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.