November 2008 Archives
Since my new job is likely to require some regular travel, I decided to buy a new laptop. I've been without a laptop for about 6 months or so - I sold my old PowerBook G4 to a friend from work, and I've been missing the convenience that a laptop provides.
My iPhone works as a pretty decent portable computer, but I can't create Office documents on it... so, I broke down and purchased a new Apple MacBook Pro. I must say, this thing is pretty awesome.
It's the latest version, so the chassis is made from a single solid chunk of aluminum. It feels pretty solid, and it runs ice cold - I had it sitting on my lap all weekend and I never once felt any heat from the bottom of the laptop. The display is amazingly sharp - it's the new LED screen, and it's pretty sweet. The laptop has dual video cards, which is cool - I can't wait to use Final Cut Pro on it.
The other great thing is that since I work for a company that deals more or less exclusively with Microsoft products, I can actually run Windows on my Mac via "VMWare" (Virtual Machine). I plan to download and install the VM product today and give it a shot. It'll be weird to see Windows XP running on a Mac, but I guess just about everyone does it, so I won't be a pioneer of any type... :-)
Hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving. Not doing much this year for Thanksgiving, so it'll be pretty quiet. Here's a fun picture to enjoy over the weekend:
For those not yet aware, I started my new job on Monday, November 17, and I couldn't be any happier. It's such a relief to be out of the refugee camp that was my old workplace - the atmosphere there is completely dismal - I feel bad for anyone that's still stuck there, and I send lots of good thoughts, karma, and best wishes your way. I honestly believe the place would've eventually killed me had I stuck around much longer...
I was having lunch with a friend from the bank last week and she said something to the effect of, "Our getting closed down sure did shed light on people's character. There were incredibly strong people that quickly cracked, and then there were folks that surprised you with how they rose to the challenge and were able to adapt."
I'm definitely not one of those who rose to the challenge. I hated every single second at that place after May 9, 2008. Call me crazy, but being berated, belittled, and made to feel worthless isn't my idea of a good time. Constantly being reminded that "your bank failed" isn't much of a morale builder, and it certainly doesn't do much to harbor good feelings and promote harmony...
It's such a shame that we were targeted for closure; I guess we really were on the "leading edge" - first bank of dozens to fail in 2008... Oh well - it's over, it's done with, and we're moving on.
I'm now at a local technology company and so far, I really like it. The people are fantastic - the atmosphere is relaxed, positive, and extremely comfortable. I spent the first few days without a computer, but didn't really need one - I was being brought up to speed on the project that I'll be working on. I cranked out some documentation yesterday for the project and have spent today reformatting my computer (it came with Vista - I "lived" with that for a day and couldn't take it, so I installed XP Pro).
Here's what my workplace currently looks like:
My friend Karl sits next to me, so it's a good time. I really enjoy working with him - he's a pretty good guy.
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Here are a few cat pictures to enjoy. :-)
(I love the filename for that last photo - "your cat is not a friendly driver" - HA!)
Lots has happened over the past week - this may be a lengthy entry, so stick with me. Also know that I'll share more details after a while; I have to let a lot of things digest right now, and it'll be best if I let some of my thoughts and feelings settle before I start writing about them here.
I lost my job on Wednesday, November 5. I don't miss it one bit - no sir, that's for sure. While I truly miss ANB - it was the best place I have ever worked - I won't miss the aftermath that ensued once the contractors (aka "Q-bags") came in and assumed control. To say that every single day of my life after May 9, 2008 was "pure hell" would be an understatement. But enough about that... I'm honestly better off away from there, and am so happy to be "free."
I celebrated my departure by having pizza at Guido's on Wednesday night, and then joining friends at our usual Thursday night dinner spot, Buffalo Wild Wings. Had coffee with friends on Friday morning, ran my race on Saturday, and then went to Kansas City to hang out for a few days and to catch the Eagles concert at the magnificent Sprint Center.
Got to KC and took a tour of the Boulevard Brewery. Trying to keep on track for touring at least once brewery per year (last year, we toured the Capitol Brewery, the New Glarus Brewing Company, and the Miller plant)... Boulevard is a relatively new brewery - it opened in 1989, but has quickly gained popularity. Their wheat beer is a favorite amongst folks in our area.
The tour was fairly simple - they showed a movie that talked about the history and the overall brewing process, and then they walked us (a group of about 25 people) through the brewery, which consists of two facilities - Brew Haus 1, and Brew Haus 2. Brew Haus 2 is brand new, "green," and state of the art. It was built at a cost of just over $25-million, has an employee bar, houses the executive staff, and features a large banquet room that can be rented for various occasions.
Here are some pictures of the plant:
Getting started on the tour - I don't recall the tour guide's name, but she did a good job.
The fermenting tanks in Brew Haus 1. They held something like 800 tons of beer, all over head. The structure had to be modified to withstand both a tornado and an earthquake, simultaneously. That's pretty amazing - the heavily reinforced concrete was at least 6-8 feet thick.
The entrance to Brew Haus 2. They focused on a "natural" look; the floors featured individual 4"x4" blocks of pine, laid to look like bricks. There were wood accents to offset the industrial finish of the stone and steel.
Keg processing area. Here is where they receive empty kegs from distributors. The kegs are washed and sterilized, then filled via an automatic filling machine. Did you know that kegs are filled "upside down"? I thought that was interesting... not sure why they do it that way - they didn't say - but it sure seems odd.
The bottle filling line; here's where bottles of beer are filled, labeled, and placed into cartons for shipping. The line can process 500 bottles per minute. That's unreal!
The employee bar. Talk about benefits!
An old advertisement for their Irish Ale - I liked the "Irish Setter" reference.
View of Kansas City from the Boulevard employee bar.
Oh - I almost forgot to mention this; prior to hitting the brewery, I went to the Plaza (a shopping district in downtown Kansas City) and ate lunch at O'Dowds Irish Pub. Oh man, what amazing food. I had a Beef Tenderloin Boxty, which is basically a tenderloin that's cooked with onions that are sauteed in a cabernet reduction, and then wrapped in a potato pancake and grilled. It had a bleu cheese bacon garnish, and came with some amazing green beans. I also enjoyed a Smithwick's pint with it, and was in heaven. No pictures, other than one of my empty plate and pint glass...
From O'Dowds, it was over to the Mark Shale store, where I bought a pair of blue jeans and a wool sweater. The sweater is amazing - it's from SmartWool, and is so soft and comfy. I wish I could have bought a dozen of them.
Let's see... what else happened in Kansas? Oh yeah - went to the Eagles concert!
What an amazing, amazing show. There wasn't an opening act - it was just the Eagles, and they played for 3.5 hours. It seemed as though they only played for 20 minutes though - it was that good. The songs flew by, and the sound was unbelievable. Absolutely beyond words.
I've been to at least 40-50 concerts, and I've never been as impressed, wowed, amazed, and starstruck as I was with the Eagles. I'm not even a huge Eagles fan - I like them, but I don't go crazy for them, like I would some other bands, but there was just something that was truly magical about watching the Eagles play live.
Their sound was better than any I've ever heard. It was effortless, clear, full, and "alive." The sound system was by far the best I've ever experienced, and the FOH engineer was worth every penny the Eagles spent on him. Here are a few shots from the concert; sorry for the horrible photos.
Early on in the concert; Don Henley was playing drums for most of the event, but he did come up and sing and play guitar quite a bit. Like him or hate him, he's an incredible musician, that's for sure.
Performing Hotel California. They played this song 3rd, which I thought was odd - I figured they'd save it for later. It was unreal - I had goosebumps the entire time.
The end of the show - they finished with Desperado, and it was beyond words. Sure, the Eagles have aged and they look a little worn out, but they can still play with the best of them. Their performance was flawless.
Lights on, and time to go home. You can see a little bit of the stage in this shot, along with the Eagles waving good bye to everyone.
The set list went something like this (this list is from a show in March of 2008):
How Long / Too Busy Being Fabulous / I Don't Want To Hear Anymore / Guilty Of The Crime / Hotel California / Peaceful Easy Feeling / I Can't Tell You Why / Witchy Woman / Lyin' Eyes / Boys of Summer / In the City / Long Run / No More Walks In The Woods / Waiting in the Weeds / No More Cloudy Days / Love Will Keep Us Alive / Take It To The Limit / Long Road Out of Eden / Somebody / Walk Away / One Of These Nights / Life's Been Good / Dirty Laundry / Funk 49 / Heartache Tonight / Life in the Fast Lane / Rocky Mountain Way / All She Wants To Do Is Dance / Take It Easy / Desperado
Finally, there was one last great meal while in KC, this time compliments of a little restaurant called Room 39. If you're ever in KC, you need to eat at this place. I really enjoyed it. I had the Brioche French Toast with breakfast potatoes and bacon. It was phenomenal, as was the coffee - I had 3 cups of it.
Other than that, I've been relaxing and enjoying my time off. I've had several phone interviews already, and have an offer pending from a local company, so I don't think I'll be out of work for too long. Ideally, there's an opportunity with a large company that I'd really like to have work out, but if it doesn't, I've got something to fall back on.
I will say that being unemployed is hard work! I've barely had any time to do "nothing" - I've been on the go nonstop ever since Wednesday night. I'll probably have to schedule a vacation before I start working again... :-)
I woke up nice and early today (around 5:30am) so that I could participate in the Pea Ridge Runner 5k Race. It was a brisk 32F when I woke up, so that didn't help motivate me too much. The bed was much warmer and far more comfortable than my running shoes...
After hemming and hawing about the absurd nature of this early morning racing, I put on several layers of clothing and made my way to the car. I arrived at the park at just about 7:00am, which gave me 30 minutes to register, stretch, and find a place on the starting line.
As you can see, it was still quite chilly at just 13 minutes before the race. Thankfully it was sunny, but it was also quite windy - take a look at the flag in this picture... according to my WeatherBug program, it was 21F with the windchill. Nice.
As soon as I saw a group forming near the starting line, I hopped out of the car and made my way over to them. There were approximately 300 - 325 racers at the park, most of them appeared to be fairly serious runners - spandex was everywhere.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the race, as the park didn't set-up the course until Friday (yesterday), and no one at the park knew anything about the course when I had inquired last weekend. I assumed it would be some type of simple loop - 1.5 miles out and 1.5 back.
Well, the race wasn't organized too well... the marshals didn't have any type of bullhorn or PA system for communicating with us about the course, so instead they walked around the starting group shouting instructions about the race. Unfortunately, most people were talking, so the marshals had to repeat the instructions at least 10 times. This delayed the start (and kept us in the cold) for a good 15-20 minutes. A loud cannon blast started the race, and next thing I knew, I was off and running.
I had started in the last third of the group. I wasn't sure how fast everyone would run, and I didn't want to be in anyone's way. This was my second biggest mistake... my first mistake being not wearing gloves - my hands froze during the entire race.
I found myself quickly passing people like they were standing still. A check of my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch showed that I was pacing at an 8-minute mile, which is my comfortable running speed. Yet everyone else seemed to be crawling. So, I darted and weaved, and at the first turn I was in the top-third of the group.
The course was designed quite inefficiently... we ran from the main parking lot (pictured above), and headed west for 1.10 miles. Then we turned around and headed west, back toward the parking lot. This meant that there was a lot of traffic to negotiate - as I was making my way back toward the lot, I was having to dodge people who were running both with me and toward me... annoying to say the least.
At the 2.15 mile mark, we headed west/northwest toward one of the more popular landmarks at the military park - unfortunately, it's located quite a ways from the main parking lot... I wasn't quite sure how they'd get us all back to the main lot when the race was over, but I kept chugging away. The packs had thinned quite a bit, and I was now running mostly by myself. I had one guy who was tailing me, but other than that, it was mostly a solo affair.
We made our way past the finish line (yep, you read that correctly), and then turned around in the parking lot of the Elkhorn Tavern (that's the popular landmark), and ran another 500-600 yards back to the finish line. I finished the race (3.54 miles) in 27 minutes and 6 seconds. They haven't posted the results as of yet, but I'm guessing I finished in about 45-60th place overall.
After the race was over, it was still quite chilly, and we were now stuck about a mile from the main parking lot. Everyone was sort of standing around; people were still trying to finish the race, and there were supposed to be shuttle busses to take us back to the main lot, but they wouldn't allow the shuttles onto the course until everyone was done racing.
So, to appease everyone, the race marshals had ice water and ice cold Lipton Tea for us to "enjoy" while we waited for the buses. There was supposed to be breakfast food, but the catering truck was stuck in the main parking lot as well, waiting for the racers to finish. I had heard rumors of a bonfire somewhere, but never could find it.
So, I walked back to my car and left. There was supposed to have been an iPod Touch that was to be raffled off, and you had to be present to win it, but I wasn't going to stand around in 32F weather, drinking ice water, and hoping to win a $500 iPod.
All in all, the race was fun - the course was a bit dopey, but it was a good race. Logistically, it was a nightmare, but this was only their second year for the event, so some flaws are to be expected. I guess I'm now officially done with races for 2008... I'll have to wait until next year to do some triathlons and some more 5Ks.
Red States = still idiots
Blue States = open minded, reasonable, intelligent, progressive
Did anyone catch Obama's speech last night? Holy cats, what a great speech, and one that I hope is indicative of what we can look forward to over the next 4 years.
While I love to complain about Bush and politics in general, I'm not really a political person... I realize the system is fundamentally flawed, and that no one person can fix everything that's wrong with our country, but this is a step in the right direction. The message is clear - Dubya, you royally screwed up; don't let the door hit you on the way out (and please don't screw up too much more stuff in your remaining 76 days).
In other shocking news (well, I guess it can't be that shocking, given that 48% of the country still wanted "more of the same"), Alaskans voted to re-elect Senator Ted Stevens.
Why is that shocking? Stevens was convicted on seven counts of felony corruption while in office.
I really feel like a heel for sharing this stuff, but since the vast majority of my friends have left work, I don't have many people to talk to any more, so I'll just post it on here:
Sorry for the blurry photo - my iPhone doesn't take close-up shots real well. I bought some new jeans last week, and I had to order size 34 (they just came today via UPS - had to order them because the local stores didn't have any 34s with a longer inseam).
I couldn't believe it. Last year about this time, I was excited to be down to a size 40 pants (I was a 44 at my heaviest). So to be able to squeeze into a 34 is amazing - I'm in shock, actually. I don't think I've been a 34 since around 1998. I'm still a good 30-pounds heavier than I was in 1998, so I'm not quite sure how I can fit into these, but they fit pretty well. A few more dropped pounds and they'll be perfect.
In other news, the race is coming up on Saturday, and the weather should be a bit brisk... low of 35, high of 54, and the race is at 7:30am. I've been focusing on running - speed drills, increasing distances, form, and so on. I "test ran" the course last Saturday and finished in just over 24 minutes, which is what I figured I would do.
The odd thing is that I ran again on Sunday and could barely huff out 3.5 miles; I was dying. And then last night was a speed night, so I ran 2 miles at a 7:00/mile pace and was totally fine. It's crazy - I only hope that next Saturday is a "good" day; if I crash, I'll be angry.
Other news: I'm addicted to sushi. I never thought I'd like it, but wow - is it fantastic. My favorites:
Yellow-fin Tuna roll: yummmmmmy!
Sashimi Tuna: so good
When I first tried sushi a few months ago, I hated it. The reason I hated it was because people had suggested that I try the "California Roll" because it wasn't really "sushi." For those not familiar, a California Roll typically has: avocado, crab meat, and cream cheese. Three things that I absolutely detest... So it's no wonder I didn't care for "sushi" at that time...
Then I went back to the sushi place with some people who really knew the ins and outs of sushi, and discovered that I absolutely love "real" sushi. We ordered 8 or 9 different types of rolls, and I liked all of them, save for the "Philly roll" (spicy tuna with cream cheese). Good sushi isn't fishy, it's not slimy, and it's not gross - it's delicious. I love it.
Final odds-n-ends tidbit: I got hooked on John Grisham books. In the past week I've read three of them. Wow! I had no idea they were so good. One of my all time favorite movies is "Runaway Jury," which is a movie that's based on the Grisham book. A few of my friends were talking about "The Partner" so I bought the book and was hooked. I finished it in just over a day - it was that good.
Now I'm reading "The Appeal" and can already tell that I'll blow through it in a day or less. Why didn't I know about these books?? :-) They really help make the workday pass quickly.
Guess that's about it for now...
Oh, and thank goodness today is election day. I hope that America 'gets it right' and elects someone that won't continue to run our country into the ground.
1.20.09: T-minus 77 days and counting. It can't come soon enough.