31 January 2010


If you just finished reading the "Abu Dhabi Recap" post, you know that as I left for the airport for my 15 and 1/2 hour (yes, you read that right...15 and 1/2 hour - thank you, evil headwinds) non-stop flight back to Chicago, I kind of thought the worst was behind me, or had fled out my behind. I could not have been more wrong.

I was feeling good enough when I got to the airport that I thought I could eat something. In the First/Business Lounge, I remembered the BRAT diet, and had a couple of pieces of toast, nothing fancy. It went down easy and seemed to settle nicely. Goody. Maybe things were going to be OK and my legendary cast-iron stomach was going to keep its streak going.

This was not to be. About 90 minutes after take-off and two visits to the toilet, I started to doubt the integrity of said cast-iron. That being said, the tomato soup starter and the beef tenderloin main looked appealing. I could only get through three spoonfuls of soup before warning signals started going off. But did I stop? No. The beef tenderloin came out and it looked great. Three bites later and I was done, having barely gone through a third of the cut. The warning signals had now turned to DefCon 5 warnings. A few minutes after the flight attendant took my plates away, it was back to the bathroom and this time it was ugly. I came to appreciate the simple engineering marvel that is the air sickness bag:

This little wax-lined marvel is a miracle worker. I was in pretty bad shape being assaulted from the inside out when I needed to grab the bag and give it a full work out. And by full, I mean, full. If I have to paint you a picture, you can contact me directly. I will just tell you that it was rough. It was also the first time in my years and years and millions of miles of flying that I've ever had to use said bag for its real purpose. I've used them previously as a notepad, to store stuff in, etc., but never to fulfill its intended use. Here's what I can tell you...they work as designed and they are tough, resiliently so. Never thought I'd be grateful for a barf bag, but boy, was I ever on my flight yesterday.

So once that drama was over and I'll leave out the gory details, I went back to my seat, knowing that there were probably eleven hours still to go, if not more. I did not want to fall asleep for fear of what the alien I feared was still lurking inside of me might do, so I just shivered for awhile and sipped water, hoping I could keep it down. I did but I still think I was in the lav more than I was my seat.

I never want to do that again. Ever. This goes down as the Worst.Flight.Ever. I do not recommend getting sick on the plane. Don't do it. Ever. Oh, and to the poor, poor soul or souls who had to clean the lav at 2R on that Etihad A340 that brought me back to ORD, I am really, really sorry.

Abu Dhabi Recap

So last Tuesday I posted about the stunningly patient SML and her ability to put up with me. It was timely since I was posting from another First Class lounge at O'Hare as I was about to board a flight to Abu Dhabi, UAE. I was off to the UAE for a little holiday. By myself. Not having much of a plan (read "no plan").

So I boarded the Etihad Airways flight, settled into my lie-flat bed/seat and enjoyed the service for the next 12 and 1/2 hours. Actually slept for nearly seven hours. Color me happy. Landed in Abu Dhabi the following night, thanks to the 10 hour time change. Shuffled off to my hotel and slept.

I hired a guide for a half-day tour of Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Abu Dhabi is a pretty amazing place. It's a series of islands, covered in sand, with amazing wealth sprouting from it. The tour started at the Fruit and Vegetable Markets. Essentially everything is imported - mostly from Iraq and Iran.
Saudi Dates
Then it was off to the Fish Market:
Metal Fishing Nets...who knew!?
Pristine Fish Market
Fish on sale - this DID NOT make me sick

Then we headed to the incredible Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque. It is stunningly beautiful. And certainly worthy of reverence, regardless of whether you are a follower of Islam or not. It was amazing to be able to see it and go inside.

Outside the Mosque
Inside the Mosque - carpet handmade in Iran

It really was spectacular. I only made one cultural faux pas while in the Mosque and that was to open one of the copies of the Qu'ran that were all over the place. The security guard could not have been nicer about it - allaying any fears I had that I was going to lose a hand. I should have known better...I felt really bad about it.

So the city tour wrapped up seeing several palaces and the downtown and after that I headed out for a late lunch. Abu Dhabi is quite cosmopolitan with cuisine from all over the world. I thought I'd go Indian and this would prove to be a heinous mistake. I have no more pictures and not much else to say because not long after my heaping plate of chicken tikka biryani, I was assaulted by one angry...oh I don't know, but suffice to say, by early Friday morning, I knew my plan to go to Dubai was not going to happen. I couldn't get more than three feet from my hotel room toilet without having to immediately return. I spent the whole of Friday either on the toilet or in my bed. I did take a break to count up some cash to leave a tip for the maid - it was going to be, unfortunately, well-deserved.

I was flying back Saturday morning so it meant an early check-out and after a pretty unpleasant night, I was feeling OK as I showered and packed. I really thought the worst was over. I was wrong. More on that in the next post.

26 January 2010

An understanding wife

This will be a brief post. Here's the thing...I am a very lucky man. I've been blessed with an amazing woman who chose to marry me a long time ago and has been an incredible partner and my closest friend. She's earned her title of the stunningly patient SML, believe me. My latest escapade is proof of that. More on that later in the week. Just felt like I needed to recognize how lucky I am and how blessed I am that my wife is who she is. I am beyond blessed.

23 January 2010

Best run of the year...so far

This past week was a bit chaotic with a two-day turn in the middle of the week to New York City for some work-related stuff. As always, it was great to be in the City. I stayed at a hotel that I totally did not like. Proof positive that a high room rate does not a great hotel make. I should have stuck with my first reservation and stayed at the little boutique place I like...oh well. I forgot to bring my running tights so that pretty much relegated me to the hotel gym and the treadmill on Thursday morning. As much as I hate the stupid treadmill, I'm glad I did it. Kept me relaxed for the day which I needed - it was one of those days. The trip home was crazy...I'm already trying to do mileage runs wherever I can so I flew to DC on the USAirways (still the worst airline in the USA bar none) Shuttle to catch my flight on Mother United back to ORD. That flight, the last one back to ORD, was delayed three, count 'em, three hours. YIKES! The agent in the Red Carpet Club was awesome. He offered to put me on American flight that was leaving in 40 minutes. As much as I don't like flying the Evil Empire, at least I was going to get home close to original time. Of course, AA managed to foul that up, with a forty minute wait for a gate when we landed at ORD. Thank you for that operational act of genius, AA.

So once I was back at home, I started planning for my weekend long run. It's warming up here in Chicagoland, with temps in the high thirties and some dalliances with the forties, so it looked like it would be nice today. So after a two-hour Church training meeting that started at the unpleasant hour of 7AM (side note - one of the best meetings I've attended in a long, long time), I was ready to run.

I planned a five-mile run and wound up doing just over seven miles. Maintained a pace of about 10:15 per mile the entire run. Now I know that's not a particularly impressive pace for the more skilled runners, but for me it was a milestone. I also have never felt better on a run. Perhaps it was some kind of endorphin rush or that "runner's high" but it was terrific. The more I ran, the better I felt. As I was running the trails in Herrick, with the cross-country skiers and the dopes on horseback (side note-apparently the colder temps make horses, um, dump a lot - it was like running a fresh poop mine field), I caught a vision of my first half-marathon coming up in May. It became very clear that I will be able to finish it. Without embarrassing myself, I might add. It was a peaceful feeling too. I just got very comfortable with the goal of running 13.1 miles. It was the best run of the year...so far.
13.1 here I come...

18 January 2010

Goodbye, Taco Bell Founder

In between the ongoing coverage of the horror in Haiti and the brazen attacks in Kabul today, you may have missed the news that the founder of Taco Bell died over the weekend. Glen Bell Jr. was 86 and it looks like he lived a good life. Good for him.

Mr. Bell was quite the fast-food maven. He started a little called Bell's Drive-In and then added Mexican food to the menu and it eventually morphed into Taco Bell. He also created, along with a partner, the nightmare that is/was Der Weinerschnitzel. A former employee broke ranks and created Del Taco. So a lot spawned from a little place in San Bernadino, CA.

This much I'll say, Mr. Bell gave us the food equivalent of Liquid Plumber. No food has the power to drill through you and take out anything in its path like Taco Bell. Doesn't matter what you order...each item has the same "magical" power. I learned quickly, and nearly tragically, that eating anything Taco Bell in the car with nowhere to pull over is a bad, bad idea. I think this image says it best:

So goodbye, Mr. Bell. Thanks for making going through the drive-thru a real adventure.

17 January 2010

Support Him

I'll make this appeal brief. Time is of the essence and the urgency is high. It's time to dig deep, people, and it's time to show your support. Show that you are with CoCo. Head on over to I'm With CoCo. He needs it. You know who I'm talking about here, friends. Conan. Conan O'Brien. He of "The Tonight Show" fame. He of the inexplicable and gravity-defying red hair. He gave us Triumph, the Comic Insult Dog who, in turn, spawned the FUNNIEST run-in with "Star Wars" nerds to EVER be captured on video. I'm serious...the most awesome thing ever, but try and find it on the 'net. The fascists at NBC have made it nigh unto impossible. Kind of like they are going to make it nigh unto impossible to watch anything on their cruddy network anymore once they push Conan off the air to bring Leno back. Do we need Leno back on "The Tonight Show?" No, no we do not. Jimmy Kimmel said it best when he eviscerated Leno on Leno's own show, when he said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Leave our shows alone. Conan and I have children. You have $800 million dollars." It was a singularly awesome moment. So, please, show your support for Conan. Our nation needs him.

I love this country. Is it inane or what?! While the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti, has been decimated, literally decimated, by an earthquake, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions homeless, we are gripped by the ongoing implosion of NBC and the "drama" between two late-night TV hosts. We are a messed-up country, but, boy I'm glad to live here. That being said, if you can't throw your support behind CoCo, please throw it to the Red Cross. They need it. Haiti and its people need it.

15 January 2010

The Dental Assistant

About 18 months ago, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I read the tea leaves of a crashing economy and all that comes with it while staring at the abyss of college costs, and decided that after 18 years as an SAHM, she would pursue a job outside the home. We did not enter into this decision lightly - our children are the amazing people that they are because of their mother's influence. It was an agonizing decision, made after much prayer and fasting, but once we made the decision, we felt good.

In incredibly short order, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML found herself a really good gig working for a dentist, in the front office. For those of you know SML, you know she digs her teeth. She's proud of them and has always harbored a desire to work in a dentist's office. Well, here she was. Working in a dentist's office. The schedule was ideal and with my work-from-home schedule, the kids weren't spending a lot of time alone at home.

A few months ago, SML's boss, El Dentista, asked her if she would like to start learning to assist. Check here for YES! She'd always wanted to assist. She took to it like a moth to a flame. She's tackled impressions, the Panorex, and dealing with messed up mouths like a pro.

I'm incredibly proud of her. She loves what she's doing. She likes to talk about the day's procedures at the dinner table which has led CAL and I to nearly vomit simultaneously a couple of times. I still won't let her use my mouth/teeth as a test bed for the latest thing she's learning. That's just gross. And I will say this, the stunningly patient SML looks mighty fine in her scrubs. Yep, she makes scrubs look good!

13 January 2010

Ice Melting Shrubbery

Last week was chock full o'snow, ice, and cold. This week has turned out a little, umm, a lot better. Highs in the low- to mid-30's all week. And better yet, the sun is out. Meaning my ice-encrusted shrubbery in the front of the house will finally start to melt:

I am amazed at how robust plants, this shrub in particular, are. They put up with a lot here in the Midwest and they, like Timex, take a licking and keep on ticking.

I was thrilled to be able to run at lunch today - a welcome relief from the tumor-inducing conference calls that had been my morning. It was about 26 degrees when I went out but the sun was positively radiant and dare I say that it was almost warm. I was sweaty enough when I got home to say that it was warm. Good, quick couple of miles, but enjoyable. Really enjoyable.

It would be nice to have a milder winter. We've been promised a milder winter since we got here nearly four years ago and each one, as I have pointed out before, has been progressively more heinous. So it's time. Give the shrubbery a chance to live and let me get some decent half-marathon training in!

In honor of the ice-encrusted shrubbery, I give you an homage to the shrubbery from the Knights who say Ni!

09 January 2010

Hej da, Swedemobile

Unless you've had your head buried in the sand the last couple of years, you're aware that General Motors, or GM, has had some, well, problems. That's like saying the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" have a little diet problem. GM's challenges are enormous and they aren't out of the woods, in spite of their quickie tour through BankruptcyLand. One of their challenges has been too many brands and not enough coin to help those brands develop. One of those brands was the quirky Saab.

Quirky. It has both bad and good connotations. As a Saab owner, I, at first, got a kick out of the good connotations. Then the bloom came off the rose and the bad took over. Saab took on a new meaning - Something's Almost Always Broken. And repairing those quirks didn't come cheap. It was too much. So today I became a former Saab owner. I bid farewell to my 9.3 and went back to the lands and makers I know so well. I crossed the Pacific, as it were, and was accepted back into the embrace of Toyota.

So, hej da, Swedemobile. You cost me a lot of money. So as a final farewell, I give you the efforts of a far-more successful but equally quirky, and dare I say disturbing, Swedish import, Abba, singing about money, money, money:

06 January 2010

Why is THIS even appealing?

So while trolling one of the best websites ever, This Is Why You're Fat, I happened upon this gem:
From This Is Why You're Fat

It's called the cherpumpie. That's right - three levels of pie - pumpkin, apple, and cherry goodness enveloped in yellow cake. I am both horrified and intrigued at the same time. Why, why, why does I want to try this? I should be completely appalled by this concoction. Instead, I so want to make this and try it. I think that if I do, there's no turning back. It will be like stepping into the abyss, the proverbial point of no return. If I do it, I might as well order my mansierre and flowing caftans so I can just let my gut expand at an alarming pace. I should just throw out my running shoes now.

But I'm not going to do it. At least for today. Give me strength.

03 January 2010

More proof that there is no end to bacon's goodness

Bacon, bacon you say? The mere mention of the word sends most of us dedicated carnivores into a spasm of joy. It may be close to the perfect meat. And today, thanks to a shift in my Sunday schedule, bacon got a good work out. Let me explain.

For those of you not familiar with how things roll on Sundays in terms of schedule in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, let me enlighten you. Typically, you have two to three "wards" or local congregations that meet in an LDS church building for Sunday services. The meeting times are staggered and the building gets a work out. In our building, the services start at 9AM, 11AM, and 1PM respectively. For the last year, we've been meeting on the third shift, or outer darkness. I do not like the 1PM start, never have, never will. I like the earlier meeting time and with the first Sunday in January came our shift in meeting times and we rolled to the 9AM start. Can I get an AMEN!?

OK, let me get back to the bacon. With this shift in schedule, I am now home a lot earlier on Sundays. Like by 1PM. So I decided to make dinner today. I thought this would be nice for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, who is on vacation this week. Her office is closed, so good for her. CAL requested waffles. Umm...OK. Waffles need protein. Waffles and bacon. Outstanding. And then I remembered a recipe I stumbled upon on either SeriousEats, or from a link on EatMeDaily, I can't remember now as I follow something like 20 + food blogs. Anyway, recipe is too strong a word - it was a photographic essay/homage to the bacon cinnamon roll. And I determined to make it tonight.

It's a no-brainer. Buy a thing of those refrigerated cinnamon rolls - the ones from the puffy little fat guy do the trick. Bust them open and unroll the rolls. Fry up some bacon, but don't make it crispy. It needs to be flimsy so you can roll it up. Roll it up and then bake them. When there done, pull them out, let them cool and then ice them and enjoy. They are obscenely delicious. Seriously.

Here's my own proof that there is no end to bacon's goodness:
The start
The rolls unrolled
Frying the goodness
Rolling up the goodness - depending on the "shrink" factor, you may want to roll in a couple of pieces of bacon instead of just one
Into the oven with the things
The finished product - behold, the bacon cinnamon roll.

The Boy's expression when he bit into this was, thank you, MasterCard, priceless. They are really, really good. It confirmed that there is no end to bacon's goodness. I'm certain they are a caloric WMD, too. So I suppose it's a good thing that my pre-half marathon training starts this week. No, it is a good thing.

01 January 2010

2010 Resolutions

As the first day of January starts to wind down, I find myself pondering my resolutions for 2009 and realize I had one - giving up colas, caffeinated or otherwise. On January 1, 2009, I proclaimed that I was done with them. How did I do?

I am delighted to report that 365 days later, I did it. Not even a sip passed these lips in 2009. Not that I didn't want to on more than one occasion, but I did it. And frankly, by June, I didn't even miss the stuff anymore to be honest.

So, what does that mean for 2010? Goals? Resolutions? Well, here's a few in no particular order:

Finish my first half marathon
I'm registered already for the Half as a part of the Illinois Marathon on May 1, 2010. I'm registered for a winter half-marathon training program that starts next month. The real goal here is three-fold: A) finish the thing; B) finish it without vomiting or severely chapped nipples; and C) finishing it without bringing a lot of shame on myself and my family. At this point I'm not certain on any of the three.

Keeping My 1K/GS Status on UnitedThis is going to be critical. And frankly, very tough to do without some very creative mileage runs this year. My budget for travel at work is basically $0.00 for the year and so it's not going to be a slam-dunk by any stretch to make 1K and beyond. The strategizing is already keeping me up at night. I know the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML wants me to achieve this one badly. Selfishly too. And I don't blame her. She wants nothing to do with the ramifications of me after a long flight where I wasn't upgraded...

Glenn Beck "He could be your friend." What? How is this a resolution? I have a friend, who shall remain nameless, who has a deep and abiding admiration for all things Glenn Beck. This, as you can imagine, has led to more than one heated conversation between the two of us and anyone else who happens to get caught in the blowback. Said friend has met GB and swears that GB and I would actually be good friends. I think this is nuts but who am I to judge? But that comment haunts me for a host of reasons, far too numerous to list here, and I think I am going to delve into it as a part of my resolutions for the year. What on earth could we have in common? Oh my.

So that's the lay of the land for 2010. Let's see if I do as well with these as I do with the one I set for 2009. I'm ready to go.