Mid-Del Taco, Del City, OK

29 October 2014

Mid Del Taco on Urbanspoon

I had lunch here back on 11 September. It was very crowded, and I shared a table with another man and had a great conversation.

This place was good! It took a bit to figure out the menu, there is a mix of a few dinners with ala cart stuff. I got a beef and bean burrito, a side of refried beans, and a drink. The burrito was great! Hot and steaming, with a perfect amount of beef seasoning. I made a mess with the burrito and beans, and enjoyed it.

Service was fast and very friendly. Lunch was only $6.31! Great value. I will be back.

ETs BBQ, Edmond, OK

29 October 2014

ET's Bar B Q on Urbanspoon

Back on 26 September, I was up at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo with the St. John’s crew. I left right around noon. I remembered two very positive referrals to ETs, and since I was just east of the place on I-35, over I went. It’s actually in Logan County, I think, but still has an Edmond address.

I ordered a two-meat combo of smoked chicken and ribs. Except, they were out of chicken. I went with chopped brisket and ribs. That was some darn fine BBQ. The ribs had great smoke flavor, were tender, and had the smoke ring and bark that I like. Very tasty and tender. The brisket was tender and not as smoky, but tasted great. I got fries and green beans. Both, excellent; in fact, perfect.

The iced tea was great, and service was pretty good (one server, lots of customers). The iced tea came in a quart Mason jar (I like that a lot). My check was $14.85. I would gladly go back; I want to try the smoked chicken.

Lalo’s Tacos, Oklahoma City, OK, Food Truck

28 October 2014

Lalo's I Love My Taco Chop and Grill on Urbanspoon

Lalo’s parked outside my office 19 August. I scored a beef taco and a chicken taco, along with a drink. Both tacos were really good! Hot to start with, and just the right amount of spice, with excellent flavor. I had to be care not to let the juice run on my desk!

It took two minutes to make my order. Service was very friendly. My check was $10. I would gladly get another pair of tacos from Lalo’s.

Dairy Queen, Del City, OK

28 October 2014

Dairy Queen on Urbanspoon

I had lunch here today in the newly-opened restaurant, in my quest to find Great Cheeseburgers. I found OK Cheeseburgers.

First of all, if you are a manager at this place, it was cold enough to hang meat in there to age! When it’s 60F outside, how about not running the a/c on arctic maximum? I mentioned to one of the servers, and she agreed it was pretty cold.

So… I got a 1/2 cheeseburger with bacon, mayo, and pickles. Not bad, not bad at all. The beef had flavor and texture, not huge amounts of flavor, but it was decent. I liked the fries. The iced tea was OK, and seemed to be brewed on-site (please keep that up!). The burger was far better than the offerings from Sonic, McD, and Braum’s (take note, owners of those. Please.).

It was busy, but service was fast and friendly. My check was $8.19. I will certainly give them another try.

Chelio’s Diner, Oklahoma City, OK

27 October 2014

Chelio's Diner on Urbanspoon

I’ve driven by this place a million times over the years. I’ll say right up front, the exterior looks a little sketchy. I think the place is one of the old Sambo’s, or something similar. But the food was decent.

I had lunch here today. I asked my server if the chicken fried steak was made there, and she said it was. I got the CFS with mashers and gravy, and pinto beans. The pintos were OK, but the potatoes and gravy were very good. The CFS wasn’t the most flavorful I’ve ever had, but it had good flavor, and it was fairly thick and 100% tender all the way through. The breading was the right consistency and flavor. The CFS had one issue in that the breading on the bottom was in the process of melting off the steak for some reason. Still tasted good.

Service was friendly and spot on. The iced tea was great! My check was… $7.00. This for a meal that was tasty, pretty fast, and just the right amount for lunch. There are a number of other menu items I will be back to try.

If you are looking for an immaculate restaurant experience, you will not find it here. There is exposed wiring in the ceiling, and the place hasn’t been updated in a long time. But the tables and floors were clean, the salad bar looked good, and the staff was well turned out. This is a diner, and a pretty good one.

Saucee Sicilian, Oklahoma City, Food Truck

27 October 2014

Saucee Sicilian on Urbanspoon

The Saucee Sicilian food truck was at the Girl Scout GirlFest yesterday, so I decided to give them a try.

A word of advice: when the wind is blowing 25mph+, perhaps carrying a flat 1ft**2 plate of pizza is perhaps not the optimum thing to do. That pizza had two near-misses of flying out of my hand, and of course, odds are it would have landed upside down. When I got back to our exhibit in the trees, it was a lot less windy, but I still had two falling leaves land on lunch. :)

So being a food truck, you shouldn’t expect to have a full menu. They had four pizzas yesterday, and I got pepperoni, or rather “The Courage” (it isn’t on the published menu). That was a darn fine pizza. Thin and crunchy crust, excellent cheese flavor, and clearly fresh pepperonis. Erin and Raegan tried some and liked it. I ate all of it. It was built and baked right there, nothing premade except perhaps the crust. It took about 10 minutes, not bad at all.

Service was fast and friendly. My check was $7.00, not bad value.

I would like to find them around here again and try the meatballs. They look good.

Primo’s d’Italia, Yukon, OK

27 October 2014

Primo's d'Italia on Urbanspoon

We had dinner here last evening after a very successful Girl Scout event at the nearby Kirkpatrick Family Farm.

Erin got the chicken parm and ate every bit of it (so it was darn good). Raegan got the chicken picatta and enjoyed it; I had a bite and it was pretty good. Our friend Christi had seafood al fredo and reported it as very good. I had chicken fettuccine al fredo; it was pretty much perfect. The bread that came with the meal was really good, small loaves that was just a bit on the rough side, great stuff, especially when dipped in the included balsamic and olive oil.

Service was fast and friendly, and the iced tea was great (especially after having been out in the sun and wind for six hours). Our check was $58.64, very reasonable for the four of us. The quality of the food was worth it.

Casey’s Cajun Fried Catfish, Midwest City, OK

24 October 2014

Casey's Cajun Fried Catfish & Seafood on Urbanspoon

I’m not a big fan of cajun food. The spices are just not to my taste, and I don’t eat a lot of seafood. So when the office crew decided to eat lunch at this place, I asked if they had other food, and went.

I got the fried catfish and chicken fingers dinner. It wasn’t bad at all. There was zero spice of any kind in either the catfish or the chicken. Both were lightly breaded, and fried nice and crispy and juicy. The catfish was in nice flakes and had no “fishy” flavor at all. I liked both the catfish and chicken. I got fries and pintos. The fries were very good, and the pintos excellent. The meal came with a couple hush puppies that had a little pepper stuff in them, but not too much.

Service was very friendly. The iced tea was strong and slightly coffee flavored. My check was $10.80. I wouldn’t object to going back another time.

Choice Cafe, Oklahoma City, OK

21 October 2014

Choice Cafe on Urbanspoon

This place has potential. I ran across it reading another blog that has a section on “shady restaurants”, and that doesn’t mean shade trees. Except I didn’t think that Choice was in a particularly sketchy part of town. Regardless, I’m glad I tried it.

I had lunch at Choice Cafe today, got there around 1145 and was back in the office at 1230. I asked my server about the chicken fried steak, she said it was made and breaded there and was really good. So that’s what I got.

I rated that CFS as a 9 out of 10. It had great beef flavor, and was just the right size. I counted it down a bit as it was a little tough in places; I used a butter knife there. There was also a bit of an odd flavor to the breading; not a bad flavor, just a little odd. The meal came with mashers and gravy, and green beans. The mashers were very good, as was the gravy. The beans were OK. Once nice thing was a warm dinner roll with real butter, great stuff.

Service was very friendly and my check was $10.73, which is decent value. A guy a table over got a burger, and the burger smelled darn fine, so it’s on the list for another visit. This place has potential.

Way Too Ebola-Paranoid

21 October 2014

Raegan needed to visit the ER late Sunday as a result of Aerosinusitis. She was coming back to OKC from the Girl Scout national convention, and as the plane descended rapidly to landing, the pressure differential messed up her sinuses, in an extremely painful episode. We went straight from Will Rogers to the Integris ER.

At the ER, the desk clerk asked about her symptoms. Not unexpected. But as soon as she said “I just flew in from Denver…” the young lady got wide-eyed, leaned back, and told Raegan to put on that mask now. Then there was a form to fill out that was Ebola-specific. Then there were repeated questions from the form, and clearly related to the form, for Ebola.

Really. In OKC. No, really in EDMOND.

I think the Ebola reaction in this country is way over the top, and it seems to me it is just the latest in a series of Public Oh My Gods that have been going on, whether it is ISIS/ISIL, terrorists in general, some bug going around, the hunt for a public enemy, etc.

There are the usual idiots trying to take political advantage. Supposedly Obama lied when he told the country on several national news items that Ebola wasn’t transmittable unless it was via bodily fluids. Of course, Obama is also not showing leadership by keeping us informed. Whatever.

I saw this on Facebook: More people have been married to Rush Limbaugh than have contracted Ebola in the United States. And I suspect those women are in worse shape…

Do we really need to be this paranoid? I sort of think that the United States needs to re-grow a pair of balls.

Urbanspoon Searches Get Better, Yea!

19 October 2014

I’ve been using Urbanspoon forever to find beta on restaurants, and I’ve been doing it enough that I’m a Prime member.

The biggest problem with Urbanspoon has been the search function. I want to be able to find a restaurant in a town or neighborhood, by cuisine.

I noticed a couple days ago the search bar at the top of each page was different. It works pretty well! I put the name of a restaurant in the appropriate text field, and got suggestions by name. I put the city in the other side, clicked search, and boom there was what I was looking for.

Much better! I would like to suggest a map-based search next. Show me a map of a specified area (e.g. 39th and Tulsa, Oklahoma City), and then show me restaurants in the surrounding couple miles.

It’s getting there!

Woodbridge Restaurant, Oklahoma City, OK

19 October 2014

Woodbridge on Urbanspoon

Last Sunday, I was working up at St. John’s, and needed lunch. I thought to try the El Pollo Chulo, but they were closed for some reason. I remembered passing Woodbridge and wanting to try it, so I did.

I had a chicken fried steak after having been told it was breaded there. I don’t think it was. The CFS wasn’t too bad regardless, fork tender, and it didn’t fall apart. The mashers and gravy, and green beans, were OK. The entire meal was OK. Bland.

Service was decent, and the iced tea was very good. My check was $8.87. Inexpensive for sure.

Would I go back? I think places like Woodbridge are best for breakfast. A CFS should be a made-there item, and if it’s not, the other entrees likely are not. But eggies and bacon have to be cooked right there, and are usually pretty reliable.

El Charro, Muskogee, OK

18 October 2014

El Charro on Urbanspoon

I have been eating at this place for a long time, and I can’t believe I haven’t written about it! Long overdue.

I was in Muskogee last evening late after being out at Greenleaf Lake State Park, and needed dinner. El Charro, happily enough, is open until 2200, so I stopped in.

I have usually had fajitas here, as they are always excellent. That’s what I had last night, and they were still excellent. Mixed beef and chicken. The problem I see with fajitas too often is the meat is dry and tough. Not so here, the meat and onions were tender and juicy and flavorful. I dumped the rice and beans and salsa right on top of the hot plate and mixed it all up, and ate every scrap. Wonderful.

Service was prompt and very friendly, as it always it. The place was not too busy, but it was latish. The iced tea was excellent as well, in a big glass.

So… as I checked out the menu, I saw that El Charro had both beef colorado roja and pork and beef chili verde (as any true Mexican place should have). I got pork chili verde to go and brought it back to OKC with me. It was in an aluminum bowl, so I popped it in the oven at 300F for about 20 minutes. It was wonderful! Some of the best I have had. The flavor was the flavor I have come to expect, but the key thing was that the meal wasn’t so spicy that it destroyed my sense of taste. It had just the right amount of spice, and that didn’t mask the flavor a bit. Gosh, that stuff was good. I rank it right there with the same dish as El Vaquero in Stillwater. Outstanding meal.

My check for both meals was $22.20. Great value. Recommended.

Evelyn’s, Tulsa, OK

18 October 2014

Evelyn's on Urbanspoon

As my friend Clark would say, this place is legit.  My friend Gary in Tulsa recommended Evelyn’s, and yesterday I was able to check it out.  I wish they were in OKC!

Evelyn’s is right next to the Tulsa airport, and that is cool in itself.

They close at 1500 and are not open weekends.  I got there at 1415 and the place was moderately busy.  I ordered a two-piece chicken, all light.  My server said it would take a bit to cook.  I liked that, it meant fresh chicken.  It took about 15 minutes, but out came a breast (HUGE) and wing (also huge).  These were clearly pan-fried, with some darker patches (no problem).  The chicken had a wonderful flavor, and was moist all the way through without being greasy-drippy.  In particular, it’s hard to get that right with a big breast piece, but they did.  The crust was was perfect, crispy and great flavor.

The sides were also great.  Mine were pinto beans that tasted like they had been slow cooked for hours, great stuff.  The mashers and gravy were very good.

The iced tea came in a huge glass (the Way It Should Be) and was great.  Service was friendly and prompt.  My check was $13.39, which is great value.

Fried chicken is very hard to get these days.  I’m not talking about KFC or Churches.  Most places (think Eishen’s or Jim’s) use little pieces of chicken that are often overcooked and tough and stringy.  I think that Evelyn’s and Lucille’s are two places that do it right.

The lady who checked me out told me they did their chicken fried steaks the same way.  Now, I really have to go back.

Highly recommended.

One Reason Computers Are So Inexpensive…

17 October 2014

One of our St. John’s faculty computers was having a hard time accessing Web pages.  It was intermittent.  I fired up a command prompt and pinged the server, and the result was a loss of one of the four packets.   I set up 1,000 pings,  and had 31% packet loss.  Just to be sure, I moved the network cable to an open port on the switch and repeated the kiloping; this time it was 43% packet loss. My final test was to connect my laptop to the cable, no packet loss.  It was pretty clear I had the NIC in the machine going bad.  This machine is a less – than – a – year – old HP.

I decided to open the machine up and see if it had a PCI or PCI Express slot that I could put a replacement NIC in. I had a minor surprise: the computer had no slots at all for cards.  The case has knockouts, but nothing on the (very small) mobo.

So this machine has numerous USB ports open, and I have my choice of USB Wifi or USB-to-RJ45 connections,  so I will be able to fix the problem. 

It lead me to wonder about another machine I have here, an inexpensive Dell.  I pulled the cover off, and sure enough, no card slots.  I’m sure it’s a trend.

For a NIC, it’s not an issue,  but the 2nd highest failure item I have is video cards.  Those are not really available and reliable in USB, so I may not have a good replacement option there.

A Huge Step For Marriage Equality!

6 October 2014

I think that the decision by the SCOTUS to not hear the appeals of the discriminatory and hurtful anti-equality marriage statutes in Oklahoma and a number of other states is a recognition of something that is plain to see in the Constitution:  equality for all people is not subject to a popularity contest, or more specifically, subject to veto by people based on their reading of their holy book.

I got a news alert that the first marriage license for a gay couple has been issued in Tulsa.  Right on!  Justice by equality has been delayed and denied far too long.

Why Can’t Windows Just Get Along?

6 October 2014

Subtitled:  Windows 8 Cost Me Five Hours of Time For A Simple Task

I spent a largish part of this weekend at St. John’s taking care of a lot of stuff that has built up a backlog.  Most of it was straightforward:  I got all of the lab computers up to snuff (except one that has a video card slowly failing, and another with a balky network card, which I managed to leave at home so I couldn’t install it), and ran a stress test on the lab network.  Ian got the computers in Raegans room connecting and working, and I re-crimped a new network connection for them.

I also worked to get the (previously four) five computers in the 2nd/3rd grade room back on the school network.  This was a significant untangling job, but straightforward.  Those four computers have shared a laser printer (an HP 2100TN) using XP printer sharing for a long time.  Due to where the computers are now physically located, I changed the printer server computer from one to another, printed a test page, and then went to the other three XP machines to connect them to the new printer server, and delete the old one.  I also replaced the five-port 100Mbps switch (four computers and the building network connection) with an eight-port, since I had two additional computers (the W8 box and one other).

I’ve said in the past that shared printing is one of the things Microsoft got 100% right, and pretty darn easy, since the days of Windows 1995.  All of the computers are in the same subnet, and in the same workground, and all can ping each other, so no problem.

Next I went over to the new computer, a Windows 8 box.  So it’s a new UI.  Whoever came up with it, and deletion of the Start button and menus, ought to be tossed out of the profession of software development.

Here’s an example.  I get the move-the-mouse-to-the-upper-right-and-swipe-down to get a menu (well, I know to do it, I do not see the utility).  So I want to change printer settings as in add a printer.  On XP, click Start, Printers, and you get a dialog that includes a button Add A New Printer.  Windows 8?  Do the odd swipe thing, then click Settings (this makes sense).  You get Devices, including Print.  Sounds reasonable.  Click that Print, and you get this:

WTF?Just what in the hell does this mean?  You can’t right-click or click anything except the left arrow back button.  FOUR USELESS CLICKS.

I finally found the add a printer dialog by clicking the faux-Start button on the lower left, and then typing on the odd tile screen P-R-I-N-T, and eventually Windows 8 showed a link to Printers.  I clicked it and got a fairly standard Printers and Devices that included an Add Printers dialog.

OK, now we are getting somewhere.  I got to the shared printer box, but Windows could not see the XP box.  I found a place to set the Workgroup on the System menu, and rebooted the machine.  It refused to see the computer that was sharing the printer.  Couldn’t see any of the other four computers in the workgroup either.  Wouldn’t take a direct entry in the form \\server\printername either.  I mucked around with all this for more than an hour.  Did some reading about W8 and sharing, and found that Microsoft was really interested in having people set up Homegroups.  Well, Microsoft, bite me.  I ended up giving up for the evening.

The next day, I brought everything up from scratch and tried again.  Still no luck.  I was pretty frustrated at this point.  I could sort of understand having issues connecting XP boxes to a W8 printers (understand, but not agree).  But the allegedly more advanced W8 should talk to XP flawlessly.

So after a lot of reading, I came to the conclusion that the W8 connectivity problem was not solvable.  The printer had a JetDirect card, so I decided to connect everything up that way.

I connected an RJ-45 cable from the printer to the switch, and had the printer dump a status page.  The printer had a static IP address set up in the 10. range.  I changed one of the XP boxes to a static IP in the 10. range.  I could ping the JetDirect.  I tried to hit the JetDirect via a web browser; no luck.  I did a telnet to it, and got asked for a password.  A null password didn’t work, nor did admin, or a couple others.

Off I went to the web to find out how to reset the password on a JetDirect card in a LaserJet 2100TN.  I had to look through dozens of pages that had some variety of powering the printer on or off, while pressing the GO and CANCEL buttons.  To save anyone else from having to do this, here is what to do:

1.  Do not trust anything related to the 2100TN on the HP website.

2.  To clear the password on the JetDirect card in a 2100TN, power the printer OFF.

3.  Hold down the Cancel Jobs button.  It’s the smaller one.  Power the printer ON.

4.  Wait 30 seconds.  Release the Cancel Jobs button.  Wait about 3 minutes.  The JetDirect should be cleared, and the default is to get an address via DHCP.  You can verify this by holding down the GO button and then pressing the Cancel Jobs button to get a printer status page printed.

Now, if you have a DHCP server, the JetDirect should have received an address in the same range as your computer.  If not, you will need to change your computer IP address to be in the same subnet as the JetDirect.

The web server still didn’t work.  I did a telnet to the JetDirect.  It does NOT support the ECHO ON command, so you will be typing in the dark.  I used the DHCP-CONFIG: 0 to disable DHCP, and IP: address to set a static IP address so my DHCP computers could find the printer.  Now I was able to ping the printer from all the workstations.

Next I set all four XP machines to print to the newly IP-enabled printer, and deleted the shared printers.  That was easy.

I went to the W8 machine.  It could ping the printer, so that was a good sign.  I started the Add Printer dialog, and almost immediately got this:

20141005_151551

Yay, looking good so far.  So, I thought, this will be easy.  I clicked next, and got a dialog that didn’t have that particular printer, but it offered to go off to Windows Update and find it.  I clicked OK, and W8 went off and thought a bit.  It came back with this:

20141005_151610

So, W8 went off and downloaded drivers for approximately 10,000 printers.  Well, maybe not that many.  But, I would have expected W8 to at least download the driver for the printer that it had already identified.  Or at least pointed at the printer in the selection lists.

Regardless, I pointed at HP and then found the printer in the list of printers, and the driver installed and the printer was printed to.

But this was way hard.  I’m good at this stuff, but while it’s been pretty easy to share printers since W95, and nearly trivial since W98, turned into a heck of a lot of wasted time for me due to W8 being way too difficult in talking to ANOTHER Microsoft operating system.

I’ve not blogged about it, but two weeks ago I had a non-trivial time getting a W7 box to reach out to another W7 box.  This leads me to believe that MS wants to junk workgroups in favor of homegroups.  If that’s the case, it’s quite user antagonistic.

Mary Fallin Doesn’t Stand For Much

5 October 2014

She is running for a second term as Governor of the State of Oklahoma.  She has a serious challenger in Joe Dorman.

There are two ads running pretty heavily in Oklahoma.  One is from some outside group (can’t remember the name).  That ad attacks Dorman and then praises Fallin.

The thing the two ads have in common is that both are stridently anti-Obama.  Both talk about how Obama’s Common Core tries to take over Oklahoma education.  Both talk about how bad Obamacare is.  Those two points, of course, are bogus (but few Republicans let a couple facts stand in the way of an ad).  And both ads focus on how Fallin is “fighting against” Obama or Washington or whatever.

But neither really talks about what Fallin has actually done.  She has pretty much signed everything the Republican-controlled Legsislature has sent here.  She has never been a leader, just a rubber stamp.  I don’t think she has much in the way of policy over just what the national Party decides, which, of course, is quite different from exhibiting leadership.

I hope she loses.

Update:  just saw the outside ad again.  It’s from the Republican Governors Association.  I counted three straight-up lies right off the bat.  Oh, and (horrors!) it called Dorman a Liberal.  Republicans just don’t have much of anything to run on.

College Football Coaches and Security

22 September 2014

I’ve written before about college football coaches and security.

I was just watching the news, and of course they were still going on about the OU game on Saturday. They showed Coach Stoops heading off the field at the end of the game.

He had SIX cops escorting him. Yes, SIX. It looked to me like three were Oklahoma Highway Patrol troops, and three were probably local.

REALLY? What’s the threat? Are they afraid a professional team will send in a snatch squad and triple the guys multi-million dollar salary?

I think that is ridiculous.

Big Smokey Bar-B-Q, Oklahoma City, OK

18 September 2014

Big Smokey Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

I’ve driven by Big Smokey a hundred times over the years, and yesterday I was in the area, and was able to have lunch there. It’s a minimalist sort of place, looks like run by one guy. It’s also very good.

The menu is simple. Ribs or beef, sandwich, plate (meat only), or dinner (meat with beans and potato salad). You can also get a slab or half slab of ribs.

I got the rib dinner. The sides first. The beans were pretty standard, and good. The potato salad was skin-on white potatoes, mayo-based, and excellent, great stuff. There were six ribs in the dinner of varying sizes. They didn’t have the bark that I like to see, but they had the smoke ring, and they had great smoke flavor! There was a lot of meat on those ribs, and they were plenty tender.

There was something there I’ve not seen before, a strip of meat that was cut from between two ribs. The only thing that wasn’t meat was a couple pieces of cartilage in the meat. That was pull-apart tender goodness.

So the cost for this was $10. Water is the only option for drink, which is fine. There were two takeaway meals while I was there. It was super friendly. Next time I’m getting the beef just so I can have done the entire menu ( :) ). But those ribs were pretty darn good, I rated them a 9.8 on a scale of 1 to JTs. I will have to have them again, maybe a slab.

ISIS/ISIL and “War”

18 September 2014

I’ve been listening to the discussion/debate about what we should do about ISIS/ISIL, in both Iraq and in Syria.

I’m of the opinion we shouldn’t do much of anything, at least from a military standpoint.

There is no doubt these people are bad.  They do not share our values, and in fact they are probably the worst of religious bigots.  Murdering those that do not share their faith is not honorable.  I think most of the Christian based faiths have largely got far away from similar activities long ago.

But if this group is operating in Iraq, why should we care?  These bad people have killed Americans, in horrible and emotion-pushing ways.  They have killed captured prisoner soldiers.  Those are clearly illegal acts.  But they are not operating in the United States (in spite of some hysterical Republicans claiming otherwise).

But is it justification for war?  For sending hundreds or thousands of our soldiers over to the middle east, again, to fight in Muslim countries.

I don’t think so.  The worldwide reputation of the United States took a massive hit due to the lies that got us into Iraq, and the directionless action in Afghanistan cost us thousands of American lives and billions altogether.  President Obama did the right thing to get us out of that gigantic Bush/Cheney mess.

So what about ISIS/ISIL?  We’ve shown that we can help drive them away from large targets in open areas by bombing the hell out of them.  And if that’s done via drone or manned aircraft, that’s fairly low risk (although getting an F-18 down by SAM or a mechanical failure of the aircraft would be a major blow to us).

Regardless of the huge amount of money we spent uselessly in Iraq, we are out of there now, except for our Embassy and some advisers.  A major argument is that the country of Iraq should take care of itself.  If they can’t, tough.  We can’t look at Iraq as some investment where we expect to get our money back; we might as well think of that almost $2T as piled on the ground and burned to ashes.

So if Iraq can’t take care of itself?  They have had years to get their Army built up, and they supposedly have around 300,000 soldiers.  A CIA estimate a couple days ago indicated around 32,000 ISIS/ISIL fighters, across both Iraq and Syria.  So why can’t the Iraqi Army fight and win in their own country?  They’ve a 10-to-1 positive correlation, and surely they have more tanks and stuff.

So let them fight for themselves.

Scotland and the Independence Vote

18 September 2014

Wow, it’s been three weeks since my last post; it’s been pretty busy.  I’ve some catch-up to do.

I have been following the vote for independence in Scotland with some interest.  I don’t really have an opinion on the impact of Scottish independence (except I think it might have an overall negative economic impact to both countries).

The thing I find especially interesting is that it is a simple majority vote.  I like the way we do it in the United States.  Things that are fairly routine are pretty we do by simple majorities, but things that are of more import are done by larger majorities.

Here in Oklahoma, bond issues require a 60% yes vote.  Constitutional amendments require all sorts of supermajorities.  Impeachments do also, for conviction.

But splitting a country from it’s union is only a simple majority?  That’s kind of radical, to my way of thinking.

Notes on Using A TRENDNet IP Camera

22 August 2014

I bought a TRENDNet TV-IP551W camera back in January from Newegg.  I was looking for something else, and the camera came up as a special for (IIRC) $14, with free shipping.  I have wanted to play with one for a while, so I bought it.  When it got here, configuring it was trivial.  I had a picture coming out of it in about three minutes flat.  I attached the camera to the outside of the house near an outlet that is tied to the outside lights; I use it to power holiday lights.  The camera only came on after dark, but it wasn’t being used operationally, so I didn’t sweat it.  Every once in a while I would connect to it remotely and see what was going on with the driveway.

The only issue here has to do with motion.  Any device (including my Android tablet and phone) could see a still picture grab, and refresh it manually.  BUT, you need either ActiveX support or Java to see motion video.  ActiveX means Windows.  I think I tried to get Java on my tablet, but gave up after a try because it didn’t matter at the time.

The camera has been hanging outside since, and worked.

Last weekend I decided to put it to operational use.  I moved it to a better location, and set it up to perform motion capture.

The first thing was the motion capture.  I tried using my Windows 7 laptop to define exactly where on the screen the motion capture areas were.  I pointed my W7 IE browser at the camera, selected Administration, then Configuration, and finally Motion Detection.  The camera wanted to download an ActiveX control.  No problem, but every time I tried, Windows would block installation of the control.  I set security essentially to off, still wouldn’t.  For the heck of it, I used Raegans computer (which is XP), it worked fine with the camera.  Hmph.  I left the motion sensitivity at the default of 90 (scale 1 to 100).

With motion capture set up, I went after email.  The camera will send you an email when it detects motion.The camera wants to know an SMTP server, so I pointed it at our upstream Cox SMTP server.  A test message went out just fine.   So far so good.

When the camera detects motion, it will capture the motion and upload the imagery.  Sounds cool.  It wants to upload the data to an FTP server.  Most people don’t have one of those, but I have several!  So I fired up Filezilla on Raegans computer, created a user name and password for the camera, and a folder to store the video.  Then I went back to the camera and plugged the information in, and send Ian out to trigger the camera.  I almost immediately saw activity on the ftp server, but no files uploaded.  Hmmm….

Much experimentation ensued.  I should have installed Ethereal (Wireshark) to her computer, but I played with settings fruitlessly for a while.  Finally, I did the user creation on the St. John’s server, then pointed the camera there.  Then I did a remote desktop to St. J, fired up Wireshark, and watched the packets flow in.

I had set the camera up to dump stuff to /home/drivewaycam.  On Wireshark, I could see the username and password (FTP sends in the clear), and then a CWD drivewaycam.   OK, now we were OK.  I stopped the camera, then created a subdirectory called drivewaycam (making tree /home/drivewaycam/drivewaycam), did a chown on the directory (chown drivewaycam:drivewaycam drivewaycam; type that fast!), and restarted the camera.

Wireshark now showed file transfer, and a check of the new directory showed jpgs.  So it was working.  I went off and did some other stuff for a while.

Right before I went to bed, I got my phone, and… there were well over 1,000 NEW messages from the camera!  To make the story short, it turns out the camera doesn’t send an email every time it decides to do a motion capture.  It also doesn’t upload a video.  It uploads 1-second images to the server, and sends an email message every time it does it!

I quickly went in a turned off the email feature.  I also turned the sensitivity down to 50%, which should reduce false triggers.

But… the camera has captured the mail and package delivery people, and Erin coming home from school.  So it is working.

I would like to get an email when motion is detected, and have sent off a feature request to TRENDNet.  I use the Unix/Linux standard ImageMagick convert tool to batchconvert each set of jpgs to an mpeg video; I will likely set that to be done in a cron job at some point.

I wonder if the camera could output IP video in H.264 or as an mpeg stream.  That could be read directly from Windows Media, VLC, or most any other open source tool.

Regardless, the IP camera is pretty darn cool.  I am going to get another one at some point, and I will likely make it a “see in the dark” camera.

Update:

As I have reviewed the captured images, I was seeing something amusing:  people or cars on my driveway would appear as if by magic!  The cars would be about halfway down the drive, and people about a quarter of the way down.  This was with the camera set to 50% sensitivity.  I changed that to 75%, and now I see things moving a lot farther away.  The obvious downside:  about twice as many images.  Glad I turned off the email notification.

I’ve had this camera uploading to the server I run for St. John’s for over a month.  I downloaded some image tools to check out, and settled on using the open source mplayer package, which has Linux and Windows versions.  So the process was to fire up my SSL and Secure FTP clients, point them at the St. John’s server, and do an mget -r to pull the individual image files to my laptop (this means pulling in roughly 500MB of stuff every day, so I’ve glad I’ve got a bitchin’ good network connection at home).  The camera stores the files by date, and hour.  So I would have a directory named 20140908 for 08 September, and then subdirectories like 0400 for the 4:00AM captures.

I wrote a batch file that works from the DOS prompt.  I manually CD into the day directory (20140908), then run the batch file.  It checks to see if there is directory for a particular hour, and if there is, it dives down there, and runs the mplayer mencoder tool against any JPEG files in that directory.  The mencoder combines those JPEGs to make an MPEG movie, which is a lot easier to review.  I have VLC on all my machines, and it plays the MPEG just fine.  Note, the Microsoft Media Player SHOULD also play these, but it can’t, and whines about it.  Curiously, the Microsoft Media Encoder plays the MPEGs just fine.  Mplayer, unsurprisingly, does fine as well.

An hour of captures typically produces a movie that runs from between 15 sec to 45 sec.  On a windy day, the number of files are higher as the trees in my yard move around a lot, which triggers the motion detection.  I can review the entire day in about five minutes, which isn’t too bad.  It’s kind of cool to occasionally see what are effectively are time lapses as shadows of trees above the driveway move as the sun moves.

The last thing I’ve done is to move the image capture to a local computer.  The images were being uploaded from the camera to St. John’s, then I was downloading them to my laptop.  That’s a long ways to go, and a lot of bandwidth.  I have an extra computer at the house that we don’t use; it has a wifi connection and it’s a Windows 7 box.  I cleaned all the stuff off that wasn’t needed anymore, and installed the free FileZilla ftp server on it.  I created the same user and password that the camera uses for the St. John’s server, and the same c:\drivewaycam\drivewaycam directories.  I got the computer on the house network, and set the router to always provide the same IP address to the computer.  So far, so good.  Next, I changed the ftp upload address from St. John’s to the computer in the house, sent Ian out to walk in front of the camera, and watched the images start rolling in.

I uploaded mplayer to the computer, and the enccoder.bat file, and ran them manually, worked fine.  The last thing to do was put RealVNC on the computer.  Then I shut it down, moved the computer to an out of the way location where it still had good wifi access, and powered it up again.  Now, it sits there and does nothing except capture images.  When I get home in the evening, at some point, I use my laptop to remote access the computer, and run the encoder.bat against the directory of the day, and then scan the images from my laptop.  It works really well.

I will likely upgrade the batch file  at some point and combine it with the Windows version of cron to have it scan for new files a couple times a day, and then automagically convert them to MPEGs, and maybe even email the MPEG to me after creation (each hourly MPEG is typically only a couple hundred K, not bad for emailing).

So this is working fine so far.  I am going to get a night vision version of the camera next.

I will say that while all of this ftp stuff was easy, it was easy for me, who has been doing this sort of IT work for literally decades.  I think it is too difficult for the average user.  The camera is a cool piece of technology, and seems to be essentially a Linux device with a camera input.  There is NO reason the camera should not be able to directly capture video from the camera.  Even if TrendNet wants to continue doing the JPEG capture, there is no reason to not do something like I do and run mencoder to convert the capture to an MPEG, and then upload that file (it would sure be faster to upload a single 200KB file instead of several hundred 200KB files), or even just email it.  I doubt that anyone who buys these cameras is sitting there watching it all the time, and the motion capture function is the best feature for determining when something happens, but generally after the fact.  I hope that the TrendNet people read the email I sent to them and thing about how their users need to use the camera.

Too Much of America is Still Racist, as in Anti-Black

22 August 2014

The entire situation stemming from the killing of the black man in Ferguson, MO, is another in a long line of incidents that illustrate that we are still far from full equality for people of color.

There is much in the reactions to this incident that follow a common pattern.

First, outrage in part of the community, in particular the black community.  Understandable in every way. 

Next, the overwhelming police response.  Largely peaceful protests met with automatic rifles and snipers.  This is disproportionate response, and is un-American.

Conservatives immediately started counter-memes.  I find this pathetic.  It is an attempt to justify that the killing is not relevant.  I’m sure it’s not, to them.

A typical meme is to post a reference to some white person who was killed by a black, and why doesn’t that have the media attention.  Or perhaps they reference killings in Chicago, typically because in some way the Chicago situation is Obamas fault.  Or they post… jokes related to the killing. 

One thing I noted on Facebook related to Ferguson was a reference to the “Black Panthers” leading a protest.  I started looking for information related to this, and found that references were generally in two groups.  Sites like Huffington Post, CBS News, the NY Daily News, and several other news outlets typically referred to one guy affiliated with (sometimes to “members of”) the New Black Panther Party being at the protests, and trying to calm things.  Sites like Right Wing News, Gateway Pundit, and the like claimed that the New Black Panthers (and some referred to “Communists”) were leading the protests.  The conservative sites, frankly, don’t have much credibility.

While a number of liberals and news people have suggested that President Obama should go to Ferguson personally (whether this is a good idea or not is up for debate), conservatives have found reasons to bitch brainlessly about the President.  I’ve personally seen comments about how much Obama is on vacation (in spite of this stupid canard of Obama taking huge amounts of vacation being debunked by thinking people).

Some observations:

At my dental appointment this week, the hygienist had Fox News on.  She made numerous comments that she stated as fact:  “He was stealing, he got what he deserved”.  “He was a thug”.  “Those people riot and steal for any reason”.  I asked her who reported he was stealing, and she replied “the news”, gesturing towards Fox News. 

Conservatives, in general, don’t give a shit about blacks.  The long history of slavery, legalized discrimination, suppression of voting, and limited opportunities for blacks in education and work has resulted in everything from ghettos and blighted neighborhoods, to the persistent poverty that drives higher crime.  Conservatives like to sniff that the shooting of a black person by the cops is somehow made less horrifying if protestors loot.  We get that looting is wrong, guys.  Why don’t you try not hiding behind that sort of crap, and help fix the situation caused by the white majority over DECADES?

It has been reported that the governance of the city of Ferguson is overwhelmingly white, while the population is largely black.  It has also been reported (but I’ve not verified) that the voter turnout in the past election was 15%.  If you don’t vote, the other side does not need to worry about voter suppression.  The people of Ferguson got the government that was elected by those that bothered to vote.  If they want it to change, get to the polling places.

A major point that is missed by conservatives (whether deliberately, or through cluelessness), is that the shooting of a black, unarmed man by a white officer is different from civilians shooting each other in Chicago (mandatory statement:  it’s still not acceptable).  The defining difference is that the killing was done by a police officer.  In most cases in this country, the police are the ones with the weapons.  100% of cops have guns, and probably less than 1% of citizens.  How this supposed street encounter between an unarmed man and a cop in a car escalated to the unarmed man being killed certainly bears some investigation.

A Bit Farther On The Dehumanization Path

17 August 2014

I read a post on The New York Times this past week that I found deeply disturbing. The subject was the difficult time that a woman was having juggling child care, commuting, work, and personal time.

Aside from her personal situation, a major issue for her was her job at Starbucks. The company (and I don’t know if it was just her location, or region, or the whole company) was using software that kept track of rush times, and would schedule workers around those times, sometimes for only a couple hours, instead of people working a defined shift from say, 0800 to 1700, the software might have a person come in at 1000 and leave at 1300. This was in the name of maximizing profits. WalMart apparently also uses this software.

This, to me, is another step on the road of people being just work objects for companies. I think that ethical behavior requires supervisors/owners to recognize that without the workers, there would be no company. That means, among other things, treating those people with respect. Scheduling with a 100% eye to profit is not treating people with respect.

Since some ignorant people would misread the above, I will state it plainly. I’ve never been against companies making money. There is little reason to be in business otherwise. I do not believe it is ethical to subordinate people and their well being to maximum profit.

I think that in a perverse way, this is about government working. But, working for business (via lobbyists and paid-for Congresspeople) instead of people.

Why aren’t people (mainly, conservatives) worried about the tyranny of business?

Another Fake Media “Issue”

17 August 2014

There has been a lot of discussion (in fact, it’s a topic on “Meet The Press” right now) on the “controversy” about statements made by Hilary Clinton that supposedly undercut President Obama.

I think it’s really healthy instead of some flip-flop. There is almost always a variety of opinions on how to implement a particular piece of policy. If she had her input when she was SecState, and her boss the President did something different, that’s OK because he is in charge. Now she is a private citizen, and she has her opinions, and that’s OK also.

With all the real problems that need solving, focusing on a person expressing her personal opinion is a waste of bandwidth.

A Tent Pole Win

13 August 2014

I camp and backpack in a No Limits Kings Peak two-person tent. I think it is a very good design; it has enough room to easily sit upright in. The tent is wider at the shoulders and narrower at the feet (less fabric, less weight), and while I have had two people in it quite comfortably many times, it’s exceptionally roomy as a one-Bill tent. It weighs 5.1 lbs and packs down very nicely, has never leaked, and I’ve only had condensation issues a couple times.

So I was unhappy when one of the tent pole segments broke during our HAT Cossatot backpacking trip. I think hail hit the pole and literally shattered the aluminum section right at the end.I tried a couple Q&D patches (duct tape is our friend), but knew I needed it fixed.

My first stop was to customer service at Academy, where I bought the tent. I called and told them the name and part number of the tent. The bright-voiced young lady on the other end of the phone said yes, they had replacement poles; the first one was 8 FEET LONG, 1 INCH in DIAMETER. No, I said, that’s not right. They also had a fiberglass tent pole repair kit, which was the wrong length and diameter for the aluminum pole. I pressed a bit to find out who made the tent for Academy, hoping to go to the actual manufacturer, but supposedly they didn’t know. Right.

I went looking online for tubes and parts. What I found was the pole had a fairly standard outside diameter, but the inside diameter was significantly less than available tubes. For those who do not know, tent poles are sectioned and hollow, with a stretchy cord running through them. The cord holds the whole thing together (both broken down and assembled), and the end of each section has a hollow insert that fits into the next section. The inserts that were available that I could easily find didn’t match the inside diameter of the pole sections.

While I was doing all this research, I went on several camps with the kludged fixes to the pole. I wasn’t happy with any of them.

I read that REIs did tent pole repairs. I visited several, and at one, they let me root around through all the tent pole pieces they had collected over several years. No luck on one the correct size.

Then I ran across Tent Pole Technologies (http://tentpoletechnologies.com/). I had a couple email exchanges with them, and then measured the existing pole and essentially sent them an engineering drawing of the pole, with a couple stitched-together photos of the whole thing, and got back a quote of $35 for a complete replacement. I paid them electronically, and in a week, got the replacement pole in the mail.

For one thing, it’s 1 oz less than the previous pole. When backpacking, every ounce counts!

The important thing, that pole was a perfect copy of the existing pole, except the broken piece. I took it camping this past weekend and it was perfect.

So this was a pretty cool experience. There is a lot of life left in that tent, and the new pole will help me get that life out of the tent.

This is a good example of the power of online. A company I would have been unlikely to find easily, communications that were fast and high confidence, a secure payment, yielded a super fast turnaround and a quality product.

A couple words about Academy: I expected better support. I know they don’t make their own stuff, but I would expect them to at least have a line on who makes it for them, and to have customer service people who would know that a tent pole for a backpacking tent is not the same thing as the center pole for a beach tarp.

An Edubuntu Installation for St. John’s

6 August 2014

This was really way too easy…

The school computer lab (and also the rest of the student computers in the classrooms, and to a lesser extent our faculty machines) is being impacted by the end of life for Windows XP. Most of the machines are XP Pro, some XP Home. There are a couple of W7 machines as well. The machines are all pretty old (most are 2004 vintage), and are increasingly having issues of one kind or the other. I installed W7 on one of them, and it craaaaaaawwwwled, even after I dumped an extra couple GB of memory in it. I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time keeping the things updated, and even with the remote access tools I have been deploying the past couple years, I’d still have to go around to 30 or 40 machines for some things.

The machines also got “lab rash” from kids playing with settings they were able to, and would occasionally jack a machine up by inverting the display or whatever, so I would end up going by to fix it. And that’s even with Raegan being very swift on fixing stuff.

So I started looking at alternatives, and decided that Edubuntu was the best candidate. It had all of the existing software that we currently use, and a lot more. It has thin-client capability, so that would end kids jacking with the machines.

Edubuntu needs a fairly beefy server. I had a donated machine from an oil company that sported a 3.8 GHz Xeon and no less than four 146GB SCSIs moving along at 320MB/s (with space in there for a second processor if I can find one cheap). It has dual power supplies and enough fans to build a drone, and *two* GB Ethernets. It is, BTW, also fairly old, having been introduced in 2004. That explains why it has two USBs, *and* PS/2 connectors. The machine came with the six memory slots filled with 1GB DDR2 ECC memory sticks. I happily filled the six slots with 2GB DDR-2 memory, and the poor machine squawked at me until I turned it off. Turns out it ONLY wants ECC memory, and the memory I had was non-ECC. Oh well.

For 20 machines, Edubuntu recommended 20GB of disk (not a problem there) and 4GB of memory for every 20 clients. So 6GB is comfortable (especially since I am planning on running the browsers locally). I will probably haunt eBay and get at least a couple more sticks of ECC memory also.

I drew up a couple iterations of how I would deploy the thing on the school network, decided it would work, and started the process. I have a couple weeks until school starts. I knew the good news was, since I was deploying thin client network-boot clients, that I wouldn’t have to change the lab workstations at all, except to enable net booting, and so I could fall back to the XP workstations at any time.

So I download the latest Edubuntu, popped the DVD into the machine, and started the installation process. All was smooth until I got to the part where you identify the disk to install Edubuntu on.

Now, when the server was donated, I had wiped it for the company that donated it, and then dropped Fedora 16 on to it to play with. That all worked fine.

So when Edubuntu got to the Installation Type page, it asked if I wanted to use /dev/sda, and that there was Fedora on it, and if I used the whole disk then the Fedora would be wiped. That didn’t bother me, so I selected it, and the Use LVM option, and told it to Continue. I got the Erase Disk and Install Edubuntu page, verified that /dev/sda would be used, and clicked Install Now. The Install button greyed out (only one shade of grey), the page title changed to Installation Type after about 10 seconds, and the Install Now came active again. Hmmm… Clicking Install Now again takes you back to the actual Installation Type page (with use entire disk and use LVM). This cycle repeated (eight times I tried it).

So off I went to research. The existing Fedora would still boot. I installed Edubuntu on another computer to show the media was OK. I posted a query to the Ubuntu Forums. I kept coming back to the existing Fedora installation. I’ve done a lot of installs of a lot of OSs, and most of them would happily overwrite an existing OS, so I was skeptical that was the problem. In fact, Edubuntu happily overwrote a Linux installation that was on the workstation I used to show the media was OK. But the existing Fedora on the server was LVM, which is a technology not fully supported by some Linux tools (like gparted). I hadn’t any suggestions from the Ubuntu Forum (which surprised me).

So I decided to zorch the Fedora LVM installation. It wasn’t entirely straightforward; LVM is not as well documented as it could be, there is a wealth of similar-looking beta, with some slightly contradictory. Here is what I ended up doing:

  • I booted the server using a Fedora Live CD (it was the Security Spin for Fedora 15).
  • Used lvdiskscan to identify the LVM. It had four PVs, and three what I would have called mount points: root, home, and swap.
  • Used lvremove for the root and home partitions. When I tried to remove swap, it complained that swap was active (!). This is probably what confused the Edubuntu installer. I used swap off -v to turn off the swap mount point, then was able to use lvremove to remove it.
  • Used vgremove to take out the volume group.
  • Used pvremove for the four PVs.

I rebooted the machine and replaced the Fedora CD with the Edubuntu DVD. Installed without a hitch.

The key to the LVM removal was to take out the mount points first.

So clearly there is a buglet in the Edubuntu installer that does not like existing LVMs, or perhaps does not like swap partitions in particular.

Once the server rebooted, I connected a switch to the LTSP port, and then a Dell workstation to the switch, started it, and switched it to network boot in the BIOS. It still booted from the disk. I restarted it, went back into BIOS to disable the disk, and on reboot it came up over the network, and I had my thin client running.

One more glitch: the Fedora I installed to play with automagically added all four disks (PVs) to the LV with no prompting from me, so instead of installing to a 146GB disk, I had a 550GB+ logical disk. The Edubuntu install put LVM on, but only with the single disk. I will manually add those using pvcreate and then lvextend this evening or tomorrow, but it is one more thing to do.

I’ve a long list of stuff to do. I need to add a student user, add some software, enable local access to USBs, add access to our St. John’s shared disk, and get the remote management tools working. I will get a graduate level course in rebuilding the client image as this goes along.

I’m also interested in hauling the server to school and plugging it into the lab network, and watching all those machines boot up simultaneously.

But the really amazing this is how slick it was with the Edubuntu DVD. There is a heck of a lot of capability there.

06 August 2014, 2200 Update:

I added two of the three other disks to the LVM installation, using a set of excellent instructions at http://www.rootusers.com/how-to-increase-the-size-of-a-linux-lvm-by-adding-a-new-disk/. So now I have a 410GB space to play in. I didn’t put the fourth disk in as the SMART disk function was reporting a future failure.

17 August 2014, 1239 Update:

I’m building a second server for the school to host a student management system, a local storage cloud, and WordPress for the teachers.  It’s also Ubuntu based, also 14.04, and had a disk in it with a Fedora 10 LVM instantiation.  This installation went right over the Fedora 10 with no comment. 

BTW, Unity on this one is sloooooooow.  I installed FXCE, which I am used to from a number of Live CDs I use, and it runs darn fast.

Good Riddance to Eric Cantor

1 August 2014

He gave his farewell address to the House today. I find it absolutely delicious that he got zapped by a Tea Partier, when he and the Republicans stoked Tea Party nutjobs for so long, taking advantage of their anger, while at the same time not doing a damn thing except obstruct.

When you feed an unintelligent monster, don’t be surprised when it turns on you. I hope the Tea Party rocks on, feeding on more Republicans, and splitting the field three ways soon.

That’s the only way Tea Partiers can doing anything useful for the United States.

Marco’s Pizza, Edmond, OK (East)

26 July 2014

Marco's Pizza on Urbanspoon

In the inevitable comparison to Hideaway, Marco’s holds their own. It’s good!

We wanted pizza last evening, and decided to hit Marco’s. I checked the website for the location, and it said dine-in, so off we went.

Dine-in, BTW, means *one* four-top table.

We got two pizzas. Raegan had a small with ham, mushrooms, and green olives. Erin and I split a medium; hers was chicken, mine pepperoni, hamburger, and sausage. Both were thin crust. These pizzas were VERY good. Erin and I finished our pizzas, and Raegan brought part of hers home for lunch today.

We also got 10 BBQ wings. Also very good, and completely consumed.

They don’t have a traditional soda fountain, so we scored two bottles of water, and a 2-liter DP, from the cooler.

Service was super friendly. The pies took about 20 minutes to cook (not unreasonable). Our check was $39.23. Very good pizza at a decent price. Marco’s is legit.

An Interesting Galaxy S4 Feature

24 July 2014

Hmmm, something kind of cool and frightening at the same time. I just dialed into a telecon that was in the calendar of my Galaxy S4. The calendar detected the phone number of the teleconference, and I only had to tap it to dial it. That’s pretty standard, my Blackberry would do that five year ago. But the message had this text:

Telecom: 888-283-xxxx
Password: 7958649

After the dialing was in progress, the S4 popped up a dialog with “Do you want to send 7958649 as tones?”. It startled me enough that I pressed No, then after a couple seconds, went back to the message, and it repeated, at which point I pressed Yes, and it sent the tones and got me into the telecon. The only thing it didn’t do was send the trailing “#” that is the end-of-numbers token. I did that manually.

That’s pretty darn smart of the software to realize that most meet-me numbers require an access code, find those in the message, and offer to send them. As I do with many of these, I had jumped back to the message to get the access code, and I spoke the code to help me remember it when I jumped back to the phone page. Maybe the spoken numbers were the key. Regardless, I’m going to play with that (when I get some time). It’s a very cool feature; I wonder what else the darn thing does. Raegan already thinks the phones are smarter than us.

Gary Glenns BBQ, Oklahoma City, OK

24 July 2014

Gary Glenn's BBQ on Urbanspoon

I had lunch here with a couple friends after a meeting at a nearby Large Defense Contractor facility. It was a pretty darn good lunch. I had the brisket plate with baked beans and mac and cheese. The brisket was tender and had good smoke flavor. The mac and cheese was pretty good also.

Service was very friendly and the iced tea was great! My check was $10.56. I would go back.

China House, Edmond, OK (2nd St)

24 July 2014

China House on Urbanspoon

OK, so occasionally we take a while to learn. We had dinner at Great Wall in OKC back in April, and ended up with waaaaay too much rice. It was even so last night. We decided to get some sweet and sour chicken from China House in Edmond, as I had liked the China House in MWC.

We got three orders of sweet and sour chicken and a chicken fried rice. The S&S came with a plate of white rice, so we ended up with FOUR plates of rice. On top of that, since our order was over $35, we got a free chicken fried rice, so we had one more plate of rice, which I asked for to go.

Reality check: we could easily have split two of the S&S chicken plates between the three of us, and I should have asked if we could sub the fried rice for the plain rice.

Now, all of this was pretty darn good. We couldn’t eat half of it, so a hell of a lot of food came home with us. Service was fast. The check was $35.13. That included two bottles of water and a can of Dr. Pepper; that’s pretty much it for drinks.

At H&R House this evening, we popped the S&S chicken in the oven to heat it up, and Erin chopped up some of the chicken and some napa cabbage, combined the white and fried rice, and fried it up some more. It was pretty darn good.

And we still have a LOT of rice and chicken left. Lunch for me tomorrow. So that’s three meals for three people for $35. Not bad value, and the food was pretty good also.

The Burger, Dumas, TX

24 July 2014

The Burger on Urbanspoon

We were cruising through Dumas latish last Sunday on the way home. I wanted some KFC, but their dining room closed at 2100. The Burger was right next door, and their dining room was open until 2200, so there we went.

This place was popular; there were five parties (including us) while we were there. Erin and Raegan got a grilled cheese, and Raegan got a corn dog as well. I got a double cheeseburger. We got some fries, and I got chili cheese tater tots. All of this was great! My burger was perfect, with great flavor and texture.

The iced tea was wonderful and service was very friendly. Our check was $21.69, a great value. I’d eat here again anytime.

Subway, Colorado Springs, CO (S. Academy)

24 July 2014

Subway on Urbanspoon

In the second part of our two-part lunch last Sunday, we jetted the half mile up Academy from George’s to this Subway. Raegan got a 6″ Turkey and Ham sub meal. The only glitch happened when she asked for some oil and vinegar, but got vinagrette. The rest of the sandwich was done right and was completely consumed.

The check was $9.47; service was fast and friendly. Good stuff.

George’s Gyros and Burgers, Colorado Springs, CO

24 July 2014

George's Gyros & Burgers on Urbanspoon

After visiting the USAFA last Sunday, we hit George’s for the first part of a two-part lunch. It was pretty good.

Erin and I got burgers, she a bacon cheeseburger and me a double cheeseburger. We both liked those burgers a lot. They were smallish (1/6 lb, probably) and just a touch overcooked, but had good flavor. We both really liked the fries as well, they seemed to be battered.

The iced tea was not the best, but I got Dr. Pepper and it was OK. Our check was $19.28. Good stuff.

Great American Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

20 July 2014

Great American Grill (Hilton Garden Inn Briargate) on Urbanspoon

This Grill is inside the Hilton Garden Inn outside the Air Force Academy in north Colorado Springs. We had breakfast here a week ago today, and again today. In both cases, the food a service were very good. Last week, I had pancakes and enjoyed them greatly. Today I had a ham and cheese omelet, same result. Erin stuck with cold stuff. Raegan had some fried eggs and some of the good fruit selection. We all had some bacon and sausage.

The service model is one of the odd Great American Grill models. If you want anything other than cooked to order, you grab it yourself. If you want stuff cooked to order, you tell the cook, and a server brings it out to you. The GAGs (such a horrible acronym!) have a couple variations on this no matter where you visit. Regardless, the food here was very good, and the service was fast. Last week, it was packed, today not.

You could do far worse for breakfast in the north Springs.

Bird Dog BBQ, Colorado Springs, CO (Briargate)

20 July 2014

Bird Dog BBQ on Urbanspoon

We had dinner here this evening, as it has been a week without BBQ for Bill. It helped that the place was across the street from our hotel in Colorado Springs.

It was a bit of a disappointment. Raegan and Erin both got turkey sandwiches. I thought the turkey was very good (in fact, the best part of the meal). I got a three-meat with brisket, pulled pork, and ribs. I was not impressed by the ribs; they had a flavor that I can’t identify, I wonder if it is some odd smoke flavor. Regardless, the ribs were not very meaty, and were not tender. The brisket was OK, pretty tender. The pulled pork had little flavor and was not tender.

The sides (okra, corn on the cob, baked beans, and slaw) were pretty good. The iced tea was also. The staff was friendly and service fast. Our check was $35.64.

So it was a mixed bag. If I went back, I would get turkey and maybe the brisket. The ribs, not.

Backpacking RMNP, 14-16 July 2014

19 July 2014

Trip Summary

32 miles of hiking in the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) over three days, with 3,800+ feet of altitude gain.

I’ve posted the photos from this trip to my Google+ site. They are pretty amazing.

Getting Ready

Last Fall, our first RMNP backpacking trip was washed out by severe monsoonal rain and storms (the blog post is here). I put together this trip to enable completing the “loop” I wanted to do last time.

I got the permit 01 March after settling in on the couch with my phone earpiece in, and started a sequence of dial-busy-hang up-repeat when the backcountry office opened at 0800 Mountain. It took 245 calls (I just went back to my Facebook post to verify) and 1.5 hours to get through and get the permit.

After my last RMNP hike up Flattop, where my breath was always short, I started some running exercises to prepare. This time, there were no issues. My permit was for seven total; we ended up hiking with five after a couple people dropped out for work or family issues.

We drove from OKC Saturday, leaving around noon and getting to Colorado Springs around 2100. We took a leisurely drive to Grand Lake on Sunday, getting to town around 1600 and going directly to the Backcountry Office for our permit.

Day 1

The crew got up Monday morning and had a fine breakfast in town, loaded up the backpacks in Lance’s car, and he hauled them up to the trailhead at the north end of town while the rest of us walked the 0.6 mile up there. We took a group picture and headed out.

Temperatures were perfect. We headed north towards Big Meadow, stopping for lunch on the north edge of the Meadows. About halfway along, we spotted a bull moose! Once we walked out a bit into the meadow, there were seven of his friends! Four of them were bulls! Very cool. We watched them for a while; how often are you able to do that?

We kept walking after a while, and on the northwest corner of the meadow, we got out first rain and hail. It was small hail, just chips, but it got our attention. We had stopped for a short break, and had noticed a cow moose and her little mooselet about 50 yards out into the meadow, and we had to watch for a bit.

At this point, we swung around to the east and started a gradual climb up to Granite Falls. There are campsites at Lower Granite Falls, and we were past the Falls at Granite Falls. Pick the campsite farthest to the east; it looks out onto a beautiful meadow.

We saw a number of backpackers along this trail; about four groups.

Camp had a couple huge logs split and made into tables (or benches) that were fine cooking and eating surfaces. We finished dinner, talked for a while while watching the meadow in the fading light, and crashed.

My dinner was Backpackers Pantry Santa Fe Chicken with Rice; I’ve had this meal a number of times, and enjoy it. Forgive the image, but for some reason this dinner tore my guts up chemically. Not in a painful way, but noxious at 0200. As my former E-4B friend Ray once said, “it’s really bad if you offend yourself”. I did. I hope it was just that particular package of food.

Day 1 ended up as a 9 mile hike, with 1540 ft of altitude gain.

Day 2

This day started fine for Lance. He was up early, and a moose walked right past him and right through camp. Very cool.

We got up the next morning at 0730 and had breakfast. I think it had rained a bit overnight, as all the tents were damp. We hung up the flys to dry stuff out, and took a side hike back down to Granite Falls. They were amazing!

We headed back up to camp, packed up, and left around 0930. It was a steady climb to Haynach camp, our days target. We passed through a burned area, and a couple pretty meadows. We passed two groups of backpackers, both out for dayhikes. Eventually we got to the Haynach turnoff, and headed north. This was pretty hard; it was steep. But we made good time, and got to camp around noon. We rested a couple minutes, and then got the tents put up, just as a storm rolled through. It rained and hailed repeatedly until around 1630. We stayed in our tents, had lunch, napped, or worked a couple Sudokus (in my case).

Camp had a lot of snowdrifts! I think that all of the tent sites were clear (although many were dampish). Several of the snowdrifts were 3+ ft high, and 20-40 ft long. A guy the next camp over had stuck his bear canister in a drift.

The rain finished around 1630, so we side hiked up to Haynach Lakes. These got us up to around 11000 ft, and were stunning! If we hadn’t had the rain, I would have liked trying to peakbag one of the peaks surrounding the Lakes. Next time. There were HUGE snowdrifts all over the place up there.

We had a nice dinner and talked for a while, then went to bed. My dinner was Backpackers Pantry beef stroganoff, it was a bit on the bland side but good.

It stormed on and off pretty much all night. No one had issues with tents or gear.

Day 2 ended up as a 2.8 mile hike, with an immediate loss of 165 feet (to the Falls), which we immediately got back, followed by 1000 ft more of altitude gain to get to our campsite. The side hike to Haynach Lakes was 2.3 miles roundtrip with a gain of 350 ft.

Day 3

This was going to be our hard day, we knew way in advance. Two people were killed by lightning the previous week in RMNP, and this day was going to be about 70% above tree line. We had seen storms every day since we arrived in the Front Range area Saturday. Our Rangers had warned us as well. So we were paranoid, and our plan was to be up early and try to make the Flattop Mountain trail junction before noon. It was also going to be a 10-mile day, with a lot of altitude gain early on.

We got up around sunrise and tried our best to dry off very wet and dirty tents and flys, get packed, and have some breakfast. None of our gear was dirty; the vestibules each of our tents have worked well. It was a bit chilly but not too cold. We headed out around 0730, losing the altitude we gained coming up the day before.

The the Climb started. We headed on east on Tonahutu trail, gaining altitude steadily. I don’t think there was a truly flat place on the trail. It was relentlessly UP. Some places the trail was cut with stairs, some places it was sloped, but it was always up.

We got above treeline about halfway up. Lots of snow, but none on the trail. We saw an elk herd on the tundra to the west of Ptarmigan Pass, it was about 50 strong. We weren’t too close.

Right before we passed a 12250 point to our south, we could see Spirit Lake far to the southwest. We pulled out our phones, and amazingly enough, had signal, so we all called our spouses to check in. Raegan hadn’t been feeling 100% when we left Monday, and now she was full-blown sick, and seriously dehydrated to the point she didn’t feel she could drive, but needed to go to the hospital. I immediately decided I had to be down there. We were headed that general direction anyway. I gave the guys options of staying on the original itinerary, or maybe just staying in our camp for that evening and hiking out the next day. Beer in Grand Lake was mentioned, I think. The crew made the decision to hike out. It would mean a long day, but we were already done with 95% of the uphill, the rest was contouring and downhill.

We got to the top of Tourmaline Gorge around 1115 and were just stunned by the depth and relief of that beautiful area. We were starting to see convection to the south, and that motivated us to keep moving. We ate candy and snacks on the move, and didn’t stop for lunch. We go to the Flattop junction at 1130, barely paused, and moved out on North Inlet trail. We were flat to down here, and really moved. I checked the GPS later, and found several points we were making 5.5 mph, darn near a jog.

We found a large snowfield a bit past the Flattop junction. It was several hundred yards long, and probably two feet deep. We post-holed our way through it, but didn’t accumulate much snow in our boots.

We saw numerous marmots and several pikas (and heard many more), in the rock areas. We passed several other snowfields, but none on the trail. Several of these were in ravines and had significant streams flowing out of them. Water, BTW, was not an issue this July day. There were numerous places to pump.

At one point, while we were on the “big switchbacks”, we smelled first, and then saw, four bull elk that were about 50 ft upslope from us. They were magnificent!

There isn’t a lot to say about most of the hike down. It was tough, not because of slope, but just length. We had planned on 10 miles already, and the additional mileage to town was almost 8 more.

We were below Cascade Falls when a series of rain showers and thunderstorms started rolling through. Here my rain gear was a bit too much; it was warm, and I had a fleece-lined rain jacket that made me sweat almost as much as the rain would make me wet.

We got to the Grand Lake trailhead at 1630, and were exhausted. The last couple miles were tough. I took a shower and took Raegan to the ER in Granby, where they rehydrated her. I was glad I had come back early.

Day 3 ended up as a 17.5 mile hike, with a starting loss of 368 feet, followed by 1850 ft of altitude gain, and an immediate loss of 2750 ft back to Grand Lake.

Things That Went Well

The Rangers in the Backcountry Office at RMNP rock. I got outstanding beta on our campsites when checking in, and in return, I went back and gave them back beta on trail conditions up high.

Critters! We saw moose, elk, deer, fox, pika, and marmot.

Food was well done.

Things That Could Be Improved

I carried too much colder weather gear. Normal temps in the mountains are in the range of 40s for lows to 70s for highs. Forecasts had been for lows in the upper 20s and highs in the 40s. Actuals were lows in the high 40s and highs in the mid-60s.

This meant that I carried a heavier 0F bag instead of my 20F bag. I carried a fleece-lined rain jacket, much heavier than my Frogg Toggs rain jacket, a base layer, a hoodie, a long-sleeve mock turtleneck, and some other stuff that probably added at least 3-4 lbs extra. All I really needed was my hoodie, or maybe the mock turtleneck, and my Frogg Toggs.

I carried something new for me, a 5×7 ft lightweight tarp. We didn’t really need it, but I put it up the first night anyway to experiment with it, and I think it is too small. I might find another one, or get a second 5×7 and tie them together to make a 10×7.

I tried to tone down the hike this time after several rounds of feedback, but I think this was still too tough. I should have had us enter at the Green Mountain trailhead off US34, then the Granite Falls target would have been more appropriate. Staying at Renegade, and side hiking Haynach, would probably have been smarter, and saved us a long climb with packs. I don’t know that I could do much with the big hike up to Flattop junction, except maybe stay at July instead of down at North Inlet Junction.

I think this would have been a better itinerary:

Day 1: Green Mountain around Big Meadow to Granite Falls camp. 5.3 miles and 1127 elevation gain.

Day 2: Renegade or Timeberline camp. Maybe layover here, then dayhike Haynach.

Day 3: Up and over Flattop to July. This would cut several miles off the day.

Day 4: July to Lake Solitude Cross-Country Area.

Day 5: Up and over Ptarmigan and Andrews and exit East Inlet, or dayhike Nanita and exit North Inlet.

This would have made a lot more sense in balancing out the effort needed.

Another alternative would be a three-day trip, say, up North Inlet to North Inlet Falls a couple nights, and dayhike up to Nanita; or North Inlet Falls to the cross-country area, and then up and over Ptarmigan/Andrews and down to Verna, then hike out East Inlet.

A three-day trip would allow a couple days of dayhiking, and doing that before the backpacking trip allows a little more acclimation.

Summary

I’m a little disappointed in having a second bust at RMNP. I did the right thing by heading back down early, but I know it was disappointing to the rest of the crew.

I’m glad we were able to complete most of the loop we missed due to the flooding last September. As I told Raegan later, the views were almost overwhelming, constantly changing, and even different perspectives within a couple hundred yards along the trail. There were lots of critters to marvel at. My hiking companions couldn’t have been better.

This Park, although relatively small, still has a huge untapped hiking potential. I will be back.

Rudi’s Deli, Winter Park, CO

19 July 2014

Rudi's Deli on Urbanspoon

We drove up to check out Winter Park and have lunch this afternoon. We wanted sandwiches and chose Rudi’s based on good Urbanspoon reviews.

We all got sandwiches; Raegan and I had varieties of turkey sandwiches (hers came with pasta salad, I got chips), and Erin had chicken. The sandwiches were pretty good. We also got a brownie and a carmalita, which is a supercharged caramel brownie. Raegan said the pasta salad was vinegar based, which wasn’t completely to her liking; she also said the pasta salad needed more blasted olives, although she thinks about olives like I think about brisket.

Service was fast and friendly. The iced tea was great. Our check was $30.72. We would gladly have another lunch here.

EG’s Grill, Grand Lake, CO

19 July 2014

EG's Grill on Urbanspoon

First off, this is printed right on the menu:

“Substitutions politely declined. While modifications and substitutions may seem easy to accommodate, these requests compromise the unique characteristics of our food and the efficiency of our service”.

I’m going to throw the BS flag here. This statement is possibly the most arrogant thing I’ve seen in a restaurant. I could (possibly) understand this sort of mentality in a mass production or time-critical environment, like a lunch truck. Not, however, from a general restaurant, and especially given the pedestrian nature of your offerings, and the service I experienced tonight.

All that being said, the restaurant has some decent food.

We had dinner at EGs this evening. Service was, I will say up front, slow and irregular. Given that we didn’t ask for any substitutions, perhaps the management should be working on THAT instead of being arrogant about keeping up your “efficiency”.

Raegan ordered a dinner salad and chicken lasagne, and Erin a caesar salad. I ordered iced tea, and for my meal the fried chicken (without much in the way of confidence that this southern staple would be any good). The meal came with soup or salad (I chose a soup of the day, beer cheese and bacon), and the potato of the day, and slaw.

I asked our server before ordering what the chicken pieces were. He didn’t know. Maybe some training, instead of arrogant statements? For the record, it was a breast and a leg.

The general workflow was: time passed, then a lot of stuff came out, then time passed again. It took a good 10 min to get our drinks out. And we didn’t ask for modifications. Food came out in a wave. Even though we were seated after another family, and several other tables trickled in over the next 20 minutes, all of the tables were served in about a five-minute timeframe. Very odd.

Raegan and Erin had their meals out a couple minutes before my meal came out. My meal came as my soup course (not prior to the main course), and a plate with my two pieces of chicken. No potato or slaw. The family another table over had the same chicken situation. I asked our server where my potato and slaw were; he didn’t know (training needed, instead of an arrogant statement?), he went to ask, and he came back about 5 minutes later with some potato au gratin, a small rectangle about 1.5″x3″. Still no slaw. Hmmm, more training needed, instead of an arrogant statement? I never got the slaw, BTW.

For the record, the food was pretty good. The chicken was fried nice and crispy, and not at all greasy. The Potato Of The Day was bland at best. I cannot report on the slaw. The soup was pretty good. Raegan and Erin liked their food.

The iced tea was pretty good, and served in a large mason jar. I never got a refill; not even an offer. Maybe that’s a MODIFICATION?

Service was inconsistent. Our check was $43.60. Not a good value, given the arrogant attitude of restaurant management, the service, and the simple nature of the food.

There are better places in Grand Lake to eat. And they don’t mind working with customers.

Fracking Ad in Colorado

19 July 2014

We are in Colorado now, and have seen an ad run quite a few times.

It’s a masterpiece of propaganda. Two sets of Colorado polits, one walking to camera right, the other walking to camera left, both talk about how Coloradans need to come together to make sure that fracking goes on, but in a responsible manner. The ad is paid for by an oil and gas PAC. It talks about what the ad calls all the positive benefits of fracking, and just assumes that fracking is only logical and happening. Nothing, of course, about environmental impact.

This is another example of monied corporate interests trying to influence public discourse, to their benefit.

Hiking East Inlet Trail, RMNP, CO

18 July 2014

Yesterday Erin and I hiked almost 3 miles out-and-back on the East Inlet trail in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).

I posted photos to my Google+ account here.

It was a straightforward hike; we wanted to see Adams Falls, and did, and we hoped to see moose in East Meadow. No luck there, but we saw a pretty doe.

There were two highlights, I thought. There is a stunning area that would be a perfect campsite or picnic area at the base area of the Falls. We also saw a pretty doe curled up in tall grass off the trail. East Meadow is beautiful.

Here is the hike path on a topo, annotated with where we went.

One thing to note: the trail as represented by the Garmin Mapsource program is quite a bit north of the actual path as shown by the GPS.

Here is an altitude plot.

There is a nice 80 foot climb to the Falls, and then we climbed back down to the base area. The scramble on the rocks was a lot of fun.

Now, there are a number of things on the plot above I don’t believe. Most of the walk was quite smooth. Notice the spikes of 20, 40, or 60 ft? No way. There’s a big drop of 50 ft right before a spike of 20 feet. Didn’t happen. At the end of the hike, we ended up back at the car, so the altitude should have been the same we started at. Not so much. I promise we didn’t step off a 60 foot bluff to get back.

I’m going to see if there is a software update for my GPS Map 60 that might address this. The GPS clearly has altitude issues.

This Might Be A Good Time To Kick Russia In The Ass

18 July 2014

We are keeping tabs on the shootdown of the Malaysia airliner. The US has already asserted that the shootdown occurred from territory held by Ukrainian rebels. Russia has reportedly tried to suggest that the Ukrainian government launched the missile.

I’m pretty sure that we have had all sorts of intelligence assets watching what is going on over there. I know that there is a tendency to keep intelligence information classified.

But I wonder if it would make sense to release the actual intelligence we’ve gathered that allow us to make the statements about where the missile was launched from, and any related stuff.

And then issue a statement saying Putin is full of crap. This situation does not look bad, it is bad. Heaping direct abuse on the rebels and on their Russian supporters might help de-escalate the situation.

The Hub, Grand Lake, CO

18 July 2014

The Hub Coffee & Cones on Urbanspoon

This is a limited review. The Hub is across the street from our hotel here in Grand Lake, and we dropped in this morning to have a very good blueberry muffin, and a couple excellent cinnamon rolls. For about $10, it fed the three of us just fine. We got the muffin right away, and the rolls took a little longer. You could do far worse for a quick and yummy breakfast in Grand Lake.

An update: this morning Raegan and Erin scored bagels with egg, bacon, and cheese from the Hub, and both liked them.

Grand Pizza, Grand Lake, CO

18 July 2014

Grand Pizza on Urbanspoon

Erin had dinner here last Monday, and she and I had dinner here this evening.

We started with sweet tea. Didn’t realize that it was sweet fruity tea. I switched to the regular stuff, which was pretty good. We also had some buffalo wings. They were great, just the right amount of spice. We left a denuded pile of bonelets.

She and I shared a 12″ thin crust. Hers was chicken and roast garlic, mine was meat lovers, which was pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, and bacon. She liked her half, and took part back to the hotel for Raegan. My half was pretty good. The only thing I would count down is that the pizza builder left a pile of bacon and stuff in one place, and it was pretty charred (see the photo I put on Urbanspoon). That being said, I ate my half.

We also got a takeaway salad for Raegan, with ranch dressing.

Service was very good. Our check was $41.97.

I heard some talk around the restaurant that left me a bit cold. Someone in back was kind of obnoxious and used profanity a couple times. When I ordered Raegans salad, I passed along her request for some grated cheese. Our server asked what kind, I said American, and whoever our server talked to at the back said quite loudly that if it wasn’t on the menu, then it’s not available, what was the matter with the guy? Our server, to her credit, pointed out shredded cheddar, which also worked, but I think that the guy in back was very rude. They also shut down 15 minutes early, and four guys who came in at 2050 for dinner were turned away (they were clearly disappointed but not rude, to their credit). In a similar vein, our server warned us that the kitchen might shut down and I wouldn’t be able to get her salad (this was at 2040). I don’t know that management of the place gives much of a damn about customers.

SO, would I go back? Probably not. There are nice restaurants in Grand Lake, and a couple of them do pizza, and I would probably try them first. They are also quite expensive; the 12 in meat lovers clocks in at $21.75, and it wasn’t *that* good.

Dairy King, Grand Lake, CO

17 July 2014

Grand Lake Dairy King on Urbanspoon

This place was right down the street from our hotel, but it wasn’t even listed on Urbanspoon (which oversight has since been corrected).

Erin and I stopped here for lunch on the way to a hike to Adams Falls. It was great! I got a double cheeseburger, she got a single. We both got fries. All of this was excellent. The burgers were fine beef and cooked just right, not too greasy. I really liked the fries, even though I couldn’t eat all of them.

The iced tea was very good, and service was friendly and fast. The place has both indoor and outdoor seating. Being a dairy place, there are milkshakes, soft serve, and hand dipped ice cream. Our check was $20.77. Highly recommended, enough that we went a second time to score a burger for Raegan, and a second burger for Erin.

Maverick’s Grille, Granby, CO

17 July 2014

Maverick's Grille on Urbanspoon

While visiting Granby last evening, I needed some dinner. This place was perfect.

I started with a cup of pork chili verde soup. Excellent. The spice level was perfect, and the mix of chili verde was darn fine. My main course was a half pound cheeseburger. I was asked how I wanted it cooked (a nice touch); I specified medium well. Here is my only gripelet: it came medium rare. Being the risk taker that I am, I ate it anyway. It was a great burger, with good texture, and great beef flavor. The fries were pretty good as well.

Service was right on the money, and the iced tea was great. My check was $18.09. I’d eat here again any time.

Johnny Macs, Littleton, CO

14 July 2014

Johnny Mac's Cafe on Urbanspoon

This place was great! We stopped here on our trip to Grand Lake, CO, to grab some very tasty food.

Erin and I got cheeseburgers. Wonderful. Great flavor, good texture, a burger done right. Raegan got a BLT and her only complaint was it was too larger (I tried it, really good!). The onion rings were perfect, and I really enjoyed the fries also. The place has fry sauce, yummy.

The iced tea was excellent. The milkshake Erin got, and the malt Raegan got, were reported as excellent. Service was fast and very friendly. This place is great! Our check was $28.96.

Driving the Eastern Texas Panhandle

13 July 2014

We came to Colorado Springs yesterday with a slightly different path. Coming west on I-40, we hopped off on OK 6 at Elk City.

As we drove along towards Texas, I was amazed at the number of fracking facilities; it was comparable to what we saw in NW Oklahoma a couple weeks ago.

After we got into Texas, it changed. The number of fracking facilities increased dramatically. Instead of seeing them every half mile or so, there were five or six visible ALL THE TIME. The number of big trucks on the road was huge. The number of VERY large drilling rigs visible from the road was amazing (we would sort of like to see one of those “portable” rigs being trucked along).

We got to Wheeler, and then Pampa, and were amazed. This was not the flat terrain of most of the rest of the Texas panhandle; it was increasing crenelated. Especially in the Pampa area, there was significant relief.

We also were amazed at the number of refineries along the route. We counted seven, and most of those were very large.

There were also a number of wind farms.

I was glad we took this slightly different route across the Texas Panhandle, it opened our eyes to something we had no idea was there.


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