Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five

Update: And as luck would have it, my last flight of the year is delayed by at least 1:30 while we await pilots to arrive from Newark.

The Excuse

None needed! W00t!

The Week

I was in Houston this week once again. And once again they got clobbered by cold weather[1], including the requisite freezing rain warnings. It had been my luck in the past that bad weather would show up right after I left (including a nasty ice storm in OK/AR one time). Now it seems to be showing up when I show up. This is not good.

Coming to Houston is still nice. I have the city pretty well figured out (obviously), and I have a friend out here who I get to see for dinner whenever I’m out here. Plus, my favorite sushi joint (713) is out here.

By far the most exciting part of the week was when I was at the bar at Outback when a pickup truck outside caught on fire. I felt bad for the guy who owned the truck. How does that thought process go: “Oh wow – there’s a car fire outside. I feel bad for the loser who owns that car. Wow – that car looks kinda familiar. It looks like my car. HEY! Wait a minute!!!!”

This is the last time I’ll be travelling for business this year. I have to tell you this beer I’m having at the airport bar right now is one of the best – simply because I know it’s the last one I’ll be having in Houston until next year. It’ll also be nice to have time to connect with friends and actually get work done around the house. Maybe even get to use my grill.

It’s certainly been a crazy busy year. I estimate I flew around 135,000 miles this year. It’s hard to say for certain as I wasn’t always on Continental when I flew (and a couple of airlines don’t use miles on their frequent flier programs, just segments), and at least once I only got half miles as I was flying on Delta on the wrong type of fare to get full credit on Continental. Continental says I did 115,000 miles, so I think 135K is a fair number.

I must admit I still struggle at times trying to remember what city I’m in. I had a student who mentioned when he used to travel full time he’d write the name of the city on a piece of paper and stick it on the mirror in the bathroom. I may have to try that. I can usually figure it out in 20 seconds, but it’s still sad that it takes that long to remember what town you’re in.

One last little note – there stands a good chance this will be the last posting of the year. I have a couple of last loose ends to tie up business wise, and once that is done I have full intention of disconnecting from the matrix.

The Restaurant

This is a chain, but I rather enjoy my visits here. The place is called Landry’s. I went in one night just wanting to try the place, sat down at the bar and the bartender introduced himself and asked for my name (which is pretty typical). What impressed me was when I went back the following week he remembered who I was. I appreciate service like that. The food is very good. I love the king crab, and the sea bass they do is outta this world.

The Exercise

Did I mention I’m sick. Yeah, it sounds like a lame excuse to me as well.

The Travel Note

I guess we saved the best for last. Because I’m platinum on Continental I almost always get upgraded. For this trip to San Diego, I’ll be on a 757 – in first class – in a seat with video-on-demand, a power outlet, and a seat that reclines to 156 degrees. I’ll basically be flying home on my La-Z-Boy.

The Five

Since it’s Christmas, 5 things about Christmas

  1. This year in particular it hasn’t really sunk in that it’s the Christmas season. Between work, life and travel I haven’t really had a chance to stop and reflect on the season.
  2. It’s still strange to me to not have snow during Christmas. Outside of the brief snow shower in Houston a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t seen any of the white stuff in my travels.
  3. My favorite Christmas gift this year may just be a chance to relax before starting what’s shaping up to be a hectic 2009.
  4. I really don’t care too much for Christmas carols – I don’t care who’s singing them. And will someone please inform current pop stars that they don’t need to feel compelled to record their own terrible versions?
  5. One of my favorite little things about this time of year is the special Christmas/winter brews. In particular, I love Celebration from Sierra Nevada. Give me a glass of that and Miracle on 34th Street and I’m a happy man.

[1]Cold weather is a relative phrase. I openly admit I’ve become soft since moving to San Diego.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Death of Traditional Media

I’ve blogged before about my issues with the state of 24 hour news. Not only is there simply not enough news to fill up 24 hours on the 5+ networks dedicated to this format, the level of sensationalism has reached an all time high as each network competes for viewers and, in turn, advertising dollars. We’ve now reached the point where if one simply wants a traditional news show outside of one of the “big three” networks it’s nowhere to be found. On a personal level, it’s that part that frustrates me the most, as I find television news a convenient way to have the day’s larger headlines broken down into a very easy to consume format.

A sign of the changing landscape in another form of media came this week as it was announced this week that the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News would discontinue home delivery of the newspaper except for the most popular three days of the week (Thursday, Friday and Sunday). As an alternative, the newspapers are moving home subscribers to the online version of the paper. While some may want to spin this as a sign of a troubled economy, that could not be further from the truth. The fact is that the Detroit newspapers are facing the exact same problem as every other newspaper in the nation – competition with the Internet.

Our world and our reality has changed greatly over the last 10 years. Information has become more pervasive than any time before in our history. People have more resources at their disposal than ever. And the Internet acts as a leveler for the playing field, allowing anyone with a computer to share their thoughts for all the world to see (i.e. – this blog). The fact of the matter is, people are turning towards other resources for their news.

All media outlets are businesses and must make money. As competition increases for customers these businesses must find other ways to turn a profit. Television has handled this by (on the whole) casting aside any level of journalistic integrity and sense of neutrality in search of ratings. Newspapers have a limited capability to do that due to the format of that medium. Some newspaper companies are beginning to succumb to the pressures - the parent company for the Chicago Tribune recently declared bankruptcy. Others, like the aforementioned Detroit newspapers, are trying to reshape themselves to Internet based media companies.

What worries me about all of this is the impact it will have on the general population. This is an age when someone can have a respected news site despite only scooping one more story in its history than I have (Matt Drudge), or another that has a very obvious agenda can be given credence in the main stream media (The Huffington Post). We seem to be losing all sight of journalism and neutrality, and the general populous seems to be losing its ability (if it ever had one to begin with) to filter out this bias., a non-partisan organization dedicated to fishing out falsehoods in political ads and spin, posted an article recently about the electorate’s level of misinformation. As it turns out, about half of the population believed two falsehoods told about the two major candidates in the election (McCain making cuts to Medicare and Obama taxing small business owners). Clearly, the truth doesn’t appear to be getting out there in a fashion consumable by a sizeable chunk of the population.

Our population is receiving their information from talking heads on television and the Internet in blogs who are concerned more about their own opinions and advertising than anything resembling journalism. And as is human nature, when something’s in print or on television, our instinct is to give it some level of credence even when none is deserved.

I wonder if we will continue down this path, or if at some point there will be a societal correction as more people demand unbiased truth from media outlets.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Windows Home Server

This may be of little interest to anyone, but the tech item I want to talk about today has been one of the best investments I have ever made.

About a year ago, Microsoft released a new operating system called Windows Home Server. They did so with little fanfare, which is really a shame, as it’s one of the best products they’ve ever released.

Windows Home Server (WHS) is designed to sit in a closet (although we have it in our office) and be a central location for your files, just like a normal server. But it offers many more features that are extremely helpful to the household with multiple computers or connected devices (such as a TiVo or XBox 360).

By far the best feature is the ability to automatically backup the systems in your house. When you install the client onto your other computers, it will prompt you to set up a schedule for backups. At night it will then backup any changes made to each system that day. The backups are bit-level, and are accessible through the server. It automatically keeps 3 daily backups, as well as 3 weekly and three monthly backups. I can easily restore individual files, or in the case of a complete meltdown, there’s a recovery disc I can use to connect to the server and restore the entire system from scratch.

WHS will also monitor the “health” of the systems on your network. If one hasn’t been backed up recently, or has a security configuration issue (no firewall turned on, hasn’t been updated with patches in a couple months, etc.) it will alert you – either through a client, or in the case of my server a little red light.

WHS also allows for remote connections. For me this is extremely valuable, as I often have need to retrieve data I have on the home server while on the road.

Another great use is the ability to have TiVo or an XBox 360 to connect to it. It’s nice to have one central store for my movies and music, as well as a central repository for all recorded TV shows.

The particular WHS that I have is the MediaSmart Home Server from HP. While it’s lacking in RAM (although that’s not a huge issue), it’s plug and play setup is a breeze. Plug in the server to a power outlet and then to your network. Install the software from the CD, which will detect the WHS and walk you through the configuration. Repeat the installation on the other systems on your network and you’re done. What’s also great about this little box is the hard drive bays are little drawers that you pull out to put the new drive in to – which you can do while the system is up and running.

It is a bit of an investment, but for the features and functionality it’s perfect for the person who has multiple PC’s on their network. And just as this video explains, some servers get to stay home and do fun stuff – which is what mine does.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse

Ok – I’m back. With the holidays and the last couple of weeks being stressful I’ve been rather disconnected from the world. I’m back now.

The Week[s]

Let’s see. Where did we leave off here? Last time I checked in, I was leaving NYC for Washington, DC (Bethesda, actually) for a 3 day class. As Abram lives in DC, I took the extra couple of days out there to spend some time with him. Didn’t do any real touristy stuff, but we did do a great pub crawl on Thursday. It was really just a chance for the two of us to hang out together.

That weekend saw the annual Strong Ale Festival, where there was 70+ ales, all 8% alcohol or higher. By far the best beer was a stout by a local brewery called Green Flash that was aged in a bourbon barrel. Two great things that are great together.

This past week brought me back to Houston for a 3 day class and an adventure with the weather. It snowed in Houston. Yes – you read that right – it snowed.

The Exercise

I knew it wasn’t going to happen these past couple of weeks with the holidays and my work schedule, and now that I’m ready to get back to work I have a sinus thing that will not leave me alone. But I need to get back in the groove.

The Travel Note

As I mentioned above it snowed in Houston – on the day that I was leaving. I knew this was going to cause a problem at some point, but I didn’t realize how it would actually go down.

After boarding the plane, we pushed back and hung out for a few minutes. Then the pilot announces that we’re going to taxi down to the end of the runway and deice. Yes – deice. In Houston.

Anyone who’s flown from a cold weather city likely knows the drill – they spray chemicals on the plane, and 15 minutes later you’re off and running. Of course, this isn’t a cold weather city. And they weren’t prepared.

Now they did have equipment (which surprised me as well.) What they didn’t have, though, was a plan to set up a barrier to prevent the chemicals from going into the grass. That process took about an hour and a half. And then finally we were able to get deiced and take off. The one saving grace was that I did have an upgrade, which made the time go by much easier. All told we took off 2.5 hours late.

The Five

Some odds and ends:

  1. The biggest key to an enjoyable flight is preparation. Bring good boredom relievers – I like TV shows. Bring water and snacks (I like trail mix). You never know when you’re going to be stuck on a plane for an extra 2.5 hours.
  2. I can’t get over the lack of quality in newspaper comics. Not only do almost all new strips lack humor, they also look like they were drawn in a 3rd grade class project.
  3. Not that I drink soda very often, but there are few pleasures in life like that of a cold can of Mountain Dew.
  4. If my team is going to lose, I’ll always take a blowout over a close game. If it’s a blowout it’s easier to get over. If it’s a close game, you wind up with heartache for days.
  5. The only time I miss snow is for Christmas, New Year’s and my birthday. If we could get snow for just those couple of times and that’s it I’d be just fine with it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse

OK – So I’m a little late here. But I’ve been travelling for pleasure the past few days, and I really don’t like breaking out my laptop unless it’s to watch a DVD.

The Week

IMG_2754 This past week was huge for me. First up, we had our Somethingth Annual Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner. And as a most amazing birthday present, Karin flew Abram out as a surprise. I had no idea what was coming, although everyone around me knew. What’s most amazing, is Karin managed to keep it from me. Usually when she has a good surprise for me she nearly bursts at the seams trying to keep it in, but this time it was not a problem.

In any event, the dinner was fantastic. Great people, and the food turned out very well, if I do say so myself – although Abram did as much, if not more, work than I did. And as always, it couldn’t be done without the help of everyone – Karin, Liam, Abram, Brent, Ron, Tricia, Marie, and everyone else who pitched in at some point that night. Because of the company that we had there, the bulk of us were up until 6a having a grand old time.

IMG_2811 Then it was off to the East Coast. We were in some small town in Pennsylvania this time. And as you can see by the couple of shots, it was certainly a small town. It’s always good to see family for the holidays, and this year was no exception.

As is tradition, the Thanksgiving dinner was followed by a couple nights in NYC. We saw a terrible play called Dust on Friday night, and a IMG_2862slightly less terrible play named Perfect Crime the second night. That’s the chance you take seeing something off the beaten path.

However, we did eat very well, enjoying a nice Cuban dinner and a trip to a Churrascaria (which was just out of this world good). And during the day on Saturday Karin and I roamed around NYC seeing how it dressed up for Christmas. Some year I’d love to see it a little later in December, but the weekend after Thanksgiving always works.

The Five

Apropos of nothing.

  1. I’m totally hooked again on The West Wing. If you’ve never seen this show, you owe it to yourself to pick up a couple episodes on iTunes and check it out.
  2. There’s a part of me that’s contented with the Chargers all but officially being eliminated from playoff contention. It frees up my Sundays when I’m travelling – I don’t have to rush off to a sports bar to watch the game after landing.
  3. The problem with the Chargers’ season basically being over is that it leaves me without someone to cheer for. The Pads won’t start up until April, and March Madness isn’t until, well, March. It’s hard to watch hockey with the NHL being on Versus (which no hotels actually carry). Maybe I just need to get more into college basketball?
  4. I’m very much looking forward to the college bowl games. I will watch every one that I can. Nothing like watching two “directional schools” face off in the Bowl.
  5. And unfortunately, it’s late and I can’t come up with a fifth.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse

Hopefully none needed

The Week

This week was much more stressful for Karin than it was for me. This Saturday is our 5th?6th?7th? annual Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s a chance to get good friends and family together for a holiday meal before everyone has to head out and have forced meals with the rest of their family. I get all the glory for cooking the meal, but Karin deserves all of the credit, as she has to deal with the stress of shopping, and then the stress of me cooking.

As for me, I was out in Dallas this week. Well, Irving to be more specific. I’ve yet to actually be anywhere near downtown Dallas, which is a shame because I hear it’s very cool.

The Restaurant

There are weeks when I feel like seeking out new places to eat. And then there are weeks when I say, “You know – I just want <fill in chain here>.” This week, the one that I really wanted was The Keg.

The Keg is a steakhouse (with a bad beer selection despite the name). Good steaks – they do a Chicago style where they’ll seer the steak, and they understand what very rare (blue rare they call it) is. The first time Karin and I checked the place out (years ago) we didn’t care much for it. The second time we went (up in Thunder Bay – on that trip I posted about earlier) we loved it. And the couple of times I’ve been to the one in Dallas it’s been fantastic. I was having a stressful week, so I treated myself on Wednesday – a nice baseball cut steak with a twice baked potato and a glass of J. Lohr Cabernet – very happy jersey.

The Travel Note

By far the most frustrating part about travel is missing football on Sundays. A close second is the Thursday games that the NFL is so keen on showing this time of year – showing on the NFL Network, which basically no hotel in the world actually gets. So if I want to watch the NFL on Thursday I’m forced to go out to a sports bar to watch it. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind sports bars. But it would be nice to be able to sit in my room and enjoy the game.

The Exercise


The Five

Miscellaneous facts that may only interest me:

  1. Living in San Diego has completely thrown off my perspective on weather. I don’t bother checking the weather forecast, remember to bring a fleece or coat with me, or have any real understanding that it gets cold in the winter.
  2. I have a habit of quoting movies and television shows in regular basis. I really just need people to understand that the references are normally just for my own entertainment.
  3. Whenever I go out to eat, my default setting is to just go eat at the bar. Usually there’s no wait (if there is one at the restaurant), better service, and much more social.
  4. In the past I’ve never been much for people watching. As I’ve started travelling, and maybe gotten older, I’ve become a much more of a people watcher.
  5. I often wish there were a cool story behind my nickname. Alas, it just boils down to the simple fact that there are too many Chrises in the world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Define “Marriage”

[Politics warning]

Whenever I teach, I have two basic rules. The first is that there is no getting the trainer sick – which is very important this time of year. The second is that there is no discussing religion, sex or politics. I’m glad I’m not teaching, as I’m going to violate every part of my second rule today.

It’s been just over two weeks since California Proposition 8 passed, a ballot measure which rescinded a legal right for all couples to marry. And I still can’t get over my shock. I’m really just left with one question for everyone who voted for this travesty: Why?

Actually, I take that back. I have many more questions:

  • What impact does a gay couple getting married have on your marriage?
  • What’s different about two loving adults getting married who happen to be the same gender?
  • How is this different than a law preventing two people of different ethnicities from getting married?
  • How would you react if suddenly the state said to you, “Sorry, we don’t acknowledge your love, your willingness to stand before God and your loved ones to commit to your partner for life”?

I’ve heard many horrible arguments in favor of Prop 8. There are three that really stand out to me: “Protecting Kids”. “It’s Against God’s Will”. “Other Nations Have Had Problems After Allowing Gay Marriage”.

Protecting Kids

The ads leading up to November 4th were particularly disgusting. Because the proponents of this ballot measure realized they couldn’t come right out and ask people to vote against a legal right granted to everyone, they played to the most disgusting of tactics – going after children. The ads implied that if Proposition 8 failed to pass that gay marriage would have to be taught to children. As if teaching children that two adults can love each other and get married was such terrible thing.

It’s Against God’s Will

Let me be very clear on something. I support fully any church who doesn’t want to perform gay marriage, just as I support any church who wants to limit who can become ordained. (And really, I can’t imagine someone attending a church who wouldn’t allow them to marry anyway.) To plagiarize a good friend of mine (thanks Bill C.), if we’re going to claim that marriage is a religious institution, then let’s leave it as a religious institution. You can marry in a church, but you don’t get any secular rights.

Other Nations Have Had Problems After Allowing Gay Marriage

If I cared enough, I’d have done further research on this pastor’s statement on Fox News the other day. He claimed that some Scandinavian country who legalized gay marriage saw a decrease in children born in wedlock. He went on to imply that there’s a large underground of closeted gay people who are simply waiting for gay marriage to be legalized to come out. I don’t grok the latter, and as for the former I wonder why certain people would be willing act on stats of another nation on this issue, but ignore stats of a foreign nation in regards to gun control.

Now I must make very clear that I am anti-gay rights. I’m anti-straight rights, white-rights, Asian-rights and any other specific rights for a particular group of people. I’m 100% for equal rights. Rights are not granted because of a particular persuasion, ethnicity or gender. Rights are granted simply because you are an American citizen; the rest is irrelevant. I quote Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

That’s it. Equal protection. Nothing specific to one group of people. Just the same rights for every American. Not civil unions. Not domestic partnerships. Marriage. Marriage for all. You get what I get. No more, no less. Or as the Massachusetts court put it best:

The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.

Now I ask you – find me the American who’s against another American having the same rights as him or her.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Sarah posted a few pics of a recent trip to Duluth that she took. It got me thinking of the trip back that Karin and I took a couple years ago, and got me reminiscing (as I’m prone to do.)

It’s crazy to think that it was 16 years ago that I landed there, a mouthy little 19 year old with a funky accent. (Granted, I’m now a mouth 36 year old with small traces of an accent, but that’s still some progress.)

IMG_1145 It’s great thinking back to our first apartment. Most married couples tell some story about some little dinky place that they had to squeeze in to. We found a rent controlled place with a huge living room and a great view. The  bedroom was just big enough to fit the king bed in it (by just big enough, I mean we slid it into this IMG_1148notch in the room where the walls butted up against each side of the bed). When we visited, I couldn’t do justice to the view as I couldn’t quite get high enough, but suffice it to say, it was fantastic looking over the lake and the Lift Bridge.

We also snuck up to Thunder Bay during this trip. Thunder IMG_1141Bay was our getaway place when ever we needed to escape Duluth (or The Cities) for that matter. The drive up is just gorgeous, and if you ever have the chance you need to take it. Some day I’d love to take the Miata out there and run it up the coast. Maybe some fall.


By far what blows me away the most is how young we look. I mean, yeah, we were babies, but still. That’s Karin at Niagara Falls during our honeymoon. (Look at how long her hair is…)

The other one is me at Kakabeka Falls in the Thunder Bay Area. I miss that Pinky and the Brain shirt.


And here we are today:


Christopher Harrison 2

Crazy. Just crazy.

Thanks for indulging me for a few minutes.

I’m done now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

[Periodically] Friday Five

The Excuse

I must inform you that I always intend to do a Five. Unfortunately, life sometimes conspires against me, and it just doesn’t happen. Last week was a huge week for me (I’ll explain later), and I just didn’t have a chance to put it together. I started, but alas, it just didn’t happen.

The Week[s]

Last week (the week of the 3rd) I was in Atlanta. After going to a particular area a couple of times you get a feel for the place and it becomes more comfortable. What made things even better was that Abram came down from DC to visit. He hung out on Monday night and Tuesday, watching MNF and the election results. It was a blast being able to reconnect with him, and have someone to watch the election with. It made for a very long Wednesday, but the class I was teaching couldn’t have turned out any better. (The marks were the best I’ve had in quite a while.)

This week I was in San Jose. I think I’ve got this area pretty well down. I was able to have dinner one night with a group of friends, and even get in a couple of workouts which was nice. The downside was (of course) that coming to San Jose means dealing with the San Jose airport, and on this particular trip dealing with an RJ (regional jet).

The Exercise

The Atlanta week was a complete wash. I knew it was going to be so I really didn’t get myself too down. This week was a bit better – I did get down to the gym twice, which while not great is still better than nothing.

The Restaurant

This week I met my friends at Aqui, a cafeteria style Mexican fusion type place. I wound up having (because I ordered the wrong thing) a breaded pork thing with pasta. It was good but nothing wowing. Of course I had just come from the gym, so anything at that point would have been good. I’d give the place another shot the next time I’m in town.

The Travel Note

I have been bound and determined to lose something these past few weeks. Recently I have:

  • Left my suitcase in an airport bar (realized it just as I got to the bottom of the Jetway)
  • Locked my suitcase in a classroom (wound up having to break in)
  • Thrown away my wallet (it was under a couple of other items on my desk and I threw it away without realizing it)

And finally I succeeded. I left the cable for my Zune that I use to connect to the car radio in my last rental. I set out on a mission and I succeeded.

The Five

Miscellaneous items

  1. I’ve mentioned this before, but just to reiterate – I’m never comfortable in one place for a long time. I’m kicking around the idea of moving this blog over to Live Spaces by Microsoft, but I haven’t quite decided yet. Don’t worry – there will be plenty of advanced warning should that happen.
  2. There are about 6-10 words that I misspell. Fortunately, my brother and wife are right there to correct me that’s why I have a spell checker. Having said that, the improper use of the their/there/they’re and your/you’re really bug me. That and losing (not loosing).
  3. I used to be rather depressed about turning another year older – to the point where I didn’t want to celebrate or tell anyone it was my birthday. Since passing 30, I’m actually quite OK with it. I’m enjoying my 30’s. (You will notice over on the right side (about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down) that there’s my Amazon wish list. I’m not saying that I have a birthday coming up or anything….)
  4. I’ve never broken a bone in my body. I’ve busted up my nose a couple of times (which is just cartilage), and dislocated my finger (in rather nasty form). But never broken a bone.
  5. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on the planet who owns both a Zune and an iPhone. I personally hate iTunes, so I use the Zune for music. Plus, being able to subscribe to “all you can eat” music is rather convenient for someone like myself who listens to a wide variety of music.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Go Vote!

Life's been a tad more hectic than I had hoped. I really did want to put together a couple of postings on some of the bigger items (such as Prop 8 in CA (gays should be allowed to be as miserable as us straights)), but it did not happen.

In any event, I can at least say this - Go Vote! I really don't care who you vote for, just that you vote. We really only have two civic duties that are required of us by The Constitution - serve on a jury and voting.

Please exercise your right to vote today.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse

None needed. W00t!

The Week

I was out in Boise, ID this week. It was the complete opposite as my last experience here. Last time I was here it was blazing hot and my good friend Brian visited me. This time around it was cold and nobody visited.

I also didn't get out and see much of the city this time around. It something that's a shame - of all the places I go to, I rarely get out and actually check out the town. For the most part, I was exhausted after class, and as a result I kept a fairly low profile.

I'm not sure what it was that made me so tired. Everyone was complaining of allergies this week, so maybe that was it. It was also rather dark in the morning so I'm wondering if that had an impact. Either way, I had near zero energy all week. And that's even after I started drinking coffee again.

The Restaurant

Boy am I a beer snob, and so very spoiled by living in San Diego. The San Diego area is consistently well represented in Beer Advocate's list of top breweries in America, with 5 out of the top 6 this past year. But since I believe in drinking local, I always try to see what other regions have to offer.

This time I went to Tablerock Brewpub and Grill. The place is rather large, although it was pretty empty on the Tuesday night that I was there for (even with the World Series on). I had their Hopzilla (good, but not great), and a lemon chicken salad (which was just a salad, but I'm not going to ding them on it as it was after all just a salad.) I'd give them 3 out of 5 stars.

The Exercise

I managed to get out to the Y once this week. Yeah, I know. It could have been much better. I'm not sure what it was, but I was lacking energy all week this week. On top of that, the fleabag of a hotel I was in didn't have any exercise equipment, and it was too cold for this SoCal boy to go jogging. What was really annoying is the fact that the Y charges $14 for a day pass. It's about $50ish for a month pass. Guys - how about lowering that rate just a little, or maybe offering a week pass?

The Travel Note

I have a weakness for the Seafood & Crab sandwich at Subway. I think I'm one of about 8 other people nationwide that actually likes this sandwich. There are only certain areas that sell it. As it turns out, Boise is one of those places. And as ashamed as I am to admit it, I usually have about 2-3 of those in a given week.

The Five

This may help nobody or it may be quasi-useful. Since I travel [nearly] every week I have to figure out where to eat. And since I try and avoid chains, it makes things a little more challenging. Here's my tips on finding dinner:

  • Yelp - A user review site that for most metro areas will have plenty of great reviews and information on restaurants. The one problem is you're never quite sure if the person is a good judge or not - do they love everything, or are they the nit-picker type. Did they happen to have one great experience, or just one horrible one? I will say that on the whole I've been very lucky with Yelp.
  • Google Maps - The old standby. When all else fails, do a search for restaurant in Google Maps.
  • iPhone - There are so many great tools on the iPhone for finding restaurants. Both Yelp and Google Maps are available, and since the iPhone knows your location (only slightly creepy) it can point out things that are close to you. One app in particular is nice - Urban Spoon. A little slot machine will randomly choose the area of town, the cuisine, and the price range, and find a restaurant that matches those three.
  • On occasion, I have received tips from my students. One in particular was a recommendation to a barbecue joint outside of Danville that was just amazing.
  • Chain - Every now and then I'm just feeling lazy, so I go off to a Chili's or Outback or whatever. I try not to, but every now and then I just don't want to figure out where to go eat one more time. The one exception is Famous Dave's (have I ever mentioned I love Famous Dave's?). If I'm ever in an area with a Famous Dave's I will always stop by at least once.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays

Back on April 2nd, I said in a baseball post:

If you're lucky enough to be in one of the cities where your home team can actually compete for the title (read: not Tampa Bay or Kansas City), you have great expectations. The entire season lays before you, waiting to be written.

Clearly I was proven wrong on half of that statement. The Rays had an amazing season, and last nights loss in Game 5A doesn't diminish that one bit.

To the Rays, the region of Tampa Bay, and a certain commenter who took me to task when I first said that, I'm sorry.

And I like my crow medium rare.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse:

Well, I pecked out most of this during the week. And then I had a very short class on Friday so I didn't get a chance to finish it. And then I was busy enjoying my weekend.

The Week:

I was in town this week - and working! Which was rather odd for me, but good. I was back at my old training center, a place that I hadn't taught at for about a year and a half, but worked at for a collective 6 years (or so).

It was strange teaching a class in San Diego. I would start to think about where it was that I wanted to go have dinner during the day, only to realize - "wait! I'm in San Diego! I can just go home!"

It was also nice to be able to spend more time with Karin, see friends, and play with the dog. Sleeping in my own bed was a nice added bonus as well.

The Restaurant:

My friend Ron suggested dinner at Farm House Cafe, a place about 10 blocks from our house for dinner. Farm House Cafe does up rustic French cuisine. So Ron and Brent, Karin and I went over there on Wednesday night for dinner. All I can say is "wow!"

It's a very small (about 15 tables) little restaurant with a nice charm to it. Every single thing we tried (and we're a group that shares food amongst our friends) was fabulous.

We started with the lentil soup (a tad salty but still the best lentil soup I ever had), a take on escargot (I couldn't bring myself to taste it but everyone who did loved it), a caramelized onion flat bread (very tasty) and a mussels and gnocchi dish (which was amazing - the gnocchi absorbed the lemon flavor in the sauce, so having a piece of that and a mussel in your mouth combined the flavors perfectly).

For dinner we did the duck confit (the special - very good), the scallops (I had been craving scallops for quite a while and was not disappointed), the halibut and risotto (yum) and a fettuccini with a lamb bolognese (they added lemon zest to it which while it sounded strange was just amazing - the dish wound up being much lighter than we had all expected, so much so that unfortunately the red we ordered was overpowering for the dish).

Dessert was their lemon tart brulée (very yummy) and the pistachio creme brulée (I love pistachio pudding & ice cream so this was a natural selection for me - and it was out of this world).

We all left commenting about the fact that every dish was fantastic and Ron even went so far as to say that it may be his new favorite restaurant.

The Exercise:

Well - I managed to get down to the gym twice. I find it harder when I'm at home to stay on track.

The Travel Note:

I have been to the best and worst airport bar in the past two weeks.

The best was in Tucson, AZ. I swung in there for a quick beer before my flight after Paul dropped me off. Huge bar with 9 TV's behind it, with a rather cute coed as the bartender pulling beer from about 20 different taps. Airport bar heaven. My flight was delayed 30 minutes (typical Southwest), which strangely I was just fine with.

Airport bar hell is in Newark by the 120-130 gates. Tiny space, 5 taps, and the worlds surliest, slowest, inattentive, worst bartenders I have ever seen "in action" (if you can call what they did action).

The Five:

Miscellaneous facts:

  1. Food should be cooked for the shortest period of time possible. Crisp veggies, very rare steaks, etc. It's the only way they maintain flavor. As a result, it's very challenging at times to get food in a restaurant prepared the way I like it.
  2. If there's a dark version of a food I will always take that. Dark roasted coffee, dark chocolate, big bold red wines, etc.
  3. I hate the taste of buffalo wing sauce. It's not a heat thing - I like a decent amount of spice. It's the flavor.
  4. Karin and I voted for both Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger. We voted for Jesse, left the state right afterwards, and then voted for Arnold when he ran.
  5. As far as I'm concerned, the greatest cold medication on the market is Mucinex D. Make sure you get the one from behind the pharmacy counter - that's the good stuff.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Simple Solution - Just Stop Making Them

In case you haven't heard, and judging by their circulation in the wild you haven't, the US Mint is once again trying to get the nation to switch to dollar coins. This time, rather than using Sacagawea on the coins they're using Presidents. And just as before, they're going nowhere.

The problem is this. For whatever reason, people are stuck on dollar bills. Never mind the fact that they cost the government more money to maintain. Never mind that they cost businesses more money to deal with. Never mind that they're less environmentally sound. The populous wants their dollar bills.

The solution to the problem is very simple - stop making dollar bills. In about 18-24 months after all the dollar bills have run their course, we're left with the dollar coins. It's just that simple. No advertising campaigns needed - just stop putting dollar bills into circulation. Problem solved.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse:

None needed. I've started taking a different tack when it comes to putting this together. I started typing this up on Tuesday, that way I can update it during the week as inspiration strikes. A quick review on Friday and away we go.

The Week:

I was in Morristown, NJ this week. From the moment I checked into my hotel there was no doubting where I was - the girl who checked me in was in her mid 20's, had on plenty of make up, huge hair and a very thick accent.

It was really the first time I had been back to the general area in NJ that I grew up in.[1] I must say, I'm amazed at how at home I felt out here again. I have mentioned in the past that the East Coast always has a draw for me, but I didn't realize how strong that really was. The area, the houses, the people, the food, being next door to NYC. I am disappointed to be leaving to go back to San Diego.

Before anyone panics, let me say right now that Karin and I are not moving, have no plans to move, are not discussing moving. Besides - even if we wanted to move we wouldn't be able to unload our house. But there is a surprisingly large part of me that is still a Jersey boy.

I was able to get over to Manhattan three times this week - twice to visit friends - one who lives in San Diego but happened to be in NYC, and the other who I thought I had met in college but found out that I didn't - and once to visit family. It's always nice to be able to mix a little pleasure in with a business trip.

BTW, have I mentioned my love affair with Manhattan?

The Restaurant:

Oh geez. Which one to choose. I did not go to a single chain restaurant all week, it was all local flavor. Here's a quick snippet of each place I visited:

The Grasshopper Off the Green - A divey NJ Irish pub. A place full of regulars, bartenders who take good care of you, and decent (but not great) food. In other words, my kind of place. I did dinner there on Sunday night as I was in need of somewhere to watch the Chargers game, get some food/drink, and be a little loud.

Muse - A Greek restaurant that does very good sangria. The food was good but not great (did the humus to start and a chicken kabob for dinner).

Tir Na Nog - An Irish bar right across from Penn Station/MSG. Had likely the largest pork chop ever. Was very tasty.

Boom - A small little place down in SoHo. Very good food. They had a jazz band playing which was nice - except for the trumpet - small restaurants with little noise dampening to not need a trumpet playing at full volume.

Chinese Mirch - An Indian Chinese place. Fairly spicy. Very yummy.

The Exercise:

Go Me! I finally got back into the groove of things. At the gym 3 times this week, and I walked all over Morristown and a good amount in Manhattan.

Travel Note:

I have a Dell 1330 which is starting to drive me insane. On top of the problems it's been having (failed hard drive, failing fan), it also seems to be a target for spills - which I've mentioned before. This one caught me completely by surprise. We're cruising along at 35,000ft when someone in the row in front of me and to my left opens up the container of yogurt served with breakfast. Because of the pressure change, some yogurt comes shooting out and hits my laptop. I'm thinking I need to just keep it covered in a Gallagher-style plastic sheet.

The Five:

Five just miscellaneous items.

  1. I had an eyebrow hair that had started growing wildly. Finally one morning (at the behest of my wife) I decided to pluck it. After recovering from the pain I came to the conclusion I could never make it as a woman.
  2. Because I moved around so much as a child I always feel strange when things stay stagnant for a long time. I'm always looking for something to change - new apartment, new city, new job, etc. Outside of Karin, there is very little in my life that has lasted for longer than about 3 years.
  3. I go in spurts when it comes to reading a book for pleasure. I'll sometimes just devour a book in about a week. Other times, I'll have it for months. I'm working my way very slowly through Bourne Supremacy. I need to get back into the groove again.
  4. I have a thing for office supplies. I love shopping for office supplies. No idea why, but there are few things that make me happier than a trip to Staples or Office Depot.
  5. I've only missed voting in one Presidential election, but I need to point out that it wasn't my fault. I tried to sign up to vote when I got my CA license. When the person was taking my forms, I remember her taking the voter registration form and tossing it into this little box off to the side. I remember thinking, "That's not a good sign." Sure enough, come November, they didn't have me registered. I filled out a provisional ballot which wasn't counted.

[1]Our family bounced around quite a bit while growing up. When asked, my two brothers and I give three separate answers to the question "Where did you grow up?" I say NJ, the middle says NY and the baby says VT. It boils down to where each of us spent the majority of our time and graduated HS.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

E-ticket Virus

Boy this was freaky. I booked a flight on Delta the other day. Today I received the following e-mail on an address I don't use when I book travel:

Good afternoon,

Thank you for using our new service "Buy airplane ticket Online" on our website.

Your account has been created:

Your login: <e-mail address here>

Your password: PASS2VS9

Your credit card has been charged for $941.89.

We would like to remind you that whenever you order tickets on our website you get a discount of 10%!

Attached to this message is the purchase Invoice and the airplane ticket.

To use your ticket, simply print it on a color printed, and you are set to take off for the journey!

Kind regards,

Delta Air Lines

Being the bright guy that I am, I immediately went into investigation mode. Step one - scan the attachment and find out if its a virus. Sure enough, it turns out that it was.

Couple of things to always keep your eyes open for:

  1. If you're not expecting an attachment, always scan it first before opening it up.
  2. Always remember that anti-virus software is there as a backup to your savvy. Don't rely on it as a first layer.
  3. Notice that the e-mail didn't say my name. Any legit e-mail from a site such as Delta would include the recipient's name. There's also just a general lack of personal information - there is no information about the flight, the last four of the cc that was used for the charge, etc.
  4. Notice the typo - "..simply print it on a color printed..."
  5. Notice the funky English - "Buy airplane ticket Online". That was the title of the new service. Bad formatting the whole way around.

Morals of the story: If something doesn't look right it probably isn't, and don't trust attachments from anyone.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse:

Ok. So it comes down to a couple of things. I discovered the cause of my computer problems at the end of last week - a faulty hard drive. I had to wait for a new hard drive and then get it all set up. And then I simply never got around to posting a delayed five.

The Week[s]:

I spent the week of the 27th at home. Really - at home. All week. It was everything I thought it would be and more.

In any event, I attempted ribs for the first time on my first Sunday home for the Chargers game. They came out pretty well. Need to work a few things out, but I think I can eventually get the hang of this. The one nice thing about our grill is it's a 5 burner, so it's pretty easy to get it to that low temperature you need for making ribs.

Beyond that, I mostly relaxed at home, trying to stay focused long enough to study for two exams I had to take on Thursday. Fortunately, it worked as I got past both exams - go me! ;-)

This week was a class in San Jose. What's nice about going to San Jose is I have friends there. I went bowling with one set of friends one night (bowled a 180 & 187 - my best back to back games ever, btw), and then met a friend in San Francisco for dinner another night. I heart San Francisco.

The Restaurant:

For dinner in San Francisco, my friend and I roamed through Little Italy. We went to a little place called Calzone's which my friend had been to before. Food was quite good. Started with a nice bruschetta, split an arugula and goat cheese salad. I had the lasagna and he had an angel hair pasta dish. All very tasty.

The Exercise:

Ebb and flow here on the exercise front. I must get back into the swing of things. I used the Wii Fit a couple of times, hit the gym once, and went jogging once, but that was about it. Must refocus. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

The Travel Note:

I loathe Southwest. They have a good reputation from the past but they've gone downhill over the last couple of years. They're consistently late, their customer service is lacking, and don't even get me started on their seating policy.

I went to board the plane in the "B" group, when my boarding pass wasn't read correctly. Now I have to go back to the counter and get a new boarding pass. By the time I get back, I'm one of the last people to board the plane. Ugh. Guaranteed middle seat and trouble finding spot for my bag.

Sure enough, I managed to find a bin that has a small briefcase (why didn't you put that under your seat??), a small little bag and a set of wheels. I stack those one on top of the other. Now I've got just about enough room for my bag but not quite. I pull the other roller out and slide it in sideways and then put my bag up. I go to close it and it doesn't quite close.

"It's not going to close", says the guy sitting there.

I flip my bag around knowing that if I put it in top first (wheels out) it will slide in further.

"That's only going to make it worse....", says this same guy - rather gleefully (Oh, look how smart I am.)

I close the bin and it closes just fine.

"Thanks for your help", I say, gloating.

Rather than make snarky comments, maybe helping would be better.

The Five:

From an idea from Sarah - five spontaneous moments

  1. Karin and I flew out to the east coast one year and had planned a little side trip before seeing family. We flew into JFK on the red eye and then drove down to Baltimore as we wanted to see an Orioles game. We got to the hotel but they wouldn't check us in as it was too early. We took a nap in the car, and decided to make the best of the situation - a quick side trip to DC. That was the first time we had ever been there, and even though it was only for a few hours it was amazing.
  2. I treasure tranquility at home, and stress out whenever anything disturbs that. Our friend had dropped off his dog and cat to watch for the weekend, and the cat was a handful. Karin told me to just leave for the weekend. I took a road trip out to Phoenix and checked out some of the poker rooms. Just a blast.
  3. My baby brother and I did Vegas for New Year's Eve one year on a complete lark. We had no idea what we were going to do when we got there, but we of course had a blast. It's become an annual tradition now.
  4. Karin and I didn't know what we wanted to see one night when we were in NYC. There was a guy handing out little slips for [title of show]. We decided to go see it, and as you've read before, it was one of the best shows we've ever seen.
  5. This is really Brian being spontaneous more than me, but Brian coming out to visit in Boise was an absolute blast.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse

Ok, so I typed this up on Friday. I thought I posted it when I was sitting in the airport bar but realized later that I hadn’t. This weekend was just simply living life and I didn’t get around to clicking on publish until now.

The Week

What a week it was.

I was in Houston this week. To answer the first question right up front – I didn’t see a lot of damage. Some windows knocked out; a good amount of debris from trees and the like; numerous billboards blown out. But the bulk of the damage came along the coast and I was on the NW side of Houston most of the time.

The biggest issues I had were traffic and hotel. I’m not sure which was worse.

Trying to find a hotel proved near impossible – between closures and people seeking shelter. I spent Sunday morning (the morning I was leaving) trying to find a hotel. After about an hour or so of calling hotels I found somewhere that I could get into for the first two nights. I took it figuring I at least had a place to stay and could work on the rest of the week later. After spending my free time on Monday and Tuesday hunting, I finally found somewhere for Tuesday night – just one night, and a smoking room at that. I made the decision that a smoking room was better than no room. By Wednesday, one of the people that works at the training center I was at took pity on me and let me crash at her and her husband’s place.

The freeway system ground to a halt this weekend. Roughly half of the traffic lights in the area were either sans power or flashing red. This meant that major side-streets that often serve as a relief valve for the freeways were rendered useless. As a result, the freeway system faced gridlock all week. I wound up staying far outside the city, and probably spent a good 2-3 hours per day in the car trying to get to and from work.

The Exercise

Yeah, about that…… Did not happen. What little free-time I did have after the commute was spent looking for a place to stay. Next week will be a make-up week.

The Restaurant

I did still manage to find a restaurant. I wound up at Lyndon’s Pit Bar-BQ (after discovering the place I wanted to go to didn’t have electricity yet). The place was a typical Texas cafeteria style BBQ joint. Nothing overly remarkable about it. But that’s always the thing with trying new restaurants – sometimes you win, and other times…

The Five

Let’s see if I can’t come up with another five just random things about me.

  1. My favorite season is fall. Now I must admit it’s easier to say that living a place that doesn’t suffer from winter, but fall has always been my favorite. I love the crisp cool air, Indian summers, and of course football.
  2. There is a part of me that likes a bitterly cold day. There’s something about the cold that makes you feel alive. Plus, the comfort of a blanket and couch is inversely proportional to the temperature outside.
  3. My favorite time of day is early morning just as the sun is rising. There’s a certain something about the start of a new day. Of course, I can’t ever get up early enough to enjoy it, so I only get to see it when I’ve stayed up the entire night before – which oddly enough makes that time of day more special to me.
  4. I worked graveyards for a little over a year of my life. Fastest way to suck your will to live – work a graveyard shift.
  5. There are few things better in life than a nap. It would be nice if we could roll out our sleeping bags in the middle of the day and catch 40 winks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yankee Stadium

I had been wanting to post something earlier about Yankee Stadium, but as you’ll read tomorrow (today?) it’s been a crazy week to say the least.

IMG_1034 In any event, this week baseball buried one of its most treasured possessions – Yankee Stadium. I’m not going to try to wax poetic about the stadium itself and what it means for baseball, many others have done that with a level of eloquence that I can’t hope to achieve. But what I can do is tell the story of the trip Karin and I had to Yankee Stadium.

The experience itself actually started at the hotel at breakfast. We were seated at a table next to a Japanese couple who were in town to watch Hideki Matsui who had just landed. We spoke a little bit with them, as they could speak some broken English – broken English that included the phrases “baseball”, “day game”, and, of course, “Yankee Stadium”. Something very cool when the small vernacular you have in English includes baseball terminology.

We knew enough to get to the stadium early to roam through Monument Park, but we didn’t realize how early we needed to be there. By the time we got to the line for the park it snaked up about 4 different ramps. As it turned out, we were the last group to be let in. Fortunately, you’re not rushed through the park, so we got to spend plenty of time checking out everything.

There is an aura to the stadium. You hear that a lot and it sounds cliché, but it’s true in this case. Those are the same grounds (if not the same configuration) that so many of the game’s best roamed.

The game itself was incredible, but that goes without saying – it was Yankees/Red Sox. While the rivalry is often overplayed, I can tell you it is as intense as advertised. The crowd was present, loud, and into it the entire 9 innings – all the way up to the Byung-Hyun Kim blown save.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to attend any game there, let alone Yankees/Red Sox.

RIP, Yankee Stadium.

(Note – the link above (and here) is for an excellent SI article that eulogizes the Stadium. An absolute must read.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse:

None needed!

The Week:

This was a bit of a reversal for me this week. I was still travelling (Dallas – Irving, more specifically), but I sat a SharePoint class this week. Was nice to be able to relax sort of, and not have to be “on” al week.

The rest of my week was pretty typical – I was at work, sleeping, working out, and spending my free time curled up in the fetal position crying over the Chargers loss.

The Exercise:

I certainly made up for lost time this week. I didn’t have a car this week (long story), so whenever I wanted dinner or the like, I had to walk a good mile or so to wherever I wanted to be. On top of that, I went running 3 days this week. Managed to go for 40 minutes on Thursday, my longest stretch yet. The one nice thing about the location of the Hotel was that there was a Verizon campus not to far away that offered some great paths that were perfect for jogging. I need to sign up for like a 10K or a half-marathon in the future (one that’s on a Saturday).

The Restaurant:

After my run on Tuesday I felt like a margarita. I found a “Fine Mexican Cuisine” place named La Joya. Normally, a place that advertises “Fine Mexican Cuisine” is still just the same Mexican food. Boy was I wrong on this place.

First up, the margaritas were ok. Nothing special. But the food was just as the sign advertised – it was Mexican cuisine, and not your normal fare. I started with a fruit salad – fresh fruit in a hollowed out pineapple half, doused with coconut rum and honey. Wow. I did want something quasi-traditional, so I did their lobster tacos, which were amazing.

A great find the whole way around.

The Five:

This is number 60. That means by the time you read this, you’ll have learned nearly 300 odd facts about jersey or thoughts jersey has. And as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been tagged yet again, with a challenge to give up 6 blogger friends of mine (I don’t have 6) and 6 random facts about me. Right.

Thanks, Sarah.

I figure I’ll go with the normal five and call it good.

  1. I’ve never been to Maine. Or at least I don’t think I have. I have memories of being to every other state in New England, but I haven’t been to Maine where I was an age where I have some memory of it.
  2. I’d love to live in Manhattan. Even if it was for just a year. Of course, Karin would never join me.
  3. If Karin and I were to have ever had kids, the names we had picked out were Joshua Patrick and Chaela Wynn.
  4. My next tattoo will have a baby tiger and a couple of Kanji symbols. I’m not exactly sure how I want it to look yet, but there’s the foundation. I did some research on laughter in Japanese, and learned if you added another symbol it became “funny story”, which seems very appropriate for me. I just can’t commit to it yet, but that’s where I’m leaning.
  5. I think by far the greatest skill I ever learned was how to touch type. Ironically, I failed typing in high school. When I got into computers I forced myself to learn how to touch type.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How Are You Supposed To React?

I don't even know how to feel.

I don't even know what to say.

For the second straight week, the defense has surrendered more than 30 points. For the second straight week, the defense failed to put any real pressure on the QB for the majority of the game. For the second straight week, the defense failed to stop the run. Before the Chargers can go anywhere, the defense must be fixed.

With that said.....

Blown calls cost the Chargers the ball twice.

The first seemed obvious enough live and at full speed. Chris Chambers and Champ Bailey simultaneously caught a pass, when Chambers' arm hit the ground. By rule, that should a dead ball - Chargers' ball. But the officials on the field ruled it an interception. Norv Turner attempted to challenge the play. Alas, the replay equipment on the field was not functioning, and the officials waited for the requisite two minutes before announcing that the ruling on the field stands.

Bypassing the blown call, there's something that someone needs to clear up for me. The equipment in the booth was working, but the equipment on the field was not. Why is it that the backup plan for the equipment on the field not working is to simply wait an extra two minutes in case by some miracle that it works and then move on? Why not have someone in the booth rule on it? Or someone at the NFL offices, who are all watching the games, rule on it? The only recourse is simply waiting two minutes and then moving on. Completely unacceptable.

And then....... And then.........

The Chargers once again put together a stellar second half performance. Come back to take the lead 38-31. Jay Cutler leads his team down the field to the 4 yard line. Jay drops back to pass, starts putting his arm backwards and loses his grip of the ball. Fumble, and the Chargers recover.

But wait!

Ed "I'm Much More Interested In My Physique Than Officiating" Hochuli blew his whistle on the play. As a result - dead ball at the spot where it hit the ground, and the Broncos retain possession.

Two plays later - TD Broncos. Try for two - Good. Ball game.

What do you even say? How are you supposed to feel? If you've read my blog in the past, you know my feelings on officiating. The Chargers did near everything to win the game. But things were certainly made tougher by the two calls that cost the Chargers the ball.

No amount of complaining on my part is going to change the following reality - the Chargers are 0-2 and currently two games out of first place. The time to turn the season around is now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse:

Laziness. That's basically it. Laziness. As I'll mention below I got stuck in Atlanta for an extra night, and just didn't feel like doing much of anything beyond watching football and playing The Sims when I got back to my room. To my loyal reader[s], I apologize.

The Week:

Atlanta this week. Always nice to have a little change of pace. Except for the part where I got stuck there an extra night. Due to hurricane Ike, the Houston airport closed on Friday at 2p. I was supposed to connect through Houston. Instead, it's a Saturday flight home for yours truly. Fun! I suppose I really shouldn't complain, though. At the end of the day this is nothing but a minor inconvenience. It would still be nice to be home, though. But I know that I still have a home at the moment.

For my Jewish mother - I was nowhere near Texas when Ike hit. Continental called me to let me know that even if the airport would have been open that I specifically wouldn't have been able to fly through Texas.

For my Houston peeps - I hope all is well for you. I will try and contact you some time next week when things settle down more.

I don't often post about a particular class, or a particular assignment, but I'm going to make an exception this time. This week was a big one for me as it was my first solo teach for Global Knowledge, a large training company I'd been trying to get hooked up with for quite a while. My class went very well, and I should be doing more work with them soon. (I'm actually rather jazzed about this...)

The Restaurant:

New feature. As I've mentioned many times before, I'm not much of a tourist when I travel. I'm just not big on going out to different sites by myself. Need my favorite travel companion (my wife) or a good friend or family with me. I like sharing experiences with others (probably part of the reason why I've managed to keep the blog up and running for so long). But at the very least, I have to eat. And I can easily make sure I visit one new restaurant per week.

For my first one, I'm going to review my favorite Atlanta area restaurant, which is Five Seasons. I visited the one before in Alpharetta, but this time I found my way over to the one in Atlanta as I was actually here. The place is in a shopping center that's undergoing a ton of construction, and was a tad tricky to find. The place is huge, but was empty the night I was there (Monday). Granted, I was there a tad early (5ish), but I think there were about 5 other tables collectively over the time that I was there.

In any event, the restaurant does some organic food as well as farm-to-market. They also do their own beer. This past time I tried their IPA (good, but not hoppy enough for this San Diego hophead) and their Strong Ale, which was a maltier version of their IPA (again, good, but not great). I had their pork chop special, which was a pork chop, on a bed of cheddar risotto with some mixed veggies. Outstanding. Highly recommended.

The Exercise:

Must get back into the swing of things still. I got in two workouts. One of those was a good 30 minute run, followed by a 30 minute walk back up the rest of the hills. Note to self: That hill that you run down when leaving the hotel is going to suck rocks going back up.

The Travel Note:

I guess sometimes life does circle back around on some level. When I landed in Atlanta (after being delayed) I made a beeline to the Hooters that was by my hotel (just needed a known sports bar that would have NFL Sunday Ticket and I knew they would). I wound up roaming around trying to find a TV with the Chargers game on, and wound up sitting at a long table next to the only Chargers fan in the place. When sitting down at a restaurant bar for dinner later I wound up sitting next to a Carolina fan.

The Five:

This week I want to try and answer five questions I commonly get asked.

  1. What is it that you do for a living?
    This is probably the question I get asked most often, and by far the most challenging to answer. It's like trying to explain Chandler's job (Friends reference). I am a technical trainer. I teach people how to do databases, program things like websites, etc. Basically, my job is to teach the people that make sites like Blogspot and the like work.
  2. How can you travel full time?
    This one is pretty easy - no kids. If we had kids then it flat wouldn't work. Karin and I are rather resilient, so we get along just fine. We've actually had many periods in our marriage where we wouldn't see each other, so we've got the system pretty well down. I'm not going to lie and say that there aren't times where it's a tad tougher on the relationship or me personally (such as on weeks where I get stuck in a city for an extra night), but you fall into a routine pretty easily.
  3. Will you ever leave the travel behind?
    Maybe at some point. Right now being an indie (independent contractor, but all the cool kids say "indie") gives me quite a bit of freedom and opportunity to do things I normally wouldn't have been able to do. I appreciate that freedom and flexibility, so right now I'm very happy doing what I'm doing. That may change in the future, but for right now I'm going to keep on doing what I'm doing.
  4. Have you ever contributed to Wikipedia?
    I have. Not much, but I've updated a couple of little things, corrected a couple of things, but that's about it. I've never created an article on my own, mostly because I find that idea rather intimidating. And your bit of "jersey trivia" for the day is the first article I ever updated was for the Double IPA, which has since been morphed and combined into the IPA section. (The reference to the San Diego IPA was my contribution.)
  5. Why haven't you e-mailed me back?
    This one is just a mental block on my part. If I don't reply to an e-mail right away, it will take me days weeks months millennia to reply. It's something I need to work on. I try hard to reply right away - I really do. It just doesn't always happen.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Sign of the Times

I've long since derided the age of the 24 hour news networks. There are no less than 5 on my cable at home, and I'm sure there are more that I don't know about. The problem isn't just that there isn't enough news that merits 120+ hours per day of coverage. It's the fact that each one of these channels are on the air for one reason - to make their parent companies money. It's not about being fair nor balanced, it's about getting viewers and billing advertisers. This is why people like Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck, and the deplorable Nancy Grace all have jobs.

Over the course of the last 4 years, the Internet has become more pervasive in people's lives. It provides anyone with a mouthpiece, regardless of their actual qualifications. And, unfortunately, because people have a tendency to give anything in print additional credence sites like The Drudge Report and The Huffington Post garner some level of merit for the general populous.

When combined, the Internet and the 24 hour news networks have created a rather disgusting combination that political campaigns have now feed upon. Take one recent incident when John McCain was asked how many houses he owned. I'm going to set aside why how many houses someone owns has anything to do with their abilities to run the nation. Instead I just want to focus on the answer and the reaction.

The answer was, "I think — I'll have my staff get to you. It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you." Again, I'm not going to defend or attack McCain's answer.[1] But Barack Obama's camp sure went to town on it, releasing an ad that day. That same day. Not the following week. Not a couple days later. Later that afternoon. And as if that wasn't crazy enough, McCain's camp had a rebuttal out by close of business that same day as well.

This election has devolved into the following steps:

  1. Wait for your opponent's camp to say something that can easily be misconstrued or can be taken as a personal attack
  2. Release an ad attacking the opponent
  3. Send someone to every news station to talk about how bad the opponent is for saying such a thing
  4. (Optional) Talk about how offended you are and wait for an apology
  5. Accuse the opponent of dirty politics and throw around phrases like "Swift boat attacks" if desired
  6. Accuse the opponent of distracting America from the real issues
  7. Opponent will respond by using the same tactics starting with Step 2
  8. Lather, rinse, repeat

Today, every underling of each camp has a microphone in their face at all times, where every comment is made public, and every single slight misstatement, regardless of how true the statement might be when actually taken in context (and remember - context is everything), is used as fodder for attack. The campaigns then make a huge deal out of this, which the media (traditional and Internet) feeds off of and helps fan the flames of, because stories like this are sensationalistic. And outside of sex, nothing else sells like a sensationalized story.

The general population also feeds off of this. In today's society, we don't seem to have time for explanation or nuance. I remember being at dinner with friends just after the McCain story broke, and a friend mentioned to me, "Hey - did you hear McCain say he doesn't know how many houses he has?" Sigh. That's not what he said. But alas, that's not important. All that matters is the spin, getting it down to one sentence, putting it out in the media, and getting the public talking about that.

And this is where we are. Gotcha politics.

The problem of course is we as a nation are facing some serious crises. I don't know if this is the most pivotal time ever, but I have to think it ranks up there. But when I flip on CNN, I don't hear discussion about energy policy. Or health care. Or technology. Or education. Or terrorism. Or national security. Or our two wars. Or the economy.


Because which sounds better in a 10 second sound bite:

McCain doesn't know how many houses he owns


John McCain is calling for National Commission on Workplace Flexibility and Choice. This Commission would bring together a bi-partisan set of leaders representing workers, small and large employers, labor, and academics.  The Commission would make recommendations to the President on how modernizing our nation’s labor laws and training programs can help workers better balance the demands of their job with family life and to enable workers to more easily transition between jobs.

That's what I thought. And if anyone is interested, the latter was taken from John McCain's website, and not from a transcript on MSNBC.

I wish I could say that I see this getting better. But alas, US politics has a rich tradition of personal attacks. Even the 1828 election between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams reached amazing levels, with Adams accusing Jackson of being an adulterer (and his wife of being a bigamist), and Jackson accusing Adams of being a pimp.

But there is one thing we can do. Don't buy into gotcha politics. Remember what's important. It's not misstatements or personal attacks. It's actual policy ideas and where one of these two men are going to lead this nation.

Focus on that. You may have to dig a little harder. The media certainly isn't going to make it easy to find it, but the information is out there. Watch the debates. And do yourself (and your country) a favor - make an informed decision about who you think will best lead this country, and not who can make the best sound bites.

[1]- Before anyone comments with their opinion on McCain and his 3,627 houses (or however many he owns), save your breath fingers. I really don't care. And, frankly, if that's what your left with out of reading the above then you've completely missed my point. I'm not defending John McCain. I could have just as easily used Barack's lipstick on a pig comment to make my point. The McCain house comment was just the first one that came to my mind.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Miscellaneous NFL Thoughts

Tom Brady

I need to set the record straight right away here, as I may have given the wrong impression (and probably said the exact wrong thing). I loathe Tom Brady. I loathe the entire Patriots organization from top to bottom. I think they are the most classless organization, even worse than the Raiders. And I, as do many of my friends, want Tom Brady's head on a stick.

However, I am not rejoicing over Brady's likely season ending knee injury. While football is a collision sport, and injuries are certainly common, they are not something to be celebrated. I'm not going to feel sorry for the Patriots much in the same way that nobody felt sorry for the Chargers when we limped into the AFC Championship game last season. But I'm not going to rejoice.

If anything, I'm disappointed because I wanted the chance to beat the Patriots A-squad; to watch our front 7 punish Brady all day long. I wanted to see them hurt Brady - bruised, slow to get up at times, and feeling the effects for the rest of the week. But not this.

The Chargers


First, an open letter to Shawne Merriman:

Dear Shawne,

I heard that you were going to be playing the season with two torn ligaments in your knee. That's a level of grittiness seldom seen these days.

However, I must express a concern. You simply were unable to perform yesterday. In fact, about the only time I remember seeing you on camera is when you headed to the locker room before halftime - with the defense still on the field.

While nobody can question your heart, it's now time to question if what you are doing is best for the team. You are unable to perform to your normal high level, and preventing us from sending in a healthy player. The performance yesterday was not worth risking the rest of your career over, and was a detriment to the team.

For yourself, and, more importantly, for the team, please go get the surgery done so you can start the healing and rehab process now. This will assure you will be ready for the 2009 season and give us the best chance to win in both 2008 and 2009.


A Concerned Fan

To look for the silver lining in the cloud here, outside of a couple of fluke plays, we really turned it around the second half. That Rivers pass to Gates when he was rolling to his left was a thing of beauty. The biggest problem I see still the porous rush defense. We made the Panthers look like they had Walter Payton and Marshall Faulk in the backfield.

Quote of the Year

Proof positive that we should never let players talk. Here is Randy Moss's quote after the game regarding the Brady hit:

Like I said, I really didn't see anything because I was running down the field, but it looked dirty to me. I've never been a dirty player. I honestly don't even know how to play dirty. I just play the game. Anytime you see something like that that looks foul, that looks dirty, it opens your eyes.

Just read that for a minute and let it sink in. That first sentence is a thing of beauty. He says he didn't see anything but it looked dirty. If you didn't see anything, how can you say how anything looked? Next time he should worry about hanging on to the football, which he fumbled on that play.

The Ground Can in Fact Cause a Fumble

That Randy Moss play was a perfect example of this. Randy fell to the ground, and the ball popped out. Randy was not touched nor forced to the ground, and as such the ball was still live. It was the ground that caused the fumble.

There is no rule that says the ground can't cause a fumble. If a player his tackled, and upon hitting the ground the ball comes out, that is not a fumble. But it's not because of the ground, it's because the play was over the moment that the player was tackled. The ball coming out happened after the play was killed.

Other Thoughts

I'm so very over those stupid Oreo commercials. But I do dig the Sony commercials with the San Diego Chicken.

Winning your first fantasy game of the season is always a great thing. You wait all season for that first game - nice to start off with a W.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Friday Five

The Excuse:

I recently tried to install IE 8 (Beta 2), only to discover that something with my Automatic Updates was pooched. After some research, I found that about the only way to do this was to do a “repair” on Windows. I thought I had done it correctly, only to find out that what I had really done was re-install Windows from scratch. Not really what I wanted to accomplish. (If you’re interested, the correct way to accomplish the feat is to boot from the CD and *not* launch the setup program from inside Windows.) I figured at this point that I may as well just go all out at this point and just format the drive and start all over again, which is what I did. In putting a positive spin on it, I am happy with the final result, as I wind up doing quite a bit to my computer over the course of time since I am a geek. It’s nice to be able to start from scratch every now and then. Or at least that’s what I’m going to continue to tell myself.

As a side note, Karin and I had purchased a Home Server a few months back, which does automatic backups. Because of that, I lost next to nothing data-wise. (I will have to do a posting on backups at some point.)

The Week:

And what a week it was. I wound up meeting Karin in Houston at the airport (there’s still something rather depressing about that) to fly up to Minneapolis for the 14th Annual NNFFL Auction. This works as a great way to see family and friends each year as well. To answer the question I always get asked – I think I’m pleased with who I wound up with on my team. I did basically zero preparation, but all things considered I’ll take what I’ve got. The real answer will come in about 5 weeks when I can actually assess where I stand.

Every year Karin and I have to balance trying to see friends/family as well as spending a little time with each other, which always poses a challenge. On Friday night and Saturday we got to spend a good amount of time with the other people in the league – it still amazes me that we’ve been at this for 14 years, and outside of a couple of small little things like children being born we still all manage to get everyone together every year. Sunday featured afternoon drinks with B (as she posts here) and then dinner at Karin’s parents. Monday was a very nice little gathering at one of Karin’s uncle’s/aunt’s house, which turned out to be a great chance for Karin to see cousins that she hadn’t seen in years. (I apparently had met most everyone there, but unfortunately I didn’t remember meeting a handful – but then I can’t always remember meeting everyone in my own family either (although the latter may be attributable to a selective amnesia).) After one last breakfast with Karin’s parents on Tuesday, we were off to San Diego.

Yup – that’s right. I had a few days at home. Alas, it wasn’t nearly as peaceful as one would have hoped. For starters, our water heater finally decided to kick the bucket. We had been fighting with it for a good while, and had no less than 3 different plumbers come out and look at it to no avail. We had no hot water until Friday when we had a tankless water heater installed – a tad more expensive than we had hoped, but we figure it will help the value (once the market finally turns around) and help keep energy costs down.

Wednesday saw me helping my middle brother move. Although that night I did get to partake in one of my absolute favorite things in the world – a Rueben at The Linkery. Couple notes about The Linkery (which I need to do a posting about) – they do farm-to-table food, meaning they work on relationships with different farms and make food out of whatever it is they can get their hands on. This means that the menu changes basically every week outside of a few staple items. They also do nearly everything in-house, including their own sausage (thus the name The Linkery). On occasion they will do up a Rueben, which featured (this time – the items change a little each time) a house-made beer bread, house-made corned beef, house-made sauerkraut, house-made thousand island and a local Gouda cheese. Yeah, it’s not really on the diet, but it is easily one of the greatest things on the planet.

Thursday was supposed to be a day of me trying to get some stuff done around the house and trying my hand at making ribs for the opening of football season. Instead, it wound up being me working on getting my laptop “back to life” so to speak and heading off to Hooters to watch the game. I suppose there are worse things in life.

Friday turned out to be a pretty typical day with Jumbo – we went out to Dave & Buster’s to get some lunch and play a few video games there, and then found our way over to a Toys-R-Us to buy a Nerf dart gun to use to shoot Nerf darts at his bald head (long story that I’ll hopefully be able to explain later). Karin, Jumbo and I spent that night playing Wii. I must admit I did not thing it was going to be nearly as much fun as it is. What’s great is that Karin, who’s not a video game player by any stretch, is able to do well with the Wii – she’s this amazing knack for hitting the turbo serve on Wii Tennis with dangerous frequency. If you haven’t tried it, the trick shot bowling in the Training section is quite fun.

Saturday was finally the day at home that I had been lusting for all week. After a breakfast at Parkhouse Eatery, I was back at home, relaxing, poking around at different things on my network and laptop, and watching college football. (Memo to SDSU – how about actually finishing a game? You had Notre Dame dead to rights and you let them slip away. Just sad.) Dinner was at Oggi’s (good little brewery/restaurant) and more college football, and the night was some extra Wii time. (BTW – my right arm is admittedly a tad sore.)

All-in-all, a fun week.

The Exercise:

Ugh. Well, the first problem I had was that a trip to Minnesota means a trip to Famous Dave’s (have I mentioned my affinity for Famous Dave’s before?) as well as a trip to White Castle. On top of that, we were so busy with everything else that I really didn’t get much of a chance to get in exercise in Minnesota. I did go for a run on Monday morning only to discover that Karin’s parents’ neighborhood was built by M. C. Escher and that no matter what direction you go you’re always going uphill. I did manage to get out to the gym on Thursday in San Diego, but that was about it. Ugh. Time to get back in the swing of things.

The Travel Note:

This is a combination travel note/self realization.

We were in the Twin Cities area over Labor Day Weekend, which of course was the weekend before the Republican National Convention. I had some slight trepidation emotions that could be described as bordering on extreme paranoia regarding the impact it was going to have on the weekend. I did relax quite a bit when I realized that the convention didn’t actually start until Monday, and that day was of course quasi-cancelled due to Gustav. But either way, it turned out for Karin and I anyway to be a complete non-event.

And then there was Gustav which was supposed to make landfall originally on Tuesday – which was the day Karin and I were due to fly out. I was convinced that we were never going to be able to make it out as we were connecting through Houston. As it turned out, the hurricane not only didn’t touch Houston, it landed on Monday.

I know that this is a learned response, but I think I’ve become a pretty big pessimist. I need to work on this.

The Five:

With Lynn Johnston putting For Better, For Worse in enhanced reruns (whatever that means, but it is causing the San Diego Fish Wrap Union Tribune to drop it from its collection) and Opus hinting that the end may be near, this week’s five is dedicated to entertainment things that I miss.

  1. Calvin & Hobbes – Quite possibly the greatest comic strip ever created that was taken away from us way too soon. Bill Watterson was very protective of his strip, everything from the formatting to no merchandising[1]. His 10th anniversary book was not only an exploration of the strip itself but of the world of newspaper comic strips, as well as portending the end of the strip. Nothing has ever replaced it.
  2. Sports Night – Where to start on this wonderful series that lasted only 2 very short seasons on ABC who didn’t realize the hit they had on their hands. The single biggest problem was the lack of marketing of the show – many people assumed that due to the name of the show that it was about sports, which it wasn’t – it was a show about putting on a show about sports. Actually, it was, like most Sorkin shows (this was the show he did just before The West Wing), very character driven. And you couldn’t help but love the characters. I love watching the shows again on DVD, although it is bittersweet – it always bums me out knowing in the back of my mind that there aren’t any more episodes after the end of the second season.
  3. Mad About You (pre-Mabel) – One of the things that bugs me about many sitcoms that feature married couples is that the plot-line is pretty much the same every week – the slovenly husband has done something insanely stupid that has upset his ridiculously hot wife. While I’m the first to admit that I am prone to making many dumb mistakes and that I married way out of my league, is there anyone in the world that can really buy that Leah Remini would actually marry Kevin James (King of Queens)? What I loved about Mad About You was that it featured two people roughly in the same league and explored the neurosis of both characters and this thing that is marriage. My only wish is that they ended the show when Jamie got pregnant and not carry on for the extra two seasons with the kid, which killed the show.
  4. John Cusack making non-war movies – John Cusack used to have a gift for playing the everyman that was very easy to connect to, as well as making romantic comedies that are more guy-centric than most (High Fidelity is still my favorite movie of all time). But recently he’s focused on making anti-WarInIraq movies. Which is fine – he’s in a position where he can do that. I’m just not overly interested in having that message beat into my head for two hours of my life.
  5. Heroes – I know this is coming back in 15 days, but I don’t know if I can make it that long. Easily one of the best shows to hit the airwaves in recent memory.

[1]Every single shirt, bumper sticker or image of Calvin peeing on something (which disgusts me to levels I can’t even describe) are all illegal and not licensed. It was one of the reasons that Bill eventually gave up writing the strip.