29 June 2006

Trip Log, Day 5; Omaha

Note: This is one of a series. You can find the complete series index here.

At this point in the trip, life is very good. I am in Omaha, for the College World Series, and my team is 2-0 and holding some serious chips heading into the midweek games. Having been to Omaha previously, I have developed some favorites. Knowing that this trip was short on time here, we had a finely planned operation to make sure that we hit all the favorite places, and still make the ballpark for a decent number of hours.

This day was to be prime ballpark day. We got an early start because the area surrounding the stadium is something to simply soak up. I wanted to get some serious soaking time in. Merchandise tents line 13th Street, stretching a solid mile in front of the stadium. Vendors hawking t-shirts, pizza slices, and aluminum bats all stake out their spots, while religious groups hand out bottled water, the local paper is given out free, and supporters for legalizing gambling in Nebraska all try to mark time with passers-by. It is an all-out street carnival, with a serious baseball theme.

We entered the ballpark around noon for the game scheduled to begin at 1 pm. By now, I had developed a stroke of hunger. In planning our day, we planned to grab "something light" at the ballpark, and gorge on a meal in between the two games. The food scene at Rosenblatt is something to behold. It is a veritable food orgy, and for stadium food, is surprisingly affordable. After doing a bit of a recon mission, I decided on a salt pretzel ($3). This was a huge mistake. I don't know if the problem was just the time of day, but it was awful. It was soft -- too soft, as though it had not even been baked. The salt, applied upon ordering, was excessive. I ate about half and tossed the rest. Blech. The food that I had previously had at Rosenblatt had always been very good. They have an excellent chicken fingers platter for about $7 which comes with four chicken fingers and more fries than most can finish. The nachos are always a hit with fans, as are the onion blossoms and funnel cakes (which seem to come from an outside vendor).

There is always a confluence of food smells in and around the stadium -- the burgers, sold inside, are grilled out in the open (don't see that anywhere anymore). Outside the stadium, Omaha Steaks sells their products, as does Famous Dave's BBQ. One of the more baffling treats to be considered a hit in Omaha is Dippin' Dots. Yes, it is hot, and anything cold is a welcome respite. But, I have never seen any place as crazy for Dippin' Dots as the midwest, and Omaha, in particular. They advertise themselves as "The Ice Cream of the Future," but it seems as though the future has been coming for a long time. I doesn't even look the least bit appetizing to me, but folks scarf this stuff up.

Eight flags representing the teams in Omaha fly over the centerfield fence. One of the new traditions at Omaha this year is the lowering of the flags for the eliminated teams. After Oregon State beat the University of Georgia in a pretty poorly played game, UGA's flag joined the Georgia Tech flag as those flying at half-staff.

Our late afternoon meal (again, I would only call this dinner at the AARP Early Bird specials in Florida) was at a place we discovered our first year in Omaha, Lo Sole Mio. Back in 2004, we were sitting in the upper reaches of the grandstand, chatting with a local family. We told them of our ballpark adventures and mentioned that it was our first time in Omaha. They asked us where we were planning on eating in town, as we had mentioned that food was an equal part of our ballpark journeys. We, of course, asked for their suggestions. The woman in the group turned to me and asked if we liked Italian. I kind of shrugged my shoulders, as if to say "sure, but why would I come to Omaha to eat Italian?" She told me that she could refer me to the "best Italian meal I have ever had." I gave her the raised eyebrow, and politely told her that I grew up on Long Island, and have had a pretty good fair share of decent Italian meals. She conceded, but still offered that it would be the best Italian I would have in a solid 300 mile radius. Fair enough - and we had the afternoon free, so we checked it out. Well, the lady was right....it is VERY GOOD Italian, and it has been part of our regular stops since then.

On this trip, I (the less adventurous eater of the two of us) ordered the chicken marsala and my buddy ate the Pasta Con Pomodori Secchi, a dish of sun dried tomatoes, grilled chicken and some veggies served over pasta. Both meals were enormous. Unfortunately, we didn't have a fridge in our hotel, so leftovers would be a waste. Successfully, gorged, it was time to head back to the ballpark.

The evening matchup was one that we really looked forward to. University of Miami against mighty Rice U. Since UNC was in the other half of the bracket, I felt like it was OK to root for Rice - besides, the last time we saw Rice in Omaha, they brought their mascot, and I was able to get my picture taken with the Rice Owl! Since they were the only team to bring a mascot that year, they were able to secure my support. That was the year Rice won the championship - the only championship in their school's history.

More basbeall...and some really good steak in the next post!

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28 June 2006

Trip Log, Day 4; St. Louis to Kansas City to Omaha

Note: This is one of a series. You can find the complete series index here.

Day 4 (Sunday) was a travel day, which in this case means -- awake at the butt crack of dawn. When you see the title "St. Louis to Kansas City," a reasonable person would assume that we would be driving. Not exactly. We are flying -- first class! But, American doesn't fly from STL-MCI (yes, Kansas City is MCI...why? I don't know). We have to fly STL-DFW-MCI, because when American fliers die, they connect to heaven through DFW. Two shorthop flights (read: nothing to eat!) and a short connection.

On the other hand, upon landing in Kansas City, I was starved. We had planned on only one meal in KCMO, and it was set up to be a good one. We were going to one of the nation's barbecue treasures -- the legendary Arthur Bryant's. Some will say that Arthur Bryant's has slipped over the years, but I am not one of them. While there are some folks who think that Arthur Bryant's isn't even the best BBQ in Kansas City, others will argue that there is a very good chance that Arthur Bryant's BBQ is the BEST in the country.

This is my second visit to Arthur Bryant's, so I have a pretty good idea as to what I want to eat. AB's is known for a few things, including the KC specialty, burnt ends (the crispy, flavorful end pieces that some places actually discard), but I know that these are some of the finest ribs in the land. The beef brisket is also very good -- which leads me to wonder how similar KC BBQ is to that which you find in central Texas? The two of us decided to split a rack of ribs, a beef sandwich, and an order of homemade, hand-cut fries. I have eaten some pretty good barbecue this year (just checkout the sidebar to the right for some examples), but this may well have been tops.

The ribs were tender, but required just the right amount of "pull" to get the meat off of the bones. Anyone who tells you that their ribs are "fall off the bone tender" is selling you crappy ribs! They should require a little bit of a fight. These do. Compliment the smoky flavor from the meat with some of AB's tangy sauce. There is no need to overpower the flavor of the meat with the sauce, but just a touch makes for the perfect addition. Dipping your fries in a pool of sauce is another time honored Arthur Bryant's tradition. In short time, we had demolished an absolute orgy of food.

Debate the best BBQ for as long as you like, but I would gladly stand in the corner with some Arthur Bryant's as my nominee. I hope to get to KC sometime when I can spend more time in the area and sample some of the other renowned locales (and grab some Stroud's fried chicken, too), but so far my travels to KC have all been one shot deals.

Full and nearly comatose, we pointed the rental car north on I-29 for the nearly three hour trek to our final destination, Omaha, NE. This was one boring drive, and with as much food as I had in my belly, it was all I could do to stay awake the whole drive. Fortunately, my driving responsibilities ended when we dropped off the car in STL, but I didn't want to nap all the way to Omaha, either.

The goal was to make it to Omaha in time for the 6 pm game. My beloved Tar Heels were playing the winner's bracket game against Clemson. This was a BIG game, as whoever emerged victorious would have a serious edge to get to the championship series. In the past, when we have gone to the College World Series, we have never really had any intended rooting interest, so this was a little weird. Usually, we would go and pick which teams we liked or who had the best personalities and we would root for them. This time, I really wanted to see Carolina. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed slightly out of DFW and we were running just a touch late to make the 6 o'clock game. With the foot on the gas, we might make it, but it wasn't a lock.

We approached the exit for the stadium (which was also the exit for the hotel) at about 10 minutes to 6. Upon exiting the highway, it was immediately apparent, based on our past experiences, that we would have a difficult time finding a nearby parking space and a further difficult time navigating the general admission line. The line was already snaked around the stadium, and it appeared that we would not see the inside of the stadium until about the third inning. Since I wanted to actually SEE the game, and we were going to be around for the next few days, we agreed that it made more sense to check into the hotel and watch this game on TV.

We stayed at the Sheraton Omaha Hotel, which is an historic hotel near downtown and the Old Market area. This was one of the oddest hotel rooms in which I have ever stayed. As a Starwood Platinum member, I was upgraded to a full "Club Suite," which was actually a two-story room, with an enormous living area, full kitchen, and separate upstairs bedroom. The room, though, was decorated as though all the furnishings had been acquired at a yard sale. For the right stay, I would recommend this hotel, but in a lot of instances, and depending on what amenities are important to you, this hotel may not work for every traveler. I am also not sure why they are called "Club Suites," as there is no "club" or concierge lounge.

Obviously, my Heels won...and we're off to see Rosenblatt tomorrow!

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27 June 2006

Trip Log, Day 3; St. Louis

Note: This is one of a series. You can find the complete series index here.

Day 3 in St. Louis was Saturday, and I was already a little worn out. Sleeping in until the mid-morning (not all that usual for me on vacation) was a nice little treat. Once we finally got dragging out of the hotel, it was time for lunch.

First stop was O'Connell's Pub (Kingshighway in The Hill section). O'Connell's has made a few lists for best burgers. I have been there once before, and on that trip, I was encouraged to order the roast beef sandwich. The argument was made that a good burger could be had in any number of places, but it was much harder to cross paths with a good roast beef sandwich. The roast beef was excellent, but I also saw a burger head out from the kitchen to a table and it looked really good. I was certain that if I were to ever come back to O'Connell's, I would have to order one of those burgers. As we drove down, I mentioned my plan to my fellow travelers, who immediately scoffed at my suggestion. The same argument was thrown at me -- why get a burger here (especially after eating at Blueberry Hill a few days prior), when the roast beef was unique to this particular place? I was hearing nothing of it. I wanted a burger -- and, by god, I was going to order one.

When we arrived, I kept telling myself to order the burger and not be swayed. In my head, I was replaying "order the burger...order the burger...order the burger..." The server came by and asked what we would like. Around the table, my travel companions, one after the other, repeated "roast beef...medium rare...fries." Same thing at the next stop. OK...my turn, and I am still thinking "order the burger...order the burger..." when I can only assume the film director in my head said "stop...cue the roast beef sandwich!" Because, right at that very moment, about five gorgeous roast beef sandwiches were carried right past my snout and on to their awaiting patrons. "I'll have the roast beef," I muttered, immediately taking on a heap of grief from the rest of my table. Heck, I even sprung for the extra 25 cents to get a ramiken of au jus.

I remembered the roast beef as being very good. I don't know how it happened, but in two years, it has somehow improved to be the best roast beef sandwich I have ever eaten. The au jus was a little bland, but it made for an excellent texture. I was just a little surprised, because this meat is well seasoned. I am really disappointed that I didn't get any pictures, because you can actually see the difference in the color of the meat from medium-rare to medium -- each of which was perfect for my tastes. The french fries were superb, but I was again told that onion rings should be the compliment to most sandwiches. Also, while toasted ravioli gets the press as the local appetizer native to St. Louis, it also seems that many places have excellent stuffed mushroom caps.

My friend who had lived in St. Louis previously said that he understood what I was going through with the hamburger choice. When he lived there, he would go to O'Connell's for lunch, have the roast beef, and then try to come back for dinner, thinking he would order the hamburger. He would sit down, see a roast beef go by, and order the roast beef.

After a filling and very fulfilling lunch, we needed an activity to burn off some of these needless calories. My choice was a visit to Grant's Farm. I admit...I only wanted to go to Grant's Farm to see the cabin in which the worst president in the history of the United States once lived (present company excluded, of course!). This is another free attraction in St. Louis, which I now believe to be a very affordable vacation option for many Americans (I read somewhere that St. Louis is within one day's drive to more than 1/3 of the US population). Since there is virtually no mention of President Grant, except for a brief pass in a guided tram, I guess I was a little disappointed. But, without the whole lack of Grant thing, this place is a hit. The Farm is now run by Anheuser-Busch, and is home to one of the full Budweiser Clydesdale teams. The Clydesdales are truly majestic animals, and you just don't get the opportunity to see them every day. A few other positives -- free beer in the hospitality area (gotta love that!) and a great wildlife preserve and petting zoo for kids. Rain dampened the day a little, but there are enough dry attractions there to keep you busy even in the rain.

On the way towards downtown, we stopped in for another visit to Ted Drewes. I know that Ted Drewe's a St. Louis institution, but I had no idea that it was so ingrained into a native St. Louisan that it would be a necessary stop for a wedding party. While we were there, in early afternoon, TWO wedding parties drove up in full coach buses. I overheard a conversation between two of the counter girls. They didn't seem the least bit phased by the wedding parties, but were a little surprised at the SIZE of the wedding parties, and the necessity for coach buses. I have to admit, I am not too inclined to think about marriage again, but if I find the woman who insists on including Ted Drewe's as part of our wedding party, I may know that I have found a keeper! Check these fine ladies out....

After the stop for concrete (mine was chocolate chip cookie dough), we made off for a stop at Union Station. If you are a fan of Roman architecture, this is a must-stop. If you want to find a serious shopping tourist trap in the middle of downtown, this is also a must-stop. Fortunately, I was able to accomplish much of (A) with little interference from (B). History and train buffs are also sure to already know that this was the hub of train service between the east and the west for many, many years. One of the stained glass windows celebrates this:

You can also see that one of the more bizarre feats of architectural accident - the whisper arch (scroll down). One can stand and face the wall into the inside arch, speak at a normal tone of voice and be heard by someone else at the other end of the arch. It was discovered purely by chance during construction, and has since been used by proposing grooms to pop the question, as well as practical jokes on unsuspecting noobs.

For dinner, we sought out a sports bar to watch the College World Series (Miami vs. Oregon State), Game 6 of the NHL Finals (yeah, right), and just soak up some sports environment. Frankly, the food was secondary, but cold beer was a must. We ended up at a place called the Locker Room in Florissant. The locals at the table next to us raved about the wings, so we grabbed some of those. We also added an appetizer sampler - your basic bar food. The wings were heavily breaded (kind of like Hooter's wings, but with a little more taste), but the hot sauce had a little tang. Overall, the food was average, but reasonably priced. The beer was cold, and they had some good local and national selections. The service was exceptional -- the owner was around and visible, keeping control and tabs on all of the televisions set to the proper mix of sporting events. We must have been the only folks in the bar watching the CWS, and he went to change TVs on us, but upon brief discussion, he reaccommodated us to the perfect viewing scenario. Really, in a sports bar setting, can you ask for more? Adequate food, cold beer, and the availability of all the sporting events you want!

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25,000 Bonus United Mileage Plus Miles

This year, frequent flyer programs are celebrating their 25th anniversary. American Airlines was the first to introduce the AAdvantage program, and United was right behind with Mileage Plus. I mentioned last month a number of promotions that American was running to celebrate. Now, it is United's turn.

You can earn 25,000 bonus miles using Mileage Plus Dining by Rewards Network (formerly iDine). Spend $125 per month at qualifying restaurants, including tax and tip, every month from July through December, and you will receive 25,000 bonus miles -- enough for one round-trip domestic ticket! You must register first.

I hope that American offers a competing deal.

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Men Don't Know Jack About Retirement

....or anything else, for that matter. That's our little secret. Let's hope the women folk don't find out.

MONEY Magazine's recent article discusses the lack of retirement savings savvy inherent in men. The article, of course, fails to mention that women don't seem to know any more about retirement than men do. So, maybe, they should have retitled the article "Nobody Knows Jack About Retirement."

I don't claim to know everything about retirement, but I know a few rock solid facts:

  • There is no reason to not start a retirement savings plan. It doesn't matter how old you are -- as a matter of fact, your money has a longer period to earn for you the earlier you start. No matter what, if you haven't already....get started in your employer's 401k/403b plan or start a Roth IRA.
  • In almost all circumstances, it is not advisable to take an early withdrawl from your retirement plan. You will likely be on the hook for a penalty and outstanding taxes. On top of that, you no longer have that money working for you to grow over time for your retirement.
  • If your employer offers a match, you should at least contribute the amount to which your employer will match your contributions. In other words, if your employer will match your 401k contributions up to your first 5%, then you should at least save that much. The money that your company matches is like making 100% on your money right from the get-go.
This article focuses on what to do when you reach retirement age. I am still a ways away from that, so I am less concerned about what to do 30 years from now than I am with what I am supposed to do today. I am concerned with building my pot of gold as best I can. Even with the relatively low salary that I make, I have always contributed as much as I can possibly afford. I have tried to maintain an aggressive approach to investing; which, for me, means investing primarily in growth stocks, international investments, and some real estate. I figure that I am relatively young, and even if my whole nest egg were to evaporate tomorrow, I still have enough time to save for retirement (less time, but I would still have time).

I don't know if I am going to pass any quizzes from MONEY Magazine any time soon, but I am pretty sure that my retirement planning is one of the few financial things that I have done right over the years -- when so many other things have been wrong!

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26 June 2006

Site Layout Update Redux

Since the last time I posted about this, I changed a few things around on the layout. All of these changes are to the right hand sidebar. Start at the top, and follow along...

  • I added a section for upcoming travel (which, of course, is not up-to-date). If you have suggestions on where to eat or wacky things or places to see, please drop me a note.
  • I created links to all of the active restaurant posts. Currently, it is arranged chronologically. Is it easy to follow? Would alphabetically be better? Some other categorization?
  • I added a section for complete travel logs. The only one posted currently is actually an INcomplete travel log, but will be done soon. Hopefully, I will add some other posts that all have a common thread in the future.
  • I added a Google search bar. You can easily search things on this site or on the whole Internet from right here.
  • I added a "Get Firefox" button. I believe in Firefox, and use it myself. It is light years ahead of IE and Netscape, and less susceptible to virus and malicious code than the other browsers.
  • I added a few more site feeds. Scroll down (assuming your on the top of the page right now) and you will find some standard readers which you can add easily. Let me know if there are others you would like me to add, and I will see what I can do.
And, yes, I added a few new ads. Any money generated from this site (which I assure you is, as of this very moment, zero!) will be used to pay down my outstanding student loan debt. If companies will pay a little to have an ad here, well, so long as it doesn't become cumbersome, I am OK with it. As for Amazon.com, I am also a user. I will not take any advertisements for anything that I would feel uncomfortable sending anyone to use.

Lastly, if anyone would like to exchange web links, please drop me a line. You should have a history of regular posts (at least as regular as my feeble attempt), your content should be somewhat complimentary to mine (and there are enough topics that I cover to make that happen), and you should add my link. Nothing too complicated, but I do reserve the right to tell you to go fly a kite! :-)

Regularly scheduled programming will continue next...

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25 June 2006

Trip Log, Day 2; St. Louis (continued)

Note: This is one of a series. You can find the complete series index here.

We decided to grab a late afternoon meal (only in Florida would a meal this time of day be considered dinner) before heading out to the ballpark to limit the intake of lips and snouts. Our first choice was Connelly's Goody Goody Diner, but they were closed by the time we arrived. Before we spent our entire time trying to figure out what would be the best substitute, we quickly decided on using some serious "foodie nose" to get the job done. Sometimes, you just have a feel -- with no guide book or anything.

Located right in front of the Bel-Nor City Hall, we found The Breakaway Cafe (8418 Natural Bridge Road). Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of this place, but you can trust me, the food was tasty. Breakaway Cafe serves a number of pasta dishes and other varieties of comfort food. This was my first experience trying toasted ravioli, and they did not disappoint. I don't know how much better they could have been at the more well-known Italian institutions on "The Hill," but these served this novice pretty well -- a crusty exterior, and a well-seasoned filling, all dipped in homemade marinara. Appetizers were generally under $6 and entrees could be had in the neighborhood of $10.

For us, one of the most important reasons for choosing The Breakaway Cafe was the proximity to the MetroLink station at University of Missouri-St. Louis. Taking the MetroLink downtown the ballpark was very inexpensive ($1.75/each way), but very crowded. I have taken the subway to Shea and the El to Wrigley, so I know crowds, but this was pretty crowded (the reverse trip was even worse!).

We arrived early at Busch. There were three of us, and we only had two tickets. Needing one, we set out around the stadium trying to find a scalper with singles. Funniest thing, though -- there were hardly any scalpers. I knew that the games were sold out -- St. Louis fans are rabid for baseball, and they finally have a new stadium to enjoy. Still, the freakin' Rockies were in town, not the Cubs. As we dragged past the box office, I stopped to see if they still had an standing room tickets -- they told us THOSE were sold out, too! The clerk told me that they did have some single tickets, but that was all. Single tickets? Why, we NEED a single ticket...what have you got? $34 later, I was on my way into the stadium.

There are a couple of quirky things about this ballpark. For one thing, there doesn't seem to be much of a "front." Supposedly, this is the front of stadium, with the statue of Stan Musial moved, by crane, over from the old ballpark. People have a convenient place to "meet at Stan," but it surely appears that one of the corners would have made a better front of the stadium. The area is still under a lot of reconstruction, so maybe as time passes, and more peripheral businesses develop, it will become more evident that this is, in fact, the front.

In the past, I have had decent $34 seats, and I had some really bad $34 seats (Dodger Stadium comes to mind). These were not good $34 seats. They were located in the outfield, in the second deck, all the way in fair territory in left field. They called it Big Mac Land, named after the juiced (errr...allegedly juiced) slugger, and sponsored by the place that serves crappy hamburgers. My understanding is that if someone hits a home run up there, everyone in those seats gets a crappy hamburger named after said juiced slugger. My guess is that second prize is TWO hamburgers named after said juiced slugger, but that may just be the cynic in me. These seats were a kind of limited view seat -- nothing too pretty for that kind of money. I didn't even take a picture from my seats...they were THAT bad.

My buddies 2/$11 deal ended up netting them standing room access. Anyone with any kind of sports acumen knows, though, so long as the ushers are not overly vigilant, after a few innings, you can scout out where there are available seats, and plant yourself until someone asks you to move. By the fourth inning, we were sitting in seats about 12 rows up off the field right behind the visitor's dugout. My opinion of the stadium changed immediately with the better seats. The key to this place is definitely the view -- and these seats had THE view. The photo is the standard panoramic behind home plate shot, but you can see what we saw -- beyond the left field fence, is a great view of downtown St. Louis. The Arch is visible from almost every seat in the stadium -- a big plus, because the Arch gives you a unique view from almost every different angle.

Overall, though, I didn't find the major's newest stadium all that remarkable. There are a ton of ads EVERYWHERE. Seating sections, as mentioned above, are sponsored, as are the scoreboard, outfield walls, and just about any place else they could plaster a placard. I know that all stadiums have advertising, but some have more obnoxious advertising than others - and this stuff is pretty obnoxious. One of my favorite things about the "old" Busch stadium was the unique way the retired jersey numbers were memorialized. Here, they are just plastered on the outfield wall....boring. I may want to revisit this park in a few years, but for now, this place would probably end up somewhere in the middle of the pack, in terms of favorite stadiums. One serious plus for the stadium is the enthusiasm of the St. Louis fans. They did have this in the old ballpark, too, though...so, it only goes so far. There is a nice Cardinals history done on the outside promenade in brick. If so many of the Cardinals highlights hadn't come against the Mets, I might have enjoyed that a little more.

Cards won big...and we can check this new stadium off the list! Day 2 complete.

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Trip Log, Day 2; St. Louis

Note: This is one of a series. You can find the complete series index here.

Waking up to go stand in line is not usually the first step to a happy day for me. But, it is the day we are headed to the new Busch Stadium, and tickets are tough to come by. Our best chance for tickets was what they call "First Pitch" tickets. Considering that all tickets have been sold for the whole season at the new Busch, this is a really good deal -- two tickets, randomly selected anywhere in the ballpark (including SRO) for just $11 - and an hour or so wait in line. The time passed along quickly enough, and we exchanged our $11 for a voucher, which we would later need to bring to the gate, where we will pick up our tickets. On the surface, it seems like a convoluted way to distribute tickets, but the locals tell me that the series of events are in place to ensure that these tickets are not purchased by those looking to scalp them for a profit.

After securing our tickets, three of us adjourned for breakfast at Tony's Restaurant (12246 Natural Bridge Rd, Bridgeton, MO), which proudly advertises themselves as the "Home of Missouri's Largest Omelet." I think I have mentioned before that I am a sucker for this type of marketing. I always want to see "the biggest," "the best," "the tallest," etc.

Tony's did not disappoint. The restaurant is not large, and well off any kind of beaten path that anyone but the locals would find. It is, however, near the airport, so it is an easy stop on your way in or out of town. Specials were listed on a board near the kitchen, and a sizeable menu exists, but when a place advertises that they are "Home of Missouri's Largest Omelet," why would you order anything else?

The three of us -- all healthy adult males -- split two dishes. One bacon and cheese omelet and a stack of apple pancakes.

I can only tell you that this picture doesn't do this omelet justice. Realize that the omelet is the same size as those pancakes, and about as thick as a stack of five! Maybe this close-up does it better...

Not only was the omelet ENORMOUS, but it was also delicious. It fed THREE of us, and we couldn't finish the whole thing. I can only imagine how many eggs it took to make this -- my guess is 6 or more. There may have also been about 1/3 of a pound of bacon in there. To top it all off, the omelet runs about five bucks. As a matter of fact, the whole check for the three of us was about $15, including tip. If you are looking for a place to grab a good, filling, hearty, inexpensive breakfast, Tony's shouldn't be missed. Bring a defribulator, though, it may come in handy.

Afternoon activities included a trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden, specifically to see the Glass in the Garden exhibit by Dale Chihuly. I had previously seen a similar exhibit in Chicago a few years ago, and subsequently became a Chihuly fan. For one thing, the guy wears an eye patch, which is kind of pirate-ish. Extra points, for sure. On top of that, he has figured out a way to earn worldwide renown and make a ton of money, as an artist, while alive. Imagine how many folks aspire to any part of that! I won't bore you with a ton of Chihuly photos here, but I will add some below the fold for anyone who wants to catch a peek.

The Gardens were cool, but I think I liked the Chicago exhibit a little better. It seemed that these sculptures were a little more random, whereas at the Chicago exhibit, the sculptures took on more of the personality of the gardens. Either way, it was good to add a little culture to the baseball and red meat trip!

After Chihuly, we needed a little time to regroup before heading out to the ballpark. I will continue there in the next post, and, as promised, throw a few glass pictures up below the fold. For full visual effect, you should probably click on the pics to see the larger and more detailed versions.

This was probably my favorite piece. The illusion of flamingos in the garden is what appealed to me.

Many of the glass sculptures interact with the light in beautiful ways.

OK...I suppose you have had more than enough by now. Neat stuff, though, and if you get the chance to see a Chihuly exhibit in your neck of the woods, you should try to check it out.

Edit: Tony's Restaurant was featured in the Dining Out: Best of 2006 post.

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Trip Log, Day 1; St. Louis

Note: This is this first post in a series. You can find the complete series index here.

Travel days on vacation always seem like such a waste to me. I travel for a living, so I usually get PAID to fly. Burning a vacation day to fly seems proposterous to me. My preference would have been to fly out after work and arrive in the late evening at my destination. Since I take two summer trips with one buddy of mine, we are each responsible for travel arrangements for one trip. I had no say in this one, so we flew out in the morning! Fortunately, it was a first-class flight into STL, which arrived around 1 pm.

Vacation meal #1 was burned on airline food. I had a lovely, overly salted, turkey sandwich on a croissant. Accompanying the sandwich was a salad with not-quite-wilted lettuce, and a bag of walnut cookies. I am glad that I don't ever see those cookies in the supermarket, because I like them a lot. Most of the products from Old Colony are pretty good (on the return flight, I had one variety that I had never seen -- Chocolate Mint), and if they were readily available locally, I am afraid I would buy a bag every trip to the grocery store. And, even though they are very reasonably priced online, I don't think that I need 100 bags of cookies lying around the house.

Rental car pickup and hotel check-in were quick and smooth. I used Hotwire for this trip, as opposed to my favored Hertz because the Hotwire cost was almost 1/3 the charge for the Hertz rental. Now, I love Hertz, but not that much.

After a quick change at the hotel, we drove off to check out the world famous St. Louis Zoo. The St. Louis Zoo flourished under the care of Marlin Perkins, of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom fame. The St. Louis Zoo was one of the first zoos to eliminate the old-style cage system, and provide more of a free-roaming environment for it's animals. Best of all, for all you penny pinchers out there, the place is absolutely free. They do charge $9 to park a car there, but you can load up as many as you like in the ol' family truckster and head out for a good day at the zoo.

I have become a fan of good zoos over the years. As much as I love to travel, I haven't been outside North America since a trip to Europe in the eighth grade. For me, zoos are a way to see some of nature that I would not otherwise be able to inside this region of the world.

Every time I go to the zoo, I never fail to see something that I had not ever seen before. This trip was no exception. I happen to think that lemurs are among the coolest of the mammals, and so I always make it a point to check out the monkeys, orangutans, and other primates, which are housed together at most zoos. The St. Louis zoo recently added a new species of lemur, which may well be one of the coolest animals I have ever seen, the sifaka. Native to Madagascar, it was only recently discovered how to care for these animals in captivity.

I also want to check out how they have my favorite animals cared for -- the penguins. The St. Louis Zoo had an excellent penguin and puffin exhibit, and on the day we went, many different species were roaming about and making quite a bit of noise.

Due to the layout of the exhibits, you do quite a bit of walking at this zoo. It makes for a decent bump in the heart rate (for a while, it seems like everything is uphill). Needless to say, after about three hours, I was exhausted.

Dinner on the first night was burgers at Blueberry Hill. Traveling with someone who has lived in STL previously, I got quite a bit of historical background on this area...unfortunately, not many pictures! While the burger was fabulous, what I was most pleased with was the Shiner Bock on draft. Whenever I travel to Texas, Shiner is THE beer of choice, and I can even get in bottles from the local Publix. My understanding, though, was that Shiner beer is only available on draft in Texas. A pleasant surprise, to say the least.

The specialty burger here is the Cheddar Burger. It is 7 oz. of beef slathered with spreadable cheddar cheese. I am not usually a big fan of any kind of cheese spread, but this gooey cheese added a unique flavor to the burger. At our table, one burger was ordered medium and one medium rare -- and there was a discernable difference in the two. The fries were tasty, but I was subsequently told to order the onion rings instead. If you are in the STL area for the first time, I would add this place to my musts. They have live music (Chuck Berry still plays here once a month!), dart room, pinball, displays of toy and sports memorabilia, and GREAT food. You can find them in the Loop on Delmar.

The last stop of the day was the ultimate St. Louis institution -- Ted Drewes for frozen custard. I read in one of those cheesy tourist books how St. Louis is famous for two things -- one made of steel (The Arch) and the other made of concrete (the name for Ted Drewe's blended custard concoction). This was my second visit to Ted Drewe's, and I recalled that during my last visit I had an apple pie concrete. For the uninitiated, this is vanilla custard blended with a hunk of fresh apple pie -- similar to a DQ Blizzard, but with quality ingredients! The server turns the dish upside down to show just how thick (kind of like....concrete!) this treat is. For some reason, they serve your custard with a spoon AND a straw -- but, I have never seen anyone eat their concrete with a straw.

However, after perusing the menu thoroughly, I did not see apple pie on the menu. I understand that the menu rotates somewhat periodically, but I was bummed. One of the folks I was with suggested that I ask for it, as they sometimes have stuff that is not on the menu. Good call...and moments later, I was chowing down on my apple pie concrete!

An exhausting first day of vacation done. Good sleep was the next order of business.

For anyone interested, I will post a few more pictures from the zoo below the fold.

My favorite bad ass lookin' penguin!

We caught this polar bear at feeding time. Here he is mauling a fish!

The insectarium at the St. Louis Zoo is wonderful, including a large collection of butterflies.

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23 June 2006

Friday Deals at Amazon

One of my favorite ways to pick up a bargain is to see what Amazon is offering in their weekly Friday Sale. In the past, I have purchased the Martex Egyptian Bath Towels, which are featured this week for $8.99 each, with a free hand towel. If you spend $25, you will get free shipping, too! This could also be time to check out the newest section, the grocery department.

Each week, Amazon offers 150 new items at a discount on Friday. Most of the items are somewhere between 25 and 70% off. Check back each week to find out what is available.

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The Worst Day on the Calendar

No, it is not a specific date. For me, it is the first day back from a week-long vacation. Getting back into the spirit of work and out of the sleep-in mentality takes more than a couple of days. I guess I suffer from some sort of vacation hangover.

Worse, too, is the excessive amount of time that I end up spending defending my choice of vacation spots. Visualize people who, without saying a word, have a look on their face that just screams "You took your vacation and went to OMAHA? Nebraska?" How about the look of bewilderment that says "Saint LOOOOOOOis???"

I guess most people think of more typical vacation spots -- Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York City...heck, even Pittsburgh would elicit less odd looks than Omaha. On the inside, though, I am the one chuckling. Friends of mine recently took a very fancy cruise through the Caribbean for a week. I guaran-damn-tee you that I had a better time than they did, and spent about 1/3 the amount of money.

People complain all the time about not being able to use their accrued miles on award flights or their hotel points for prime hotel rooms on their vacations. While some may not consider the midwest to be a prime vacation destination, I never have a hard time using miles for a flight or points for hotels, whenever I want -- even at peak times, like the College World Series, when hotel rooms tend to go for upwards of $150-200/night in prime locations -- if you can find a room.

Those who mock my vacation choices are the ones who would spend their time off battling some overcrowded area, to get into the touristy places (that are most like the ones we have here in central Florida), to do overpriced vacation-y things, I will keep my little secret. I am having more fun, for less money....so stay the hell away from where I am headed! :-)

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Sickly Amount of Beef

I was going to title this post "Gooey Blood," but that was even too gross for me.

In-N-Out Burgers are some of the finest "fast food" in the country. But, this guy takes his lust for "animal style" just a little too far.

Earlier this year, 20-year-old Anaheim resident Merwin Barrientos ate a 26x26 at In-N-Out Burger: 26 hamburger patties glued together with 26 slices of American cheese.
Their regular menu calls for a "double-double," two beef patties with two slices of cheese on a burger. In what might be considered one of the world's worst secrets, In-N-Out is well known to have a secret menu, and they will gladly make a burger of any size combination of meat patties and cheese slices.

I tried to figure why anyone would even think about doing this kind of disservice to their bowels, when I came across this line in the article:
Nevertheless, he doesn’t plan on joining the competitive-eating circuit: he’s just a Cal Poly Pomona computer science major who really, really likes to eat. “I’m sure I’ll try something else soon,” he says. “I hear there’s a 96-ounce steak in Texas . . . ”
Ahhh....a computer science major. That does explain a LOT. It's kind of hard to believe that computer science majors have a reputation of having difficulty getting dates on Friday nights.

It sounds like he has his eyes set on the Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, TX. If I were them, I would get ready to give up a free steak soon!

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21 June 2006

The Greatest Show On Dirt

Having spent the last three days in baseball nirvana, the NCAA's trademarked phrase, which I blatantly stole as a thread title, is so true. Stand back, kids....I am about to make an incredibly bold statement...

The NCAA Division I Men's Baseball College World Series is the single greatest live sporting event held annually in this country.

Soak that in for a second. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Yes, there are a few parameters in place, but I am not going to get into an argument with the World Cup freaks out there. Me, I would take the CWS over the World Cup anyday. But, the World Cup is a four-year worldwide event - and one that celebrates the world's most popular sport. That's tough to beat. I wouldn't trade my tickets in Omaha for a Group E undercard in Dusseldorf, but to each his own. The Olympics are also a unique series of events, which bears some merit in the "Greatest Sporting Events to Attend" competition. But, the Olympics stroll around every other year -- alternating winter and summer gatherings. Interest in the Olympics, domestically, waxes and wanes with the United States' athletes on the field.

Why does the CWS rank ahead of the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the Major League Baseball World Series -- heck, all of the professional sports championships, the BCS, the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, and anything else you want to throw my way? Well, I'll tell you -- but, you would know, if you made just one trip to Omaha.

Come to think of it, Omaha is probably the Number One reason why the CWS earns this title. The CWS envelopes Omaha each June, and Omaha embraces "their" event like no one else would. This championship has been played in the same city for the last 57 years, and Omaha wraps its collective arms around this 10 (or so) day tournament as though it were their own child. The people here are so friendly, it almost seems fake -- until you realize that everyone is genuinely THAT nice. I live in an area that gets overrun with tourists and snowbirds. Most locals resent, if not hate them. Please spend your money and then leave quietly -- and try not to break anything -- that's what we'd tell our tourists, if we had the nerve. Here, we were invited to someone's home to have some brats and kebabs -- after meeting the guy in the stands for one of the games between two teams in which none of us had a rooting interest. These folks want to show you around -- share with you their pride in what they have to offer. Folks will ask you "Have you been to the Zoo?" (yes); "Did you make it to Johnny's for steak?" (hell yes); and my favorite, after arriving for a meal at a local restaurant in between two games at the stadium, our server greeted our table and didn't ask us what we would like to drink or tell us the day's specials -- she asked us simply, "Who won the early game?"

Still need more convincing? Check below the break....

Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium
hosts this event. Seating capacity is just over 23,000, but there are always standing room/general admission tickets available, and I have personally been to a few games where attendance has exceeded 25,000 people. How do they draw 25,000+ people to college baseball games, often hundreds or thousands of miles away from where the schools are located? EVERY ticket to every game is affordable, that's how! Anyone can purchase a book of 10 general admission tickets for $60. These tickets are good to ANY game in the CWS. You want to go to the finals for $6/ticket -- go ahead. All you need to do is wait in line. I have never actually been to the finals -- I prefer to go to the early round games, usually culminating on Tuesday. Affectionately known as "Elimination Day," four teams play in two different games, with the idea simple -- win or go home. One day, two games, two teams moving on to live another day, two going home unhappy. Ticket scalpers hawk their wares outside the stadium, so there are usually plenty of tickets available to the early round games. The general admission tickets get you an unmarket seat in the bleachers, but veterans know that not everyone will show up in the seat-backs. Given that temparatures can make it oppressively hot (even for this Florida boy), the best seats to be had are under the shade, a little higher up, so that the breeze kicks through. Total cost -- SIX bucks (and the desire to move around a little if someone comes along and claims your seat) -- and if that isn't the kind of thing that is affordable to most anybody, I don't know what is. How much would that Super Bowl ticket cost you?

Parking can be a little tricky, but if you know where to look, you can even avoid paying the $10 or $20 per game that local homeowners garner selling off their lawn as parking space. Believe it or not, there is plentiful street parking around the stadium. This does fill up fast, and the more you are willing to walk a distance (uphill going to the game, but downhill coming back!), the more likely you are to find free parking. For me, part of the added thrill is the walk through the neighborhood - people out grilling burgers and brats, locals hawking sodas or bottled water (remember, I told you it was hot), the local paper is handed out free to all fans, and then a tent city of companies selling shirts, hats, and other logoed knick-knacks. It is quite the festive atmosphere. Of course, all the while, fans line the street decked out from head to toe in their college's colors -- or even wearing the logos of schools not in attendance. I saw my fair share of displaced LSU and University of Texas fans these past few days.

Hotels fill up fast, so going at the last minute is not the best plan of attack. Still, I have NEVER come here without being able to use points accrued from some hotel chains loyalty program for free nights. Most of the people who decide to go at the last minute are people with a rooting interest in one of the teams that made it. These people get soaked on hotel rooms and flights. Planning in advance is the way to go, and if your team happens to make it (Go Tar Heels!), then just be pleasantly surprised. One more affordable way to go can be to stay in nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is right across the Missouri River. Just try getting a hotel room on points for the days surrrounding the Kentucky Derby in Lexington.

Accessibility to the players is unmatched, from a fan's perspective. Last night, we sat one row behind five guys from the Carolina baseball team. Chad Flack, who hit the two decisive home runs against Alabama in the Super Regional chatted with me about baseball. In years past, we have stayed in the same hotel as the University of South Carolina and LSU. Both times, we had breakfast two tables over from either the starting pitcher, head coach, or former star players. Do you think that Heat fans in Dallas had breakfast with Shaq this morning?

If you haven't bought in yet, you don't have a sports pulse -- or, you are just so hung up on professional sports and being spoonfed whatever networks want you to believe is the best.

Don't believe me? Head to Omaha, and prove me wrong!

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20 June 2006

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Well, Joltin' Joe (or The Travelin' Man, in this case) has left and gone away.

Coo coo ca choo.

I am off traveling the great midwest, and have had VERY limited Internet access to post about my travels. Before leaving, I was buried in last minute work that just had to be done before departure, so I didn't even get to post a "Gone Fishin'" message for my regular following. I guess one of the surprising things that I have learned is that I *HAVE* something of a regular following -- my site meter down below tells me. So, to the three or four of you -- my apologies for bolting out the door without having the bed made.

When I am able, I will share my eating and baseball journeys in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Omaha, Nebraska. I did a few side trips that involved neither eating nor baseball in those days, as well. I have some great pictures from the St. Louis Zoo, the Chihuly exhibit (also in STL), Grant's Farm (as in Ulysses S. Grant, the "Worst President in the History of the United States," as told to me in high school), as well as some decent food porn from the phenomenal restaurants that I have managed to hit along the way.

No baseball today until 4 pm CT, so I may get a few other posts in -- still waiting to get all the pics together for the travel log.

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08 June 2006

Killer Shrimp

One of my favorite restaurants in southern California is a place in Marina Del Rey called "Killer Shrimp." To say that the place is a little "minimalist" might be a huge understatement. They have one thing on their menu -- three guesses as to what it is? Their shrimp is served a few different ways -- over pasta, over rice, or simply in a broth with a side of crusty French bread. The restaurant is barely decorated, the tables are nearly empty. Most folks know the original way to eat is with no utensils -- just diving into the bowl of broth-covered shrimp, peeling and eating the fleshy prawns; then soaking up the spicy broth with bread. It's so simple, it's complex.

So complex was this meal, that I decided that I had to be able to duplicate it. And, since I wanted to replicate the minimalist experience, I served the meal on TV trays! I made my first attempt last night. The recipe is as follows:


2 Tbsp fresh or dried rosemary
2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 qts clam broth (I used crab broth, made from leftovers from my snow crab dinner)
6 ozs tomato paste
1 stick butter
5 lbs shrimp; med to large
loaf(ves) of crusty french bread
Let me just say that this recipe yields A TON of broth. I only cooked two pounds of shrimp, and I am only guesstimating that I could have easily added three more pounds -- but, I may have been able to make 10 pounds -- who knows? I figure that extra broth is not such a bad thing. It will keep. I was also unsure as to where the kick comes from in this recipe. I don't see anything listed in there that would create the kind of spicy effect that I had back in MDR. Well, I assure you -- this has some kick. I don't know if it is the red pepper (doesn't add kick like that to a slice of pizza!), the black pepper, or just the combination of spices, but it has kick -- you should like spicy foods if you want to try this.


Break up the spices, rather than grinding them. You should see recognizable pieces of rosemary, etc. when you are done. Mix the ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about two hours. If you are in a pinch for time, you can get by with less time, but the more time you allow, the better flavor you will get. Just before serving, add unpeeled shrimp to the stock pot. Continue to simmer for two to four minutes. The shrimp will be done QUICKLY.

Serve in bowls. Each bowl should contain a number of shrimp and a lot of broth. The broth should almost cover the shrimp.

The dish is eaten with your fingers -- no utensils. Grab a shrimp and peel and eat. Soak up the broth with the bread. Enjoy.
The broth was EXCELLENT -- about just like I remembered from California. But, I definitely made a mistake on the shrimp. Albertson's had a great price on some very large (16 ct.) frozen fresh water shrimp. Hmmm....they weren't that good. I need to find a good local source of shrimp -- maybe gulf shrimp. I don't know if the frozen aspect was an issue, but I guess fresh would be better. I take all of this on me, but the recipe rocks.

As I mentioned, I have plenty of broth, so I am going to make an attempt on some other shrimp and maybe give this a go again this weekend.

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07 June 2006

Really Bad Credit Card Offers

I get bad credit card offers in the mail. I mean, I get REALLY bad credit card offers in the mail. I understand that I ruined my credit, and I am making serious inroads towards correcting my mistakes, but I still get bad credit card offers.

I guess I should just shred them -- I am not really looking for another "entry" card. I have three current cards, all with low credit limits and no monthly balances. I have a couple of gas cards, and I primarily use my checking account debit card for almost all of my purchases. Still, I would like to have one of those shiny fancy-pants rewards cards -- just like the ones that I recommend to all of my friends. It kills me to know that every time I make a charge to my debit card that it is not going on my Starwood American Express or my American Airlines Aadvantage MasterCard or my Marriott Rewards Visa. I love my miles and points...and it kills me that there are points, available for the taking, and I just can't get them. Instead, my debit card gets Visa Extra points. To say Visa Extra points are better than nothing might be selling nothing short. After I earn another 10,000 points, I can exchange all of the points in my account for one free night at any Radisson hotel in the United States. You get one point for each dollar spent, so I am about another six months away from a free night at the Radisson! Of course, if I had a Starwood AmEx, with the same amount of points I have in my account right now, I could get about five nights in a room with an approximate room rate of $250-300/night. Of course, the one advantage to the Visa Rewards points is that you can exchange them for other stuff besides hotel rooms or flights. I could trade all of my points right now for a $100 gift card to a number of restaurants (i.e. Olive Garden, TGI Friday's, etc.). Not all that appealing an option. I can almost get a $100 Amazon certificate. Anyway, you get the idea. For the same amount of money spent with a travel rewards card, I could be getting approximately 10-15 TIMES the benefit of what I get with Visa Extras.

Anyway, about the bad credit card offer. The real question is WHO would order a card with these terms? I understand that there are people in serious financial straits. But, what kind of logic tells you that this type of credit card can help you? The details on this card say that there is a one-time "account origination" fee of $50. OK...it is going to cost me 50 bucks for someone to open an account for me? No thanks. Apparently, the cost of doing business must also be really hurting these folks, because they are also charging a monthly "maintenance fee" of $10.95 PER MONTH. Mind you, a good credit card should have no processing fee or monthly fee. An EXPENSIVE rewards card may have an annual fee of $65 or $80 per year, but you get back some rewards for that, and you get a substantial credit limit. Here, an annual fee of $131.40 rewards you with the privilege of running up new credit card debt. If you are planning on keeping a balance on the card (not recommended at all, but sometimes things happen, no?), they are going to hit you for 24% interest; miss a couple of payments and that shoots up to 30%. If the prime rate continues to climb (and the Fed Chair seems to indicate that it might), your interest rate will rise accordingly.

The letter that accompanied the above pictured flyer offered me a guaranteed credit limit of $500! Wow! I can pay over $130 per year for the privilege of borrowing all of $500. Actually, though, you don't get a $500 limit, either. Your first bill will include the $50 one-time fee and $10.95 for the first month's maintenance fee. So, the initial credit limit will be all of $439 -- and starting immediately, you better be making payments on time.

All I know is that this is some seriously expensive credit. Anyone who is in bad enough financial shape to need this credit card needs to really evaluate how bad they need any credit card.

So, who is this purveyor of crap? A fine company called Applied Card Systems. If New Yorkers needed any more reason to vote for Eliot Spitzer in the upcoming gubernatorial election, you should know that he filed a lawsuit against this fine company for predaory lending practices and slimy collection procedures. Personally, I was shocked to find this company is anything less than above-board with people. I am not one for big government, but any attempt to curb the hideous lending practices that many companies employ is welcomed.

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01 June 2006

Anonymous in the Blogosphere?

If I were a bettin' man, I would think that anonymity in the blog world would have to be a busted myth. This article pretty much says so, too.

As some people are discovering, their musings are no longer drawing just pals and confidants, and postings are not as anonymous as they had imagined. Potential employers, romantic partners, and even law enforcement have cottoned on to the fact that they can get tremendous insight into a person's character -- and keep up with every misdeed -- simply by clicking throughout these online diaries.
I guess my own blog would be considered semi-anonymous. Some people know who I am because I have sent them the link, or they "know" me from other Internet chat sites or message boards. Others who randomly stumble onto the blog through a search engine would likely not know who I am. On top of that, I don't generally write anything that would be considered too controversial - though, I suppose that may depend on your own political view point!

I don't know if I fit the profile of the typical blogger, though. I would guess that I am older than the average age (maybe a LOT older, depending on who you ask!) and my personal and professional background and experiences have taught me what is and is not appropriate for public consumption, even anonymously. There have been days that I wanted to post on office topics -- student essays or emails to the office; inter-office politics and issues; and my personal opinions of those who rank well ahead of me on the corporate ladder. Decorum won out, though. I don't know if I will always be able to make that claim -- believe me, I have some essays and emails that I would LOVE to post on, but I just don't know how appropriate it is to do so.

My personal travels are viable topics, my sexual exploits (or lack thereof) are not. That is not so much because I think it is professionally inappropriate but more because I don't think it is at all appropriate.

This topic has come up in social discussions with my group of friends and colleagues. For instance, are students responsible for their blog/MySpace/FaceBook content when they are called in on a disciplinary charge? Guess what? Like it or not, they are. You can't say that the Dean of Students at the college won't be looking at FaceBook to see pictures of you and your empty beer can collection, stolen street signs, and bong hits. As a matter of fact, I can tell you with relative certainty that the Dean of Students IS looking at anything on the web that you put out to be seen. The same thing is true for high school students. Special note to 17 year olds -- your parents, when they find your blog, will know what the "4:20 Club" is -- so, not only are you responsible for your own blog, but you might want to make sure that the friends that you link to are also showcasing family-friendly material. I pronise you -- it is VERY EASY to follow the trail from one friend to another to another to find all of the exploits that you think you are hiding.

My favorite story from the linked article:
For example, when CollegeRecruiter.com was looking for student bloggers, chief executive Steve Rothberg got an application from a strong candidate who not only had a blog already, but also articulated her skills well in the cover letter. Rothberg was eager to interview her, but first popped onto her blog to see how she handled content. It turned out that she was handling a whole lot more than that.

"With one click, I got information about her sexual behavior that I really didn't want to know," he says. "There was no password protection, and it wasn't like she had tried to hide her blog from me. She told me about it and gave me the link, like she was proud of it."

When Rothberg rejected her application, he detailed his objections, noting that he would not want to risk having the candidate post inappropriate material to a professional blog. The blogger sent back a deeply apologetic note, writing that she had no idea that he would see that part of her blog, even though there was a clear link to the content right on the blog's home page.

"She just had no realization that the things she posted for friends could be seen by other people," says Rothberg. "She thought that whatever she wanted to be private would just magically be private because she wanted it to be. I think many people are going to find out that once you put something on the Internet, it's public."

Stuff like that just makes me giggle.

If I put my hands over my face, then you can't see me, right?

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