Saturday, December 29, 2012

Springfield MO to Kauai

We received an alert at 3 AM that our first flight had been rescheduled due to crew availablity.  However, we decided not to change our wake up times and get to the Springfield MO airport to see if there was an earlier flight. No, such opportunity existed so we found some comfortable chairs and just hung out and talked.

Our rental car was a Huyndai Elantra. I would prefer not to get one of these again, the accelerator was non-deterministic; sometimes it would work, sometimes not. That is a recipe for a traffic accident. I have rented from Enterprise a lot over the past two years, but this was the worst experience ever. The guy did not go over the car with me and there are some damages, it is a 10k mileage vehicle. So we will see how that works.

Then we went through security and to the best of my understanding there is only one food option at Springfield. I had a roast beef sandwich and Kathy had the potato soup. And we wandered to our gate and slept a bit waiting for the crew for US 6106..

Then there were signs of life. The crew had not/could not show up yet because they got in late last night and there are minimam rest rules. Those are the last rules I am going to complain about; I want my pilots to have enough rest. But the ground crew did collect the carry on baggage, this was a puddle jumper, and that saved time. Kudos to the team for that!

The flight crew showed up and I believe we made our newly chosen departure time in Springfield and thank heavens for that. When we got to Denver we raced for the gate and only beat the boarding announcement by five minutes. We had scored first class on a United 757-200, but there is limited room in the overhead bins. Worse, one of the flight attendants put their bag in sideways using two spots. But we were at the front of the line and got to smile when other folks who scored first class on United could not find a spot for their bags on UA 97.

Anyway, love the new seats and entertainment console. The service was excellent. A very happy 7  hour trip across the ocean. Thank you United.

Peter has dropped off a pile of tangerines, avocados, and lemons. So we had a glass on tangerine juice and some brown rice for supper. Great to be back!

Sunday morning we got up to go to church. Kathy made some green tean in a glass blender jar ( the blender motor died ) and we used it to fill our travel thermoses. We don't use a lot of caffeine any more, but with a five hour time change it seemed like a good idea. Bruce Baumgartner taught an inspired sermon from 1 Samuel 19, showing how David's faith wobbled just a but as a result of the onslaught from Saul. Then we ate lunch and went swimming, a good day.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I try to keep my politics as close to the middle as my conscience will allow, but I am not happy about falling off the fiscal cliff. I do not personally blame the Republican party, I blame both parties, but it is starting to look like the world is giving the Republicans the greater share of the blame. I read in the Wall Street Journal that a poll by Forbes felt more people blamed the Republicans than the Democrats.

I have no idea who coined GOPocalypse,  but it is brilliant marketing. Kathy pointed out that the Bernake phrase (who I believe coined the term) fiscal cliff laid the foundation for GOPocalypse. Quotes such as: "The U.S. economy is already being hurt by the "fiscal cliff" standoff in Washington" are very powerful and fiscal cliff is now part our language ( though not sure what the definition will be post December 31, 2012). And this provides a foundation for fanciful ( and somewhat extreme ) blogposts like this one. Now the point here is perception management; there may or may not be anything accurate in the blog post, but if you read it and especially if you are familiar with Revelation, it is likely to stick with you even if you support the Tea Party. And if you are neutral, or favor Democrat, this could serve as confirmation bias.

Now the $60,000.00 question is, will the population of the U.S. remember all of this two years later when the elections happen?  As we all know, we are a fad driven people and the issue of the moment tends to top the issues of the past, no matter how important.  If they are seen as out of step with the American people, they will lose seats. I have no doubt the Democratic Party is more organized than the Republican Party in terms of an election machine, but I am far less sure the Democratic Agenda makes more sense financially to the long term health of the republic than the Republican Agenda.

Los Vaqueros - Springfield MO

Most of the restaurant reviews on Google for the Springfield area are negative, but this had some positives and Kathy and I enjoyed it. She had a bean and cheese enchilada with a white cheese melt on top instead of the standard red or green sauce. I had the pronto fajitos off the lunch menu and it was more than I could eat by far, but I enjoyed it. The service was great. Once again the prices were fantastic. I think that is what I have learned about Springfield MO. The cost of living is very reasonable here. However, at least food is largely commodity driven, if it goes up, it will have to impact the local restaurants.

One of the things I love about Mexican restaurants is the opportunity to offer color or culture. Let me explain: Kathy ordered a large size side of Guacamole. It was served in a little Molcajete, a dish or kitchen tool used to create Mexican sauces.

It has been snowing for the past two hours and is increasing in intensity, but the weather channel says it is a passing shower and should stop by 5:00 PM and it is currently 25 degrees so we should be OK. We have gassed the rental car up and will put our big bags in the car tonight to be as ready as possible for our trip to the airport tomorrow morning. Whew, it will be nice to be on Kauai again.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fazoli's Springfield MO

This was my first experience with the Fazoli's chain. This is Italian style fast food. The prices are incredibly reasonable and the folks were friendly and service was fast, though we were the only ones in the restaurant.

I think their most popular offerings are probably the samplers. These are four different items on a plate for $6.99, a HUGE amount of food. I had the ultimate, Lasagne, Penne Pasta with a spicy sauce, I assume Arribiata, Spagetti with a meat sauce that seems to be at least partly Italian sausage and a fettuccine with Alfredo sauce (no meat). Everything was tasty. I felt bad leaving so much food behind, but I just could not eat anymore.

They are taking franchises and there is not a single restaurant in Washington State so this could be a good franchise opportunity for a business in Sumner, but at that price point I just can't see how you can make a decent profit. They do have a decent markup on soft drinks and that would help. It reminds me of the famous adage, we lose money on every sale so we try to make it up in volume.

Fantastic Caverns - Springfield MO

After work, we zipped up historic RTE 66 to catch the last tour at Fantastic Caverns. This is one of the most famous caves in the world, and they take you through on a jeep. The guide was very polished and they have some fun exhibits along the way. At one end there is a movie screen and they do the history of the cave. Who knew this used to be a speakeasy? The calcite features are in really good shape especially considering over 4 million people have been in the cave since 1867. There is also a saltpeter exhibit.

I did get a little uneasy about the air quality. You could see smoke in some of the lights and the lady next to me was starting to suffer respiratory problems. However, if there was enough air flow to support 600 people listening to a Buck Owens concert, I suppose there is enough air flow to support jeeps driving through pulling little wagons of tourists.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Doubletree Springfield MO/ Houlihan's

We landed! Yayy, beats the alternative. I have a reservation with Enterprise. They gave me a Hyundai something or another. Fine. It is a car, you put your bags in it and you drive. At this stage of my life I have driven hundreds of rental cars. The wierd thing about this one is the accelerator, you step on the gas and it either works, or it doesn't and it seems to be 50/50 in each camp.

However, there was not much traffic and so we did OK. After we found the Doubletree, we noticed a HUGE Wal-Mart across the street. I have been blowing through my antacids ( just the plain calcium minty kind, nothing hi-tech) so Kathy was willing to let me take her out of our way to get a replacement player. GOSH, this Wal-Mart was big and there were lots of cars in the parking lot, December 26, 2012 at 8:15 PM on December 26 in Springfield MO. And guess what! This is not the only Wal-Mart in Springfield. Oh do I wish I had not sold my primary equity position in Wal-Mart, but maybe if we fall off the fiscal cliff I can replace it. Got the calcium, off to the DoubleTree. Very, very quiet. We got our room, the room number was a smile and after we check out, if someone reminds me, I will share the coincidence. We asked for a bellman to help with the luggage, there was no bellman, but they did have carts. The room is clean, but the shower/tub does not properly, maybe they can work on that tomorrow.

The location is interesting. Glenstone drive has hotel after hotel. You have heard of restaurant row; this is hotel row. I looked out the window and most of them are mostly empty. I am guessing this is the nicest one, maybe the Ramada gives it a run, but some of them are pretty scary. Not sure what the economic factor driving them is.

The workout facility is excellent, clean and well stocked, much bigger than I first thought it is an L shaped room. The pool and Jacuzzi was great, the hot tub is just a tad hotter than I usually like, but it is easy to cool off in the pool. This is one of those split, inside/outside pools where you can go underwater to move from inside or outside, or you can use the door. I like the non-slippery tile floor around the pool.

For dinner, we went to the on-property restaurant, Houlihans. We ordered a bottle of the Malbec they have on the wine list; quite nice, an Amado Sur from Argentina, it is not pure Malbec, but mostly and the high point of our dinner. The menu is creative with a Southwest influence. We had a good waiter, he did not introduce himself and his name is not on the bill, but he added to the experience and I tried to tip appropriately. However, another waiter ran a noisy vacuum cleaner in a private dining room while we were eating, at the closest table to the dining room for 15 minutes and that was incredibly annoying.

Kathy ordered sides, edamame, mashed potatoes, elote corn. I ordered the pot roast with side salad. Somebody needs to take the chef in charge and smash his/her teeth in. Salt is not the only way to season food. I only ate a fraction of my food ( maybe 1/5), and I feel like I was poisoned; they may even use monosodium glutamate. I have that light head ache and have been through three tall glasses of water and I am  still parched.

The bottom line. Someone who knows what a good restaurant needs to be put the menu together and laid out the physical facilities. But they are not managing the details. If you just want a beer and some nachos and chips, I am sure this will be a great experience, If you want to take your significant other out on a date night, this restaurant is a must to avoid.

Chicago Airport C concourse food court

There is a wine bar just outside that I have always wanted to try, but never has an empty seat and today was no exception. The business part of my brain screams because 10 or 20 more seats would be a lot more revenue. However, this is Chicago and you have to buy a lot of politicians to make your way. However, in the food court there is another bar that runs by the name of the Jazz Bar.

Now, I know, this is probably making you think we drink our way from coast to coast. No way. Kathy and I are extremely careful about drinking while on travel because anything can happen and  we have experienced a number of reminders of that. However, while the Jazz Bar does not have jazz, it usually has seats. Sadly, their wine choices are fairly limited, Fetzer and Fetzer and I cannot do that, so we ordered two vodka tonics with two waters with lemon and then went to look for food at the food court. There has to be a better way to handle Chicago Airport, the two vodka tonics were 18.36 before gratuity, which is half of a bottle of a really nice vodka ( this was Smirnoff's and I will lead you to draw you own conclusions, but hey, we got a seat.).

There is a salad place in the food court and it is amazing. Not everyone that stops and gets food from there is a skinny pretty girl, but all of the skinny pretty girls stop and get salad from there, including my own foxy wife. I just could not stomach any of the choices in the food court, I tried, I stared at ever sign thoughtfully, but when we left, I zipped over to the MacDonalds and grabbed a cheeseburger; $2.50, a bargain at ORD, and an additional plus, I could swallow it. When you are on the road as much as I have been, you realize that in travel mode there are things you just cannot put in your mouth or bad things will happen.

Richmond to Springfield MO

Oh this crazy world. Kathy and I had bought tickets for several shows in Branson. We figured we would spend time with my parents, sister and her kids. Then we get a note; they are not coming. HAH! Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. And please do not get me wrong, they had valid reasons, an injury and concerns about the weather.

But this time, for 19.95 I had cancelation insurance, so the circumstances failed to cause me to waste several thousand dollars at least this once.  So if they are not going to visit with us, why go to Branson? Our flight lands at Springfield Branson airport an hour drive from Branson. So we canceled the hotel and we rebooked at a Doubletree in Springfield. I have no idea what we are going to do, but I am looking forward to sleeping late tomorrow.

Aii's Turkey

Christmas was fun, I made a pile of sides, but Ali's turkey was superb! Done in a crockpot, it beats the heck out of this fad about frying turkeys.

Bone in breast
Add one cup of salt and one cup of brown sugar to a boil in one gallon of water.  Cool completely, and add 8 cups ice.  Add rinsed bird to icy brine, refridge for eight hours.  Rinse bird, store overnight in fridge to dry out.
Put in large crock, add cut up onions, carrots, celery.  Season bird with Italian seasoning.  Add two cups of liquid (white wine or broth) 
Put 1/2 stick of butter on top of bird.  Cook on low for 7ish hours.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cinebistro - Lincoln

About 1 PM today, Saturday, the weekend before Christmas, I realized I was board and asked Kathy if she wanted to see Lincoln at Cinebistro. If we did, we needed to be out of the house in ten minutes. One of the things we have done since we were first married, is I drive and she puts her makeup on while we drive.

The movie was awesome, if you have not seen it, put it on your list, I think it would have as much impact from a DVD as it does on the silver screen, there is a lot of depth to it.

We did feel like getting a bottle of wine in the middle of the day, but Kathy got a side of collard greens and I bought a bowl of the bottomless popcorn, but even with Kathy's help could not finish it; once you reduce your salt intake, exposure to too much salt makes you feel bad.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cinebistro - Hobbit Unexpected Journey

Last night Kathy and took in the 6:00 showing at Cinebistro. We had great seats and there were wonderful couples to both our left and right.  One of the secrets of Cinebistro is that they often have sides that are not on the menu. You just have to ask. Kathy found out they had collard greens which is a favorite of hers. For her main, she had the seared Ahi tuna. I had the Fettuccini and this is my new favorite, I have tried the meatloaf and hamburger already. We shared a bottle of wine and shared a glass with the couple to our left.

I did enjoy the movie, I really don't have anything deep to share about it, but fell into the story and enjoyed it. I am not a super Lord of the Rings freak, but when I was in college I was taking cartography and I did a map of Middle Earth for my final project. It is hanging in Hawaii and the moisture and salt have aged it so it looks pretty old. Wonder what it would fetch on eBay as they unveil the new series.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Family Secrets Restaurant

Kathy and I met with SANS Mentor Chip Greene, who is planning to run an MGT 512 event in Richmond Va in February. We met at Family Secrets Restaurant downtown.  This is an American Cuisine with Soul Food inspiration venue. The prices are very reasonable and Dana, our drop dead gorgeous server, was gracious and attentive.

I had the North Carolina pulled pork w mac cheese and yams as my sides. The pork and mac cheese were great the yams were way too sweet for my tast, but here is a link to better yams. Kathy had the veggie platter, two sides of greens and one side of green beans. The greens were cooked with ham bones and that took them over the top. But, she just had dental work done, so she had to be careful not to chomp down on the bones. The green beens were OK, not great. Chip had the blackened fish (generous portion!!!), with greens and rice with gravy. He killed his greens, left most of his rice.

The unsweetened ice tea is sweetened, I can only imagine what the sweet tea tastes like. Would I go again? Sure; when you have a hankering for food from the South, this will satisfy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Adult Yams - Holiday Cooking

This year, I am doing all the sides, Ali is doing the turkey and Norma is supplying dessert and salad. Tonight I made the yams. Will they be food safe on the 25th if I am making them on the 17th. You betcha, these are adult yams.

I went to the VA Liquor store and bought a 375 ML bottle of Bacardi Select. I am not a big dark rum fan, but it is one of the keys to awesome yams. Let's break it down.

Peel 5 yams, boil in a big pot, no salt or spices, that comes later. Drain the pot, smash them up. If you must add butter, fine, but olive oil will give you the buttery taste and is healthier. Next I added a small bag of Craisins ( dried sweetened cranberries ), over time the liquid in the dish will soften them and absorb some of their sugar. I also added a cup of chopped walnuts.

The spices: Cinnamon, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Salt to taste, if you can mix some salt free in as well that is healthy. Then just a dusting of red hot pepper, that is a real key to the dish. Sometimes I throw in part of a vanilla bean, I did not choose to do that this time. People have radically different opinions about sweetener, I just had a side of yams so sweet I could not eat them, but I would suggest using dark molasses to taste. Then a can of coconut milk. Finally, it is time to start the dark rum. Be careful, you can add more rum, but you cannot take away, I ended up using 70 ML. You want the rum to be a foil against the coconut milk.

DC to Richmond - Amtrak

Saturday, the 15th, our car picked us up and we headed to Amtrak. We are still traveling heavy, so first thing we did was looked for a Red Cap. It was an easy train ride, very calming. We were happy to see a taxi van at the front of the line at RVR station ( Staples Mill Road).

When we got to our house, I took the Mustang out of the garage and zipped down to Wal-Mart to purchase some supplies. Whew, was it crowded! You learn when there are no carts in the store it is going to be a bit of an adventure. Last job of the year is done and we are spent, but we are also happy.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Washington Hilton and Towers - CDI

I am actually here just above Dupont Circle for business meetings, but SANS is running their one and two day courses. I just learned the concierge lounge closes after breakfast today. I guess business travel is done for the year. The hotel gave us coupons for the snack shop, Coffee Bean and Leaf for two pastries. They also gave us coupons for pupus ( Hawaiian for snacks) at the bar which is far more interesting.

We have the same room as last time. I spend a lot of time looking out the window, Washington DC is an amazing place.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Russia House - Dupont Circle Washington DC

When ever we do a job at the Washington Hilton and Towers we like to visit the Russia House. We usually try to get there early, because it gets a bit crazy later especially on a Friday or Saturday night.

They have changed their menu since I was last there, we both had the Arctic Char, I really enjoyed my meal and Kathy did too.

Kathy also ordered one of their vodkas, a cherry infused vodka from Lithuania. I just was not in the mood. We got there right after they opened at 5:00 and had the dining room to ourselves the entire time. This is one of the things Kathy and I treasure in life; having a private dining experience.

Philadelphia to Washington DC - Amtrak

We had a heck of a time getting a cab. The Middle States convention was ending and the taxi line was very long, but we got there. I was hoping for a van since we are traveling heavy, but Kathy tipped the hotel guy $5.00 and he found a way to make it work.

We got to the train station and could not find a Red Cap, so we brought the bags in using two trips. When I got my tickets I asked if there was an earlier train and there was, it was an additional charge, but I felt it was worth it.

We went back to the Red Cap desk and this wonderful guy, Chris shows up. He loaded all of our bags and helped us get to the Silver Star, train 125. The Internet was slow, but other than that the train was great. We got to the other side, Washington. There was a Red Cap right on the train as we were getting off. He loaded our bags on a golf cart which we shared with one other lady. He started in one direction and then he turned around. Oh My! He took us through the heart of the underground part of the train station and then out onto a street and then up to where our limo was waiting. Incredible, I have never seen anything like it. Thank you Amtrak!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

13 at the Marriott Downtown Philadelphia

It is cold outside tonight and so we decided to eat on property at Marriott at 13 for dinner. I looked them up on the Internet and the page said they were four star. Not hardly. Not a bad meal or anything and our waiter, Ed, was attentive. But it was a limited menu and hardly four star.

Kathy had a side of mashed potatoes and could not finish them, she figured that two bites was a meal, that they were full of butter, cream and two kinds of cheese. I do not know, but I had a bite and they were good. I had the steak cobb salad. Crazy thing was they did not bring a sharp knife. Fortunately, I had a Spyderco in my pants. I do not have a copy of the bill but before gratuity it was about $30.

Comcast SPAMed my cell phone

I just got a call and they said they were going to double my speed for free and give me access to all sorts of TV, for free.

Only after two months it is only 39.00 a month. Take a hike Comcast, do that again and I will switch to Clear.

Maggiano's - Philadelphia

We have lunch supplied as part of the MSCHE conference, but it was so noisy with a thousand academics in one room that we decided to go across the street to Maggiano's.

Kathy had a gluten free veggie pasta that she loved and I had "Mom's Lasagne" which always satisfies. Did we finish our portions? Are you kidding? But it was fun and much quieter.

The Melting Pot - Philadelphia

I have seen these as I have traveled, but had never been to one. It was across the street from the Marriott Downtown Philadelphia. They opened at five and we were hungry so we went. It is a fondue/hot pot type restaurant. We were lucky, happy hour is five to six and this can be an expensive place to eat.

I ordered the three course meal off the happy hour menu and Kathy did a Swiss Classic Fondue for one. You get bread, apples and veggies. The only thing that was really tasty was the apples.

The next course included chicken, steak, shrimp, potatoes, veggies and mushrooms. Instead of cheese you have a pot of flavored water ( think Shabu). And they give you eight different sauces. That was fun and Kathy enjoyed a shrimp and a mushroom.

It was so much food that I could barely do dessert, the classic is a chocolate and peanut butter. I asked for the minimum amount of chocolate possible and just two strawberries, ( they want to give you an assortment). Our waiter was very attentive, thank you Matt Hen. It was fun, but I am not sure it is high on my list for a return. Bill before gratuity was 51.09.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Richmond to Philadelphia - Amtrak

I write this just south of Wilmington Delaware on Amtrak 80 the Carolinian. We are headed to Philadelphia. I like the train for a number of reasons. I wrote my first book on the Virginia commuter train an hour from Fredericksburg VA to Crystal City ( Pentagon) and they would charge my laptop at the guard station and then an hour back.

The train is peaceful and having power outlets and wireless onboard is awesome. But what really gets my attention is how kind most of the Amtrak employees are. Kathy was injured in September and they help her get on the train and help put her belongings up in the overhead.

You do not need to get to the train station as early as you do to the airport, but we are creatures of habit and ordered a taxi in order to get there with the logic after we check our bags, we can go get lunch. I ordered a taxi from West End Taxis in Richmond. I do not think I will use them again. I like to support them because there is a taxi parked in my neighborhood, but the last time I called them, some crazy guy in camos showed up and this time an even crazier guy with garbage or recycling in his trunk that made it hard to fit our bags in came.

We checked our bags and were getting ready to walk to Anthony $ George's Steakhouse next door for lunch when an Amtrak employee offered to keep our carry on bags in their baggage room. Thank you Doug!

Kathy was not very hungry so she ordered a side of butterbeans and we do not usually drink alcohol at lunch, but she wanted to sleep on the train so she ordered a Long Island Ice Tea. Kathy does not tend to drink hard liquor drinks and she is very particular about her Long Islands, she does not want them too sweet. The waitress said not to worry and she made the best Long Island I have ever tasted; I do not tend to favor them. I had the Seafood Combo, it was nicely seasoned. Then we walked back to the train station.

They put our carry on bags on a little cart and gave Kathy a ride to the train. For some perverse reason I wanted to carry my own stuff and didn't even ask for help climbing up the train; my carryon  is very heavy. The train was 20 minutes late, but that is OK, we don't have to work until tomorrow.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Last day in Richmond VA

It has been nice to have over a week and not be on travel. However, that is coming to an end. We leave for Philadelphia followed by Richmond VA tomorrow on the train.
So, we drop out for a few last minute errands try to get my SANS work done and think about a two job pack.