Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse

None needed. W00t! I typed this out on Friday, I really did. I just forgot to post it.

The Week

You need be careful about getting excited when you see cities on your schedule sometimes. On my schedule it said “Chicago”. In reality I was in Schaumburg, IL, which is about 30 miles east of downtown Chicago. Which also meant that there was really no chance of getting downtown to explore unfortunately. You win some, you lose some I guess.

If anyone’s interested, Schaumburg, IL is a suburb. And really, little else needs to be added. There’s an Applebee’s, there’s an Olive Garden, there’s a <fill in chain here>. The one fantastic thing is there’s a White Castle. I do love White Castle.

The Exercise

You’d think at some point I’d either start working out again or get rid of this section. You’d think.

The Restaurant

Not really a restaurant, but I gotta give props to White Castle. Yeah, they do terrible things to your digestive track.[1] Yeah, they’re terrible for you. Yeah, they’re little more that grease spots on a bun, summed up by the following story:

Driving back to Duluth from the Cities. We stop at White Castle, a place Karin had never been to before. We’re cruising along and Karin is being the perfect copilot – I finish one and she hands me the next. That is until suddenly she stopped. Concerned about what was happening I glanced at Karin who had opened the burger in her hand and was looking down at the floorboard.

Me: What happened? (may have been panic in my voice)
Karin: I think I dropped the patty.
Me (laughing): No, it’s still there.

But boy howdy do I love White Castle.

The Travel Note

I’m glad to see Continental starting to offer DirecTV on their flights. Now if only they’ll add internet access.

The Five

When I boarded the plane for home tonight I found out that Continental is no longer offering pillows and blankets on their flights. Below are five thoughts for the airlines.

  1. If you’re going to charge me for something, make it for something above and beyond the normal expectations for a flight. If you’re going to charge me for a meal make it decent food. I don’t mind paying for DirecTV access, but I do mind for checking my bag.
  2. I’ve heard that adding RFID tags to enhance baggage scanning and limit lost bags would cost about $1 per bag. If you’re charging $15ish for the bag, toss in the RFID tag.
  3. Pillows and blankets can’t cost that much. If you’re trying to save weight pull the SkyMall catalogs.[2]
  4. Everyone should move to electronic boarding passes. I love the convenience of using my phone as my boarding pass, as well as the added security.
  5. Be realistic about delays. If the equipment isn’t going to land until 40 minutes before it’s scheduled to take off again, it’s not leaving on time.

[1] Worst flight ever was when I had 8 slyders before boarding.
[2] Unless, of course, you’re Jonathan Coulton.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse:

If it’s posted on a Tuesday does it still count as a Friday Five?

The Week[s]

Of the many issues that I have, I have a hard time buckling down and undertaking huge tasks. As a result, dealing with everything from Australia drove me away from blogging in general, and I’m having a hard time getting back into it. But here I am, and with a little luck I’m back to stay.

I last posted a Friday Five on September 4th, so I guess there’s quite a bit to get caught up on. I’m sure you’ve all seen the Australia posts by now, but that was of course the biggest bit of adventure[1] that Karin and I had. In case you couldn’t tell we had an absolute blast and I can’t wait to go back (maybe next year??)

While Karin was able to go home after Australia[2], I wound up flying out to Tampa, FL. The Tampa trip was productive both on a professional and personal level. The week was just a good work week, and I was able to see a couple of good friends of mine on more than one occasion. Being able to see friends is probably one of the best things about travel, and probably the most powerful drug for beating back homesickness.

Because going home after that would be too good for me, I flew from Tampa to Houston. Houston was, of course, well, Houston. For whatever reason the last couple of trips out there haven’t been fruitful when it comes to getting together with anyone, something I hope changes in the future.

After Houston was a week at home. In San Diego, CA. Without work. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I was able to go to the Chargers game on Sunday[3]. We had picked up three wines from Australia on our trip which we were able to share with friends on that Friday night, as well as exchange stories with Brent and Ron who had gone to Europe over the same time Karin and I were in Australia. It was just fantastic.

This past week I was in (…wait for it…) Houston! Despite my best efforts, it was another work/home/work/home week in Houston.

The Restaurant

In Tampa exists one of the best (if not *the* best) steakhouses I’ve ever visited – Charley’s. I must admit that I’m a bit jaded when it comes to steaks. I’ve got access to Iowa Meat Market which offers up some great dry aged steaks, and a grill that I can get up to over 700 degrees; I can make a very good steak at home, better than most steak places. But what I don’t have is a wood fire grill. Their steaks are wet aged, and then tossed on this grill imparting a smoky flavor that is just out of this world. It’s the densest, richest steak I think I’ve ever had.

Oh – and they make a great Manhattan that they serve in a frozen martini glass tableside – because they’ll fill it up to the top, have you take a sip, and then top it off again. My kind of place.

The Exercise

I’ve been about as good with that as I have keeping my blog up to date.

The Travel Note

Last Sunday I went to the airport with about 40 minutes before my flight was due to board. I had secured my upgrade already meaning that I’d be able to cut the security line and be on the other side within about 10 minutes tops. That was, until, I got out of the car and realized I didn’t have my license. This is where living near the airport comes in handy, and that San Diego has such a small airport. I was able to go from the airport to home, run inside and grab my wallet, and drive back to the airport in just under 20 minutes total. Got to the other side of security and on the plane with enough time to spare to have a preflight drink on the plane.

The Five

After Dave (Jumbo) forwarded me an article from Men’s Journal – The Top Five Beer Towns in the U.S. – I knew I had my next five, which is the five best beer towns I’ve been to.

  1. San Diego, CA – This is an absolute no-brainer. San Diego has one of the (if not the) best collections of microbreweries in the world. There’s some debate as to whether or not the double IPA was invented in San Diego, but regardless it was perfected there. But despite what some may try to tell you, there are many non-IPA’s to be found, including my favorite stout from Green Flash which they age in used bourbon barrels.
  2. Brisbane, QLD – Everywhere I turned there was good beer available. It was mostly in the form of lagers and more traditional ales, but it was all fantastic.
  3. Burlington, VT – Home of Magic Hat and the Vermont Brew Pub. The Brew Pub gets a special nod from me for not only making great beer, but for serving it at the right temperature – around 40 degrees and in a room temperature glass.
  4. Athens, GA – I was blown away by the selection of microbrews in this area. Between brewpubs and microbreweries there’s a lot of good beer to be had in this college town.
  5. Boise, ID – You’d have figured that a town such as Boise wouldn’t feature good beer, but as I’ve said before – Boise’s a surprisingly hip town. While there are a couple of chain brewpubs in town, there are also plenty of good local brews to be had.

[1] I’m such a geek I nearly typed out AdventureWorks.
[2] Big ups to Sheri here for being willing to go pick up Karin.
[3] Bigger ups to Donna for scoring the sweet tickets.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Australia Redux

IMG_6399 Ok, I’m finally done. I’ve blogged about our trip in three separate installments, and have uploaded the pics – all 456 of them. I’ve split them into three libraries to make viewing them a bit less daunting.

Australia Part 1 – Brisbane
Australia Part 2 – Gold Coast
Australia Part 3 – Brisbane and South Bank

And if you want to revisit all of our adventures:

Australia Part 1
Australia Part 2
Australia Observations

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Australia Observations

In my experience, going to a westernized English speaking country is like going to a slightly different version of the US. I mean, when you get right down to it, Canada is really US North, only in metric with a funny accent. But Australia was certainly very different, or at least as different as a westernized English speaking country can be.

First up, as I’m sure you all know, they drive on the left side of the road. Even after a week as a passenger I just couldn’t get my brain around this. It was just too weird. The most dangerous part for us was trying to remember what direction to look when crossing the street. I couldn’t remember which way, so I’d just look both ways regardless of what side we were heading towards.

IMG_6656The beer there is fantastic. I don’t think I had anything at all that I didn’t like. And, no, Fosters is not available anywhere as best as I can tell – it’s simply a cruel trick they play on us Yankees.

One thing that Australia/New Zealand does very well is make wine. Trying to stay local we always had a wine from one of those two countries, and really didn’t find a bad bottle. They all come in screw cap bottles, which I’m still trying to get used to.

There isn’t a such thing as all-you-can-eat Internet access in Australia. Thus it’s high near impossible to find an open wireless access point, although McDonald’s does have them. Of course, ironically enough, my iPhone refused to connect to any cell towers out there but Karin’s worked just fine.

The sport situation is just weird. I understand Australian rules football because of the early days of ESPN, but I’m not sure that I understand rugby – they just throw around the ball and pound each other. Cricket is a complete mystery to me. They also have this thing called net ball, which, as best as I can tell, is simply an excuse to broadcast hot girls wearing tight outfits playing something that resembles basketball.[1]

Language is a funny thing. Getting used to the local accent was fairly straight forward, although there were more than a couple of times where my brain took a good 10 seconds trying to process what was just said to me. They do have a good handful of colloquialisms, though:

  • They say “mate” as often as you’d think
  • They don’t ever say “throw a shrimp on the barbie”. In fact, they don’t call prawns shrimp, they call them prawns.
  • Chockers means packed or stuffed.
  • Stuffed means tired.
  • They pronounce the “h” in herb.[2]
  • Appetizers are called entrees.

IMG_3361US chains are everywhere. We generally avoided them, but there are times when you just need something quick to eat and there’s not much else you can do. The local slang term IMG_3362 for McDonald’s is Mackers. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack’s, and I can tell you a Whopper is a Whopper the world around. And yes, you can find a Starbucks.

They’ve got their currency done (almost) right. They’ve eliminated the penny rounding everything off to the nickel. They have one and two dollar coins (no bills for those). Their paper money is different colors, different sizes, and made of plastic. Yes – plastic. Makes it near impossible to tear and washable giving it a longer lifespan. It’s also much harder to forge. The one thing that did get me though was the coins. They have a 20 cent piece (not a quarter), and their sizes are off (the dollar and two dollar are the smallest of the bunch).

[1] I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing.
[2] Because there’s a flippin “h” in it. (Yeah, I’m censoring that joke)

Monday, October 5, 2009

I’m not dead yet!

OK – So I haven’t been around lately. I’ve been distracted by life. Nothing serious, just friends, Rock Band and Mafia Wars on Facebook[1]. There will be a Friday Five this week (I promise). Also later this week I will have all my pics up from Australia.

Thank you for being patient.

[1] I’m never forgiving you for this Abram.