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Archive for May, 2005

Pff

May 20th, 2005 No comments

I haven’t upated this in months. I’d like to say that’s because I’ve been incredibly busy – to the point of not having time to do anything to relax. However, that’s relatively far from the truth. The past few months have been a see-saw of activity and utter lack of activity.

I’ve been on nine different trips since January (and two trips in December of last year, if you want to count that as well). I’ve been to New York, Denver, LA, San Diego and Hawaii – all of them except New York and Hawaii at least twice.

I look forward to travel and sign up for just about any chance I get to go someplace. I tend to travel a bit more than some of my coworkers, but I seem to get just as much done as most of them I think. I figure as long as what I’m supposed to be doing is done, why not travel as much as possible in addition.

I went on my first ever trip to California with Ross in March and quickly became enamored of the area. My first, and lasting, impression is that LA is just like New York, but spread out and more relaxed. It has nearly as many people, but spread out over an area dozens of times larger. I think that helps to make people more relaxed in some areas. Of course the tradeoff to that is the traffic, which slow at times, but not as hectic as it is in New York or even Chicago.

We did a whirlwind tour of San Diego and Tijuana when I was there, and both were intereting in their own right. SD is a variation of LA, minus the entertainment focus. Tijuana is a large garbage dump that happens to be inhabited. The food’s good though.

Within a few weeks of being there for my vacation, I headed back to San Diego for a customer go-live. I enjoyed getting to see more of SD, this time in the context of someone who works there rather than just a tourist. I was able to dine in the Gaslamp District twice – with one Spanish meal being particularly good.

Just a few weeks after that I was back in CA again, this time helping out for a customer go-live in LA/Pasadena. It was ironic that the site I was at in Pasadena was a short distance from the hotel I stayed at just 6 weeks before. Even more interesting is directly across from that hotel are the business offices of that customer.

During this last LA trip I was able to frequent an establishment I have become a fanatic about: The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Take Starbucks and make it unique, good and not-so-trendy and you have ‘the Bean.’ In addition to coffee drinks, they make tea drinks as well (go figure, eh?). They have plain tea drinks as well as some blended ones and latte style as well. I’ve tried 2-3 combinations of both the coffee and tea drinks and have yet to find one disappointing. I’m considering ordering from their website at some point, but I’d rather just have them open a shop up around here (too bad they’re located in the CA area only).

On the same recent LA trip we were put up at the Hollywood Renaissance hotel. I was quite excited to be staying at that particular hotel due to it being a Renaissance and in one of the most popular cities in the US. The drawback to that was the area’s reputation for tourism during the day and a dark underbelly at night. I never like feeling like a tourist when I travel, and my goal is always to get a feel for the culture and lifestyle of the area by making sure I at least visit the touristy things then move on to less talked about, more local attractions after that.

I have a strong preference for Renaissance hotels in general. First, because they’re Marriott hotels and give me points, and second because they’re about the best chain Marriott has to offer (sans JW Marriotts). They are relatively upscale, without being ostentatious. The Renaissance Hollywood presented itself as a trendy hotel catering to the rich and famous, but was truly a tourist hotel. This hotel was very modern in its decor (it had been a Holiday Inn in the past) but didn’t quite hit the spot. The rooms were moderately sized (not small really, but not as large as the Renaissance Flatiron I’ve been at numerous times). Bright colors, sharp-angled furniture and poor lighting made the room somewhat less than expected.

The room featured a vending machine style mini-bar. It was essentially a refrigerator with a computer attached to it. It kind of resembled the resultant offspring of a refrigerator and a dishwasher (the mechanical kind, not human). If you removed anything from it, it would charge you immediately. It was convenient, and someone else was paying, but I don’t think I would have used it had I been paying.

Upon arriving the first night we were stopped at the door by a security guard. They were taping a Wes Craven movie in the lobby and couldn’t have us walking through their set. They had actually taken over the entire lobby, except for the check-in desk, and it was quite a nuisance to maneuver through. We had to whisper while checking in and couldn’t get to the elevators without an escort. It probably wouldn’t hurt to shoot Marriott an email letting them know it was a hassle, but we’ll see. I think the hotel figured it was a good thing for its guests to see a movie being shot (they’re all tourists remember), but while it was interesting it was more of a hassle than anything else.

Because of all this travel, I’ve become a points whore (proudly). I’ve got a little spreadsheet that tells me how many miles I have coming up, how many till I’m the next level of elite and how many trips I’ve been on total. It’s colorful and functional – something that happens with rarity in Excel. I’ve accumulated over 130,000 Marriott points in the past 7 months and have racked up about 50,000 Northwest miles (and achieved silver elite status). Just a few more trips and I’ll be gold elite – effectively doubling the miles I earn for each trip.

Upcoming should be a few trips to Denver, one to Orange County CA and possibly one to New Jersey or Portland. We’ll see how that turns out.

I recently purchased a Creative Zen Touch MP3 player as well. I figured with all the travel I’m doing it would be a good investment. It has. While the first two trips I took with it had a few mishaps (thinking the battery was charged for the outbound flight but it wasn’t), it’s been reliable ever since. It holds 20gb of music, about 4000 songs I guess, and the battery lasts a solid 24 hours. Just today I ordered some new Etymotic ER6i earphones ($84 @ buy.com). I’ve read good things about their noise-blockage and sound reproduction ability. For me to spend that much on earphones, they better be good. Maybe I’ll update you once I get them.

I guess I talked about all the things that have bee keeping me busy, but haven’t quite gotten to the stuff that hasn’t. Probably becuase you can’t write much about nothing. I’ve become quite the Tivo addict, and so should you. I’ve been good at keeping myself up to date on new shows (I never liked talking to Cam about shows that were on that he hadn’t seen yet, so why should I do that to others), but I’m concerned I’ll have nothing to watch with this season’s end nearing. Suggestions for new things to Tivo are appreciated.

My camera broke the NIGHT before I went to Hawaii. I was all set to take it and snap pics like crazy, but I found out it was dead as I was packing it for the next morning. Bad luck I guess. I have since gotten it fixed ($190, whew) but haven’t used it yet really. I need to find something new to take pics of, but I haven’t determined what yet. While campus is always a good place to start, I think that’s a location I’ve pretty much overshot. We’ll see.

I have yet to get a desk for my apartment. My computer is still on the floor and that’s where I sit when I use it. I used to think that keeping it there would keep me off of it, but I think even if I did have a desk I still wouldn’t use it as much. I’m on the computer all day at work, so being on it at night as well is not something that particularly interests me. Although, I have pretty much zero room left to store things on it (120gb full) and probably need an external hard drive.

My car is ready for its 10,000 mile service. It’s been about 14 months since I got it, so I guess that’s a decent amount of mileage. I figured 1,000/mo would be about right and I’m under that so far (despite a trip to Michigan and numerous trips to and from Milwaukee). I just don’t like the idea now of having a car that’s not the current model year. I invested in a UW license plate as well. It was $55 for the regular reg. fee, $20 for the donation, and $15 to issue the new plate, so $90 to register it this year ($75 next year). It took a good 6 weeks to receive because of the DOT’s new slooow computer system.

My trip to the Princeton Club have dwindled lately. I got out of the habit during March due to all my travel and it’s been tough getting back into the swing of things. I still have been able to keep up my 10 times a month necessary for my healthcare reimbursement, but I think I’ve just squeaked by on that. Maybe I’m just lazy (pff, maybe?).

I spose it’s about time I get back to work…

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