Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Denver is cursed...

Well...when life gives you bird droppings, post a picture of birds...South Beach pigeons, thank you.

Its not clear why my flight from Denver to SFO is two hours late...but my flight from Denver to SFO is two hours late. Would the reason make me feel better? At least THIS time, I was delayed IN the airport and not ON the plane :)

Dodging raindrops...

The rainclouds are looming, but with a bit of luck, I'll be heading home soon from Miami...through Denver again...so be on the lookout for rants :)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Back from the edge...

My meltdown from last night has cooled dramatically. My conference was enlightening, and I met some really cool coworkers with whom I had not worked.

Even better...this afternoon, I requested and received a room change. Its not an amazing room by any stretch, but MUCH improved. As is my mood. (FYI, I can tell you that I was clearly not the FIRST person to request a room change from the overly grumpy man at the front desk!)

It has been raining all afternoon since I returned from the conference, so this gave me a little down time to reflect on (and re-read) my drawn out rant from yesterday. I am (hopefully) going to close this gloomy chapter for now, but before I move on, I would like to reflect on words on the front page of the Royal Palm website:

"Luxury reigns supreme at the Royal Palm. Stay at our magnificent beachfront resort and drift into a dream land. Float up to cloud nine, where time stands still while you indulge in every decadence."

Note to the management of the Royal Palm: "I recommend a few bottles of carpet stain remover in your Cloud Nine housekeeping carts. Oh, and try hiring at least one person at your front desk who smiles." (It seems that quite a few reviews on Trip Advisor agree...steer clear!)

These photos are from my old room. I'm sorry, but a big brown spot next to the bed is just gross!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007


A quick update.

Landed at MIA at 1:30 am. United sprung for one free in-flight glass of wine, which took the edge off lingering irritation. Taxi to the oceanfront Royal Palm "Resort" in Miami Beach. In room around 2:15 am. Checked in with Jeff...they saw Harry Potter tonight...I saw "Blades of Glory"...they win.

Long Saturday.

Let me just say that on first impression, the Royal Palm may very well be the WORST hotel I have stayed at in all of my business travels. If they do not move me to a decent room in the morning...I swear that I will post photos of every carpet stain, broken vent, and banged up wall on every travel review website I can find. This place is an expensive travesty and it caps off a TOTALLY SHITTY DAY!!!! I WANT TO BE HOME WITH MY SWEETIE!!!! THIS PLACE SUCKS!!!!

I sure hope there is a Starbucks nearby, or my Sunday is SHOT. Good night...uh...morning.

Something is missing...

Hmmm...arrived at my new gate...B20...but there is no plane.

Note to United: "Psssst. We need a plane."

At least we have air...

Heh, well, now our tape mechanics have reached the end of their shift. So we are waiting for the next mechanics shift to arrive to finish taping.

Oh wait...now we are de-planing...to try and find a new plane.

Me again...

So...it gets better. Still sitting in Denver. Our flight attendants "timed out" and they had to find a replacement crew here in Denver.

Another friendly note for United: "I suggest that you NOT feed your crew hot meals with aromas that fill the plane, when your loyal customers only get Snack Boxes. Have a lovely day."

By the way...the man with the tape showed up! Although they just added another 30-min delay.

Note to self: "Never fly anywhere that requires a connection. Oh, and remind Mom and Dad to move to a United hub city."

Stop the presses...

No sooner had I pressed send on my last blog update, when the captain came on to announce a further 30-min delay. It seems that maintenance is using tape to secure some loose bits of exterior fiberglass that are "peeling off".

Note to United's stockholders: "Good news. Cost cutting measures are a success. Passengers are now used to hunger...and the mechanics have stopped complaining about using tape to hold the plane together. Consider having the crew act out popular stories rather than paying for in-flight movies."

Thoughts that occupy the idle mind...

On my way to Miami today...yes, on a Saturday. I have never been to a conference that began on the weekend...but thank goodness they are rare.

On the plus side, airports are light on Saturday, and except for a two and a half hour delay in Denver, the trip was pleasant.

My amusement of the day comes from a piece of fax spam I picked up on a little-used fax machine near my office. Like my voice mail at home, this fax was piled with useless messages...nothing remotely important...or even real.

My favorite was an "urgent" message from "human resources" with final details on vacation packages available to "all employees". The message had been sent multiple times, and was clearly fake...but still cleverly ended with a confidentiality notice: "If you are not the intended adressee, please notify the sender immediately and delete this message."

I wonder if I can keep these faxes for a year and then charge the spammer for a box of paper? I am soooooo tempted to call the 800-number and report their innocent error :)

Friday, July 27, 2007

California is full...

As with any good relationship, living with California is one part joy and one part compromise. The trade off for living in a place with unique beauty and sheer grandeur around every corner is that there are also 10 people at every vista, full hotels at even the remotest destinations, and traffic where you least expect it.

But frankly, I can compromise. We've driven down the Central Coast several times...in all seasons...and we ALWAYS pull over at the same stops and stare in wonder.

Unfortunately, the crowds also mean that spontaneity is a bit tough...so our spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Hearst Castle was tough to arrange. But a little extra Friday-evening web searching and hotel calling set us up for a memorable Saturday/Sunday drive.

Our Route took us south along Route 1, through Carmel and Big Sur to Cambria. There was plenty of rocky vistas, EXTRA blue water, and the occasional fog for dramatic effect.

I did snap a few playful driving shots. Fun with smoke (well...fog) and mirrors I say :)

As we approached San Simeon, we turned off into the always-popular Elephant Seal wildlife area. This time of year, its the older males that are hanging out and doing a lot of male bonding. In other words, they sleep mostly, and wake up to bump chests and wrestle in the water.

There was a lot of other critter activity as well...especially at the vistas where people ignore the Do Not Feed the Animals signs. (OK, the cute kitty was at the plant nursery we visited.)

Our main destination was Hearst Castle in San Simeon, a glorious tribute to grand European hill-top mansions with a healthy dosage of ego thrown. We took Tours 3 and 4 this trip, but you will see many of the same views as our last visit :) Hearst Castle NEVER disappoints.

Our furthest point south was Cambria, where we stayed the night at the comfy Pelican Cove Inn, which is situated along Moonstone Beach. We had a wonderful seafood dinner, and some relaxing walks along the shore as the fog rolled in.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Busy signal...

Just as quickly as Jeff and I erase messages on our answering machine, the telemarketers fill it back up with hang-ups. Its almost as if we keep our landline just to keep the telemarketers busy while we use our cell phones for people we like.

Virginia quickie...

After my comical flight east with the tickling siblings, the rest of my two-day trip to Northern Virginia seemed rather...normal. A normal (but nice) room at the Reston Hyatt. A normal (but productive) set of meetings. A normal (but ALWAYS fun) series of meals and adult beverages with my east coast colleagues. A normal (but full) flight home.

Still, nothing beats arriving home to freshly ordered Chinese food from Eric's...our favorite...and snuggling to warm up from a normal foggy SF night. Perfect.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The payline is less than one minute...

FYI, the kids next to me were separated while the plane was pushing back from the gate...so I spent much of the flight passing food back and forth between the grandparents. Otherwise, an uneventful trip.

Odd timing...

I was sitting on the plane this morning, waiting for the doors to close for my flight to Dulles, when a text message arrived from United. My response:

"Dear United. Thank you so much for alerting me to my 30-minute delay AFTER I boarded my flight. Funny thing...the Captain told us it was a 45-minute delay. You may wish to speak with him. "

In a related issue...anyone wanna take bets on whether the two kids [approx. 5 and 3] sitting next to me can sit calmly for 5 hours? (Hint: the tickling has already started.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pictures on hold...

Jeff, Matthew, and I took off for the weekend...driving south to Hearst Castle in San Simeon. We just returned this evening, and I'm a bit sleepy...so our tales (and more photos) will have to wait until later in the week.

Suffice it to say...it was an amazingly beautiful weekend along California's central coast. Every pulloff was another picture-perfect postcard.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Taste of the Northwest...

A theme developed during my two days in Seattle...food. It began the night I arrived, when my buddy Jeff took me to a hip new wine bar in Belltown called The Local Vine. We shared a couple of pasta-based small plates that paired quite nicely with our yummy pinot noir. Small plates being...well...small...we did need a tiny bit more food afterwards. So, we grabbed a couple of slices from Pagliacci in Queen Anne.

Wednesday morning began with a scrumptious latte at Uptown Espresso...famous for the "velvet foam". Its a tall claim...and they sure do deliver. The foam seemed to counteract the rain on my short walk from the Edgewater to Pier 70.

So, at that point...the trip REALLY turned foodie.

The primary purpose for my visit was to meet with some new folks on my team. I quickly discovered that this group knows how to eat...from fancy to hole-in-the wall...and we filled up my future to-try list with an amazing array of restaurants.

For lunch, we visited Troiani, a simple Italian grill downtown which served up a hearty risotto laced with Dungeness crab. On the way back to the office, we grabbed an amazing after-lunch latte at Belle Epicurean ("Seattle's premiere patisserie"). As full as I was from lunch, I was VERY tempted by the sights and smells of freshly toasted sandwiches made from their famous brioche. Reluctantly, I resisted, since dinner was on the near horizon...a hearty seafood feast at the Waterfront Seafood Grille. After dinner, my team and I walked SLOWLY along the waterfront, and stopped into the hip Six-Seven lounge at the Edgewater Hotel for a pint of Manny's Pale Ale--a really fine local beer.

Nothing at all to complain about :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

E-4500-2079 to you too...

For all the advances in Internet technology, nothing has replaced the good ole cryptic 'screw you' error message...like 'E-4500-2079' which I'm sure is French for 'kiss my a**'. Anyhow...in an open letter to United, I write:

Dear United. I am sorry that you are "unable to retrieve fare information at this time." Can you please tell me when it would be convenient with you to sell me a ticket on your over-crowded planes with nutrient-rich snack boxes.
So, lest you think that I'm bitter this morning, or that the morning drizzle on my latte walk this morning (covered by the fictitious "umbrella in every guest room") has gotten me sour, let me share a pretty view from my room last night as the sun peeked through before setting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gray skies in Seattle...

I flew up to Seattle this morning for some meetings. I'm staying at the Edgewater Hotel, where I stayed back in October. Normally, I'm a Hilton guy when I'm in Seattle, but something is going on in Seattle, and every normal place I tried was sold out. (Still, its hardly like the Edgewater is settling!)

My compulsory window/balcony shot reveals a grand waterfront view...on a very gray day. Soooo, nothing POPS in this photo. Maybe tomorrow, I'll awake to a more representative scene.

Morning giggle...

It amuses me when I overhear a typical, white-bread customer at Starbucks (or Peets as the case was this morning) pronounce 'cafe latte' with an Italian accent.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Make this recipe...

After a long day, I was looking for a simple, but yummy dish for dinner. I found this recipe for cilantro-grilled shrimp on the Martha Stewart website. The key to this dish is a very easy to make Asian cilantro sauce, which has a very rich flavor with only a few ingredients. Fresh cilantro and sesame oil are the prime flavors, plus a little adjustable heat from crushed red pepper. I heartily recommend this recipe. [Note: I served this over brown rice verses the 'sesame cabbage'.]

Buffalos in the mist...

This morning, Jeff, Matt, Chris, and I walked a 10K route through Golden Gate Park for the annual San Francisco AIDS Walk. The route was shrouded in a muggy coastal fog with nary a breeze for most of the walk. Quite unusal, really, since our fog is typically acompanied by pleasant offshose winds that keep our air fresh.

Still, in spite of the uncomfortable stuffiness, we did have a fun walk, broken up periodically by musical entertainment...and the famous, out-of-place buffalo paddock. The stand-out entertainer was a one-woman steel drum performance. When we passed this brave woman, she was enthusiastically banging out the song 'Tequila' (of Pee-Wee Herman fame). Each time the lyric tequila came around in the song, this tiny, stright-laced performer would belt it out with great enthusaism. (I think I caught the 'eeee' in te-queeeeeee-la in the photo below.)

I actually didn't snap many shots today, but this odd stranger sitting on top of a tree certainly caught my eye!

After the AIDS Walk, we drove up to Sausalito for brunch. As we returned to the city, the fog was playing with the Golden Gate Bridge, so we drove up into the Marin Headlands for a perfect vista.