Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

It’s always interesting how my trips seem to go in spurts. For the longest time it was always a trip to Houston. I now can’t remember the last time I was in Houston. Recently, my “Houston” has become Ottawa, which is where I found myself this week. Although this week was rather nice as Karin came to join for the weekend.

Christopher and KarinIn particular, Karin came up so we could get pictures done as a couple, something we haven’t done since we were engaged back in..., ummmm..., wait... I think I can count back that far... Carry the one... Natural log of pi... Ah yes – 1993[1]. Since having my headshots done by Robin at unposed I knew I wanted to bring Karin back so we could do it together. Not only is Robin an amazing photographer, she also does a great job of making you feel at ease, leading to both amazing photos and a wonderful experience. At some point later today we should get the proofs, and we can’t wait to start going through and picking out which ones to keep – which will be a tough process to be certain.

The week turned out to be a lot of time spent with friends, as we did dinner Saturday night with Susan and Trevor, I did a working dinner with Susan on Tuesday, and a dinner with Tracey and Rob on Wednesday. It’s always nice to have human interaction while on the road.

The other thing I really enjoy about Ottawa is the running paths. The canal runs right through the center of town, and there’s a great path on both sides. Susan and I did 14 miles on Sunday, and I did 7 on my own on Thursday (as I continue to prepare for the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon in June).

The Restaurant

Having been to Ottawa a few times now and Karin finally managed to join for one of my trips. We wanted something nice and romantic, so Susan suggested we check out Beckta. I'm thrilled we did.

The first thing that's worth highlighting is the service. It was absolutely impeccable from start to finish. It seemed that every time we needed something, our waiter or someone else was right there ready to assist. Even at the end of the night, when I find that service tends to fall off (I hate having to wait for my check), they were still right there.

It started out perfectly after we were seated and ordered our cocktails - a take on a margarita for my wife, and an old fashioned made with scotch for me. Non-traditional, but still very good[2]. We decided to go with the tasting menu (the main reason we came here). After we told the waiter this, he said, "OK - I'll give you guys 5-10 minutes to enjoy your cocktails, and I'll send over some bread so you won't go hungry in the mean time."

Let me opine for just a second here. I've done a handful of tasting menus at different restaurants, and one thing that I've found nearly universally is the first wine and food pairing is on the table nearly instantaneously. If you ordered a cocktail beforehand, you're suddenly double-fisting and not able to enjoy your cocktail before easing into dinner. When the waiter said he'd give us time to enjoy our cocktails, it was a "You had me at hello" moment.

Back to the dinner.

The first course was a smoked trout with fingerling potatoes, paired with a very nice little white wine. Awesome presentation, and very tasty. The second course was absolutely the winner - eggs benedict. 

Yes - breakfast for dinner. But this was no typical eggs benedict. This was a homemade english muffin, with a light schmear of liver pate, lamb bacon (yes - lamb bacon FTW!), and a tempura egg yolk. All covered with an amazing hollandaise and paired with a nice bubbly rose (which I did in fact drink with my pinky in the air). It was by far the winner of the night.

The third course was a quail leg on a bed of sweet potato(?) puree paired with a pinot - very tasty. The final savory dish was a bison steak, done up rare, sliced on the bias, that was just melt in your mouth good, and paired with a hearty cab that was just perfect.

Dessert was a "tropical cubist movement", featuring 5 different desserts that were all shaped as squares. All were very tasty, but I don't know that there was anything that really was "change your life" good.

Yes, it's pricey. But for the food, the service, the atmosphere and the experience it was worth every penny. Next time I get my wife back to Ottawa, I can assure you we'll be back.

The Travel Note

This one is from Karin’s experience at the border. The customs agent in Ottawa gave her a bit of a hard time because he couldn’t figure out why she was coming all the way from San Diego just for the weekend – and in winter no less. He did let her through, but not after giving her a bit of a runaround.

The Five

I spend just a little time on the road, and as a result I wind up eating out a lot. As I’m staying healthy these days, that can be a bit of an issue. While I’m certainly not perfect when it comes to my eating habits, here are 5 things I always try to focus on when ordering.

  1. Start with a salad at dinner. I try to get some form of veggies into my system at both lunch and dinner, and the easiest way to do that is to order a salad.
  2. Be careful about salads as an entrĂ©e. It’s amazing how quickly a healthy item turns into something completely unhealthy when it’s doused in dressing and covered with cheese, bacon and other sources of fat. And while we’re at it, I ask for the dressing on the side.
  3. “No mayo”. Those two words are nearly automatic for me now. It’s amazing how many calories and fat can be dropped just by dropping that one little ingredient.
  4. “No cheese”. I’m not a huge cheese person, so this isn’t a big loss for me. I do enjoy my goat cheese to be sure, but I rarely have cheese on my sandwiches.
  5. I hardly ever do dessert. If I’m out to dinner with friends then I might. But if I’m out on my own, I never do dessert. Well, maybe a liquid dessert – a nice glass of port or scotch.

[1] We got married in 1995, meaning in two years our marriage will be old enough to vote.
[2] Yeah, I’m a snob. But there are times when you just roll with it and order the best drink you can find on the menu.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Frustrations About Posting Frustrations

In case you haven’t already noticed, I’m a bit of a Facebook junkie. If you were to track my time on the web and break it down by site, I’m certain Facebook would be by far the site I use more often. I love being able to share and connect with friends, and I’m generally open to friending almost anyone.

However, that right there can be a problem. Because some of my Facebook friends are clients of mine.

The problem isn’t the obvious one – posting incriminating photos. I’m generally OK with those types of things, and I make sure to clear out the ones that I don’t want on Facebook. The real problem is I’ve grown to enjoy posting frustrations on Facebook. But what if one of those frustrations is with a client.

As a perfect example, I recently delivered a project to a client per their specifications. I mean, exactly what they asked for. In fact, before I built it I confirmed with the client that what I was about to deliver was in fact what they were asking for. However, after I actually handed it over I was informed they wanted something different.

My first instinct was to post “loves it when he delivers what a customer wants only to be told that’s not what they want.” But the two people I was interfacing with during this project are both friends of mine on Facebook, and would have known I was talking about them.

Part of the reason I like posting frustrations is it gives me a quick place to vent. Plus, I have enough developer friends that can relate to just that story.

But you really can’t bash a client on a public forum.

Can’t post that to Facebook.

Fortunately, though, they don’t read the blog.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Friday Five

The Excuse

Alas, Friday just didn’t work out timing wise. So it’s now Tuesday and I’m getting it posted. That’s progress, right?

The Week

I’ve mentioned before that there are weeks when I get to go to cool places. And then there are weeks when I wind up in Livermore, CA. Add to that the fact that I was at a research facility. A secured research facility. A secured research facility without public internet access.

Yes – I spent the entire week disconnected from the world.

Trust me – nobody was more shocked by the fact that I came out on the other end of that alive than me.

But I did.

One of the parts of the week that did work out well was the fact that the area is right next to wine country. This made for a great little run (7 miles) through the vineyards. Great area to go run in, even if it was a bit hilly.

The other great part was I got to do dinner with Sheri. I hadn’t had one-on-one time with her in forever, so it was nice to be able to sneak up to San Francisco for dinner at Perbacco.

The Restaurant Cocktail Bar

I’ve been searching for a great cocktail bar in San Diego. We’re finally starting to see a cocktail scene emerging there, but it’s still relatively early. As of now, the best place that I’ve been to is a bar called Craft & Commerce.

Let me get the couple of bad things out of the way right up front. First – the place is relatively small compared to the number of people they cram into there. In particular, there is one side of the bar that has no stools. While that isn’t a huge issue for me as I tend to stand after a few drinks, there isn’t a bar to rest your foot on at the bar. As a result, it’s just not comfortable standing after a while. Second – getting water is a bit of an issue. If I’m having more than a couple of cocktails, I do like to mix in a couple of glasses of water. After all, hydration is one of the keys to healthy living, right?

That said, this place makes great classic cocktails. One of my favorite features, and proof of that, is they have no vodka. Yes – no vodka. Vodka in a cocktail is a relatively recent addition, and frankly brings nothing to the party but alcohol. Using a spirit like gin, which certainly brings flavor to the part, adds more character to the drink. They also take their time to measure all ingredients. While some may think this is a way for the bar to be stingy (and I’m sure there is a part of that), the real reason to measure is to make sure you make the cocktail correctly. After all, when you’re dealing with small amounts, being off just a little can throw off the final result by quite a bit.

The Travel Note

I don’t mind airlines charging extra for something that’s out of the ordinary. Continental, for instance, charges $6 for DirecTV. That’s a value-add and I’m fine with that. Or seats with extra legroom.

What I do mind, however, is paying for things that aren’t a value-add. Which is why I will never fly US Airways again. If you want a normal seat in the front half of the plane, a seat that isn’t any different from any other coach seat except it’s located in the front half of the plane, you have to pay for that right.

The Five

Couldn’t figure out something good on my own, so I went to for help. The questions from them for this week are:

  1. What’s something you have an unreasonable fear of?
    Snakes. And no, it’s not funny.[1]
  2. What’s something you have an unreasonable fondness for?
    Many inanimate objects. Facebook for one. My sneakers for another. After all, I wind up spending quite a bit of time with my running shoes.
  3. What’s something you have an unreasonable disliking for?
    Nancy Grace I suppose. Although I think it’s completely justified.
  4. Who’s most likely to bring out the unreasonable in you?
    Karin. This isn’t on Karin, it’s just simply a function of being married for as long as we have. I forget that she’s always got the best of intentions, and always feel like a heel when I figure that out.
  5. Who’s the least unreasonable person you know?
    Karin. A more level-headed person I’ve never met.

[1] And I am not kidding about this. Fastest way to lose me as a friend is to pull that prank on me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

Something very, very strange happened this week. So bizarre, in fact, that I’m still not sure that I’ve fully recovered from the shock. If I still seem a bit off, it’s gotta be fallout from this event that occurred on Monday morning.

This Monday morning… wow… it still just blows me away… But here goes…

This Monday morning I woke up in my own bed.

I know, I know – I’m more shocked by this than you are. Granted, things returned to normal fast enough as I flew out on Tuesday, but still.

Monday morning. My own bed.


Needless to say[1] I took full advantage of the weekend. Got in a fantastic 12 mile run with a couple of good friends. Went out to dinner with a couple of other friends. Actually made dinner at home on both Sunday and Monday nights. And even managed to expose Karin to Goonies for the first time.[2]

My trip this week took me to a northern suburb of Atlanta. I’d been out here a few times before, although it had been a while. The best part (by far) was heading out to dinner at a place called The Iberian Pig with a good friend. It’s always nice to find both a great restaurant and enjoy it with even better company.

The Restaurant

I guess I have to go with Iberian Pig. It’s a non-traditional-yet-traditional tapas restaurant. The goal is to go with traditional items, but put their own twist on them. This style even bleeds down into their cocktail menu, which I recognized instantly when I saw an aviation on the menu[3]. When I went to order the special manhattan on their menu[4], the waiter directed me to an off-the-menu chef’s manhattan, made with High West Rendezvous Rye – an amazing rye[5]. The waiter assured me it was the best manhattan on the planet. I don’t know that I’d quite go that far, but I’m here to tell you it certainly ranks right up there.

The food itself was almost all hits with just one miss. Unfortunately the miss was kind of a big one – the lamb ribs. They were just doused in barbecue sauce, making it near impossible to detect that you were actually eating lamb. Everything else was fantastic – the Spanish sausage, the teeny-tiny-tacos, the bacon wrapped dates, the goat cheese.

The service was absolutely spot-on. The waiter walked us through the menu, made great suggestions, and timed everything out perfectly. Despite the fact that we ordered about 8 different plates, we were never just inundated with plates. The waiter even pulled the water glasses off the table before refilling them, something rarely seen but I always appreciate.

The Travel Note

If I were to start a new website, I’d start one to rate airports on their efficiency in two areas – delivering checked bags to the carousel and getting visitors to the rental car area. Landing at an airport and not actually leaving the airport until a solid hour+ later is a huge frustration.

Atlanta certainly ranks up there in the time to rental car area. Between the shuttle from the satellite terminal to the main terminal, and then the shuttle to the rental car area, it’s a solid 40 minutes or more until you’re actually leaving the airport. FTL.

The Five

If you’re new here you may not have picked up on some of my quirks in writing style. Here are five little things you’ll see from time to time.

  1. Tyops[6]/Misspellings. Despite the fact that Karin always points me in the right direction, I’ve still yet to learn. As I say, I’m a developer – I don’t have to spell correctly, only consistently. Although I will say I know which your and there to use.
  2. Parentheses. Again – I’m a developer. Seeing things in parentheses is just normal for me.
  3. Footnotes.[7]
  4. Semicolons. The use of a semicolon is a lost art.
  5. Conversational posting style. I type like I talk.

[1] Why is it that people say “needless to say” and feel the need to still say it?
[2] I don’t know how you can be a child of the 80’s and not seen Goonies. When we found out about this we needed to fix this problem right away.
[3] Classic cocktail – very bright, nice for a warm day.
[4] What else did you think I was going to order?
[5] Ironically made in Utah.
[6] I swear I just made the mistake while typing it and left it.
[7] I love footnotes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

I’m looking at all the signs the week has ended – I’m sitting in a bar area, I have a manhattan next to me, and I have my Zune playing. (Low by Cracker if you’re interested)

This week found me in Boston. Well, sort of. One of the small issues with travel is the client will tell you, “Hey – you’re going to Boston!” Then you find out later that you’re really going to a suburb a good 30 miles out of town with no real chance to go enjoy the city FTL[1]. Still managed to make the best of it. A friend of mine, who bears just a small resemblance to Larry David was teaching in the same center this week, and I was able to hook up with another friend. So all was not lost. (Like to Get to Know You Well by Howard Jones) On top of that, I managed to get quite a few loose ends tied up, including starting up my professional blog at

As good of a week as it’s been, I’m still ready to get home, and back to some warmer weather.

The Restaurant

(Free Falling by Tom Petty)

If this is your first time here, one of the things you may not know about me is I’m a bit of a cocktail maven – in particular classic cocktails. As such, when I see a restaurant advertise great cocktails and great food, I’m of course going to give it a shot. The restaurant in question is Alchemy, which is located in a rather cute part of South Park.

Alchemy is a relatively small place, and on the whole relatively easy to get into. The service is a little spotty, but the drinks and food more than make up for it. The few times Karin and I have been there we’ve tried many things on the menu. The winner by far is the stuffed peppers – this is a must order. They also have bone marrow – if you’ve never tried this, you absolutely have to.

I recommend treating the menu like it’s tapas – just order a handful of items, let it come out as it’s done, and enjoy. You won’t regret it.

The Travel Note

(The Guitar by They Might Be Giants)

I’ve dealt with my fair share of surly people on the road. This one ranks right up there. After takeoff I reclined my seat, only to be greeted by a rude tap on my shoulder. The woman behind me asked if I could raise my seat. I complied, and then turned around to ask if we could compromise; I really don’t need to recline it much, just a little bit. She was having none of it, explaining that when I do that I’m taking away any space she has in front of her.

About 20 minutes later, as I’m just drifting off to sleep, she decides to get up by pulling back on my seat. Normally I wouldn’t say anything, but this time I just couldn’t let it slide. I politely[2] informed her that when she does that it pulls me back as well and wakes me up. She glared at me and said, “If this is how you’re going to be it’s going to be a long flight.”

At this point I thought about my options, and decided that just letting her be angry was the best plan and didn’t say anything else.

The joys of travel.

The Five

(World Leader Pretend by R.E.M.)

Since I’m on a cocktail kick, how about my five favorite cocktails.

  1. Manhattan. It’s so simple – rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It’s really the king of cocktails.
  2. Negroni. Very similar to a manhattan in profile – equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, a type of bitters. It’s oddly both a bit lighter and bolder than the manhattan.
  3. Gin martini. With a twist. And with gin. Vodka doesn’t bring anything to the party but alcohol; no flavor.
  4. Sazerac. This is an old cocktail born in New Orleans. It involves rye, Peychaud’s bitters, a little sugar and absinthe. It’s got a great bite from both the rye and absinthe, but the sugar really helps both mellow the drink and bring out the flavors.
  5. Bartender’s choice. If you’re in a great cocktail bar, the bartender will find your tastes and craft a cocktail custom suited for you.

[1] For Susan – that’s “For The Loss”
[2] Believe it or not, I do mean politely.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Friday Five

The Excuse

Alas, the travel that I’ve been on for the last couple of weeks killed any chance of me typing out a Friday Five. As such, it’s time for me to get caught up.

The Weeks

What a 3 weeks it’s been.

I started the week of 7Feb with a quick 3 day jaunt up to San Jose. As much as I loathe San Jose (which is Spanish for Endless Business Parks), it’s always a good chance to touch base with my friends up there. This trip was no exception – friends and business parks.

Wednesday night turned into a fantastic dinner (and cocktails with friends). Alas, that meant it was a very early Thursday morning, as Karin and I flew out to New Orleans. If you know me at all, you know my love for all things Cajun/Creole, and I’d yet to take Karin to New Orleans. As there was a half marathon out there, it seemed like the perfect excuse.

The week included (of course) a trip to Commander’s Palace, which offered us both great food and the opportunity to suit up. Well – I wore the suit. Karin wore her little red dress. The food and service was of course outstanding; if you’ve never been to Commander’s Palace you owe it to yourself. We also went to NOLA, which is an Emeril restaurant. While we both enjoyed NOLA, we were once again a bit underwhelmed by the food. The last night was a little place called Sylvain. Not Creole, but just a little local restaurant. Was the perfect way to end a week of amazing food and touring New Orleans.

Best. Beads. Ever.But the main focus was the race – the Mardi Gras Rock n Roll Half Marathon. My goal was to hit sub 1:50 (specifically 1:49:12, but that’s another story). I have to say I ran the absolute best race I could, and I finished with a time of 1:50:37. I could not have run it any faster than that. So while I’m a bit disappointed in the time, I’m thrilled with how the race went.

IMG_1047As there’s no rest for the weary, I left New Orleans and went straight up to Seattle for a conference up there. In case this is your first time here, I love Seattle. I love the cocktails, the food, the cocktails, the people, the cocktails, the feel. Oh, and did I mention I love the cocktails?

Despite all my time in Seattle, I’d never made the trip up to Vancouver. As my virtual running partner (and great friend) Susan was also in Seattle last week we went up to Vancouver for a little 10K[1] run up there. And as we were in Vancouver we continued my application process to become an honorary Canadian; this time it involved seeing a Canucks vs. Stars game. Great game. As for the run, well, I’m happy with the time (51:22, a persona best), but I’m not thrilled with how I ran.

From there it was out to Ottawa. Despite the fact that I’ve spent two full weeks in Ottawa now, I don’t feel like I really know the city yet. A big part of that has to do with the fact that I’ve only been out there in the winter, which is not really a great “hey – let’s go explore” time of year. But Ottawa does seem like a great family town; it seems there’s some form of a festival every other week in that town.

After Ottawa? Home.

The Travel Note

Every time I’m in a situation where I need a little flexibility from an airline, I’m amazed at how simply politely asking for what you want works. The key is to know what you want, to be nice about it, but yet be firm.

The biggest thing (besides being nice) that will help is knowing what your options are. Know the other hubs of the airline you’re flying and any partner airlines. If there’s an alternate airport, know that as well.

And above all – be nice! Remember that it’s not the person in front of you that’s impacted the weather, maintenance issues, or anything else. You’d be amazed at how much more someone’s willing to help you when you’re polite.

The Five

I generally have tried to avoid posting fitness related items here, but recently I’ve been asked about running every time I turn around. Below is an FAQ on my running experience.

  1. Why did you start running?
    Frankly – because I got tired of being fat. While fat might not be the right word (I frequently use doughy, which I thing is more appropriate), I wasn’t happy with how I looked. At the end of it all, the person most responsible for my life is me, and I decided it was time to take charge.
  2. Why running?
    Because running meets two requirements I have for any fitness program – a goal and portability. The great thing about running events is I’m always working towards something. And when I’m on the road, I can almost always run outdoors, or at the very worst[2] I can run on a treadmill.
  3. When you going to run a marathon?
    June 5th, 2011 at the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon. Come cheer me on!
  4. Does your wife run?
    She does not. She still thinks I’m insane. Frankly, she’s right.
  5. How can I get started?
    Lace up your sneakers, walk out the door, and start running. It’s that simple.[3] If you’re getting serious about it, then I’d recommend getting fitted for shoes and reading “Marathoning for Mortals”. It’s a great sport, a great way to spend time alone with your brain, and a great way to see sights. Hope to see you out there!

[1] There’s just something sick about saying “little 10K”.
[2] I loathe treadmills.
[3] Simple != Easy