Saturday, August 30, 2014

#BBC14 Pre-Conference Pub Crawl: Independent Style…

We already had travel arrangements to fly into San Diego when the Pre-Conference Excursion was announced.  Since another couple from NOLA, friends of ours, were in the same boat we decided to split cab fare and create our own pre-conference excursion in beautiful, temperate San Diego. 

First stop?  For lunch and beverages of course at Blind Lady Ale House (BLAH).  The décor is welcoming.  The color scheme is a palette of browns but the place is well lit so it’s welcoming.  There are skateboard decks lining the walls (they could have used a Gnarly Barley deck) and nostalgic beer lighting (a turning Miller Genuine Draft Light was near our table).  The music was loud enough to hear but low enough to talk over.  These guys have a lot of things going right in this establishment.  Most tables seat six, so this is really a place to come and hang with a group of friends and share some food, drink, and fun.  Favorite beer?  The Golden Ticket, a Belgian golden strong infused with vanilla beans and oak with Dark Horse Coffee.  Think Coffee Stout has a stepchild with something gold and it ends up being blonde but having a delightful coffee kick.  BLAH also had St. Louis Geueze and Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale on tap, so I traded off Coffee and sour for the time we were there.  The Cheese and Charcuterie Plates were awesome!  I would definitely hang out here again if in San Diego again.  Once we were done here, it was time for an afternoon nap to cut the time zone confusion.

Then we were back out and about at Toranado.  The selection included several local beverages.  I had a New Belgium Love-Felix and a taste of Toby’s Chip Shot Coffee Porter.  The establishment was on the small side and not well lit.  Toby had the Smoked Mac and Cheese.  It was very cheesy and seasoned with smoked paprika.  It was good, but the serving size was huge.  I had a BLTA (the A is for avocado) with a cucumber salad.  It was all right, but the bacon was on the soggy side (I am a stickler for crispy bacon) and the cucumber salad was heavy on a white dressing.  We did have window side seating that allowed us to look out at what was going on outside on the street.  This is not a stop I would be inclined to repeat.

Our final stop was Waypoint Public.  I loved the campy décor, the bear logo, and the bar rail around the perimeter which allowed for rail seating facing the street to see what was going on outside.  I enjoyed a Berry Nice and Bacon & Eggs by Pizza Port and a Three Sheets by Ballast Point.  The beer was good, the lighting was good, the setting was good.  I loved that they accommodated couples with young children by providing a toddler play ground and a big screen that was playing Harry and the Henderson’s while we were there.  I wish I had waited on eating, because I think the menu would have delivered.  I would definitely make a return visit if I chance to visit San Diego again.  And then, it was time to turn in for the night to gear up for the conference day that was to come…

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Beer Bloggers Conference - San Diego

This conference was perfect for the way I like to schedule recreational travel: a four-day weekend with a pre-conference day for independent wandering and a full conference schedule.  We selected a direct flight from New Orleans International Airport to San Diego International Airport on Southwest Airlines.  We took a taxi from the airport to the conference hotel, the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott.  For our independent ground travel, we used UBER for the first time.  The trip went well, what follows are my thoughts on our lodging and transportation services for the duration of the trip.

Things I appreciate about Southwest:
1.  Select your own seat.  I prefer the exit row on the wing because you get extra legroom.  On the A/B/C side of the plane, you get more elbow room as well.  The extra space helps with the cooped up feeling on the long flight.
2.  Direct flights.  It's worth the drive to New Orleans.
3.  The planes are roomy.  No worries about hitting your head on the ceiling while entering the plane or walking down the aisle.
4.  The seat belts don't make me feel like I need to lose 25lbs to fly.
5.  The flight attendants are friendly and have a sense of humor about the long flights.
While my butt was hurting for half the flight, that more about my butt than it is about Southwest.

Marriott properties are my favorite for travel.  There is a consistent quality at a good value that I've come to appreciate, and the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott was no exception to that expectation.
1.  The room rate was a great value for the site. 
2.  The staff were courteous and responsive to my requests.  I was able to get a feather free room with a king size bed for a small wait on check in.
3.  Strawberry enhanced water was available in the lobby 24/7.  This is quite refreshing and beats bottle water.
4.  The room was spacious.  There was a sitting area with a love seat and coffee table and a work space with a charging station.
5.  The dining area provided a variety of breakfast options.  We ate there everymorning.  The fruit was fresh and the bacon was crispy.  The coffee was Starbucks, so it was decent.
6.  The conference center was connected to the hotel by covered walkways.  The weather was beautiful, but this was a great feature for a conference in the event of rain.
7.  There were beautiful outdoor seating areas.  Landscaping ranged from palm trees to rose bushes.  The sofas and chairs were oversized and comfortable.  There was an outdoor breakfast area and a lounging area with a fire pit.  The pool was inviting, and they played family movies on a big screen at the pool at night.

1.  The vehicles were clean.
2.  The drivers were well dressed and pleasant.  It was like being picked up by a friend for a ride because you were in town.
3.  We never waited more than 10 minutes for a ride (most waits were around 5 minutes).
4.  You don't need cash and your credit card information is shared with only one point of contact.
5.  The UBER app lets you confirm if your driver is on course to the destination you selected.  This is a great feature when you are traveling somewhere that is unfamiliar.

On a return trip to San Diego, I would definitely use all of these transportation and lodging services again.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Tale of 2 Daisy's...28 years apart...

It was the early days of the summer of 1986.  My braces had been taken off a couple of months earlier, and the orthodontist had referred us to an oral surgeon to get my wisdom teeth removed.  We had arrived at the office, and I had fallen asleep standing up at the counter while my Mom finished the paperwork.  The nurse saw me, and took me back into the surgery room so that I wouldn't fall.  I was really out of it because I had had valium to relax me before the procedure.

The doctor comes in and wakes me up.  "Is there someone we can call?"  I was really confused, my Mom was with me, why would we need to call someone.  "How can we reach your Dad?"  "You can't, my Dad is offshore.  Where is my Mom?"  "Your Mom passed out, we need someone to take her to the hospital and then come back and get you."  I think I babbled the name of the place my sister worked at.  By that point, my Mom had revived, and was in a lot of pain, so they called for my sister.

I ended up recovering from my wisdom teeth removal and my Mom ended up with a fractured hip (I think) from passing out when she signed the anesthesia permission form.  It seems the "may cause mental impairment or death" part of the form really got to her.

So yesterday, as I watched the color drain from my child's face as the surgeon explained the risks, I knew it was going to be a long few days.  I could see her wanting to freak out, but not.  When he listened to her heart, he heard an "extra sound" and needed me to get clearance for surgery from her regular physician.  Last night was rough.  We get to the pediatrician this morning, and she hears "an extra sound."  She gets us in with the cardiologist for an EKG.  The cardiologist asks me, "What brings you hear today?"  I tell the tale.  He says, "Well, her EKG is perfect."  I say, "Well, my gut tells me the surgeon should have listened to her heart before he freaked her out and we wouldn't be sitting here."  We both have a laugh and talk about the potential hazards of raising a micro-preemie, and better safe than sorry.

Both of my experience with wisdom teeth oral surgery have been pretty drama filled when it comes to Daisys.  I hope and pray that tomorrow goes well, and hope the weekend is less eventful...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

And Summer Begins...

Thirty nine years ago this weekend, a little known actor was releasing a big fish story from a major film studio, and so goes the birth of the summer blockbuster...

In 1974, Steven Spielberg was a little known director with one major film, The Sugarland Express with Goldie Hawn, and a made for TV movie, Duel with Dennis Weaver, under his belt.  Because of their experience working with him on The Sugarland Express, Zanuck and Brown had faith that he could bring the novel JAWS to life on the big screen.  By all accounts the  process of making the movie was challenging for a multitude of reasons: screen actors guild strike, a mechanical shark that didn't work, filming in an ever moving environment (the sea), and a location that really did not want to be taken over by a film crew for as long as shooting lasted (Martha's Vineyard).  All of these challenges forced the innovative director to work hard to keep his cast together and keep film production going whatever the cost.

The end result, a classic film that began the phenomenon known as the summer blockbuster.  The creation of a film that caused fear of the water and the slaughter of many sharks.  It also inspired a generation to take interest in studying the environment and made it cool to be a marine biologist.

As the remake of Godzilla is in theaters now, I have to say that I am glad that thus far no one has discussed remaking JAWS.  I think any remake of the movie would not do it justice.  The shock and blood and gore that CGI could provide would do nothing to enhance the well developed characters and well developed da-dum, da-dum suspense of the summer of 1975.  I was three that summer, and was taken to see JAWS as a family theater outing with my Mother, Brother (and his girlfriend) and Sister.  After all, it was rated PG.  I was so excited because I was getting to go somewhere with my brother and my sister, they were both teenagers.  I remember wanting to sit near my brother.  When Ben Gardner's head popped out the bottom of the boat, I jumped over my brother, his girlfriend, and my sister and landed in my mothers lap - where I stayed for the rest of the movie.

That summer, JAWS was everywhere.  I remember being scared to go in the toy department because of the game.  I remember being scared to close my eyes in the bathtub because I was "in the water."  I remember going to the beach and sitting in the sand where the waves could lap over me but refusing to "go in the water."  I remember hating the JAWS towels at the local pool.  My Dad wished my Mom had never taken me to see the movie because of the fear of what was in the water that it put in me.  For years, I couldn't look at pictures of sharks without freaking out.

Thirty nine years later: JAWS is a classic, Steven Spielberg is an international superstar,  I do go to the beach and will go in water up to my waist, I watch Shark Week every August, and I have shark art by marine artist Paul McPhee in a majority of the rooms in my home.  So enjoy the first weekend of summer, take in a movie, and come on in - the water's fine!