Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Impromptu emails were sent on Monday, and a group assembled for a Mardi Gras celebration.  We agreed to meet at Grinders for food and drink, and to enjoy the parade.  After work Tuesday, I went toward the costume shop, only to find that it had closed minutes prior.  I got a call from Scott, and I agreed to give him a ride, since I was in the neighborhood.  He kindly loaned me a costume.  Once at Grinders, I talked to the proprietor, Stretch, who is opening an outdoor concert venue in the lot which houses some of his giant steel and glass sculptures.  I had seen Buddhist monks performing traditional Chinese music on the stage out there during a First Friday event, but there was a punk rock band set up at the same time at the alternative bookstore around the corner.  The music clashed somewhat.  Stretch called it Punks 'n Monks.  Anyway, Stretch indicated that he would be driving the giant crawfish float which I saw out on the street.  Pizza, beer, and costumed partiers made for a good time.  After we were fed, we moved down 18th Street to the street party in front of YJ's.  I donned a beer bottle costume and danced in YJ's to some zydeco style music, ate some dirty rice, and followed the parade back to Grinders.  Some fireworks went off when the parade rolled, and we danced along the street to The Dirty Force Marching Band [video] and along the way the cops arrived.  I assume there was no permit for the parade.  After some time passed and, I presume, the appropriate citations were issued, the parade continued with a police escort.  We went back into Grinders and ate a "big ass tots" and a round of drinks.  Everyone disbursed from there, but Scott and I went to a club to chill out.  Then I dropped him off in front of his building and I went to the afterparty at The Mutual Musicians Foundation.  There was phenomenal jazz and funk music.  That ended promptly at midnight, and I went home.  It was a fun time, as it was last year.

On a less exciting note, the company newsletter comes once a week in email and includes fun stuff, including auctions and raffles to liquidate old office equipment, a salsa cook-off, secret pal gift exchanges, etc.  One of the items was The President's Challenge.  It is a means to earn points online for physical activity. In 10 days, I earned 3600 points.  You get about 100 points just for walking for 30 minutes.  Playing hockey for an hour is 460 points.  I find it to be a good diversion for mental breaks during the day, encourages some retrospection, and helps track whether I got enough exercise.  I am in the 89th percentile for logged activity among my coworkers who participate and log their activity.  I think if I were more honest about how hard I go when I'm not sitting at my desk, I might be the most active person participating.  If I'm not playing hockey, I'm lifting weights, or skating, or dancing, or at least walking.  When you see it in black and white, it's easy to pinpoint the lazy days.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Yet another blog entry about food.

Rolf was in town on business this week, and we arranged to grab dinner tonight before his flight.  We did not anticipate the snow.  So, it was a quick dinner, but it was a good one.  They opened one of those churrascarias, like Fogo de Chao, in Kansas City.  Em Chamas (in flames?) is just west of I-29 on Hwy 45 in Platte Woods, not far from the airport.  Luckily, as soon as you sit, you can grab food and eat. . . theoretically.  The hostess who seated us did not ask us if we had been to a churrascaria before and did not explain the protocol.  We saw the gauchos with the big sword-like skewers patrolling by, but we had not gotten any plates, nor those little "Yes, please!" or "No, thanks!" cards to display on the table.  It was like torture for a few minutes.  Firstly, he was under a time crunch to return a rental car and catch a flight, and we were just sitting around waiting unnecessarily.  Secondly, we were both famished.  When we were finally served, we explained that we were in a hurry, and we were immediately escorted to the gourmet food buffet, with just enough salad on it to avoid the word "buffet".  And as soon as we sat down, the meat service began.  Just like at Fogo de Chao, I ate my fill of about six different cuts.  The prime rib and the sirloin were just fantastic.  They slice the meat half as thin, provide half of the side dishes of about half the size of Fogo de Chao, but Em Chamas is about half the price of Fogo de Chao, too.  So, I have to recommend it.  It just opened, so they haven't quite gotten the flow down pat, but it's on its way.  If they cranked up the lighting a smidge and put down some carpet to cut down on the noise and trained the hostesses to introduce the restaurant and take people's coats, it would be a very nice place.  You definitely get your money's worth, however.

Comfort food.

Happy Chinese New Year.  The only way I know it's Chinese New Year is The Comfort Zone had sweet and sour chicken over rice.  The special included an eggroll and a crab rangoon.  We sat in the cafeteria and watched the TV closely while cheering on the firefighters who are trying to save the 75th Street Brewery as all the shops along that stretch are gutted.  Some of the firefighters were injured.  I vote that they get free beer if they keep the brewery from burning.  I like the food there.  The French bakery around the corner is gone.  Toast.  Hehe.

Back to work.  :-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007


The 11 degree weather was a deterrent to eating out for lunch again.  I was grabbing my coat and Rakesh, whom I call Rocky, said it's too cold, let's just eat in the cafeteria.  I tried not to roll my eyes.  In the cafeteria The Comfort Zone had Swedish meatballs and various veggies, including some fried okra and green beans, which I snagged for my side items.  It really is hit or miss.  Decent today.  I passed on the mac-n-cheez and the brussel sprouts.  I went to the grill area and got a deep fried pre-breaded IQF chicken tender, which they slathered in buffalo sauce to hide the freezer burn and put on ciabatta halves, to dress it up.  I beat the weather and lost at lunch.  If lunch weren't socially important around the office, I would have bailed.  Everyone huddles around the cafeteria tables and ventilates the frustrations of the job.  Today it was a group of all contractors cussing and discussing the (mis)management in the network department.  The sharing of pain was worth tolerating the bad food and the heartburn which followed.

On the other hand, for Valentine's Day, I grabbed a single friend and we had barbecue at Big T's, the new BBQ place just south of LC's, which has really good food and better prices than LC's.  And it has plenty of parking.  And it's clean.  I had the double-decker combo sandwich with sliced beef and turkey.  I also had some collard greens and barbecue beans.  The greens were the best.  The beans weren't as good as LC's.  The whole meal and a beer to wash it down was $10.  I packaged the leftovers and took them home.  I have a new favorite barbecue place.  And I should have packed the leftovers for lunch today.

Later last night we went to Bar Natasha to meet up with his friends and hear an artist known as Vi Tran.  He's pretty good.  His buddy who played bass guitar, while he strummed and sang, looked terribly bored.  The apple crisp item with ice cream on top, which someone shared with me was excellent.  I never knew they had such good food in there.

On a non-food topic, I am working on the firewall which protects the customer to whose account I'm assigned.  While I was away doing site surveys at the various facilities, a fellow consultant named Pradeep, who is either too good or too Hindu to tour a meat packing facility, who obviously has little firewall experience, has been putting incorrect rules in the configuration.   One of the server guys grabbed me yesterday and said they can't work with him any more.  I think I told the guy managing our contract the same thing.  They need to replace him sooner than later.  I had to go through the configuration and find the bad parts, remove them, correct them, then basically redo all of it. 
Now, I'm writing this while i wait for the server guy to finish testing everything.  Rework is a huge waste of time.  I would rather be asked to do all of the firewall work than have to do all this clean up.  I pointed out a typo, and asked Rocky to verify that it was indeed a typo.  He laughed and said Pradeep spent an entire day trying to get that to work.  He obviously failed.  <sigh>  At this level of the game, you can't spend an entire day overlooking something like that, then leave it broken.  The words of my parents echo in my brain 20 some-odd years later, "Don't step over that clutter; pick it up!"  An ethic that permeates my professional life, despite the clutter on my floors at home and on my desk.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I braved the snow last night to go play hockey with my friends.  I've been playing with approximately the same group of guys on Tuesday night for a couple of years now, so they all know my name.  I'm still learning theirs.  I may not know all their names, but I know roughly what they're going to do next on the ice.  If only the puck were predictable.

It's too cold outside.  It's 13 and windy.  Going out for lunch?  Nuh uh.  I just grabbed some lunch in the cafeteria.  At the station  known as The Comfort Zone, where they usually have hearty food, they had a build-your-own taco salad buffet for $4.25.  I mounded the shell full of lettuce, refried beans, taco beef with orange grease, and diced tomatoes with the condiments on top.  I'm stuffed.  It was pretty good.  Beats the deep fried IQF items and reheated canned crap they've been serving.  If the cafeteria selection looks less than appetizing, I make my way to the Pita Pit around the way.  It's like a Subway with better meat selections and pitas instead of bread.  And they stuff them pretty full.

I'm steadily getting my site survey documentation done.  <yawn>  Back to work.  I bought a 512MB mini-SD card for my phone and filled it with MP3's.  It looks like I'm on the phone, but it's tunez, yo!  The new shuffle feature of Windows Media Player keeps the selections fresh.  When I plug my phone in at home, my laptop charges the battery and puts a fresh randomized batch of music on the storage card.  Thank you, Microsoft.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Good day.

In a meeting this morning the project manager of the project I'm working on gave out the project plan including what efforts are required each week.  Currently, I'm working on things that were to be completed last week.  She said it's kinda hard for Charles to get this done when he's getting pulled in so many directions.  So, the PM demanded that they share me better.  Alrighty.  So, today nobody has interrupted my work, even once!

I shoveled a ton of snow out of my driveway this morning.  It was eight inches deep if it was one.  A water main burst at the end of my street and melted some of the snow off of the street, but the water department had my street blocked most of the morning.  I dialed into the meetings today.  I feel lucky to have gotten my shower before they shut down the water.

The road conditions on the way to work were not so good.  I was slipping and sliding on several occasions.  Turn into the skid!  Even if you're headed for the ditch. . . it's the only way to regain control.  Since it rained before it snowed, it washed the salt off the roads, then formed a layer of ice.  Just perfect!  So, the plows are helping, but they couldn't begin to salt the roads until the rain converted to snow.  Last night was the first time I have heard thunder in a snow storm.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Piled on.

I had a good weekend.  I vegetated on my brother's couch and watched movies on Friday.  Saturday, I ate McBreaksfast, watched my brother teach a class, got registered for my next semester, saw my niece in ballet class, ate sushi, bought groceries, took a shower, talked to a friend on the phone, then I went ice skating with the niece and nephew while my brother and his wife went to see a play.  CC is 4.  We swung by the dollar store and got her some gloves, because I couldn't find hers and it was her first time going ice skating.  I knew she would be falling and getting up a lot.  It's not fun when you put your cold hands on cold ice.  I think she had fun until her feet started hurting.  We shed the skates and grabbed dinner at Fritz's, where the food comes to your table on a train. The pic in this post is of CC in a paper railroad engineer's hat.  I had to wear one, too.  :-)  Then we shopped and went to Benton's and sat in the lounge and listened to live jazz.  Pie a la mode.  I had the apple fritter, D had chocolate, CC just wanted ice cream.  CC bought a cheap pink digital camera when we were shopping.  It works, but it doesn't have a screen.  When we got home we decorated it with stick-on rhinestones.  I told her it is the most beautiful camera I have ever seen.  She's mega-cute.  She had bought a bejeweled tiara and wand.  Low grade plastic, but shiny.  She modeled those for me and I took her picture with her new camera. 

On Sunday, I went curling at one ice rink and played hockey at another.  I count that as a work-out.

Well, I've been to two meetings today, and as is usual on Mondays in my new work environment, if you don't populate your Outlook calendar, people assume you're not busy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They have realized I know stuff, so they're piling on.  I helped the server folks by configuring access into a customer's network environment remotely, so most of them didn't have to travel.  I configured some access-lists in a firewall instance, and now I get copied on all such requests.  Yikes.  There are some high visibility tickets coming my way, too.  These issues have short fuses.  This is going to be a short lunch break.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Escape from Lufkin, TX

I made it back safely from Houston/Lufkin, TX.  I'm pretty sure I flew right over Broken Bow Lake on the way home tonight.  My teammates stayed another night in Houston, because they had booked on American, which doesn't fly direct to Kansas City.  Since I work for a contractor, I can book on whatever airline I want.  Consequently, the round trip to Houston was $350 on Continental, instead of $200 or so on American, but I saved the difference by not staying in a hotel tonight.  <shrug>

We ate in the most decadent restaurant you could ever imagine. Fogo de Chao!  It's this amazing salad buffet, including the best cheeses, greens, and smoked seafood, but they give you a card which has a red side, which says "No, thanks." and a green side, which says "More, please!"  And these guys patrol the restaurant with big slabs or cuts of meat on big skewers or platters and carve it off onto your plate until you say stop.  If you forget to turn your card to the red side, you soon end up with a heaping pile of meat on your plate.  They bring you bottomless fried bananas, polenta, and mashed potatoes, too.  It's $50 if you just have water.  I can't imagine what the bill is like if you drink wine.  I filled up on fresh vegetables drenched with Italian dressing, filet mignon, lamb chops, leg of lamb, pork ribs, bacon wrapped chicken medallions, and some dilectible top sirloin.  I got in my 200 grams of protein today, without a doubt.  It was all terribly delicious and cooked to perfection.  Now, I will try to put that on my expense report with a straight face and crossed fingers.