Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Five

(Trying a slightly new format here. We'll see if it sticks.)

The week:

I'm sitting in the Austin airport at the moment. I'm in a bar while a couple is playing bad country-folk music. One wonders how bad things must have gotten that the only gig you can get is an airport bar. Needless to say, I'm listening to Zune on my laptop right now. (Chains of Love by Erasure right now <insert jab at jersey here>)

In any event, I'm very glad to be getting out of Austin right now. I'm done with hot/humid weather now. It only dropped below 100 for 2 of the 6 days I was here, and that's only because the hurricane came through. (Oh, and for my Jewish Mother, the hurricane was nowhere near me, and I'm sorry for not calling.)

I'm generally not too much of a tourist when I travel. I try at times, but there are times when you just want food and a bed and little else. I keep meaning to see a baseball game wherever I am, but the last couple trips have been to places with minor league teams that have outdoor stadiums where it's 90+ in the shade. Not really interested in broiling for a team I really don't care about. (We're the Replacements by They Might Be Giants now)

All of that being said, I did make it down to The Salt Lick, which is a BBQ joint in a small (and I mean small) town outside of Austin called Driftwood. If you blinked you missed it. Great Texas BBQ - which is more beef centered than pork. Huge cabin style building with nothing but picnic tables - really the perfect setting. They don't have a liquor license being in a "dry" county, but they allow people to BYOB (which I saw more than a couple of groups taking advantage of by bringing their own coolers). (Stories I Tell by Toad the Wet Sprocket now)

The travel note:

The past two weeks I was stuck in a Suzuki Forenza. I'm pretty sure Suzuki uses the same engines for their motorcycles as they do their cars - you hit the gas and the engine says, "Yeah, I'll get back to you on that one." What's really annoying about the car is that you can't lock the doors if a door is open. You have to get out and lock the car. Last week the car had a key fob, and when you locked the car it made the most annoying little chirp. This week - no key fob, just the key. So I had to manually lock the door with the key every time. Hey Suzuki - did you actually let someone other than the idiot who designed it offer advice for the car? And while we're at it - having a horn that's two little buttons rather than the entire center of the steering wheel sucks (especially for an East Coaster).

Oh, and the icing on the cake was the horn itself makes an "Ummm, excuse me" noise rather than an actual honk.

The Five:

(Kiss From a Rose by Seal (acoustic))

(Please bear with me while I try to figure out a Five. Have I mentioned that I'd love ideas?)

(Making Plans for Nigel by Nouvelle Vague)

Ok - so it's questions again this week from, and I figured it fits me - Annoyances:

  1. What’s something people do in public that really annoys you, even though it’s probably not a big deal?
    People not showing a little respect when the National Anthem is being sung. Just stop talking for 3 minutes - that's it. (And as far as I'm concerned it is a big deal.)
  2. How readily do you ask strangers to stop their annoying behavior?
    Not real often, unless it's someone kicking the back of my seat. I did ask a lady the other week to close her window blind on the plane as it was blinding me - she decided she wanted to argue with me. Pleasant.
    (Goodbye Girl by Squeeze)
  3. What’s something you do in public that probably annoys others?
    Talking to myself. I can't help it. I did hear on NPR a while ago that people who talk to themselves out loud have better cognitive skills.
  4. What’s your theory about why it’s so easy to get annoyed when one is behind the wheel of a vehicle?
    Because every other driver out there is an idiot.
  5. What regular, minor annoyance have you learned to tolerate?
    I don't know that I can think of one. Maybe that's something I need to work on.

(In Bloom by Nirvana)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Five

"I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely."

This week brought me back to Boise. I had heard in the past that Boise is a surprisingly hip town. The first time I really didn't get to see much of it as I was out here in March(?) during a cold snap and had no coat with me. I really didn't feel like going out and exploring last time. This time I wound up at a hotel just on the outskirts of downtown. I can now say that Boise is a surprisingly hip town.

This week I had the very fortunate pleasure of having Brian, a very good friend of mine, join me in Boise. It was nice having someone to hang out with for the week. We did the MLB All Star Game on Tuesday (all 15 innings). We thought about doing the local minor league baseball game on Wednesday but decided against sitting outside in 90 degree heat to watch a game we really wouldn't care about. Instead, we went bowling and hung out on the patio of one of the downtown restaurants. All-in-all a great time.

There's a little restaurant area downtown with a street that gets very little traffic (it's not closed to traffic, but if you ask me it should be). Went down there a couple of times this week and was pleasantly surprised.

I managed to get in 3 workouts again this week - just 30 minutes on a machine, but I'm slowly getting into a routine. Slowly but surely.

Travel note - The hotel I was in this week was called "The Modern Hotel". It really should have been called "Impractical Hotel". It's a 60's modern-style theme. And not built for the business traveler. No dresser. The closet had 5 hangers. No iron (and when I asked for one I was delivered a small ironing board - off to a laundromat to just toss my clothes into the dryer I went). No desk. Uncomfortable wooden chair. Uncomfortable bed (my back is killing me). The location was great, but everything else was terrible.

My five this week was inspired by a story that a certain reader knows - cell phone peeves.

  1. Someone taking a call in a car with other people. This pretty much holds the entire car hostage as we have to now keep it down to be polite while the impolite person yammers away on their phone.
  2. *That guy* at the game who's on camera and needs to get on his phone to let the world know that he's on TV. I saw the most disgusting version of this last night on SportsCenter - they're taking a boxer off on a stretcher (who's near death), and as they wheel the guy down the aisle, sure enough there's a disgusting human being on his phone waving at the camera.
  3. Someone at a decent restaurant on the phone. If you're at a sports bar or the like that's one thing. But if you're at a nice restaurant do the rest of us a favor and go outside.
  4. People who don't turn off their ringer during a presentation. Or worse yet, those that put their phone on vibrate but leave them on the desk - that still makes as much (if not more) noise as a ringing phone.
  5. Any voicemail that's longer than 45 seconds. (Sorry, sweetie.) Get to the point and move on. If I need further details I have your number and I can call back.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

They could be fascist anarchists...

"... it still wouldn't change the fact that I don't own a car."

[political post warning]

We are three and a half months from the election and I'm already burnt out on all the bickering, name calling, questioning of patriotism, and the "gotchas" when someone says something that's easy to misinterpret or is "too honest" that passes for politics these days.

The biggest example of this, which has now reared its ugly head again, is the question of Barak Obama's religion - is he a Muslim. The New Yorker has a "satirical" (their word, not mine) cover story about Barak this and other absurd claims about him. The story has caused the "news" hungry media to once again go off the deep end about this story. We're seeing clips of Barak saying he's not a Muslim. We're hearing about polls where people think he's a Muslim. We're suffering through interviews of people on the street who think he is. We're reliving the Hillary Clinton interview where she says she "doesn't think" he's a Muslim.

There's one thing that seems to be missing from this whole thing - someone to stand up and say "Who Cares?"

Hillary said during her campaign that we should treat the election as a job interview. I agree with her on this. At the end of the day, the only question that need be asked is do I believe this person who I'm pulling the lever for is capable of leading this country in the right direction for the next four years. The rest doesn't matter.

The biggest reason is of course the fact that there is a small contingent of terrorists who have hijacked Islam and want to destroy The United States in its name. But as Jesus told the group looking to stone the adulteress, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. No religion is guilt free when it comes to crimes against humanity. Christianity (all forms), Judaism and Islam all have checkered pasts (and that's putting it mildly).

Unfortunately, there is a segment of the population that doesn't seem to be able to separate Islam from terrorism. Or as Toby put it famously in a West Wing episode, "I don't remember having to explain to Italians that our problem wasn't with them but with Mussolini." Our problem isn't with Islam or Muslims. It's with terrorists. Obama (or anyone else for that matter) being a Muslim shouldn't make a difference. Them wanting to kill me is a problem irrespective of religion.

I would really like to see someone in the media brave enough to stand up and ask the basic question - "What difference does it make if he's a Muslim?"

I would love to see Obama stand up and say, "I'm not a Muslim, I'm a Christian. But enough about my personal life, let's talk about <insert real topic here>."

I would love to see McCain stand up and say, "I don't care if my opponent is a Muslim because it doesn't matter. What does matter is his <insert view that McCain disagrees with here>."

And what I'd really love to see from here forward is a debate on the issues.

But, alas, I'm not holding out much hope.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Just Walk Away

I hate this time of year. NFL training camps don't start for another couple weeks. NBA and NHL are finished. And MLB has a collective one game scheduled over three days. This means that ESPN and every other sports media outlet is starved for stories. As a result, they wind up attaching themselves to anything that's quasi news related, or taking something that is news related and blowing it out of proportion covering it 24/7 and to a level of detail that nobody really cares about.

Enter Brett Favre. Again. Brett has decided he wants to play again. Which means that the media is going to cover this until something else happens, and since there's nothing else that's going to happen because everything else is out of season, we're stuck with story after story about Brett Favre.

And now you're stuck with a blog posting on Brett Favre.

Brett's selfish decision has put the Packers in a lose/lose/lose situation. They don't want him back because of the distraction he would cause, and the fact the team has moved on. They don't want to trade him because they'll get next to nothing for him. They don't want to release him for fear that he'd play for a divisional rival such as the Bears or Vikings. Brett wants to do what Brett wants to do regardless of the impact it will have on the team who treated him so well for well over a decade.

Players not being able to walk away is not a new phenomenon. For decades now the graceful exit (Strahan, Elway) has been by far the exception rather than the rule. Even players like Unitas and Namath couldn't walk away at the right time. I'm sure if we started going back through history there's some ancient Greek discus thrower who competed in an Olympic Games only to be a shell of his former self.

Players play past their prime for many reasons.

For many their sport has been their entire life for 20-30 years, from pop-warner to their late 30's. They can't leave it as they don't know what else to do.

Some can't make the transition into a normal life. What do you do after being adored by millions of fans for your entire adult life?

Some can't convince themselves they've lost their abilities. Their brain is convinced their body can continue to respond as it did when they were 25. (That's of course not limited to professional athletes as anyone who's hit their mid-30's will tell you.)

Some simply need the money.

With that said, it's hard to blame Brett here. He loves the game. He can't bring himself to leave it behind. Certainly he's being selfish. But he's human.

I hope for everyone's sake that he walks away. Brett coming back won't tarnish his legacy just as the couple of seasons Emmitt Smith played for the Cardinals at the end of his career or the couple of seasons Michael Jordan played for the Wizards didn't tarnish theirs. But nobody wants to see Brett playing until he's 49, struggling to play to the level of Tavaris Jackson.

Brett - retire. I know it's not the emotional thing to do. But it is the right thing. For you, and for your teammates.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Five

Ah, one of life's little pleasures - opening my laptop and changing it to Pacific time. Great indication that I'm (finally) going home. And that's what I'm doing as we speak (or I write and you read (or I wrote and you read)).

Another Houston week. Karin and I connected through Houston and I just left there. I've now reached the point where I'm meeting and leaving my wife in airports with no trip home. There just seems to be something wrong about that.

This week was a bit of a step in the right direction for me - I finally started working out a little. M-T-W saw me doing 30 minutes on the stair machine (about the only decent thing they had in the hotel). It's about time I finally just stop talking about losing the pot belly and returning to just one chin. Granted, I've done this a handful of times before - hopefully I can slay my vampires* and actually get it done.

Two travel notes for the week:

1 - The class was a late addition to my schedule after I had already purchased my ticket from LGA to SAN, connecting through IAH (Houston - Bush I). I went to Continental to see what the cost would be to just abandon the IAH-SAN leg. $500! Tell you what, I'll just get off the plane and we'll call it good. Sheesh.

2 - When I landed (I had gone straight from Houston to New York and back to Houston) I needed to do laundry. Sure enough, the hotel was out of detergent. Ok - off to Walmart (sorry, Mom) to buy the smallest thing of detergent I could find. $5 later I'm back with a 20 load bottle (their smallest). I toss in my laundry (yes, in just one huge load - I'm a guy), and then into the dryer. Come to find out the dryer lacks one feature that's important in dryers - the ability to make something dry. Off to the front desk to complain. They hook me up with someone from housekeeping who tossed my clothes in their dryer. I came back downstairs to find out that she actually took it upon herself to even fold my clothes. Turned out a $5 had come out from one of my pants pockets. I gave it to her as a "thank you".

My five this week will the little facts about myself that I don't think I've done in the past. I'm not connected to the Internet at the moment as I'm at 37,000 feet. If there's a duplicate, forgive me.

  1. I generally don't swear. It's not that it offends me, it's simply that I feel I have a large enough lexicon that I can communicate my thoughts without going blue. That's not to say I don't let a few fly.
  2. IMG_2093 My perfect wardrobe would contain nothing but short sleeve shirts, shorts, jeans and suits. I love to dress up and I love to be comfortable and basically nothing in between. I hate doing polo shirts and khakis. But when you travel it's much easier dealing with wash and wear. And while I do wish I was more fashion conscious, at some point practicality trumps fashion. (And to the one person who I'm thinking of that disagrees, trust me - it does.)
  3. I tend to have very vivid dreams. Sometimes to the point where I can't quite remember later if it was real or a dream.
  4. I wanted to be a cop as a kid, into my late teens. Needless to say that shifted. There's a small part of me that would love to go to law school and study to become a lawyer dealing with law as it relates to IT. Alas, that would require many years. And becoming a lawyer.
  5. There are still moments when I think having a kid would be a nifty idea. And then the reality sets in of having to sign up for a lifetime commitment. I think to some degree I'd be a good father (and Karin would make a great mother). But come 2 months in and the baby is screaming its fool head off at 3a and I'd be on the first flight to anywhere never to be seen again.

* - This is a reference to a [title of show] song Die, Vampire, Die. A vampire is any person, thing or thought that gets in the way of you and what you want to accomplish.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The City so Nice They Named it Twice

Ok - so I've been a bit behind on a blog posting. I also missed a Friday Five (for the 3rd time). The reason is this past weekend Karin and I were in New York City (Manhattan mainly) to celebrate July 4th. I didn't open my laptop the entire time we were there (except to charge my iPhone), which meant no blog posting.

Why didn't I get a posting up the past couple of days? Well.... ummm..... ok - I don't have a good excuse there.

As for the trip - it was an absolute blast. I was in Houston last week, so we actually met on the plane from Houston to La Guardia on Wednesday night. We got there late enough to basically check in and find a nightcap.

IMG_2661 The room we wound up in (always be polite and ask for what you want) was on the 49th floor of the hotel which was a half block off of Times Square. On the corner of the 49th floor. So we had two windows facing different directions with great views of Times Square and out through Hell's Kitchen and to the Hudson River. It was just unreal.

Because we had been to NY a couple of times before we decided to just treat this like a vacation. While we did quite a bit, we also took it easy not stressing out trying to fill in every waking moment with stuff. Our goal was just to do touristy things, see fireworks, and toss in a couple of shows.

IMG_2464 On Thursday, our first full day, we finally got moving at about noon. Alas, this simply left us time to grab some breakfast and then roam IMG_2470through Times Square before dinner and our show.  Again, we were out to do touristy things, so we did M&M world, and Karin was molested by the Naked Cowboy.

Dinner was at Havana Central with my Aunt. Good food, mediocre service (and that's being generous.) Show that night was Spamalot. Very good, very funny,  but you have to be a fan of IMG_2472Monty Python to really enjoy it. If you don't know who the Knights Who Say Ni are, probably best to skip it. The male lead (King Arthur) Stephen Collins of Seventh Heaven fame. This of course pleased Karin, but I wasn't overly impressed. The show was great, but I could have done without him.

Friday was an early morning as we wanted to beat most of the "damn tourists" (my Aunt's words, not mine) for a morning IMG_2548 boat tour of Manhattan with my Aunt and Uncle. It was a 3 hour tour (yeah, there's really no way to think that without singing the song) around the island. As it turned out, Olafur Eliasson had just set up "Waterfalls", his new art piece that consisted of 4 mechanical waterfalls. This once again proves that I don't grok art. They were kinda cool, but beyond that, meh. Anyway, the tour was rather enjoyable. After the tour it was time for a quick lunch at Connolly's (an Irish bar - no really, an Irish bar in New York) and then a nap.

IMG_2609 That night Karin and I did dinner at Lombardi's. Anyone who knows me knows my love for Lombardi's. It's the first pizzeria in America and still the best. It's also one of the last remaining ones that can use a coal oven (who needs an environment anyway?). We were planning on watching the fireworks (which were being set off on the East River) from the Manhattan side. After talking with one of IMG_2628 the hosts, we decided to go over to the Brooklyn side and watch the fireworks. We made the right decision (and thanks to Lombardi's guy). We got to watch the fireworks with Manhattan as a backdrop. Karin and I have seen the fireworks in DC for July 4th, and while those are certainly more special, these were pretty neat. Nightcap at St. Andrew's (a Scottish bar) and off to bed.

We finally got moving on Saturday at about noon. Karin confirmed for me that she's the greatest wife in the world when she asked if I wanted to go to the ESPNZone for breakfast. We had IMG_2641 decided we were going to see a show but we weren't sure what. We thought about doing TKTS but the line stretched back to Hoboken and we just didn't want to wait. While we were walking through, one of the many, many people who are handing out flyers was passing out flyers for [title of show]. As it turned out it was the first preview show that night. We didn't know much about it beyond the basic plot - a story of 2 guys writing a musical about 2 guys writing a musical - but I had seen a couple of reviews from when it played off-Broadway. We figured what the heck - if it took off we could say we saw it on it's very first night.

IMG_2642 IMG_2644 We decided to head over to the New York City Police Museum. It was rather small, but still very well done. They had a very plain room with all the badges of all officers killed in the line of duty. Very touching. The 9/11 tribute room was also very moving.

Dinner was back at St. Andrews, which we found out has a 4 page scotch menu.

Now a little back-story on the show. It's basically a quasi-autobiographical story about the 2 guys and their struggles to get a show on Broadway. Over the course of their experience they had developed a fan base both because of their show and their web site.

There's no orchestra - just a guy playing a keyboard. He walks out on stage and the audience just goes bezerk. After settling down, the two male leads walk out and the crowd again goes bezerk. They start singing, and during the song the two female leads walk out. Once again - the crowd goes bezerk. I've never seen anything like this. Granted, I'm not a huge theatre person, but still. As the show goes on, those of us who are not in the know begin to finally figure out that what we're really watching is their real story - their real struggles, emotions and story. By the end you're just hooked. The show has a false ending, and when it came the audience went beyond bezerk. The only thing that caused everyone (including Karin and I) to settle down was because we were just tired from cheering. Lather, rinse, repeat for the actual ending of the show. (If you want to read one of the performer's view of it all, you can see it here - caution, adult language.)

IMG_2638We finished the night by heading back to St. Andrews and hooking up with one of Karin's coworkers and her bf and kids. A nice way to close out the weekend.