30 April 2006

Stuff You Oughta Know About Boycotting Major League Baseball

Me? Not hardly. I made Opening Day this year in Houston (saw them "raise" the National League pennant -- see the photo, you'll know what I mean) and plan on visiting Shea Stadium later this week. I had a comment left on an old post that I knew warranted a reply, but knew that no one, including the guy who left the comment would ever see it.

I guess the real reason I'm commenting on this entry goes back to '89 and the time I spent 6 months working in Huntsville, AL. The Huntsville Stars were a AA affiliate of Oakland. I went to an early season game which had little attendance. We sat down in the first row of seats where during warm-ups you could actually hear the "sssssssssssss' sound as the balls rolled through the grass. You mention the pop as the ball hit the mitt, but I'll never forget the "sssssssssssss." At a game later in the season I managed to snag a foul ball on the fly along the third baseline. This game was pretty well attended as the reigning Ameican League MVP was doing a rehab assignment in Huntsville with his brother Ozzie. Jose Canseco didn't hit the ball I caught but I'll never forget it.
One of my favorite baseball moments ever involved Ozzie Canseco. I was dating a girl who not only tolerated my obsession with baseball, but actually supported it. She was a fan -- a Red Sox fan, but a fan nonetheless. We had a long distance relationship, but she was down visiting me during spring training. We went to a game when Ozzie Canseco was trying to make the Expos (I think that this was just following the strike season). My girlfriend was fascinated with Ozzie. He was standing on the dugout steps and she wanted him to turn around and pose for a picture. Ozzie, thinking that she was goofing, was having no part of it. Well, she wasn't goofing (well, she was eventually goofing, but it could have been avoided if he had just taken the darn picture) - she really thought he was cute.

Ozzie was steadfast in his refusal (if I were that good at ignoring her, we may still be dating??), and now she is getting a little ticked -- not to mention a little pickled courtesy of the ballpark beer. So, the gang in our section (who are also now trying to get Ozzie to turn around for the picture) becomes amused when she says "Come on, Ozzie...your brother would turn around!" Needless to say, Ozzie didn't turn around....and things got worse. I think by that point, Jose had around 300 major league home runs, and Ozzie had none. She felt the need to point that out. Now, the whole crowd is in on the act -- "Hey, Ozzie, does your wife look as good as Jose's?" Of course, the one that finally got the poor guy to turn around came from the girl I should have married -- "Hey, Ozzie, does Jose send you an allowance?" That got the picture...and one that is surely worthy of a nice frame.

The other point the commenter made was that he no longer attends major league baseball games, just minor leagues. It sounds as though he is still bitter from the 1994 strike that eliminated the World Series that year. I guess I can understand, but the notion of athletes being spoiled or taking their lives for granted doesn't surprise me - never did. While I am still a Mets fan, the reality is that I go to baseball games as more of a stadium "collector."

A few years ago, a buddy and I started an aggressive effort to get to every major league stadium. We are progressing nicely. I have been to 22 of the 30 active major league stadiums and a few that are no longer in use. This year's travels will give me the new St. Louis stadium, Cleveland and Toronto, and I will only be missing five (Colorado, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Washington, and Seattle). Toronto is the last major league ballpark that both my buddy and I are missing. After the summer, I will still be missing the five above, and he will only be missing Pittsburgh and Texas. We have enjoyed the journey much more than the baseball. I remember only a handful of the specifics of the games, but I can still see some of the details of the ballparks etched into my memory. If you haven't been to a major league game since 1994, you are missing out on some GREAT ballparks -- PNC in Pittsburgh, Miller Park in Milwaukee, Comerica Park in Detroit, Turner Field in Atlanta, PETCO in San Diego, and AT&T Park (was PacBell and SBC previously -- can't get these phone company mergers and takeovers straight) are all in my Top 10 Favorite Stadiums.

Of course, if you want to skip the pros, my single favorite sporting event that I have ever attended is the College Baseball World Series, held every June in Omaha, NE. Rosenblatt Stadium is a PHENOMENAL place to watch a baseball game. The flags flying in the outfield represent the eight schools that make the trip to Omaha. The stadium seats 20,000+ fans, but feels as intimate as a lower division minor league ballpark. The food is good, the ticket prices are very reasonable, and the whole city embraces the event like nothing else I have ever seen. Go to Omaha -- you won't regret it.

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A Night With the King of the Blues

I like live music. I usually don't even care who's playing. I like local cover (garage?) bands, and I like major concerts, too. Obviously, when it comes to the major stadium concerts, costs can get very prohibitive -- probably not in line with the mission of paying down debt. Every now and again, though, something comes along that you really just can't pass up -- and something that I just couldn't pass up came strolling into town this past Friday night.

Legendary bluesman, B.B. King, played the House of Blues in Orlando, and I was able to secure one of the sold-out tickets. This was a stark contrast to my trip to see Billy Joel at the nearly 40,000-seat Carrier Dome in Syracuse, as the HoB only "seats" 2,200. Of course, the tiny venue doesn't really have more than a couple of hundred physical seats -- so, this was 2-plus hours on my feet, plus the waiting time outside the venue. Still, the opportunity to see two RockRoll Hall of Famers in a little over a month -- for under a hundred bucks -- seems like a good way to spend some time.

Let me tell you this -- at 80 years young, B.B. King flat out rocks. I don't mean that he plays well "for an 80-year old." I mean he would put a lot of today's artists to shame. He still wails away on Lucille for darn near two full hours. He still belts out the tunes and his patented monologues with relative ease, from atop a chair set in the middle of the stage. He doesn't move around much -- doesn't milk the audience for encores -- when he's done, he's done. But, he wasn't done until nearly 11 pm, with an 8:30 start time, that sure seemed more like 9 pm. The bulk of his band has been touring with B.B. for some time -- his bandleader, "Bugaloo" Bolden, has been with him for almost a quarter-century. Needless to say, these guys know what they're doing, and they know how to make the "King" look good.

They focus on the songs folks want to hear -- "Nobody Loves Me But My Mother," "When Love Comes to Town" (which, by the way, King is quick to tell you is a song that he co-wrote with Bono, for the U2 project 'Rattle and Hum'), and, of course, "The Thrill is Gone." Still, one of my favoites from the evening was King (and the audience) singing and humming "You Are My Sunshine."

If this legend is coming to your town any time soon, GO! The tickets in Orlando were about $40 a throw. Opportunities to see someone who transcends musical legend won't continue forever, and I know that I am glad that someday, I will be able to tell my tale of seeing the great B.B. King.

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28 April 2006

Just How Much is None?

The other night, I had dinner with a close friend. One of our conversation topics was debt consolidation and finances (yes, this friend is close enough that we can talk about such things and still leave friends). We have previously discussed my desire to become debt-free, and the small steps that I am taking to make that happen. His life is different than mine -- wife, kids, big house, car payments, better paying job, etc. I don't really know who is "winning" or even if we are keeping score, but he is happy, as am I -- and we are living our lives very, very differently.

I mentioned in the course of conversation that I have applied some of the principles I have learned from a personal finance radio program, The Dave Ramsey Show. I like Dave Ramsey -- well, I started to like Dave Ramsey a little more once I figured out that I had to weed out all of the God-related stuff. I believe that the personal finance ideals are good enough without the aspect of formal religion that I am willing to overlook that aspect of the show. Most days, he does not shove religion down your throat -- other days, it seems like I am listening to Rev. Jerry Falwell. Anyway, Ramsey preaches that debt-free means no outstanding debt except for a personal mortgage (15-year, fixed rate). When I told my friend this, he looked dumbfounded. He asked what are you supposed to drive? When I answered "a car that you can afford," he looked a little dumbfounded again.

He told me that he is resolved to having a mortgage (30-year, fixed) and at least one car payment -- maybe two. He looked at me like I had six heads when I said that I would never have a car payment again. Mind you, I am fortunate. I "inherited" an almost new vehicle last year -- no payments, and very reliable. If I am not able to save for a new car when I am ready to purchase one by the time this one needs to be replaced, I am doing something very wrong. He admitted that this was a sound plan, but he was skeptical that I would have the means, the fortitude or the stamina to make this plan work. I don't know how it will work out -- but, in a few years, one of us is going to be right.

I still need to pay off my outstanding student loans and a couple of hundred dollars in 0% credit card debt. When that is done, all that will remain is a relatively small mortgage. Frankly, I don't know when all this debt will paid off, but I know that I am on the right track.

On the other hand, I worry about my buddy. I tried to share what I am doing without preaching or telling him what to do. I know that not everyone makes the same decisions, but I have tried to outline for him all the questions he should ask before moving forward. Here is a guy who makes significantly more money than I do, and owes even more -- without the student loans. He borrowed money from his 401k plan to finance the closing costs on his recent home purchase. He told me at the time that he planned to repay the 401k loan with the proceeds from the sale of his previous home. To date, the old home has been sold, but the 401k loan is still outstanding. He argues that he is paying himself the interest on the loan balance -- and could pay off the remaining balance if he needed to change jobs or the loan was called due for some other reason. He cleared a substantial profit on his old home, and told me that he was planning on paying down his new mortgage with the proceeds from the sale. That never happened. He still has this money - and I think he is waiting for some Ralph Kramden-like scheme to parlay that money into something bigger -- but, the outstanding debt that he needs to deal with would just scare me to death.

We ended our conversation with him telling me about his plan to purchase a recreational boat. I know that it makes more sense to me to want to pay off the outstanding 401k loan, pay down the mortgage, save for the kids college education, pay off one of the cars, etc. than to buy a boat, but I hate to think of myself as judging someone else. Just doesn't seem like the way I would handle the situation myself. But, he does believe that because he doesn't have any credit card debt, that he is debt-free.

I know that there is a reason that I am single. Finding someone else who could think like I do about relationships is one thing - but, realizing that many people my age are still in full on accumulation mode and have different financial goals than I do, makes the thought of finding "that perfect someone" even more remote.

So, the question remains, how much money do you figure one can owe, and still consider themselves debt-free?

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23 April 2006

Stuff You Oughta Know...About Stuff That Fascinates Me

Inspired by a post by Madame X, I have always been curious how some people found their way here. There are a handful of people who know me in real life who know that I write here. That number will likely grow soon. There are people who follow links that I post on some "foodie" web sites. But, the real curiosities are the people who find me through a search engine.

So, what things to those in cyberspace want to know that I know? The following is a list, chronologically, of the last people to arrive via a search engine:

free pass to universal studios (these exact words were used twice)
how to get RJ Gators VIG card
understanding fafsa efc computed
hertz five star status
what i wish i knew in high school
fafsa strategy parents
round rock donut calories
how many calories in krispy kremes blueberry cake donut
monument cafe chocolate cake
round rock donuts ingredients
free meal on birthday miami fl restaurants
travel whore
universal studios, "free pass" mail
jewish ramiken
continental elite seating
"Continental Confirmation Number
olin mit admit
living wage uva
travel with kids
Ed Glaze “Gary Larson”
round rock donuts nutritional info
early withdrawl retirement penalty ca pers
doughnut cake tower

The only one that I can't quite figure out on my own in "jewish ramiken", but google clearly knows more than I do.

A few things are plainly evident -- other people are just as baffled as I was when they received a free admission ticket to Universal Studios; people are always on the lookout for a free meal; and I am, in fact, a "travel whore" (easily my favorite of all the search terms that brought folks to my blog).

I wonder about the people searching for the nutritional value of donuts. Donuts have no nutritional value -- THEY'RE DONUTS. For that matter, if you are concerned about the nutritional aspects of donuts, the simplest answer is to not eat them. I don't think we need a Surgeon General's warning here to know that donuts are not health food. How many calories are there in a donut? A LOT! That said, Round Rock donuts are some tasty little morsels, and I don't care about their lack of nutritional value.

I am also more than just a little curious about the those folks who are searching for FAFSA information and filing strategies at this time of year. Please let all of these people be parents of high school juniors. I guess that is way too much to ask. If you are the parent of a senior, FAFSA filing strategies are not likely to help you now -- unless you are being a little proactive and starting on next year. It blows my mind how little information is passed along from most high school guidance offices to parents. I realize that due to my job, I should know more than the average person about this, but it is staggering to think of how much misinformation is out there.

I hope that the folks who searched found what they were looking for....well, except for the guy who was looking for a travel whore.

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Wings...wings...and more wings...

On my recent trip through upstate New York, I had the pleasure of four days in the Buffalo area on my itinerary. For a foodie like myself, Buffalo presents a few good local options -- tasty red hots, roast beef on weck, and, of course, the area's namesake, Buffalo chicken wings.

In a case of fortuitous luck, my hotel was right up the road from one of the legendary Buffalo wing places, Duff's. I have eaten a few chicken wings in my time, and Duff's are the best that I've ever had. Duff's is a little dive bar in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst. The dining area is small and the servers seem like a bizarro version of the cutesy, bubbly, teenage Outback-style waitress -- it seems like that's what they are shooting for, but the long winters must make these poor girls just a little crustier, because they are neither engaging or particularly efficient. Complicating matters is that this place can very busy on popular dining out nights. Friends have told me that they have waited for upwatds of an hour for a table -- and signs warn folks that they will only seat complete parties and will not split checks. Personally, it seems like a lot of rules just to get chicken wings, but these are some dandy wings.

I went on my first night in town. As a matter of fact, I drove straight from the airport to Duff's (in my own defense, it had been a long day of travel) to get take-out wings. I arrived around 8:20 pm and it took about twenty minutes for a 20-piece order of wings and a small order of fries.

Read more about my wing adventure below the fold...
The first thing that I should remember for next time is not to order 20 wings when you don't have a refrigerator in the hotel room! The wings at Duff's are sizeable, meaty wings with a crunchy exterior and a tender inside. The sauces available are hotter than most. They claim that their medium is hotter than most places hot wings; their medium hot are extremely hot; and their hot are not for the faint of heart. There is a local place that serves wings on a scale of 1-9, but anything higher than a 3 and you are taking a big risk if you are not used to their flavors.

I ordered the mediums, and they had some serious kick. I don't know if eating in my hotel room was the ideal way to enjoy these fabulous wings, but, it still worked. Maybe eating them in the hotel is just further evidence of their quality -- I don't know how many other wings I would have been able to fully enjoy. Notice from the picture the foil-lined bag in which the fries are packed for take-out orders. Fries do not travel well -- for even a short distance. But, with this packaging, they held up better than most. Of course, no human could possibly eat as many as Duff's packed for their SMALL order! Yes, the entire styrofoam lid was filled with that heaping order of french fries.

I have co-workers who now refer to my food picture taking fascination as "food porn." So, without further ado, today's food porn picture, which is currently the wallpaper backdrop on my laptop...

While in Buffalo, I also had the opportunity to go to the Anchor Bar, the home of the original Buffalo wing. I don't need to reiterate the old story here, but if you are interested in how Buffalo wings came into being a little more than 40 years ago, here's the scoop.

There is something to be said for visiting the original, but these are no longer the only game in town, nor are they the best. Don't get me wrong -- Anchor Bar makes a tasty wing, better than most can find outside of Buffalo, but in this wing-loving town, the locals seem to have found better places to spend their wing money. On the night that I went (in a somewhat large group), the wings seemed to be overcooked, and the flavor in the sauce was somewhat lacking. Anchor Bar doesn't claim to make the hottest wings, nor do they think that heat alone makes a good wing -- a claim which I happen to agree with, but these wings could use a little boost of flavor.

The beer at Anchor Bar was cold, and the building, itself, should be a must see for anyone on their first trip to Buffalo. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I don't have any pictures to commemorate the event, so I may be back, as well!

If I could get past the weather in Buffalo for about nine months out of the year, I think it could be a town for me. Buffalo is an egalitarian, bar-food kind of a town. I am looking forward to my next visit -- part of my summer baseball trip itinerary. After the trip to Dunn Tire Park, I am sure I will be on the lookout for a few more places to eat in this excellent food city.

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17 April 2006

The Search for Great BBQ Continues...

Proving once again that I need to stay more current on postings, it has now been over a month since I made my visit to Taylor, TX to lunch at Louis Mueller's BBQ. This is going to be a tough post because not only has a month passed, but I have since visited Luling City Market in Houston, TX and Dinosaur BBQ in both Rochester and Syracuse, NY. You'll also recall that I had just visited Kreuz Market just a few days prior, too, so I hope I don't confuse my BBQ tastebuds.

I started my trek north from Round Rock to Dallas with a detour about 15 miles east to Taylor. I felt like a complete mo-mo when I realized that I had driven past Louie Mueller's BBQ not once, but twice! You wouldn't think that a town as big as Taylor would be able to accommodate fine driving like that -- but, I even exceeded my own expectations this time.

Louie Mueller's is destination BBQ -- that which is worth driving X miles off the main highway to enjoy. Folks have been doing just that for quite some time, as Mueller's is legendary Texas 'Q.

The procedure at Mueller's is pretty much the same as the other Texas BBQ joints. Walk up to the counter, grab a tray, and tell the guy with the knife what you want to eat. I ordered a small portion of the beef brisket and a couple of ribs. The cutter hacked me off a sample piece of the crust (some folks call them 'burnt ends') to tide me over until I made it to the table. This reminded me of my favorite NY delicatessen, Katz's, where the cutter always offers up a sample taste. Here, a 1/4 pound of brisket, two ribs, a couple of slices of Mrs. Baird's white bread and a spackle-bucket sized iced tea run right around $9...considering the taste and the atmosphere, a true Texas-sized bargain.

The beef had a great exterior crust -- smoky, with a salt and pepper rub -- all the while maintaining a flavorful, pink interior with just enough fat to keep it flavorful and moist. The ribs were good -- thick and meaty, with a little bit of a spicy pepper kick. The styrofoam ramiken of sauce in the background is a thin, tomato-vinegar sauce, with just enough zest to add the right flavor to the meat. The sauce is light enough to add, without overpowering the intended taste of the meat. I am sure that it was not better than Kreuz, but it was definitely the second best 'Q I had in the last month -- and that actually says something.

One area where Mueller's excels is in decor. The aged wooden tables are adorned with an anique Listerine bottle filled with more of the delicious sauce, some hot sauce to kick up their own flavorings, salt, pepper, and an old Dr Pepper bottle filled with toothpicks. Trust me, you will use the toothpicks, especially if you order the ribs! The tables, themselves, are worthy of mention. Well, not the tables, but the collection of mismatched chairs. I LOVE places like this -- some folding chairs (my grandmother used to call them bridge chairs), some painted, some lacquered, some stained...all a true piece of Americana.

Adding to the scene is this cork board that sits on the wall to the right of the counter. The collection of business cards that are contained therein are a history unto themselves. Some of them looked so aged that they may have been left there when they were fresh off the first printing press. I left a Travelin' Man business card somewhere on there --so, if you make your way to Louie Mueller's, see if you can find me!

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Stuff You Oughta Know...Before Starting a Sit-In

Originally, I meant to post more of a humorous take about students protesting at the University of Virginia. Last week, their wireless internet access was turned off, and outsiders were not allowed to bring food to the protesters. I admit it....I thought it was funny. How else would you expect to get today's students to fall into line? Take away their ability to play "Doom" online, of course.

Instead, I read today, that the 17 students involved in the sit-in were arrested for trespassing. Arrests are a lot less funny than missing internet access.

I remember a friend telling me about similar protests last year at another school. Her school is a private, Top 20 USN&WR school, where tuition and fees run over $40k per year. She thought it was ironic that the same students that were protesting the living wage (they were also protesting some employees lack of access to additional university benefits, like tuition reimbursement) would be the same ones protesting if the school had to raise tuition and fees to cover the costs of the additional wages and benefits. She also saw some degree of folly in students driving to the protest in their Eurpoean sports cars, funded by Daddy.

My gut says that the same thing is true at UVA. I am all for people standing up for what they believe, but all too often, those protesting know less about the issue at hand than anyone. They spend so much time spewing rhetoric that they forget that there are two sides to every issue, and consequences for their actions.

When I was a senior in high school, almost every student walked out and marched on the district's administration building. Our teachers picketed nearly every morning for about a month long period in the spring, fighting for higher wages. Who could possibly be against teachers making more money? More than that, what students wouldn't find any excuse to get out of class and take a nice leisurely walk through town in warming spring weather (wasn't like it was pouring rain the day we all did this!)? The reality was that we were pawns in the disagreement between our teachers and their employers. Did they deserve fair wages and benefits? Sure, but who was I to know what a fair wage was? Where would this additional money to pay for these added benefits come from? I didn't know -- I just knew that the girl who sat next to me in my Government class was kind of hot, and heck, if protesting meant spending the day with her and her hot friends, then I was all for it. Who says I can't take a stand on an issue?

I don't know any of the students that were arrested, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that I had a much more significant relationship with my teachers than any of these people have with the "underpaid" workers for whom they are fighting. I still recognize the folly of that protest years later.

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16 April 2006

Mail That Makes You Smile

I remember when I was a kid racing out to the mailbox to get the mail. Excluding the week or so preceding my birthday, the odds of me finding anything in that mailbox for me was pretty remote, but I still chased after the mail more than the average barking dog. A I've gotten older, I get more mail -- but, the only difference is that now I usually don't want it! I figure that most adults now feel roughly the same way I do about mail - bills, bills, and more bills. Occasionally, the bills are interrupted by a pre-qualified credit card offer, an offer to consolidate my student loans, and a carpet steamer advertisement.

This week, though, the mail was pretty good -- and it isn't even my birthday!

I received a free park-hoppper ticket to Universal Studios -- no obligation, otherwise. I have seen the "free offers" that require a time-share presentation. Yuck. No -- this was an actual, bona fide, free ticket to Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure. Attached to the free ticket was another coupon offering an additional six tickets (who is really going to Universal by themself?) for only $35, which is a sizeable discount.

I can't think of the last time that I paid to go to one of the central Florida theme parks. It seems like if you live here for any length of time, you just know someone who knows someone who has a friend that always has free tickets. Plus, I am not a theme park junkie. I could do without standing in outrageous lines for hours to spend less than five minutes on rides. Factor in the overpriced food, screaming kids, and European tourists (tour-ons, for you locals) and it just doesn't seem like a way I would want to spend my day.

I have a friend who works part-time at Disney. She gets access to the annual Christmas deal for employees (almost enough of a reason to work at Disney!). She gets a ticket (park hopper) for herself and up to three or four friends, free popcorn and drinks in the park, a 30% discount on souvenirs, and a 50% discount in the restaurants. We usually go on one of to see the holiday candlelight processional, where "famous" (B-list celebrities, usually) people perform a holiday reading and high school choruses sing holiday tunes. While I am not a huge Christmas fan (could be my Jewish upbringing?), Disney really does the holidays right. And, for free, the price really can't be beat, either.

So, I will likely use my free pass to Universal, and if I have friends visiting from out of town at some point, I may even use the $35 discount coupons, too.

If you want to read more about my good mail this week, check below the fold...

People that know me, know that I am a travel whore. I love to travel and I love even more the perks I get through airline miles and hotel points. This week, the travel mailbox overflowed, as well.

Apparently, there is a class-action lawsuit against Starood hotels. Apparently, I am a member of the affected group. Apparently, I have no recollection of how I became a member of the effected group. I received two $14 discount coupons off of a future paid stay at the listed Starwood resort properties. Of the listed properties, which I assume are the ones that were mentioned in the lawsuit, I have only stayed at the Westin Diplomat and the Westin Savannah Harbor. The Diplomat waived the resort fees for me, but I may have paid them in Savannah. Even stilll, the Savannah stay was only one night -- and it was a cash and points night, so I didn't really gripe about the resort fee. You can only use the coupons at the listed resorts, and the odds of me paying to stay at one of these places is pretty remote, but it is a nice gesture. I also received a similar coupon for $3 for a concurrent lawsuit fighting other unfair automatically billed, but undisclosed fees. Of the hotels listed, I can only assume that my infraction occurred at the former Four Points by Sheraton in Rochester, NY. I remember them billing me for a hotel safe that I never used. The charge was removed from my bill at the time, which amounted to a minor inconvenience at check-out time. Of course, that hotel now operates under another brand, so I won't be using my $3 discount there. Of the other hotels listed, there is one at which I stay periodically for business, so if I get the chance to use it, I will. If not, the circular file will see some new contents.

I also received my Hilton Hhonors credentials for the year. I (somehow) managed to earn Silver VIP elite status with them for the coming year. I think my last paid stay at a Hilton property was at the Milwaukee Hilton for the 2004 NACAC Conference. I had one award stay last year. So, somehow, Hilton felt that was worthy of their silver elite status. The letter that accompanied my new card also offered me the opportunity for a fast track to Gold VIP status. If I stay four times or ten nights in two months starting May 1, they will bump me up to gold status until next April. Mmmm....whatever. I am Platinum Elite with Marriott and Starwood, and prefer those programs to Hilton's. Still, I may manage four one-night stays during May at the Hampton Inn Commack, if it fits into my travel schedule. I did always like THAT hotel.

My Hertz #1 Club Gold Five Star credentials for this year also came this week. Enclosed was a certificate for a free one-day rental! Joining Hertz #1 Club Gold is definitely one of the best things I have done to make my travel life easier. The perks of Five Star are just a bonus. I usually get a one-class upgrade, but sometimes the upgrades are less than desirable -- right now, I don't really want a giant, gas-guzzling SUV. But, being able to arrive at the airport, take the rental car shuttle to Hertz and walk straight to my car and drive away is a huge, HUGE time saver. My last non-Hertz rental was when I took vacation last year to southern California. My buddy took care of the rental car, and we waited no less than two hours in line for a car at Thrifty. The long queue was just a volume issue -- there was no shortage of cars. They just couldn't move people through quickly enough.

Lastly, my quarterly statement arrived from my Fidelity 403b retirement plan. I will take a gain of 5.7% for the first quarter -- and hope that things continue on that upward trend. I suppose tracking money that I CANNOT use for almost another three decades might be a little obsessive, but I like to know that I am making progress towards a reasonable retirement.

Something tells me that my mail luck may not continue into this week, as I am expecting a few bills to arrive, but I can always hope, right?

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11 April 2006

Picture of the Day!

Picture sent from fellow Roadfooder, the Mayor...

I have never been to Nashville, TN, but I am confident that on my first trip through town, I am going to Judge Beans BBQ. I don't care if the food is no good, but apparently these folks really know how to party. I guess some people are going to be jogging, too, but I hope that is optional.

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04 April 2006

Once every hundred years

Early Wednesday morning, something will occur that only happens once every hundred years, so the likelihood is, this will be the only time that we see this in our lifetimes.

At two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 am, on Wednesday morning, the clock will officially read:

01:02:03 04/05/06

I just thought that you should know.

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