Wednesday, May 31, 2006

You MUST be kidding.

This crap is getting out of hand.

"Allah" ice cream banned.

The logo script is too much like the Arabic word for Allah, so BK is going to discontinue the product/package design...

Maybe they should replace it with the red cross of the Knights Templar, the compass and square of the Freemasons, and the six-pointed star.

See how the towelheads like that...

The story here.

Their frickin' egg-shell-thin sensitivities can take a flying leap at a rolling donut. The koran calls the entire non-mulsim world an infidel, ape, pig, polytheist or blasphemer, all of whom nust be put to death by the hand of a good devout muslim, but fanciful logos on Nike shoes, the Coca Cola script and even the time honored crescent moon on an outhouse door in a cartoon strip is just too offensive to their oh-so-delicate sensitivities.
No... BK will cave to the unwashed car bombers... Sad. Really.

Hey - You know... I guess the word "Allah" turned on it's side could represent sweet creamy goodness?

Oh well.

Famous, out-

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Someone left an "inspirational" plaque on my desk last week...

Attitude - with a pic that shows matches igniting off each other.
the caption reads: "Attitudes are contagious - Is yours catching?"

1. You better hope not.

2. It reminded me of some of the "Demotivational" posters from

I went back to their website and took a little trip down memory lane...

One of my favorites:

Some others I really relate to...






Just keepin' it all in perspective.

Amazing out-

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hooters Girls

Stereotyping is not usually one of my character flaws.
(Operative term: usually)
But I'm not suprised when a Hooters Girl shows a way-below-average IQ or cultural literacy level, just as I can be suprised when one shows a glimmer of a lit brain cell or two.

Take today for instance...
I had to run down to see my Mom today, and on the drive back to Jacksonville I decided on a nosh as I went by Daytona.
I have a weakness for chicken wings... (an entire blog series will be devoted to this- my achilles heel- in the near future.) For instance, last year up in Augusta I got a pile of wings from Hooters take-out and went back to my humble abode and picked the bones clean, and received a moderate amount of guff about it...
"Who gets take-out from Hooters? The only reason ANYONE goes there is for the scenery."

Well... Today I had a hankering for a plate of Cajun spiced wings and I hit the Hooters on Int'l Speedway Drive since it was quite convenient to I-95. For a holiday weekend, and one with a major motorsports race in progress, the joint was pretty empty.
I sat at the bar and was shooting the breeze with one of the cooks, mostly about the actual ingredients of the Cajun spice mix they use on the wings.

The Sweet Young Thing (SWT) that was waiting on us n'er-do-wells at the bar was a bit clueless:
1. She took my order for my beverage (unsweet tea), walked away and forgot it and came back and had to ask a 2nd time.
2. Brought me sweet tea anyway.
3. Took my order. (10 Wings, Cajun, naked).
4. Came back again because she wanted to know if I wanted them mild medium or hot.
(Big Red Flag! They don't come mild medium or hot when you order Cajun wings.)
I asked what she had me down for...
"20 wings and cheese fries." SWT said
I gently corrected her:
"That's not my order. I'd like 10 wings, Cajun. Naked."
"Ok. 10 Cajun wings, naked. Got it." SWT says.
SWT walks to the machine (5 steps away) and punches in my order. It gets sent back to the Grillmaster...
"Hey man..." I called to the cook.
"Yo, What up Big Dog?"
"What's that order she just sent in?"
He looked at my the order slip.
"10 naked Cajun. That right?" he asked.
"Yeah. Thanks."
"You smart to check. She's not the sharpest pencil in the box. They ain't hired for their brains."

This is not the Sweet Young Thing.

He went off to fix my order and SWT came over to check on my unsweet sweet tea.
Deciding to do some behavioral research I engaged in some polite banter.
"Boy... Not very busy today."
"No... It's been dead all day. I bet I won't make 20 dollars in tips today."
(This is a strippers gambit. "I'm so poor, and today is going to be worse than usual." The problem is that the ploy works in a topless bar, it is frowned upon when you are trying to portray an upbeat, fun image like Hooters of America's PR Department wants.)
"Oh well. I guess it is to be expected on a holiday weekend."
"Oh, it's a holiday today?" SWT asks.
"Well. Not today, but tomorrow. Memorial Day. Memorial Day weekend?"
"Oh." Short silence.
I was going to ask about her concept of "Memorial Day" but I was a bit concerned about the answer- it could have gone anywhere from "No Clue" to a complete full-goose bozo 'Get-the-US-out-of-Iraq-at-any-cost' Anti-Bush anti-war screamfest, so I decided to change tactics.
"Hey- I have a question."
"Yeah?" SWT said, cocking her haed to one side, not unlike a cocker spaniel.
"You know, one the menu you have different kinds of wings- You know- mild, medium, hot, three-mile-island, 911, cajun, BBQ, asian... Do you know what the 'three-mile-island' ones are named after?
"Sure. Three Mile Island." SWT looked very happy with her answer.
"Yeah- but why is that a wing flavor?"
SWT looked at me like I was asking her to formulate an elliptical re-entry orbit path for a Earth-to-Mars lander.
"Oh. Uh. I think Three Mile Island is where they make this really hot sauce for the wings. I think it's in Louisiana somewhere."
"Oh." I said.
"Oh look! The Indy 500 is on... I wonder if Jeff Gordon is racing today? I met him once. He's sooo cute." SWT confides in a conspiritorial tone.

This isn't her, either.

He probably is, Sugar. But not in Indianapolis.

Amazing out-

Friday, May 26, 2006

Random Axe of Cents-less Violins

Other crap that's been piling up in the "To be Blogged" folder:

If you remember a few weeks ago I was in Toronto with Paul and Stass...
I asked them for some photos they'd taken during the visit and one that I got from them kind of suprised me.

I don't know if you've ever seen the CN Tower in Toronto, but it is a masterpiece of modern engineering... 1,815 feet (553 Meters) it is one of the tallest man-made structures in the world.

Click for a larger (heh) view.

You can always rely on code pushers and engineers for high quality content.
Thanks guys.

Let's see, what else do we have?...
Oh yeah...

If you have the opportunity, go visit Wondermark by David Malki.
Great stuff over there...

More later.

Famous, out-


I haven't been to BK in a good long while, and lately
I have been really creeped out by The Burger King...

This dude is scary.

But now, this gives BK an even deeper dimension
of bizarro-ness...


Enter at your own risk.

Famous, out.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Noo Yawk City

Greetings, Constant Readers...

Just a few more days in the barrel and I'm outta here! Hooha!

Let's re-cap the last few days, shall we?

Sunday night I went to NooYawk...
A Delta flight through Atlanta. The best thing I can say about it was that I flew on 737-500s the whole way. Even got a bulkhead aisle seat on both flights. The next best thing to an upgrade...

New York was hit by a cold front over the weekend, so by the time I got there, 11:00pm on Sunday night, it was cold.
Not chilly.
Not comfortably cool.
It was cold.
Like 40s and a wind chill cold.

I had gone directly to the airport from the Perfect Child's soccer tournament on Jekyll Island, where it was 85 in the shade. I didn't bring a sweater, fleece, hoodie or even a long sleeve shirt. I froze my butt off all week. More on the weather later...

The Screenworks equipment truck made it to the site on Sunday afternoon. Saved us a few problems by getting in early.

The site is being struck by the construction workers union, so it is a bit of a sticky situation...

I really like the Giant Inflatable Rat...

In theory, one union can't cross another union's picket lines. By our truck arriving while the picketers weren't on-site, we avoided the ugly scene.

We crashed the gates on Monday morning and hit the court with our equipment and after one false start, we had our stuff up and running.

This is the 2-cube-high section. Think anyone will complain about their view?
If I'm paying a couple grand per game you can bet I will pitch a fit it that is in front of me...

Rallis and Ron (Butler) showed up around 10:45... Ron is our Graphics Wizard and Rallis is, well... Rallis.

Lunch was at Joey D's (5819 College Point, Flushing NY - 718 321-0408)
I bought luunch for the guys. I had a great hero- Sweet and hot sopresatta, fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers.
Wow. Awesome sandwiches.
I brought a meatball sub back for Rallis, just because I'm that kinda guy.
If you're working the US Open this year keep the number handy, they will deliver to the USTA site.

Post tiffin we did some testing and made some plans for some changes to the graphics we were going to use. We had dragged Ron Butler along...praise Cthulu... Had he not been with us, we'd have been in deep doo-doo. He was able to source some new logos and resize them to fit our ribbon board configuration.
Big, big kudos to Ron!

We called it a day and headed to dinner- a lovely little place on 108th called Parkside (108th Street and 51st Avenue,
Corona. (718) 271-9274)
Tommy Z from the USTA facility turned us on to it... The New Zeland Mussels were fantastic, Rallis had a stuffed artichoke & Mussels, Ron enjoyed a penne with broccoli, and I had Cherrystone clams with linguini. If you have the opportunity- definitely make the trip.

The next day we tweaked our graphics a little more, and I also got the chance to see our handiwork from the very top of the stadium.

Nice Diet Pepsi logo.

The wind was whipping and cold... It's a great spot for pictures though...

Shea Stadium from the top of Arthur Ashe

the New York Skyline

The Worlds Fair Hemisphere and "Men in Black" spaceships.

Armstrong Stadium.

When all was prepared and ready for the demo, we headed over to Mama's for lunch.
Leo's Latticini is known colloquilly as Mama's, 46-02 104th St in Corona. (718) 898-6069.

Latticini means "Dairy products", I think.

Ben Catoe took me here last year. The actual menu is pretty skimpy, but really you can get anything you want.
Some favorites:
Mama's Special- Proscuittini Salami, Mozzarella with mushrooms and peppers...
The Super Italian, Proscuitto, Sopresatta, Cappicola and Mozz...
If you go on Thursdays, you can get the once-a-week Roast Beef with gravy special.
Go stand in line behind the cops, firemen, city construction workers and several office types, then have your order ready.
Ron got the Super Italian, The Screenworks boys had Mama's Specials, and I got a Proscuitto, Mozz and roasted red pepper work of art. (Actually I got two, since I had to bring back one for Rallis.)
The sandwiches are amazing. If you are in the area, make sure you see Mama. And don't forget the bakery 2 doors down... Pick up a few biscotti for dessert. It's called Mama's Backyard, and it is as wonderful as the home office just up the street.
Be aware- Mama's is closed on Mondays.

We hauled ass back to the Stadium and enjoyed our lunch on-site, then got ready for the show.
We did our thing- the pony kicked his heels up and the doggy did his trick.

Nice Lexus logo thanks to Ron's magic with Photoshop...

Things went, well... as good as things like that can be expected.
In a group of people you will always have a cross section- some will like it, some won't.
If you make changes to appease the borderline people, you alienate some other number of the group.
All in all, it was pretty good.

We broke down the equipment and loaded out in record time-
I got Ron and Rallis to LaGuardia in time for their flight, then headed back to the hotel.
(FYI- the Wyndham near LaGuardia is a shithole. A convenient shithole, but a shithole all the same.)
I started thinking about dinner- a trip to Chinatown seemed inevitable, but instead I did a quick search on xiao long bao and found a listing for Joe's Shanghai Restaurant...(136-21 37TH Ave, Flushing (718) 539-4429)
I way overdid it... One order of tiny pork buns (xiao long bao - Little Dragon Buns, according to Jocelyn- my native Shanghai connection), an order of regular pan-fried dumplings, and a bowl of hot & sour soup.
Double wow.
No more running into the depths of Manhattan if I'm on the east side of the river...
Now, if I can only find a place that makes xiao long bao in Florida.

I headed back to the hotel full and happy.

A had a couple meetings the next morning and a 3:15 flight out of LaGuardia. Too late for a good lunch- I grabbed another sandwich at Mama's and picked up a to-go box of biscotti to share with the guys back in the office. Ate my sandwich in the waiting area at the airport.

The flight home was the only dark spot on an otherwise pleasant trip...

Delta uses Comair for a LGA-JAX nonstop- flying Canadair Reigonal Jets. Tiny little toothpaste tube-sized planes.
Try as I might I could not get an aisle seat, let alone a bulkhead. It was just not in the cards for me to get a decent seat. If you fly the LGA-JAX trip, you know the "Gate 5A Drill" - Wait in the collective waiting area, where the passengers for Montreal, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Kentucky depart from.
When they call your flight, you troop off to a bus to be ferried to the plane.
Well... I missed the first bus- they cut if off just before the guy in front of me got on and we were told to wait for the next one. 15 minutes later (!!) another bus showed up to take the last 4 of us to the plane...
When I finally got on, there was no room for my one carry-on bag in the overhead, so it goes under the seat in front of my legs, thus obliterating any legroom I might have had.
The capper was the asshat next to me, who insisted in using a good 3 inches of my seat along with his. Normally I don't have a problem with this, I'd just lean the other way. In this case however, I was in the window seat- nowhere to lean.
To add insult to injury, if you are over six feet, the curve of the fuselage causes you to have to sit with yout neck bent to one side... So, Asshat is making it impossible to get any shred of relief from the pain in my neck and legs.

So... We finally get started and pull out to the taxiway where we are delayed. And I'm not talking about a 10 minute wait for gound clearance... I'm talking about more than an hour wait... So long that they pulled the plane to one side and shut down one engine to conserve gas.
We got a song and dance from the captain, weather delays over the Carolinas, blah blah blah.
Meanwhile my knees are screaming, my neck has a permanant 45 degree tilt to the left, and I am ready to pummel the businessman in front of me because every ten minutes he tries to recline his seat into my knees. After the 4th time, I'd had it with that bullshit.
I leaned close to his seat and said in a low, threatening voice:
"Sir. Push your seat back one more time, and I will hit you so hard you will be unconscious until headbands are back in style. You are breaking my knees."
No more trouble from him- at least not as we waited or during the flight itself.
(Asshat pretended not to hear the exchange, but he didn't alter his behavior either.)
We finally got in the air about 90 minutes late. I was hoping once we got in the air things might improve.
Nope. Not a chance, Homeslice.
As a matter of fact they got worse, this time in the form of air conditioning.
I have started wearing flipflops while traveling when possible, in order to hasten the security process and as much for my comfort as for those around me...
Trust me, you don't want me taking off my sneakers anywhere near you.
Let me assure you, a size 14 tennis shoe can emit a 10x10 toxic cloud in record time...
So I wear flip flops.
The down side- when the aircond unit on the plane is set for deep-freeze and the vents are near the floor, it can make for some frostbitten toes.

Well, It's a two hour flight...
By the time we were beginning out final descent, I had lost all feeling in the toes of both feet. My knees were on fire from being cramped in the same position for more than 3 hours. My neck was permanantly crooked, and my shoulders were in knots from trying to sit semi-sideways because of Asshat next to me taking up part of my seat.
(Asshat was one of those typical flying that needs multiple special requests from the Flight Attendant to shut off his phone, put away his iPod, the bag needs to be UNDER the seat in front of you, not in the aisle... You know the type.)
Anyway... As we were circling to land I was in such a state of discomfort I was trying to figure out a way to punch Asshat in the solar plexus hard enough to stop his heart... I doubt I would have gotten in trouble for it.
Anyway- I was able to grit my teeth and made it to the ground without killing Asshat...
One good thing about Asshat, he did jump right up before (of course) the plane got to the jetway. He didn't go far, but at least he vacated the row and I was able to move my legs enough to restart the blood circulation...

The fun wasn't quite over yet. Appearantly the bonehead in front of me had spent the last two hours thinking of some cutting and meaningful retort after having been threatened with bodily harm...
After the flight he looked at me as he got up to exit the plane- I was still sitting down.
He had that look like- "This isn't over, buddy. Wait 'til we get off the plane."
What was funny was that apparently he didn't know what/who he was dealing with because after the flight, as I got off the plane he was outside waiting for his gate-checked bag to be delivered. When I get off those little planes, I gain about another foot or two of height, since I have to bend down almost double to walk down this aisle.
As I straightened up, he started to say something, then thought better of it... He found something in his briefcase needed attention as I walked by him...

I really wanted to do the old "I'm granting your wish" routine on him.
You know the old joke...
The two young rednecks get pulled over by the local sherrif. The Sherriff give the driver a ticket and after the kid gives him some lip, the Sherriff bitch-slaps him. The kid wisely shuts up, just wanting the episode to be over.
The Sherriff walks over to the passenger side and opens the door and smacks the other kid around.
"What was that for?" the kid whines.
"Just granting your wish, Sonny."
"What?" the kid says.
"Well, you know, when you guys drive away from here you were gonna look at your buddy over there and say 'Boy, I wish he'd done that to me, I'd'a shown him a thing or two.' So I'm just granting your wish."
He slams the door and the boys drive away.

Alas, with the humorless folk at the TSA and our friends at Homeland Security, I don't cause a scene at airports.

Oh well... Back in Jax again.

Just two more trips to go...

Amazing out-

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Coming soon!

Preview of coming attractions:

Hair-raising details concerning my just-now finished expense report from Torino.

Just for good measure, I also finished the expense report for The Masters.

A sure-fire winner:
The trials and tribulations of 3 days in Flushing.
Video wall testing at Arthur Ashe Satdium, complete with pictures and everything!

Dinner at Parkside (Oh. My. Ghod.) and a trip to Joe's Shanghai in Flu Shing.
(No more trips to Bayard Street when staying in Queens.... Hoo Ha!

And the pièce de résistance...
The absolute worst flight I have been on in since... well... June 1980.
I came so close to Air Rage it was scary...
I'm not kidding.

Stay tuned, Constant Readers.

Famous, out-

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Back in the windy city.

So I was back in Chicago again at the beginning of the week.

Two things of note.

Bad news: I lost my wallet.
The good news: I got it back intact.
Note to self: Be careful while drinking in the hotel bar at the Marriott.

Second item of note-

Do not, no matter how inexpensive the room is, do *not* get a room at the Quality Inn in Schiller Park near O'Hare.

Glad you asked.

(Click for larger view)

The yellow circle shows where my room was...
My window was about 8 feet from 12 lanes of I-294.
There is no amount of soundproofing that will dampen the highway noise and the airplanes taking off every 3 minutes, 24 hours a day.

Famous the insomniac, out.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sam Walton's revenge.

This is a rant that started a couple weeks ago while I was up in Augusta GA... I haven't had the time up until now to trot it out and polish it up. It finally floated to the top of the cesspool that I call a hard drive, so I have shined it up and now I present it to you, Constant Reader, in hopes of entertaining and educating you.

Sam Walton's revenge.

I think someone or something in middle-to-poverty class America did something to piss off Sam Walton.

I hate Wal-Mart. I hate their business practices. I hate shopping there. I hate that they are always open and so convenient. I hate that they really do have Everyday Low Prices. I hate the fact that if you drive 3 miles in any direction you will come across a Wal-Mart, Super Wal-Mart, or Sam's Club...
And I really hate the fact that they are trying to open yet ANOTHER one, this time right here at Jax Beach.

Don't we have enough of these places yet? Haven't they driven enough small business owners to bankrupcy or insanity by trying to compete for the American Retail Dollar? They are the retail equivalent of immigrant labor- so cheap and plentiful that American businesses can't compete in the same market.

Unfortunately, my travel schedule and equipment needs have forced me to visit literally hundreds of Wal-Marts across this great country. I’ve seen rural, urban, and suburban stores in everything from wealthy to dirt-poor neighborhoods. One of my favorites was in a small Tennessee town where the only restaurant was at Wal-Mart. So every night I would get to eat dinner from their deli.
Another favorite was the one in a wealthy Phoenix neighborhood where a bunch of ‘cool’ white boys would always hang out in the parking lot wearing their G-Unit clothing calling each other 'nigga'. I even had the opportunity to visit the Everyday Low Price purveyor outside of the United States. Actually, Mexico was the nicest, bathroom attendants and all. However, one thing remains the same; if I must go I try to do it during the daylight hours. I dread having to go there after dark and will usually avoid it at all cost, but every now and then something comes up that forces me to do this.

So here I am again, almost midnight on a Wednesday night April in Augusta Ga, this time for office supplies. Lucky me, at this store the office supply department is located in the far back end of the store. The fun begins before even setting foot in the building. The parking lot is kind of a teaser. It primes you for the real nightmare within. Of course, there is nowhere to park. This gives me plenty of time to enjoy the pregame show as I walk the five blocks to the front door.

Oh, look at the cute little baby walking around (alone) in the parking lot with nothing but a diaper on. Look at this nightmare on my left, she’s pushing fifteen and only has two kids; her biological clock must be screaming! Wow, look at that hotty sporting the Prada jacket and the fake tits. Sure, her son looks like a Garbage Pail Kid with the classic dirt ring around the mouth, but she ain’t gonna find no daddy for that baby if she ain’t looking fine.

Look, there’s Skeeter and Bubba doing a brake job on a classic ‘86 Ford Tempo here in the parking lot. Over there, see the kid riding a bike with the pacifier in her mouth.
Wow, look, what a cool dad, sitting in his Escalade with the windows up smoking a joint in front of his fifteen kids. Check it out, he’s even letting them watch porn on the 12 flip-down LCDs. They might not get enough sleep tonight, but they are having fun, and that’s what matters, baby: Quality time with the family.
I finally make it to the door. In this neighborhood I know better than to expect grandpa welcoming me- oh no, instead there is Juanita shooting dirty looks and mumbling in Spanish. Upon entering, one thing (other than the rancid smell) jumps out at me. Let’s say that if in the average Anywhere USA town, the ratio of normal to ugly people is 10:1. I’m even using the word ‘normal’ conservatively. I don’t know what it is, but if you want to see more uglies in three minutes than in an entire year in the normal world, stop by. As the night moves on, the ratio rises exponentially. It’s like living in an "Outer Limits" episode.
The time slot from Midnight to six AM is called the Graveyard Shift for a reason... That's when the Zombies and the other Undead come out to walk the aisles.

Playing tonight.. The Freaks of Nature.
Once inside I’m reminded of one of those freak shows at the state fair, where you pay a quarter and walk from booth to booth and stare at the oddities of nature. Step right this way, you will see a child snatched off the ground by his arm. He will be beaten within an inch of his life after not heeding his mother’s warning that she would ‘go upside his head’ if he didn’t put that bag of candy down.
While passing the drink coolers, notice the young urban males drinking grape soda to quench their severe cottonmouth.
Try to make your way quietly through the Sporting Goods & Auto Supply aisles. You may catch a glimpse of an authentic mullet-wearing redneck stocking up on ammo and fishing lures for the Klan retreat next weekend. While there you may have the opportunity to eavesdrop on a heated argument over who will win this week’s NASCAR race.
As you walk through the Shoe department it is surprisingly quiet. It just so happens that they don’t sell many shoes in this store (big surprise).

Office Supplies are located next to the Pet department; the journey is half over. Try to avoid the cat lady who has three carts filled with cat food and kitty litter. She is covered in cat hair and smells like piss after a day of being sprayed by her fully intact male cats. On top of that she is very lonely, making for a very scary combination.

Finally the checkout line! Now, there’s no secret how Wal-Mart keeps those Everyday Low Prices rolling. I have read numerous case studies about the logistical magic they have created, and how they can buy such enormous quantities that they get larger discounts. While this all plays a part, I think their biggest secret is to keep the store open, but let all of the employees go home after 9:00PM. Apparently the invention of the self-checkout line made this possible.

It's around 12:30 AM and there are two human cashiers and about 750 people waiting in line. I figured I would hit the self-checkout to get out before daybreak.
Coming to this store was a bad idea of epic proportions. Trying to use the self-checkout is compounding my error. My mind keeps trying to analyze the suation as I watch these Darwin Award rejects try to operate the Self Checkout. The use of the self checkout register is usually reserved for those technically savvy customers with a few items that want to get out quickly.
Heh. Right.
It’s kind of an unwritten law that if you cannot operate an ATM or drive a car, do not attempt to self-checkout. The invention of the scanner and touch screen proved to be too complex for 98% of the people in line. Lucky for me, I got stuck behind a woman who for some reason needed to purchase 37 shower curtain liners, 14 bottles of baby oil, a case of shaving cream and an executive office chair; Listen to Uncle Jay, I'm not kidding. There is some screwed-up shit that goes down in this world that I don’t even want to know about. I’m forced to sit there and watch her little Vienna sausage fingers scan each of her items individually and try to think about something other than what she may do with it all when she gets home.

Finally back outside, I walk the five blocks past the same crowd (because I think they never go home) and into the serenity of my Blue Toaster. Thank God. Sam must be looking up and laughing at me, enjoying his revenge.
I say to myself I will never do that again, but somehow, just like a promise to never drink after a class 3 hangover, I know it cannot last.

Amazing out.

My week in the barrel...

This past week was just like old times.
A day here, a day there, early flights and marginal hotels.

We got the word late last week that we (IDS) were awarded the contract for the NHL's new scoring system, and we would be hitting the ground running with analysis and planning sessions.
(I'm heading up the deployment side, installing the new equipment in all the arenas around the league.)
After that, the guys at the NBA called and said the new WNBA team in Chicago needed to have their arena fitted out to use the stats system and they also wanted support for opening night. (For those interested in that type of thing, they will be playing in the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Pavilion on Racine Avenue.

We also scheduled some of our NHL planning meetings for the first week of May.
I really only needed to be involved with one of the meetings, an operations meeting in Toronto, but I also needed to meet with the guys from the Arena Ops department at the NBA in regards to Finals on-site support and some pre-season stuff...

So I arranged my week as follows:
Monday PM - To NYC
Tuesday - Meetings at NBA and NHL.
Wednesday - To Chicago. Site survey, equipment test at UIC Pavilion.
Thursday - Site survey United Center (NHL Position) and travel to Toronto.
Friday - NHL Meetings- Tour Air Canada Center (Arena) and meet w/ NHL personnel.
Saturday - Fly home.

The week actually started last friday (28th) when I got word that
some missing equipment had been recovered up at A Nice Golf Course.
Glory Be!
I had been losing sleep and a good portion of my sanity because of this equipment, and here it is- safe and sound... 250 miles away, but at least it wasn't on E-Bay or in a pawn shop in Birmingham.

So... Sunday- I drove to Augusta to pick up the equipment and drove it back to Jacksonville...
(Anyone want to guess where I had lunch...? Heh.)

Got back to Jax at 7:30 or so.
Spent Sunday evening planning and packing.

Monday I delivered the missing equipment back to it's rightful owners, who were elated to have it home again.
My flight to EWR was at 12:30- and I stopped in at the office to have a 30 second chat with my boss (whom I haven't seen in two weeks...)
I headed for the airport, taking the 9A extention on the east side of Jacksonville.
That road is open now, it only took 22 minutes from the time I got on JTB unitl I was pulling in at Super Saver Parking.
I used to allocate 45 minutes to an hour for travel to JIA... That new part of 9A from JTB to the Dames Point Bridge is nice!! A noon time departure was fast and easy.
We'll have to see what it's like during rush hour...

The flight was uneventful, and I did get and upgrade, so I had that going for me...
Dinner at the Outback in Secaucus NJ. Drinking with the Captain, an excercise in Time and Tides...
Tuesday came really, really early. Almost painfully so.

I had my meetings with John and David at the NBA, hooked up Dan from the NHL with the boys at the NBA to discuss in-arena issues, and had lunch with one of my victims from NBC over in Manhattan.

Restaurant Review # 1
Prime Burger
5 E. 51st St.
New York , NY 10022
Phone: (212) 759-4729

I had lunch at a place called Prime Burger down on 51th st.
The place has been around forever. Cool, polite waiters dressed in white jackets and bow ties.
They crank out a great basic burger in a no-frills environment. If you've had your fill of delicatessens and fast-food chains try this place. Get the onion rings instead of fries... A nice change from the ordinary.


One more meeting back in Secaucus at 4:00- we ironed out some details for Chicago and some items for off-season support and one or two more NBA/WNBA gigs.

I was trying to decide on what to do for dinner... The Hooters in Paramus or Greenfields in Hakensack, when it hit me... I'm a stone's throw from the best Chinese food outside Beijing... I saddled up and headed down to Canal Street.
The only slowdown heading to Chinatown was going through the Lincoln Tunnel, and even that delay was fairly brief...

I went to my favorite in NYC- New Green Bo on Bayard Street.

One order of Xiao Lung Bao-(soup dumplings),

and I tried something different on the menu- Tung Po Pork... A hunk of skin-on pork shoulder cooked in red sauce (Chinese red sauce, dummy. Not marinara...) and served with soft white buns and bok choy. Ambrosia!

Next time you're in NYC, go to New Green Bo. Listen to Uncle Jay- he wouldn't steer you wrong.

I stayed in the Holiday Inn in Secaucus on Monday night, due to it's proximity to the NBA office. I had a 6-something flight, so I moved out to a Days Inn out at Newark Airport... Less expensive and much closer to the airport so I would be able to get 15 extra minutes of sleep... 30 minutes if I fueled the rental car the night before.
No Interwub, though. Bummer.

You know you're spending too much time in hotels when:

Road Warriors who spend days and days on the road have their quirks about hotels and associated phobias. We also have bad habits that we use to entertain ourselves.
One guy I know, after taking a hot shower, writes on the bathroom mirror "Hello Bob." on the off chance that the next guy in the room will be Bob and will see this ghostly writing in the mirror after taking his shower.
I've adapted this to be a little more vague, and hence, a little more widely applicable.
I write "I'm watching you." on the mirror, and usually up near the top, in case the housekeeping staff actually cleans the mirror.


The flight to Chicago was OK... It was an Embraer 145. A commuter jet.
Man, I hate these little boxes. Besides being really small, there is no chance for an upgrade. Bummer.

Got into Chicago without delay and I headed for the arena. Morning traffic was over for the most part. I got off the expressway and found a wifi hotspot and checked my mail and did some other on-line chores, then found a donut shop near the arena and killed another hour drinking coffee and doing a crossword until time for my meeting at UIC.

I met with Marc Grossman, one of the original "Gang-of-Four" statisticians with the NBA. He and I worked with Tomas, the local IT guy and we detailed the site in preparation for the game on May 9th. I made notes on additional hardware needs and cable runs for game time. This will be a piece of pie. Easy as cake.
The first game is on May 9th... Hoohoo! Another day in the City That Works.

I headed out about 3:30 and found my Hotel- the Howard Johnson's on LaSalle St.
Jeebus! What a shithole. It must have been nice back in 1950.
The place was scary...but not scary enough to bail on my reservation.
That hadn't fininshed changing the cobwebs in my room so I went across the street and had an adult libation- Captain's Orders... and after 2 good ones, I went back to the hotel and checked in.

Restaurant Review # 2

Sal and Carvao
739 N. Clark St.

A churrascaria...and a pretty good one. The salad bar was nice but unimpressive- the award for best salad bar still goes to Churrascaria Plataforma in NYC on 49th st.
The chorizo, sirloin and pork tenderloin were pretty good, the picana is very good but Rodizio Grill in Denver and Salt Lake City are better for that cut, and the flank steak was excellent. The bacon-wrapped filet tenderloins were excellent, but the bacon/chicken combo was so dry you had to eat it in the rain.
And alas, no grilled pineapple.
It was a bit overpriced, but overall it was very good.
My favorite is still Texas De Brazil in Orlando... They are a tough show to beat.
Next week, there is a Fogo de Chao a block away on LeSalle... I want to give them a shot... I'll let you know how it goes.

With a full stomach I slep like a baby... Up every two hours, and I even wet the bed. Oh well...

Thursday morning I had a quick breakfast at the Billy Goat Tavern... If you remember the old SNL skit with Belushi and Akroyd- "Cheezborger cheezborger- No fries-cheeps. Coke, no Pepsi". This place needs a complete 'blog post all it's own. If I get over there on my next trip, I'll post the tale.

I went to the United Center to have a chat with one of my favorite ex-STCs, Bob Gorman... Bob was our man in Chicago for several years. He and his minions have always been at the the top of technology when it comes to team and arena applications and equipment. I wanted to have a peek at their Stats position for the NHL Blackhawks. Bob gave me the nickel tour and we shot the breeze for a bit and chatted about sports technology... Just like old times...

I headed to the airport in time to catch an earlier flight for the first part of my flight Toronto... My original afternoon flight had me getting into Cleveland with a 20 minute turnaround for my flight to Toronto... Nowhere near enough time. This new flight got me in to Cleveland with nearly 3 hours layover. I'm really glad I took it...
It took fully 30 minutes to get from arrival gate to departure gate.

As I waited for my flight I got a call from Paul, trying to coordinate our schedule for the next day... We compared schedules- I would get in at 8:00, and he and Stass (The Code Monkey - Famed in song and story) were arriving there at 10:30. PM. At night. Heh.
I laughed at them, thinking that I would cruising in the hotel bar with the Captain as they were wrestling with Customs and Immigration... Fat chance, Big Guy.

They called back a little later, tempting me with promises of food and booze if I would pick them up at the airport and transport them to downtown Toronto...
(Did I mention my hotel was near the airport?)
So... Pick them up around 11:00 or so, chauffeur them the 25km or so downtown, booze up for a bit, eat some late night pubchow, then drive back out to my hotel?
I reluctantly agreed...
We wound up at 11:30 downtown Toronto, swilling Communist beer (Some obscure red ale) and eating from the late-night menu at a really nice place called
The Irish Embassy... Very reminiscent of The Ginger Man in Manhattan...

Try it out.

I got home at 1:30.
Dan-O breezed into town around 10 the next morning.
(Guess who picked him up at the airport. You have 2 seconds. Go.)
We (Dan, Paul, Stass, and Yours Truly) spent the better part of the day in the Air Canada Centre and in the NHL offices working on our little project.

About 3:00 we got on the road- They had 5:00 flights going back to NY and Florida... I tried to get mine changed, but it would have cost me 1000+ dollars... Screw it.
I dropped the boys off and went back to the Hotel and did some e-mail...
I did a quick search for Shanghai cuisine in Toronto and found a place called Ding Tai Fung...

7:45 found me in Markham - about 30km east of the airport in a busy shopping center. The entire place was one Asian food restaurant after another. Little take-out places, big sit-down places full of families, a couple places that specialized in Peking Duck (next time!), noodle shops, dumpling houses, and little Asian groceries.
Ding Tai Fung was good. The Xiao Lung Bao were as good, if not better than New Green Bo, as were the regular pan-fried dumplings... I had a big bowl of hot and sour soup... nice chunks of pork, big slices of black cloud mushrooms, tofu, egg threads, not too hot... Very good...
So mark it down:

Ding Tai Fung (Shanghai Dim Sum)
First Markham Place
3235 Hwy 7 East, Unit #18B (at Woodbine)
Markham, Ontario
L3R 3P3

I cleared customs the next morning without incident, and made it to Newark and thence to Florida in short order, arriving just in time to go see Hunter play in her rec league soccer team's All Star game...

Man... What a week...
And next week's is no better...

Famous- Out.