Sunday, July 30, 2006

Someone favorited one of my photos on Flickr!

My first photo was marked as a favorite today on flickr. This is quite exciting.
Brassy1 was the person who favorited it! Heather suggests that it was his work in the first place since he is from Vancouver, where the picture was taken.


Thank you!

Smoking Cheese

I've been at home long enough to get caught up and started cooking again. Yesterday, I tried to smoke some cheese. I had a block of cheddar and fresh mozzarella.

I wasn't that pleased with my first attempt - most of the cheese melted into a 1 inch thick pancake and when I took it off, it wasn't that smoky tasting. After it cooled, they took on more of a smoky flavor but it was too subtle. I like a bold smoky taste.

It was also convenient to do it this weekend because all the windows are closed as it has cooled off in the Northwest. Like I predicted, there are already complaints of being too cold (a week ago, it was about being too hot). With the windows closed, the smoke stays outside!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Feedback is always welcomed

A few trips ago, I had a miserable experience getting home. In addition to that, I had several miserable customer service experiences and some great ones. Not to complain, but to comment, I wrote a letter to United.

I am writing because I had mixed service levels from your gate and ticketing agents and the attendants on a recent trip. On June 30th, 2006, I was scheduled to fly from SFO to LAS and then to SEA. My originating flight, 1524 was delay arriving and then departing to LAS. When we left there were approximately 10 minutes for me to make my connecting flight on Alaska Airlines fight 677. Unfortunately, the plane was further delayed flying into Las Vegas and I missed my connection by 20 minutes.

Firstly, I’d like to recognize the great service I received from United. The flight attendants on flight 1524 were excellent because they knew the flight was running behind and let the connecting passengers off first, holding the others back. There were two gate agents in Las Vegas, Nancy Rogers and Sue Mathis, both of whom were very helpful. Although I didn’t use it, I received a voucher for a hotel and was put on the first flight out of Las Vegas. There were a few things that made my situation tricky – it was the Fourth of July weekend and so flights out of Las Vegas were hard to come by and my connecting flight was on Alaska and we had to get my ticket from them. In the morning, Sue booked me standby from SFO to SEA, helping me get home.

Unfortunately, I also got some pretty poor service from gate agents, primarily at SFO. Evidently many flights were overbooked and the gate agents were telling people to go home and try again tomorrow. I was flabbergasted by this. Because I was flying standby on such a rough weekend, I waited for 3 flights in SFO and got to see this same behavior from different gate agents. In fact, there was one gate agent who immediately told people to go sit down and wait and when people who wanted to give up their tickets would express that they wanted to talk to him – he actually called the police! The same behavior of telling people to go home and wait occurred at the customer service desk in SFO also.

When I finally got to Seattle, my bag wasn’t there. I can understand why that happened and have no complaints about that. When I spoke with the baggage people in Seattle, I was quickly helped and told what I needed to do. It was great customer service. A few days later, my bag was delivered to my house, all intact.

On this trip, I noticed that the United employees outside of the security areas and on the planes were very polite and helpful. Once you were inside the security area (when you were in the airlines ‘control’) the employees weren’t very helpful. I’m sure that there are examples of employees demonstrating great customer service and can understand the stress of late planes and overbooked flights to some extent, but that is when you need to be working your hardest, demonstrating your best service!

I’d appreciate it if Nancy and Sue could be recognized by their management team and their co-workers for their great service.

Sincerely

Beau Raines

I submitted it through the online customer service part of their website. A few days later, I got the following response:


Dear Mr. Raines,

Thank you for contacting us. It's always good to hear from Mileage Plus members.

Given the circumstances you describe, your complimentary comments about Ms. Nancy and Ms.Sue are especially appreciated. I will make sure their manager is aware of their efforts. Thank you so much for recognizing their services to you.

Now I will apologize to you for services not properly provided to you by united. Our employees should provide professional service. But, you report that our customer service staff let you down, which resulted in your disappointment with our service. Your comments are important to us and will allow the appropriate management to provide feedback directly to the employee. And to further add to your inconvenience your bags were delayed. However, I would like to apologize and enclose a travel certificate toward another united flight.

Your business matters to us, and I encourage you to travel with United again.

Regards,

Mikel Joseph
United Airlines Customer Relations

This letter was a pleasant surprise! It was pretty nice of United to do this. While my experiences might have chased me away from United, this display at least keeps me open to the diea of using United in the future. It is nice to see a company that is open to feedback like this.

On that same note, your feedback is welcome on this blog too!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Does anybody know how to repair this

Does anybody know of a fix for this? This is the connector for my iPod remote. The outer casing of the wire is coming detached from the base of the connector. I think that it was not quite fully seated when the connector housing was molded on because it has always been pulling away from this side.

I'm looking for something like a flexible epoxy to close it up of some kind of latex coating I could use to cover the gap and protect the wires underneath.

Thanks!!!

Oaktown and Vegas

Thursday in Oakland
It was the fifth spare the air day of the year (so far, 3 and 4 occurred while I was in the Bay Area) so public transit was free. While it was cool, since public transit was my way of getting around on this trip, so much for buying BART ticket for the week. I took the time to figure out what 4 round trips would cost me and buy that ticket in advance. I only paid for BART twice the whole time!

So, I took the 51 down College to Cal just to check out the old stomping grounds. I walked around and it was great to see the old things. Unfortunately, the light wasn't really good for photography, so I didn't take may pictures. I did take the obligatory Campanile photo.

  • Evan's Hall is painted an ominous gray color. It still looks like some central control building from Brazil or 1984.
  • Le Conte is being renovated
  • Wheeler Hall still Wheeler hall.
I stopped at Top Dog for dinner and King Pin for a jelly filled donut. Talk about reliving the old days. The lady at King Pin didn't know what kind of jelly it was, she just pointed to the red goo filling contraption. I bought one anyway and was hassled by the homeless panhandler as I left the food court. However, unlike panhandlers of yore, when I said I didn't have anything to give, he mumbled something under his breath at me.

After that, I headed back across campus and caught the BART at Berkeley station and went back to the hotel.

Going home - Friday
Friday was yet another spare the air day. I checked out of my hotel and headed to work. I squeezed a lot into that day and left the office about 15 minutes later than I wanted too. But I wasn't concerned, because I had 1:30 to get to the airport and still be early. Well, fate was not on my side and there were BART problems (trains out of service and switching problems). Trains were quite delayed.

A train came into Rockridge, but it was going to hold there for 10 - 15 minutes. After about 12 minutes, I started to get worried about making my plane (no repeat of the last trip) and started to try to find alternate means of transit, at least to the next station where I'd transfer to a line free of delays. Just when Myla offered me a ride, the train operator said that they'd get started. I was happy because that got me to MacArthur, were I'd change to another line that shouldn't have been affected by the delays.

Well, I did get to MacArthur and on my train, but it was delayed too. By the time I got to the Coliseum station, I had 45 minutes to get to the airport for my flight. That didn't seem to bad, because the airport is only 5 minutes away. Well, lots of people had the idea to take public transit too and I had to wait until the second bus came.

I got to the airport with 28 minutes to spare. My bags were late checked, but I didn't care, I was going home. I got on my plane and flew home and luckily, my bags were there waiting for me!

The weekend
At home (or at swim meets) in the heat of the Northwest. The kids both did very well and qualified for the A Champs swim meet. We swam at the King County Aquatic Center, which hosted the Goodwill Games in 1990 (I think). They beat many of their old times and had a blast.

Monday
I'm in Las Vegas for a meeting with our Sales Team that handles a large club chain. I provide them Supply Chain support and am going to give a presentation at this meeting. And now, I'm going to watch a movie (The Girl Next Door), it was up in my Netflix queue and Heather isn't interested in watching it.

Good night!
Bork

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Our shuttle isn't running today...

So, I'm on Day 3 of my trip to the Bay Area. The work day has been quite full with the project we are working on and all the meetings that I'll attend in person instead of calling into and ad hoc meetings that people call, taking advantage of me being in Oakland. (Now that is a long sentence). Evening 1 and 2 I went to dinner with friends; it was great to catch up and spend enjoyable time with them. Tonight, I hadn't made any plans. I left the office about 7 pm and went down to Ben and Nick's for a pint and dinner. I enjoy pub food and a nice beer. I had a Rubicon Amber which was nice.
But there was an emptiness.
I ate dinner at a small table by myself - after being married for almost 10 years, I don't really like being alone. When I travel, I end up working really late. Now I do work late, but not every night, not like when I'm traveling. It is like I just fill up my time working. I've got such great kids and a beautiful wife to spend my time with that when we aren't together I'm at a loss for what to do. Although I miss my family, it is a nice (but poignant) reminder of how special they are to me.
After dinner I took BART back to my hotel only to find that the shuttle to BART wasn't running and not able to pick me up. Well, all I had planned tonight was to go back to my room, check my email and catch up on some forums (all very exciting), I decided to pass on their offer of a taxi and walk back to the hotel. It turned out to be about a two mile walk, which was enjoyable.
I did check - the shuttle will be running tomorrow.
Bork
Bork
Bork

Monday, July 17, 2006

It feels like a long time since I last posted. It's only been 7 days, but it feels that way. So, some quick catch up:

Cooking
I smoked another salmon. This time I used my grandfather's brine recipe and OMG was it good! This was an example of the second time around coming out much better. I've caught the bug. Next time is going to be smoked cheddar and mozzarella.

I made more ice cream. Total production YTD - 6 quarts. This was an example of when the second time didn't come out so well. And neither did the third time around, for that matter. I made a Guinness Stout ice cream (I've had the recipe for several years now, but no ice cream maker until Father's Day). The taste is okay (Heather likes it with Chocolate syrup and almonds) but the texture is wrong. I think the egg yolks cooked funny when I was making the base. They curlded and it made a nasty custard goo.

I then made some more Vanilla ice cream, but evidently I didn't let the tub get cold enough. The ice cream never froze up and got to the right consistency. I hope it hardened okay in the freezer.

I made a Gutsy Pepper Gazpacho from Cooking Light Saturday evening. I liked it quite a lot and it was nice. It fit the day, a warm one, which was kind of a gamble with the cold spell from earlier this week.

Movies

House of Wax. Dumb. If people had a little common sense, horror movies never would happen. Don't poke around people's houses. Don't go into places that have closed signs on the door. When the scary truck comes to your campsite, time to pack up and go. Oh, yeah, and Paris Hilton can't act. And she can't sing either (she doesn't sing in the movie, but she just released an album). I wonder what is next.

Punch Drunk Love. Strange. Adam Sandler can act in a role other than big dumb guy. After watching House of Wax, this was a strange one to watch. As Adam's character (look I'm on a first name basis with him) looks at his world, some times it was hard to tell what was real and what was his imagination.

Wedding Crashers. Pretty funny.

Travel
16 days ago, I was writing an entry from SFO waiting for a stand by flight home. I write today's entry from my hotel room in the Bay Area. No, I haven't been stuck here ever since (haven't you read the other posts?), but I am back. I'm here for the week. I'm sure more will be blogged about my week.

I went to dinner tonight with Mark and Anne. It was great to see them and catch up, since I hadn't seen them when we lived in the Bay Area (I'm not good at keeping up with my friends, but I'm trying). We walked up and down College Avenue in Rockridge (twice, once for dinner and once for dessert) and had an enjoyable evening.

That's all for now. Good night!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Misguided priorities or tempted by vixens

Tonight, we had a brief meeting with one of the kids' swim coaches for a feedback session on the season. Great feedback was given and while the kids were in practice, I decided to walk to the library with Parker. There, he'd read some books and I'd quickly update my task list and calendar (as I am implementing Getting Things Done - GTD).

Heather said that she would meet me there, but I didn't realize that she meant she, too, would leave swimming only minutes behind me.

She showed up and looked for some books with Parker and came to me. "You know, we are right across the street from a Pub (the Issaquah Brewhouse, again). We've got 30 minutes, thats enough time for a pint and some onion rings!"

Here I am thinking about how I could get some more work done, when there was drinking to be done. Needless to say, my wife is always right and we went for a pint.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Multimedia message

The weekend continues. This is the woods not far from our house.

We're officical!

I'd have to say this has been a pretty nice weekend. I definitely went on a moblogging spree!

Heather and I finally took the plunge and became official - we got our Washington state driver's licenses. We both had been studying the online knowledge test and went to the North Bend licensing office - it was the closest and I didn't think they'd have long lines. I was correct, we got their just before 2 and we were immediately seen. We just gave them some personal information, showned them our California licenses, paid our money and they took our picture. That was all. All that studying for... Easy...

We stopped by the Factory Outlets in North Bend (see earlier moblog posts) and then checked out the Snoqualamie River in Fall City. We waded in the river some and two guys took the kids out in their raft a short ways. The kids had a blast.

This morning, I made madelines (had to run to the store for sugar) and smoked salmon. This was the first time I'd ever used a smoker and it was super easy. I'll be making more stuff with the smoker, for sure. I've got a recipe for smoked tomato soup I'd like to try and my grandfather has a great recipe for smoked salmon.

We did watch the World Cup finals, which was a lot of fun, too.

A great weekend all around!
Bork

Fired up the smoker this weekend

It tastes good too! This is my first time smoking (fish, that is).

Bill of Rights - Security Edition

Strange New Products clued me into this one.


The First Ten Amendments to the constitution of the United States printed on both sides of sturdy, pocket-sized, pieces of metal. The next time you travel by air, take the Bill of Rights - Security Edition along with you. When asked to empty your pockets, proudly toss the Bill of Rights in the plastic bin. You need to get used to offering up the bill of rights for inspection and government workers enforcing the USAPATRIOT ACT need to get used to deciding if you'll be allowed to keep the Bill of Rights with you when you travel.

Bill of Rights - Security Edition

Friday, July 07, 2006

Rouge Nation

So while one of my friends is brewing his own beer, I discovered a new eaterie in Issaquah.

Tonight was the bi-monthly Issaquah Art Walk, which we enjoyed after swim practice. While the Art Walk was nice and there were many businesses open supporting the event, it wasn't all that. The art was okay, but what was really nice was all the people in downtown Issaquah. It was nice to see a downtown, after hours, with lots of people. There were three bands - none of which were memorable musically.

After we had enough art, we went to the Issaquah Brew Pub. I thought that this was just a local brew pub, maybe serving some local micro-brews, but I was mistaken. This was one of the Rouge Micro Meeting Halls, dining establishments owned by Rouge Ales. Their list of beers was nicely presented in a notebook with information about the beer. They had several different types of stout. It was one more place where the alcohol list is longer than the food list.

I had their Chipotle Ale, which I really liked. Heather enjoyed the Chocolate Stout, which was really good. They had a dessert which sounded really good, a Chocolate Stout Float. Unfortunately, with a glass of wine from the art walk and the beer with dinner, Chocolate Stout Float was not for me.

They also served Kobe beef burgers and Rouge River Blue Cheese, two things I've heard great accolades, but never had before. I had a Kobe Bacon Cheese burger (no Rouge Blue cheese) and it was very nice. The beef was very flavorful.

I'm really looking forward to going back there. I'm meeting my friend Roger and his wife Gina for lunch on Monday not far from there and I was so tempted to change our lunch spot to the Issaquah Brew Pub, until Heather reminded me that a beer lunch was probably inappropriate.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fourth of July

I had an enjoyable Fourth of July with my friends and family. It had a bit of a rough start and I had to do about three hours of work, but the time was well spent as it made my work day today much easier (as well as many other people's across the country). I'll do my best to make sure that you'll be able to get your ice cream!

Wade joined us from Ellensburg and we went to Ray's Boathouse Cafe for lunch. It was a very nice place, although the route we took (following the nav system, not the restaurant's directions) took us through most of the industrial areas in Seattle. We got seats on the deck and after some musical chairs, the adults had the views of the Sound and the Olympics started to peak through the distant haze. It was truly beautiful. There was a house on the point across the water and all through lunch, the flag posted by their house was nicely blowing in the breeze. Unfortunately, by the time lunch was done, the flag didn't wave so fully.

I asked the host where we could walk along the water and he directed us to check out the locks separating Lake Washington and the Sound. They were impressive! Firstly, it is a Corps of Engineers facility so it was emblazoned with Engineer castles all over. There was even one designed in the flower bed! On top of their being locks and a visitor center, they have nice flower gardens and a beautiful park. Being the Fourth of July, there was a band in the park playing patriotic tunes. It was really nice. We got to watch the locks get loaded (quite a manual task, I was surprised to see) and then fill with water. They filled fairly quickly and the operators said that it was running slowly because of the baby salmon swimming out to sea.

After that we went to get ice cream and luckily, they had the right brand, at least for the flavors we bought. They had bulk tubs of some competitor (a local brand) and our 56 ounce containers for a better flavor variety. Heather had an italian soda, which was good, because I got to watch how it was made (I bought raspberry syrup the day before and the sodas I made just weren't right). Her's had cream in it, something I had never seen before. Obviously, I didn't pay that much attention, because both she and Wade had seen that before.

After the locks, we thought about going to Gasworks Park to a festival and to ultimately watch fireworks, but the parking looked to be horrendous (based upon how far people were walking) so we called Roger and asked if we could come over. We weren't inviting ourself over, he had mentioned it when I was talking to him earlier in the day, trying to firm up some lunch plans. So we stopped at a QFC and Heather went in to get some "good" beer and she delivered. Newcastle Brown, Bass and Crazy 8 Ball Stout, all winners.

We found our way to Roger and Gina's new house (thank you nav system, this time) and were greeted by several dogs (more dogs than kids) and a bunch of their friends. We all had a lot of fun and it was neat to see how our kids acted in a social environment like that. Chase was quite the social butterfly, Parker really liked Cinnamon (Tad and Chloe's little dog) and Alec really dug the 92" projector and Xbox 360 Roger had setup in the basement. The setup was totally bad-ass!

We moved the furniture in and out of the rain a few times, drank beer, and Roger grilled tri-tip, burgers, pork, egg plant and more. Alec threw me the frisbee once and I slipped down the hill that Rog's front yard is on chasing Alec's throw. It was quite funny, I watched my beer shoot up out of the bottle as I went down, but I didn't drop the bottle. I socialized, played some Halo 2, played some hackey sack (it mush be the soccer coaching that translates into the skills with the sack, Rog). It was a great time.

There were fireworks which we 'watched' from Roger's front yard which the kids enjoyed greatly. We had to leave before the pyrotechnic display concluded, which really disappointed Chase. We drove away, after making a quick phone call about siting the po-po and all three kids promptly fell asleep.

All in all, it was a great day!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday America

Thanks to all those that are serving our country, helping ensure that we are a free country and can have whatever beliefs we want.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Running

No my friends, this isn't a post about how I've started to run again. I'd love to be writing a post about how I've working running into my daily schedule and I've registered for 5 and 10k's this summer. But this isn't about that.
This is about me running on empty.
I've been on the go since Saturday June 24th. The kids had a swim meet that weekend in Tacoma. It was an hour drive from our house and warm ups were at 7 am. It was an outdoor meet and dumb ole me sat in the sun for a few hours. The kids did okay, but they did have fun.
After the meet, we checked out the Tacoma Narrows.
I got home and found my wife watching the UFC marathon on Spike TV. So, we watched that until we fell asleep.
Day two, warm ups started at 7:30. Big woop, it was still an early wake up. Again, the kids swam okay and we went to Steamer's which had been recommended by several people at work. After this, we went to another swim meet and were there until 9 pm. I was exhausted then.
Monday morning rolled around and I couldn't get up. It was the last day of school and the weather was really hot, so we went to the pool and I was going to BBQ hot dogs. Well, there were some problems with some systems at work and I didn't leave the house until I was supposed to be at the pool, and I still had to buy hot dogs and stuff. I bought stuff for dinner, but didn't buy plates or ketchup or other accoutrements for hot dogs. Kind of a sad dinner, but the kids had fun at the swimming pool and we were there late again.
I still had to go home and pack for my trip (didn't mention that one yet). I had a trip originally planned for Tuesday through Thursday, but that afternoon we decided that I would stay and extra day, through Friday. This was a trip working with a consultant, so I was going to work as long hours as I could, so I could milk every last bit out of the consultant.
I started out exhausted so it was challenging time. I did get to go to dinner with my sister-in-laws and their husbands and then the next night with Myla (everybody else stood me up or had sick kids to take care of). But it was tiring and I'd get back to the hotel and work on that system issue I mentioned before (no resolution yet). I missed my family and realized how important they are, because I just fill the gap with work and how sad is that?
Wednesday night I had nailed down what Friday's schedule looked like and started to try to change my return ticket. No luck on Southwest. Evidently a lot of people like to travel for the Fourth of July. I got some assistance from Karen, our admin, and she was finally able to find me a flight home. It took her a lot of work, but she found me a flight from SFO (not Oakland, where I was originally planned to depart from) to Las Vegas and then to Seattle.
I was happy that things were under control for Friday and set out to work on my Friday projects. It was very fruitful time and we determined that I didn't need to return to the Bay Area on the 10th.
Well, when I got to SFO (very easy on BART now), my flight to Las Vegas was delayed. There were mere minutes for me to make my connection, but we were even later when we got to Vegas. There was nothing out of Vegas and by 1 am it was mostly arranged that I would fly back to SFO in the morning on a 6 am flight and try for something out of SFO. I had to be back in the airport at about 4:30 to prep for my flight (had to chase down some paperwork) so there was no point in me going to a hotel for just a few hours, so I slept in a corner in the airport.
When I woke a few hours later, there were about 4 other people asleep in the same hallway.
I went down to the United desk and the first guy in line was a Marine, asleep on the tile floor, in parts of his dress blues.
For whatever reason, I've been selected for Special Security Screening; although they really do go through all your stuff, you get to skip to the front of the line. Did that a few times and then I got back to SFO. In SFO, I'm supposed to try standby flights or be confirmed on a Sunday flight.
So, I've been waiting for three flights now out of SFO, I'm tired and unshaven and the coffee I bought dripped on my shirt and pants - the only ones I have for who knows how long.
SFO has a Swatch shop, which when I saw it made me think of my college roommate Erik. He has a large Swatch collection, so I whipped out my camera and took a picture of it. I'll post it here eventually. The two girls running the store started talking about why would some one take a picture of their store. So I explained that I was doing it for my buddy.
United has seriously overbooked their flights and now I'm just counting on people missing their connections for me to take their place. It almost happened on my last flight, but they showed up at the last minute.

I need to go walk to the next gate and wait there. We'll see what happens. The wi-fi is through out the hotel, so I can get on again later, but I hope I don't have that opportunity!