Monday, December 31, 2007

Woes of Virginia, Part 35,487

I just cleaned my local grocery store out of sauerkraut. Every last can and bag of the kraut is now in my possession. It's their own fault, really; they should know that damn Yankees like me bring our damn Yankee traditions along with us, and that means having good old fashioned pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day for good luck. And no, sauerkraut is NOT just "that stuff you put on hot dogs."

Maybe next year I'll make my own.

(In case you're wondering, "damn Yankee" is, in fact, a technical term. It refers to northerners (Yankees) who move down south and who, in the process, become damn Yankees.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday Cat Blogging

Lucy's actually not feeling very well this weekend; she has a sprained paw (at least that's what the vet said it likely was during our phone conversation). On Saturday she wouldn't put any weight on it at all, and while it's a bit better today (Sunday), she's still favoring it pretty heavily. The vet said to give her half a tablet of children's aspirin for two days, and then call again on Monday if she's not better. So, that's what I'm doing.

This picture, though, was taken when the biggest issue was not the sprained paw, but rather how to take a good nap with that annoying light shining everywhere.

2008 Resolutions

I've been a bad blogger. I haven't written anything for 3 whole weeks now! Sheesh. But, now that the new year is upon us, I get to post something. So I present to you:

Nik's 2008 Resolutions
The hope is that, by actually writing them down in a semi-public place, I'll hold myself to them a bit better than previous years.

1) Post more stuff on the blog! Every day, yes every single day, will now have at least one post. Even if it's just a gratuitious here's-a-cool-article, there will be something. I'm up to 2 readers, and by golly, I'm going to keep them both!

2) Stop being so lazy. A lot of times groceries (non-perishables) will sit in my car for days on end, for the simple reason that I'm too lazy to go back down the 3 flights of stairs and bring up the rest once I'm back in my apartment. Not good for me, and not good for groceries. So, I hereby declare pre-emptive war on laziness and procrastination. They are the enemies of freedom, and I will not hesitate to use all the tools available to contain their freedom-hatingness.

3) Lose 50 pounds! I know, sounds cliche, but in my case, it's actually pretty close to being true. I'm carrying around a lot of extra weight; and that is, to put it mildly, not the best situation to be in, and it needs to change. So I'm going to change my habits. I'm not going to turn into some crazy health nut, but I'm going to visit the gym after work, and I'm going to eat sensibly. And I'm not gonna sit around all day, I'm gonna take a walk. Or something.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Question for the Footballers

Question for all you football (American football) fans out there: what is it, exactly, about the Patriots' taping of the opposing team's hand signals that is so illegal exactly?

I'm not trying to suggest it's good sportsmanship to do something like that, but haven't teams been devoting significant effort to decode their opponents' hand signals for years now? Is the problem that he actually taped them; that it'd be ok to squint and use binoculars but taping is a no-no? I could believe that, except we're talking about a sport where the players actually have little radio trancievers built into their helmets, and there's always a "team upstairs" that has access to a bajillion different camera angles who can tell the coach exactly when a play should be challenged and when it shouldn't. So what's the deal?

On a completely unrelated note: Bruce Sprinstein's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is a good song, but it is also way overplayed.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ever had a weird nightmare?

I just got done taking a mid-afternoon nap, where I had the following dream:

I had just gotten done telling a really annoying coworker that he took turns way too fast when he was driving. But then I started driving my family's old station wagon, and somehow I got myself wedged in a curve. And the only way to get out of the wedge was to gun the engine and run over a family's mailbox, destroying it. The family was home, and of course I apologized and told them that I would pay for it. Except that the family was actually a business with some weird mixed up name, and when I tried to write a check I misspelled it, so I ripped up that check to try again. But when I looked for the next check, there wasn't one, so I was left with no other option but to count out about $150 in change from the car and hope that was enough to cover the damage. I was absolutely mortified.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cold Update

Ugh. Apologies for the light posting, but it was a rough week. The cold that I woke up with on Sunday got worse, a LOT worse, as the week passed.

On Monday my nose turned into a snot machine, and my head felt like it was going to explode. I had to be out at the West Creek complex that day for a presentation, which meant not having a familiar place to sit and having to lug my backpack around, and to top it all off it was 80 degrees and I lost my keys for about 45 minutes and had to run around the campus trying to find them. I ended up going home around 3PM (when the Dayquil wore off); I stopped by Ukrops to pick up some soup, then spent the rest of the day wrapped up in a blanket drinking hot tea with honey and eating the oranges that my grandfather sent me for Christmas.

As bad as Monday was, Tuesday was even worse. My head was even stuffier and my nose even runnier. I also had to spend a lot of time in close proximity with other people, and I'm one of those guys who really hates to be close to others when I'm sick, more for their sake than mine, really. PLUS, I'm on the planning committee for CapOne's LGBT holiday party, which was Tuesday night, and had to deal with that (this warrants its own story). I was responsible for nametags, and had a great template that we'd used last year with gold and silver and our network logo that everybody liked. Except when I went to print them out, I discovered that we only had one sheet of nametags left, so I had to run out in the middle of the day to get more. After nearly getting killed (seriously) by a dumptruck that ran a red light, I got the stuff at Walmart, got back to the office in time for another holiday event that I'd helped plan for the department, eventually got them all printed, and set out to find the person who'd said they'd take the nametags to the event for me (someone had volunteered in our meeting earlier when I said I was sick and maybe not going). Except apparently that person left the office early without checking with me first. So apparently I was now going to the holiday party regardless of how sick I felt. I went home, rested for a bit, loaded myself up with drugs, grabbed the scissors and markers we would need for the raffle drawings later, and drove off to holiday party. After missing the buidling the first time around and then parking in the wrong lot the second time, I finally got parked and walked into the party ... only to discover that I'd forgotten the nametags at home. *sigh So, off to Walgreens to buy some "Hello my name is:" stickers. The night wasn't a complete bust though: I got a very nice rainbow candle and tree ornament :)

Wednesday was slightly better; my head wasn't nearly as bad, but now my throat was awful; so bad in fact that I took my own honey to work with me and literally drank tea all day long. Well, untill 2PM anyway. That was when 3 days of being really busy and really sick finally caught up and hit me like a sledgehammer. So I went home early again, and was so exhausted that I took a 4 hour nap. Woke up around 7 with a fever and the chills and aching all over; had some soup, some more tea and another orange, and then went back to bed around 9PM.

Woke up at 8AM on Thursday morning feeling a LOT better. No more exploding head or burning throat, just a mild case of the sniffles (I guess 15 hours of sleep will do that for you). Got through work easily enough, then had a great dinner with Katie up in Charlottesville, and am now feeling great!

More tomorrow, it's time for bed.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday Cat Blogging

Still feeling lousy, but here's the weekly Lucy picture. She's got it all figured out.

The Nonsense Weekend

For some reason, nothing seemed to make sense this weekend. It was The Weekend of the Nonsense. There were some times the universe seemed to actively work against me:

1) My grandfather sent me a fruit gift box, filled with awesome oranges and grapefruits. And I'm coming down with a pretty bad cold, which makes everything taste like cardboard.

2) Last week I was thwarted in my cookie baking efforts by lack of a key ingredient for almost every type of cookie. Now that I have the ingredients, I don't have my mixing bowls.

3) I went to deposit a check at my bank's ATM, which it appears they've upgraded to make check depositing easier than ever. Except that they didn't do a good job of testing and all the new ATM's are flashing a big red out-of-order message.

And then there were the simply annoying nonsense things:

3) Watching Sunday night football on Fox and listening to some dumb blonde recite the "Top 10 Reasons why Carrie Bradshaw is different from Gilligan's baby." (The top 10? There are more? Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City?) As a SNL skit or Family Guy episode that'd be perfect, but as an NFL pregame show? Wtf?

4) Annoying radio commercials for mutual funds that claim "50% of our funds beat the market average".

Friday, November 30, 2007

Alltel's Decline

Anyone who watches TV probably recognizes the Chad commercials from Alltel. It's a classic format that personalizes your company as a likeable laid-back guy, while portraying your competitors as well-meaning but clueless nerds, a format that Apple has used quite well against Microsoft.

The Alltel version of these commercials aren't spectacular - they were cutesy funny at first, then sort of degenerated into just kind of dumb as the ad writers tried to do too much with a good thing. The latest series of ads (the claymation ones at the north pole) are just plain bad, though. Gone is any pretense of the competitors being well-intentioned but dumb; now they're simply incompetent thieves who try to steal everyone's Christmas presents, but get thwarted by an elven SWAT team that throws ninja snowflakes. The commercial doesn't even try to promote a product or service or explain why Alltel is better, it's simply an over-the-top (in a bad way) attack ad on Alltel's competitors that doesn't even come close to making an actual allegation other than Verizon & ATT & all the others are thieving bastards.

Why am I ranting about this? No idea. I saw the commercial a few nights ago and it's been bothering me for a while, so I figured I'd write something.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Turducken!

Thanksgiving is a pretty big occasion at my house. We generally have around 15 people, my mom and I are usually up all night preparing the meal, and this year was no exception. The menu at the Heberlein table: turducken with sausage and cornbread stuffings, mashed potatoes with real gravy, bread stuffing with vegetables, roasted baby onions with red wine, green beans with caramelized almonds, brussel sprouts with cumbled bacon, baked corn casserole, cranberry sauce, brown bread, fruit salad, plenty of appetizers, pecan pie, chocolate bourbon pecan pie, and real homemade toffee. Of course, that doesn't count all the other things that guests bring, like pumpkin pies, potato pies, applesauce, cheesecake (it's not a Heberlein family event unless someone brings cheesecake), apple pies.

We used to prepare just a regular turkey, but a few years ago we tried a turducken, and have been hooked ever since. For the uninitiated, a turducken is chicken inside of duck inside of turkey, usually with layers of stuffing in between. You can get them premade, but we always make our own (we don't debone the birds ourselves, we let the butcher do that). If you've ever wanted to know what it takes to assemble this culinary masterpiece, well, you've come to the right place! Behold, the preparation of the turducken!

1) Prepare the sausage stuffing. We like sweet Italian.


2) Prepare the cornbread stuffing.


3) Spread the deboned turkey open on the table, exposing as much meat as possible (we usually have what starts as a 20lb bird).


4) Spread the sausage stuffing on the turkey.


5) Layer the duck on the sausage stuffing. Traditionally there's only one (whole) duck breast, but we like duck, so we use three.


6) Spread cornbread stuffing on top of the duck.


7) Put the chicken breast on top of the cornbread stuffing.


8) Finish off with more sausage stuffing.


9) Take a deep breath, and prepare to fold.


10) FOLD!


11) Tie quickly.


12) Tie some more.


13) Roast at 225F for 11 hours.

14) Enjoy!

Retroactive Sunday Cat Blogging

Pictures of home and the turducken coming soon, I promise. In the meantime, cat blogging!

After the initial where-the-hell-am-I? state, Lucy decided that she rather liked being some place where she could pick and choose what bed to lounge on.
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And of course, when you add a second blanket, well, that's just purrrrrfect.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Back in Lancaster

Well, back in good ol' Lancaster, home of the Amish, home of the me. The drive was busy but uneventful; Tuesday is early enough, I think, to avoid most of the holiday traffic. I did see a few things going up, though, that will strike fear into the hearts of the later holiday travelers: there's a lot of construction happening on the DC beltway, and at one point the 5 lanes converge into 2. THAT's going to be a nightmare. I still haven't decided how to go back, I don't even want to think about it.

Lucy was NOT a fan of the carry case, she cried nonstop for the first 2 hours, then eventually just accepted that she'd be there for a while and tried to go to sleep. Except every couple of minute or so there'd be a bump in the road and that would wake her up, and she'd cry a bit again. I really hate putting her in there, but I'd hate even more to have her get tangled up in my legs and cause an accident, so it's not like I have much of a choice. True to form, she's pretty shy and stays mostly under the bed. She explored the house a little late last night, but then came back and curled up under my parent's bed, much to my consternation. I tell myself it's because their bed reminds her of my bed back home, and if anyone else has other ideas about why she'd sleep with my parents and not me, you can keep them to yourself, thank you very much.

Not much else of interest to report. My parents finally have a decent internet connection, except that I can't connect my laptop to it, which means I can't VPN into the CapOne network and do work like I told my manager I would. Oops.

I brought my camera along to document the preparation of the Turducken, but this computer doesn't have the right interface, so right now you'll have to be content with a picture of Congo the Banana King, who watches over the vast expanse of bananas at the local grocery store.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Roundup

Well, the Week of Ugh has ended, and ended much better than it began, thankfully.

Friday night was dinner night with Justin and Danielle. I was exhausted and didn't feel like cooking, so we all went out to (where else?) Pho So 1 for Vietnamese, and on the way back we got ice cream and milkshakes at ColdStone. (We dropped a dollar into the tip jar and they sang for us.) When we got back to the apartment, Danielle picked up Ratatouille from Blockbuster, and we watched that while having wine and cheese. It's a fun little movie, they really did a good job getting the rat movements and actions right, it reminded me a lot of Templeton. Templeton's palette wasn't quite as developed as the movie rat's, but I'm pretty sure Templeton could beat up the movie rat, so it's all good. :P

After Justin and Danielle left, phase 2 of the evening commenced. Katie came down and she, Todd and I went out to Carytown. I met them at some place called Galaxy Diner, which has one of those weird doors where you have to push a button in order to open it - and I smacked right into it the first time. Oops. By the time I got inside Katie and Todd had finished eating (well, nearly, there was a single onion ring left, which I ate), so we all went out, walked what seemed like halfway to Richmond, and then took a table in the Sticky Rice Bar.

I'm not quite sure how many drinks I had, mostly because my memories of that night aren't entirely clear, but I remember watching Transformers, watching Katie & Todd battle with the chopsticks, walking a LONG way back to Todd's, and then passing out on his couch. Fun times!

As is so often the case, I ended up paying for it the next day; felt sick, had a headache, and just generally had a grouchy mood. That lasted most of the day, but cleared up by evening, just in time to go back to Todd's (for dinner, not for drinks) with some food that we ordered from Outback.

And now, behold, the crown jewel of the week! A picture of a cat jumping at imaginary things!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Week of Ugh

The title pretty much sums it up. Every month around this time I get very busy, because of all the MBRs (Monthly Business Reviews for the uninitiated) that happen during the middle of the month. Basically we all get together and discuss what happened last month, what's happening now, what will happen, etc. Since so much of what we discuss generally involves analyzing data, my schedule gets pretty tight.

Every month is bad, but this month is worse. Combined with all the normal responsibilities I have for the MBR is an additional project that I have to do an impact analysis for, a services dashboard that got transitioned to me because of the reorg, a LOT (deliberate capitalization) of small tweaks to the data to make it accurate, a Thanksgiving potluck (both coordinating and bringing something for), and a diversity holiday party. Plus all of the other stuff that I do.

The week has been tres ugh. Hopefully a good dinner with some good friends will help to clear it up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Cat and Rat Blogging

Her Royal Highness the Princess Lucille will receive you now.



I was searching through old pictures on the computer and found this one of my rat, Templeton. It's from back when I was still a senior at Cornell, almost 3 years ago, when Templeton was still relatively young. I'll never forget how excited he was every night when I would bring him cheerios from the dining hall. *sigh, I miss my ratty.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging (aka making up for lost weeks)

Like most cats, Lucy enjoys a good romp under the sheets from time to time.


I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeVil


This picture reminds me of something, but I can't figure out what.
John over at Americablog is right, this is pretty outrageous. I have to admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for analysts that work for evil companies (seeing as how I'm one of them), but paying out incentives based on how many health insurance clains you can deny is pretty low.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-insure9nov09,0,4409342.story?coll=la-home-center

Friday, November 02, 2007

Flying Sucks

Prepare yourselves for another rant. This one is about public transportation, which, let's face it, sucks miserably in this country. The highway system functions like clogged arteries and are unusable for large chunks of the day, buses are a joke, trains are slow and don't go where you need them to, which means the only viable option for most people is to fly. It's certainly the preferred means of travel for business, because most businesses would prefer that you spend as much time being productive as possible, instead of spending unproductive time crammed into aluminum cans of varying shapes trying to get to a place where you can be productive.

But air travel in this country is already pretty shoddy, and it's getting worse. The lack of viable alternatives is leading more and more people to fly, which means more and more flights at airports that are more and more outdated, which means more and more congestion, and more and more unhappy people when things eventually blow up. (I could go into another long rant about public funding of transportation, what we could learn from Europe, and just how miserable we're all going to be in a few decades if we don't do something soon, but that's a completely different post.)

So what brought this on, you might ask? My recent experience with USAir. I went on a recruiting trip to Cornell this Thursday and Friday, which has been pretty much an absolute disaster, as far as travel goes.

Richmond Int'l was ok, but the flight from Richmond to Philly was pretty bad. They've decided to "upgrade" some of their planes to have 4 seats per row instead of 3, with predictable results. After spending an hour like that, we finally got to Philly, which is a classic example of an airport expanding beyond its capacity. USAir has to operate out of two terminals in Philly: C and F. The only way to get from one to the other (without having to go through security again) is to take a small, cramped, slow, and woefully under-scheduled bus shuttle. They can't install an underground train, because that would disrupt service too much, and they can't afford that.

small aside: KATIE GETS A SHOUTOUT!

Well, the flight from Philly to Ithaca was delayed, delayed again, delayed again, and then delayed past the second flight to Ithaca, and then undelayed slightly. Seriously, they told us at 11AM it would be at least 12:30 before the plane was even on the ground. Then, at 11:20, people started boarding the plane. And when I say "people started boarding the plane" I mean just that. There was no announcement, no indication on the monitor all of a sudden people just started boarding the flight to Ithaca, with the ticket checker just ushering people onto the plane without really checking anything.

So finally we got into the air, and about midway through the flight the stewardess, for whatever reason, decided to get on the com and make sure that yes, everyone really was going to Ithaca. Why she decided to do this after we were airborne and not while we were still parked at the gate is beyond me, but she got results. Turns out that the girl sitting right next to me (who was half asleep and almost didn't hear the stewardess) was actually supposed to go to DC(!), not Ithaca, and had boarded the wrong plane. It wasn't entirely her fault; all things considered I'm lucky I didn't wind up on a plane for DC, and I KNOW people got left behind because they never announced the flight for Ithaca.

The part of the trip that I actually spent at Cornell I'll leave for another post. On to the return flight!

So, as I was riding the shuttle from the hotel to the airport, I overheard another asenger talking on his phone, saying that his flight had been delayed and that he didn't know what to do. "Perfect" I thought. Turns out that yes, my 5:55PM flight from Ithaca to Laguardia had been delayed by at least 2 hours, probably more. But not to worry, they said, there was a 10PM flight out of Laguardia to Richmond, so at the very least I should make that. I, being the analyst that I am, did some quick math. Flight was originally scheduled to leave Ithaca at 6PM If it's delayed by two hours, that means it will now leave at 8PM. It's a 90 minute flight, so I'd probably get to Laguardia around 9:30PM. That's doable if I'm trying to make a 10PM connection, but there was no way I'd make my previously scheduled 8:20 connection. So I asked if they could just book me for the 10PM flight and give me that ticket, since there the idea that I'd make the earlier connection seemed laughable. Well, no, apparently they can't do that, but it's possible that the earlier flight might be delayed enough for me to still make it. Oh, of course, how silly of me.

Ithaca is actually a rather pleasant small airport, and it has free wifi, but their "cafe", which serves sandwiches, chips and soda and nothing else, closes at 6PM, which leaves the vending machines. I was lucky enough to get a sandwich, but a lot of others weren't.

Finally the plane arrived, and it was time to go through security, where I got my first ever pat down search! More of a rub down search really, but hey, whatever. They inspected one of my bags but not the other, which is kind of weird in my opinion, but again, whatever. The whole process took less than a minute. I could have gone behind a private screen but opted not to, because really, what fun would that have been?

After my rubdown we boarded, went through the whole oxygen-is-flowing-even-though-the-bag-may-not-inflate routine, and then the rather terrifying part began. I've flown enough lately that I'm not anxious at takeoff or landing, but seriously, this time the plane sounded like it was going to fall apart. Loud, and I mean LOUD, rattling noises all over, the lights were flickering on and off, and the emergency exit door (in the row right behind me) startled whistling and shaking like it was going to fall off! The two people behind me (rather seasoned business travelers) were petrified. Eventually things settled down, and we got to NY.

Flight was delayed, delayed again, blah blah blah, surfed the net, boarded, flew, home. And now I'm tired so I'm going to bed.

Random Ranting

I'll redo the post on the week, but first, a random rant.

I just tried to sign into one of my online accounts, and their random "Enhanced Security Feature" decided that I needed to verify some more information so that they could be sure I was who I said I was. As a general idea, this is fine. However, more and more I'm seeing a lot of companies go about it in a way that's completely assinine.

I'm talking about companies that ask you to answer personal questions about yourself. Not just factual stuff like "In what city were you born?", but stupid stuff for which there's no particular right answer and which might actually change over time.

Some examples I've encountered:
What is your favorite restaurant?
Who was your childhood hero?
What was the first name of your first childhood crush?
What was your father's job when you were growing up?
Where do you most want to go on vacation?

What's your favorite restaurant? Right now it's Thai Diner. A month ago it was Cheesecake Factory. Before that it was Ipanema Grill. Seriously, has anyone ever had a favorite restaurant that hasn't changed over the years?

What was your father's job when you were growing up? Well, thankfully my dad was lucky enough to have just one job while I was growing up, so putting aside that potential issue, I have really no idea how to describe it. He's a small business owner, a framer, an artist, a painter, a gallery owner, he's everything.

Random rant ends now, because I have to go catch an airport shuttle.

GRAH!!

I had just finished typing up a long post about the past week and hit "submit", when my wireless card decided it was going to not work, so I lost the entire blog post.

5...

4...

3...

2...

1...

YYYYEEEEAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's Halloween

And I had to make a very specific and last-minute costume with leftovers from Walmart and whatever I had on-hand. Let's just leave it at that.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

95 in Richmond

High of 95 today in Richmond? It's freakin mid-October!

On another note, I was reminded yesterday just how arbitrary the rules of operation are in this country. Yesterday was Columbus day. If you live in a city with Italian heritage, you might have known that; otherwise, your best clue was when everything kept operating except government. I work for a financial firm, and I wouldn't have had off if I hadn't been on a pre-scheduled vacation. The grocery stores didn't have off. Private schools didn't have off. But the post-office and the public schools have off. So do the banks, as evidenced by the fact that none of the ATMs had any deposit envelopes.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sunday Cat Blogging

One day late. Sue me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Weekend Plans

Random collection of thinkings:

It's 7:30AM and it's misty wet outside. Looks like it could rain soon, which we need desparately. According to the Times Dispatch, there isn't a single county in Virginia that's better than "abnormally dry". Everything else is drough-moderate or drought-extreme, with a small part drought-severe. Ugh. Not only is it making for a rather boring fall with muted colors, but rain calms me down and without it, I tend to get cranky from the sun all the time.

Lucy had gotten better for a while, but her new favorite game is to pretend my legs under the sheets are monsters that she must attack when I'm sleeping. I don't mind so much when she gets me up early (it's for my own good) but when she's ripping the sheets with her claws that's another story. This weekend I'm going to PetSmart and buying a nail clipper for her. Right now, she's chasing her tail around the spare bedroom.

Katie's coming down from Charlottesville in just a few hours; we're going to IHOP for brunch (she's sick of Panera), and then up to Lancaster for a surprise overnight visit to see my dad's first art show in something like 25 years. Granted, it won't be much of a surprise if he reads this, but I'm pretty sure he reads it maybe once a decade, maybe twice, so the risk is pretty minimal. Anyway, Katie and I are both pretty excited, it's great to have him painting again and doing something he enjoys so much.

After that, it's mini-vacation time! Nothing special planned, just taking several days off from work and staying home, getting things cleaned and organized, catching up on some paperwork, etc. Fun times!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Random Sunday Bloggings

1) Smoke alarms are made in Canada, and are radioactive. Who knew?

2) OrionSky019: you should come down
OrionSky019: and we'll go to Barnes and Noble
OrionSky019: and i'll feed my Graphic novels fetish

Sunday Cat Blogging

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friends are Fun, Fire is Bad!

Thursday night was fish and chips night. I have a good recipe that I made once a few years ago at Cornell and it turned out great. So now, whenever I want to have a nice evening with friends and a not-too-laborous meal, I try to make the same recipe. Trouble is, it never turns out right, and each time seems to be worse than the time before. Last time, I had really really REALLY soggy chips. This time, I may or may not have accidentally set the oil on fire.

So, one very freaked out cat, lots of black oily smoke, a few cups of baking soda, and some very bemused friends later, I had a complete mess and no dinner to show for it. So instead, we (Justin, Danielle, Janeth and me) went out for Italian at GrapeVine down the road, which turned out to be just what we needed. Good times and lots of laughs, but still really bummed that I didn't have dinner ready for everybody. I'm not sure I want to try again, there's no telling what could happen next time.

Friday night I went down to the Fan to hang out with Todd and Kelly, which was a big accomplishment for me. I'm one of those people who needs to know exactly where I'm going when I'm driving; so I hate driving places I don't know, and I especially have driving and parking in the city. The Fan is even worse, because not only have I never been there, but there's no off-street parking, and on-street parking is hideous since so many people live there.

But, do it I did! Found a good spot about a block away from Kelly's apartment, hung out there for a little while, then went out for drinks at the bars. Met two of Kelly's friends there, Nikhil and Catherine. Nikhil and Catherine are, as it turns out, engaged to be married. Over the course of the night Catherine and I talked, and had a few beers. The beers got the better of Catherine, who then proceeded to go to sleep on my shoulder ... while her fiance sat right on her other side wondering why she wasn't sleeping on his shoulder. Umm, AWKWARD.

Anyway, great night, glad I finally did it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Twitch

I seem to have developed a nervous twitch in my eye.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great Relaxing Weekend

Just finished a very relaxing weekend; first one in a long time.

A really good friend from DC came down for the day on Saturday to visit. We went downtown and did the whole "Richmond thing".

Everytime I go there, I'm struck at just how empty the city is on weekends. It went through a revitalization effort during the 80's and 90's, which meant a whole bunch of skyscrapers for businesses and not much else. So it's busy during the day, packed during rush hour, and completely dead any other time. At one point we were walking through a pretty major intersection; we stopped in the middle, and Mike observed that we couldn't see a single other person walking. This was at 2PM. Geez.

Anyway, we did the Capitol, the Canal Walk, Monument Ave, the Confederacy Museum, and Shockoe Slip (had some great beers at Richbrau). If you know anything about downtown Richmond, you know that's pretty much all there is to do.

Went back to the apartment, chilled for a while, then had dinner at Ipanema Grill. It was Mike's first time at a Brazillian steakhouse, I think he liked it :)

Sunday I just sat around the apartment, played some games, read a book, cleaned a bit, and just generally had a very relaxing and stress-free time. Even the fact that my neighbors spilled soda on my car from their balcony didn't bother me this morning.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Crap

I just spilled 7 cups of confectioners sugar on the kitchen floor.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Famous Cheese Caves

I made a white wine cream sauce tonight to have with spaghetti as next week's lunch. On the gorgonzola package is this charming little product description:

Hand made using all-natural ingredients, then carefully aged in the historic cheese caves of Faribault, MN.


Did anyone else know that there are historic cheese caves in Minnesota?

Sunday Cat Blogging

I know it's traditional to do cat blogging on Friday, but taking pictures of Lucy is difficult when you're stuck at work. Therefore, I'm cat blogging on Sunday, to take advantage of the entire weekend.

Since this is the first week, I'm posting not one, but TWO(!) pictures of Lucy.

Here's Lucy with her pink feather thingy. It used to have 6 big pink fluffy feathers on it. She's whittled that down to 3 rather scruffy looking feathers.




For some reason, the pink feather thingy keeps zipping under the dresser to hide. Why's it do that? What's it doing under there?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Worst Idea Ever

I took a 3 mile walk 24 hours after I did calf raises at the gym for the first time in a while. Trying to walk now results in the following sound:

OOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mushrooms, Round 3!

Round 1: Emergency call to 24/7 maintenance on Thursday night. Service guy comes out at 10PM, says washing machine hose is leaking. Fixes hose. Says personally can't do anything else, but recommends talking to complex manager.

Round 2: Talk to complex manager. Says senior complex repairman is on vacation until after Labor Day, but that service request is noted.

Round 3: Senior complex repairman visits apartment during normal business hours. Enters said apartment without notifying apartment's resident (causing much consternation) and leaves note saying personally can't do anything, and that outside contractor has been called.

So, that's the update. We're now up to the point where an outside contractor has to come in and look at the floor. Should be an intereting couple of days. And now, I'm off to do some cleaning so that when the contractor comes the apartment isn't a wreck.

Monday, September 03, 2007

3 Driving Habits that Annoy Me

On the way home from Charlottesville last night, I encountered three driving habits that really annoy me. They are, in no particular order:

1) People who don't drive at a constant speed. I'm not talking about drivers who stay in a plus or minus 5mph range, or adapt to weather or road conditions, which we all do. I'm talking about people who go back and forth between 65 and 85 based on how much they're yakking on their cell phone. Or the people who cut you off in the passing lane in order to pass a truck, but who then decide that they don't want to pass the truck, slow down to the truck's speed and make life miserable for the other 87 cars who are also trying to pass the truck.

2) People who can't figure out how to use their highbeams. I was in front of a driver last night who kept changing his mind on whether I was far enough in front of him to use his brights. Every couple of minutes or so, it was on, off, on, off, on, off, on, off.

3) People who drive way too fast for what they're driving. Example: the Budget rental truck that was being driven by some preppy, bubble-gum blowing, girl in her late teens. She was doing at least 90mph, showed no signs of slowing down, was weaving (badly) in and out of traffic, and nearly caused quite a few accidents in the minute or so that she was in my vicinity. Look, if you're driving a corvette or something and doing 90 and you fly past me, I might curse at you and call you a jerk; but at least you probably have control of your vehicle and aren't causing near accidents left and right. This girl had absolultely no idea what she was doing or how big her truck was, evidenced by the fact that she nearly took out quite a few vehicles, including several trucks who, as it turns out, can react and brake much more quickly than I'd thought. I was seriously amazed that I didn't see her truck flipped over on the side of the road somewhere.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lucy is A-OK

Lucy had her first vet appointment today (first one with me, anyway). The CARE representative that handled the adoption process recommended a good place not too far from my apartment, so I figured I'd go with that.

What I discovered today, and what any pet owner probably could have told me, is that the visit to the vet does not start when you walk into the building. Rather, it starts 20 minutes before you leave as you try to get the cat into the carry-case. Lucy absolutely WOULD NOT go into hers. I tried treats, I tried toys, I tried sweet talk, nothing would work. As soon as she got near it, all four legs went in all four directions. Eventually I had to use the box that she came home in, which was easier since it's a top loading box. Lesson: time to buy a new carry-case.

Anyway, we got to the vet, and in the course of filling out paper work I discovered that there is a very cute young doctor there. After scouring the brochure they gave me, I think his name is Dr. O'Sullivan. He enjoys running, weight training, gold and kayaking. Special veterinary interests include soft tissue surgery, internal medicine, exotics and ultrasound. Aaaaanyway...

Lucy is just fine. A healthly 9.5 pounds, no worms. Six of her front incisors are missing but those aren't teeth that cats use much anyway (the vet said they mostly likely rotted out when she was living on the streets). She does have some yeast and bacteria in her ears, so we came home with some drops. That'll be interesting, but worth it. When the vet swabbed the inside of her ears, some pretty funky gunk came out, and I want that stuff out of my cat. All in all Lucy was great during all of it. A bit unconfortable during the checking of the temperature, but given where they stick the thermometer, that's not unexpected. The most traumatic part of the experience really was just getting her into her case.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Apartment is Infested with Mushrooms

So, when I got home from work on this evening, I went into the bedroom, where I noticed two small roundish things along the side of the wall right where it meets the carpet. Always the curious type, I poked one with a stick. They are ... mushrooms. MUSHROOMS. Seriously, there are freaking mushrooms growing up from inside my wall and carpet.




After some investigation, it appears that the back of my washing machine has been slowly but steadily leaking. The washer and dryer are in their own closet that was built specifically for them, they fit snug, and I've never had any reason to take a flashlight and see what's behind them. Well, not until now, at least. So anyway, the best I can figure out is that the water has rotted the woodwork to such an extent that mushrooms are growing out the other side.



Needless to say, this is kind of disturbing. If the woodwork has become so rotted that it's now actively supporting fungus, I'm lucky the whole floor hasn't collapsed into the apartment below. Maintenance is coming first thing Friday morning.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Action Packed 3 Weeks

Wow, haven't had a post in 3 weeks. You know what that means? Action-Packed-Super-Post!

Sun 8/5 - Nothing to report.

Mon 8/6 - Typical Monday. Blah.

Tue 8/7 - Typical Tuesday. Blah.

Wed 8/8 - Starting to get super-busy for the monthly department MBR.

Thu 8/9 - Drove up to Charlottesville to see the Kitty-Beast, and also to have dinner with Katie and Todd. Made the honey-garlic marinated steaks and peach cobbler. Decided that Ukrops was going downhill in terms of meat selection and vowed to find another grocery store that actually carried decent steaks (which is a real bummer, because I like Ukrops, but like everyone else they're cutting costs and going downhill).

Fri 8/10 - Even busier.

Sat 8/11 - Dinner with Justin, Danielle and Jen at a new restaurant downtown called Comfort. Great food, great company, great game of mini-golf afterwards.

Sun 8/12 - boring

Mon 8/13 - Busy, hot and muggy. Ugh.

Tue 8/14 - Busier, hotter and muggier. Double Ugh.

Wed 8/15 - Armageddon.

Thu 8/16 - Attended the NHS MBR in the morning, which I honestly didn't think was as bad as the other MBRs. Anyway, got free coffee and bagels out of it, so it's all good. Drove up to Charlottesville for dinner with Katie, where we had lobster for dinner! The yearly lobster up at Maine has become a tradition in our family, and both of us were kind of upset that we weren't going to get to eat one up there, so we decided to eat one down here. We got kind of excited.





Fri 8/17 - Not so busy, good day.

Sat 8/18 - Good day, heat finally gone.

Sun 8/19 - Katie and Brandon came down for the day. I baked about 100 muffins, we had a good breakfast, and then went out to Osaka for hibachi.

Mon 8/20 - Ahhh... dark and dreary Monday. Then up to Charlottesville to help Katie pick out a cat! End result, Katie now belongs to a crazy adorable 6 month old kitten named Cosmo who thinks she's a dog and likes to pant.

Tue 8/21 - Finally decided that I needed a pet to, so I went out to Petsmart, and found an absolutely beautiful 1 year old silver tabby. Apparently CARE found her out at Nuckols Rd, brought her in where she sat in the cages for a few weeks, got adopted by a family with 4 other cats who brought her back the next day saying 'does not play well with others', sat in the cages again for another two weeks, and then I found her. Despite having a not so great life, she's very sweet and loves attention; she's just a little (understandably) skittish right now and stays under the bed when I'm not actively petting her. She's eating and drinking, though, and we've had a couple of really good plays since then, and I think she's going to be fine :) Right now I have to rely on the phone's camera, but soon I'll have good pictures to post.





Wed 8/22 - Found out I've been promoted to Senior Ops Analyst. Woot! Drinks on me!

Thu 8/23 - The SVP's department imperatives came out, and all of a sudden everyone's much busier again.

Fri 8/24 - Spent most of the day setting up meetings to discuss what the events of 8/23 mean for most of us. Heat returned with a vengence. Had a cookout at my place, got to see Andrew from Cornell for the first time in over a year (he's at UVA now, which'll be great). Katie and Marie came down to visit also. Played fun games.

Here ends the Action-Packed-Super-Post. More later this weekend, promise.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Downtown Charlottesville

I drove up to Charlottesville today to visit Katie and Brandon, who was down from Baltimore dropping off his cat Kitty-Beast for a two week cat-sitting session (his real name is Sullivan, but we all call him Kitty-Beast). We tried a new Thai restaurant for lunch - good food but kinda bad service - then drove downtown so that Katie could show off her campus and the downtown area.

UVA has some great architecture, all of it based off of Jefferson's classical design style. The rotunda in the middle of the grounds is really something else, and the entire place reminds me a lot of Monticello. It reminded me how much I miss being able to walk around in large, well gardened open spaces; something I just don't get a lot of in Richmond.

After the campus it was off to downtown, specifically a kind of open air flea market with a lot of street vendors, bars, restaurants and shops. A really nice place, although it was pretty hot outside. We ended up buying tickets and watching The Simpsons Movie, which was decent but not as funny or Simpsony as I was hoping. We also had some obnoxious popcorn chompers sitting right behind us, who felt compelled to comment on everything for the first half of the movie. Ugh. Being disrespectful in public and ruining the day for others is just something that really bothers me.

Then some beer at a place called South Street Brewery, during which Katie got called back to the lab in order to fix a mix-up with her mice. So, out of the bar, back to her apartment, where I'm writing the post and playing with the Kitty-Beast while the other two are at the lab.

I keep wondering when I'll finally get a cat or other pet. Anyone who knew me in highschool is probably amazed that I don't already have one, but the truth is I'm pretty worried about having another allergic meltdown like I did with Templeton. Looking back I'm not sure how I lasted as long as I did: waking up in the middle of the night every night and not being able to get back to sleep, breaking out in hives if I so much as touched Templeton, having my eyes swell shut overnight. It's those memories that have kept me from going out and getting one, and I need to be extra careful when I decide it's time.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Strange Headlines, Part 1

I was browsing through CNN.com this morning, and came across this gem of a headline:
Men's Health: Pussycat or Tiger Tumor? Scientists have found a new
way to idenfity prostate cancer.

Pussycats and prostates? Someone at CNN was having fun this morning!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Phantom Cable People & Suit Mix-Ups

Ugh, have you ever had one of those days where you just want to scream? Today was like that.

First, remember the ugly suit that didn't fit well? The one that I couldn't figure out why I'd even bought in the first place? It turns out there was a very good reason for that. It was because they gave me the wrong suit! I was so rushed on Thursday morning that I didn't have a chance to check it as thoroughly as I should have, and by Friday evening my memory was pretty foggy, so I just chalked it up to a bad decision made in the heat of the moment. S&K called me late last evening about the mix-up, so I took the suit back this morning, picked up my real suit, and also the second one that I'd bought last week. Both of them check out and look great, which means that my fashion sense isn't faltering like I'd feared. Yay! One thing that's bugging me though is that they might try to blame me for the slit in the suit pocket, even though it was like that when I picked it up. Hmph, let them try to blame me, if they dare.

The second thing that happened today ... well, that was supposed to happen anyway ... was that Comcast was scheduled to come by and fix the cable. They never showed, which means that I spent all morning at my apartment for nothing. I got a lot of bills paid and did some laundry, so it wasn't a complete loss, but still. I've been out of the office long enough that I didn't want to be out again any more than necessary, and this just added to my already crazy week.

The plan for the rest of the night: go to gym, make bank deposit, get dinner, finish laundry, go to bed early.

Justin's Birthday

Celebrated Justin's 23rd birthday Monday night. Had a great dinner with Justin, Daniele and a couple of their friends over at Daniele's house. She made an incredible chicken stew with mushrooms, carrots, potatoes and all kinds of yummy stuff. They also had a cake that was decorated like a racetrack. Great times, but still pretty exhausted from the weekend.

What a Week V

There was a free breakfast on Sunday morning (a good free breakfast, with eggs and sausage and french toast). I got to see everybody one last time, said my goodbyes, gave my tux to Chris's mom who had volunteered to take them back for everyone (what a gal), and then Mike and I started the drive back.

There was a storm along the way, which was the first time in a long time that I'd been in a heavy rain lasting more than 5 minutes. I listened to and enjoyed the rain, talked with Mike, and just had a really relaxing couple of hours.

We got back to his place in DC around 4ish and chilled there for a while, and I got to see what the apartment looked like after I'd helped move all the furniture in a few weeks before. Off to my first ever ride on the DC metro, which was pleasant enough, but no one told me that you have to swipe to get out. So I stood in the middle of the gates for a couple minutes, holding two bags and a suit, frantically rifling through my pockets trying to find the card I'd bought, and just generally looking like an idiot until some kind security guy took pity on me and opened the gate. Lesson learned.

Got some food in Union Station, looked like an idiot again when the hanger that was carrying my suit broke, then got onto the 7PM train to Richmond. On the train there was a couple, the kind that think every word the other says is pure hilarity. Extremely annoying, but luckily they got off at Quantico. We were about an hour late and got into Richmond around 10:30PM; but we were the lucky ones, because the train behind us got stuck behind a broken down freight train, and was 3 to 4 hours late (for a train ride that's only supposed to take 2 hours).

Justin and Daniele had graciously offered to pick me up from the station and drive me home, and after a lot of apologizing for making them wait, they drove me home. On the way, Daniele asked me if I was still coming to Justin's birthday party the next day, because they were really looking forward to it, and of course I hadn't forgotten about it, right? Oops!

I promimsed them I'd be there, they drove me home, Daniele waited until I had gotten into my apartment before driving off, which was kind of weird because no one's ever done that before and I had no idea what she was doing, and then finally collapsed into bed.

What a Week IV

The actual day of the wedding was even more hectic. First it was lunch at the Palisades mall, then another trip to Target for safety pins, hair product and shoe polish (I was the official make-sure-everyone-looks-good guy).

Then we drove around Orangeburg trying to find a liquor store that sold Rosa Regale sparkling wine, which was Chris's favorite and what he wanted for his wedding night. We finally ended up finding it in a grocery store.

After that, it was off to the View on the Hudson to do a spur-of-the-moment-last-minute plan for and rehersal of the wedding. I think the two hosts were playing good-cop-bad-cop with us. Also, Derek's GPS failed miserably to get us there by the most efficient route.

Back to the hotel! Into the tux! Wonder what to do with the matching garter that came with the tux! Fix everyone else's tux! Off to the View! Stand a long time! Wedding! Pictures! More pictures! Even more pictures! Host yelling at the photographer to stop taking pictures because it's now 9PM and he needs to start serving dinner!

Finally, we got to the reception, and I could sit. I got to see even more of my favorite people (Andrew! Michelle! Jessica! Joanna! Katherine with a C!). We danced, had some drinks, danced some more, and had an absolutely incredible time. We had to leave around 12:30, but the hotel bar was open until 4AM, so we all went in there and hung out with a group of incredibly good-looking guys. Did that for a few hours, and then blessed blessed sleep.

What a Week III

The next morning I got a call from Chris around 9:30AM telling me that we had a busy day, and who then apparently fell right back to sleep after 1:00PM. No matter, I explored the strip mall next to the hotel and found an incredible little pizza place, and caught up on some emails from work.

After everyone was up, it was time to do all of the errands that we didn't get done the day before, but that meant splitting up. Chris went to get his haircut, while I went along with Alex, Mike T, Tomasz and Sam in Alex's cramped little car back to Westchester mall pick up the tuxes that weren't there yesterday. Why, you ask? Because I was the only one Chris trusted to make sure they fit well. :)

I also discovered that several people hadn't realized the tuxes didn't come with socks, so I went off to buy some. Neiman Marcus was next door, so I went in there, found some dress socks, and discovered when I went to the checkout counter that it was "cash, check, or American Express only". What kind of stupid store takes AmEx but not VISA or MasterCard? I had cash on me, but not enough to buy 8 pair of good dress socks, so I trudged up to the ATM, mutting to myself the entire time.

On the way back, there was an accident on the Tappan Zee bridge, and traffic slowed to a crawl. Picture five not-small guys wedged into a tiny car that doesn't have air conditioning on a 95 degree day sitting in traffic that's not moving for about 90 minutes. Naturally we were sweating, and when I wiped my forehead with my hand I discovered that the top of Alex's car, which I'd been holding on to with my arm out the window, was quite dirty. So now I was cramped, hot, sweaty, and also looked like a linebacker. Plus, Alex is a Jersey driver. I love the guy, but he's still a Jersey driver. NOT a fun time.

We finally got back to the hotel, where I discovered that some of the other guys didn't know the rehersal dinner that night was formal and were out buying pants. :)

I went back to my room, showered, and tried to change into my new suit that I'd bought ealier in the week. And I hated it. It really didn't fit all that well (the pants especially), one of the buttons was almost coming off, I didn't like the style at all, and there was even a slit in the pocket! I just kept looking at myself in the mirror in disbelief, wondering: "did I actually buy this piece of crap!?!?" I really couldn't believe that I'd been that careless when I was in the store. I sighed, resigned myself to the fact that I'd wasted a chunk of money, and went down to the dinner.

The dinner went well. Got to see more people (AJ!), and had some good food. I did my little speech that Chris had asked all the groomsmen to prepare, and it went over great. Around 11PM Mike O (who was sharing my hotel room for two nights) got to the hotel, and I went up to let him in and give him his key. I changed out of my bad-idea suit, and then we both went to the after party in Mike T's room, where much fun was had, and beer bottle labels may or may not have been worn on foreheads. :P

What a Week II

After I checked into the hotel, it was off to the Palisades Mall for lunch with Chris and company, and THEN it was time for errands.

Chris needed a haircut and a wedding gift, I needed to make a trip to Target to buy the essentials (my hasty Richmond departure necessitated having only carry-on luggage, which meant no toiletries), and all of us needed to go to the Westchester mall across the river to pick up the tuxes.

There was a Target in the Palisades mall, so that was easy, and then we all piled into Derek's car (with one of those cool GPS thingies) and head to Westchester mall to pick up the tuxes from AfterHours Formalwear.

AfterHours was a madhouse. First, the store itself was only a 15x15 hole in the side of the mall. When your groomal party is 11 total, that means things will be crowded. Second, we got there just as two other wedding parties came to pick up their tuxes too. OOF. I was lucky enough to get one of the two private changing rooms. Chris, on the other hand, actually had use the measuring room off to the side and change into his tux along with 4 other guys who were also using the room at the same time. Heh :P

Some of the tuxes were sent to the wrong store which meant we would need to come back the next day, but we got most of them. Back to the hotel, awesome dinner at StirCrazy, and then to Dave and Busters for the bachelor party.

Nothing too crazy happened, but we had an awesome time. I got to see a lot of my favorite people that I haven't seen in over a year (Alex! Tomasz!). Derek and I got into an hour-long debate about when it's acceptable to use force and kill for something you believe in, we almost got kicked out because we were trying to keep all the glasses at the table as a tally, and I discovered that I'm horrible at simulated jump-rope.

I ended up going back to the hotel at 1AM, but apparently the others kept right on going until at least 4AM, when one of the parents heard them coming back into the hotel with cases of beer. Yay beer!

What a Week ...

Ok, it's been a year since I've posted anything, but I'm going to do my best to start updating this on a regular basis. We'll see what comes of it. I suppose it would be interesting to go through what's happened over the year, but I think just this past weekend is exciting enough.

Chris, my best friend from college, and his fiance Daniela got married this weekend, and I was part of the groomal party. Anyone who knows Chris knows that he's not exactly the world's most detailed oriented planner, but we'll get to that in a second. :)

First, I didn't exactly plan too terribly well for this weekend myself. I had my flight to NYC scheduled for Thursday morning, and realized on Wednesday evening that I didn't have a suit that fit me. So I run down to S&K Men's store to get measured and fitted, etc. Found two nice suits, and one was 50% off, so I got both. Problem was, the earliest I could have them was 10:00AM Thursday morning, because they needed to hem the pants. My flight departed at 11:10AM, and the airport is on the opposite side of town. At Richmond Intl that's really cutting it close, but still doable; and really what choice did I have? So I decided to scrap driving to the airport myself and instead got a cab to pick me up at the apartment, take me to the store where I hurridly picked up the suit without trying it on (important point to remember later), and then off to the airport.

Well, the cabbie ended up getting me there in plenty of time, and we had some pretty good conversation along the way. Turns out his daughter lives in Lancaster at Willow Street - small world! Anyway, got to the airport, flew to Laguardia, and set about finding the sedan service that I'd scheduled. The actual wedding was in Orangeburg, which is just west enough of Westchester that regular cabs won't go there, so that meant ordering a car. When I called the number on the confirmation email to let them know I'd arrived, I was told to "go to the middle"; instructions which I hoped would be clearer once I got to the pick-up area. Waited "in the middle" for about 20 minutes, guy pulls up, I get in, explained where I was going, and off we went. I'd looked up reviews for this particular service earlier in the week (which weren't stellar, the phrase "feared for my life" and "NEVER AGAIN!" were often used) and was kind of nervous, but everything went fine, and $90 later I was safely at the hotel.