Fear and Loathing in Chicago

•December 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I had the opportunity to enjoy a bit of fear and loathing in Chicago from Saturday to Tuesday of this week.  I’ve been making this trip at the end of November for the past 6 years.  Even though the main purpose of the trip is work related I do try to squeeze every drop of fear and loathing I can from my “off” hours.  I highly recommend the staying at the Hyatt Regency.  I’ve stayed here many times and I’ve been impressed every time.

I arrived in time on Saturday to watch Alabama put it to Auburn pretty hard.  I caught the game at the Big Bar in the Lobby of the Hyatt.  Unfortunately I had to go to the McCormick Center for a briefing later in the evening which meant that I only had some Ice water while I watched the game on the twin 70′ plasma’s in the Bar.

We walked down Wacker to my favorite Chicago restaurant Bella Bacino’s.  In my opinion their Stuffed Pizza rivals any in Chicago.  In addition to the pizza being top notch the atmosphere is great as well.  As usual we had the Bacino’s Special which is packed with italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, green peppers and onions.  oh yea…it also has around 110 lbs of mozzarella and sauce.  While waiting for our pizza we completely demolished their fresh baked bread with the supplied olive oil and balsamic vinegar.    I decided to branch out and try the  Brother Thelonious Belgain Style Abbey Ale.  I have enjoyed Chimay in the past so I though I’d give this one a go. It was served in the appropriate Belgian style goblet.  It had a great nose and was very tasty.  I realized about half way through that it also kicked like a four legged ninja.  I checked their website and they used words like Dark, Strong and Robust to describe this brew that rolls in with an ABV of 9.4%.  On our last night we had a late dinner at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House.  The place was packed and we were seated for our 9pm reservation around 9:30pm.  The service was top notch.  Hugo’s shares the same kitchen with Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse.  The Food was great.  Some of the dishes around the table were Oysters Rockefeller, Alaskan King Crab Legs, and Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Hot Pink Mayonnaise.  I decided since this was a frog bar it was my duty to try the friggin’ Sauteed Frog Legs in Garlic Butter.  One of my fellow diners with a camera phone was nice enough to snap a picture.  We only had one night where there was time for more than dinner and a quick nightcap at the Hyatt’s lobby bar. That night after dinner we relaxed for some spirit’s and billiards at Rockit Bar and Grill on Hubbard.

So that pretty much wraps up the high points of  the trip.  It rained, snowed, the wind blew, the weather cleared and I was cold but I was also very happy to be in the great city of Chicago!

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I needed an Old Milwaukee…

•November 21, 2008 • 1 Comment

My quick trip to Milwaukee started on the rocky side.  On my connection flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee my chill ipod induced sleepy haze was interrupted by the nervous behavior of the flight attendants.  They scurried around and quickly cleared the cabin of service items and took their seats.  Finally they announced over the intercom that the pilot would make an announcement shortly.  At this point I was starting to get nervous because I would imagine that it would take quite allot to get the two old haggard flight attendants this fired up.  Finally the pilot comes on and lets us know that we will be making an emergency landing in Cincinnati.  Nice!  My heart rate is now double…And what is that weird vibration and banging noise coming from directly behind my seat at the very rear of the plane?   The pilot again comes on and assures us that we have been given priority clearance to land. *Fantastic*  The older fellow beside me in the very back row now decides to get chatty.  I had at this point removed my headphones and ceased to resemble a mushroom.  He exclaims “There must be weather in Milwaukee!”  I restrain the urge to smack him as I am screaming to myself that they don’t give priority emergency landing clearance to airplanes diverted due to weather….There’s something wrong with the plane!!!!!!!  Heart rate is now triple…..And now that my noise canceling headphones aren’t filling my ears the vibrations coming from the back of the plane are hard to ignore.  On comes the pilot again.  He calmly informs us that we are experiencing some serious and troubling vibrations from one of the engines.   He also informs us that if it were to “let go” at 30,000ft that would be very bad.  *Great* Yes he actually said “let go”.  So at this point he proceeds to bring the plane from 30,000 ft to some were just above tree top level in approximately 10 seconds. **Now on the outside I’m a mask of complete calm and confidence, but on the inside I’m somewhere between a complete panicked fit and a total come apart.  Also the fact that I was sitting beside the flight attendants in the back made me privy to their conversation debate as to whether we would be greeted by fire trucks on the runway.  *Fantastic. maybe if I don’t die in a fiery crash I’ll get to slide down one of those inflatable ramps you see in the movies.  Of course we made it down safely and the landing was totally anticlimactic.  No inflatable slides for fire trucks.  I would totally like to give big props to the Delta pilots who “got’ er done” and thankfully brought the bird in safe!

The rest of my trip was work.  I made my first visit to a cyclotron today which is a type of particle accelerator.  Very Very Cool.  I had Bacon Pancake’s for breakfast at the Original Pancake House.  Oh yea the bacon was on the inside! And I sampled some fried cheese curds at lunch .  That’s it! Other than the fact that It was painfully cold and snowing.

A brief trip to Washington

•November 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and unfortunately most of my destinations have been quite unexciting, but I did get a chance to visit Washington D.C. a few weeks ago for a meeting. During my visit I  uncovered a gaping hole in my knowledge of US history as I visited all the memorials around the D.C. area.   I was excited to use my new Nikon camera to document the trip and was totally bummed when I whipped it out to find a dead battery.  So I had to head over to flickr and borrow a few pictures.

I learned a few things on my first trip to the hub of our counties political engine. First is that the official dress code is limited to a range of navy blue and black suits.  Also Cabby’s don’t take credit cards anywhere in the city.Another is that I absolutely love the Georgetown area.  If your into winding down with a cold drink surrounded by dark suits, well worn brass accents, dark carpets and dark stained wood then you’ll be fine.

On Wed night I had dinner at Clyde’s in Georgetown.  Checking the menu I was totally surprised at the Lobster offering for a paltry 18 bones!  Every one at the table went for the lobster which was accompanied by French fries and coleslaw.  I negotiated with a colleague for a surf and surf swap.  I swapped several of my delicious scallops for some of her succulent lobster.

On Thursday night we went to J.Pauls for dinner.   While I enjoyed my fillet I watched Auburn get handed a beat down.  Before the steak and the AU beat down I enjoyed the petite crab cakes served on toast points.  I give them to big thumbs up.  The steak was …mehh.  Desert was a totally different animal altogether.  The Pumpkin cheese was delicious.

I wish I had more time to see the sights but as usual I’ve gotta scrap together what ever I can after the meetings break at 5pm!

I almost forgot lodging!  I stayed at the Fairmont Hotel.

It was quite nice.  I was totally blown away by the fitness center.  It was HUGE… I mean it was bigger than many gym’s I’ve been to.  The lobby was well appointed with a nice bar and lounge area.  So all in all if your going to have to have a wall to wall meeting somewhere I can totally recommend the Fairmont in Washington.

The fireplace goes on a diet and the TV finds a new home.

•November 9, 2008 • 2 Comments

Ever since we got our Samsung LCD TV I’ve wanted to have it mounted over the fireplace.  Unfortunately as you can see the wonderful brick mantel is a really weird height.  I’ve been telling my wife that one day I was going to knock down some of those bricks and lower the fireplace mantel to a normal height.  I researched the project for almost a year and finally got started!

I used a drill with a masonry bit to drill across the mortar.  A crowbar and hammer helped to convince the brick that it would be better off some where else.  After a slight miss calculation on the weight of the GIANT slab of bricks I was on my way.

Some drywall mud and paint improve the looks of things allot.  Did I mention that I’m potentially the most unhandy fellow around?  Throw in a new power plug and your almost there.  Don’t forget to snake that HDMI cable through the wall!

Let me go ahead and say after you get over the price shock of the Ultra-Low Profile mount from Omnimount you’ll soon be in shock over the major pain it is to follow the cryptic instructions and get it level.  Of course when using a Ultra-Low Profile mount like this you have to consider that you won’t have room to plug the TV into the outlet much less add a surge suppressor.  There is a small recessed area in the rear of the TV so I measured close to a million times for the location of the power outlet so the plug would fit perfectly.

So here are things buttoned up.

Ahh.. My new Onkyo 606 and Polk RM10 surrounds came in and finish things off nicely. I picked up a nice Techcraft audio rack to house the components in there new location.

Get yo’ Ringtone on!

•October 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Last night Christie was none to happy to learn that I didn’t have a custom ringtone set for her calls.  After a small debate over good candidates and having her veto several fine choices I finally threw out this option.

This morning I decided to make that happen and in doing so I ran across a super cool website for finding ringtones.   

http://audiko.net/

Just browsing the website you’ll find tons of clips that can be used as ringtones.  If you’re super picky and you want to make that perfect sample of a song into a custom ringtone then I’ll walk you through it.  If you have the .mp3 of the file you want to sample you can upload it to audiko.  If you don’t have the file then I recommend heading over to a previously mentioned favorite of mine Sad Steve.

Head over and visit Steve and search for the song you want to sample for a ringer.

Once your listening to the song Rt. Click on “Download” and select “Copy Link Location”.  This will copy the link to the .mp3 file of the song to you clipboard.  Now head over to audiko.net.  The interface is nice and clean. (It’s so easy a caveman could do it)

From here you can upload your own file or If your using ole’ sadsteve click the “enter an URL” link.

Now just paste the URL address you copied from good ole’ sadsteve just a second ago.

Audiko will load up your song straight from sadsteve.  It will take a minute or two so sit back and revel in the wonderful Internet glory that only happens when two website’s work so well together.  You can slide the start and end point of your clip as well as have it fade in and out.  When you get your clip situated just right click “create ringtone!

Once your done it gives you a link that you can email to your phone or a link you can enter into you phones web browser.  Download the clip to your phone and your done!

III Forks Dallas, TX

•September 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I find myself staring down at the contents of my pockets after a wonderful dinner at III Forks in Dallas, TX.

Looking back It’s hard to pick a highlight from the meal when the entire evening was top notch.  I ended up zeroing in on a Turley Zinfandel 2006 Old Vines that was a great complement for the stout fare for the evening.  We started things off with Shrimp Cocktail, Crabcake St. Francis & Bacon Wrapped Scallops.  The robust Turley Zin stood up strong to the rich appetizers.  III Forks didn’t disappoint in the bread and salad department.   Their crusty bread was awesome and their house salad had toasted granny smith apples and a mild blue cheese.  I took things over the edge for the evening with a Filet Mignon with a side of Sautéed Spinach.  Everything was prepared perfectly.  I highly recommend III Forks for the Service, Food and fantastic atmosphere.

Initially we arrived early and enjoyed a few potent libations at the III Forks bar before dinner.  I was immediately aware that this was a prime hunting ground for Well-to-do Dallas cougars.  Not being in the market for that type of safari I settled in and enjoyed the company of my work associates as well as the very slick grand pianio performance .

This guy is a Photography/Wallpaper NINJA!

•September 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Have you ever found yourself visiting  a really cool website several times without truly taking a mental note.  Last night during some web surfing I found myself over at http://www.mandolux.com/. I’ve run across this site several times in the past and become enthralled by this guy’s photography skills.  I personally guarantee that you will update your computer’s wallpaper with an image from this guy’s website.  His use of light, texture and composition are incredible.  Many of his images are stereo or triptych’s and he photographs a very wide range of subjects. If your super geeky like me and run dual or triple monitors you won’t find better wallpaper images.

So go check his images archives.  Don’t hate me if you get sucked in and browse for hours!

You can also see this talented photographer’s work over on his flickr photostream.