Cheeseburger in Paradise

I've been a Jimmy Buffett fan of varying degrees for the past 10 years or so. His music has saved me from completely losing my sanity one summer when I was stuck behind a copy machine 40 hours a week, transported me away from my gloomy cubicle in the middle of a Washington winter (via radio margaritaville), and inspired real life travels to tropical places. So when it came to looking for a place to eat on the Las Vegas strip recently, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out the Margaritaville Cafe.

At the outset, I was somewhat skeptical of it being overly cliche and having the marketing shoved down our throats, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. While the music was a little loud, it was good*. There were guys on stilts walking around making balloon hats, which gave everything a kind of party atmosphere. Then, once an hour, a bikini clad lady emerged from a volcano, slid down a water slide, and ended in an extremely oversized margarita glass. It was quite a spectacle.

Besides the carnival atmosphere, the food was really good. I couldn't pass up ordering the cheeseburger in paradise. While it wasn't the best cheeseburger I've ever had, it was pretty dang good. Emily had a salad with onion and cucumber relish, bbq sauce, candied pecans, and fried chicken. While it sounded a little out there, it was actually really good.

Yep, good music, good food, and good atmosphere = a dang good evening.
Monday September 3 2007File under: travel, food

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Travel Essentials


1. A pen: This is the single most indispensable thing for me when I travel. You never know when you'll need to fill out border declaration forms, copy down phone numbers, schedules, or addresses, or give your number to a sexy flight attendant*.

2. A crossword puzzle: Not only does a crossword work great for killing those minutes spent waiting for your bus to come, your food to come, or a late friend to arrive, but it also functions as a great notepad for phone numbers, addresses, schedules, todos, travel observations, and more. I always try to carry single sided crosswords when I travel just for this reason. Looking over the notes taken on the back of them when you return from your trip is always a hoot. (Oh, and I guess Sudorkus could work in a pinch.)

3. Reading material: For the waits that are longer than a few minutes, having a book/magazine/travel guide handy can greatly help pass the time. The one thing that is guaranteed* in travel is that you will always have down time. Paperbacks works great and can often be exchanged with other travelers you meet along the way.

4. Camera: I try to keep my camera handy while traveling, but not to the point of being one of those guys*. You never know when a good shot will present itself. I take pictures not only to remember my trip later, but also to share my travels with my friends and family (via this blog of course. Who actually looks at printed pictures anymore?).

5. Ear plugs: Those $.50 yellow thingies you squish up and jam in your ears can be a lifesaver for flights with crying babies, shared hostel rooms with snorers, or time when you just want to block everything out. I rarely go anywhere with a pair of these handy.

6. Spare change: Having a dollar or two of spare change can save lots of headaches when traveling. Many public transportation systems require exact change (or at least don't give change), vending machines are often the only choice for a quick meal before hopping on a bus, some fountains simply require having a wishing penny thrown in, and for the 11 people left in the world without a cell phone*, public pay phones rarely accept dollar bills.

7. Fork and spoon: While these don't lend themselves well to air travel*, they are great to have around when exploring new places. Often times when you are trying to travel on the cheap, the grocery store provides meals. Eating yogurt with a spoon is much easier than eating it with an expired driver's license. (Using your own utensils is also a great way to avoid sending more plastic to the land fill.)
Wednesday August 29 2007File under: travel, misc

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Supertasters

I've found myself explaining it so much recently, I thought I might throw a quick post up about supertasterism*. Basically, as I understand it, it is the ability to taste certain substances that others can't, specifically some particular chemical. The chemical is very bitter to those who can taste it, therefore foods that contain this chemical are generally disliked by supertasters. Before I heard about this phenomenon, I, and often people I ate with, just figured that I was picky. After hearing about it, though, I found that many of the foods I dislike are disliked by other supertasters. While I guess it doesn't completely save me from coming across as a picky eater, it does make me feel at least somewhat validated.

Coffee, grapefruit juice, and many dark green leafy vegetables have a bitter taste to me that other people don't seem to share. Wikipedia has a list of food associated with this chemical, and a very scientific exaplanation, here. Noticeably missing from their list is broccoli which I always heard was the main culprit. (And I was really looking for an excuse to avoid my broccoli too.)

Curious as to whether you are a supertaster? Try this experiment or, for the lazier among us, this quiz.
Sunday August 26 2007File under: food, misc

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Homemade Salt

When I tell people about the local foods party (now an annual tradition!), that which I get the most comments about is the homemade salt. Because I've had so much fun making my own salt, I thought I would share with you the process so you can make your own salt too (assuming you live near a salty body of water)*.

First step is to harvest the sea water. Needless to say*, the cleaner the water the better. I try to take my water from below the surface so as to avoid floating badness, such as oil and gas, but away from the bottom where lurks grunge such as fish poop and sand. In my experience, a liter of water will make about a half cup of salt.

Next, you need to find a shallow pan. I've tried both a metal cookie sheet with shallow sides and a pyrex 9x13 baking dish. The metal cookie sheet more quickly evaporated the water, but scraping the salt away was more difficult than in the pyrex, plus, I was a little unsure about what chemicals/sealers the salt might have bonded to on the metal. My solution is to contain the water in the pyrex and let the pyrex rest on the metal sheet like this.

When you've got your pan set up, find yourself a sunny spot. Decent wind helps too. As the water evaporates, add more, little bits at a time, so the bottom of the pan is continually covered. On average, I would pour about one cup of new water in per day, depending on the sun and the wind. After about a week, the salt build-up on the bottom of the pan starts to be significant. In my experience, the sun has a hard time completely evaporating all the water leaving you with damp, hard to spread salt. My solution is to throw the near finished pan of salt (just the pyrex, not the cookie sheet) in the oven after it's been used. The residual heat is more than enough to finish off the drying process.

Presto, now you've got some homemade sea salt.
Thursday August 23 2007File under: food

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Local Foods and Local Fun

I'm pleased to announce that this year's local foods party was a resounding success, although anyone who stopped by knows that already. Round about 30 people contributed to a menu of over a dozen dishes of all* local ingredients. Recipes and tips were exchanged as well as origin and often times history of the ingredients ("The currants were from the neighbor up the street and the apples from my own tree.", etc.). It was truly delicious food for the body and, for me, food for the soul.

For those of you unfamiliar, a bit of history: last year I conceived of the idea of having a collaborative meal where all ingredients were from the local area, as arbitrarily defined as a 100-mile radius (this is not a new idea and has been gaining lots of media attention recently). The idea is to understand where our food comes from, appreciate what northwest Washington has to offer, capitalize on the bountiful season, and do it all in an inspiring, educational, and fun way. The party went extremely well and drummed up much enthusiasm and discussion. (A write-up of last year's party including pictures and a menu can be found here).

This year's party wouldn't have been nearly as successful if it hadn't been for all who those who contributed and participated. Being able to share my enthusiasm for local foods and getting such a positive response is what makes it so much fun. Also, a big thanks to Andrew and Ma for the pictures (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Hey, I got an idea: let's do it again next year!
Monday August 20 2007File under: Anacortes, food

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BdW Version Update

Inspired by IHJ post about improvements and upgrades (kudos to Chris for the homegrownedness of them), I thought I would share a few of the improvements that have gone on here since the last upgrade. Most have been kicking around for a while, but have mostly gone unnoticed because of placement, etc. (not that any are fancy enough to warrant fanfare...)

Link Blog: Following Ryan's example (see right hand column under all the pictures), I've added a link blog. This is for the interesting/useful sites that I come across in my daily web meanderings that I want to share but don't want to make a dedicated post about. The most recent links can be found down the left hand column or you can view them all at the archives.

Ads: So I added ads. I'm hoping that they are unobtrusive, helpful, and possibly even profitable. I'm up a whopping $1.98 currently. Feel free to click on them. Every now and again, good stuff pops up there. Currently, they are located far down the left hand column on the main page, at the bottom of People's Guide to Anacortes, and at the bottom of any permalinked page.

Permalinks: I've improved the way BdW permalinks. A "permalink" is a link that will always point to a given post (even if it is years down the road). Now, the page will have only the one post and the comments associated with that post along with an abbreviated left hand navigation column. Permalinks are great for when you want to send a specific post to a friend* or link to a specific post from your blog. To get the permalink, just click on the title for any post.

Comment Encoding: Over the years*, there have been some issues with cutting and pasting links into the comment area. I think I've got all that worked out, so paste away.

Coming Soon: I've got a couple more support pages coming soon, including an about page that will hopefully be useful to new visitors and a resume page to showcase all the web design work I do. Since I know you will be holding your breath, I'll be sure to point out when I get those launched.

New Match Em! sets: Unfortunately only one reader submitted their own match set for addition into Match Em! (Thanks Joe!). I added in a couple more sets as well, so be sure to check them all out.
Friday August 17 2007File under: coding, blog

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Skimboarding

One thing about living in the same place you grew up is that friends who have moved on to bigger and better things always return for a visit. This week is one of those times where loads of people are all back in town, from Boston, Quebec, Yukon, California, and more. And when so many people are around, lots of activities ensue.

The activity du jour was skimboarding (previously covered here). With new boards in hand and enthusiasm to beat the band, we found ourselves a great sand bar down at Rocky Point for some schralpin'. To kill time until the tide was right, we all tried our hand at building sand castles. And after the tide passed, we investigated various ways of hucking ourselves into the ocean.

Yes, besides the bumps and bruises, a sun burn, and the extremely sore legs I will have tomorrow, this skimboarding mission was an complete success.
Wednesday August 15 2007File under: Anacortes, misc

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Wiffle Ball

The universe often sends out its energy in waves. The wave of late has been wiffle ball energy. Having not played (or thought about) the game in ages, the opportunity to play two games in almost as many days is the universe's way of telling me it has been too long.

Game 1: It was no contest. Team Birthday Boys trompled the heavily favored Hometown Heroes 11-2. I hit one over the fence in the fatty-batty inning to really put the nail in the coffin. The score, however, doesn't do justice to Hometown Heroes. They were worthy opponents. Perhaps next year, a rematch is in the wind.

Game 2: (also covered here) There must be a resurgence of wiffle ball in Bellingham because bats are difficult to find. We found possibly the last bat in town after visiting a number of stores. But with equipment in hand, we got down to business. The Flying Platypi held their own in this 10-10 tie, even with the disadvantage of missing out on the fatty batty inning. (Those $2 bats just don't last as long as they used to, even when pre-wrapped with duct tape.) Again, it was a fun game where everybody won.

Yep, wiffle ball isn't just for kids. It is good fun for late twenty-somethings clutching desperately at their long gone childhoods. Or wait, maybe that is just me. Anyway, thanks to all that made it such a fun time.
Tuesday August 14 2007File under: Anacortes, misc

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Match Em!

With all this trivia that has been floating around in my head and life of late, I had to find an outlet. What I've come up with should prove to be lots* of fun.

The game is Match Em, and as the name suggests, it is a matching game. I consider it accessible trivia, because even if you don't know each and every one, you can usually reason out at least a few correct answers. The game also tracks the average score of everyone who has played for a given data set. Examples of data sets currently included are Painters and Paintings, States and Nicknames*, Car Makes and Models, and much more. So try it out. Let me know if you have problems or questions. (Please to note: it hasn't been tested on any Macintosh browsers. If you try it out on one, let me know if it works.)

The part of this whole shebang that I am excited about it the ability to add new data sets easily. For this, I was hoping that I could call on you, dear reader, to help out. What matching sets can you come up with? Send me (via e-mail or the contact page)* anywhere between 7 and 14 matching items in a given category. In about a week, I'll add all [appropriate] submissions to the game.
Sunday August 12 2007File under: games, coding

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Filler

It's been a busy time for me recently. On the work front, I've been housesitting and mixing concrete (don't worry, not together). On the fun front, it I spent some time at the Anacortes Arts Festival*, checked out the always wunnerful Spoonshine show, did another fun trivia night at the Back Porch Cafe, and learned to play guitar hero.

Since I've been so busy*, I haven't been able to give the old blog the time it deserves. And because I don't want anyone who visits to be overly disappointed, I thought I'd throw up this little filler post. Don't worry, I've got a few posts brewing that will be ready soon.

In the meantime, see how many of these robits you can name. Our team did about as well as we did on the last picture identification round: badly. (Oh, and I neglected to get the actual right answers, but I figured you either know you know them or you don't, so the answers are rather superfluous.)
Wednesday August 8 2007File under: Anacortes

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