When to Change your Oil in a Pandemic?

Anytime I’ve asked a mechanic, “How often should I change my oil?” The answer has always been every 5,000 to 7,000 miles — depending on what oil I’m using. I never really pay attention to the second part of their advice, “…or every three to six months.”

I’ve never had to listen to that part. I’ve always reached the mile goal before the time limit. Also, I always give it a few extra hundred or thousand miles — just to be safe. Even though the oil change recommendation sticker usually says “See you at [some number] miles OR [this date].” I’ve always taken it as, “See you at [some number] miles AND [this date].” Plus, some extra on both.

During the pandemic this whole oil sticker thing became a mess. While the time limit was way past due, I wasn’t even halfway to my mile goal. It didn’t make sense to me. How often do you change your oil when you’re not putting any miles on your car? Never…

I did eventually get my oil changed — possibly too late, as always. My car also has a meter that tells me my oil life in percentage. I don’t know how it works so I don’t truly trust it. I don’t think it’s actually testing my oil by reading any specific levels or anything like that. I believe it’s just a slow countdown in percentage.

The oil life meter is now at 30%-ish, so I guess it’s time for another oil change — soon.

If this helped at least one person realize that they need to get an oil change because they forgot that oil changes were a thing in this crazy year, then I have done my job.

Thank you and good night.

Hard Workers vs Lazy Asses

I’m constantly working on multiple projects in my mind — Writing projects, Drawing projects. Arts and design projects, Music projects, Voice Over projects… My brain is always juggling too many ideas at any given moment.

My problem has always been choosing one thing to work on at a time. It’s hard for me to stick to one solo project when it consumes a great deal of time. While working on the one project I’m thinking of the several ones I’m currently not working on. I guess I have the same problem with the shows I choose to watch and the games I choose to play (I juggle those too).

I recently thought about how many times I’ve heard people call their friends or coworkers “Hard working.” However, I’ve never heard anyone use that term when referring to themselves. I guess if I did hear someone say, “Hi, I’m Greg and I’m a hard worker” I would think Greg was a liar and an idiot too.

I have a theory that everyone thinks they can be doing more than they are currently doing (at least I hope that’s true, because I feel like that most of the time). I’m pretty sure that everyone feels some kind of lazy, sometimes. No matter how “hard” you work, you will always feel that there is more you should be doing. You will always know someone who seems to be doing much, much more than you.

It’s the same idea as when someone calls you “old.” You may think, “Well sure I’m older than you, but I’m not as old as, uh, let’s say, Greg.” (Seriously Greg sucks!) Unless you are the oldest person on the planet (and that is only one person), there will always be someone who is older than you.

So, yeah. I believe that everyone thinks they are somewhat lazy. I would say maybe there’s a handful of Gregs out there who would call themselves “hard working.” (Once again, Greg sucks!) I guess some people have said that in an interview setting. Most people who say they are hard workers in an interview are usually lying, or don’t truly believe themselves.

Professional athletes are allowed to call themselves hard workers. But that’s pretty much it. I’d like to think that anyone else who isn’t at the pro athlete level in their job is somewhat of a lazy butt.

If you feel like a lazy sometimes let me know in the comments. I would like to know that I’m not the only one that feels this way. Also, if you’re a Greg who thinks of yourself as a hard worker and you are not a pro athlete, let me know in the comments too (I would like to know which of my readers are psychos)…

*Sorry to any Gregs out there. It was just a random name I chose since I don’t really know any Gregs in real life.

Why so many Apples?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. That’s what people used to say. But will any apple do? Is there a specific one with doctor-repelling powers?

Why are there so many different types of apples? Back in middle school, I remember learning about the three main apples: Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Apple computers (just kidding, Golden Delicious was the third one — I think). Just by hearing their names I knew the differences in look and taste.

Now I go to Fresh Market and see more than ten varieties of apples in one day: Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Lucy Rose, Lucy Gal, Ruby Frost, Envy, Honeycrisp and new varieties popping up each season. I usually go for Fuji or Gala, but I don’t know if I’m making the right choice with those — they’re just the safe decision sinceI already know I like them.

I actually started writing this post because after I arrived at my newly redesigned Fresh Market (Coconut Grove). They had recently changed up the aisles, the fruit stands and a bunch of other areas in the store. The Fresh Market is my favorite market to go to. When I got there I saw how beautiful the apple display looked so I took some pictures with my iPhone and wanted to find a reason to share them. So, I wrote this whole thing about apples, but now I actually thought of a pretty good idea.

Over the next few weeks (possibly months), I will try a different variety of apple each week. I will give each one a small review on the Ferdi’s Learnings Twitter account, using the hashtag #ApplesInReview (Make sure to follow @ferdislearnings on Twitter for these). When I run out of apples I will create an #ApplesInReview mega-post right here on the Ferdi’s Learnings site, ranking all of the apples. Stay tuned for that.

Here are some more delicious iPhone pictures of apples for you to enjoy while you wait for my first review…

Food + Math = Delicious

There are many times in the kitchen where I am forced to use Math. Math is an important skill to have. Sure, I use it in my everyday job (Accounting) sometimes, but most of that Math is done with calculators, Excel and tax programs.

When it comes to cooking I use math a whole lot. Recipes are made up of Math, and many of them are mostly made for not enough or too many people. It’s important to know how to double, half and sometimes go even further than that. What if a recipe calls for three full eggs, but you want a smaller version featuring only one or two eggs. Then it’s not about halving stuff, it’s about going into fractions (⅓ or ⅔).

I sometimes make sauces and spice mixes, but want a larger batch. So, instead of using teaspoons and tablespoons I break the recipe down to parts and use that instead. This way I can use my number system to create a large or any size batch I want.

I’ve even written down some of these breakdowns into my cookbooks. This is my breakdown of Danny Trejo’s Gringo Taco Seasoning mix.

Baking is all about math too. I have learned that baking is more of a science while grilling is more of a guessing game. Even though many baking recipes are recorded in cups, tablespoons and teaspoons, you will always get a much better bake weighing your ingredients with a scale. Grams/ounces is the way to go when making cakes, breads, cookies and any other baked goods.

I made the most Math-heavy recipe in my life the other day, and it’s not what you’d expect. This was like an algebra problem, or trigonometry (although I’m pretty great at math, I don’t know the labels of all the different types of math anymore).

Frozen Food Triple-Dipper: Frank’s RedHot Bites, Totino’s Pizza Rolls + FarmRich Mozzarella Sticks

The meal was a Frozen Food Triple-dipper. I wanted to find a way to have some chicken, something cheesy and some pizza all at once! In college, my roommates and I would throw multiple frozen items onto a pan and throw it in the oven at an average baking temperature until it smelled and looked kind of done. Of course, cooking times are also very important when it comes to frozen snacks.

What I did the other day was break it down by first finding that average temperature. Lucky for me the temperature range was from 425-450 degrees, so not that different. I also used the toaster oven which usually gets too hot so I left it at 425 degrees.

Cooking Times and Temps

Frank’s RedHot Bites
Time: 14 – 16 min
Temp: 450 degrees

Totino’s Pizza Rolls
Time: 10 – 12 min
Temp: 425 degrees

Cheese Sticks
Time: 8 – 9 min
Temp: 450 degrees

I started off baking my Frank’s RedHot Original Boneless Chicken Bites for just 4 minutes on their own. Next, I added in my Totino’s Pizza Rolls for another 4 minutes (now 8 minutes on the Frank’s). Finally, I flipped those two over and tossed in my FarmRich Mozzarella Sticks (aka Cheese Sticks) for the last 8 minutes (that’s a total of 16 for Frank’s and 12 for the Pizza Rolls).

Everything came out just perfect. Even Paul Hollywood (The Great British Baking Show) would agree.


When preparing my items I did find some Tequeños in the freezer but those had a 350 degree bake and an extra long baking time. It would have thrown off my whole system so I decided to leave them out.

There is one last thing I will leave you with. Frozen foods should never be made in the microwave, when you have the luxury of using an oven or toaster oven. Yes, it may take 4x as long to cook, but it’s well worth the wait. So, start preheating your oven now and grab a snack while you wait.

Searching for Creativity

I’ve always been interested in the creative process of others. I love getting a behind the scenes look and hearing stories of how people make the things that I love. Movies, music, games, food, writing, art. Everything made by humans is powered by creativity.

It has always bothered me to hear anyone say, “I’m not creative,” about themselves. You are creative! Every human has the capacity to be creative in some way. The keyword is CREATE!

Make a work of art, write an essay, make some dinner, draw a little doodle, come up with a home workout, sing in the shower, do something small in your boring job. These are all creative things we do. Most of us exhibit some form of creativity each and every day. And many of us don’t even notice it.

I’ve read many books on creativity. My favorites are the ones written by the creators themselves. It’s not as interesting to read a book on creativity written by some science doctor who’s just studying other people’s work. I want to hear it from the source.

I want a first-hand account of how the thing I love got made. I like to hear about the process. I enjoy watching the special features on my DVD and Blu-Rays. I’ve read books on creativity by musicians, comedians, actors and actresses, writers, even doctors and lawyers. I like to look for differences and similarities between different industries.

I for one have tried many different approaches to unleash my creativity over the years: writing in the mornings, drawing at night, taking short breaks mid day, meditation and yoga. Sometimes it’s good to have a schedule worked out, but it’s also helpful to surprise yourself and be spontaneous.

I want to share my thoughts on some of the creative books I’ve read or started reading over recent years:

Creativity
by John Cleese

I recently finished this short book by John Cleese (Monty Python, A Fish Called Wanda). I enjoyed that it was a short biography followed by some creative tips and exercises. There were also some fun stories sprinkled in between. It’s an easy short read so I definitely recommend this book to everyone. Many of the tips and exercises were quick and simple. I even learned a few quick tips that I never really thought about.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

This was a fun history book about the beginning of Pixar and the troubles they experienced along the way to greatness. Ed Catmull, one of the founders, goes into what makes Pixar such a creative place and the practices in place to keep it this way. Letting people from different departments come in with fresh eyes to look at projects, and always being open about what’s going on in the company are just two reasons that make Pixar a special company. It’s just a great read even to learn a few creative practices that can be used in your own business or life. Also, I am a huge fan of Pixar movies, so there’s that.

Sweat the Technique
by Rakim

I’m currently reading this book. I thought it would just be a good read to learn how one of the greatest lyricists got to where he is, Rakim. I actually have learned a lot from this book. One important thing Rakim has taught me is to learn about everything. Rakim would read and study just to have more ammo for his rhymes. I don’t plan on becoming a rapper, but there are still some aspects of Rakim’s creative process that are helpful in my life. It’s important to not only learn about what you believe in, but also the opposite side of the coin (especially in a world where social media feeds us only exactly what we want to see and hear). It’s important to learn about new subjects, even stuff you don’t think you’ll care about.

Wonderbook
by Jeff Vandermeer

I haven’t read enough of this one to give you enough information about it. I’ve only read a few sections. It was recommended by a writer I know. It’s a large book so I’m slowly reading a little at a time. This one is more focused on writing for fantasy and science fiction, but it’s a good way to learn about world-building, character creation and other aspects of that type of fiction. It also includes excerpts and short sections from many different authors and artists. People with tons of experience in their fields.

Embrace your Weird
by Felicia Day

I read Felicia Day’s first book, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)” which was a great read. It was more about her life and creating her web show The Guild. When I met her at Florida Supercon I told her how that book inspired me and she shared some “top secret” info with me. She told me that her new book would be announced in just a few days after meeting her. So, of course I pre-ordered her new book. Embrace your Weird is very different than the other books on this list. It’s more of a workbook. It’s filled with exercises where you get to write all over the pages of the book. Many of the exercises are idea-starters to get you out of your head.

Voice-Over
Voice Actor

by Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt

This last book has become very important to me. I first bought it and wanted to read it just because I was interested in Voice Actors and learning more about their lifestyle. I was listening to the “Talkin’ Toons” Podcast with Rob Paulsen and was obsessed with all of the great guests and their stories. While reading this, I was messing around with Voice Over stuff just to practice sustaining characters for longer periods of time (to help with on-stage characters for improv). After reading this book I wanted to do more with Voice-Over work and now I’m currently working on some secret projects. Yuri and Tara are also big names in Voice Acting and have many short anecdotes from their famous Voice Actor friends.


BONUS CONTENT:

I think the main thing I’ve learned from all of these creative books is what Rakim taught me (which I also have read in other books). The best thing you can do is consume content from all over the place. Live your life but do things that make you uncomfortable too. Don’t just stick to things you like or are used to. Don’t write things off because you think you won’t like them.

Ever try listening to people with a different point of view? It may make you angry, but you don’t have to believe them. It’s good to study how other people think, or just to try and figure out why people so crazy sometimes… 

It’s ok to not like things. It’s much better to try something out and make the decision to not like it on your own. Don’t just guess that you won’t like something. Listen to a podcast about gardening or something that sounds totally stupid to you and see what you learn.

(Fake) Burger Time!

It’s Burger time!

The burger was the first food I learned to cook — on the grill. Before that my specialty was Lunchables pizza, hot dogs, Bagel Bites and other microwavable dishes. As a kid I wasn’t a huge fan of burgers, I thought of them as a meatloaf sandwich and I guess I was sick of all the meatloaf.

It wasn’t until I saw the movie Good Burger that I finally craved a hamburger (those Mondo Burgers looked mega delicious). Leaving the theater, my mom took us straight to the King of all burgers (Burger King). That’s when burgers instantly became one of my favorite meals (Thank you, Kenan and Kel).

Cut to a few years ago, where the vegans are trying to encroach on my burgers with a new challenger — The Meatless Burger!

Sure, we’ve seen this before in many forms: mushroom burgers, black bean burgers, eggplant burgers, quinoa burgers. But the Impossible & Beyond burgers and all these plant-based alternatives are something totally different. They aren’t burgers for vegans, they are vegan burgers for meat eaters disguised to look, taste and feel like real meat burgers.

Of course, at first I thought, “No thank you.” But, after hearing reviews I became intrigued or maybe it was just disbelief. I thought, a fake plant-made burger can’t taste anything like the real thing.

*Disclaimer: I’ve only tried the Beyond Burger, I haven’t had the pleasure of trying the Impossible Burgers, or even the Impossible Whopper (however, I still one day hope to eat an Impossible Whopper and regular Whopper back to back for
a true taste test).

I recently cooked up some Beyond Burgers (I buy them when I see them on sale) using two different methods, BBQ grill and stove top. They were both seasoned the same way (sea salt, black pepper and some Lawry’s seasoned salt). They also had the same exact toppings (ketchup, mustard, pickles and American cheese).

SKILLET COOKED

Cooking a Beyond Burger in the skillet is great, a cast iron is even better for a crispy, crusty exterior. I use ghee (unclarified butter) for the high smoking point. It doesn’t burn or get any burnt nasties in it while heating up.

Sometimes the grill may not be accessible: it may be rainy, maybe you don’t want to smell like BBQ, perhaps you’re just lazy. Many factors come into play. But the skillet is a fine way to get a good flavor, but the “planty/non-burger” flavor comes out more in this method.

I also warmed the bun in the toaster oven to create a nice, soft pillow for my burger to lay on.

BBQ GRILLED

The grill is fantastic for Beyond Burgers. You can get it real hot and cook your patty pretty quickly. The fire gives it more of a charred/burger taste. It also hides the “planty/non-burger” flavor much better.

You can also toss some cheese on the patty towards the end of the grilling phase and let it melt (this also works on the skillet, better when covered, but the grill gets that cheese extra melty). I also love tossing my burger bun right on the grill, insides face down, getting it warm and a little crispy.

THE VERDICT

When it comes to fake burgers, grilled is the way to go (if you can). The skillet comes in close second (of course it does, those are the only two methods I tried). It still tastes kind of like a real burger, just a little less than when grilled. However, if you’re really craving a burger, I say just have a real meat burger, but these are still a fine alternative to try something new.

REAL BURGER TALK

I used to be a grilled meat burger fan, but I’ve recently become more of a skillet burger cooker (and eater). I like my diner-style burgers, cooked in hot ghee and preferably on a cast iron skillet. The cast iron may fog up your whole kitchen with smoke, and be a pain to clean at times, you also may burn yourself a bit, but it’s all totally worth it. If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, it’s definitely time to invest in one (especially with all the cooking we’re all doing now while stuck at home).

I’m not telling anyone to eat these fake meatless burgers. I’m just saying if you want to try them (and you find them on sale) they aren’t so bad. Also, don’t let the Beyond Burgers make a fool of you, there are only two patties per package. That’s one reason why I only buy them on sale. For the price of two you can get four or even six meat burgers, and I’m talking good quality meat.

Thanks for listening, enjoy your burger (however you enjoy it)!