can contact me at 614-738-3867.