28 June 2012

"Heading Out West With My Headphones On"

Sorry for the lack in posting.  I just returned to the wonderful (and hot) Hawkeye State last night around midnight.  [Thanks for the late-night airport pick-up caboose!] Six days  in southern California, enjoying as much of San Diego as I could squeeze in.  Here's a run-down of the highlights of the trip:
The weather there was a consistent high of 70-72 every day and very sunny.  The sun seems more intense there (closer to the equator maybe?) so it was still plenty warm, at least until the sun went down, then it cooled off quickly.  I was glad I had decided that the one thing I would buy for myself out there was a pair of sunglasses since as soon as I exited the airport my eyes tightened up into a squint and as I walked down the sidewalk, I realized I was the only person in the city who was not wearing sunglasses, kids, adults, babies, homeless people all included.  So after checking into my hotel, I headed out to find a place to catch part of the Euro game.  Walking would be the main theme of this entire vacation.  I've walked more in six days than probably that past few months combined.  My ankles and a bottoms of my feet are still recovering.  Anyways, I find a place called Nunu's that is advertising multiple HD TV's so I duck in and it is so dark inside, and so bright outside, that I am momentarily completely in the dark.  So I just have to stand there for a minute inside the door, waiting for my eyes to adjust.  It's like 1 in the afternoon and only a few people in a bar that looks like something out of the 70's.  Vinyl booths, lighting from another age and a bartender that wasn't thrilled about changing one of the TV's from baseball to 'that other football.'  Undaunted, I enjoyed myself and watched until Germany had it in the bag and then I headed out to find some sunglasses.  I found a pair of Kenneth Cole's on the "bargain" rack (compared to the $320 Nike's and $180 Columbia's that I was looking at) that I was very happy with and I slipped them on, stepped out onto the street and instantly felt that I now fit in.
My first food destination was Mama's Testa Taqueria.  I had found it on the FoodNetwork website, Bobby Flay had challenged chef Cesar Gonzalez to a fish taco throwdown (and lost.)  There wasn't any question in what I was going to order.  The fish tacos were fantastic.  And the salsa bar was like something out of a dream.  So many fun variations to try out.  I sampled La Escalera (tomatillo + morita), El Valiente (tomatillo + tomato), La Carreta (tomato + jalapeno), La Luna (chile de Arbol + sesame seed).  La Luna was my top pick, smoky, hot with nice twist of sesame flavor.  High marks to this place and I was happy to have a full belly for another long walk back towards my hotel, this time making my way through Balboa Park.  (Saw a peregrine falcon along the way.) The massive park sits just south of the zoo and has some wonderful architecture on its museums, public lawn bowling fields, horseshoe pits, archery range, a dog park, and manicured gardens.  It was great to wander around and watch all the people out enjoying some recreation.  After a little resting back at the hotel, I did a little exploring around the Little Italy area, enjoyed a nice lamb shawarma at the Kebab House and then called it an early night, the two hour difference and the 7+ miles of walking took it out of me.
Saturday I navigated the trolley and the bus to make my way up to Pacific Beach, a gorgeous stretch of beach next to a fun surfer neighborhood.  Lots of surf shops, beach gear, burrito houses, bars, organic food places, head shops, longboard and bike shops, etc.  There was a surf contest going on at the beach and it looked like a scene straight out of Blue Crush.  I took a long walk to get to Rocky's Crown Pub, a recommendation from a facebook friend and it was worth it.  The place was a small bar that turned out some delicious burgers and I watched the Spain vs France match.  I shared a table with a couple in their 50's who had a house in PB, but lived out "in the desert" running a farm that raised all sorts of produce.  We had a great time talking about farming, food, and education.  Finishing up, I walked back to the beach and found a nice spot of sand to stake a claim to for a couple hours.  Only 70 degrees but the sun made it completely comfortable.  [Saw several brown pelicans here] When I had to pack up (this kid can only take so much sun without frying) I stopped at Old Town on the way home.  Not really impressed, it seemed like a southwestern version of Silver Dollar City.  That evening, the first of the rest of the Des Moines group got into town so we met up for dinner and I had a good dish of Tree Hugger Mac & Cheese.  Lots of veggies.  Logged another 7 miles.
Sunday started with mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral, a beautiful structure, amazing stained glass and a good homily to celebrate the nativity of John.  Made my way down to the waterfront and spent the morning checking out the ships at the Maritime Museum, including the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier in service from 1945-1992.  It was so incredibly huge to see up close.  I couldn't wrap my mind around the physics that keep it afloat, upright and get it moving forward.  There was also the Star of India, oldest sailing ship that still goes on the ocean, a Soviet B-39 submarine and the USS Dolphin, the still-active deepest diving submarine.  I enjoyed a fresh seafood lunch and an incredible view at the Fish Market, including Black Gill Rockfish, cherry tomatoes with basil, cole slaw and an oyster shot.  Walked along the seafront, found a place to watch Italy beat England on penalty kicks, met up with rest of the Des Moines contingent, got registered walked back and checked into the W hotel and caught a little rest before repeating the walking along the seafront, this time with co-workers.  The W was SO nice.  It was a level of luxury I am not used to, but greatly enjoyed.  Walking total = 8+ miles.
The conference started on Monday and it consumed most of my days from there on out and I'll summarize my highlights from that in another post.  I did enjoy some great sushi at Ra, and we took a ferry over to Coronado on Tuesday night to check out the beach, hotel and have a delicious meal of fresh pasta.
It was a nice mix of business and pleasure, and there was ideal weather for it the entire time.  Lots to catch up on now that I'm back, but it is also nice to be home.   Pictures are uploaded in this set.
[and the post title is from this great new John Mayer song "Queen of California"]

21 June 2012

Lebron Reads

Anytime a celeb publicly models a love of reading and illustrates lifelong learning, it is a good thing.  When that celeb is the most famous professional basketball player around who appeals especially to a key demographic of adolescent male urban kids, it is fantastic.  And I love his reasons for doing it, to minimize his time spent on social media and watching TV. 
Whether you like him or not, this story should be enjoyed. 
Plus, even though I've been cheering for OKC, you can not argue with how he has been playing in the Finals. 

Euro2012 Update

The group stage is complete.  I got to watch about half of the games and there were some good ones!  Not a single 0-0 tie!  While I enjoyed seeing all these teams and stars play, I did not, unfortunately, get to cheer my favorite teams to wins.  If I was asked before the tournament who I would be supporting, I would've probably listed them as follows, in order:
Republic of Ireland
Only France is still around for the quarterfinals.  Eight teams went home and I picked 5 of them. :(  Oh well, now it is time to regroup and start following the knockout games, which start this afternoon!

Best goals so far:
Andy Carrol's muscling header off of Steven Gerrard's sublime pass (England vs Sweden)
Mario Balotelli's overhead strike on a corner while holding off John O'Shea (Italy vs Ireland)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's wicked side-volley (Sweden vs France)
Danny Welbeck's incredible and creative spinning backheel (England vs Sweden)

16 June 2012

It's a Good World

A good college friend had this Coca-Cola commercial on their Facebook wall this morning and got a little watery-eyed watching it.  There are so many great clips and they come so fast.  I had to rewatch it a few times.  I love the guys in the "attacks of friendship" part.  And the getting the sofa across the street.  And the potato chip dealer.  And the peace graffiti.
Seriously, it's great, watch it.

14 June 2012

Broccoli at the Supreme Court

The article is interesting but I just thought this picture was too good not to share.  That is the U.S. Supreme Court behind him. 

Jimmy Fallon, the Roots & Carly Ray Jepsen

I was not a fan of this song when I first heard it.  I won't lie that she is a cute girl with a great sounding voice, but I just didn't take to it.   ...Until a teacher showed me this version with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots joining her and playing classroom instruments.  It is fantastic.  Better than the Harvard baseball version.
[Follow-up:  This version by the President is hilarious and fantastic.]

13 June 2012

"My Girl" - Jorge y Alexa

I like that he changed the second chorus to "My Girls."  And Alexa is adorable with a missing tooth.  Plus I love oldies!  "My Girl" cover video.

Father Pierson

If you have a few minutes (10) and are interested in gay marriage or the Catholic Church's view on it, this video is definitely worth watching.  Openly gay  Catholic priest, Father Pierson O.S.B., from St. John's Minnesota spoke out on the Church's pushing its view on how to vote on the Minnesota amendment to prevent same sex marriages.

12 June 2012

Texas Trip

Took a quick trip down to Dallas over the weekend and here are a few of the highlights...
  • Made it back to North Main BBQ over in Euless. All the food was good but the ribs were out of sight.  The buffet was awesome for sampling a little of everything in one visit, but dangerous since you can eat as much as you want.  My stomach was near the bursting point by the time we left.  As I was writing this, I saw that Ted Allen chose the ribs here on Food Network "Best Thing I Ever Ate: BBQ" episode AND saw it is BYOB, in case tea (sweet & unsweet) isn't your thing.
  • Flew first class both ways and realized that drinks were complimentary on the flight home.  Those first-class folks do have it pretty nice, boarding first, served water while the rest of the plane boards, ample leg and elbow room, they took my drink order before we even left the ground, she checked back with me to see how my gin & tonic was, and first off the plane too.  Better not get used to it since I probably won't ever afford it.
  • Checked out Dealey Plaza, the Grassy Knoll and the JFK Museum again.  Standing there on the curb is so
  • I'd been to the Old West Cafe for breakfast before, but this time I ordered a lemon pancake for the table to try and it was fantastic.  Plus eating a quarter of it was just the right amount.
  • I saw a couple hummingbirds (black-chinned, I think) and also saw, and heard, lots of great-tailed grackles.  They were in a lot of parking lots and I couldn't believe how loud they were and how crazy their noises were! Give 'em a listen here and here.  I read that they can gather in group of up to half a million in the sugar cane fields in Texas.

11 June 2012

Green Flush

This is such a simple and common sense idea, I can't believe I haven't seen it before.  This is the toilet at Chipotle, where I went for lunch today.  There are two flushing options, the green button that uses a small amount of water and the silver one that gives a bigger, longer flush.  (I only needed the green one, don't worry.)
The only odd thing was that there was motion sensor and it auto-flushed, so I didn't get the chance to choose a button.  Get that little wrinkle fixed and this will be a super improvement.  Saving the planet (and their water bill) one flush at a time.

08 June 2012

Let the Games Begin!

The games kickoff later this morning and I can't wait.  Although the games today (Group A) aren't super exciting to me, I am still eager for things to get going.
ESPN has a couple fantasy options for EURO12 and I'm pasting my picks here. One is a bracket predictor and I have to say that I didn't get too crazy with my picks.  I, obviously, picked Ireland to squeeze through.  Their group is tough, Italy, Croatia and Spain are all more than solid.  I also picked England to not make it out of the group stage and only partly because I don't care for the Brits.  More so due to the injury concerns and team friction.
The other game is a fantasy roster and you can see my choices below.  3 Irishmen, 3 Frenchies, 3 Dutch, a German and a Czech.
 All games are on ESPN and ESPN3, 11am and 1:45pm.  Lemme here who you are backing!

06 June 2012

The Register Builds a Wall

The fact the the Des Moines Register has instituted a pay-wall is something that I find totally hilarious.  Their website has long been a example of how-not to build a news site.  Pop-up ads.  Constantly asking for age/sex info.  Ridiculously cluttered pages.  Advertisements are often the focal point of a page.  A search tool that is pretty much useless.  Archives that are unreachable.  A site structure that would baffle most people.  And that is without getting into the low current journalism standards of the once mighty and respected paper.  The initiation of the pay-wall (another disappointing move by parent corporation Gannett) just coincidentally was rolled out at the same time as the unveiling of the Nancy Sebring stories, their marquee scoop of the year. 
I do understand that news agencies are struggling financially with the increasingly digitally-based consumption model.  They probably should have started charging years ago.  And if the journalism was worth it, I would definitely consider paying for it.  I subscribed to the NY Times for a year or so because I thought that the content was worth it. Anyways, the idea that I would pay $10 a month to read their stories online is laughable.  It may actually lead to me reading the physical paper copy more now, I actually don't mind its layout nearly as much. 

04 June 2012

A Letter from the Brig

A Letter from the Brig (#0282) by regan76
A Letter from the Brig (#0282), a photo by regan76 on Flickr.
How totally sweet is this address job?

02 June 2012

Dam to Dam '12

4:40 am - Get out of bed.  I had a really crappy night of sleep due to some nerves and uncertainty so I was actually out of bed before my alarm went off.
5:00 am - Dressed, bag packed,  Gatorade made, toast toasted, I left the house and headed downtown.
5:27 am - After parking in the Nationwide ramp (and some unsettling flashbacks while doing so) I hopped right onto a bus.
5:52 am - Step off the bus and begin wasting some time and trying to stay warm (upper 50's at the start).  Used this time to decided whether to wear my headphones or not.  Put them on, took them off, put them back on.  Dropped my gear at the bag drop.
6:34 am - Took a final pee behind a tree and started the long walk across the dam to the starting area.
7:00 am - Gun time.
Mile 3 - put in my headphones and turned on the music.
Mile 5 - poured most of a cup of water on my headphones and iPod shuffle.
Mile 6.2 - Sucked down my energy gel.
Mile 7 - headphones begin cutting out.
Mile 9 - turned off music, started praying Rosary.
Mile 11 - tried to return to the music but found iPod to be dead.
Mile 12 - ran past the Isiserettes and powered into the finish chute.

I felt pretty great for most of the race, especially the first half.  Those first ~7-8 miles were great, partially overcast and not hot.  This was my first D2D running by myself so I wasn't really sure how to run it.  I worked my way up to the 8 minute split sign at the start and that helped a lot with congestion (was able to cut almost a minute off last year just by this alone) and I found two or three good runners over the course that I just fell in behind and paced off of them for a while.  My split were not as consistent as last year, but I just told myself I was going to run whatever felt good and obviously I was feeling good a the beginning, the hill at mile 7 slowed things down a little, then I picked it up again for a couple miles before exhaustion brought me down a little.  I ran most of miles 2-5 on the sandy or grassy shoulder, trying to prevent foot fatigue from setting in during those last few miles and I do think it helped some.  I got a great high 5 from caboose at mile 8 and a high five from Forey Jacobson around mile 11. 
Splits: Mile 1= 9:05, 2= 7:42, 3= 8:08, 4= 8:22, 5= 8:13, 6= 8:18, 7= 8:30, 8&9= 16:29 (8:15's), 10= 8:33, 11= 8:39, 12= 8:39, 0.4= 3:24.   First half= 51:36. Last half= 52:23. Avg split= 8:22.  Total= 1:43:59
Finished 1072 of 3186 men (upper third!). 189 of 478 M35-39 (new age bracket this year!).

2010 results. 2011 results