Thursday, June 28, 2007

On the Road - Columbus and The NHL Draft

Ok... Where were we?

Last time we visited I was in San Antonio and Cleveland supporting the NBA Finals.
After we (Blee & Yours Truly) finished with that, we needed to do a little NHL work in Columbus OH, so we (FNG Ryan and Yours Truly) loaded up an Avis rental car with equipment and drove to the Nationwide Arena in Columbus.


From The Instigator...

Ryan from the Help Desk with the designated victim for this trip... It was his turn in the barrel since Sean and Hector had done their time, they figured it was someone else's turn to get abused, berated and beaten down for the better part of a week.

Ryan would be considered a "hottie", based on several indicators during the trip... Afterwards I showed a pic of Ryan to the Perfect Child, my barometer of pop culture and trendiness, who confirmed his Hottie status.


Hottie after 8 hours in the car.


Hottie Technician

"Ooooo." she said. "He IS a hottie!"



Yo, FNG... Stay away from my daughter. She's only 13; I have a shotgun and a shovel, and no one will miss you.

More on Ryan's prowess later.

I'm not sure who schedules events in big cities, but the folks in Columbus must have gotten a big laugh as they were putting together the schedule for Mid June. Wait... Let's hold that thought a second. We actually had to get to Columbus first. No mean feat in itself.

In order to facilitate the trip, I picked up the option on Avis' in-car navagation GPS, the "Where2" Garmin Streetpilot c550. Ours was named Jill and she had a nice Australian accent.



When you program the GPS for your selected destination, Jill will give you good turn-by-turn directions to your destination. And as long as your follow her directions, everything is Ola Kala.
"In 2 miles, turn right on highway 200"
"Bear left on Highway 77. In 1 mile your exit is on the right."

However... If you were to do anything as foolish as take a wrong turn, or miss your exit...or stop for gas... That's when she turns from a sweet, helpful Aussie girl into a Cast-iron Bitch.
And I don't mean that in a good way.

"Please make a U-turn. You have missed your last turn."
"Please return to the highway and follow the original driving directions."
"What is wrong with you, can't your follow simple instructions?"
"Please pull your car over and shut off the engine. You are too stupid to drive a car."

Oh, Jill...She can be a nasty one...

----

I have to say, one benefit of the GPS unit was it's ability to receive traffic bulletins and navigate a detour around delays.


Miles and miles of backed up cars...

Up in the hills of Virginia and West (By God) Virginia, the traffic was at a stand still.
I punched up Jill's "Detour" button and she led us on a merry and scenic chase through the backwoods of Virginia...


Warning signs don't lie...


Back and forth...


Forth and Back...

Pay attention...

The back edge of that truck is a widowmaker...
But if you can't stop make sure you smile as you are decapitated.


Oops. Someone wasn't paying attention.

I kept a sharp ear out for banjo music while Ryan herded us through several miles of twisting and turning roads, eventually returning us to the interstate beyond the roadblock...at a town called, get this... "Bland".

Just up the road, no doubt, from "Spicy".

Good times... good times.

If you take more than 2 or 3 roadtrips a year, pick up a GPS - especially for the Integrated Traffic Broadcast receiver. Definitely worth the $$$.

----

We finally made it into Columbus and went directly to the Arena, just to meet up with Oh-Danny-Boy, JR, Luc from Montreal (One of the "Dirty Dozen" Constant Readers), and Patrick and have a nosh.

Getting back to the point I was making earlier about making schedules for city events...
I'm sure the folks in Event Planning in Columbus got a real giggle as they were planning Mid-June...



Events & Attractions Staffer 1:"Hey, looky here...We have the NHL Draft in town. Why don't we schedule 'Gay Pride Week' at the same time."
Events & Attractions Staffer 2:"We'll have a parade... Maybe a nice concert or two."
E&AS1: "Yeah... And just imagine having the NHL staff, all the media covering the Draft, the new players and their families all sharing the same hotels with the folks in town for Gay Pride Week."
E&AS2: "I'll bet there will be some fireworks! That will get us some exposure in the national media."


"What street did you say the hotel was on?"

Nice move, Columbus. What's next? Kicking it up a notch and scheduling a Klan Rally on Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday?
Here's a dollar- go buy a clue.

----


One evening we were having dinner at Ted's Montana Grill...
(If you go, try the bison. I had a rib eye, medium rare. Awesome.)
There about 11 of us...sitting outside since the restaurant didn't have a table inside big enough for our group. It was Dan, JR, Luc, Patrick, Yours Truly, Ryan the Hottie, Ned, DL, and a host of hangers-on looking for a free feed on the NHL's dime.

Midway through dinner, our waitress came out to do drink refills and had another waitress helping out. Since she really didn't need help carrying out another pitcher of Sam Adams, the reason for the second waitress became apparent.
She introduced herself (Lindsey) to Ryan, asked if he was married or had a girlfriend, wanted to know if he was looking for a girlfriend (it IS Gay Pride Week and all...) then went back inside.
Ryan pretty much took it was a certain air of non-chalance bordering on boredom. Like it happens to him all the time.

A short while later we had another visit from Lindsey... This time she gave Ryan a folded sheet of paper- "Here's my phone number. Call me."
He took it without even a "Thank you"...slipped it into his pocket and promptly went back to his burger without a second thought.

We were astounded.

I believe it was Mark Twain who said "Youth is wasted on the young."

Truer words were never spoken.

Post Script- He "forgot" the slip of paper with the phone number at the hotel the next morning.

We need to work on his social skills...



The women are just falling off the trees around this guy. A sad commentary on the state of the young women today... I'm going to have to have a chat with the PC and the concept of "Hard to Get"...

----

The NHL hardware installation went well...
Issues arose, ensued, were overcome.


RtH and Patrick working on the system.


Hey... Nice rack!

There was much rejoicing.

The Nationwide Arena in Columbus is a pretty cool facility. Lots of good restaurants in the area, a good selection of bars, and the staff at the arena was very helpful and technically capable.
They have an odd take on how to secure an IDF closet...

No knob, deadbolt or hasp. Just a sign.
Yeah, that will keep the riff-raff out.

Perhaps it is a tradeoff of security vs. cost. A "Keep Out" sign is much cheaper than a locking doorknob.


Ned and DL were on hand in Columbus to meet with the NHL Broadcasters. All went well, or so we assume since we didn't get a call to throw bail or or otherwise rescue them from either crazed broadcasters or frenzied "Pride Week" celebrants.
We picked up the equimpment they had on-hand for their presentation about midnight to transport it back to Jacksonville with us the next day. Somehow it grew from one large case to one large case, one medium case, two boxes and a bag. Let me add that to my resume... Delivery Boy.
Amazing.

----

Ryan the Hottie and I lit out Thursday AM- around 7 or so.

The trip home was mostly uneventful... I drove the entire 800+ miles that day. We stopped twice for gas enroute - (Toyota Highlander- big "Thumbs up" for gas milage.) and once for lunch, where, once again, Ryan had a girl throw herself at him...


This is not her...

We stopped at Hooters (suprise, no?) in Statesville NC.
The waitress practically threw herself at Ryan...Making inane conversation, making lewd and suggestive remarks, drooling on the table as she gazed longingly at him, not unlike a starving dog begging at the table during a steak dinner.
Did he capitalize on the situation? No. Who, praytell, carried the burden of the conversation upon his broad shoulders?
Yours truly, of course. Heh.

Sad, really.

----

We made it home... 13.5 hours, including the 30 minutes we spend trying to remove Sarah the Hooters waitress from the back bumper of the car... She clung to the back fender, promising all manner of indentured servitude to Ryan "Just so I can be close to you!" she pleaded.

Pitiful...

I did get a kick out out of the Runaway Truck Ramps on I77...



The concept is that if you are going downhill on these highways and you have a brake failure, you hit one of these to stop your truck.



I'm not sure I'd want to hit one of these things in a truck while doing 70 or 80 miles per hour... It looks more like a Launch Ramp than an Escape Ramp. I'm envisioning an Evel Knievel-style-over-Snake-River thing.
We don't have these in Florida- I can just see Bubba and Skeeter on a boring Wednesday night...
"Hey Skeeter... Here's one o' them escape ramps... Watch this. I saw this in a cartoon once. You best hang on...."

Fun fun fun.

4 days to Loggerhead. I can barely stand it.

TBG out-

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Drugstore

A nice, calm, and respectable lady went into the pharmacy and walked right up to the pharmacist, looked straight into his eyes, and said, "I would like to buy some cyanide."

The pharmacist asked, "Why in the world do you need cyanide?"

The lady replied, "I need it to poison my husband."

The pharmacist's eyes got big, and he exclaimed, "Lord, have mercy! I can't give you cyanide to kill your husband! That's against the law! I'll lose my license! They'll throw both of us in jail! All kinds of bad things will happen! Absolutely not! You CANNOT have any cyanide!"

The lady reached into her purse and pulled out a picture of her husband in bed with the pharmacist's wife.

The pharmacist looked at the picture and replied, "Well, now. That's different. You didn't tell me you had a prescription.

Heh...

TBG out-

Answers and Explanations

And the answer to the Quiz...

Yes! The answer is...Dope!

Or as Tammie put it... Square Grouper.
(Showing her deep knowledge of 80's Keys slang terms.)

And to answer Constant Reader Luc's (and no doubt several other Enquiring Minds) question:
"Pardon this winter-dazed Qu├ębecois ignorance here but what's a square grouper?"

As quoted in the Urban Dictionary,
"Nickname given to bales of marijuana thrown overboard or out of airplanes. Origin is reportedly from members of the US Coast Guard in the area of Southern Florida."

In this particular case, a bale of Cannabis floated into the harbor at Garden Key.
Sometimes they are well-sealed and in pristine condition... this one...not so much.
Some seawater had gotten into the bale and the dope had become "sea-weed"...
A term given to salt-water-damaged-but-still-sellable reefer.
In this case, it smelled awful, as Tammie mentioned in the previous comment.

(Referenced in Shel Silverstein's poem "The Smoke Off" -
"Maui Wowie, Panama Red and Acapulco Gold.
Kif from East Afghanistan and rare Alaskan Cold.
Sticks from Thailand, Ganja from the Islands, and Bangkok's Bloomin' Best.
And some of that wet imported shit that capsized off Key West.")

It was called into the DEA in Miami who said, after finding it was less then 50 lbs:
"Y'all just get rid of it... It's not enough for us to fly out and pick it up."

They kinda left it up to us as to the "how" of disposal...


Dry Tortugas Law Enforcement Ranger dumping the 45lb bale of Marijuana in the drink.
(What did you think we'd do with it? Put it on the burn pile?)


Floating dope. I guess we need to make sure it sinks.


Ranger shredding dope chunks.


And just for good measure, let's run over it a few times to chop it into little pieces.

Good times... Good times...

Monday, June 11, 2007

DRTO Veterans

This is a quiz for Al and Tammie, friends from down at Dry Tortugas National Park...

Ready?


Here's a picture of Tammie and Al...



Question...

What was floating in the water between Garden Key and Loggerhead that day?

Hint: Ranger Tim was driving the other boat that day.

America's Best Beaches, my ass...

Stephen "Dr. Beach" Leatherman has released his list of "Best Beaches" for 2007...

1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina - National Winner
2. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
4. Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii
5. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
6. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii
7. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York
8. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
9. Lighthouse Point Park, Daytona Beach, Florida
10. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida

No doubt there are many beach communities in an uproar, especially in South Florida.
Nothing south of Sarasota got a mention... In 1992 Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys got the Best Beach award, and his previous winners are ineligible to make the list again... (Political reasons, no doubt.)

After reading his lists, criteria and other propaganda, he has an affinity for Hawaiian beaches...As he should. Beaches there are quite nice...
I have had my toes in the sand there and I have to say, they are (in my not-so-humble opinion) nicer than most Florida beaches.
(Face it... when the Army Corp of Engineers have to suck sand from a quarter-mile offshore and replenish your beach, it makes for some pretty nasty sand.)
And these hard-packed crystalized quartz "sugar sand" beaches are not my cup of tea anyway.

There were few real beaches down in the Keys: Bahia Honda, Sombrero Beach (now Switlik Park), Harry Harris Park in the upper Keys, and Smathers Beach in Key West are about all you are going to find.
There are a few others hidden away in the nooks and crannies of the Keys. The Chamber of Commerce beach on 33rd St. in Marathon for instance. A nice little beach on the bayside, not even 100yds long.
There is a little beach at the foot of Simonton St in Key West...
The problem with most of the beaches in the Keys are that the water quailty isn't that great...

(Now, you know where this is going...)

I know where there are a couple beaches much better than ANY beach in mainland Florida, or even in the Keys... Guess where?
My thing is, I'd rather they NOT show up on Dr. Beach's list, since that will drive even more people to the place. And Ghod knows, we really don't need more people cluttering up the beach.

With that in mind, let me share some more pictures from the location of my upcoming vacation:

Views from atop Loggerhead Key Light...

Looking north, toward the old Carnegie Labs ruins.

Southeast shore


Southwest shore... Great snorkling here.
This is where I saw the Loch Ness Lobster back in 2001. A spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) the size of a medium-sized dog...probably 20 lbs. Scary.


South end of the island... That old Loran tower isn't there any more...
That story coming shortly.

Back to Current Events:
So... The Cavs made a valiant effort at the end but they still didn't make it...
Now the series comes here to Cleveland. We're almost ready for the game tomorrow.
We should be 100% by the end of the day today.
Then it's all over for me... I'm heading back to Jax and Bill takes over for the rest of the series, and I go to Columbus for the NHL Draft for a couple days.
After that... I'm heading south. Really south.

The countdown is on... 21 days...

TBG Out-

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Current Events - NBA Finals

Last week started in Jacksonville on Monday, had a late flight to San Antonio to get started with Stats Support for the NBA Finals. Bill Lee from the Help Desk had an earlier flight and got in a bit before I did.

Setup was a bit of a challenge in SA- mainly due to the heat... 100 degrees and 100% humidity. We hit the arena early and did our outdoor cabling before the sun really started to bake the TV Compound.

We did first game coverage with Bill inside the arena to handle inside support while I handled TV Truck support. Fun fun fun.
All went well with the game, and we packed it in about 11:00 that night.

On Friday AM I headed to Cleveland to start prepping the TV truck compound at The Q for games 3, 4 and (hopefully) 5. Bill will follow along on Monday with the rest of the NBA game support staff.
(Alas, Bill is not on the charter, he's on a commercial flight...so he won't be in until much later.)

Anyway- all will be in readiness.

There is a game tonite- live in San Antonio, and via a fiberlink there is a 3D simulcast here in Cleveland. The fun never stops here in NBA-land.
I'll be supporting the live announce position here via our ASS...heh.

(Never let it be said that we don't have a sense of humor. The NBA wanted a way to send stats from any arena during a game... Hence, the All Stats Server, the ASS.
When we add the additional code that will enable to info to be fed to multiple users and metered for revenue sharing it will become the BADASS, Brokered And Distributed All Stats Server. Heh.)

Anyway- game time, 9:00 PM. Be there, Aloha.

TBG out-

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Overheard on the SMS

Excerpt of a SMS converstaion intercepted by the NSA anti-terrorism data sniffer in San Antonio Texas.

6/6/07 - 10:35PM CDT
SweetYoungThing: What kinda trouble you gettin into on the fake river?

6/6/07 - 10:37PM CDT
SomeGuy: Arrest, probably. I'll let you know later tonite. I feel like misbehaving.

6/6/07 - 10:38PM CDT
SweetYoungThing: Uh oh no good can come from that except for entertainment value of course!

6/6/07 - 10:40PM CDT
SomeGuy: It will involve a willing waitress from coyote ugly, and there is no doubt that it will all end and tears. Or perhaps bondage.

6/6/07 - 10:43PM CDT
SweetYoungThing: Whose tears? Yours or hers?

6/6/07 - 10:45PM CDT
SomeGuy: A little bit of both. Hers from fear and amazement, mine from the pepper spray.

-End of Transmission-

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This can't be a good idea.

Another chapter from the "Like-my-nutritional-habits-aren't-bad-enough-already" department:

Beer Battered Deep Fried Bacon Double Quarter Pounder



"...it was the heaviest thing I'd ever munched on, and left me unable to eat for a good 24 hours afterwards."

Wow.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Saucy Shrimp

I had a jones for shrimp on Friday, so Saturday the Perfect Child and I headed out to Safe Harbor (the seafood purveyor of whom I have sung praises before...) to get some scrimps to cook up for dinner.
5 lbs of jumbo shrimp later, I was back at the Humble Abode and digging through the spice rack and dry storage to see what was available to work with...

I got out several cookbooks, including one from Uglesich's and made notes on several recipes and after a quick trip to Publix I set to work. At the risk of sounding full of myself, the results were famous amazing astounding beyond compare pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.

For your gastronomic pleasure, I present to you, lucky reader,

Saucy Shrimp...
(serves 4, or 2 if one of the 2 is an ogre)

Hardware:
10" saute pan
6-quart soup pot
Shallow bowls for serving

Ingredients:
1/2 small onion
2 celery ribs
5 garlic cloves
1/2 stick of butter
2T bacon grease.
(What? You don't save your old bacon grease after frying bacon on Saturday morning? For shame. Tsk tsk tsk. Use another 1/2 stick of butter.

2T rosemary
2t thyme
1T fennel
1T cumin
2t celery seed
2 tsp black pepper

1 Qt chicken broth
8 oz bottle clam juice
2T Crystal Hot Sauce or Texas Pete
Juice of 1 lemon
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1 bottle (12oz.) Red Stripe beer.

3 to 4 lbs of prepared* shrimp.

2 loaves Cuban bread or baguettes.
Optional: white rice

*A note on Shrimp.
There are 3 schools of thought on preparing and serving shrimp.

1. International Method
Buy whole head-on shrimp, cook & serve them intact, so their beady little eyes are watching you as you shell and eat them. Big in Europe and in Asia.

2. Lazy American Method
Buy headed shrimp, leaving tail shells intact, or just cutting the shell a bit to remove the sand vein, but leaving the bulk of the shell in place.
Some people will make the case that this method makes the shrimp more tender and keeps more of the flavoring of the cooking spices close to the meat of the shrimp.
I've tried it and I'm calling bullshit on this theory. When you peel them, the spices come off with the shell.

3. Uncle Jay's Method
Buy head-on jumbo shrimp. (They are bigger, fresher and cheaper than their prepared counterparts.)
Head, peel and de-vein shrimp while listening to Jimmy Buffett's "A1A" album.
Before the last strains of "Nautical Wheelers" are heard, you will be finished with 3 or 4 lbs of shrimp.
I peel them completely for 2 reasons... 1) because I don't overcook them, and 2) that way my dinner guests can concentrate on enjoying the food, rather than peeling their meals and dealing with shrimp shells and legs, and messy hands...

Do it however works for you...

Ready?... Here we go.

Slice and dice the onion and celery, peel and mince the garlic.

Melt the butter and bacon grease in the saute pan, and fry the onion, celery and garlic until soft. Don't brown the ingredients...just fry until soft and translucent.
(Hey! No salt yet! That's later.)

While the veggies are frying, it's time to work with the spices.
You can use fresh or dried spices, depending on what you have on-hand in your larder.
I had no fresh spices...not even a sprig of rosemary...so all mine were out of rack...
If you have fresh, so much the better for you.
If your using fresh you want to do a little cut and crush to release the oils in the herbs. For any dry spices you are using, you'll want to chop/crush them, or take them for a spin in a spice grinder, if you use one of those things.
I have a mortar and pestle for just such an occasion. Heh.
So.. Have at it... cut, crush, chop and/or grind away...

Once you have prepared your spices, and your veggies are nice and soft, reduce the heat under the saute pan and add your spices. Stir to combine. Cover the pan and head to the next step.

Get all your liquids ready to use, open all containers and bottles. Put your soup pot on the stove.
Set your burner to med-high heat and transfer the veggies from the saute pan to the 6-quart pot. Add the chicken stock, the clam juice, Red Stripe beer, hot sauce, lemon juice, and the tomato paste. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat to just above a simmer (slow boil) for 1 hour, uncovered.

After 1 hour, test for flavor and texture. Now will be the time to add salt, more garlic or garlic powder, or any other spices you like.

(Nota Bene: You will notice there is no mention of cooking shrimp up to this point. Just want to make that clear.)

Serving / Presentation.

I really hate it when some people make a shrimp dish and insist on cooking the crap out of the shrimp, making them hard, bad-tasting shrimp nuggets.
If you drop your shrimp in a pot of, say, file gumbo, and boil it for 20 or 30 minutes, the shrimp will cease to taste like shrimp and will taste like, well, not good.
Shrimp only need a few minutes of cooking to make them tasty and flavorful and wonderful.
For this particular recipe, do it my way... It's a lot of work, but worth it.

Heat your saute pan over med-hi to hi heat.
Using a soup ladle, put 2 ladles of the broth in your hot saute pan. As soon as it starts to bubble (almost immediately) add a handful (8-10) of raw, peeled, de-veined shrimp.
Let them cook for 30 seconds, then turn them over and let them cook for another 30 or so seconds...
Give them a swirl or two, and maybe pan-flip them a time or two if your are able to do that kind of thing without slpattering the entire stove with sauce. The shrimp should be over the heat for 90 seconds to 2 minutes tops. They will continue to cook in the sauce for a minute or two more after plating, and will be completely and perfectly cooked if you follow the directions correctly.

Transfer the shrimp and pan sauce to a shallow bowl and serve with crusty bread for sopping up the sauce to one of your lucky dinner guests.
Repeat for each guest.
Cook only as needed to serve each guest. Be prepared to saute more sauce and shrimp as needed for seconds and thirds.

As an alternative, serve over rice.
Have some Texas Pete or Crystal hot sauce on the table for individual taste.

Addendum:
Leftover sauce: Put it in a jar- keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks.

For saucy crawfish - Use a bigger pot, add another beer and another quart of stock, 2 T of cayenne, 2T of
hot sauce, and 1t of black peppercorns.After broth simmers for 1 hour, increase heat to low boil, add 4 lbs whole crawfish to the full pot of broth.
After 20 minutes, ladle sauce & crawfish into bowls and serve. Have lots of bread on hand for sopping up sauce.

Enjoy.


TBG out-