Chicago Comic-con Day 1

We arrived (my daughter Kelsey and I) at comicon (#WWChicagoCC) around noon.  In the car ride over we identified the things we wanted ro see.  The first we we did was attend the Neard for a living panel.  It was okay but seemed to focus mostly on animation and such which is really just a part of nerddom.  So it kind of left us wanting but over all it was fine.  We then went to the snack bar and had a quick lunch and walked around the floor a bit.  We then split up and I went to see Gates McFadden and she was awesome.  It was a real treat to get to see her in person and hear tales not only from ST:TNG but Labrynith too.

After leaving that panel I was still floating on a cloud kind of when I ran into Stan Lee.  Stan Lee!!!!!  An I shook his hand!!!  Arrrggghhhttt!!!!

Yes, I am officially a geek.  All doubt is dismissed.

We then went for dinner at the Marriott  across the street from the convention center.  The lack of any restaurants around the Donald E. Stevenson Convention Center is surprising.  Dinner was fine, but a little pricey.  I need to find some better resturants around here.

We returned to the convention center and attended the Joel Hodgeson panel where he riffed on himself.  What a hoot.  That guy is so funny.  And I had no idea that he and Jerry Seinfeld were close.

We ended the night by seeing the Chicago permire of a horror movie Inner Demons.  It was pretty darn good I have to admit.  Kelsey and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  In fact I think we are now going to try to see all the horror movies while we are  here.  (Apparantly they are trying out something new by having a mini-movie festival within the convention focusing on horror movies.  I’d say it is a great idea.)

My only complaint thus far is the distinct lack of gaming and game vendors.  Hopfully tomorrow will have more or I’ll find here they are hiding.  

Caesar’s Palace…not quite “the Hangover” hotel.

I am staying this week at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  In my role at my company it seems pretty apparent that, as our western branches expand, my visits will become more and more frequent.  So I have decided to  try staying in all the major hotels on the strip.

This far I have stayed at only two, the MGM Grand and the Hard Rock Hotel.

For comparison sake, my first hotel that I stayed in on the strip was the Hard Rock (which technically isn’t on the strip, but close enough for my purposes.)  So all comparisons are pretty much using that as a reference point.  I really enjoyed my stay at the HRH.

The room rate at Caesar’s was $120 for a room with one King Sized bed. 

I arrived at around 11 AM.  The lobby was fairly empty and this was about the last time I would see it like this.  Otherwise it was pretty much constantly packed.  I felt sorry for the pour souls standing in line 10-15 deep waiting to check in.  Perhaps it was because of EDC being this particular weekend, but I suspect that is not the case.

The staff was friendly, but their directions to my tower (Roman) were woefully inadequate and the maps around the hotel weren’t much help either.  I finally wandered around enough and found my elevators.

At this point it might be good to mention that the size of this place is just enormous.  For the first three days I was constantly getting lost.  I have heard that the designers of casino do this on purpose.  And brother, I’m here to tell you, it works.

The room was fairly small in comparison the on one at HRH.  The décor was fairly dated and the 19” televisions (one in the main room and one in the bed room) were old tube type televisions.  That mattered little as the picture was so poor, it wasn’t really worth watching anyway (which, in reality, may be by design.  They probably don’t want you spending a whole lot of time in the room I imagine.)

The bed was clean and comfortable, but the air conditioning was loud and ran constantly. 

The hotel hallways were in need of cleaning and touchup on paint and such and often glasses and room service trays stayed a couple of days.

The shower and towels were insane and probably my favorite part of the room.  Nice fluffy towel and the water pressure in the shower was awesome.

Finally parking was a nightmare.  The first night I used the valet, which was fine.  But every time I tried to use it after 4 PM, the valet lot was full.  After the fourth day, I abandoned even trying using the valet and parked in self-parking instead.  That posed it’s own issues, as often as now, I ended up parking so far away from my room, it would take 20+ minutes to get from my car to my room.

Over all, it would be okay for a short weekend stay, but stay again nor I wouldn’t recommend Caesar’s Palace.

Spiritual lessons in Las Vegas

Again I find myself in Las Vegas for work.  This time I am here for in excess of a week.  I’ve tried to like Las Vegas, and to be sure there are parts I do like.  I like the climate, the desert, the buildings, and the restaurants.  And the people that live and work here seem quite nice and friendly for the most part.

But other parts, the “sin city” parts are very hard for me to accept.  I have been struggling with what I see here and the self-centered behavior that the Las Vegas tourist industry embraces and promotes.  In many ways, watching some of the people and the way they behave is like watching a self-inflicted train wreck.

I keep thinking of my daughters and pray that I have raised them with a better sense of self-respect, faith, and self-control that, when they visit Las Vegas as young women that they will not behave like I see the people here behaving.

“What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” is what they want people to believe.  But unfortunately that is not true in any sense.  What happens here has some very real consequences that will stay with a person forever.  It doesn’t disappear once the plane door closes.

So onto the spiritual lessons learned.

First, I am reminded of the old Zen tale of the two monks that came to the edge of a river.  At the edge of the river was a young lady who could not cross the river in her finery.  The older monk, had the young lady get on here back and he crossed the river keeping the young lady dry.

Once on the other side, the two monks continued on their way.  After a while, the younger monk could no longer take it.  “Why did you pick her up?  You know our order forbids us to touch a woman!  How could you do that?”

The older monk looked at the younger monk and said “I left that young lady back at the edge of the river.  Why are you still carrying her?”

For me, the first lesson is to let go of it when people are making their choices, even if they are self destructive.  I cannot carry them.

The second lesson is that my faith and beliefs are part of me and are inseparable.   While this might seem an odd statement, it is significant idea but it might be a bit hard to explain.

As a Christian I have always fought to stay true to my beliefs.   What I have discovered is that my faith and spirituality is a gift and it is a gift I cannot give back even if I wanted to do so.  Like eye color or height or being double-jointed, it is part of me.   And while my faith may ebb and flow at different times in my life, it is always there to some extent.  And with that faith comes grace.

The scary thought is that if this if a gift given to me, it raises the question that is this gift given to everyone?  Or could it be that some just don’t have it.

Perhaps Las Vegas isn’t the right place to contemplate this too much.

Denny’s Diner

If you have ever watched “Diners. Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network, then you will appreciate Denny’s Diner in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.  There are plenty of good restaurants in the Dells, to be sure, and plenty of familiar chains as well. I’ve been going to the Dells for years and the one place I somehow missed was Denny’s Diner.  Perhaps it is the location (on the corner of of Rt. 12 and Rt. 23) that made me miss it, but boy have I been missing out. 

Denny’s Diner (not to be confused with the national “Denny’s” chain) is a hidden gem of a restaurant.  The decor is similar to a 50’s diner, but with a hodge-podge of oddities thrown in.  From Beatles poster on the walls, to a Tasmanian devil hanging from the ceiling to a train going by overhead, it is hard to describe the wild menagerie of collectables found in the restaurant.

But that is just the beginning of the enjoyment at Denny’s Diner.  We went for breakfast.  I had the Spanish omele (which could feed a small army), my wife had the Eggs Benedict, my oldest daughter the standard two eggs and bacon, and my youngest daughter the biscuits and gravy.  All were very good and well worth a return trip on their own.  But the hash browns, for me, were the star of the show.  I would go back just for those.  But my wife and youngest daughter liked the home-made cinnamon rolls the best.

Of course the toast on home-made bread was quite a treat.  Yes, that’s right…home-made bread.

We wound up at Denny’s Diner by chance this time.  On our next trip to the Dells, you can rest assured that our next visit to Denny’s will be high on the itinerary of things to do while we are there.

Denny's Diner on Urbanspoon

Akamaru Japanese Restaurant Review

On our Great Road Trip 2012, we drove through Visalia, California on our way to King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Forest.  As we were hungry and it was dinnertime we decided to stop.  At this point in our vacation we had been on the road for over two weeks and were getting tired of eating out so we needed something different.  We decided to stop at Akamaru Japanese Restaurant.  And we were very glad we did.

The food was exceptional.  As we are not too familiar with Japanese cuisine, the waitress was very helpful in explaining what each dish was and offered suggestions.  They even explained how we eat the little green beans that came as an appetizer before the meal.

I and my youngest daughter had the Teriyaki Beef and my wife had the Bento box.  My oldest daughter had the Beef Noodles which came in a bowl larger than her head.  The Bento box was enormous and enough to feed two people.  You can’t say that Akamaru doesn’t give you enough to eat.

We left satisfied with both the food and our choice of restaurants.  In the unlikely event that we ever get back to Visalia again, we would certainly visit Akamaru again.

Akamaru Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

El Gaucho….Awesome Steak in Seattle!!!

18oz Frenched Rib Chop
18oz Frenched Rib Chop

Before dining at El Gaucho I thought the phrase “melts in your mouth” only applied to M&Ms and butter. Then I had the Frenched rib chop. I didn’t think a steak could get this tender and flavorful. I asked for it cooked medium and it was perfectly done. But not only was it perfectly done color-wise, but the most amazing part was how it was perfectly pink in the center, but the was no blood at all. And while normally I would expect a steak this thick to be a little raw in the center, the cooking was done with such perfection that the texture was somehow firm but tender throughout. Simply put, perfection.

 

But the perfection didn’t stop there…the Full Gaucho potato was phenomenal. Prepared at the table with cheddar cheese sauce, butter and scallions, it was light and fluffy and delicious. And the roasted corn was a sweet and tasty treat that rounded out the saltiness and pepper of the potato and steak nicely.

The service was second to none and the live piano added a charm that reminded one of a day long past. It was very much like stepping into a time warp. I really expected Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat pack to walk through the door at any minute.

I would have said Humphrey Bogart, but I think he might have actually been there….

 

Seattle….still loving it.

Seattle Skyline
Seattle Skyline

So I am in Seattle for the Dexter and Chaney User Conference, and it just reaffirms my last opinion…I really like Seattle. Very pretty and the people are very friendly. And the food is awesome. Just a great place to visit. I really want to bring my wife and kids out here to visit.

One thing that kind of surprised me (although I’m not sure why) is how many Apple products people are using here in the land of Microsoft.

Pike’s Public Market is still a great thing to see. It is a maze of little shops and restaurants and vendors and everything else that you can imagine. Salvidore Dali said that the train station at Perpignan was the center of the universe. I think he would change his mind if he ever went to Pike’s Market.