Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Five

I had a week at home this past week.

No really, I was at home.

All week.

Trust me, nobody was more weirded out by the concept than me. Although it was fantastic to have my chair, be able to see friends, and relax a bit. I did have quite a bit of work to get done with TechEd upcoming, but it was still a great week. And I apologize for not blogging much recently - I've been a tad preoccupied.

We also did a "surprise birthday" party for Karin on Wednesday night. Had about 8 good friends and family join. A few of us went over to the neighborhood bar afterwards, so it was just like old times.

I don't have a travel note for the week seeing as how I didn't travel.

My five, as suggested once again by Sarah, is five things that are best about a week at home:

  1. Seeing my friends. By far, this is the hardest part about travel. I feel very disconnected from my life when I'm on the road.
  2. My chair. Just add a remote and an adult beverage and I'm good for many, many hours.
  3. Driving my car. I have a 2006 Mazda Miata. Driving a sporty little convertible is one of the greatest forms of therapy.
  4. Cooking. I love to cook. I got to cook for a couple of friends on Tuesday, which was great.
  5. My bed. We have a soft-sided waterbed that is possibly the most comfortable thing in the world. Much better than a hotel bed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Five

First and foremost, thank you to everyone for your well wishes. I do appreciate it.

This week was a bizarre week. Through a couple of interesting twists, I wound up only teaching 1.5 days this week. In fact, it's currently 9a Central and I'm on a flight headed home. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm already on my way home. Just a crazy, crazy week. I don't like posting specifics about classes here, but if you see me I'd be happy to retell the story over a beer.

This also marks the last time I'll be in Houston for a couple of weeks. It will be nice to have the break. I'll also have a couple extra days off before heading off to Orlando.

I made a very concerted effort this week to try places I hadn't been to. As it turned out, I wound up having a lot of Latino/Cuban inspired food. Sunday was sushi at Miyako (decent, but not great), Monday was The Red Onion, which is a Latino-fusion restaurant (pretty good, sangria could have been much better), Tuesday a small family owned Cuban place that I can't remember the name of (very homey and very tasty), Wednesday was Churrasco's, a chain that does a lot of South American/Cuban influenced food (good, but overly pricey), and then Thursday brought me back to Landry's for seafood which has become a bit of a tradition for me (had flounder, which was the first thing that wasn't very good I've had there). I've said it before and I'll say it again - go find non-chain restaurants and eat there as often as possible. You're more likely to get locally grown food, better food, better service, for a similar price. Granted, you'll sometimes be disappointed, but you'll more often than not find a gem.

My travel note was actually from waiting for my flight home on Friday. I was sitting at the bar enjoying a beer, just to the side of the beer taps. Sure enough, the bartender comes over and pulls what turns out to be the last of the Shiner Bock (a local, rather mediocre but decent "safety" beer). The tap exploded with beer going all over me and my laptop. Fortunately, I was able to wipe off my laptop fast enough that no damage has been done. Well, the semicolon key seems to be a tad sticky, but once I start writing more code again I'm sure I can work the stickiness out. (And for the small handful of people who read this and grok why writing code will work out the semicolon key, thanks.)

I've been on a pretty big podcast kick recently, so the five this week is going to be the 5 podcasts I've been listening to most often.

  1. Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me - This is the "weekly NPR news quiz". They have a rotating list of guests and they take a humorous look at the week's news, including having people call in and answer questions to win a rather un-prize - the announcer's voice on your home answering machine (or voicemail). They also get some amazing guests as well.
  2. Pardon The Interruption - Simply an audio only version of the ESPN show by the same name. Allegedly created because of the debates Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser would have at work (they're sportswriters at the Washington Post (well, Tony was until just recently)). Great sports banter, and even Karin enjoys it.
  3. The Tony Kornheiser Show - I find the man entertaining, intelligent and funny. When his show on ESPN Radio went off the air I was rather disappointed. He's now on a local station in the Washington, DC area, but a podcast version is available.
  4. Windows Weekly - This is really nothing more than a couple of technology writers and wanna-be uber-geeks chatting about whatever comes to their minds over the course of an hour. As a geek myself, I find the show rather enjoyable.
  5. Around The Horn - Just a podcast version of the ESPN show of the same name. Yeah, it's annoying. Yeah, they're obnoxious. But for some reason I can't not listen.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Five

Brace yourself - I was in Houston this week. No, really - Houston. I was as surprised as anyone.

Although, I did learn this week that no matter how many times you come to a city you can always find new things. I found out that right around the corner from the training facility I usually work at is a great little family owned Iranian place. Food was outstanding.

My travel note was at the hotel bar, striking up a conversation with a guy that lives about 20 blocks from my house. <Insert chorus of "It's a Small World" here>

This week's five is a collection of questions I found online about food:

  1. What type of food do you most like to eat?
    So many options. Sushi. Seafood. Cajun/Creole. Italian. Indian. Eclectic. Something that takes chances. Really, anything well prepared with a lot of flavor.
  2. What type of food do you most like to cook?
    Creole/Cajun. "In a past life" I was born and raised in Louisiana.
  3. What ingredient could you not live without?
    Mushrooms. I love cooking with mushrooms. They just absorb every flavor.
  4. What do you never let in your kitchen?
    Other people when I'm cooking.
  5. What is your favorite drink?
    Cocktail: Manhattan
    Beer: Alpine Pure Hoppiness
    Non-alcoholic: Henry Weinhard's Root Beer

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How I'll be spending a week in June

I have to say I'm often amazed and humbled at the fact people actually read this blog. I'm also surprised I got people that excited about my little tease from the other day. I now hope this is worth the hype.

I'm often very hesitant to announce certain things, as they do have a chance of falling through. I recently had a contract signed to do some launch events for SQL 2008 until the contractor I was going through didn't get the deal at the last minute. But this seems to be pretty safe...

I will be doing a couple of the side presentations for the developer week of TechEd, Microsoft's biggest conference. Specifically, I'll be doing an instructor led lab on LINQ-to-SQL and two Exam Cram sessions on .NET basics and ADO.NET 3.5. I'm also going to be presenting two Train the Trainer sessions on ASP.NET and ADO.NET.

If I was to use a festival analogy, I'm not on the main stage, but I am on a side stage. It's a pretty cool thing, and I'm very jazzed about it. This will be my first time working TechEd.

If you want to see "my name in lights" you can go here and see if there's a speaker you recognize on the list.

And as a great side note, I will be able to have dinner with a frequent poster on this here blog.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday Five

Another week in Houston down. And as per my usual routine, I'm sitting in a bar in the Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport pecking out my five.

No real news to report. Well, there is, but I want to wait a couple of days yet before posting it. I'll explain why later. And, yes, that's a tease to keep bringing you back. ;-)

What was very nice was my flight out on Sunday was later than usual (2:40 to be exact). As a result, we were able to host a brunch at our house. Was a nice way to get to see everyone. And peach-mango-orange juices makes for the best mimosas.

My travel frustration for the week is the person who went through the metal detector just before I did. He sat right at the end of the x-ray machine, so I could barely squeeze my stuff out. He was completely oblivious to the fact that there were people trying to get through, taking his own sweet time putting his stuff back together again. (I would point out that he did have an Apple laptop, and the study showing that Apple users tend to be more self-centered, but I don't want to get someone upset with me.) ;-)

The local Landry's seafood place has done an all-you-can-eat crawfish in the past. The restaurant has become one of my normal stops in a week to Houston. After 2 visits, the bartender knows both my drink (Shiner Bock) and name, the latter half being the more impressive part. So this week's five is inspired by that - 5 things I wish every waiter/waitress knew.

  1. The two most important times to be attentive are at the very beginning and very end. There's nothing worse than sitting at a table waiting to be greeted, except maybe sitting at a table with your meal finished waiting to get the check so you can leave.
  2. When you're refilling drinks, take the glass off the table. There will be some splash or dripping. Best to do that over the floor rather than over the table.
  3. Stroll through your section frequently and keep an eye on glasses. If it's getting even remotely close to there being an empty glass on the table, refill it or offer another.
  4. Don't take away plates without asking first. (This is a nod to someone else who reads the blog.)
  5. Don't bring something from another table with you when you come to visit my table. I don't want to see a pile of half eaten food on plates when you're talking to me.

Now before you get the wrong idea thinking I'm a jerk at restaurants, I'm not. I take very good care of those that take of me having done time myself. I do start at 20%, and move up from there for very good service (or if the waitress is cute).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Packaging gone wild

The cable for my Zune had a piece break off of it recently. No problem, order another. Off to Amazon I go (Amazon Prime - best investment I ever made) and I get my cable today. The cable is at the lower portion of the picture. The rest is the packaging it came in. A little excessive, maybe?


For those of you scoring at home (or even if you're alone) that's one main box, a piece of cardboard with plastic to hold the cable's box in place, a box for the cable, which contained two plastic pieces for display, TWO instruction manuals (there's two sides to the cable, one for the computer, the other for the Zune, and the connectors don't look a thing alike), and a packing slip. Oh, and the cable. (The red thing around the cable is a Velcro tie (everyone who travels should have these for their cables.))

Maybe next time just toss the cable in a padded envelope, throw it in the mail, and call it good?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Red Bull Air Races

My brothers and a couple friends and I got a chance to see the Red Bull Air Races, which feature high performance single engine prop planes going through a tight course. They did this right over San Diego Bay, which is what downtown butts up against. We had a great time watching the races, and I managed to come away with some great pictures. Feel free to check them out.

The Tractor Room

The Tractor RoomMeat lovers of the world rejoice!

Karin and I had the pleasure of checking out The Tractor Room on Saturday night. For those familiar with San Diego, The Tractor Room is a new restaurant from the owners of The Hash House, which is famous for huge portions and very good food. Well, The Tractor Room doesn't depart much the game plan of its parent.

We made a 6:30 reservation and decided to sit out on their patio, it being a gorgeous San Diego night and all. We were led through a set of curtains, through the rather small restaurant and to our table. Hindsight being what it is, it probably would have been best to sit inside to really enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant.

Upon settling in, we were offered samples of their cocktail of the night - their Manhattan done up with Jim Beam Black, in honor of The Kentucky Derby. If I was the owner, I would have done up a special mint julep, but that's just me. Either way, it was delicious. Well, I thought it was delicious. Karin didn't care for it much since she doesn't care much for bourbon. Fortunately, there was a collective 60 house cocktails to choose from. Yes - 60. Karin chose an Orange Cosmo, which she loved, and I chose the mint julep, which was very tasty.

Upon perusing the menu, we realized immediately this was not a place for vegetarians. It was all about meat, and a wide assortment of meat at that. The menu featured, among other things, both bison and boar. And just to confirm this suspicion, we were told the special was (this is one dish) 2 venison chops, on a bed of venison hash, with a side of venison sausage.

We started with the wild boar and mashed potato spring rolls, which were great. Our entrees were the barbequed lamb shank (which was fall off the bone tender) and the venison meat loaf (which was just fantastic.) We also got some mashed potatoes to go along with everything. By the time we were done eating, we had enough left overs for at least 2 more meals.

Huge portions, great food, great atmosphere. A tad on the pricier side, but worth it. We will definitely be going back.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Five

It felt strange being back in Houston this week. I hadn't been here in about a month. This was also my first time back since giving up the apartment. Staying in a hotel that was close to the training center and only having a 7 minute commute was very nice.

This week I tried very hard to avoid chain restaurants. When at home it's something Karin and I do, and it's pretty easy for us there since there's so many great restaurants right around us. When I'm traveling, I often just want something convenient, where I know there's a bar I can sit at, eat, and read. (I find that sitting at the bar alone and eating is much easier to stomach than sitting at a table alone and eating). This week I was lucky enough to find a good Greek place. Of course, the Mexican place and the sushi place were mediocre at best, but those are the risks that you take.

My travel note for the week was this morning when I went to check out. I have a habit of checking out on the TV, and if the hotel doesn't offer that, then just not checking out. Well - I learned my lesson this morning, when a $103 bar tab for one night showed up on my bill. So I wound up having to go downstairs to get the bill taken care of. Note to self - always confirm bill before leaving hotel.

The five this week - five music thoughts I'm embarrassed to admit in public.

  1. I think Bat out of Hell by Meat Loaf is one of the greatest albums. There's something about an album full of just power rock ballads.
  2. I rather enjoy ABBA. Mamma Mia is one of my favorite musicals.
  3. I loved Culture Club as a kid.
  4. I hate Santana. And Matchbox 20. The song they did together just drives me absolutely crazy.
  5. I hate, despise, and otherwise loathe Bon Jovi. I know I'm the only person on the planet, but I can't stand anything they've done.