Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I'm in St. James, Minnesota, which is 110 miles southwest of Minneapolis.  There's really not much here but farms, and I find myself repeating everything I say, because nobody can understand my accent/dialect, or lack thereof.  It's thick here.  I'm in the Super 8, which is tolerable, but the bed is too firm and difficult to get used to.  I'm waiting to see what free Continental breakfast includes before I decide if I should trek across the parking lot to Happy Chef, which looks like a Village Inn with neon beer signs in the windows.  It appears to cater to truckers, mostly.  I have a day of work here, then I go back to Minneapolis tonight and fly out in the morning.  I'm traveling with another network engineer who is a character.  He grew up in Ada, Oklahoma, lives in Texas, but carries a California drivers license.  We met at the rental car counter and talked the entire way here.  He's traveled the world as a Marine, worked on an oil rig in the Gulf, and is currently dodging some kind of alimony suit by drifting as a networking contractor.  I thought he was going to wreck the car when he found out I was from Southeast Oklahoma, too.  I wonder if he's met Joe from the Unix team, who is from Durant and stops by my cubicle every few days to give me trouble.  They'd either get along great or not at all.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Muscle Mayhem

Saturday, I was invited to see the UFC fights at Adam & JoLynn's, but I had an opportunity to go to Muscle Mayhem Bodybuilding, Figure, and Fitness Championships, which is a bodybuilding competition in downtown Kansas City.  I had seen the poster on the wall at the gym, so I was intrigued, but Adam D. had gotten VIP tickets from his trainers at the Body Shop, since they were sponsors.  Consequently, we were on the second row.  We went to the prejudging earlier in the day.  Getting to meet Gunther Schlierkamp was unexpected.  He's a really friendly and approachable fellow. . . and he's huge.

Ronnie Coleman was a guest poser, as well.  He's virtually a mountain.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I'm in the West Suburbs of Chicago preparing to do a site survey to prepare a company to move into a new headquarters building.  It was an unexpected trip, but I'll be home again by 6 this evening.  I missed out on free hockey last night.  Folks who signed up early for the summer league were invited to play for free, but I was flying to Chicago.  <sigh>  Last weekend, I spent some time escaping from reality. . . in New York.  I visited Molly Wee, saw the Turkish Day Parade, saw a Broadway musical, went to a comedy show on the Upper East Side, did a 10km walk the up Central Park and down Riverside Dr., visited Battery Park and Ground Zero, ate some great food in the East Village, and flew back early on Monday morning.  New York delis have the best sandwiches.  While I was in the UES, I went to Pastrami Queen, my favorite hole in the wall sandwich place in the world now.  While I was in the East Village, I stopped by Decibel for some rare sake.  Mmmm, Hemezin.  I was nodding off in meetings on Monday, but fully rejuvinated by Tuesday.  My trip before that was to Dallas, via Hochatown, OK.  It was great to see my folks and visit the hometown for Mother's Day.  On my way back from Dallas, I made a pitstop in Oklahoma City.  I grabbed a sushi dinner with Rolf and held his new daughter.  I stayed the night and finished the trip the next morning.  Driving from Dallas to Kansas City in one leg would be grueling.  While in Dallas, I ate at YO Ranch and Dick's Last Resort.  Great places, both!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I <3 NY

Because Midwest Airlines had a ridiculous sale and I found a hotel bargain on kayak.com, I decided to go to New York City for the weekend on a whim.  The last time I was there for an entire week, but I was taking technical training during the day.  They had canceled my Washington DC training class because of a terrorist attack, and ironically rescheduled me for a few weeks later in New York City.  I want to hit the highlights this weekend.  I want to go back to the top of the Empire State Building again.  I'd like to see Ground Zero now that they've cleaned up the mess.  The last time I was there, it was a six-story tall, stinking pile of smoking steel girders and there was a layer of dust on everything.  I accidently walked past a barricade to go see it.  After leaving the site, I stood in front of Nino's, the restaurant that served free meals to the rescue workers and stared at the notes and pictures for quite a while before moving on.  There were pictures memorializing firemen hanging on the front of all the firehouses, even the ones in Midtown.  I'm hoping this trip will be much lighter.  I got to see some great museums while I was there before, but didn't have enough time to see all of them.  I'm hoping to hit some of the ones I missed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I just realized that after working on a project for school, studying for a final exam, cooking for a potluck,  then a long weekend of curling in a tourney with a three game guarantee, where we won enough to make it to the third day, then a hasty trip to Hastings, NE via Lincoln, where I stayed to break up the long drive, a lot of work, and a long drive home, just to turn around and do Vegas for five days, then rush around to catch up on work, go to Lisa's birthday dinner (at home with steak, stuffed mushrooms, and yummy ice cream cake), and chores. . . this is my first moment to actually just sit in my recliner and reflect.

I got a 96 in that class.  I got 100 on the final.  I guess I over studied.  It felt good to slam dunk it, though.  I think if I can take more interesting classes like it, my Masters degree will be a breeze.  I'm already using what I learned in that class in my work.

I'm still about a day behind at work, but I had to knock off early to go buy Lisa a gift.  I had a $50 Best Buy gift card, which I was given at work for my effort on a successful project.  I figured I could put that with some cash and get something really nice for Lisa.  And I did.  I hate their broken ass TV.  It's blurry and the green gun shoots too far to the right, so everything light in color has a green halo on one side, and sometimes you have to beat on the side of the TV to get the picture to sync up.  They had an open box deal on a Hi-Def plasma TV, so I splurged a bit, since I watch more TV at their house than I do at mine.  A gift for the whole family, including myself.  Hey, I saved a lot of money by using my comps in Vegas, winning at poker to pay for miscellaneous stuff, and my phat tax refund was about to burn a hole in my bank account. . . and I love Lisa to death.  Happy Birthday, girl.

Las Vegas recovery

I'm glad to be back at work getting caught up on things, but I had a lot of fun in Vegas, despite some drunken drama on the part of my travel partner.

This trip was less about gambling and sightseeing as it was about shows and night clubs.  We met up with the Tricia, Adam, and JoLynn at The Wynn and grabbed a bite to eat.  We got a cab to the Tropicana to see The Bodies exhibit.  It had sort of the same effect the second time. 

Ka was an impressive show, technically, but the costumes could have been better.  The night started out great, but Carmen missed half the show because she disappeared during a lull for a bathroom stop and a drink refill and ended up helping a hysterical Scottish woman in one of the bathroom stalls and missed most of the rest of the show.  The MGM staff was impressed by how she calmed the woman down and gave her some comps.  All of us got escorted to the front of the line at Tabu, an MGM Grand night club with a long line.  The plan was to head back to the Fazed party, then to another night club.  Carmen wasn't down with that plan. . . and very drunk.  She wanted to skip the Fazed party.  So, it was like dragging a mule to get her out of there.  The cab stand line was too long, and so was the walk (holding Carmen upright) through the casino to get to the monorail station.  There was no winning.  An hour later, one brush with celebrity (Mayweather was in the hotel lobby where we were helping Carmen get out of high heels so she could even walk), one fall (Carmen staggered into a column and nearly fell through a window), and an altercation with security (as Carmen insisted on getting into Zumi to take pictures despite the roped entrance), and a few more instances of Carmen getting separated from us (while we went to the restroom or otherwise kept walking while she was taking pictures), we FINALLY made it onto the train to the party.  I had to tell Carmen off to finally get some peace about going directly to the club.  She sobbed on a bench while we waited for the train.  It was like babysitting a four year old.  Our priorities were clearly in conflict, but she was in no shape to be alone and clearly not thinking about Tricia and me.  When we got to the party Carmen was still ready to hit a club right away, but still not sober enough.  I decided to stick around a bit longer.  The rest of the group from Ka/Tabu finally rejoined the party and she left with them to the club.  I told her to call me when she got there, but had forgotten that I had silenced my phone at the show, so I missed her call.  I stayed at the party a while longer and went back to the hotel room via 7-11 for snacks.  She had locked the night latch, so the door wouldn't open, she was passed out and not answering the door or the room phone or her cell phone.  Security used a cool tool to open the latch, so I could get in.  I was glad to be able to finally rest.  Carmen sober is fun.  Carmen drunk is both entertaining and frustrating.  I don't think she ever realized that the reason we didn't go to the club she wanted to go to was because she was too out of it to actually do so.  Taking an hour to leave MGM Grand didn't help us get there any sooner.

The next day, following apologies, Carmen pretending not to remember how she got a knot on her head, a good stress relieving work out, and some hanging out independenty, Carmen and I saw Le Reve.  That was an amazing show!  We tried for a while to get into Tryst, but the line was ridiculous.  We ended up at the Rio.  They have taken out Bikinis and put in Lucky Strikes, which is an ultralounge/club/bowling alley.  The place just has a cool vibe.  VooDoo Lounge is fun, but it was a little too windy on the roof.  We closed it and headed to Drai's, which is an after hours club.  The music was good there, and the crowd was interesting.

The next day, we got a couples massage, even though we're not exactly a couple.  It was nice to really, really relax at the spa.  The steam room made me want to build a sauna at home.  We met up with the Fazed bunch for dinner and a show.  We saw The Second City at The Flamingo.  It was total improv comedy.  It was like watching a long uninterrupted episode of Who's Line is It Anyway?  But funnier and uncensored.  They even had a rap song called Nappy Hoes, an homage to Imus which included all the words that white people can't say.  A black couple got up and left the show.  After that show, Carmen met up with Tricia at The Mirage to see Love, which is a Cirque du Soliel show with The Beatles music.  I'm told it's great, but I played poker instead.  I had doubled my buy-in playing tight, but started gambling and ended up back at even.  We walked around someand checked out Treasure Island.  I played some slots, thenwe called it a night.  We got about two hours of sleep before we had to get up to go catch our plane.  I slept on the plane and did conference calls when I got back.  I slept like a baby last night.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Viva Las Vegas

After a Wednesday night arrival, shuttle ride, and check-in at Harrah's, Carmen and I proceeded to the piano bar, then to a night club, then to another night club.  She made a new friend and I went gambling.  When I got back to the hotel room, it was dawn.  I slept a few hours, got dressed, and hit the road. . . Carmen was hungover and still asleep, so I walked up The Strip to sightsee, etc.  The Conservatory at The Bellagio is one of my favorite stops.  They change it every few months, and the flowers are pretty amazing in there right now.  The Fazed bunch gradually filled the hospitality suite at Imperial Palace, I introduced myself.  Carmen and I had gotten comedy show tickets, so we went back to the room to nap, then went to the Improv.  It was a pretty good show. 
Then, Carmen crashed, I web surfed, I went to the Fazed party without her.  It was a great time.  Josh, the poker dealer, and Nathan, an all around interesting guy, and I went to the poker room downstairs to play some NLHE.  I lost a few small pots, but finally won a big one.  I played for a couple of more orbits.  I cashed out up about $90.