Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yes, We *Were* Twelve

Image0007 Thirteen tops.

My goodness.

Quite a while ago we got a scanner, and one of the reasons was to start scanning some of our old photos. Of course, we’ve had the scanner for a good 6-7 months now (at least) and hadn’t even opened it. Well, I finally busted it out today for some work stuff, and figured now was as good a time as any to start scanning some old pics. First up – the wedding photos.

Could we look just a little younger?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse

I had most of this typed out last Friday. And then I got distracted by West Wing on the plane, and, well, yeah.

Then I had meant to post it on Monday, which became Tuesday, which …

The Weeks

It seems that my life has boiled down to two cities – Houston and Tampa. Well, San Diego, too, I suppose. Last week I was in Tampa. The week was a treat for me as I was able to see a few friends (although I wasn’t able to hook up with one in particular unfortunately), and even had a home cooked meal for a change. (When you eat out basically 100% of the time, a home cooked meal is quite a treat.) Outside of three ventures to the outside world, for the most part this week was just me, work and a hotel room. It’s a living, I guess.

Of course, this week I found myself in somewhere new – Frederick, MD, which is about an hour outside of Baltimore. That part of the week worked out real well, as an old friend of mine happened to be in town for business as well this week, and we went off to dinner one night. The part that I wish I would have planned out better is it didn’t dawn on me how close I was to Gettysburg; I wish I would have brought my camera with me and stayed an extra day. Next time.

The Exercise

I need to start coming up with clever excuses here.

The Restaurant

Last week:

Does it count if the place serves food even if I didn’t actually eat any? Well, seeing as how it’s my blog, I’m going to say yes. My friend Michael took me over to the International Beer Garten, which is north of Tampa. The place is very much a pub that focuses on having a huge beer selection. They’ve got 40 on tap and 300 bottles. While they didn’t have as eclectic of a mix as the Brickskellar in DC (and certainly not as divey), they did pretty OK for themselves. Very reasonable prices (the second night we were there we had 9 beers between the three of us and ran up a bill of just over $40) so it’s a great place to try new things (and isn’t that what being a beer fan is all about?) Oh – and they do serve pizza.

This week:

Jim (my old friend) and I found a place near his hotel called G & M Restaurant & Carry Out, which is a bit of a mouthful. The place isn’t much to look at from the outside – it’s just a warehouse, but inside it’s got a 70’s charm to it. They’ve got the old glass tower with the desserts, and, generally, that 70’s feel. We started out with a shrimp cocktail (very good) and I had to try the Maryland crab soup, which was outstanding. Jim went for the baked crab imperial (which was drowned in butter and cheese, but oh so good), and I did a stuffed rockfish, which was very tasty. Their core items (seafood) were all very good. The rest was pretty meh. The lettuce on the salads was pretty wilted, and the side veggies were Green Giant (or at least I’m pretty sure they were).

The Travel Note

After a while every rental car looks the same and, in turn, every car looks the same. I wound up sitting down in a car that wasn’t mine as a result. It was parked in my normal spot in the hotel, it was the same color and, as it turned out, it was unlocked. I’ve tried to open the wrong car before, but this was a new experience.

The Five

Let’s see if I can’t come up with 5 miscellaneous things about me.

  1. The reason I had the courage to become a trainer was because of the mentorship of a professor I had in school. In an English class she had the class present and was wowed by my performance. She worked with me and helped me gain the confidence that I could indeed do this.
  2. There was a time when I supported Mac OS – version 7 about 12 years ago. Fortunately I never became a member of the iCult. ;-)
  3. One of my favorite things about being a trainer is always getting to learn something new. You can’t be stagnant in your education if you’re a trainer.
  4. The best thing about being a trainer is that no matter what happens the class ends and you get to move on to the next week. If every demo that I attempt fails, every joke bombs, and I have a room full of problem students, the class will end and I get a clean slate the next week.
  5. I write neater (and in the correct case) on a white board than I do on paper. I think the big problem I have when writing on paper is that I’m just trying to be done with the exercise as quickly as possible; it’s so much easier to just type.

The Perfect Manhattan

Jed Bartlet: Can I tell you what's messed up about James Bond?
Charlie Young: Nothing.
Jed Bartlet: Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.

-The West Wing

“I hate to break it to you, but you're ordering the wrong drink and being snooty about it.”

-Abram Harrison

Not that I believe in such things, but if I believed in reincarnation I’d be convinced that in a past life I was born in Louisiana, and probably in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. I’m a sucker for anything Cajun/Creole, and I love me a good classic cocktail. I appreciate a bartender who still enjoys plying his craft, believing that there’s something to be said for mixology; a good bartender takes pride in his drinks, his methodology, and his presentation. My idea of a perfect bar is one that looks like it was built in the 1920’s and has a bartender who acts like he was time-travelled out of that era. And while I have been known to have my fair share of new-wave drinks - margaritas, foofoo drinks and other sickly sweet concoctions - given my druthers I’ll take a Manhattan.

Or, to be more specific, a “very dry Maker’s Manhattan up.”

To break that down, the “Maker’s” is the type of bourbon – Maker’s Mark. The “up” means in a martini glass sans ice, as opposed to on the rocks. And the “very dry” means, well, it does not mean what I think it means – maybe.

Cocktail making in America, which is quickly becoming a lost art, has always been subject to interpretation. The origins of many drinks are not well documented, and thus many theories abound. The Manhattan itself has at least 3 different histories, one that includes a banquet for Winston Churchill’s mother and a banquet held in Manhattan. The story I had always heard was it was that it was created for a drunk patron who’d had one to many martinis (made with gin which is a clear liquid) and wouldn’t notice if it was made with bourbon (which is anything but clear).

Regardless of its origins, it’s generally agreed that a Manhattan involves 3 ingredients – whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. From there things get a little interesting. The first question is the type of whiskey. About the only thing that seems to be agreed upon is that it should be one that’s made in North America, but it could be rye (which is apparently the traditional choice although is generally unavailable in most bars), bourbon (my choice) or Canadian whiskey (which I can’t even imagine). The sweet vermouth is generally not an issue – you’re basically always getting the standard Martini & Rossi. The bitters are generally Angostura, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve witnessed a bartender actually add bitters to the drink.

The next big question is the proportions of whiskey to vermouth. Depending on who you talk to, it should be a 4 to 1 ratio, although there are some who say it should be no less than 3 to 1 or even 2 to 1. I’d say generally if I went up to a bar and just ordered a Manhattan I’d get a drink mixed at a 3-1 ratio. That’s way too much vermouth for me. While I love bourbon, the reason that I enjoy a Manhattan is because the vermouth takes the edge off, making it a more relaxing after work, before dinner kind of drink; straight bourbon with a splash of water is great for after dinner, not before. I find that anything higher than about 4-1 and all I taste is the vermouth.

Which leads me to ordering a “very dry” Manhattan. Abram emailed me this article today, which discusses the concept of a dry Manhattan. “Dry” when discussing a martini means very little vermouth, which is what I’m looking for. But when it comes to a Manhattan, dry means the drink should be made with dry vermouth and garnished with olives. Now I can’t imagine ruining perfectly good bourbon by tossing in a couple of olives[1], and fortunately I’ve never received that drink. In my experience I’ve been asked a couple of times if I meant dry vermouth, but generally I get the drink that I’m looking for. At the end of the day, my saying “dry” has successfully communicated my point, which is the reason that language exists[2].

The simple fact of the matter is that at the end of the day everyone has a different interpretation of what a particular drink is supposed to be. For me the perfect Manhattan is made with Maker’s at about a 4-1 or 5-1 ratio, a dash of bitters if available, and garnished with a Maraschino cherry (which is to sit at the bottom of the glass until the end, allowing it to soak up the bourbon goodness). And so from here on out it will be:

“Maker’s Manhattan, up, splash of vermouth”

As for the snootiness, well, that I can’t help. If you’re ordering a drink that takes more than 3 words to explain you can’t help but sound snooty[3]. But now I know I’m going to be clear and get what I want.

Post script – in my research I came across this article, which is a great overview of the “king of cocktails”. And by the end of it I realized that I need to take a trip to San Francisco touring all the bars mentioned and trying the Manhattans in each.

[1] One could argue that the bourbon was already ruined by chilling it and adding other ingredients besides water, and I wouldn’t necessarily argue that point.

[2] Well, that and to woo women.

[3] Before you look down your nose at me, think about how long it takes you to order your drink at Starbucks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Make Sure the Picture Goes with the Caption

(Yes, I know I am still behind a Friday Five. Hopefully today.)

This was too good not to post. Fired up CNN this morning who had a headline, “Complete coverage of Iran’s election dispute” and a photo of David Letterman next to it. Funny, I didn’t even realize he was a candidate.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse

None needed! W00t!

The Week

I wound up at one of my old standbys this week – Houston. I haven’t been able to get together with friends the past couple of trips out here, and unfortunately this week was no exception. Hopefully the next time out here I’ll be able to see friends. I did manage to go check out a couple of restaurants this week which was nice.

Unfortunately, I did wind up being on the road on our anniversary (the 3rd – 14 years), and Karin’s birthday (the 5th – 29 again). It is just one of those things that comes with the territory.

The Restaurant

I decided on Wednesday that I wanted something that went with a good glass of red wine, which meant steak or Italian. I wound up going for Italian. I found a place called Simposio, which is in one of the million or so strip malls on Westheimer. It’s a very elegant little restaurant, although it was empty when I was there – granted it was 5-6p on a Wednesday, but still.

The special that night was ossobuco, which is one of my favorite things on the planet. I started with my traditional Manhattan (although I didn’t say “up” so it was on the rocks – I survived), and then the manager/waiter suggested a wine for me to try, which was a perfect pair (and exactly the type of wine I was looking for). Oh, and the ossobuco was amazing.

Fantastic place for a nice romantic dinner.

The Exercise

Well – I did manage to get down to the gym… Once, but still.

The Travel Note

I appreciate companies who get certain things right – and sometimes it’s just the small things. National and Alamo have computerized kiosks for checking in, and you simply walk outside and choose the car you want from the class you reserved. Very nice and simple. I was stuck standing in line for 10 minutes with Avis when I got to Houston. Kiosks, people.

The Five

Five little things I always travel with

  1. A male-male min-jack stereo cable. Most every car now has a min-jack plug-in, which means I can listen to my Zune in the car.[1]
  2. A dual-USB car charger from Belkin. Can charge both my Zune and iPhone at the same time. Worth every penny of the $20.
  3. Umbrella. Just put it in the water bottle holder on my computer bag.
  4. Extra velcro cable wraps. I got tired of my computer bag being a rats nest of cables. The cable wraps make it very easy to wrap them all up, but I have a tendency to lose them. I always try to have extras.
  5. Batteries. Some day everything will just have a built in battery. Until then, I always try to keep spares.

[1] Please not - you will want to be careful not to forget it in the rental car. I’m on about my 5th now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Don’t Let the Lunatics Speak for the Masses

Quasi politics post. You’ve been warned.

“Fella, we think that pretty much any hope you have of getting into heaven will be ruined if you blow up that building”
-Casey, Sports Night

I’m going to make this very simple. I was thinking about trying to be very elegant about it, but certain messages need to be delivered simply and clearly.

I am staunchly Pro-Life. Scott Roeder does not stand for me, my cause, my beliefs, or for anyone in civil society. What he did is known as murder, was cold blooded, and he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

And it’s time we realize this. The lunatics on either side of an issue, be it abortion, gay marriage, environmental issues, etc., do not stand for the 99.99% of the people in the center of the bell curve that is society. Let’s not give these people any level of credence whatsoever, much in the same way that we realize that Al Qaeda does not represent the Muslim world.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse

I blame Rock Band.

The Week

In an odd turn of events, I was both home and working this week. Like a normal person. Like I mean commuting to work in my own car, going to my own house after work, sleeping with my own wife, petting my own dog. It was as if I was just another San Diego resident.

At TechEd last week I had the chance to play Guitar Hero. After about 3 songs I was hooked. So on Saturday I purchased Rock Band. Now I really didn’t plan this out – I should have purchased the bundle right from the get-go. I was not expecting to hook both Karin and Jumbo, nor wind up entertaining a couple of friends on Wednesday night. So we now have the full set, and I am thoroughly addicted. I will be pre-ordering the Beatles edition tonight.

IMG_3218 I did manage to drag myself away long enough to crash the LSU Alumni party in San Diego. Basically it’s a huge crawfish boil. If I believed in reincarnation (which I don’t), I’d be convinced that in a previous life I was born in Louisiana. I love me some good Cajun food, and I love me some crawfish. There were 8 of us that polished off a 50 pound box of crawfish. Now that’s a Sunday well spent, I tell you what. You can see the pics here.

The Exercise

Did I mention I bought Rock Band?

The Restaurant

Our neighborhood has been seeing a good number of fantastic restaurants open up, and one that opened about a year ago is The Ritual. It’s a very tiny little place, although they have a nice patio area and have really made the most of their space. They focus on finding organic and local food, with their signature dish being a shepherd’s pie which is just outstanding. As do most of the places on 30th street in San Diego, they also have a fantastic beer selection. This week they had a cask conditioned Pure Hoppiness, from a local brewery called Alpine. The beer was everything I thought it would be and more. Just out of this world. It’s another one of those restaurants that Karin and I don’t get to nearly often enough.

The Travel Note

I generally have pretty good luck when I’m flying. But as I mentioned last week, getting out of Chicago was a bit of a hassle for me. What really got me was I was on standby for an earlier flight. When they were just about to finish boarding, they got the first few of us who were on the standby list to stand over by the door. I was number 4 on the list. They cleared 3. Ugh!

Friday Five


  1. I acknowledge the fact that I have zero musical talent. I played trombone when I was in the 4th grade, only to learn that my arms weren’t long enough. I also performed in a couple of musicals in high school, but as like “3rd cop” or the like.
  2. The one talent I wish I had was the ability to sing. Anyone who’s been around for my karaoke adventures wishes the same thing.
  3. I’m always impressed with people who speak multiple languages. I did take French in school. I really haven’t used it since, as there aren’t many people speaking French in San Diego, oddly enough. I would like to take Spanish classes at some point. And Japanese.
  4. Every now and then someone will comment on my alleged talent with technology. It’s really just a skill, like, well, speaking another language.
  5. I can’t whistle. It’s more complex that putting your lips together and blowing.