Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Serendipitous moment

Remember that scene in the movie Serendipity where Kate Beckinsale is running through NYC with Molly Shannon trying to find John Cusack? In the midst of the search they come across a sidewalk vendor selling Prada knock-offs, and Kate says, "At least my Prada knock-off says Prada. Your's says Prado." Remember that? Me too, it was funny.

So I checked in this week to get me rental car and Enterprise liked me so much they upgraded me from a full size car, Chevy Impala, to a Jeep Laredo. It's a beauty. Power everything. Push button start. Satellite radio. The only real complaints I have are that the rear visibility is poor, and the rear deck is pretty high. I drove this baby all day and found that I liked it. Not enough to replace my current truck with a Jeep, but enough to enjoy the drive it again. So imagine my surprise when I happen to look at the front of the car and it looks like this:

Yeah, that's right, they gave me a cheap knock off.


-- TT

IT's snowing... again.

So once again I am in Fargo this week. I have spent been a month up here, and the interesting part is that it has snowed every week without fail. Usually never less that 4 inches. Without fail. Today was only about 2 inches, and it looked a lot like the fake snow called flocking on a Christmas tree.

Of course when you travel it is not all that easy to pack the usual winter clothing so you end up out in the lot trying to clean the vehicle off with the cheap wooden scraper the rental agency provides you while wearing dress shoes. And so it shall be this week as well. :D

The down side of this is not that I will be out trying to clean off the rentalcar in my dress shoes, it is that they really don't need any more precipitation right now. Fargo sits on the Red River, and every spring along with the flowers and the birds they can also look forward to the flood. Flood stage is at 18ft, and they usually crest around 30+.

This is the first community I have ever been to that actually puts up dikes every year, and tears them down every year. They make millions, I do mean millions, of sandbags every year in preparation. They started making them on Valentines Day this year. I can just hear it "Happy Valentines Day dear. Let's go volunteer to fill sandbags today!"

Apparently the weather here is some of the worst in the country. They average 100 National Weather Service alerts in a year. They flood every year. They have had snow on the ground here for 130+ days straight at the time I am writing this.

And yet they have a great attitude about all this. They laugh and make jokes about swim fins being issued to all residents every year. They don't moan and groan about the cold and wet they endure for 5 months of the year, or that their summer lasts about 8 weeks.

I have to give them their props, Fargo-Moorehead residents have earned them.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Change of the rules

OK, after traveling for a prolonged period and missing quite a few posts, I think I need to explain my situation and also make a change.

First, I travel... a LOT. Sometimes I am only home long enough to kiss my wife and wash my clothes before I pack and head back out again.

Second, both my wife and I are uncomfortable with me posting that I am out of town while I am gone and she is by herself for security and privacy reasons.

I love my job and would not change anything, but I also want to make this blogging thing to work. Soooo, I am going to make this change. I am going to start composing posts while I am on the road, but will post them after I am back from my trip so that I can be fresh with what I post, but I can also keep the privacy of my home life.

I have good reason for that desire to protect our privacy. I was the owner of a computer gaming company which ran events which drew a lot of gamers. These events were very popular, and the team that our company sponsored, which I was part of, was ranked in the region for the games we were playing. As our popularity grew so did the hits on our website. However, I never took into account the fact that my home was listed as the mailing address for the company.

One day I am working in my office and the doorbell rings. My wonderful wife answers the door and there is 3 young men she does not know who are quite excited to meet me. I came up to meet them and talk with them outside while my wife returns to the work she was doing. They were nice kids (none of them were over 17) and I had a great time meetings with them to talk games and I made sure that they understood that it was probably not a good idea to just drop in like that. We exchanged contact information and have talked once in a while since then, but it was a bit disconcerting that I had visitors that suddenly appeared out of the blue because of a link with an address on my site that led them to the house. My wife was even more concerned as she was often home alone because I was off running events or playing in tournaments, and I can't say that I blame here.

We changed that link to use a PO box shortly after that, and I learned my lesson. But that leads back to the point of this post. I want to communicate with the world regarding my travels (even if nobody else reads it but me) but I also want to maintain my personal privacy. (hmm, that might be an interesting topic for a future post.) So I am going to draft posts a lot more and you, my gentle reader, will see it when I get back home and tell it to post. There may be times that I will post immediately, but that will be when I know that I will not be violating my promise to the lovely lady who says she loves me and proves it every day. in the mean time, thanks for reading and please feel free to post a comment. I will read them.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Great Place to Eat at DIA.

I travel a lot. Sometimes weeks at a time, only home on the weekends. Any time I head west I have to stop in DIA. One of the biggest issues I have is that there really isn't any place that rings my bell for something to eat. There isn't really a place that I just want to go back eat again one my next layover... until now.

I was on my way back from Fargo, ND (another post on that subject) and had a layover in Denver for 90 minutes. As usual I was traveling at dinner time and quite hungry. Where to eat? Wolfgang Puck? McDonalds? Subway? Hmm, there is something I haven't seen before, Pour La France.

The menu was pretty much a standard fare for a french-style street restaurant with sandwiches, soup, and entrees. I checked the menu and liked what I saw. They have a Grilled Chicken Sandwich that would be perfect for my diet. Chicken, Romain Lettuce, Swiss Cheese, Tomato (ditch that, thank you) and dijonnaise with a side Ceasar salad. The bread was nicely toasted and the grilled chicken was hot, moist, and tender. The salad as cut in bite-size pieces with grated cheese over the top. Interesting note about the site I linked is that most of the people were complaining about the quality of the food going south, but I found that my food was quite good and there were no issues with wilted lettuce or thin cheese.

The place was busy, but the server was friendly and helpful. She was attentive, but not overly so. I hate when they constantly ask if you are OK, or if there is anything they can get you. But I also hate when the stop by log enough to take your order, drop it off, and drop off the check. There is a happy medium where they do check on you, but for the most part you can dine peaceably.

It is located on the second floor of the second terminal, across from Wolfgang Puck's restaurant. Take time to sit in the main area, or if you are short on time, they also have a quick service area to get anything from their menu.

Go visit and enjoy them for yourself.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Watching the disaster

When I travel I tend to spend more time watching the news than I might normally do when home. I generally turn on Fox News when I get up in the morning and it provides me the backgroud noise as I prepare for my day. Last Friday I woke and turned on the news to hear that a tsunami had hit northeast Japan and was expected to hit Hawaii shortly. I was stunned, much like the most of you were I am sure.

Thankfully, the impact on hawaii was minimal, unlike the destruction rained down upon Japan. A country I have always loved since I lived there so long ago. My first reaction after watching the videos was to find sources of information that were not from the US, as we tend to get filtered news from our providers. I can live with some of that, but they are providing filter versions of filtered news so it was really hard to get any details. However, the Japanese have a national news organization called NHK, that has an english site and a constant feed that I could tap for updates on the situation.

I only wish that I could provide some form of help to them, but I am not in a position to do more than pray for the Japanese people. Don't get me wrong, prayer is quite a powerful way to help, but sometimes you just want to do something physical.

When I lived there we were at Yokota Air Force Base, specifically living in Haijima. I loved the time there, and although I love my life here, I sometimes wish I could go back. I quickly checked the situation there and it seems that there really isn't all that much damage there, and they were quite distant from the epicenter since the base is west of Tokyo, and the epicenter is well north and east of Tokyo. The people there were always so friendly, and I have fond memories of a friend of my fathers, Jimmy Shimizu. He ran the book store just off base that we always went to for books for my father, and comic books for myself. Jimmy often invited us into their home for dinner, which I have since learned is a very big honor, and my father spent many hours talking with this man who taught me the wonders of the cuisine of his culture. Just the thought of the sukiyaki at his table makes me giddy. The tastes I experienced and the way it was all presented! Oh, that I could experience that again. but I digress.

The Japanese are a proud people and a strong people. I have no doubt that they will turn this into a victory and come out stronger for it. For now, I find myself watching the news on NHK, and praying for the victims. Please do what you can for them.


A Journey to Fargo...

For many years I have been suffering through the cold in Omaha. The bone chilling, face numbing, cold that just won't go away until spring finally fights its way through the wintery grip on the weather. I thought it was something that I could live with, until I had to visit Fargo, North Dakota.

I came to that city after a long delay on United Airlines and instantly realized that this was not the same weather that I had in Charlotte, North Carolina the week before. I spent that week with my heavy coat in the car, and wearing short sleeves every day. Now I was in the exact opposite. My fingers were freezing cold, my jacket tightly zipped, and eyes tearing in the bitter wind that was blowing from the north. People really choose to live in these conditions? *shudder*

Fargo is actually a nice town, with friendly people and great entertainment. It is actually much like Omaha, in that the metro area is divided by a river and the two areas are actually different states, North Dakota and Minnesota. My only complaint? It's too dang cold, and summer is only 2 months long. :D

I have several friends in the area who always make it a point together with me when I am in town, and we usually find a nice place to hang out, consume a few adult beverages, and catch up on the latest news in our lives. Our latest place was Fargo Billiards. This was a great place to shoot some pool, and eat a fine meal, and relax with a few friends. I must warn you though, when it is league night you will be walking from the sticks to get to the door. They pack them in for league night. However, they have so many tables that we walked in and the front of the house (the under 8 allowed section) was open with plenty of tables to play on. The only downside to the front is that we have to go get our drinks instead of having the server bring them to us. But then we are all techies so we could really use that extra walk for the next round.

Never have I seen such straight cues in a public pool hall. Normally you grab a cue off he rack and it has move curves than a swimsuit model in Bermuda. Not this time. the were straight and true with a perfect tip. I believe this may be the reason that I lost so many games. I am so used to those crappy cues that I was compensating for the problems that did not exist. Yea, that's what I will go with, I was compensating for crappy cues.

When we went to ring out after 2.5 hours, it came to $32 for my share, and that included the meal. That is no bad considering I had an appetizer (perfectly done mozz sticks) and a grilled chicken Caesar salad ( my goto when the other dishes aren't good for my diet or not to my taste).

The lettuce was fresh and crisp, cut to bite size portions, the chicken was tender and hot, and the dressing was perfect, just a touch of tang with awesome flavor. The mozzarella sticks were fried to a nice warm perfection, and when you bite into them you get all cheese, and no pockets of grease rolling out to burn your tongue. The sauce was exactly likely eating the sauce from a pizza so I was not impressed with that. But then I really don't use the sauce.

All in all, I would definitely recommend Fargo Billards for your entertainment needs.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dinner and a movie...

Had a conversation with a friend yesterday and they mentioned that they had free passes to a screening of Rango and would I like to join her in viewing the movie. We decided to make a night of it and have dinner afterward as well.

The trailers I saw late last year for Rango were a little strange in that they just seemed to indicate that the movie was a western, and that Rango was this mysterious stranger that comes to town and becomes sheriff to protect the town. My initial reaction was that this could be interesting, and maybe even a little fun. I have a soft spot for animated features so I am usually in line to see them after the lines let up so this movie was obviously going to be on my list of "want-to-see" movies.

I was right in the basic gist of the story, but the details were way off. Rango is the story of a pet lizard with thespian tendencies who is accidentally dropped out of the car he is traveling in when they swerve to avoid hitting something in the road. The road happens to be in the Mojave desert, and this leads to all kinds of issues for our protagonist. After an ominous encounter with the very armadillo that caused the near accident, Rango is sent on his way to his destiny somewhere across the blazing desert, along the way we are treated to the music of a band of mariachi playing owls who provide the story and score to lead us on our way through Rango's adventure.

I am not going to into the story much more than that, as I find I have a tendency to give away too much if I would try to relate much more than that. I will go into my thoughts on the movie however. I found the animation to be phenomenal, almost as good as live action photography. One scene occurs underground, and the lighting and textures were done with such clarity that it was hard not to believe this was real. The characters were quirky and varied, and played with obvious enjoyment in what they were doing.

One hilarious gag that occurs early in the movie, and is in the trailers so I am comfortable I am not spoiling anything, takes place in a saloon that Rango has entered in hopes of finally finding water. He is facing off against a villain lizard who is smoking a cigar and obviously spoiling for a fight. Rango, feeling a little too sure of himself, take the cigar and swallows it. As the cigar starts to burn him the bartender pours him a glass of "cactus juice" which Rango quickly downs and just as quickly, and unwittingly, burps out as fire into the cafe of the offending villain. Watching Rango proceed to add insult to injury as he puts out the accidental fire is both humorous and entertaining.

The story was well written for the first half to 3/4 of the movie, but seem somewhat contrived and hurried for the second half of the movie. I wish they had better balanced the gags and story throughout the movie instead I was left with the feeling that they rushed to the surprise revelation and then closure of the story.

Additionally, the movie seems to be marketed toward the children, and I would be uncomfortable with some of the scenes as a parent due to language and dark themes. A few scenes were actually a little heavy and dark and could be scary for little ones. Best to have them view it in the safety of your home on cable TV rather than actually paying to have them scared.

Overall, this is an enjoyable movie, and I would say go see it for the sheer skill put into the movie, but also know that this is not and Oscar worthy animation.