Monday, December 25, 2006

Big Brewing Weekend

This weekend I finally managed to do some long overdue brewing. I brewed a British ESB on Saturday and a Belgian Dubbel today.

Tire Biter Bitter

Amount Item Type % or IBU
8 lbs Maris Otter (Crisp) (4.0 SRM) Grain 86.5 %
1 lbs Amber (Crisp) (27.5 SRM) Grain 10.8 %
4.0 oz Pale Crystal Malt (45.0 SRM) Grain 2.7 %
1.00 oz Northdown [8.50%] (90 min) Hops 41.9 IBU
0.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00%] (30 min) Hops 8.8 IBU
0.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00%] (5 min) Hops 2.3 IBU
1 Pkgs British Ale (White Labs #WLP005) Yeast-Ale

Estimated IBU: 53.0 IBU

Two Bits Abbey Dubbel

Amount Item Type % or IBU
8 lbs Pale Ale (Crisp) (4.0 SRM) Grain 58.2 %
3 lbs Munich (Dingemans) (5.5 SRM) Grain 21.8 %
1 lbs Crystal - Medium-dark? (75.0 SRM) Grain 7.3 %
8.0 oz Aroma Malt (Dingemans) (19.0 SRM) Grain 3.6 %
1.25 oz Northern Brewer [8.50%] (90 min) Hops 39.3 IBU
1 lbs 4.0 oz Piloncillo (10.0 SRM) Sugar 9.1 %
1 Pkgs Abbey Ale (White Labs #WLP530) Yeast-Ale
Estimated IBU: 39.3 IBU

I've really started to feel comfortable with the brewing tasks and brew day, so I can multitask while mashing and boiling. I still spend 5 - 6 hours per batch, but its going to be worth it.

Steph bought me the Tap-A-Draft system from More Beer, so I'll be bottling the ESB in a week or so and drinking it a few days later. The dubbel is going to take some time to mature, so I don't expect to drink it until at least March.

Up next is a Belgian strong dark ale that I found in this post from Uncle Fester I'm going to rack it on to the yeast cake from the dubbel after secondary, saving myself from having to make a starter. Not that I mind making a starter, its been great for getting vigorous fermentation right from the start with my previous efforts. However, I'm ready to take it to the next level and reuse my yeast to make each batch a little less expensive.

I've gone back to drink some of the beers I made earlier in the year and haven't tried in a month, or more. The dunkelweisen are now overcarbonated and explode everywhere! The oaked porter has mellowed nicely and gets better with age. Next time, I need to use less oak chips and soak them in bourbon! The pumpkin porter is also mellowing nicely, I'll have plenty left for next year! Finally, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Squared is nice, but not hoppy enough. However, at 9.6% ABV, it is very smooth and easy to drink. This will knock you on your ass! (Right, James?)

Networking issues... I'm an idiot!

So, the networking problems were of my own making. Oftentimes I reorganize applications from /Applications to subdirectories, such as /Applications/Utilities. I did this with the System Preferences application. The app was also in my dock.

So when I copied over my apps, preferences, etc. from my old PowerBook to the new MacBook, over came the old System Preferences application too! I didn't know I had even done it or even consider that an option! My best guess is that the PPC version of the app didn't like running on the Intel MacBook. Anyway, I figured this out halfway through a complete reinstall of OS X
and copying all my data from the old laptop over to the new one.

Time wasted? At least 4 hours.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

New MacBook

I finally broke down and bought myself a new sleek, black MacBook. Yay! It showed up yesterday and after installing some RAM and applications, its showing what a powerful beast it really is. I am ripping a DVD — for archival purposes only — usng HandBrake. On my 1GHz 12" Powerbook this would take 4 - 7 hours. HandBrake is reporting that it will complete the task in ~45 min! Woohoo!

Looking forward to installing Parallels and playing with VM images tomorrow... perhaps. In the meantime, there is a problem with the Ethernet networking which may cause me to reinstall everything from scratch. That may be tomorrow's task du jour, if I can't find another solution tonight.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hike For Discovery 2007

I have been accepted as a mentor for the Hike For Discovery program's 2007 summer season. Not many details yet, but we'll be hiking in Yosemite this year. I guess its time to start planning Drink for Discovery II!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

WSJ Article

Here you go...

I'm stuck in SEA waiting for the red eye back home. Its going to be at least an hour late leaving SEA for ATL. I've been up since 5:20 AM, so waiting any longer (its 11 PM now, we won't be leaving until 12 AM or so...) is really testing my patience...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Quoted in the Wall Street Journal


I was quoted in the WSJ today! A reporter contacted me based on this post about Mary Chocolatier in Brussels. The article came out today and I'll put up a copy as soon as I get a PDF online. That may be a day or two, since I'm currently waiting for a red-eye flight from SEA to ATL...

(Normally I'd link to the article online, but the WSJ extracts a ransom from web users to see articles... bastards.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Baja Trip Report

ATV Tour
Migriño, BCS

November 5, 2006

We have an early flight to Salt Lake City before heading to Los Cabos. 4:45 A.M. and we're getting out of bed. Its fucking early. And I'm not feeling great this morning. Its going to be a long flight.

I'm sick with a head cold all the way to Los Cabos. I manage to grab some Dayquil in SLC which helps, but not much. I've run out of tissues and my handkerchief is soaked through and through. Isn't vacation fun!?

When we arrive in the San Jose del Cabo airport we pass through customs and immigration. Immediately after customs we are welcomed to Mexico. "¡Bienvenidos á México! How can I screw you with transportation to your hotel, señor?" We are instantly mobbed by people hawking all kinds of transportation options who tell us if we don't travel with them, we won't be able to get to our hotel. I have never felt so pressured into taking some kind of bus in my life! The cost is $24 for the two of us, I give the lady $25 and she gives me a ticket, but no change. When I ask for my dollar, she asks me if I think she is trying to steal from me? Do I think a dollar really makes a difference to her?

ATV Tour
Migriño, BCS
Yes, puta, I do think you're stealing from me. I want my dollar. We get our change and head to the hotel. This airport is fucked.

We arrive at the Hilton los Cabos and are welcomed by the staff. They explain to us that we don't need to go check in at the counter, instead they take us to the bar for a margarita. Dayquil plus liquor? ¡Claro! They bring us our check-in materials and show us to the room. The hotel is very nice and we have an ocean view room right above the pool. More Dayquil, down the hatch.

Its at this moment that I realize I haven't packed a bathing suit. Oops. I throw on some shorts and we head down to the pool. After a quick swim we went to the pool bar — in the pool — for another drink. I remind Steph that people who sit in the pool at the bar and drink all day don't just have freakishly large bladders.

Welcome to our ool. Notice there is no "p" in our ool. Let's keep it that way.

Since I'm still feeling a bit like death warmed over we decide to take a shower and head out to dinner. We head over to San Jose del Cabo, one of the two major towns that make up Los Cabos. I ask the bellman where to go for dinner, he suggests a place we found in Lonely Planet Baja called El Ahorchado (The Hangman). So we take a cab to the center of town to look around and then decide to walk to the restaurant. Downtown is absolutely deserted on a Sunday night, except for the guys trying to sell us a timeshare. Por favor, no me moleste, pendejo. I don't want your timeshare.

We start walking to El Ahorcado with directions from one of the timeshare guys. Why are we the only gringos out here? After 20 minutes or so we finally get to the restaurant and sit down for dinner. El Ahorcado is a taqueria frequented mostly by locals. You sit down at a table with a few bowls of different salsas, pickled vegetables like carrots, potatoes and red onions and some lime & cilantro. The menu is mostly tacos of all sorts with some quesadillas and queso fundido. We order some queso fundido, tacos and two quesadiallas, one each with squash blossoms and huitlacoche (corn mushroom a.k.a. corn smut a.k.a. Ustilago maydis for the genetics nerds among us). The food is amazing! For less than $20 we leave fat and happy. We'll be back! This was one of the places mentioned in the Lonely Planet guidebook, and definitely a hit.

Tropic of Cancer
Off to bed very early...

November 6, 2006

Good Morning, México!

We wake up early and catch the sunrise on the balcony with a hot cup of coffee before heading down to breakfast. Since I stay with Hilton hotels so much we're entitled to a free continental breakfast every day. A darn good thing, considering its $15/person! We find out that it includes not just the usual bread, fruit, juice and coffee but also smoked salmon and smoked marlin, yogurt, meats and cheeses. We can eat well and eat healthy for breakfast, what a deal.

After breakfast we pick up our rental car in the hotel rental office. Its a brand new Chevy Malibu with only 150 Km on the odometer — that's just under 100 miles for the metric challenged among us. Having driven in Mexico before I recall that Mexican drivers are fast and absolutely crazy, so we coin the phrase "When in Mexico, drive like a Mexican". And I did! The speed limit is 60 - 70 Km/hr (~40 - 45 MPH), but we're doing 100 - 120 Km/hr (64 - 75 MPH) over to the Mega, a local store like a Super Target, for some provisions. Tequila, margarita mix, beer, snacks and a bathing suit are all we need for now, so we head back to the hotel and down to the pool with drinks in hand. Why pay $10 for a margarita at the bar when I can spend $20 on a bottle of tequila and margarita mix and make my own?

Icecream Vendor
La Paz, BCS
The pool is gorgeous, its an infinity pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the perfect place to do some reading in the sun. After a few hours we head back to the room...

What the hell? Why does our room smell like a sewer?!

The maintenance man comes up with a bottle of Lysol to clear the air. The hotel sends up a bellman and tells us we have a new room waiting for us. Hopefully it doesn't smell like mi culo. Before we can get settled in we need to change and meet our bus to head to Migriño for an ATV tour along the Pacific beaches. Our driver picks up another couple at a hotel in Cabo San Lucas on the way. They own Ripple Run, a hotel in the Pacific Northwest, and proceed to tell us how much better it is in Oregon. If its better there, why didn't you stay, pray tell? Apparently they never travel on the same flight so they don't die together if the plane goes down. Freaks. I happen to be reading Freakanomics on this trip and the book discusses just this kind of misunderstanding of risks. They perceive a high risk in dying on a flight, but they stand a better chance of dying while driving — especially in Mexico! However, since they drive all the time and are in control of the car, they perceive the risk to be lower, even though the statistics show otherwise. Fools.

At Migriño, we meet our guide and get an introduction to riding an ATV. We decided to share an ATV with me driving and Steph holding on for dear life. The guide takes us up through the hills and then down to the beach where we're set free for 45 minutes to tear it up and go wherever we want. The first thing we both notice is the trash strewn along the trails and beach. Its unfortunate, but the environment is not well cared for in Mexico outside of the major tourist areas. We have an absolute blast down on the beach and dunes before heading back to the top of one of the hills nearby to watch the sunset over the Pacific. I highly recommend using Baja's for a fun afternoon!

The Road to
La Candelaria, BCS
We get back to the hotel, make a quick run to San Jose del Cabo for dinner — more time share hawkers! — and back to bed. This room sure is noisy...

November 7, 2006

Neither of us slept well last night. The location of the new room is very close to the lobby and stairs down to the pool, beach, etc. It was extremely noisy and woke us up multiple times through the night. Before breakfast we talk to the front desk and ask them to find us a quieter room.

Before hitting the road, we needed a good meal to get us going. So we headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. After finishing our meal we get a bill for almost $50! We ask the waiter why we received such a large bill and he explained that we at the buffet, not the continental breakfast. So we engage the manager who explains that the continental breakfast does not include the meats, cheeses, yogurt, etc. that we were explained were part of the deal yesterday. The manager continued to explain that we are not allowed to go to the continental breakfast buffet and take our own food, we need a waiter to bring us the food that we want. WTF?

Today is our first day on the road. We drove up Mexico 1 on the eastern side of the Baja to La Paz (see the map). We made a few stops along the way including the Tropic of Cancer, marked with a large shrine the the Virgin of Guadelupe and in a small town called El Triunfo to check out some local art. It was all crap, unfortunately. The guide book called the art colorful baskets made from reeds. Instead, the baskets are the color of the natural reeds and not of very high quality. Bummer. This is the first of many inaccurate entries in the Lonely Planet guidebook.

Heading north through the mountains the road is twisty and Steph was looking a little green from car sickness. She swears it's not my driving. I don't believe her.

La Candelaria, BCS
We arrive in La Paz just before lunch and head down to the oceanfront called the malecón where we walked around and found some lunch. We had hoped to do some sightseeing and shopping here, but there wasn't much going on. Instead we headed inland where we went to a small potter's shop called Ibarra where they make some traditional pottery that is only sold there in the factory. We bought a few small pieces and headed across town to a weaver's cooperative where we hoped to buy some tapestries for the house. All of the good stuff was imported from Teotítlan del Valle in Oaxaca, hundreds of miles away on the mainland! I was there years ago and I'm more sure than ever that we need to go back to Oaxaca some day to buy some woven rugs. Needless to say we didn't buy anything! Yet more bad info from the guidebook.

La Paz was very hot, so we found an icecream shop along the malecón where we tried a few flavors. First I checked out elote flavor. Imagine this: corn icecream! It tasted like corn! A bit odd for me! I settled on a pineapple and coconut icecream — think piña colada — and Steph had nanche icecream. What's a nanche (caution, poorly translated Spanish Wikipedia link!) you ask? We had no idea, but it was good! Turns out its a tropical fruit that is common in the Baja. Who knew?

Back on the road we drove south on Mexico 19, heading down the western side of the Baja. We decided to make the entire loop around the southern Baja in a counterclockwise direction on this day, plus Mexico 19 is a lot nicer road than Mexico 1. Our next stop was Todos Santos, a small community with a large number of artists, including some Americans. Since we got into town late, we didn't get to see a lot of art, but we did find some gorgeous locally made pottery in one shop. We also ran across an eco-tour company named Todos Santos Eco Adventures. After speaking to some people in town we decided to take a guided hike along the ocean cliffs which we scheduled for Friday morning.

One of the shopkeepers told us about a great hotel al ong the ocean just to the west of town. Posada la Poza is a gorgeous, small hotel in the most unlikely place at the end of a rutted dirt road. Getting here in our Chevy Malibu was interesting. I read the warning pasted on the windshield that the car was meant for on-road use only, off-road usage is not covered by the car's insurance. Oops. Posada la Poza is absolutely stunning! We sat on the whale watching deck and had a margarita as the sun splashed. If you ever find yourself in Baja, you owe it to yourself to spend some time in Todos Santos and spend a night, or more, in Posada la Poza.

Back on the road, we do a death defying drive back to our hotel under the cover of darkness. I think driving at night down here is absolutely nuts. I don't think it was the best choice for us due to the crazy roads and even crazier drivers.

Speaking of Mexican roads...

Every time I have been in Mexico I noted that many major roads — not interstates like we have in the US, but major "country" roads that connect cities and towns — head right through the center of town. This means that all traffic heads right through the middle of the town, including locals, tourists and all of the truck traffic. Unfortunately, many of these towns have no stop signs or traffic lights. What they do have is speedbumps, and lots of them! So if you see the words "Tope Aquí" on a sign by the side of the road, SLOW DOWN. Otherwise, your Chevy Malibu might wind up airborne. Also, watch for "Reductor de Velocidad", same shit, different pile.

We get back to the hotel and change rooms to a junior suite at the far end of the hotel, away from all the noise of the previous room. Unfortunately, the maid has decided to throw away a number of papers we had in the room (receipts, etc.), some of which we needed. The front desk manager was embarrassed and sent us a bottle of wine and dessert to make up for it. Nice touch!

November 8, 2006

Today is the designated pool day. I was up at 5:45 AM, head down to the pool and stake out a bed poolside for the remainder of the day...

Another morning, another breakfast at the hotel. After being seated, we're asked if we're going to have the buffet or continental breakfast. Of course, being cheap as we are, we want the continental breakfast. The waiter tells us where to go for the food... but wait! Yesterday we were told the waiter would get food for us. Steph goes off to talk to the manager and figure out what the deal is. The story has changed... again! We are allowed to get our own food (yay!) but we are limited to "fruit, juice, bread & coffee!". He so kindly spells it out for Steph with lots of hand gestures. Make up your mind, pendejo, and stick with it.

We spend the day poolside drinking margaritas and beers and sleeping under the canopy spread above the bed. This is the life...

Sunset on the beach
San Jose del Cabo, BCS
On a friend's recommendation we made dinner reservations at the Sea Grill at Las Ventanas, the swankiest resort in Los Cabos. We had an amazing 7-course tasting menu of Mexican foods from around the country as we sat right on the beach with the waves crashing nearby on a moonlit night. Unbelievable! As we ate our dinner they had a number of fire dancers performing an act on the beach. Hot bodies, lots of fire, dancing and drumming. This is the one moment I didn't have my camera that I really wish I did.

November 9, 2006

Today we're headed to La Candelaria, a small town about 20 miles outside of Cabo San Lucas in the mountains. The only way to get there is a dirt road using the directions we found in the Lonely Planet book. There is some locally made pottery from this small ranching village of less than 100 people which we read about and decide to check out. Perhaps we'll find some cool art or just have a good story to tell.

The directions to the road to La Candelaria are decent. The first challenge comes when we reach a three-way fork in the road. The book says to take the rightmost fork. We do and wind up on a dirt road through a small, poor suburb of Cabo San Lucas. After asking around for directions we figure out we're on the wrong road and manage to find the right road. It was the middle fork after all.

A short distance up this dirt road we pass a gate which is manned by an old gentleman who works for the ranchers. His job is to prevent poaching of the animals, so he lets two crazy Americans in a totally inappropriate car pass. We're on a dirt road... we keep driving. The directions make vague references to forks in the road where we have to turn, but our mile markers are now all out of whack because of our detour. We come to a fork in the road which looks right... so we take it. Wrong turn! We backtrack to Yonke Chinos, a junkyard out in the middle of nowhere. I ask for directions and get some half-assed directions which don't match the guidebook. Essentially, stay straight on this dirt road for 50 Km or more... sure, why not?!

Waves crashing on the beach
San Jose del Cabo, BCS
We drive for 20 min or so and see no landmarks. Are we lost? I flag down an oncoming SUV. He rolls down his window and I say, "Señor, puede ayudarme, por favor." (Mister, can you help me, please?). At this very moment I realize he's speaking perfect English to me and doesn't speak Spanish. He tells me we're on the right road in the wrong car and can't understand why we'd want to go to La Candelaria. We press on through some small towns and more stops to see if we're on the right path. It takes us almost 2 hours to go 20 miles, but finally we make it.

We find some locals and ask who has pottery for sale, they send us down a small rutted road to a old lady's home. Amongst clucking hens and a few goats we find her and she invites us into her ramshackle home. We take a seat and she pulls out some poor quality pottery with the prices marked in chalk on the side of each piece. Not exactly what I was looking for! However, we've come this far and disrupted this old woman, so we buy a small piece for 50 pesos (~$5). While $5 isn't a lot of money to you or I, $5 will make a difference in her life. We thank her for her hospitality and walk back up to town. After checking out another artists wares — conveniently made by someone else in another town — we declare this trip a bust and head home. The sign on the way out of La Candelaria says 22Km to Cabo San Lucas, the Lonely Planet guidebook tells you this is inaccurate and its really 27Km. Lonely Planet is wrong again. Its 22Km back to the paved roads on the outskirts of Cabo. We did finally manage to find some of the random landmarks (a fig tree in the arroyo with a small shrine, for instance, is only visible on the return trip!).

We make another trip to the Mega for some more tequila, another trip to El Ahorcado for dinner and then back to the hotel for the night. On the way home we got gas... and I got ripped off for $45 by the gas station attendant. I handed him a 500 peso bill, he handed me back a 50 peso bill and told me that I owed him 375 pesos. I apologized, handed him 500 pesos, got my change and left. Suddenly, I realized that I had just been screwed out of 450 pesos (~$45). Crap. Not a good way to end an otherwise good day.

November 10, 2006

Cliffs on the Pacific
South of Todos Santos,
We wake up very early for the drive to Todos Santos to meet our guide for the hike. After a hearty breakfast in Todos Santos we meet our guide, Mauricio and take a short drive down to one of the local fishing beaches for the start of the hike. We hiked up ~200m/660 feet and then headed along the cliffs and through the rocks as we made our way south. Mauricio was amazing, he knew most of the local flora and fauna and stopped to point them out along the way. We walked through the various cacti and scrub brush along the way. There's no real trail here, we blazed our own trail along the cliffs, past the old port and down to another beach where we had lunch under a palapa (thatched roof open air hut) on the beach. The hike itself was only ~4 miles, but it took us almost 4 hours due to the numerous stops we made along the way to take pictures and discuss the history of the area. November is the very beginning of the whale watching season, so we got lucky seeing a few humpback wales blowing water out of their blowholes off the coast.

On top of the world!
South of Todos Santos,
Though I didn't notice it until the next day, I had apparently stepped on one of the thorny bushes along the hike. Since I was wearing tennis shoes I didn't have very good protection from the thorns. I got lucky, a 2" thorn pierced the sole of my shoe and, thankfully, exited the sole on the outer edge, rather than inserting itself directly into my foot! Next time, I'm bringing hiking boots.

November 11, 2006

Its our last day! Time to pack up and go home. Looking back, it was a great trip. We had a ton of fun, despite some problems along the way. We drank... a LOT! Two bottles of tequila (700mL each), a six pack of beer, a bottle of wine... and that's just what we had in our hotel room!

South of Todos Santos,
Will we go back? Probably not to Los Cabos, but I'd definitely head back to Todos Santos again in the future.

One last item to note. We made it back to Atlanta safely and were getting ready to head through customs with our stuff. I reached for something in Steph's hand and we managed to drop the piece of pottery we had purchased in Todos Santos! Oh crap! Now its in pieces... Steph is trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but it will never be the same. Bummer.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Back From Baja California Sur, Mexico

The cliffs south of
Todos Santos, Mexico
We just returned from Mexico and I haven't had a chance to process many pictures yet, but here's one to whet your appetite. This is from a hike along the cliffs just south of Todos Santos, Mexico. On the Google map, we started hiking from the beach just south and west of the marker, where it forms a J shape. We hiked for about four hours to the next beach due south on the coast.

Watch out for the thorny plants & cacti! I found a ~2" spine from a woody plant stuck in my tennis shoe, it pierced the sole through and through! Thankfully, the business end of the spike came out the outside of the sole and not into my foot!

More to come soon...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It's the Great Pumpkin Porter, Charlie Brown!

Its been a while since I last brewed, about a month now, so I decided it was time to do something for Halloween. Its an Imperial Porter with pumpkin and spices called It's the Great Pumpkin Porter, Charlie Brown!

Inspired by a recipe at BYO for a chocolate porter along with some advice from BeerAdvocate I brewed this up today:

AmountItemType% or IBU
12 lbsPale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM)Grain83.5 %
1 lbsBiscuit (Dingemans) (22.5 SRM)Grain7.0 %
1 lbsChocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM)Grain7.0 %
4.0 ozCrystal Dark (80.0 SRM)Grain1.7 %
2.0 ozRoasted Barley (300.0 SRM)Grain0.9 %
1.00 ozChinook [11.90%] (60 min)Hops45.9 IBU
1.00 ozGoldings, B.C. [5.50%] (0 min)Hops -
0.11 ozCinnamon Stick (Boil 30.0 min)Misc
0.55 gmCloves (Secondary)Misc
1.10 ozGinger Root (Boil 15.0 min)Misc
1.65 gmMace (Boil 15.0 min)Misc
1.65 gmNutmeg (Ground) (Boil 15.0 min)Misc
2.00 gmMace (Secondary)Misc
3.00 gmGinger Root (Secondary)Misc
3.00 gmNutmeg (Ground) (Secondary)Misc
5.50 lbRoasted Pumpkin (Mash)Misc
6.00 gmCinnamon Stick (Secondary)Misc
8.00 ozMalto-Dextrine (Boil 5.0 min)Misc
1 PkgsDry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007)Yeast-Ale

So far it smeels and tastes great with a rich chocolatey body and a slight amount of spice and pumkin in the background. The color is black as night, perfect for a good Halloween party. I mixed up a starter 2 days ago and the yeast went into the carboy and started active fermentation within a few hours of picthing

Original Gravity is 1.075
Est. Final Gravity is 1.018
Est. ABV 7.3%

To celebrate the season, I whacked off the tip of my finger — well, most of the fingernail on my index finger of my left hand — while cutting up veggies for dinner. Blood everywhere. Yay.

Let me be the first to wish you a Happy Halloween.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


This morning as I was taking a shower I felt the room start to shake. I could see the shower door moving and felt the rumble in my feet and the shower wall next to me. As I finished my shower I asked Steph if she felt anything, she said no, but she was sitting on the bed at the time.

I didn't think anything of it until I saw this later in the day. I guess I'm not so crazy!

This is my second earthquake ever. The first was June 15, 1999 in Oaxaca, Mexico. I was sitting in a cafe in the zocalo (town square) when everything began to move. That was a 6.8 magnitude quake centered about 120 miles from where I was sitting. Scared the hell out of me!

I sure am glad I don't live in California...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

9/11 Wankfest

OK, CNN, ABC and all the other news outlets who are contributing to the 9/11 five year anniversary wankfest.

Enough of the terrorist porn.

I remember the day all too well. I don't need anyone providing me with reminders of what I watched on TV and on the net that day. First with my coworkers at Digital Insight and later with Steph. We had just started dating at the time and both retreated to my house when both of our employers let us leave work early. We sat there in stunned silence the entire day. The following night — my memory is hazy here, it may have been later in the week — we went down to Piedmont Park to light candles at the impromptu memorial set up above the large field.

I'm sure that every other, "terrist" hatin', red blooded American remembers the day all too well. In fact, I'd bet most of the modern world remembers what happened on 9/11 and doesn't need a blow-by-blow account of the events of that day. Or even a blow-by-blow account of events that never happened, except in the minds of neocons with nothing better to do than blame Clinton's dick for what happened that day.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Foundstone TV

Finally, the Foundstone videos from BlackHat are going online. Check out Foundstone TV with Chris Wysopal and Dinis Cruz.

Don't forget to digg it.

(Yeah, lame post. Sue me.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bark in the Park

Turner Field
Today was the first, and hopefully not last(!), Bark in the Park at Turner Field. Wag-A-Lot — Why wag a little, when you can Wag-A-Lot?! — was the sponsor. We take the "kids" there for doggie day-care and for boarding when we're on vacation. So when we received the invite a few weeks back, we figured it would be fun to have a day at Turner Field, watch the Braves and play with all the dogs.

We took the dogs for a long walk this morning on the new Whetstone Creek Trail, a part of the PATH Northwest Atlanta Trail system, which runs very close to our house. They were tired when we got home, so the plan was working. Wear them out before the game, otherwise, they'll wear us out at the game.

Braves Fans
The game was at 1:05 P.M., so we headed down to the stadium around noon. They had a special check-in for all Bark in the Park people and pets to receive our tickets. After entering the stadium we walked up the stairs to the Coke Pavillion nosebleed seats which were blocked off for our convenience. On the pavillion they had hoses lined up to hose down the dogs and keep them cool, a vet station, "ice-cream" treats for the dogs and many kiddie pools filled with ice water for cooling baths. There were dogs EVERYWHERE! Java and Lucy made quite a number of new canine friends as we sat in the stands and watched the Braves beat up on the Nationals. They also got to sniff all kinds of nasty stuff left behind in the bleachers from previous games. Ewwww.

Atlanta Skyline
Everyone had a good time with a lot of very well behaved animals. The only part of the day that sucked was the limited access to vendors to buy food and beer. I know I'm a beer snob — no, really, its true! — but the lack of anything other than American piss-water beers in the vicinity of our seats was a real bummer.

Speaking of beer... I bottled the dry Irish stout last night. Of course I had to do a taste test and it was GOOD! Nice roasted malt nose, rounded body with a lot of roasted malt flavor. It could be a little drier and its a bit on the thin side for a stout, but it will be very drinkable. Now I just have to wait a few weeks for it to carbonate.

Icewater Bath
I also picked up a lot of malts yesterday to make two beers next weekend, a dunkelweizen and an Imperial porter. I'm going to use my 4 day weekend fully and enjoy myself greatly while I begin to make some heavier beers in anticipation of cooler weather in the fall.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Travel & The World Is Flat

I'm currently at 36000' flying up the west coast. I have had a hellish travel schedule for the past few weeks. Plus I've been double booked trying to manage a number of projects and complete my own projects. I'm ready for some down time!

Starting a few weeks ago...

Fly Atlanta to Las Vegas round trip.
As soon as I landed in ATL, I drove home, met Steph and drove 3 hours to Hendersonville, NC for the weekend.
Drive home and work from home for a week.
Fly Atlanta to Miami round trip.
Home for two days.
Fly Atlanta to San Diego for two days.
Now I'm on my way to Seattle for the remainder of the week. I should get to my hotel by midnight. Thank you, Mr. Client, for pushing back tomorrow's meeting until 10 A.M.

I fly home on Friday and remain in Atlanta for a few weeks. That is assuming I don't have to drive to Augusta, GA next week to meet a new client. Argh!

All the miles are paying off. Steph and I are taking a 6 night vacation to Los Cabos in November, paid for entirely with frequent flier miles and hotel points.

Enough bitching. I still love the travel, even when I have a crappy schedule.

The reason I'm writing is because I just finished Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat. When I sat down to write I had some poignant thoughts. The Alaskan Summer Ale seems to have wiped them from my brain. Damn.

Great book.

Read it.

You won't think the same way about outsourcing and globalization again. The author's insights on the driving force behind global terrorism is quite interesting.

I'll actually write a real review of the book when I get my head together again.

P.S. Delta could learn a thing or two from Alaska Airlines. Serve beer that is representative of where you come from or is locally brewed near your headquarters. Alaska serves beer brewed in Juneau by Alaskan Brewing Company. Delta is based in Atlanta, the home of Sweetwater, Terrapin (well, close enough), Atlanta Brewing Co. and Zuma. Perhaps their beers should be offered on your flights? While I love a glass of Woodford Reserve bourbon on Delta, a decent beer would be really nice too! Now if only Alaska has the Alaskan Smoked Porter.... yum.

P.P.S. Rudy's flight was late. Baggage claim was backed up. Budget had a line to rent cars. We didn't even get to the hotel until 1 A.M. Blah!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Brewing, Not Running (and other random stuff)

So much for running. A week into running I strained a muscle in the outside of my right calf. I'm still unable to run, even a day of walking around causes me pain in the late afternoon and evening. This is why I have always said, "I only run when chased."

I've brewed two all grain batches so far. An American pale ale was the first beer I brewed on my birthday weekend. Unfortunately, it was infected in the primary fermentation and had to be thrown out. Bummer! The second brew session was last Saturday. This time around I did a dry Irish stout (think Guinness) which is currently in its primary fermentation. When I get home this weekend I'll transfer it to secondary where it will sit for a week before being bottled.

Let's hope this time my sanitation routine improved this time around...

I'm in Miami this week with a few other consultants. This is an odd town, I've never been in another city where people speak Spanish to you before they speak English. Well, except for in Latin America, but that's to be expected! Its gettA few more days here, working my ass off before I get to head home for a short weekend. And then off to the west coast for a week.

This whole TSA ban on liquids is irritating the hell out of me! I can't bring back any west coast beers from my trip! I refuse put any beers I pick up in my travels in checked baggage due to the liklihood of them being broken in transit. I sure as hell hope that the TSA relaxes their rules soon. Not being able to carry on my loggage is an absolute pain in the ass. The terrorists have won. They must be sitting back, laughing their collective asses off while watching the traveling public jump through hoops to travel.

Enough surliness for one night...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Running & Brewing (Part II)

Woot! I've been running for a whole week.

No brewing in the house quite yet due to the heat. Its been so hot here that my basement is now in the high 70 degree F range, too hot to ferment any decent beers. Using a wet towel and a fan I was able to get a carboy of water to maintain a temperature in the high 60's, so I should be able to brew using that trick next weekend. The Bean Bex Birfday Brew will be a reality.

More details on the brewing as I get it under way next weekend...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Running & Brewing

Since the hike, I've been a lazy bastard. In an effort to try and get my ass moving again I'm signing up for the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving day. I bought some running shoes yesterday and did my first run today. It was slow and short, but not as bad as I thought it might be based on the fact that I only run when being chased.

Secondly, my birthday is coming up shortly, so my lovely wife was kind enough to buy me a full kit of goodies to start all grain brewing! I've got 95% of the stuff I need already, just need to make a quick run to Home Depot today to get the remainder of the plumbing parts that I need for my mash-tun and sparge water tank. I should be brewing my firt 5 gallon batch next weekend, an American Pale Ale. Once I have my methodology down and work out all the kinks I'm going to move to 10 gallon batches, enough for 4 cases of beer. Look for "Bean Bex Brews" soon... ;-)

P.S. I called for pizza the other night and they couldn't understand the spelling of my name. Once again a pizza name was called for.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Purchase of the Bellwood Quarry

The City of Atlanta completed the purchase of the Bellwood Quarry as part of the Beltline project. The quarry will be turned into the largest city park in Atlanta and a large drinking water resevoir for the west side. This is huge news! I just want to know when I'll be able to take the dogs down to the park, since its less than 3 miles from my house!

I haven't seen plans for this yet, but I can only assume the Path trail that runs near my house will connect to the new park eventually, meaning we can walk to the park. A new extension to the Westside trail was recently added along with a boardwalk across a local stream. I've yet to check out this new part of the Path... perhaps this week I'll be able to take the dogs for a walk...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

5 A.M. Wake-Up Call

It's 5:15 A.M. in Tampa, Florida. I've been up for 15 minutes. What I thought must be the loudest alarm/wake-up call in any hotel I have ever visited turned out to be a fire alarm. Yay. Shortly after the alarm went off we were told to stay in our rooms. This was followed 15 minutes later with the following announcement:

"The emergency response team has determined this alarm to be a non-emergency. Please return to normal business."

Normal business? Like what, sleeping?! My ears are still ringing, I'm quite sure I'm awake for the morning and ready to go to work.

In 18 months of traveling this is the second time that the fire alarm has gone off in my hotel. The last was during the winter in Washington, DC. I looked damn funny in a pair of flimsy shorts, a t-shirt, jacket and dress shoes (the first ones I could find) standing outside in 30 degree F weather. At least its warm outside this morning...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More pizza naming...

Chin Chin used to call me "Bean Bex".

I forgot all of the variants of Saxe beginning with F:

Mr. Fax
Mr. Faxe
Mr. Facks

And the wife reminded me that I was "Mi' Dean" (pronounced like mister without the ster!) and she was "Miz Dean".


I need a pizza name... and Gary, the ex-neighbor

James, as usual, has some interesting stuff on his blog. I personally liked the Pizza Name story. While I don't have a long last name (Saxe, if you didn't know already), it is one that is notoriously difficult for people to hear correctly over the phone or spell correctly. So, I am one of the following:

Mr. Sacks
Mr. Sachs
Mr. Saks
Mr. Sax
Mr. Sex (hmm, nothing wrong with that one)
Mr. Zacks
Mr. Zax

(I'm killing myself trying to remember what Chin-Chin II called me when they used to deliver Chinese food to my house...)

Although, my favorite still is from my ex-neighbor, Gary. Gary was a poor schlub who only wanted to go to work, make some money, come home and sit on the front stoop drinking a beer and watching the world go by. Preferably, he was drinkiing a beer that he came and got out of my fridge. Gary was a huge mooch. Anyway, to Gary I was "Mistuh Dean". Of course, that meant that Steph was "Mizzuz Dean".

This was a common conversation:

"Hey there Mistuh Dean!"
"Hi Gary."
"Mistuh Dean, you got $20 I can borrow 'til Friday" (I replied no, even though I had $500+ in cash on me from my roommate's rent!)

Ah, yes, I have fond memories of living in East Atlanta... but at least I didn't have to deal with a crazy HOA.

Amtrak Acela

So I'm traveling all over the northeast this week for Foundstone's Software Security Roadshow. I started by flying to NYC on Sunday and took the Acela Express train to Philadelphia last night. Right now I'm traveling down to DC on the Acela Express train.

THIS ROCKS! I could totally get into traveling by train more. Its comfortable, spacious, has 120V AC power plugs at every seat and I can get internet access via EV-DO. Why, oh why, don't we use trains in the south? I'd much rather take a longer train ride to other southern cities and have these amenities than take a short flight, deal with the TSA stupidity and be crammed onto a plane like a damn sardine.

Enough ranting... back to work.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I passed!

I received notification this morning that I passed the CISSP exam. I'm glad that's over and the books can all go back on the shelf.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Marley & Me (and Java)

For the past few months I have been reading Marley & Me off and on as I have had a few spare moments to devote to reading. I am within a few pages of finishing the book and it has definitely made me sad. Let me back up and explain why.

The book is about a big, boisterous and very bad dog named Marley. I can totally relate to the author, I have a lab mix named Java who is also prone to misbehave at the most inopportune times. When I read about Marley's exploits with the trash can, I think of Java. When I read about Marley running away, I think of Java. When I read about the big, dumb dog named Marley being the authors best friend, I think of Java. Thankfully, when I read about Marley being afraid of thunderstorms and destroying the authors house, I don't think of Java. (Lucy, on the other hand, is deathly afraid of thunderstorms. But she just shudders and shakes and runs under the bed or to her crate.)

As the author walks through Marley's life I see a lot of parallels with Java. As Marley gets older, they became more and more clear.

I rescued Java from the pound when he was just a puppy, weighing no more than 6 pounds. It was the summer of 1996 and the Olympics were coming to town. I was in graduate school at the time, working on the Ph.D. that I never did earn. Java was with me to see the Olympic torch run past Emory — as a puppy he would spend the day in the genetics lab with me — and later than night in VaHi. He went with me everywhere, including to bars, where he was a great chick magnet.

As I grew older, left school and got a real job, Java grew up too. He turned into a pain in the ass who would run away from me, dig in the trash, roll around in horse poop, break out of every fence, bust through front doors when people try to walk in the house and get picked up by the pound. Yet I still loved him, despite his flaws. He was, and still is, my companion. He has grown up and become older as well. However, he's aging much more quickly than I am and it's really starting to show.

First it was little things. Glassy eyes indicate that he is getting cataracts. He doesn't jump up in the bed to join us for a "dog-pile" as readily as he used to. He's no longer quite so quick to try and make his escape through a partially opened door. This is possibly because I had an electric fence for years, but that has been inoperable for more than a year now and I don't think he's noticed yet. In the past year he's started having trouble getting up the stairs at night. On a few occassions he has refused to go up the stairs because his rear hips have arthritis. We've even had to carry him up the stairs on some occassions — no easy task with a 65 pound furry beast! Finally, he's unable to come with us on long walks or hikes. When we last took him for a 5 mile walk on the Silver Comet Trail, he was in obvious pain later that evening. He has trouble getting up to the top of Kennesaw Mountain and we don't even bring him along when we plan a longer hike. Steph and I both feel bad that we take Lucy along with us while he sits at home, alone.

I know as time goes on, his ability to do the things he once did will continue to decline. I am finding it more and more difficult to observe. I know he's not suffering, his quality of life is still generally quite good. I also know that some day in the future his quality of life may decline significantly leaving us to face some tough decisions about how best to care for him. And that scares the hell out of me.

Reading Marley & Me last night this all hit me like a ton of bricks. I found myself on the couch crying over the book and the inevitable reality that Java will not be with me forever. He's been a part of my life for so long, I'm not sure what it will be like without him. And I hope I don't have to find out for a very long time to come.

If you're a dog lover, you owe it to yourself to read this book. You'll cry too.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Vineyard Mountain Trail

Yesterday Steph and I took our younger dog, Lucy, up to the Vineyard Mountain Trail (warning: PDF content) on Lake Allatoona. There is a doggie hike every Sunday morning, however, it conflicted with other plans we had made for today. Instead, we decided to go check things out yesterday morning so we could get our lazy asses moving again. We've been pretty sedentary since returning from the Grand Canyon...

From our place it is about a 45 minute drive to the trailhead which is located just off Interstate 75 near Cartersville, GA. We were one of four cars parked at the trail, so we knew it wouldn't be too busy, unlike Kennesaw Mountain. We took off up the trail with Lucy on leash, but that didn't last too long. Lucy is a complete wuss, so we knew she wouldn't go far if she was allowed to run free. So I unclipped her leash and off she ran, never more than 30 feet from either of us. Of course, she'd run ahead, then back to us and off to either side, so I'm sure her hike was at least twice as long as ours!

The hike was really nice. While not terribly difficult, it did have a number of downed trees across the trail provided some challenges for Lucy to figure out. Of course, she could just do an end run around the tree, but that would be too easy. Instead she had to figure out how to either go over or under the tree, but never around. That would take her off the scent trail that everyone else has left behind!

Lucy really impressed me, she's a great hiking companion! She was extremely well behaved the entire hike, even when we met up with a group of hikers with two Great Danes and another mutt. She was a little cautious at first, but quickly fell into her place in the pack with the humans and dogs. We hiked the last mile or so of the trail with the people we met, they showed us how it connects back to the park to make a loop. Based on the map we had, we thought the trail was an in-and-out for a total of 5 miles... we were clearly quite wrong and almost doubled our intended hike. However, since the terrain was relatively flat it didn't feel like a long or strenous trek.

This is definitely a hike we'll be doing again in the near future due to its proximity to the city and the lack of traffic on the trail early in the morning.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How did I forget...

After returning from my exam on Saturday my Powerbook G4 was making some odd noises and was completely unresponsive. After powering down and attempting to reboot a few times I knew something was amiss. My hard disk is dead. This is the one time when I hate Apple products. The laptops are notoriously hard for end-users to replace the hard drive! Of course, the new MacBook doesn't suffer from this problem, but I don't own one yet!

Since this is a holiday weekend I can't do anything until the morning when I'm going to call MacResQ to expedite a hard disk replacement/upgrade. I've been straining to fit everything on the puny 40GB disk in my laptop for a while, so I guess an upgrade to a 120GB drive is in the works. Of course, that just means that I need more space in my G4 Sawtooth tower — my old desktop which now serves as a file/backup server — to keep everything backed up.

On a good note, I did have a 3 day old backup of the /Users directory and I had just backed up my iPhoto library to 5 DVDs which now reside safely in the safe deposit box. So, if MacResQ isn't able to resurrect it for me and transfer my data to the new disk I haven't lost anything important. Considering this is the second major hard disk crash I have had this year — the first was in my desktop, which meant reinstalling everything on two brand new 120GB Seagate drives — I'm feeling pretty lucky.


I've been off the road for a long time now. Since returning home from a very busy and crazy Q1 my life has been pretty low-key. One short trip to NYC for work at the beginning of May, but otherwise I've been working in solitary confinement. Er, from my home office.

Don't get me wrong, I like working from home. However, when I work from home for weeks and weeks on end it gets BORING! I like seeing other people and getting out of the house. It truly sucks when you roll off the couch at night, head up to bed and realize you haven't showered, changed clothes or left the house all day long! In fact, I haven't shaved in weeks since I haven't had to see any clients recently! Of course, that will change on Wednesday when I have to drive to Alpharetta to see a client.

I am getting back on the road in a few weeks, however, my travel schedule is going to be brutal. Usually I'm in a city for at least 3 nights, usually 4. However, on this trip I will be in 4 cities a week for two weeks.

NY Penn Station - Philadelphia (Amtrak)
Philadelphia - Washington D.C. (Amtrak)

Florida, one of my least favorite places to go any time of year but especially in the summer, should be hot as balls in the latter half of June. Yay.

Last Saturday I took the CISSP exam. When I left the exam I felt like I did pretty well. As the day went on my confidence level dropped further and further. Steph and I have had a lot of stuff going on in our personal life lately which has kept me occupied mentally and cut into some of my studying time. Not to mention all of the training and travel for the Hike for Discovery... I figured I'd do a lot of reading during our travel to and from Arizona. Things didn't work out quite as I had planned though. I used the tests at to supplement my studying, however, when I took the test I didn't feel as if the questions I studied with accurately represented what was on the test. In some cases the material online was much more difficult, in other cases it seemed like entirely different material. Hopefully I'll find out in a week or so if I passed so I can add a few more semi-random letters after my name in all of my professional correspondence.

Enough rambling for one night... time to fight the insomnia and try to sleep. Where's that bottle of Ambien anyway...?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Pink Taco?

No, it's not what you think.

When we were in Scottsdale we passed by a restaurant being built called Pink Taco. Mark and I both commented on the name, finding it out of place for the chic suburbs. I promptly forgot about it.

While watching Saturday Night Live they made mention of the Pink Taco and the problems they are having with the local community in Scottsdale. Of course this reminded me about the restaurant and prompted me to post.

Do I have anything to add to this? No. I just think its a pretty damn funny name for a restaurant. Or a strip club with a Mexican theme.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


As is usually the case, the night before a big... anything really... I can't fall asleep. Instead I found Frappr and mapped out all of the places I have been in the time I've been at Foundstone. Some was for fun, most for work, but I've been a lot of places in the past 15 months!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Adams Crossing Open Letter

Have thoughts or complaints about the letter to the community? Feel free to discuss them openly in the comments.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

P.S. I lied...

I did try the bidet again a few times. It is... odd. I guess if it weren't for the John Wayne TP (i.e. TP that doesn't take shit from any asshole), I'd never have to use it. But alas, now that I figured out how it works and how not to burn my butt, it's not so bad. But I'd rather go back to squeezing the Charmin.

If you do use a bidet, watch the pressure of the stream. Otherwise you might wind up with an enema instead of a gentle cleansing. Of course, that would probably lead to more usage of the bidet...

Enough scatalogical thoughts for one night...

Last night in Sao Paolo

Yay! I'm going home! It has been a long quarter of travel for me. I've been home only 3 weeks since 1/1/2006, so I am ecstatic to be headed home tomorrow night. Just one more day left in Sao Paolo.

A couple more thoughts on Sao Paolo:

Spanish is not as useful as I originally thought. The IT guy at the training center is Chilean, which explains his knowledge of Spanish. I feel like I stupid American now! One of my students is from Bolivia, so he and I have been conversing in Spanish, which has been fun for me and helped me to remember some of the language that I have forgotten over the years.

Brazilians love to use the thumbs-up for "OK". I see it all the time in class, on the street, everywhere. Again, being a stupid American I flashed my students the OK sign today (index finger and thumb making a circle with the rest of the fingers extended). I was laughed at. Why? That hand signal means "asshole". Oops. So we proceeded to have a hand signal discussion about the peace sign and if you turn it around it can mean either "V for victory!" in some places or "fuck you" in the UK and other British colonies (current and former). My, the things we learn by traveling.

Brazilians LOVE coffee. And its cheap! I have grown fond of the post-lunch espresso with my students. At less than a buck each, its a cheap way to spend some time relaxing with my class and learning about each other's culture. My students have been great, sharing with me thoughts on Brazilian politics, culture, language, etc. I'm glad that they have been so open to sharing with me about their culture, Sao Paolo would have been quite boring without their help!

Feijoada is a Brazilian specialty that is "all-you-can-eat" on Wednesday and Saturday. Basically, its a black bean stew with all kinds of meat and lots of side dishes. One of my students, Ricardo, took me to meet another student and his fiance for feijoada on Saturday. We ate like kings for about $25 each, including a few beers. I can get used to this!

Sao Paolo is not the scary, dangerous city most Americans think it is. Is it dangerous to walk around at night alone on dark streets? Hell yeah! But its also dangerous in New York City in the same situation! Keep your wits about you, don't flash a lot of cash or jewels and stick to well traveled areas when on foot and you'll be fine. I have not felt threatened here in any way, whatsoever. So all those people who told me I would be robbed and/or killed if I wore my wedding band and watch were just too paranoid. Go back to your boring suburban existence. The rest of us will have fun exploring the world without living in fear!

One last thought: ATMs. It is HARD to find an ATM that accepts my ATM card in Brazil. Brazilian ATMs use a PIN code plus some random digits from the CPF number (equivalent of a SSN number in the US) to validate each transaction. So you have to find a Banco do Brasil or HSBC ATM to use your card and retrieve cash. Thankfully it only took an hour of research on the net to figure that out!

It has been an interesting experience both personally and professionally here in Sao Paolo. I hope to someday come back here — as a tourist! — to see my new friends and experience more that Sao Paolo has to offer. With the exception of Brazilian beer!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Updated Travel Map

I'm really tired and not in the mood to post much tonight, but here's an updated map of my world travels. Weeee...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Day 2 in Sao Paolo: McDonalds, cheap food, bad beer, sweets and bidets

Today is my first full day in Sao Paolo. I might enjoy it here if work wasn't taking up all my time. A few notes:

There is a drug store called "Farto". I thought it was humorous in a scatalogical manner.

The training center has a sign that says (I hope I get the words correct) "Centro de Testes". Heh.

I'd be totally screwed if I didn't speak Spanish in addition to English. Thankfully my Spanish is passable and I now know how to ask people if they speak Spanish or English in order to communicate more clearly.

I'm embarrassed to admit I ate lunch at McDonald's today. This one has a McCafe (coffee bar) where you can get an espresso and some pastries. The macaroons were VERY good. The espresso was VERY bad. They also have McInternet, an internet cafe. Weird.

Food is really cheap. I had room service tonight and a Caesar salad with chicken, gnocchi, bread and a capairinha cost ~$25 with tip. If you've ever had room service in an American hotel, you know this meal would cost at least double this amount.

Brazilians like their coffee and sweets. Everywhere you go there are coffee shops with pastries and sweets. I have had room service twice. Both times I have been questioned why I am not ordering desert. Not, "would you like dessert, sir?", but "You're not having dessert?! You need to have something sweet with your meal!". Is that the sign of an American in Brazil? Dinner without dessert?

Brazilian beer sucks. 'Nuff said.

Bidets. What is it with South America an bidets in my hotel room? Today was the day to try the bidet. So after pinching a loaf I figured it was time to determine how to use the bidet. I turned on the water and made sure it was warm, but not hot. I moved myself over the stream, squatted, turned up the pressure and...


I think I burned my bunghole. Apparently what is merely warm to my hand is really scalding to my sensitive ass.

No more bidets for me.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I spent the night in Buenos Aires yesterday. I was in the city for less than 24 hours for a short presentation to a multinational company where I got to practice a little Spanish (note: I need to learn business Spanish) and talk about security. A cool gig, if you ask me!

Some of the guys from the client took me out to dinner last night in the Receta neighborhood of B.A. Holy Jeebus! Those Argentinean women are style="font-weight:bold;">HOT! There was a lot of ogling going on from the five men all sitting in an outdoor restaurant watching the people stroll by. People in Argentina eat very late at night, we got to the restaurant at 9 P.M. and it was empty. By 10 P.M. it was filling up. By 11 P.M. it was totally full and people were dancing between the tables! Apparently this continues at most places until 1 A.M.!

Unfortunately for me, I had an early flight this morning, so my night was cut short. But not before stopping by Buller Brewing Company, a local brewpub. The beer was decent, nothing to get excited about and not a place I'd make a habit of going. Too many black lights and not enough beer choices. But certainly better than the local Quilmes, which wasn't much different than any other light mass produced lager beer from the USA.

In bed at midnight. Awake at 3:15 A.M. to go to the airport. The city was dead at this point. It was surreal driving through Buenos Aires and seeing ads for current American TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy! The airport was uneventful as was the 6:50 A.M. flight to Sao Paolo, Brazil. Now I'm checked into my hotel and working my tail off — nothing new there — and waiting on dinner to arrive in my room. I'll write more and post pictures once I have a chance to get out and explore the city...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Boston is wicked pissah!

I'm in Boston this week, living and working in Bunker Hill. It's fucking cold out there! I don't think it's broken 32 degrees F since I've been here and we're expecting 6" of snow tomorrow. Eek! I haven't seen that much snow since Baltimore in 1993!

I love this town. I just wish the weather didn't suck so much.

One observation: When a bar has a "Sam Adams seasonal" on tap, and you ask what it is, don't answer "Sam Adams Octoberfest". You're either 6 months too late or 6 months too early. Either way its not desirable!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stinky cabs and useless ID checks

Steph says I'm angst ridden today. So be it.

#1 — Why is it that the cabs in Charlotte, NC always STINK so damn bad? I don't mean from cigarettes, though that would be understandable in the land of the cancer-stick. Instead, they stink of CHEAP-ASS incense or those air freshener things with the Playboy bunny or shaped like pine trees. One air freshener is certainly not enough for these cabs. A few dozen, perhaps. I swear, every time I get into a cab in Charlotte it always stinks like a cheap whorehouse! And then my eyes start watering and I start sneezing. Guys, could you lay off the cheap air fresheners, please? If it wasn't freakin' cold outside I'd open the window and stick my head out, but for the moment that's not an option unless I want frostbite.

Think of the business travelers. Please.

#2 — What is with the ridiculous ID checks that I have to go through at so many client sites. A few weeks ago in Chicago I showed up at a banking client's office, gave the guard my ID, he gave me a sticker allowing me into the building. OK, no problem. Next morning, the same guard was there. He said hello to me. I signed in. He asked me for my ID. I looked at him and asked "Did my ID change from yesterday?" This generated puzzled looks, so I gave up my ID and he let me pass. By the next day he stopped asking for ID. Smart man.

Today I had a similarly surreal experience. New city, different guard. I sign in and state I am going to room XYZ. He says "OK, I need to see your ID." I put it on the table and slide it to him facing sideways. He glances at it and hands it back to me. What exactly did this charade accomplish? He didn't validate my identity in any way before giving me access to the "protected" area of this building. All he did was make sure I had an ID card, in this case my drivers license, and never checked that it was real nor did he check it against the signin sheet where I could have written "The Unabomber, 404-555-1212".

Security can be so pointless sometimes...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Airport Game Part II

Change of plans on my upcoming trips...

ATL - SAT - ATL (5 days)
ATL - CLT - ATL (4 days)
ATL - SEA - ATL (3 days)
ATL - BOS - ATL (5 days)
ATL - EZE - GRU - ATL (12 days)

Too bad I'm only in EZE for a night. It's a city I really wanted a chance to see more of...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

San Antonio & New Braunfels, TX

We arrived in San Antonio quite late last night. Too late to do much except a quick jaunt down the River Walk and a drink at Casa Rio. We're staying right on the river at the Hilton Palacio Del Rio with a balcony that overlooks the river. Sweet.

Today we woke up early, walked over the the Alamo and did a quick tour. I think Steph was quite surprised how small it is. Having been there before as a kid I knew what to expect. I was thinking of doing like Ozzy and peeing on it, but decided that getting arrested would suck.

We then walked around town and did some shopping at La Villita and El Mercado before hopping in the car and heading out to New Braunfels to have a look around.

Speaking of the car, we had reserved a mid-size car at Enterprise. Cheap rate of $20/day, what a deal! We arrive at the lot and the employee tries to give us an SUV, of course that would also cost more in gas and fees, so we declined. I soon figured out why they wanted us in the SUV so bad. They were out of midsize cars so WE GOT A CONVERTIBLE! Yeah, its a P.O.S. Sebring that needs a brake job, but what the hell! It's 75 degrees F here today and we drove with the top down to and from New Braunfels, woohoo!

Anyway, in New Braunfels I stopped in a cigar shop for some cigars. We wound up spending an hour or so in there, smoking a cigar, drinking beers and hanging out with the cigar shop guys. Totally surreal experience, they just whipped out a few beers and started chatting with us. That was the only thing going on in town. Carl, who "works" there on the weekend -- work consisting of smoking cloves and cigars and drinking mass quantities of beer with his buddies -- gave us a $20 donation to our Hike for Discovery. Thanks Carl!

We're off for a night of eating, drinking and debauchery. I'll post more once I've downloaded some pictures and have additional tales to tell.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

To the person who decides what political speech is acceptable on my car...

Nice job removing my F The President bumper sticker in the past few days. I'm glad that you feel that you are the arbiter of what is appropriate political speech.

Why didn't you remove the No W from my car as well? Was that too difficult for you to comprehend?

Busy few weeks at work...

It's going to be a busy few weeks for me at work. I'm on the road a lot right now. My travel schedule between now and mid-March looks something like this:

ATL - SAT - ATL (5 days)
ATL - CLT - ATL (4 days)
ATL - SEA - ATL (3 days)
ATL - BOS - ATL (5 days)
ATL - GRU - ATL (11 days)

You too can play the airport code game! (Yup, I stole this idea from my coworker Nick.)

Thankfully after my 2 week trip to Brazil (hey, its a clue!) I'll be home for a while. This should also get my Skymiles balance high enough for that ticket to Amsterdam with my buddy Damon later this year!