People Acting Stupid About Obama, Again

28 May 2016

President Obama was in Japan the past couple days, and he visited the city of Hiroshima and made a speech.  I’ve read it, it’s here on the White House website.

I find it troublesome that in the past two days I’ve seen no less than four separate posts on Facebook that make the claim that President Obama somehow apologized for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.  “Likes” and comments from people I respect show that they apparently believe the claim of an apology.

It find it very sad that otherwise intelligent people just blindly pass along this tripe.  The speech was televised, and a transcript is available to read.  There isn’t anything in the speech that even resembles an apology.  Yet what I can only assume is blind hatred and unthinking loyalty to conservatism or republicanism or something equally stupid makes these people believe the claim.

The so-called “apology tour” that Obama supposedly embarked on at the start of his Presidency has been debunked over and over, and still unthinking “conservatives” cling to it as an article of faith.  I asked a couple of them to show me video or audio that supports the apology tour claim, and they couldn’t.  Debunk sites are “biased”, I’m told.

It’s pathetic that people give such blind credence to stuff like this.  A couple months ago, I posted on Facebook that people really should fact check stuff before posting it.  A guy who I respect for his service and his intelligence, but is conservative, shot back “Who are you to tell people what to post?”.  This kind of response is sad in that I would assume that people would want to be truthful, but I guess that the ability to repost stuff without caring if it is true or not, just so long as it hurts the President or someone else politically, it more important than integrity.

For myself, I would rather not be led by the nose by any media or “leader”, and keep my integrity.

Cool Things From The Air, DFW-SAT-PHX-SLC-DFW

28 May 2016

Note:  I found this draft post from April 2015 on my blog, and decided I ought to finish it.  I seem to remember I was trying to pin down the exact location of one of the photos.  Oh well.

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I was on travel the past week [note, actually 13-17 April 2015], and saw some interesting things from the window seat.

The photos are on my Google+ site here.

I saw the very pretty Lake Belton in central Texas, followed shortly by downtown Austin.

I was astounded at the amount of mining going on between Austin and San Antonio.  I went hiking at a park west of San Antonio a couple years ago, and passed several mining operations, and saw more from the air flying in and out.

One facility right outside one of these mines caught my eye.  The Bexar Concrete facility had a lot of what looked like tubes outside it, but on closer Google Maps examination, I think the “tubes” are highway overpass beams.

On Wednesday I flew from SAT to PHX.  I was astounded by the number of oil facilities along the way.  I’ve seen some of those when flying from DFW to SAN, but the sheer number are amazing.

I also saw the very dense King Mountain Wind Farm.  King Mountain looks to me more like a mesa.

We continued north of PHX towards SLC.  Over Williams, I saw a sun reflection off a track track, it was very cool.

I had high expectations of seeing Grand Canyon shortly thereafter.  It was clear, and the network of canyons to the south of Grand Canyon  (Havasu Creek) was clearly visible.

[This, BTW, is what led me to not completing this post.  I was trying to identify this odd structure that I thought was right on the Canyon rim.]

Odd_structure

Right after the picture of Havasu Creek, we ran over clouds that blanketed Grand Canyon.  Very annoying.  I thought the structure above was right on the north rim, but today, I did a little dead reckoning using time instead of airspeed, and that analysis placed that structure near Jacob Lake.

Next I started looking for some structures that I thought to be near Bryce Canyon, but again I had no luck finding the exact location.

For the return from SLC to OKC (via DFW), I was lucky enough to get a great shot of Philmonts Baldy Mountain, and a canyon between there and DFW.

I’ll keep looking for the stuff near Grand Canyon, I really want to find it.

Running A Laptop As A Virtual Machine

27 May 2016

This is a post I started back in March, I’m just now finishing it:).

I’ve been carrying a series of work-issued laptops for more than 15 years.  About six years ago, the Air Force issued me an HP 6930p.  It is a workhorse and worked well for me.  My company issued me an HP 6570b back in December, and after I changed contracts in March, I turned the 6930p back in with some regret.

I had previously backed up all the work files from the 6930p to the 6570b, that was easy. But I had some apps I wanted to have access to on the 6930p that I could not transfer. Since I didn’t want to buy an aftermarket 6930p, and I sure didn’t want to carry two laptops, I decided the best way to keep those apps around was to virtualize the 6930p.  I did some research and decided I would install a second disk in the 6570b.  I bought a laptop 2TB disk and a drive carrier, and started experimenting.

The first thing I did was install disk2vhd on the 6930p.  I told it to capture the disk, and off it went, this was about 2100.  From the progress bar, it looked like it would take about three hours to capture the disk.  I let it run overnight.  At 0200, W10 installed updates and rebooted, so that killed the capture.  I started it again the next afternoon, and at 1700 it was still running.  I carried the running computer out to my car while it kept capturing, and it was still capturing at home at 2300 when I went to bed, and at 0700 the next morning.  Hmmm…

I killed the process, and went looking for info.  Turns out that is common behavior by disk2vhd.  OK.  I noted the vhdx file was about the right size, and so I though WTH and tried to mount it.  Windows told me it was already mounted.  It would not un-mount.  That meant I could not copy it.  I restarted the computer with System Rescue CD, mounted the W10 drive, and copied the vhdx file off to a thumb drive.  So far, so good.  It was interesting that Windows found the vhdx file and auto-mounted it.

A note, I tried the disk2vhd program several times to try to get it to terminate.  I tried changing the output to vhd, and several other things (it’s easy to let the machine run overnight for tests like that).  Disk2vhd never properly terminated, but it still produced good files.

In the meantime, I was getting the 2TB drive ready.  I decided I would like to have my old friend Fedora running again, so I downloaded Fedora 22 and installed it.  But, it would not get the laptop wireless working.  Yum didn’t work at all (weird, that one).  A couple of other devices were not working.  I played with it a couple days on and off, and eventually got annoyed, and downloaded Ubuntu 14.04 workstation (I run 14.04 server on the school server, so that was a good match).

I had to use diskpart to hammer the existing Fedora installation install, for some reason Ubuntu wouldn’t overwrite the disk.  I built Ubuntu, and at the very end, it noted that it was installing GRUB.  I booted Ubuntu and it worked great, all devices worked, looking good.  Except, Ubuntu or GRUB had reached out to the other physical disk and wiped it out, very annoying.  I got that disk fixed, then came back and re-installed Ubuntu on the 2TB disk with the W7 disk completely removed from the computer and locked into a lead-lined vault (just kidding about that last).

I downloaded VMWare VirtualBox and installed it.  Then I copied the vhdx file over to the Linux disk.  I tried starting it, and VirtualBox helpfully told me to change the BIOS setting of the computer to support virtualization.  I rebooted, made the BIOS change, got back into VirtualBox, and started the VM, and… it started.  Just like that.  Just like that.  Whoa.

I was presented with my W10 login screen, and logged in.  There was my W10 desktop, surrounded by Linux.  Weird, and cool.

When it started, VirtualBox had showed several messages about keyboard and mouse capture, but they both worked equally with Linux and the VM.  The VM was connected to the wired network connection that Linux had, no problem (and I found later that it worked great when Linux was on a wireless connection as well).

There are a couple oddities.  The video driver that the VM uses isn’t the 6930p video card, so instead of a 1280×800 display (wide) I get a 1024×768 (I looked very briefly about installing a virtual driver but didn’t follow up).  One app (my Garmin Basecamp GPS mapping tool) complains that it can only run in 2D mode instead of 3D mode due to the video, but I don’t notice any difference.

W10 boots a little slower, but once booted it runs pretty darn fast.  I haven’t been able to get the VM to recognize USB drives.  Linux and VirtualBox recognize them, but the configuration setting doesn’t pass the drive through to the VM.  I’ve made up for that by using Google sites and Google drive to pass data into and out of the VM.

In the VM, I used a license crawler tool to get the MS Office license, then I removed Office (I use Office on my W7 laptop, and LibreOffice in Linux, no issues transferring between the two).  That Office license will go to upgrade Raegan’s office on her desktop.

I don’t know how long I will use the W10 VM.  I made an effort to ensure that my Ubuntu would do the same stuff that the W10 would do.  There have been two things I’ve had issues with, one is a replacement (or rehosting) of the Garmin Basecamp tool, and the other is a tool to convert a series of JPEG images captured from a wireless camera into an MPEG format for viewing.  I have access to an XP machine to do that right now, and it works OK.

So the virtualization effort was pretty painless.  The VM, when it is running, doesn’t impact my Ubuntu performance.

I might virtualize my W7 installation and see how it works next…

Past and Inherent Racism

27 May 2016

So Louisiana has passed a law that designates crimes against police as hate crimes.  This follows a lot of blather, mostly on the right, about how “all lives matter” and “police lives matter”, and most of that is in direct reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement that developed in the wake of numerous incidents of black people being killed by police, including some egregious examples of unarmed blacks being killed by heavily armed white police.

These counter-movements are examples of the inherent racism still practiced by many Americans.  White-dominated law enforcement has far more weapons (to include physical weapons, and the weapons of law, which include the ability to arrest on little pretext) than the citizenry in general.  The rate of police officers shot or injured or killed is far, far less than the rate of citizens shot, injured, or killed.

Further, the use of the hate crime is limited to a specific set of crimes.  Per the FBI,

A hate crime is “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin”.

On the one hand conservatives want to exclude transgender people from protection, although they are clearly part of the sexual orientation clause, and on the other hand, they want to add police to this list.  Each category has a history of official oppression.  There is no history of oppression of police, and in fact, there are many examples where the police have been the oppressors, or protectors of oppressors.

So the Louisiana action is essentially shooting the finger at blacks.  It is inherently racist.

If black lives mattered to all, the Black Lives Matter movement would not be necessary.  As I have said before, the long history of oppression of our black citizens (and that also get’s ignored, they are our fellow citizens and should have equal rights) has not been corrected from a societal or economic basis.  Oppression is more subtle now, but it’s still there, and opportunity still is not available to all equally, starting with education, and leading to jobs.

That’s the real issue here, not some knee-jerk racist response to supposedly protect the civil rights of police.

Trump and [Not] Thinking Ahead

27 May 2016

I have been listening to coverage of various news events, and of course Mr. Trump has some commentary on them.

Listening to that commentary, I have come to the conclusion that a big problem with Trump being President is that he has no long term view on pretty much anything.

His commentary about it’s good for foreign leaders to be “rattled” about him is that it’s a good thing, as it’s better for foreign leaders to be off balance.  I think that his whole persona of “deal maker” is that he makes deals in a vacuum and then moves on, and once the paperwork is signed, that is a done deal, and he moves on to the next.

That’s not really a good model for running the United States.  There are customs and policies that have been in place for many decades, and that includes treaties and alliances with other countries.  I’m sure that his first consideration is to foreign leaders he has a beef with (think Iran, Mexico, all of Islam), but a lack of forethought leaves him to lump all foreign entities together.

This might be the reason that he hasn’t articulated much it the way of foreign or domestic policy, but instead a couple generalities.

It’s also related to his bully persona, shouting people down, calling people names (“Pocahantas”), and the like.  Not much in the way of thinking ahead.

He would make a lousy President.  He’s already a very, very bad example of an American.

Backpacking Robber’s Cave State Park, OK

20 May 2016

Summary:  Six miles and 500 ft of backpacking a beautiful park with a group of great Girl Scouts.

Photos are on my Google+ site here.

Last weekend, the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma (GS-West) High Adventure Team (HAT) had a Beginners Backpacking trip to Robber’s Cave State Park in eastern Oklahoma.

One cool thing, this was Edition 2 of this trip.  The first trip, about a month ago, maxed out and had a waiting list, so we did a second one.

We got to camp Friday evening around 1900.  We had reservations at the Equestrian Camp.  This was pretty cool.  We were at the south end of the camp in a large grassy area under big trees, with a couple picnic tables to sit at.  Very nice, real bathrooms (with showers), and lots of horses to look at.  The Ranger came and checked on us, and he let us know about the need for a backcountry permit that we were not aware of.

Here’s the skinny:  we wanted to leave our cars at the trailhead at the Cave.  That area gets locked up each night, but you can park there.  We scored a permit form from the park office, put all three of our cars on one form, and left it on the dash of one of the cars.

The next morning, we got up, had a trail breakfast, packed, and headed over to the Cave area.  There were a LOT of people there at 0930, including a Cub Scout Pack and at least three Boy Scout Troops.

We let the Scouts head up on the wonderful rocks to warm up a bit, then we shouldered our packs and headed out from the trailhead, which is on the south side of the parking area.

It’s a nice trail to walk on.  The last time I hiked it, I missed a turn that headed up hill, and the same thing happened to our girls.  We had lunch at the bottom of Rough Canyon, and took a shortcut up a road to get to Cattail Pond, and eventually found our way around the loop to Lost Lake.

What a beautiful campsite!  I hiked past Lost Lake a couple years ago.  It’s a great campsite, with tall, beautiful trees, pine needles all over the ground that are great to sleep on, a couple big fire rings, and that pretty lake in front of you.  I walked all the way around the lake, it was very peaceful.

The next morning we got up and hiked back to Robber’s Cave, played on the rocks for a while, and headed back to OKC.

There was a LOT of water around on this trip, numerous small streams, Lost Lake and Cattail Pond, and Rough Canyon.  We had little in the way of bug problems, but a couple of the girls ran across ticks.  There was quite a bit of poison ivy around as well.

This was a really nice backpacking trip.  A little altitude gain, a nice trail that was easy to follow.  It might be possible to get a 10-miler out of this trail, if you figure-8 around Rough Canyon.

TSA and Long Lines

17 May 2016

In all the news stories about super long lines at some airports, there is little in the way of discussion as to why the lines are long in the first place.

There has been some talk about the need to hire more TSA “screeners” (they are really searchers, but use the term screeners to dodge the Constitutional issue), but I think that is just a dodge.

If you travel much, you can observe that most TSA checkpoints are way overstaffed.  I’ve been through numerous checkpoints, and there are maybe three people actually in contact with travelers:  the ID checker, the x-ray machine runner, and the strip-search machine viewer.  In almost every case, there are other TSA people standing and watching those three people.

In OKC, the last time I flew, there were three ID checkers, and two other TSA people standing  behind them and watching them.  There were two people who told everyone over and over to remove their shoes and such.  The strip-search machine operator had a second person watching the first person (and the damn machine identified the back of my head as a threat, which got me a full-body pat-down).  There were two x-rays operating, and each had a second person watching then operator.

There were others hanging about the screening area generally watching, I think about four.

So why does TSA apparently not trust the people who don’t trust the travelers?  There is so much TSA could do, for example get rid of the strip-search machines, which are slow and alert on stupid stuff like wrinkles in socks, every one of which get’s you a patdown, which further slows the line.

It’s not really about security to them.  Remember the lady in OKC who went through “security” wearing a bikini?  She was denied boarding.  She clearly had no weapons, so it clearly was retaliation for her making a statement.  The million-dollar strip search machines alert on a piece of paper in your pocket.  Where’s the threat?  The magnetometers are good enough for Pre-Check people, why are they not good enough for everyone?  They are known technology, far less expensive, and faster.

TSA is a disaster.  The strip-search machines probably got some people promoted and made a hell of a lot of money for some contractor, and still are making money for the contractor to maintain them, but they didn’t increase security one bit.  If they did, they would be used for Pre-Check as well.  TSA also ought to have more lanes open, and stop using TSA people to watch TSA people.

Their lack of accountability is astounding.  Congress, where are you?

Troop 15 Backpacking Horsethief Springs Loop, 15-17 April 2016

1 May 2016

Summary:  17.4 miles over two days of hiking, along with 2,400 ft of altitude gain (and loss).

The Extreme 15 patrol of BSA Troop 15 had a great 18 mile backpacking trip from Cedar Lake to Horsethief Springs to the Billy Creek trail system a couple weeks ago.

My photos are on Google+ here.

We met at First Presbyterian Church at 1600 and left at 1630 on Friday.  After a dinner stop in Sallisaw, we got into Cedar Lake at 2030, and stumbled around a bit to find a campsite.  We ended up on the north loop near a boat ramp and got camp set up quickly.  Everyone was crashed by 2200.  There is no cell service for AT&T down there.

We were up the next morning at 0800, packed up, and had trail breakfast to include tea, hot chocolate, and coffee.  We left at 0930 and stumbled around a bit to find the trailhead.  The maps and directions are not the best.  For reference, the trailhead is here:

Horsethief Springs Trailhead

The trail generally bounces around up and down until you cross Holson Valley Road, and then it’s a nice slope up.  We took the east side of the Horsethief Springs loop trail, which goes down into a valley through which flows Cedar Creek.  The Creek had plenty of water and would have been a good water source.

There is an extensive network of horse trails that look like they would be good for day hikers as well, in the valley and at some points closer to the springs.

The trail contours around, generally heading south.  We passed one or two small creeks that had good water, but several other creeks that were dry.

There is a decent climb of several hundred feet up to Horsethief Springs.  Trail maps provided by the USFS are not terribly clear, and even Google Maps representation of the Ouachita Trail is not correct.  Once you are up near the springs, you cross the Ouachita trail, and keep going up another couple hundred yards to get to the springs.  Just a note, we came back this way the next day, and then took the Ouachita west to the west loop, and maybe a half mile along the trail is another spur that leads up to the springs in a west approach.

Anyway, we had lunch up there and pumped water from the springs to refill water bottles.  The springs are surrounded by a big wall, but there wasn’t much flow so it wasn’t full.  Another area about 100 ft downhill was full and would be much easier to pump from.  There is decent AT&T cell service there.  We had coverage until we went back north over the ridge the next day.

We saw a Venture crew from OKC there, doing the whole loop with backpacks as a shakedown for a Philmont trip this summer.

After lunch, and seemingly innumerable visits to the potties, we headed out on the next let.  The trail down into the Billy Creek system is not marked.  You have to walk to the west end of the parking area, cross OK 1, and then walk farther west just a bit to find the trail down.

It’s fairly steep heading down the south side of the ridge.  We came to a nice camp area next to a small stream at a trail junction.  There was excellent water about 200 ft farther along the trail.  In retrospect, I think we would have been better to set up camp at that good water area.  Our camp was very near the trail where we were.  We had some nice steepish areas to our south, and we were completely out of the wind, which we could hear up in the trees.

We built a fire right before Sun went down, had dinner, and then hung a bear bag.  We hung around the fire for a while, and everyone hit the sack about 2100.  This day was a hike of 8.5 miles.

We had been watching the weather very closely for more than a week.  We had tried to do this same trip in May 2015, but 10+ inches of rain in the week before, then several more inches during the week, had cut off the trail at Cedar Creek, and perhaps some of the crossing creeks, so we didn’t even try.  There had been heavy rain forecast for Saturday evening and all day Sunday a week out,  but as we got closer, the storm system slowed down, and the rain was forecast to start Sunday anywhere from 1000 on.  So we decided to shake everyone out at 0630 Sunday, and we broke camp first, before breakfast.  That way we had a good chance of not packing in a rainstorm, even if we might be hiking in one.

We hit the trail for the return at 0730, and started the 600ft climb back up to the Skyline Drive.  It was pretty sweaty climbing up.  The air felt quite humid, and there wasn’t a lot of wind until we got up on the ridge.  The guys ate some snacks and rested a bit after the climb, and then we hoisted our packs again and headed down the trail.

When we left the springs area, we walked several hundred yards down to the junction with the Ouachita Trail, and headed west for a bit over a mile.  This part of the trail contours along the ridge, with some up, some down, some flattish.

Once we got to the junction with the west loop of the Horsethief Springs trail, we turned right and headed downhill.  90% of this was downhill.  We passed a number of equestrian trail junctions.  At one point, there was a “scenic loop” off to the left, that rejoined the west loop right before the loop junction.  We hiked past some tall Ozark rock formations that I would guess the Scenic Loop goes up and over.  I would have tried to have us take the loop, but the sky to the west was steadily darkening, and the wind was getting stronger.

One thing I’ve not seen before:  The Scouts were hiking along, and the adults were bringing up the rear.  We were hiking through a burned area, and came upon one of our Scouts, lying on his back, wearing his backpack.  We started talking smack to him, but shortly realized that he was… asleep.  It took some cajoling to wake him and get him on his feet.  He completed the hike just fine, but passed out cold in the car for the ride back.

We rolled back into the trailhead parking lot after having walked in drizzle for about a half hour.  We quickly changed into dry clothes, loaded our gear, and headed out.  We got lunch at Braum’s in Heavener and ran into the incoming deluge close to Warner.  The hike back in was 8.8 miles, since the west part of the loop is a bit longer than the east part.

So the backpacking worked out well from the weather standpoint.  Highs were in the 70s and lows in the low 60s, no significant rain, and mostly cloudy so no sunburn.  Little problem with bugs.  Good water when we needed it.

Several of the Scouts earned the Backpacking Merit Badge on this trip.  We had a couple new backpackers on this trip, who did well in spite of getting a bit on the tired side (one of the new backpackers was the guy we found asleep on the trail).

This was a very nice trip.  I think that next time we might go down into the rest of the Billy Creek system, as our campsite down there was quite pretty.

Adventures In Ubuntu, VMs, and GPS

21 April 2016

NERD ALERT:  Nerdy talk follows!

Since I switched my HP laptop to Ubuntu Linux, I have made a fairly smooth transition in terms of software. I can get company email via webmail (using a security token for the connection), even though the webmail is Microsoft Outlook Web Access and the browser is Chrome. In the past couple days, I’ve used LibreOffice to build briefings, create documents, and read stuff for work, used various Google apps to transfer files around, and generally had a problem-free transition. There are a couple nits. One thing that sounds silly, I edit pictures quite a bit. In Windows, I could use Paint to add text and draw lines that are pointers. In Linux, GIMP does the text just fine, but it doesn’t draw lines. I’ll figure that out.

The one thing that’s weird is working with GPS files. I do a lot of GPS work for planning hiking and backpacking, and then downloading the saved tracks from the trips. Those require a bit of editing to clean them up, join tracks from each day, and the like.

We just got back from a nice trip to Eastern Oklahoma, and it was a bit of an effort to get the tracks out of the two GPS units. I carried a Garmin GPSMap60, and Ian carried a Garmin GPS62s.

I’ve tried a couple Linux tools to extract the tracks (via a USB connection), and had trouble getting them to recognize the devices. I also tried to install the Garmin Basecamp tool I’ve used forever using Wine, and had no luck. One tool (QmapShack) I tried to install from source, and between requiring a specific version of cmake and other oddities I couldn’t get it to work. I tried installing the Windows version, but it requires the Visual C redistributable, and that wouldn’t install. So that was just Too Hard.

BTW, the command I used was:

gpsbabel -t -i garmin -f usb: -o gpx -F [trackname.gpx]

In the end, I decided to use the Basecamp tool that was in the Virtual Machine of my previous HP 6930p, which I had brought into Virtual Box under Ubuntu. The problem was trying to get the GPS tracks to the VM. I tried some stuff to make the GPS units visible to Basecamp under VirtualBoxm, no way. With the 60, it took an obscure command line using GPSBabel (which was installed on the computer when Ubuntu was installed to get the track data our and into Linux. The same didn’t work for the 62s. Turns out the 62s mounts as a USB stick as far as Ubuntu is concerned, and the track data is in a folder a couple levels deep.

So now I had the files, but still needed to get them to Basecamp. USB sticks were tried with no luck. I’m pretty sure the stick(s) were visible to the VM, but they didn’t show up.

In the end, it took a roundabout way. My laptop had Apache installed on it. I made a connection to WiFi (that got an IP address for the laptop). Then I copied the two GPX files to the root of the web server and started Apache. I went to the VM, fired up a Windows command prompt, and could ping the IP address the laptop had from the WiFi. I fired up Chrome, typed the IP address, added the filename of each GPX. That got them downloaded.  They came in from Chrome with an additional xml extension (so they look liker gpsmap60.gpx.xml), but a rename fixed that.

Then I fired up BaseCamp and imported the tracks, and editing worked well.  Once the tracks were in and edited, I displayed them on a topo map, and as an altitude plot.  In both cases, I did a screen capture of the display that included the Windows VM, and the capture was saved in the pictures folder of the Linux box.  From there, I brought the captures up in GIMP for annotation, and from there they went to Google+ with the photos I took on the hike.

This was all pretty cool and easy for me, but I think for a non-geek it would have been sorta hard.

Sonic Got A Little Better

8 April 2016

Yesterday I was in a meeting that went a little long, and I needed to get lunch before another meeting at 1300.  I decided to head to a Sonic just a little way from here and grab a frito chili pie.

When I got there, I saw their ads for the new, improved cheeseburger.  Words like “Destined to become your new favorite”, and “All new cheeseburger perfection”.

I’ve written before (well, several times) about the state of Sonic cheeseburgers.  They used to be sooooo good, and in the past couple years, they are so very bad.  I typically only hit Sonic for breakfast (an excellent breakfast burrito), drinks, or a hot dog.  But sitting there waiting to order, I saw the ad material referenced above, and decided that a chance needed to be given.

So I ordered a Super Sonic Cheeseburger with mayo and lettuce only (they use shredded lettuce, which is what I like).  I have to say that the burger was much better than in the recent past.  This burger still lacked any real crust or texture, but it had better (not a great deal better) flavor.  So there was apparently more meat than sawdust (or whatever filler they’ve been using) on this burger.

So, Sonic.  If your people read this, please up the game a couple times.  First, have the cooks turn the darn grill up a few degrees, and get some crustification (is that a real word?) going on that beef.  While you are at it, have the green eyeshade people pry a few more pennies per burger out and get some better flavor.

The bun, by the way, is OK.  DO NOT go to the gummy disaster that is a Braum’s bun.

I will try another couple Sonic burgers to see if the the one I had was a fluke.  But… the advertising is false.  This was *not* cheeseburger perfection, and it will not become my favorite; there’s a long ways to go there.

Hijacked!

8 April 2016

Well, crap. A couple days ago, I noted that the St. John’s server was acting very slow. I waited until the evening to check on what was happening, and around that time saw a huge number of email bounce messages from various email providers like AT&T and Cox. Something was wrong.

I quickly found out that St. John’s was being the source of thousands of spam messages, headed all over the globe.  I killed the mail server program Postfix, and the spam stopped, and the system sped up significantly.

I spent a couple days on and off trying to find where the spam was coming from.  I did network sniffing at both the external and internal network cards, but all I found was the normal traffic I would expect (i.e. nothing was feeding the server from either the big bad Internet, or from inside the building).

It quickly got to the point where no effective email service was available due to our being put on a couple blocklists.  And the CPU on the server, which is also a router to get people in the building out on to the Internet, was being eaten by the bot which was clearly running inside the server.

Now, there are many thousands of Windows malware, including virii, bots, and the like.  There are only a couple that affect Linux boxes.

I had been working with our ISP (Cox) on this.  I had one hint from them, that we had the Alureon (AKA TDSS) virus.  They also gave me an IP address for the virus command server (a computer in Russia).  I blocked that IP address for both sides of our connection using IPTables.  But Alureon is a Windows virus, not Linux.  I download a tool to check and literally hit every machine in the building, nothing.  So that left a couple laptops.  But I don’t think that this was a valid hint, as the spam kept coming even when I pulled the RJ-45 out of the building network connector.

One of the blocklists told me that I had a Grum botnet client.  Again, it’s a Windows based bot, so who knows.

Finally, I gave up.  I had read over and over that rootkits on Linux were nearly impossible to find and eradicate.  I shut down every service on the computer, pulled the config files and logs off, and then wiped the machine and reinstalled Ubuntu.

I went back and got the basic machine running, created users, changed every password.  I ensured that I had a good firewall running, but setting up IPTables to let only a certain number of ports through, and zorching everything else.

Next I got the email back going.  When I installed, I had specified a mail server (Postfix) and a LAMP setup.  While those were helpfully running after install, I shut them down (except the web server).

I had installed several packages from the Ubuntu software center in the week or so leading up to this, so naturally I wondered if that was the attack vector.  I have not reinstalled those packages.

I spent time last evening and today working to get us off the various blocklists, and that seems to be going OK.  When I get some time, I am going to try to look through the logs and determine where the attack came from.

I’ve always had a great deal of faith in Linux (in fact, I recently switched my laptop to Linux only and have been very happy with it), but this incident has me a little paranoid.  One thing I will do in the next day or so, when the system is quiet, is to clone the drive so that I can restore it quickly if this happens again.  I will also do some research to see if I can find out what I might have missed while setting things up and running them.  I also need to get the extra stuff going I had before.

Judy’s Cafe, Garland, TX

27 March 2016

Judy's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’m only two weeks behind with this one!

I was in the Dallas area last week, and had dinner at Judy’s. I think I ate here once several years ago.

I had the hamburger steak. I asked that the onions be well cooked, but when the mail came, there were large pieces of onion that were not cooked at all, and a few smaller pieces that were. The hamburger steak and gravy were very good. I had asked for the steak to be medium well, and it came medium rare to medium.

I sent Raegan a text and told her to sue to place if I died of food poisoning:).

The mashed potatoes and gravy were very good, and the side veg (corn) was also. I had a cup of very good vegetable beef soup to start.

Service was a little slow and on the curt side. My check was $9.73. Not a bad place, I would like to try breakfast.

Five Star BBQ, Stroud, OK

27 March 2016

Five Star BBQ & Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and I are headed to Muskogee, it was near lunch, and we were passing through Stroud, so Five Star seemed like a good choice.

He got the small (3 ribs) dinner, and I got a two meat with ribs and choppoed brisket. The ribs first. I think they were smoked fast or finished on a grill. That being said, they had decent flavor and were tender. They had little bark and little smoke flavor. I rated them as an 7.5 on a scale of 1 to JTs.

The brisket was chopped a little finer than I usually like (which is 1/2″ or so chunks), but it was tender and had great flavor, without a single piece of gristle.

Ian had fries as one side, and I had green beans. Both were OK. We both had “baked beans” as our second side, but they were really pintos cooked with brisket, and a distinct flavor of chili. REALLY good!

Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $31.16. Pretty good BBQ if you are in Stroud.

The Voting Mess In Arizona

24 March 2016

A longtime friend of mine and his husband are Arizonans. They were caught up in the Presidential Primary voting debacle from this past Tuesday. Keith posted this:

Having been caught up in the madness of the voting quagmire that was Maricopa County yesterday, it would be easy to say that I never want to do that again. Stand in line for four hours, that is, versus never voting again. Voting is a right that too many people take lightly. The sheer numbers of people voting yesterday where I voted says, that yes, one vote can make a huge difference. I almost gave up at one point but then I thought, NO, that is handing a victory to those that created the mess. Whatever that victory was, budget cuts, consolidation, or plain and simple voter suppression.

Why would anyone think that you could eliminate over two-thirds of the polling places and it would be okay?

Let’s look at a very unscientific and very conservative analysis of the numbers:
The Maricopa County Recorders website says they serve over 1.9 million voters. That is almost one half the population of Maricopa County. Now, we know that all 1.9 million will not show up to vote, let’s take half just for sake of argument. That is still probably too many but stay with me here on this analysis. I must digress a bit to say that for some reason it was decided to have only 60 polling places instead of 200 for yesterday. OK. So, that means that there are 15,833 voters per polling place. And let’s further assume that thirty percent of those used early voting, that brings the number down to around 11,000 per polling place (the 60 number). The pooling places are only open 12 hours, 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, so if you divide 11,000 by 12 you get 924 voters per hour for EACH polling place. That translates to 15 voters per minute…. That is with only six voting booths at the polling place I used. How does that possibly make sense? If we cut that number in half it is still impossible to achieve the goal of giving everyone the opportunity to vote.

Let’s not even consider the issues encountered such as slow check-in process (not the fault of the poll workers), running out of Democratic ballots (at my polling place, while there were piles and piles and piles and piles of Republican ballots), and still only six voting booths.

Clearly, something other than saving money was at the root of all of this madness. I saw a number of people give up and leave. That is not acceptable. If even one person is denied the right to vote, there is a problem and it is only getting worse.

Something must be done. Stand up for your right to vote. Contact the Maricopa County Recorder (http://recorder.maricopa.gov) and voice your displeasure (politely).

As for me, I will be signing up for early voting.on is denied the right to vote, there is a problem and it is only getting worse.

Something must be done. Stand up for your right to vote. Contact the Maricopa County Recorder (http://recorder.maricopa.gov) and voice your displeasure (politely).

As for me, I will be signing up for early voting.

The above was posted with permission.

Clearly, Keith, Ben, and hundreds of thousands of other Arizonans were screwed when it came to exercising their right to vote.  His post above has some cogent analysis of the issues.

Other facts:  the Maricopa Country County Recorder is a Republican.  The Arizona House and Senate are (and have been) controlled by Republicans.  Like other Republican statehouses, voter ID requirements have been passed, that disproportionately disenfranchise people of color, and people in lower economic classes.

This problem in Arizona is a direct result of Republican efforts to suppress voting.  Only Republicans see “voter fraud” in need of prevention, and only Republicans see the need to reduce early voting, reduce polling places, and similar voter suppression activities.

This has been an across-the-board effort, ranging from state (Republican) legislatures, to the (Republican-controlled) US House and Senate, to the (until recently Republican-controlled) SCOTUS, with various (Republican) groups bring suit in every way to gut the Voting Rights Act, change voting processes, and screw up primary voting.

I blame the Justice Department for not stepping in on these outrageous acts of voter suppression, but I blame Republicans more for their contempt for the Constitution and voters in this country.

Black Bear Diner, Salt Lake City, UT

24 March 2016

Black Bear Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had dinner here with work friends Monday evening. It was close to my hotel.

I had the roast beef dinner, with the standard sides. It was decent, mostly fork tender, and had decent flavor. It wasn’t the best roast beast I’ve had, but it was good for dinner that night. I had chicken soup instead of a salad.

The iced tea was OK. Service was really spotty. We didn’t get flatware until the meal was tabled, and getting drink refills was on the slow side.

My check was $17.88. I am on the fence here. I have been to a number of the Black Bear Diners in various parts of the West. I think that quality has been dropping, and I wonder if the BBD is falling to prepackaged food as a result of expansion. I hope not.

Moni’s, Edmond, OK

24 March 2016

Moni's Pasta & Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I know this was our second visit, but I also know it had been more than a year since out first. My friend Mark recommended Moni’s, and it was a good rec.

We got four copies of chicken parm this time. Three of them substituted fettuccine al fredo for the standard spaghetti with marinara. These were uniformly very good, and were all completely eaten except for part of Raegan’s, which went home and then to school for her lunch the next day.

The iced tea was great, and service was spot on (which is to say, not fast service like fast food, but relaxed). Our check was $74.40. A bit on the high side, but the food was good, so I would go back if I were in the north OKC/west Edmond area.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In the last post (I think) from Colorado Springs, I had lunch the last day there at Garbanzos. This is not necessarily a bad review, but it’s not the kind of food I generally go for. You might really like it. I didn’t think it was bad, but it didn’t appeal to me.

I had the chicken plate (bowl) with rice, tzatziki sauce, lettuce, pickles, and chips. The tea was not very good, so I switched that drink to Coke (IIRC).

Service is at the counter, and was very nice. My check was $11.17. Next time it’s suggested, I will probably go get some brisket at the nearby Bird Dog BBQ, but that’s just more to my taste.

Hacienda Villareal, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Hacienda Villareal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As part of my December trip to Colorado Springs, several people who had been stationed at Peterson AFB recommended this place for lunch. It was great! We had about 12 people.

I had Pork Chili Verde, and it was perfect. Not too spicy, with tender, flavorful pork chunks in a very tasty verde sauce. I had double beans, and they were pretty darn good as well.

Service was fast and friendly (it helped that we got in there at 1300, so the lunch rush was past). My check was $12.38. Great chow, I’d be happy to go back.

Rocco’s Italian, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Rocco's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tonight, I go back to 01 December 2015. I was in Colorado Springs on a business trip. I hit Rocco’s for dinner.

At the servers recommendation, I had beef stroganoff. It was… OK. I expect stro to have a rich, full flavor that is imparted by the sauce to slow-simmered beef. The beef was on the tough side, and the beef and the sauce were neither rich in flavor, nor was the flavor entirely pleasant. In fact, I didn’t finish the meal (if you know me, that’s really rare).

The iced tea was OK, and service was very friendly. My check was $21.42, which was too high given the quality of the meal.

I think I would be willing to give Rocco’s another try, this time for one of the Italian dishes. But the stroganoff was very disappointing.

Robert’s Restaurant, Salt Lake City, UT

23 March 2016

Roberts Restaurant & Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had dinner here this evening. It was very near my hotel, and pretty good.

I started off with a Caesar Salad. Good dressing, needed a bit less of the hard parts of the lettuce stalks.

I had a steak on my servers recommendation. I got the 10oz New York Strip, medium. It wasn’t fork tender, but on the other hand it was cooked a perfect medium, and had great flavor. The steak had a pile of very good mushrooms on it, and the sides were mixed steam veg and rice pilaf.

The iced tea was excellent, I am pretty sure it was Earl Grey. Service was just fast enough, and friendly. My check was $22.63. I would be glad to go back.

Another Example of Amazing Google Integration

23 March 2016

I was running errands in Salt Lake City yesterday, and saw two examples of pretty interesting integration that Android performed.

To set this up, I booked the trip up here Saturday afternoon.  As I always do, I emailed the reservation information from our company travel booking system to my personal email, which shows up on my phone.

The first example of integration was noticing that my Android-powered Galaxy S6 had apparently raided my email and extracted a pair of .ics (calendar) files, and put the calendar entries in my phone calendar.

Now, I have twice sent suggestions to American Airlines related to this.  When you ask American on their website to send you .ics files for a reservations, it sends one .ics file for each flight on the itinerary.  Say the flights are on 12 and 15 April, and are at 0830-0930 and 1015-1245 for the outbound flights on the 12th.  American sends four ics files that have the entire itinerary in them, and the dates are at midnight in every case.  Not very useful.

Android parsed out the exact flight times and put those in the calendar as separate entries, which is much more useful.

The second example of integration:

Screenshot_2016-03-21-16-21-51

I had fired up Google Maps to find a Target store in the SLC area.  Note the two markers for the Hilton Garden Inn and the Salt Lake City airport.  The dates of my stay at the Hilton, and my flight departure date and time at the airport, are correct.

So Google noticed the email with .ics entries, and was able to parse out the information, stash it in my calendar, and then associate it with Google Maps, without any input from me.

I find that pretty darn amazing.  I have felt for some time that location-based data is one of the best applications of technology, and this is a fine example of how location-based services can be useful.

JG’s Burgers, Dallas, TX

15 March 2016

J.G.'s Old Fashioned Hamburgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had been to a nearby store, so I hit JG’s. It wasn’t the worst burger around, but it wasn’t nearly the best, either. I had the single cheeseburger, with a side of onion rings. The rings first. I don’t know they were cut and breaded there, they were very uniform, and had little flavor. The burger was OK. It was a small patty on a big bun. One thing that was nice, a big bar to dress your burger. I used mayo; that was all I needed. Oh, and some pickles. Regardless, the burger had little texture and not much beef flavor. I sorta think I should have had a double.

My check was $10.88. Service was very friendly. I would go back if someone else wanted to, but I wouldn’t go on my own.

Bob’s BBQ, Paul’s Valley, OK

15 March 2016

Bob's Pig Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As I was headed from OKC to Dallas, I looked for a place to eat. I really wanted BBQ, and the couple places I looked at first were closed Monday. Bob’s wasn’t, though.

I had the three-meat combo, which was a couple pork ribs, some chopped brisket, and some roast pork loin. So, the brisket was the best. Largest chunks, very moist, good flavor, and tender. The loin next. Very good flavor, the largest part of the meal. Unfortunately, sort of dry and not very tender. Last, the ribs, since those are hardest to do. They were not the most meaty ribs I’ve had. They were tender in part of the meat, but there was also some very tough parts I could not chew through. There wasn’t much bark, and not a lot of flavor.

The meal came with some decent slaw, and my sides were pinto beans (very good) and potato salad (OK).

The iced tea was great, and service was right on the money and very friendly. My check was $16.46. I don’t know that I would rush back for the BBQ. But… the guys at the table next to me got some Mexican food that smelled great, and there were a number of other menu items such as burgers that have promise.

Trump and Inciting Violence

11 March 2016

I have watched the “progress” of the Republican primary with a combination of disgust, amusement, and dismay. It has been so light on addressing real issues faced by the country (not the least of which were caused by Republican policy, or lack of policy, or active impediment of the economy). The candidates constantly refer to each other by childish names. It’s pathetic.

Trump rallies are distinguished in that there have been numerous instances of protesters being physically abused. I’ve seen a number of these, and in no case did the protester physically threaten anyone.

In one particularly disgraceful instance, a media photographer was trying to get a photo of protesters being removed, and a man identified as a Secret Service agent grabbed the media person by the throat and threw him down. The SS guy was there to protect Trump, who was nowhere near.

The real problem here is Trump and how he manipulates people. He can stand on stage and talk about how physical violence was OK in the past, and protesters deserve what happens to him or her.

Then, when questioned about any incident, he falls back on stating he didn’t see anything, and no one has reported it to him. He has even followed up by stating the protester essentially had it coming.

I have also see and written about his treatment of a reporter who was asking him questions he found uncomfortable. He had the guy tossed, and then went on and on when questioned that the guy was “screaming”. I saw the whole episode, the guy was not in any way screaming, or even raising his voice. That seems indicative of the way that Trump will dodge questions he finds uncomfortable, by exaggerating or out and out lying.

The tack he is taking is the same cowardly tack taken by Republican “leaders” since Obama took office. When Republicans spouted something that was perceived to be damaging to Obama, they would say something to the effect of well, people have a bad impression of Obama, or they had strong feelings to express. This was always done without regard to the veracity of the claim. Birther bullcrap was a perfect example; both Boehner and McConnell fell back on claims that they hadn’t looked at the birth certificate, so they really couldn’t say.

This was used in many other ways to avoid taking a stand, or encourage the fringe element of the Republicans. Instead of discussing climate change, they would in unison say they weren’t scientists and so could not discuss the subject (I note that they still voted on the issues).

Trump is clearly playing on the fears of the easily led and easily scared. Avoiding talking about specific issues, and constantly harping on scare topics, gets a certain percentage of the low intelligence or easily scared voters flocking to him.

I hope that Hilary Clinton, when the general election campaign starts, goes after Trump (or whoever the Republican nominee is) with every one of these prevarications.

Zaxby’s, Oklahoma City, OK (NWX)

10 March 2016

Zaxby's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I read on Facebook Tuesday that a Zaxby’s had opened in NW OKC. I like fried chicken, so Raegan and I drove out there Tuesday evening after working at St. John’s a couple hours.

Zaxby’s sells chicken, and their own Zax sauce. I got a large plate (7 pieces), that came with slaw (undistinguished) and fried (not so good). The chicken was the star of the show. The breading was thin and flexible, like you would get on sweet and sour chicken at a Chinese place. The chicken had great flavor. The larger pieces were moist on the inside. Raegan had a Nibbler meal, which is essentially chicken sliders. She said they were OK. We also got (fried) cheese bites, OK.

All of the staff was super friendly. Our check was $25.97. If I was running errands and hungry, I wouldn’t mind hitting another Zaxby’s if I drove past one. I don’t know that I would go far out of my way, though.

A note about the staff. They were friendly. One of my bugaboos is saying “thank you” and getting a response of “no problem”. I didn’t hear that once at this restaurant, it was always “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure”. I like either of those much better.

Umi, Oklahoma City, OK

10 March 2016

Umi Sushi and Hibachi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place just opened up about a mile from work. I decided to have lunch here today.

I had Pork Kutsu, which is a pork cutlet breaded and deep fried. It was very good. The breading mostly stuck to the cutlet even after being cut into strips. It was served on a bed of a mixture of cabbage and salad leaves (which I really liked), and with tonkatsu sauce, which is like a thick Worcester sauce. The meal came with miso soup (as usual, a little more thin that a soup ought to be (:) ).

The iced tea was OK (on the weak side), and service was very friendly and fast. My check was $13.60. The tonkatsu comes in a lunch size for a couple dollars less. Good stuff.

Pepino’s, Okemah, OK

10 March 2016

Pepino's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place was great! I was headed from OKC to Muskogee yesterday, and I stopped in Okemah since it was right at lunch.

I had #58 Puerco con Chili Verde. Pretty much perfect. The pork chunks were very large, and they were also quite tender. Not a tough spot on the plate. The beans and rice were OK. The chili verde was outstanding. Raegan would have thought it too spicy, as we all have different levels of spice tolerance, but to me it was perfect. The flavor of the chili verde was cooked into the pork, and after the bite, the spice level dropped off quickly, leaving flavor. Great stuff.

The iced tea was good, service very quick. I was in and out in 25 minutes (mainly because I had a meeting to get to). I would happily stop by Pepino’s again.

Selling A House

10 March 2016

Not just any house, but the house my Mom and Dad lived in. They bought the house new back in the early 1990s and had it moved to the location in south Muskogee. They added a garage and a couple outbuildings shortly thereafter.

My Dad wasn’t there very long, he passed in 1996. My Mom lived there until she passed in 2012, and I became her executor and administrator. The nursing home near there had told me in 2013 that they wanted to buy the house and all the land around it to make more assisted living apartments, but that it wouldn’t for some time.

In the meantime, my Mom had specified in her will that a certain person would be allowed to live in the house until it was sold. He didn’t take care of it, and didn’t tell me about house problems.

Last summer, a friend of mine made a Facebook post that her niece needed a place to board a horse. I figured I wasn’t using the land around the house for anything, and my Mom had a guy who leased the land for horses for a while. I decided to offer my friend’s niece the land for the horse, for nothing. I like horses!

As I got to know the niece and her husband (and they were very nice), they started to think that the house and the land would make a nice home. After a couple months, we settled on a price.

So… I asked the guy living in the house to leave, as there were a lot of repairs to do. We (as in me and my family) and a high school friend who does home repair work took out old carpet, repaired stuff, got the power checked out, the gas checked out, leaks repaired, roof panels replaced, broken windows replaced. We found other problems, like a rotted subfloor that required a complete replacement.

In the meantime, I learned that land abstracts in Oklahoma are important. They cost a lot of money to generate. I found an attorney in Muskogee who knew how to get a house that was under probate sold. He also know how to do deeds and such.

It took months longer than I had thought to do all of this. I had budgeted money for fees and stuff, but way underbudgeted for abstracts and probate costs. I underestimated the budget for house repairs also, but not too badly. I’m not losing money on the sale, but I sure didn’t make much either!

Today we closed on the sale. It took about 20 minutes. Our attorney (Ron Wright) I can tell you can be highly recommended. He knows this stuff inside and out.

The probate process isn’t done yet, but the end is in sight. I need to do an “inventory”, but quite a bit of that is the house sale.

The house still has work I am responsible for. But I need to get the homeowners permission now! :) The main work that needs to be done is finish cleaning up trash that the guy who used to live in the house left behind. Ian and I have already filled up a total of 60 cubic yards (yes, sixty!), and we have a 15 yard container coming Friday, and hopefully we will get that this weekend. Part of the budget is new finished flooring. The couple who bought the house will put the flooring down, while I am buying the flooring, and they are painting.

As I drove home after the closing, naturally my thoughts turned towards what my parents would have thought of this. It’s natural to feel a little guilty about selling my parents house. I think I spent one night in that house, ever, when I was helping Mom with a garage sale she was having (my other visits to the area, I usually stayed in a hotel in Muskogee).

My overwhelming thought is that I’m glad that the house is in the hands of people who will take care of it. They are good people, a veteran and an animal lover, I like them.

I will be taking care of the rest of the probate, hopefully by the end of April.

Then I can move on to working on my own house, which has kind of been neglected for a year or so.

Luigi’s, Gainesville, TX

9 March 2016

Al's Luigi's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Note: this restaurant is one of the stealthy chain of Italian restaurants that is so very good.

Back on 02 January, we were headed back to OKC after a two-day retail run to Dallas. We had stopped in Sanger to eat at Babes, but they were packed. We tried a Mexican and Italian place there, but both were closed. We drove up I-35 to Gainsville to hit Fera’s, but it was closed. We ended up at Al’s or Luigi’s, and we were happy.

We did as we always do at these places, we ordered bread and marinara and al fredo and feasted. Along with Caesar salad. Ian and Erin had chicken parm, Raegan had manicotti, and I had Spaghetti the Works. All excellent.

The iced tea was great, service was great, the food was great. Our check was $40.21, great value. Recommended.

Sicily’s Pizza, McKinney, TX

9 March 2016

Sicily's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For our second stop in the north Dallas area, we hit Sicily’s on the way back home. It was GREAT! We were headed back home and picked Sicily’s as it was on the way home.

We started off with some bread we ordered, along with both marinara and al fredo to dip it in. And salads. All great.

Raegan got chicken parm, and I got fettuccine al fredo. Both oh, so, very good. We even liked the smells of the food being served around us. This place was good!

If I am in McKinney around a meal, this place will be very high on my list.  Yum.  Our check was $40.21.  Service was excellent and friendly.  The iced tea was excellent.  Recommended.

Sidewalk Bistro, Denton, TX

9 March 2016

Sidewalk Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This evening, we are going to two metro areas with long-delayed reviews. I start in the north Dallas area.

On 03 April 2015, which was Good Friday, Raegan and I headed down to the Dallas area for no reason that I can remember. We hit the Target in Denton as it carries some stuff Raegan likes to collect, then we hit lunch at the Sidewalk Bistro.

I got the CFS while Raegan got a BLT. Her BLT was OK, but the CFS was OK at best, pre-fabbed in some nameless factory.

The iced tea was OK but service was spotty at best. For this, we had a check for $29.18. I don’t get to Denton often during meal times, and this place will not be on my list of preferred spots.

Boom A Rang Grill, Bethany, OK

8 March 2016

In a third and final diner entry this evening…

Boomarang Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back on 16 January 2015, Troop 15 was having an aviation-themed camp at Wiley Post Airport. I was headed out that way and looking for dinner, when I saw the always-reliable Boom a Rang.

I had the Chicken Fried Steak, mashers, and the veg of the day. It was not the best CFS I’ve had, but it was pretty good (7.5 out of 10), had decent beef flavor, and was fork tender. I don’t know that it was hand breaded. The mashers and gravy were pretty good.

So was the iced tea, and service as well. My check was $11.15. Not bad.

Blue Plate Diner, SLC, UT

8 March 2016

Blue Plate Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Since I’m on a theme of diners…

Back on 30 September, I was on a business trip to SLC, and had been hiking in Little Cottonwood Canyon. I remembered that I had tried to have dinner at Blue Plate Diner back over the summer, but they had just closed when I got there. I was earlier this time.

I had a chicken fried steak, mashers, and green beans. Classic blue plate special. These guys claim country cooking. None of it was very good. That’s not to say it was bad, as in bad tasting. The problem was that none of the food had much of any flavor. The CFS was pretty tough. It had little flavor. The gravy was the right consistency, but again, little flavor. The iced tea was OK.

So, the meal was bland. I would not go back unless I somehow found out that they had upgraded their beef. The iced tea was OK, and service was friendly enough, although a touch on the slow side. My check was $15.54.

Shortcakes Diner, Stillwater, OK

8 March 2016

Shortcakes Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In this episode of Blog Catch-Up, we go to Stillwater. Last October, we had dinner at Shortcakes while visiting Stillwater.

All of us got breakfast of one kind or another except Ian, who had CFS. I had a bite of it, and it was pretty good. I had a Country Breakfast, which was eggs, bacon, hash browns, and pancakes. All excellent. Raegan had eggs and bacon.

All in all, a good breakfast. Our meal for four was $52.15. Service was fast. I would go back any time.

Another Small Step Forward for Equality

7 March 2016

In a case of small-minded bigots being defeated again, the SCOTUS unanimously (8-0) overturned a ruling by an Alabama court that a court in Georgia had no authority under Georgia law to recognize adoptions by a same-sex couple.

My understanding is that is sort of like a court in Texas overturning a traffic ticket in Oklahoma because the speed limit laws are different.

This is a new legal concept for me.  It’s referred to as “full faith and credit”,  and refers to recognition of actions performed under the law of another state.

Regardless, it’s yet another petty attempt by bigots to interfere with gay people in any way they can.

The fact is that there is nothing in being gay that makes a person any less of a parent.  Whether a gay person or couple has a child via technology or adoption, the gay person or couple should have the same rights as a straight person or couple.  No more, no less.

And no person in government should be trying to take away any of those rights just for the “sin” of being gay.

Bar D Chuckwagon, Durango, CO

4 March 2016

Bar D Chuckwagon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OK, just so you know, you don’t go here for the food. You go for the cowboy singing.

Bar D is a faux village from the American Old West. You show up in early evening and walk around and buy stuff. We were there 23 July 2015. Our Girl Scouts looked at all the shops and such, and then had more fun in the playground area running around.

I will say up front, again, the food is OK, but don’t go here expecting to get the best chow around. As they tell you, they can serve 700 people in 30 min, and in that situation, it isn’t fine dining.

You have three options for dinner: roast beef (which looked to me to be chuck roast braised in BBQ sauce), grilled chicken dipped in BBQ sauce, or (for an upcharge), a ribeye grilled to medium (although mine, Erin’s, and all I saw were medium well). The sides are a baked potato, applesauce, and baked beans. The objective is to get everyone through the line as fast as possible, so no customization.

One very impressive thing: the dining area is usually open-air on picnic tables. The entire area can be covered by a telescoping cover that rolls out from the back of the dining area, very impressive. We had a shower pass by while we were eating, and the cover deployed in about 30 seconds.

During the meal, you get seconds on beans and applesauce, and drinks are kept refilled by roving bands of servers.

After the meal and a dessert of cake, the entertainment begins. The show goes for about 45 minutes, and is five cowboys singing western songs and cracking jokes. They are pretty darn good singers.

So it was a fun experience. The best part was the entertainment, and the food was OK as a bonus. I would go back.

Brown Bear Cafe, Silverton, CO

4 March 2016

Brown Bear Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We stopped in here for lunch in Silverton on 22 July after touring the mine and walking through town. I only remember what three of the five of us had. Erin and I had cheeseburgers that were good if not spectacular. I also had some vegetable beef soup that was very good. One of our Scouts had a ribeye that she reported to be excellent.

The iced tea was good, and service was a bit on the slow side. Our check (for five) was $80.

Serious Texas BBQ, Durango, CO

4 March 2016

Serious Texas Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Can you tell I have some time on my hands this evening? Cranking out a bunch of catch-up posts. I’m going to end the evening with a trio of posts on meals we ate “out” while on the Girl Scout High Adventure Team (HAT) Durango Adventure last summer.

On Monday of the trip (20 July) the Scouts went whitewater rafting. Since I don’t find that appealing, Steve and I ran some errands for the crew, and since that was very tiring (:) ), we had to fill up on BBQ.

I had a half pound of brisket and an add-on rib. The rib was OK, surprisingly pretty good. The brisket was excellent, tender and smoky. I had cheesy potatoes (yes, that’s the name) for my side, and they were really good, especially after I mixed a little BBQ in.

Service is order at a counter and pick up from there. The iced tea was great! We picked a table next to an open window, we could see the Animas River and rafters cruising by. My check was $17.50. Great stuff.

This Iz It, Oklahoma City, OK

4 March 2016

This Iz It Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place is tucked in almost out of sight of 23rd. Ian and I had lunch here in June 2015.

We both had double cheeseburgers, and both were darn good. Ian had fries, I had tots. The burgers were nothing special, just a couple 1/8th lb patties fried up. But the beef was decent and well cooked.

Service was fast and friendly. We will go back. Our check for two was $15.00. Good stuff.

Favorites Cafe, Oklahoma City, OK

4 March 2016

Jimmy's Cafe & Fried Pies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Another site on my tour of southside OKC. I had lunch here in April 2015. I was pleasantly surprised to find fried chicken on the menu. It was a four-piece meal, and it was not good. Stringy, small pieces with little meat, and seriously overcooked. I don’t think I will be back.

Jimmy’s Cafe, Oklahoma City, OK

4 March 2016

Jimmy's Cafe & Fried Pies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oh, this post is late! Last Spring, I had been taking a food tour of OKC between I-240 and downtown. Jimmy’s was one of the places I tried. Curiously enough, I was directed to the place by a persistent Facebook ad.

I hit Jimmy’s at 25 February 2016. I had the Chicken Fried Steak (LARGE!), with mashers and mac and cheese. I have to say, I was underwhelmed with the entire meal. The CFS was huge, it was clearly made there, but it had very liitle flavor. Same with the mashers, gravy, and mac and cheese. I would rate the CFS as a 6 out of 10. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good.

Service was very friendly. The place was crowded, and it smelled wonderful. I would like to go back and try some other stuff based on what I smelt and saw. I just can’t recommend the CFS. My check was $14.39.

J&W Grill, Chickasha, OK

4 March 2016

J & W Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As I headed home from my last weekend of Wood Badge, I decided to drive through Anadarko. I called my friend and Anadarko native Tammy and asked for a restaurant recommendation for a hungry guy on a Saturday evening. Her advice: head into Chickasha. Hmmm.

So I saw J&W as I came into Chickasha from the west, and had dinner there. I had a large cheeseburger with tater tots. The tots were great, crispy, and hot. The burger was a throwback to my childhood. I had asked for mayo, I got mustard (nto really an issue, I like both). Not a lot of crust on the burger, but decent flavor, and a lot of grease.

The iced tea was OK, and service was friendly. The place is small, and not many tables. I sat at the counter and enjoyed it just fine. I can’t find the receipt, but my check was about $10.00. Good stuff.

Paw Paw’s, Chickasha, OK

4 March 2016

Paw Paw's Hamburgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

When I was coming back from my first Woodbadge weekend (11 April 2015), I stopped by Paw Paw’s for a very good burger. In fact, I got way too much food. My meals was a large double cheeseburger with chili, and chili cheese fries. It was a helluva mess:) but very good. The chili was nothing special, no heat and not too much flavor. The fries were really good, great flavor. The burgers were great, with lots of beef flavor, and cooked with a nice crust on them. Great stuff.

Service was friendly and pretty fast. My check was something like $15.

Mama Carol’s, Chickasha, OK

4 March 2016

This is a series of three reviews from places I ate at in Chickasha last Spring while I was taking Scouting Wood Badge at Camp George Thomas.

Mama Carol's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On the Wednesday evening prior to my first weekend of Woodbadge, 08 April 2015. I was headed down to camp and stopped at Mama Carols at about 2030. In spite of them closing at 2100, I was fully welcomed. I had the chicken fried steak dinner with mashers and green beans. That CFS was a 9 out of 10. Decent flavor, and fork tender everywhere except one place. I thought the mashers were a little on the bland side, but the gravy was very good.

The iced tea was great and service was fast and friendly. My check was $14.15. Great stuff. I want to go back and try their burgers.

Sheesh Mahal, Oklahoma City, OK

4 March 2016

Sheesh Mahal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We had dinner at Sheesh Mahal back on 15 October 2015 with friends from St. John’s. It was great!

I do not recall everything that each person got. But I know that Raegan got Daal Chicken; she liked it but thought it was too spicy (I have a much higher tolerance, I thought it was mild and very good). I had Chicken Curry, a green curry and very tender chicken, great stuff. Erin had a chicken kabob and ate all of it. Others at the table had other stuff, and not much was left. The rice with the meals was all very good, as was the tea.

Service was very friendly, and we all had plenty of time to talk. This is not an eat fast and get out kind of place. The check for eight of us was just over $80, and I think it was great value. I want to go back.

Automated Software Installation

3 March 2016

I should not have been surprised by this, once I thought about it a bit.

At work, I was told that I needed to have Microsoft Project installed on my computer so I could build schedules. OK, I thought. I already had Office 2010 on my computer. I went to a “Software Store” on the company Intranet, and found a list of available software, including Project.

There was also a lot of Open Source stuff that was listed as approved for use on company computers and networks, which I thought was cool. There were development environments like Netbeans, and support tools like PuTTY.

Regardless, I selected Project, typed in a short justification (more than “I was told to”:) ), and submitted the request. I figured that after a couple days, a tech would come around, or remotely log into my machine, and do the install.

Instead, about five minutes later, an automated process popped up a window telling me that installation was about to happen. I quickly shut down the couple apps I was working on, and the automated process installed Project, some other patches, and support tools, then it rebooted the computer, and that was it. I was pretty amazed. It took about 10 minutes.

I should not have been surprised. When I think about the extensive updates that Microsoft has been pushing out for years (think patches for XP, or doing a complete unattended upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10), it occurred to me that doing the installation of a single new software would be pretty easy.

It was cool regardless.

Blue Moon, Edmond, OK

3 March 2016

Blue Moon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This is not the Blue Moon in Ada, rather the Asian restaurant in Edmond.

We had dinner at Blue Moon back on 28 July 2015. I started with Egg Flower soup, which was egg drop. It was very good.

For our meals, Raegan got Boneless Chicken, which was sorta the kind of breaded and deep fried chicken used in sweet and sour, but instead tossed with veg. She liked it. Erin had sweet and sour chicken and thought it pretty good, although she was not hungry enough to finish it. I had curried chicken and liked it a lot. The default is with bell peppers, I had that taken out.

The iced tea was good, but the glasses were kind of small and we ran out a couple times. We don’t eat a lot of asian food, but I think we would like to. This was pretty darn good. Our check was $49.40. We’ll be back.

Canella’s, Salt Lake City, UT

2 March 2016

This is another catch-up post from a trip I took to SLC back in mid-July 2015.

Cannella's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

One evening, a group of us that were attending the same meeting had dinner at Cannella’s, near downtown. One thing I noted was that the menu seems fairly limited. I had Fettuccine al Fredo with chicken. I had asked to have the grilled chicken sauteed, and my server agreed, but the chicken came back not only grilled, but just a piece of grilled chicken on top of the noodles, and a miserly amount of al Fredo. The tea was a mint tea, and pretty weak.

Service was friendly enough. We had a group of 10. My check was $18.87. There wasn’t any extorted minimum tip, which I liked.

Apollo Burgers, Salt Lake City, UT

2 March 2016

This is another catch-up post from a trip I took to SLC back in mid-July 2015.

Apollo Burgers, 143 N. Redwood, SLC

I had lunch at this location one day, and it was super busy, but looking at both the Zomato and Apollo Burgers websites, the location does not show.

Regardless, I had a double cheeseburger with fries and a drink. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve had, with minimum flavor and a burger with little texture. The burger was, however, far better than Sonic or Braum’s. The fries were OK.

Like I said, the place was packed at lunch. The staff was friendly. My check was $10.43. I would probably eat at another Apollo Burger, to see if this one was just a little below par.

B&D Burgers, Salt Lake City, UT

2 March 2016

This is another catch-up post from a trip I took to SLC back in mid-July 2015.

B & D Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

First, let’s look at B&D Burgers. On my first day in town, I was looking at a couple outdoors places for a new pair of boots. I found B&D and liked it as it was on the way to the general area I was headed to, and it was a burger place.

I was not impressed. I ordered a double cheeseburger, onion rings, a milkshake, and a soda. The milkshake and soda were the best part of the meal. The rings were burned, and the burger just didn’t have any flavor at all. None. I can’t recommend it. My check was $10.00 for everything except the shake, and a couple extra bucks for that.

Grand House, Oklahoma City, OK

2 March 2016

Grand House Asian Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We are trying some new places along the Classen corridor, and last night decided to give Grand House a try. My friend Spencer joined us, which was great!

Raegan started out with some shrimp egg rolls that she and Erin put completely away. I started with some excellent egg drop soup.

Ian had a sashimi dinner, which at $20 was twice as expensive as any other meal. He has eaten a lot of sashimi, and his opinion was that it was not nearly as good as it should have been. He ate most of it, and shared a part of each fish piece with Raegan.

Erin had sweet and sour chicken. It was a lot of food and she could not finish it. I tried the chicken, it was excellent, really tasty, and the sweet and sour sauce was very good.

The same chicken was used with the lemon chicken that Raegan and Spencer got. I tried some of Erin’s chicken in the lemon sauce, it was OK (I didn’t think it had much flavor).

I had the curry chicken which was thin-sliced sauteed chicken with long strips of onion in yellow curry. Excellent. The default meal comes with bell peppers as well, but I asked for none and they were not cooked in. The only thing I could count down on the meal is that the onion pieces could have been more finely chopped and cooked just a bit more.

So overall, a really good meal. Our check for five was $79.66. That seems a bit high, but if the sashimi and the appetizers are accounted for, it is closer to the mid-$60s, which is reasonable. Service was friendly and just the right level of attentiveness. I look forward to another visit.

Someone at Microsoft Was Not Thinking Clearly…

29 February 2016

I have Windows 10 installed, and when I want to look at a photo, say one that is saved on my phone, the Microsoft Photos app is the default viewer.  It has a neat little editor with a couple functions.  The one I use most often is to crop.

If you save the cropped photo, it overwrites the existing file.  Understandable.  But if you Save As…, instead of giving you a dialog box and letting you specify where you want it to go (say, on your desktop), it instead saves the file to this folder:

C:\Users\Bill\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Libraries\SavedPictures.library-ms

That’s not terribly user-friendly.  If you see if soon enough, there is an “Open Save Folder” dialog that occasionally shows up, otherwise you are left to root around in the filesystem to find where it put the file.

How about a folder dialog, Microsoft?

Mamaveca Mexican Restaurant, Norman, OK

29 February 2016

Mamaveca Mexican Restaurant‎ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Over the past year, I have occasionally left the area around Tinker AFB for lunch slightly farther afield. On 11 March 2015, I headed all the way to Norman for Mamaveca’s. It was great!

I got the pork chili verde. Wonderful. Perfect flavor, not too spicy, tender pork.

The iced tea was great, and service was fast and friendly. My check was $15.14.

I need to drive to Norman more often! And I need to try the guiso, and a couple of those Peruvian dishes.

Volcano, Del City, OK

29 February 2016

Volcano Sushi Bar & Hibachi Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I have had lunch here three times, the most recent day was 30 July 2015. The first two times, I had chicken fried rice (very good both times). The most recent time I had pork katsu (which I remember as tonkatsu), which I have not had since a Japanese restaurant in MWC went out of business in 1990. This was really good! Just the right amount of crunchy breading, and the pork was tender and moist. The check for Diane and I was $18.07. The iced tea was OK. Service the first two times was very good, and a little more spotty the last time.

Regardless, it was great.

Hornback’s Shawnee Restaurant, Muskogee, OK

28 February 2016

Hornback's Shawnee Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and I were in Muskogee overnight, and this morning we didn’t like the look of the Hampton’s breakfast, so we hit up Hornback’s as it was very close.

Ian got sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and hash browns. He liked all of it, but his only complaint was that the biscuit was so crumbly it needed a structural integrity field to hold it together. I had two eggs over easy, ham (and it was a huge slice of ham!), grits, and biscuit and gravy. The eggs were fine, the ham excellent, I think smoked, and very tasty. I liked the gravy in particular. The biscuit was somewhat crumbly but went well with the gravy.

We both had iced tea that was good. Service was friendly and very fast (less than five minutes from order to delivery). Our check was $20.58. Very good.

Fried Chicken at Loaf N Jug

28 February 2016

So this might be more of a sad post than a review. Last summer, on our HAT Durango adventure, we passed through Alamosa, CO. My driving was shift was up when we stopped at the Loaf and Jug on US 160. It was right at lunch, and I went in there and found a small deli.

I got some of the best fried chicken there I have ever had. Large pieces, perfectly fried up, with the skin crispy yet flexible. Wonderful taste, and juicy all the way through. Just perfect. Erin had some chicken tenders and said they were really good as well.

On the way back from Durango a week+ later, we stopped there again. I got more of that chicken, and it was wonderful again.

I complemented the cook on the chicken, and she said that City Market, which owned the Loaf N Jug stores, had elected to close the deli and replace it with a Subway.

I found that very sad. I like Subway, but I love the fried chicken at LnJ, and also feel that we are quite homogenized enough already with a Subway on seemingly every corner. I think that the deli with good local food would be a loss if it were replaced.

I just looked on the LnJ site and it reports that the store has a Real Time Crispy Chicken. I hope it is still the case. I would get that chicken any time.

Roy’s Chicken, Coweta, OK

27 February 2016

Roy's Fried Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Last May, we were headed home one Sunday evening, and coming through Tulsa. Roy’s was open, and I’m always up for fried chicken, so we gave it a shot. Great stuff.

We all got fried chicken, except Erin, who got chicken fingers. The fried chicken was a mix of dark and light, and it was all good. Crunchy and juicy yet not greasy. We all demolished our meals. The sides were OK as well, mashers and gravy and stuff, I don’t remember it all, but it was good.

Our check was $34.81, good value. The staff was friendly enough. I was surprised at how uncrowded it was at 1900. Recommended if Dixie’s is closed.

Dixie’s Cafe, Coweta, OK

27 February 2016

Dixie's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I was headed into Haskell for the funeral of a family member back on 09 January 2015 (yes, more than a year ago), and hit Dixie’s for lunch. It was a classic diner/café experience that I realty enjoyed.

I had a Chicken Fried Steak with mashers and gravy, with green beans. A classic diner meal, and PERFECT. The sides were good, the gravy excellent. The CFS was perfect, hand breaded and deep fried, tender, great beef flavor. That CFS is what I expect a CFS to be.

Service was very friendly. The iced tea was great, and served in huge Mason jars (that is really the way that Iced Tea Should Be Served (:) ). My check was $8.98. Yes, less than $9, for a perfect café experience. I would have had some pie, but I was full from the meal.

I tried to take Raegan to Dixie’s for lunch a couple months ago, and it was Sunday so Dixie’s was closed. Too bad, I look forward to going back. I just don’t get through Coweta that often.

Brownie’s Hamburgers, Tulsa, OK (Southside)

27 February 2016

Brownie's Hamburger Stand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So, in the spirit of not playing catch-up, we ate lunch here about 30 minutes ago!

Pretty much a perfect cheeseburger meal. Ian and I both had double cheeseburgers, his plain, mine with mayo. Remembering how huge the fries side was at the Utica location, we split an order here. Ian had a chocolate milkshake, we both had iced tea. The burgers were perfect, in flavor and cooking. The fries, also. None left. Can’t say any more about the meal other than perfect.

Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $21.47. I’d go back any time.

Tally’s, Tulsa, OK

27 February 2016

Tally's Good Food Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

At the moment, Ian is driving us to Muskogee via Tulsa, so I decided to play another round of blog catch-up, Tulsa-oriented. :)

Raegan and the kids and I had lunch at Tally’s back on 30 May 2015. We were headed towards NW Arkansas on a weekend family trip.

Tally’s had just a bit of a wait at 1300, there was an entire busload of tourists being fed in addition to the usual customers.

I had the CFS, it was OK. The sides were mashers and green beans. The gravy was OK. Ian had the CFS also, and rated it OK. Erin had CFC, it was pretty good. Raegan had a club sandwich that had more bacon on it than a sandwich deserves, and pretty darn good bacon.

The iced tea was pretty good. Service was very spotty, but it was very busy. Our check was $64.62, kind of expensive for café food. I don’t know that would go back.

Rock Cafe, Stroud, OK

27 February 2016

Rock Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and I were headed to Muskogee back on 30 October, it was dinner time, and we stopped in Stroud for dinner. I had wanted to try the Rock Café for a while, as it had been recommended by the Discover Oklahoma crew.

I had the CFS. It was HUGE. I am pretty sure I had pinto beans, but I can’t remember the other side. The beans were excellent. The CFS was clearly breaded there, it had voids in the breading. The beef was OK and there were some tough spots I had to use a knife on. The gravy was excellent. Raegan had catfish. She liked it, but it was so big she could not finish it. I can’t remember her sides, but no complaint.

The iced tea was great, and service was very friendly and fast. Our check was $25.42. I don’t know that I would make a special trip to eat at Rock Café, but if I was going by around a meal I would have no problem going back. I would like to try their breakfast.

Fat Guy’s Burger Bar, Tulsa, OK (Downtown)

26 February 2016

Fat Guy's Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back on 07 November, Ian and I had been working in Muskogee and were headed home. We decided to try Fat Guy’s since it was on several lists of Tulsa’s best burgers.

We got there and an OSU game was playing on the big TVs, so that was cool.

He and I both got Jumbo Double Meat Cheeseburgers, mine had bacon. We both also got fries. This was a mistake, we should have just had one fries as there were a freaking huge amount, seemingly a bushel of potatoes.

The burgers were excellent, with great beef flavor and a nice crust. Drippy as heck, too. The fries were very greasy but very tasty as well.

We had iced tea and DP. Service was order at the counter. It was kind of noisy in there, and crowded. The place is not very big. But they make great cheeseburgers. Our check was something like $25. Good, but on the expensive side.

Elmer’s BBQ, Tulsa, OK

26 February 2016

Elmer's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back in October, I was on my way to the Ozark Mountains to backpack the Butterfield Trail with the Girl Scout High Adventure Team. I had lunch at Elmer’s as I passed through Tulsa. I’m glad I did.

I ordered a two-meat plate (hey, I was going backpacking, I needed protein:) ) of chopped brisket and ribs. The ribs first: they were about 9.5 on a scale of 1 to JTs. Nicely smoked, with a good texture of bark, and wonderful flavor. Nothing tough about them in the slightest. The brisket was pretty darn good as well. Not as much flavor, but very tender, and there was quite a lot of it. I had baked beans (outstanding) and green beans (very good) as my sides.

This place did not disappoint, in fact, it was very, very good. Service was friendly. My check was $23.45. I would be happy to go back.

Cowboy’s BBQ, Muskogee, OK

26 February 2016

Cowboy's Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had not been to Cowboy’s in a long time (10+ years) when I had lunch there back in October 2015. Ian and I had lunch there 19 February. It was pretty good both times.

Both times I had a two-meat with ribs and brisket. The first time, both the ribs and the brisket were excellent. The second time, the ribs were a little on the less-than-meaty side, and a little tough, but the brisket was great again. I had sides of baked beans (OK, but bland), and fries (great).

Ian had a chopped brisket sandwich, and said it was really good, not greasy but juicy. He had fries that were good.

The iced tea was good, and the service very friendly. My check the first time was $15.40, and the second time, Ian and I ran up a check of $33.25. The check the second time was a little high as we both scored cane sugar Coke and DP. My only complaint is that the bottled drinks needed to be a colder cooler. But the BBQ was really good.

“Hacking”, WiFi, and Journalism

25 February 2016

I’ve seen several variations of this story over the past couple days:

Steven Petrow, the journalist who had his computer hacked while on a flight, recounts his experience and what he learned.

Each version of the story I’ve seen has emphasized that the guy had his laptop hacked on a flight. He was using GoGo In Flight for in-flight WiFi.

For the record, the guy, or rather his computer, was not hacked.  He was sorta personally hacked in that he was given misinformation, but his machine was not compromised.  Some of his data was.

Let me explain the difference.  Mr. Petrow was on an airline flight, using his laptop, connected to the inflight WiFi.  The GoGo In Flight is an open WiFi access point.  This means there is no encryption.  Now, when you pay money (via a credit card transaction) to use GoGo, the transaction is encrypted using SSL between your computer and the GoGo server.  Once that’s done, the connection reverts to nonsecured, and you are connected to the Internet.

Mr. Petrow was using his computer to write an article, and submitted that article to his employer.  I’ve seen references to his sending it via email, but the mechanism is not clear.  Near him (and it doesn’t matter if near means the next seat over, or the back of the airplane), a guy was using a WiFi sniffer tool to watch the WiFi traffic.  Since the access point was open (no encryption), the “hacker” (although a better term might be “sniffer”) could see (and capture, if he wanted) every packet of traffic sent to and from the access point.

Now, a point that has to be made here is that anyone who was doing anything sensitive using a server that had even the least security on it would be using SSL encryption, which is between your device all the way to the server.  That traffic can be seen and captured, but it is encrypted, and would take a significant effort to decrypt (by significant, I’m talking years of computation).

So for the hacker/sniffer to see Mr. Petrow’s traffic, the traffic would have to have been unencrypted.  It could have been an unencrypted email (SMTP/POP3 protocol), or an unencrypted webmail.  Regardless, both email servers and clients, and web servers and web browsers, have had basic encryption built into them since the early 2000s.

So the hacker/sniffer saw the email with the article that was sent unencrypted.  The hacker/sniffer did not attack or tamper with the computer Mr. Petrow was using.  That is not being hacked, it is being eavesdropped on.

Whoever Mr. Petrow works for, their IT department should secure the server that the company uses to implement an encrypted link.  All major email servers and clients support encrypted connections.  All major webservers and browsers support encrypted connections.

So as to the sniffer/hacker, what he did is trivial from a technology standpoint.  I’ve used similar tools to look at WiFi traffic, on airplanes and elsewhere.  You might not be surprised, but while in hotels, I have seen examples of half of the connections being to porn sites.  Using sniffer tools, you get an idea as to why hotel WiFi is often so slow, when most of the connections are to streaming video sites (think porn, and Netflix, and Hulu).

The above might sound frightening, but I think most businesses that have an interest in keeping customer information safe (think banks) implement end-to-end encryption as a matter of course.  A news site like CNN might not care to encrypt the connection a site visitor is checking out, though.

The real issue here is that the story being reported is wrong.  It’s not a case of hacking, it’s really an example of not implementing best practice for securing data.  And that is something that is easily fixable, once you realize what the real problem is.

Calico County Restaurant, Amarillo, TX

25 February 2016

Calico County Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

You can probably tell that I’m in serious catch-up mode today, as I’m bouncing around all over the place.

Back over Thanksgiving, we were headed to Santa Fe on the way to Pagosa Springs for a ski trip. We managed to get out of OKC around 1600 and pulled into Amarillo at 1930 (hooray for the 75mps speed limits in Texas). Calicos was a great find!

I had the pot roast: perfect. The potatoes and gravy in particular were fine. Ian had a CFS: perfect. The cream gravy was excellent, the CFS hand breaded, thick meat, great flavor, and fork tender. Erin had CFC: perfect. Raegan had catfish: perfect.

You might get the impression we liked the place. I think it’s like Cracker Barrel used to be when they were sorta local. Every food item was clearly cooked right there with good ingredients.

Service was extraordinarily friendly. The iced tea was excellent. We would have had dessert but we were stuffed, and about to climb back in the car for another four hours. Our check was $56.12. I look forward to going back, this place could be our go-to restaurant in Amarillo.

They do breakfast. One gripe: when we came back through, we stayed in Amarillo due to an ice and snow storm in the eastern panhandle and western Oklahoma. We got out of the hotel mid-morning Sunday (we were in after midnight), and got to Calico’s at 1045 Sunday, the exact time they shut breakfast down. I would suggest that maybe Calico’s does breakfast a little earlier on the weekends at least. Maybe noon? Regardless, we will make it there for breakfast at some point.

The Garage, Del City, OK

25 February 2016

The Garage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’ve eaten here several times since they opened a couple years ago. The most recent time was a cold and rainy 07 January 2016.

I got a double meat chili cheeseburger and chili cheese fries. The burger was excellent. It was also a heckuva mess. I ate it with a fork and knife. I really liked the fries; they had so much chili that they were soaked in chili joice down below (this, BTW, should not be construed as a problem!).

Service is very loose. My check for lunch was $16.52. The iced tea (and later, DP) was great. A good place to get a darn fine cheeseburger.

Alfredo’s Mexican Cafe, Edmond, OK

25 February 2016

Alfredo's Mexican Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As I went through my fistful of receipts, there were three from Alfredo’s, ranging from 11 December 2014 to 29 May 2015 to 07 February 2016. I know we’ve eaten there at least six or seven times. It’s pretty darn good.

I always get the Pork Guiso Verde. Just the right spice heat, tender pork, great flavor. The most recent time, Ian had it also and liked it a lot. The only issue we had is that on the big plate, it was about 3/5 beans, 1/5 rice, and 1/5 guiso. Maybe they were running short. Regardess, we got filled up. Raegan and the kids get enchiladas and chimis and fajitas, all excellent. I really like the salsa and the queso, and we’ve had nachos several times.

Our check this most recent visit was $60. The iced tea is excellent, and service is always fast and friendly.

This place is very good, and I think in many ways it is better than Ted’s. Recommended.

Upper Crust Pizza, Edmond, OK

25 February 2016

Upper Crust Wood Fired Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We had dinner at this Upper Crust location back on 21 June 2015.

I ordered some meatballs that were in some very good marinara. The meatballs were a little on the untextured (is that a word?) side. I think they needed a bit of crust on them from the baking process. Regardless, they were pretty good, and mostly meat with a little filler instead of the other way around. We also had a Caesar salad that was pretty good.

Ian and I split a pepperoni and sausage pizza that was excellent. We left nothing. Raegan and Erin both had small pizzas, one al Fredo and one Mediterranean, and ate all of each.

The pizza was followed by a large cookie, which was extremely chocolately and very good. Raegan also had a creme soda.

Service was a bit on the slow side, which is to say our server was gone for long periods, then would zoom in and bomb the table quickly then blazing off.

Our check was $73.97, sorta expensive, but we did get a lot of stuff we don’t usually get. The meatballs were $10, and the cookie $8.00. Good pizza, though.

Apple, Terrorist Investigation, and Security

23 February 2016

I have been following the dustup between the FBI and Apple with interest.

For the record, I am opposed to any police or government agency having access to the daily communications of people who are not under investigation. I also do not think that cracking this phone compromises the millions of other iPhones in existence.

On the other hand, in the case of the San Bernadino terrorists, there is a crime that has taken place, with a resulting legitimate investigation, and the police agencies have a legitimate requirement to access data about the criminals, including any information stored in their phone. I imagine that the records of who the criminals called has already been gathered from cell phone companies.

Apple and Apple’s supporters use the argument that any hack/engineering/software tool that Apple uses should not be in the hands of the police agencies. I agree with that.

I also suspect the tool to crack an iPhone PIN already exists.

I think that there can be a reasonable approach here. Chain of custody must be maintained. The FBI can swear select Apple employees in to an agreement that they will not disclose anything they happen to see in the phone. The FBI can send people with the phone to observe the crack process and ensure that the Apple people don’t zorch any information. Then, with the process complete, the FBI takes the phone back and harvests any information from it. The crack tool/process/person stays with Apple.

The key thing is that the tool/process remains with Apple, while the data goes to the police for investigation.

There is really no difference here in any other investigation or data request. I do think that Apple’s concern to protect all of the other iPhone users is admirable, and should be taken seriously.

Nicha’s, San Antonio, TX

22 February 2016

Nicha's Comida Mexicana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This completes my reviews of restaurants from a business trip to San Antonio. I had dinner with a number of work friends at Nicha’s 14 April 2015. The place was recommended by one of the guys on the trip.

I had Carne Guisada, and it was very, very good. I do not like my food to be super spicy, and the guisada had just the right amount of bite. I thought the portion size was a little on the small side, but it wasn’t so small I was hungry later. The iced tea was very good. Service was on the slow side, but we weren’t in any hurry, so that wasn’t an issue. My check was about $14.00.

Black’s BBQ, Lockhart, TX

22 February 2016

Black's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This installment of Blog Catch-Up takes us to 13 April 2015 (yes, almost a year ago). I was on a business trip to San Antonio, and had heard great things about “The BBQ Capital of Texas”, Lockhart. I have to say, the food lived up to that hype. We got to SAT and blasted east on I-35 immediately, getting into Lockhart about 1320.

Black’s ordering concept is to specify how much meat you want by poundage, then get sides. I ordered a half pound each of brisket (wet) and spare ribs. Later, when I’m still eating after everyone else was done, I realized they had given me 1.21 lbs of brisket (!) and almost 0.6 lbs of ribs. THAT IS A LOT OF FOOD. I also had some beans and deviled eggs. Those were good, but the reason to go is the meat.

And it was sooooo good. The ribs were tender and smoky. They had less bark than I like (for texture), but they were 9 on the scale of 1 to JTs. They had a lot of meat on them, and were not drenched in sauce. But very, very good.

The brisket was on another level altogether. It was the best brisket I have had, anywhere, ever. It was that good. Tender, yet held together. Flavor, just bursting, great texture and bark. Juicy without being greasy. In a word, perfect. As noted above, there was a heck of a lot of it. I was eating and eating, and I ate all of it. I took a couple ribs back to the hotel, and had them for dinner. Loved that brisket.

The iced tea was perfect. The company was great. The staff was super friendly. It’s probably better that Black’s is so far away from OKC. But I guarantee, any time I am anywhere near SAT or AUS, I will make time for a Black’s stop. It’s that good. My check was $32.36 (the brisket was just short of $20, the ribs a more reasonable $7.76). Make the drive if you are anywhere near, it will be worth it.

Los Cabos, Broken Arrow, OK

22 February 2016

Los Cabos Mexican Grill & Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

You might think we are eating a lot in the Tulsa area recently, and you would be right. The trips between OKC and Muskogee give new opportunities to eat in the area, and we are taking full advantage.

Friday night, we were in the Broken Arrow area around 2000 and were looking for dinner. Los Cabos only had a 20 minute wait, so we decided to try it.

We started out with chips and salsa, with some white queso with seasoned ground beef. These two items were pretty good. I added two spoons of the salsa to the queso, and it was outstanding, great stuff. The combined flavor of the queso and the salsa was far better than the individual flavors.

Ian got the Enchiladas Especial with shredded beef and chili con carne. He thought they were pretty good but a little on the bland side. I had a Carnitas Burrito with chili con carne. It was huge. The filling was quite tasty, and hotter than heck. As is the case with many burritos, the tortilla got sort of eaten by the juice of the meat. I liked it, but I might get it as a chimi next time if I can.

The tea was very good, and service was quite friendly and fast. We sat outside on the patio overlooking the lake and OK51. It was at touch on the chilly side towards the end of the meal.  Our check was $40.05, which feels to me a touch on the expensive side.

While we were eating our appetizer, we saw a drone fly along OK51, make a turn over the Bass Pro Shop, then zip back east and out of sight.

Los Cabos was pretty good, but I feel the menu was limited. I would like to see some more traditional Mexican fare to go along with the Tex-Mex. What we had was good, though, and I would have no problem eating there again.

Sinbad Rotisserie Chicken, Broken Arrow, OK

22 February 2016

Sinbad Rotisserie Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and I are headed home from a day of work in Muskogee, and we stopped at Sinbad as it is near the interstate and I like roast chicken.

Ian got a Shawerma and thought it was OK. The beef was a little chewy. I got a half rotisserie chicken with rice. The bird was a touch overcooked, with a roasted flavor, but a bit dried out deeper in.

We had DP for drink (very good) as the tea was not brewed there (too bad). Service was counter and very friendly. Our check was $16.78. I would not mind a return visit.

Hopz Bunz, Tulsa, OK

21 February 2016

Hop Bunz Crafted Burgers & Beer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and I were heading to Muskogee today to complete working on my Mom’s house, and needed lunch passing through Tulsa. The first place we tried on Peoria was packed, so we walked across the street to Hopz, and were seated immediately.

We started with fried pickles, that came with a ranch dressing (very good), and a chipotle ranch. The chipotle ranch was excellent; it had a nice flavor, and had an impressive bite to it, without burning your taste buds off. We both got cheeseburgers; Ian plain with fries, and me the Old Hickory (which was dressed with a liberal amount of BBQ sauce, not hickory). The BBQ sauce was quite good. The burger also had thin fried onion straws, and they added well-cooked bacon to it. Those burgers were excellent. They were cooked a perfect medium well, had outstanding beef flavor, and a nice crust. Overall, one of the best burgers I’ve had recently, even better than Brownie’s. I tried a couple of the fries, very good stuff.

Service was fast and very friendly. The iced tea was good and kept refilled. The place is open and very noisy, but we could at least talk without shouting. Our check was $31.33. I would go back and eat another of those burgers anytime. Great stuff.

Upper Crust Pizza, Oklahoma City, OK

21 February 2016

Upper Crust Wood Fired Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We’ve been to Upper Crust twice in the past six months. The most recent visit was 21 January. As Ian pointed out, Upper Crust is more than just a place to get a good pizza (and the pizza is pretty good). It’s more of a place to have a social experience along with your dinner. It’s a little loud. That being said, there is a good selection of pie here.

On both visits, we started out with decent garlic bread, and really good Caesar salads.

We had a mixture of pies. A pepperoni, a half chicken, and a half ham, pepperoni, and mushroom. The only thing to say is that it was some darn good pizza. Part of it went home with us for Raegan to have for lunch the next day. As I look at the check right now, it sorta looks like we were charged for three pizzas when I know we ordered two (split among the four of us). Regardless, it was good. My gold standard used to be any of the Hideaway outlets, but all of those but the original Stillwater location have suffered a reduction in quality over the past several years, and the Upper Crust pie was better, almost far better.

Service was decent given how busy the place was. The check for the four of us was $69.09, on the expensive side. So Upper Crust lives up to it’s name (:) ), and is in the “occasional” category.

Pearl’s Oyster Bar, Oklahoma City, OK

21 February 2016

Pearl's Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and I have never been to Pearl’s, even though we drive by it all the time. Back on 26 Jan, we had been to a meeting, and when it was over, we decided to hit Pearl’s as it was nearby. We got there about 1845, and were immediately seated.

We started out with a bowl (for me) and a cup (for her) of very good clam chowder. Really, really good.

Raegan likes seafood, so she got the seafood skillet. She reported that it was very good, and helped satisfy a craving for seafood she has had for several months. So that’s a win.

I don’t like seafood, and I was amazed to find fried chicken on the menu, so that’s what I got. It was not the best fried chicken I’ve had, but it was pretty good as well. The chicken was fried up just a little on the stringy side, especially in the center. I do not remember what sides we got, but I know I left some of mine. I do recall asking for some gravy for the chicken, and liking it.

The iced tea was pretty good. Our server was extraordinarily friendly, and kept our drinks refilled. Our check was $53.00. That’s a little on the expensive side for two (in fact, it’s very close to what we pay for four), so I think that puts Pearl’s in the “special occasion” category. There were some other interesting things on the menu I might like to try later.

Ye Old Pancake Station, Amarillo, TX

19 February 2016

Ye Olde Pancake Station Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In the latest installment of me playing “catch up the blog”, we go to Amarillo, TX. We went skiing at Wolf Creek Thanksgiving week 2015. We had dinner on the way west at a most excellent place called Calico County; they had a heck of a breakfast menu, so that where we were headed this fine morning of 29 November. BUT, they stopped seating for breakfast 15 minutes before the official stop time for breakfast, and since we wanted breakfast, we quickly found Ye Old Pancake Station. It was very good!

We got a bunch of juice and milk and tea to start, and the four of us had all sorts of eggs, pancakes, ham and cheese omelet, grits, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, bacon, sausage, etc. Every bit of it was excellent! And every bit of it was eaten. We waddled out of the place.

Service was a bit slow, but the place was packed. Our servers were very cheery and nice. Our check was $61.46, which was pretty good value given how many extra sides we had, and all those drinks.

I’m sorry the folks at Calico lost our breakfast business, but we had a heckuva meal at Ye Old Pancakes. Great stuff!

Timmy’s Diner, Tulsa, OK

18 February 2016

Timmy's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back on 03 January, Ian and I were headed to Muskogee to do some work on my Mom’s house, and we decided to hit lunch in Tulsa.  We tried a couple places that were closed, then noticed Timmy’s, and the fact that it was near US169, so we decided to try it.  We got there about 1330.

Ian had a CFS dinner; the CFS was clearly breaded up right there.  It was pretty darn good, tender, and I liked the gravy as well.

I had a Pancakes, Meat, and Eggs.  It was a Significant Breakfast:).  The pancakes almost didn’t get finished (even though they were medium sized).  The eggs were a perfect over easy, and I liked the sausages and bacon (it was very good bacon, crispy).  I was glad we still had an hour drive ahead of us before getting to work, I was full.

We both had very good iced tea.  Service was casual but not slow.  Our check was $21.32, which I think was very good value.  If I were in East Tulsa again and needed lunch or breakfast, Timmy’s would be a good choice.

Gear Review, Teton Sports Tracker 5F Sleeping Bag

18 February 2016

As I have mentioned in a couple previous posts, I have been upgrading my backpacking gear over the past year. My most recent acquisition was a new sleeping bag, and I’m very happy with it.

Going back a bit. I used to carry a very bulky Cabela’s 0F bag (5.75 lb), or a bulky 25F Kelty bag (4 lb). I bought the 0F Cabela’sbag back in 2010 and was very happy with it, except it completely filled up the bottom compartment of my pack; the 25F Kelty was a bit better, but it just reduced the strain on the fabric of the bottom compartment of the pack.

Back in 2013, I was getting ready for a backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the evening before, I saw a Sportsman’s Warehouse (which I’ve always liked), and in there I found a Teton Sports 20F bag that was about half the size of my 25F bag, weighed 2.2 lbs (instead of 4), and was only $40. I bought it and tried it out the first night in the Park, which in September had a low near freezing; I was perfectly comfortable. I’ve used that bag on most of my backpacking trips since, and when I use it I can get my entire tent and some other stuff in the bottom compartment of my pack, very comfortably. So that’s an endorsement of the Teton Sports 20F Trailhead sleeping bag.

In the past couple months, I looked at many sleeping bags in the 0F range. While a few were compact, they were very expensive, in the $300 range. Then I ran across an ad for a Teton Sports 5F bag, the Tracker. It was about 2″ more in diameter and 2″ wider than my Teton 20F bag, but it weighed 4 lbs instead of 5.75, and the kicker, it was only $60 on Amazon (retail was something like $110, still a bargain).

Getting it in my pack was pretty easy, and I still had room for my entire tent, and a couple small items, but while the compartment was not straining, it was full.

I took that bag into Grand Canyon the first week of February. It didn’t get above freezing the entire time we were in the Canyon, and lows were in the 10F – 15F range. Ian had his Trailhead 20F bag, and he was a bit cold. I had the 5F Tracker, and I was perfectly comfortable and never cold (until I got out of the bag in the morning).

So, those Teton Sports sleeping bags are great! They are a very good combination of price, size, weight, and temperature rating. Recommended.

OKCity Grill, Food Truck, Oklahoma City, OK

18 February 2016

Today I headed out for lunch, and there was the OKCity Grill truck on the parking lot of my office. I walked over and checked out the menu, and saw cheeseburgers, and the truck smelled pretty good, so…

I had the Cheeseburger Basket, which was a cheeseburger topped to my specs, and fries. It was not the best burger I’ve had (especially recently), but it was well cooked and had decent flavor. The fries were OK, but needed just a touch more time in the frier.

Service was fast, and the crew friendly. They had cans of stuff to drink, so I scored DP. My check was $10.00, not bad value, especially given that I didn’t have to drive anywhere. I would eat at this truck again.

Brownie’s Hamburger Stand, Tulsa, OK

18 February 2016

Brownie's Hamburger Stand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Permit me a moment. Back in my college days, when I was working the evening shift at Tayloe Paper Company, I visited my friend Gary quite often in the vicinity of the University of Tulsa. We hit quite a few cafes in that time, and one of the best was Brownie’s. Unfortunately, the mists of time had dimmed my memory of the name, but I had the general location, and I thought it was on an east-west street like 21st; I’ve tried to locate it on the occasion when we were in the NE Tulsa area around lunch. This past Monday, Ian and I were headed home after working in Muskogee, we were darned hungry, and I did a Google search for “best burger in Tulsa”, and Brownie’s popped up. We checked it out, and It Was The Place I Remembered. Except that being on Harvard, it was a north-south street. Regardless, the interior was the right one!

We were thirsty. Ian got a chocolate milkshake and iced tea. I got a root beer and iced tea. This apparently amazed the servers, look at all those drinks! :)

I had a bowl of chili. Our server and I had a miscomm, as I wanted it plain, and I got it with beans, cheese, and onions. The chili was OK. It had little flavor and no heat. I’ve had worse chili, but I’ve had better. It just needed more flavor.

For our main course, we both got double cheeseburgers. Those burgers were small, and perfectly cooked, with great flavor and a nice crust, and a grilled bun. Wonderful burger, and inexpensive!

Ian had fries, they were pretty darn good. The drinks were really good. I had four mugs of root beer, and a tea to go.

For all this, the service was very friendly and fast. Our check was $26.91 (the drinks drove the cost up, but that’s OK). I will remember Brownie’s from now on, and go back. Recommended.

Claud’s Hamburgers, Tulsa, OK

14 February 2016

Claud's Hamburgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We’ve tried to eat at Claud’s several times over the past couple months. Today Ian and I were headed to Muskogee on a Saturday, so we stopped by for lunch. The place is tiny, only about 12 seats (eight at the counter, four in front of a window).

We both got triple burgers, which really was a couple larger patties. Mine had bacon. I screwed up regarding onions; I thought they put fried onions on the burgers, and asked for just a few. In reality, they fulfilled my request by putting a couple raw onions pieces.

Regardless, the cheeseburgers were excellent. Great beef flavor, cooked just right with a nice crust. The best burger I’ve had in a while. We got fries as well, and iced tea, both excellent.

Service was fast. Our check was $25.57. I would eat burgers at Claud’s any time.

Conservatives Show Disdain For the Constitution, AGAIN

14 February 2016

After SCOTUS Justice Scalia passed away today, several conservatives, including at least one “leader”, the repugnant Mitch McConnell, actually came out and said that nomination of a replacement for Scalia should not be done by the current President Obama, but should wait until the next President is in office.

This is a new low in craven pandering to conservatives. Anyone who takes up that line is spitting on the Constitution, and should not even be in office. Disgusting behavior.

Old West Cafe, Sanger, TX

13 February 2016

Old West Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As I headed from the Dallas area to OKC this afternoon, I was in Sanger, TX just after noon. I saw the Old West Cafe on Google and decided to check it out.

I got there at 1245, the place was about half full. I ordered the CFS with mashers, gravy, and pinto beans. The mashers and gravy were very good. I liked the pintos, even though they had a taste of jalapeno in them. The pepper caused just a little bit of mouth burn, but that went away very quickly.

The CFS has real potential. I would rate this one an 8 out of 10. It was fork tender, and had pretty good flavor. It was clearly not pre-made. The problem I had with it is that it had been overcooked a bit. The breading was quit stiff and a bit hard to chew. I think it needed about a minute less cooking time. The CFS here is likely a real winner if it’s not consistently overcooked.

The iced tea was very good, and service was fast and very friendly. This place was slightly unusual in that all ordering was done with what looked like a smart phone, and checkout was done via iPad with a Square-like signature capture.

I hope to be able to visit again at some point; the place has potential. My check was $12.21.

Jim’s Diner, Bethany, OK

12 February 2016

Jim's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’m trying to catch up at least a little on a huge backlog of places I have eaten at in the past 1.5 years (ack).

Two weeks ago, on 24 January, Raegan and the kids and I were finished with some activities at St. John’s, so I suggested trying Jim’s. I ate at Jim’s predecessor restaurant numerous times back in the early 90’s since Raegan and I lived about three miles north of the place. I always liked it.

This meal, Ian had CFS and Rrin CFC. They did not seem to be hand breaded nor fresh. Both of them ate all of the meal, but reported the meal as “meh”. Raegan had a seafood dinner, but they were out of shrimp, so they gave her extra catfish. She said the catfish was very good. I had the “Famous Roast Beef Dinner”. It was pieces of roast beef in a brown gravy. It was OK, nothing special.

We had some other stuff. Erin got some mozzarella sticks that were OK. Ian had a slice of pretty decent chocolate cake that he took home.

Service was occasionally slow but very friendly. If I was in that part of town again, I would probably try Jim’s again. Our check was $51.33.

Southern Recipes Cafe, Plano, TX

11 February 2016

Southern Recipes Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’m at a business meeting in Richardson, and at lunch suggested hitting Southern Recipes. It used to be just west of here. On the way there, we headed that way until one of the guys remembered that SR was now in Plano. We turned around and headed back north to the new location. Unfortunately in one way, the new SR location is in a space that had been occupied by a very good Italian restaurant. Oh well.

The six of us ordered various things. I started out with some very good chicken noodle soup. I had chopped steak with gravy, mushrooms, and onions. It was very good, to include the gravy and mushrooms. I was not entirely happy with the onions, only about 10% of them were cooked to any extent, mostly they were large and raw.

The iced tea was very good. Service was OK, although a bit on the slow side. Te food was very good, I will continue to go back to SR.

La Salsa Grille, Oklahoma City, OK

11 February 2016

La Salsa Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and I were headed to a Girl Scout event last evening, and needed some chow in a timely manner. We were headed down Meridian and saw La Salsa, and decided to check it out.

She had a chicken chimi and thought it was OK. I had pork guiso verde and thought it was excellent, just the right amount of space, great flavor, and tender pork. The meal came with some very good smoky queso and good, low-temp salsa that were served with nice, thin chips.

Service was very friendly and fast, we made it in and out in 40 min and made our event early (if you know us, that’s very unusual:) ). Our check was $22.47. We don’t get into that area often, but I would have no issue eating at La Salsa again.

Ten 50 BBQ, Richardson, TX

11 February 2016

Ten50 BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place is pretty good! It is based on the same concept as Black’s in Lockhart. You go through the line, select your meat(s) by the pound(s), thengo through and get other stuff.

I had a half pound each of ribs and brisket (wet). Damn fine brisket, tender and juicy, great smoky flavor. The ribs were pretty good (7.5 on a scale of 1 to JTs), they seemed to come apart in odd ways when pulling it off the bone. The flavor was decent.

I was not a huge fan of the BBQ sauce, but the ribs and brisket were so good I used the sauce sparingly. I had some OK mac (mostly) and cheese (less). The tea was pretty good, and all serve yourself. My check was $28.08. Pretty expensive given the lack of sides.

I would go back, though, with a group. I lament the closure of Soulman’s, but this is pretty good.

Gear Review, S2S UL Sleeping Pad

11 February 2016

I have used a closed-cell sleeping pad from Ridgerest for camping and backpacking since around 1985.  It is comfortable, and fairly light.  The only issue I have had with it is that is bulky.  I usually have it tied to the outside of my pack somewhere.

So I have been upgrading parts of my backpacking gear for the past year, and a couple months ago looked at sleeping pads.  After some research, I found a sorta tradeoff curve of weight, bulk, and price that essentially drove how comfortable the pad was.

Last December, I tried several at REI, including a Sea to Summit pad.  There were four or five other S2S pads, and I asked if I could try a couple out.  The REI guy said that I could only try the several that were out.  I laid down on Thermarests and REI and other pads, and one S2S, with varying levels of comfort.  I thought most of the pads were pretty heavy compared to my 14oz Ridgerest.  The S2S Ultralight felt pretty light, and it was very small.

The next day, we went to Mountain Sports in Arlington, TX.  We found they had the S2S Ultralight, and the guy there said sure, take it out and lay on it a while.  I did, and I was amazed.  I’m 6’2″ and weigh about 205 lbs, and when I stretched out on that pad, and rolled over on to my side, my usual sleeping position, and stayed there for about 15 min, I was amazingly comfortable.  Ian is taller and slightly heavier, but he had the same experience.  We bought a pair of them.  A little expensive, but in the end, so comfortable.

The pads have a pretty darn cool stuff sack that has a fitting that connects to the S2S inflation valve.  You can blow into it, but the better way is to connect the stuff sack to it, roll the sack to close the top, and push down and pump that air into the pad.  Three pushes and that pad is full, and I’m not staggering about dizzy from blowing it up.

I’ve had the pad on a camp and a backpacking trip.  The inflation bag is a largish waterproof stuff sack, so it does double duty.  I put my cold weather after-hike stuff in it, and I have to get that stuff out anyway once we get into camp, so the inflation bag is available.  I slept very comfortably on the backpacking trip in particular.  One thing I liked was that as I rolled side to side, in my sleeping bag, on the S2S pad.  I didn’t slide off the pad, which was very nice.  Even better, the bag didn’t have a friction grip on the pad, so it stayed with me as I rolled in it.  Ian reports similarly.

The S2S pad weighs the same as my closed cell pad.  The S2S packs down to about 15% of the volume of the Ridgerest.  The S2S is compartmented in the event of a leak.  The only downside is a $100 price difference.  But the bottom line is, the S2S is awfully comfortable.

Backpacking Grand Canyon National Park, 31 Jan – 05 Feb 2016

8 February 2016

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Hike Summary: 48.4 miles over five days, with 8900 ft of altitude gain. Stunning scenery. Main question asked: “How *can* it keep getting better, backpacking Grand Canyon?”

The photos from this trip are on my Google+ here.

This is our third trip to GCNP. The blog post for the second one is here.

Getting There

Very straightforward. Four of us flew OKC-PHX, picked up a rental car, and headed north. We stopped at REI Flagstaff for stove fuel, then into the Park. Two others drove from San Diego to Flagstaff, then to the park where we all met up. We spent the first night in Maswik Lodge. The next morning, we loaded up, and checked in at the Backcountry Information Center (BIC) for an itinerary check (and change).

Weather Forecast

Our past two years in the Canyon were bedeviled by weather as we traveled there, but it was beautiful and warm while we hiked. This year, it was weather at the Canyon that was the issue. Forecasts were for highs in the 30s, with lows in the -0s for the South Rim, and up to a foot of snow. We were not enthusiastic about finding the Tanner Trail and Escalante Route when covered with snow, with our way out of the Canyon blocked in all three of our potential exits, and even the road closed along the Rim. We worked with the Backcountry Information Center (BIC), and they changed our route and permit, which turned out to be amazing regardless.

Day 1

We started at 0715 with breakfast in the Maswik food court, then got to the BIC right after it opened at 0800.

We headed out from the BIC after changing our route and walked directly to the Bright Angel trailhead.  Not much to say except it’s a long way down.  We started out around 0900, had lunch in Indian Garden, and then got into camp around 1530.  I was very happy that I didn’t have any knee problems this time.  I had practiced by walking a lot of stairs in the month prior to the trip.  The Bright Angel trail (sloped) is also a lot easier on the knees than the South Kaibab trail (large stair-steps).

We all walked around, Corey fished, and I looked for my missing SPOT in the group camp we were in last year (no luck).

Water was weird.  Apparently the NPS was working on the Transcanyon Water System, and there was only one place (right in front of the Phantom Ranch Canteen) to get potable water.  The heads had no water, and to flush, you emptied a big bucket of nasty-looking water into the head after you did your business.  We sent a patrol out to fill water bottles at PR (it’s a half mile there) and dipped water from the creek for boiling for food rehydration.

We decided not to go to the Canteen at 2000 as we were tired, so we all crashed at 1945.

10.5 miles and loss of 4380 ft.

Day 2

We all slept in a bit here, and didn’t hit the trail until 1030.  We walked up through Phantom Ranch to the Clear Creek turnoff, where it was new trail for all of us.  We walked through The Box, where the canyon sort of slots a bit.  The GPS lost lock several times.  We always had water very near us.  There were numerous places where rockfall had happened.

When you come out of The Box, the canyon opens up a bit to several hundred yards wide.  It’s quite the transition, and now you have tall walls in the distance.  It snizzled on us pretty much all day.  The trail doesn’t get a significant slope until just before Cottonwood Camp, then it bumps up and back down about 300 ft in a short distance.  Shortly before you get to the first bump you can see Ribbon Falls to the northwest, and it’s impressive even from a distance.

Going through The Box (and later tomorrow, as well), there are a lot of pour-offs and streambeds that would probably be very pretty waterfalls after a heavy rain.

We got to Cottonwood Camp, and we were the only people there.  We spread out to three of the small campsites.  They have tables and pack hangers there, and composting toilets.  There was no Ranger.  It’s a little hike to get water from the creek, but only about five minutes.

The stars up there were stunning!  So dark, so clear, so…  freaking… cold.  We saw a pair of ISS passes, very bright and pretty.  We all sat up and talked a while, all the way to almost 2000!  Party animals, we were. :)

7.2 miles and gain of 1600 ft.

Day 3

We woke up around 0745.  I thought it was cold the night before…  no way.  Our water bottles were liquid when on the ground under the tent fly, but in less than 20 minutes of being out on the table, ice crystals were growing.  I think the temps were between 10F-15F (both mornings).  We fired up Coreys Whisperlite for breakfast.  Ian and I made cheese rice that we had planned to eat with the Chili Mac the night before, but it was better that cold morning.

We headed out with daypacks continuing up the North Kaibab trail.  Our plan was to walk as far as we could until the snow got too deep, or until it was 1330, then head back.  We left around 1000.

We first hit the Pumphouse Ranger residence after about 30 minutes.  A bonus here was seeing a fresh cougar print in the snow, and several more later in the mud.  At this point the trail starts up quite a steeper slope, we started seeing more snow next to and on the trail, and it was getting colder.

After about another hour, we came into view of Roaring Springs, the source of water for the National Park.  It was amazing!  We kept going up, coming to several enormous layer-cake pouroffs.  Eventually, at the 5900 ft level, we ran into a foot+ of snow, and turned back.  Most of this hike was in shade, and it was very cold.

When we got back to Cottonwood, Dave, Neal, and Corey walked down to the trailhead for Ribbon Falls.  Ian and I tried to get across the creek to explore a side canyon, but we couldn’t find a safe place to cross, so instead we explored the area around camp.

We had company in camp when we got back, a couple from NYC.

We eventually had dinner under another cloudless, sharp night, and racked out.

8.2 miles and gain, then loss, of 1820 ft.

Day 4

Very straightforward hiking day after a cold, cold morning.  We got out of camp around 1000 and walked over the first hill to the trail junction for Ribbon Falls.

That Falls is impressive.  The Falls are probably 100 ft high, and you can walk around in back of them for some very pretty views.  We met several other day hikers from Bright Angel/Phantom Ranch there and had nice conversation.

We continued back down trail and through The Box.  When we got to camp, we “upgraded” to the group site we stayed in last year.  Corey and Neal hit the fishing holes again, and Dave, Chuck, Ian, and I headed up to the Phantom Ranch overlook, a 3 mile round trip with 700 ft of elevation gain.  There is cell service there, so I called Raegan and let her know we were OK.

After dinner, we talked for a bit, then headed up to the Canteen for a beer.  We stayed up all the way to 2045, then walked back, and crashed.

12 miles and net loss of 1600 ft.

Day 5

Not much to say about this again.  Chuck, Ian, and I left camp at 0800 and came over the South Rim at 1515.  It’s a bloody long walk.  10.5 miles (to the BIC) and gain of more than 4380 ft.

We went directly to Maswik and had cheeseburgers, then I walked to the nearby BIC, weighed my pack, and we went to our Maswik rooms and essentially ran out the hot water:).  Hot tea was consumed in significant quantities.  We tried to catch up on news as well.

Dinner and beer was had in the Bright Angel Lodge.  I had an undistinguished Salisbury Steak.

10.5 miles and GAIN of 4380 ft.  Whoa.  This single activity is harder than all of the walking of the past four days.

29 February 2016 update:

I put all of the GPS data I had into a single GPX file, then exported it to a text data file. I plotted it in 3D but the result didn’t look right. I realized that the problem was the scale was not right in that the elevation Z axis was in feet, while the X and Y axis were in Lat/Long. I used a USGS online tool to determine the distance in feet between latitude and longitude for the area of Grand Canyon, then wrote an Excel formula to convert the Lat/Long data to feet. Then I replotted the data to get the altitude relative to our walking distance. This is what I came up with, annotated with some major landmarks:

Grand Canyon 2016 Altitude Profile

No matter how you slice it, Grand Canyon is steep!  It’s either up or down pretty much everywhere you hike.  The Box was really the only place that it was fairly flat.  This plot is the 3D view turned on its side.

Getting Back

Very straightforward again.  Dave rode with Neal and Corey to PHX, while Ian, Chuck, and I went to the Geology Museum, the Visitor Center, and then the Planes of Fame airplane museum between Williams and the Park.  We all rendezvoused at PHX and flew back to OKC.

Equipment Notes

My pack weighed 36 lbs when we hit the trail, and 32 lbs coming off the trail.  Not bad, considering that I had just short of *7* lbs of clothing.  I used every bit of it, it was cold!  For a warmer weather camp, that would put my hit the trail weight near 31 lbs, which is pretty darn good.

My REI Quarter Dome 2 tent fit Ian and I with no problem, in spite of me being 6ft 2in and him being 6ft 4 in.

I love the Sea to Summit sleeping pad!  One thing that was nice:.  I used to have to put my closed cell sleeping pad in the bottom of a big duffle bag, then put my partially disassembled pack on top of it.  With the new inflatable pad, everything is stowed in the pack.  It’s nice to be able to pick it up at bag claim, sling it on my shoulders, and head out.

Food Notes

I carried a bit too much food. I started with roughly 6 lbs, and when I came back I had 1.7 lbs still. Most of the food was lunch and breakfast stuff. There was also a lot of trash I carried for other people, maybe a full pound. I maybe ought to not be so nice:).

Lunch was PB&J on tortillas, or tuna salad, or for the first day, a sammich I bought at the Maswik food court. One thing I did here was to buy a packet of Newman’s Own Caesar dressing that I liberally used on the sammich, very good.

One lunch item neither Ian or I liked was Underwood Deviled Ham on crackers. The crackers were crumbly but good. The UDH, not so much. We ate it, but quickly, and then started in on some snacks to get the taste out of our mouth.

Breakfast was oatmeal or Pop Tarts, pretty standard, and the day we had the cheese rice:).

We both ate a lot of snacks on the trail. My favorite is M&Ms. I ate more than usual on this trip, given how cold it was.

Dinners. I’ve written before about the quantity of Mountain House/Backpackers Pantry meals. They are “2-person”, but I used to eat an entire meal myself. This time, Ian and I shared them, and we carried supplemental rice or noodle packets. In the end, we didn’t use any of the supplemental stuff for dinner, but we ate a cheesy rice for breakfast. It was hot and gooey and delicious.

We tried a new Mountain House entree on this trip: Chicken Fried Rice. It was very good, but we added two cubes of S&B Golden Curry medium to the meal as it sat, it melted and we stirred it around, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had backpacking. Ian agreed. Great stuff!

Mountain House Chili Mac. Lordy, it was good. So was the Mountain House Spaghetti.

What Went Wrong

Stove fuel.  I have consistently carried (me personally and/or our group) too much stove fuel.  In this case, we went on the trail with exactly 2 8oz and 1 4oz canister of isopro stove fuel.  We had to cook enough water for four breakfast meals and four dinner meals.  Given what we know about that, for our six guys, it’s 2 pots (10 cups) of water for breakfast, or about 8 overall, and another 3 pots (15 cups) of water for dinner, or 12 overall, with a total of 20 pots of water for the entire crew for the trip.  From my testing, that is well within the capacity of the two canisters Ian and I carried (8 oz and 4 oz).  Chuck had an 8 oz canister as well, so we should have been fine.

BUT, we weren’t.  I broke out my 8 oz canister in camp for the first night, and we boiled 4 pots of water.  It emptied my canister completely, very annoying.  We used the canisters Chuck and Ian carried as well, and both of those ran out as well.  I thought maybe we had bought canisters that were sold to us short (maybe partially used), but after thinking about it, I wonder if the air temperature affected the fuel delivery.  I need to research that, and/or test it.  Regardless, I think the lesson learned is that I should have had one other guy carry another 4 oz.  Maybe we should have tucked the fuel canisters into our sleeping bags to keep them warm.

Speaking of cold fuel canisters, the isopro stoves failed miserably for breakfast both Tuesday and Wednesday morning.  I think the temps were in the mid-teens.  Fortunately, Corey had an MSR Whisperlite (kerosene based) that fired up just fine.  Lesson learned, carry a Whisperlite when the temps get low.  Again, I wonder if they needed to be tucked into our sleeping bags.

What Went Right

Pretty much everything!  It was cold, but we coped and no one got too cold.  Ian was a little cold in his 15F bag, but we piled all our outerwear on him and that jacked the R-value up.  The route we took was stunning!  We got out of camp when we needed to, and got into camp in good time.  In particular, we all got up the Great Big Wall before it got dark.  No one got hurt.  Gear worked

Closing Thoughts

I’ve now hiked more than 150 miles in Grand Canyon, between the three backpacking trips and a number of day hikes on both Rims.

It was super cold this trip. All of our trips to Grand Canyon have been the first week in February, and while the first two were shorts and short sleeves once we were over the Rim, we made up for it with the low temps this time. I do not think that it was over 32F the entire time we were out.  The lows were probably in the 10F-15F range the two nights we were in Cottonwood.

I could not have asked for a better group to hike with.  Everyone was cheerful (and astounded!), and there wasn’t a cross word spoken (except about the cold, not to/at each other).

The change in plan from the Escalante Route to the almost-to-the-North-Rim was not a loss at all.  It showed us an amazing part of the canyon few get to see.

We’ll have to go back next year and try the Escalante Route again. :)

Maswik Lodge Food Court, GCNP, AZ

8 February 2016

Maswik Cafeteria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We have usually eaten in Bright Angel Lodge dining room (and did again for dinner both nights we were on the South Rim), but we decided to try the Maswik food court to be able to hit the trail earlier.

We had a couple breakfasts in there.  Both Ian and I had a basic eggs and meat breakfast.  Mine was an eggs and meat (ham) and biscuits and gravy, with a side of bacon.  The breakfasts were excellent.  The bacon in particular was perfectly crispy and had great flavor.  I liked the ham also, it had been fried in real time and was very good.  The cook did the over-easy eggs perfectly, and the biscuits and gravy was pretty darn good as well.

Our breakfast for two was something like $35, which included two cartons of milk and a large Coke, each.

Chuck, Ian, and I also hit the same line for cheeseburgers mid-afternoon Thursday after coming back up the big wall.  We had snacked but not stopped for lunch, and were very hungry.  We all got cheeseburgers, mine had bacon (and again, the bacon was perfect!).  The burgers were cooked well enough, but they had little flavor.  At best, they were good stomach filler until dinner later.  I also had onion rings, and those were pretty good.  I don’t remember how much our meal for three cost, but it was kinda expensive.

I can recommend Maswik for a quick, delicious breakfast before a hard day of hiking.  I would try something else before getting burgers again, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from getting one if you were so inclined; just don’t expect a lot of flavor.

Gear Review: REI Quarter Dome 2

8 February 2016

This is the first of a couple reviews of new backpacking gear I have acquired in the past year or so.

Last April, I researched new backpacking tents for both me and for my Scout Troop 15.  The objective for the Troop was the best tent to get the Troop started with self-supported backpacking, while my objective was size and weight reduction.

A bit of history.  The tent I have been backpacking with for the past seven years is a No Limits Sunlight Peak 2-person tent.  It served me well, but has experienced three pole failures in the past two years.  That tent is also 5.5 lbs.  I gave $50 for it on sale, so it’s done well.

After looking at more than 30 tents in the 2- to 3-person range, I settled on the REI Quarter Dome 2 (QD2) for my tent.  The QD2 was $300, and I had a 20% off coupon for being an REI member, so that dropped the price to $240.  Since we had no REI store in the state at the time, and it was over $50, I got free shipping and no sales tax, both good things.

 

 

I have had the tent out on something like seven camps since I bought it, including a pair of weekend backpacking trips, and two week-long backpacking trips (Grand Canyon and Weminuche Wilderness, CO).  I’ve also had the tent on a 10-day trip to Colorado where we camped a number of places.  To summarize, only one minor issue.

That issue first.  When I was on that the Colorado backpacking trip, we had several instances of significant rain (rain in Colorado in the summer, who would have thought? :) ).  When it started pouring, I hid in the tent to work a Sudoko or take a nap, or both.  After the rain, I noticed a little bit of water that had worked through the bathtub part of the tent near the head.  It didn’t hardly trickle.  I took a photo of it, and when I got back home I spot sprayed Scotchguard on it, and haven’t noticed any issues.

There was a lesson learned from this:  There is a guyline on the part of the fly that pulls the fly out from the tent maybe 10 inches.  If I had staked that out, I probably would not have noticed the issue to begin with, since the water that worked its way in was water that splashed up off the ground and under that part of the fly (it was heavy rain and small hail).

Some positive details.  This tent shaved (no, cut!) 2.5 lbs off my pack weight.  That’s great in itself.  I’ve seen no wear on it.

One thing I find a little unclear:  this tent can be used as an ultralight shelter (fly, poles, an stakes only), if you don’t worry about bugs or snakes crawling on you.  That saves you probably another pound and some bulk.  I have been laying the tent body out and putting the poles through grommets at the corners of the tent, then laying the fly out on the tent, and placing the similar grommets on the fly underneath the tent corner grommets.  It’s a little hard to do (or undo) with gloves.  Then I would stake the tent down.

This last trip, Ian and I put the tent up, then staked it down using the fabric anchors “downstream” of the grommets, then hooked the fly grommets to the stakes.  The fly grommet anchor has an adjustable length.  One advantage of this is that before, small parts of the tent bathtub were exposed.  With the modified setup (which may be the actual way to set it up; I can’t find clear instructions online), the fly extends out another couple inches and completely covers the corners and front (foot) of the tent.  I didn’t have any stress issues with the fly zippers, either.  If you have to go completely freestanding, you probably have to do with both fly and tent grommets on the poles.

Speaking of Ian, he is 6 ft 4 in, and I am 6 ft 2 in.  We shared this tent on the recent Grand Canyon five day, and both of us fit in it just fine.  You could get your outer layers off and piled down by your feet, and still have about 8 in of room for your head.  Now, it’s not palatial, but we only had a couple instances of elbow-to-back on the trip  I think that if we had chosen to, we could have easily left the tent behind and gone ultralight, which would have provided another foot or more of space for each of us to the side, and another 8 in head to toe.  I would want to use a Tyvek footprint if I did that to keep our gear off the ground.

This tent has plenty of ventilation; it’s unusual for me to find condensation.  The vestibules have plenty of space.

My assessment of this tent is that it is wonderful.  I can get either of my sleeping bags (20F or 5F) into the bottom compartment of my pack, and still get every bit of the fly, stakes, and tent in there (the poles go inside the main compartment of the pack as they are slightly too long for the bottom compartment), and still have some room for other stuff.

Good job, REI.

The Black Raven, Choctaw, OK

7 February 2016

Black Raven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

One of our friends is a musician, and he plays a couple times a month at the Raven. I do not think we have ever eaten in Choctaw, and we decided to go hear him sing and have a meal. It was pretty darn good on both counts.

The Raven is Irish themed. We started with Celtic Rings (onion rings) that were pretty standard, nothing special. Ian, to my surprise, got Bangers and Mash, demolished it, and pronounced it excellent. Erin and Raegan got classic fish and chips, and both liked them, even though in both cases, it was too much food for them to finish. I got Shepherds Pie, which I very much enjoy. This was excellent, I didn’t leave a scrap.

Overall, an outstanding meal. Service was friendly, but there was only one server for the whole place, so occasionally tea (which was good) ran out. Our check was $67.89, which I think was pretty decent value. This is a good place to eat if you are in the mood for British/Irish/Scottish food and/or beer.

And the music was very good as well. http://www.jandjmusicokc.com/jonathan-marshall/

Whiskey Cake, Oklahoma City, OK

7 February 2016

Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had lunch here back on 01 December. Raegan and Erin had eaten here several months earlier, and reported it to be expensive and not that good.

I got thee right at noon. The place was pretty full, and I got seated at one of a number of high tables near the door and the bar instead of a proper table.

The menu seems kind of limited to me, and just a little snooty. I settled on the roast chicken with sides of mac and cheese and green beans. The sides were pretty standard, but the chicken was very good, roasted with a nice skin and moist all the way through. I ate all of the meal. The server was very friendly and service was fast.

My check was $19.00. That’s a lot of bread for a roast chicken. So I think that while the meal was pretty good, the value could be better. That puts this place into the category of “if someone I was with was just dying to go, I would as well, but I wouldn’t volunteer”.

Lucy’s Diner, Fort Smith, AR

7 February 2016

Lucy's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back on 20 December, Raegan, the kids, and her Mom were in Fort Smith to visit the National Cemetery. We had lunch afterwards at Lucy’s.

I started with a cup of very good beef stew. For the pretty raw day, it was a good warm-up. Erin had a basket of chicken chunks that she said were very good. Ian had an Ultimate Breakfast, that included eggs, hash browns, bacon, and biscuits and gravy. I liked the gravy a lot. Ian had to work pretty hard to finish all that chow, but he did and he said it was very good. The other three of us had the Sunday special, which was a huge couple slices of excellent roast turkey, with mashers, gravy, and dressing. It was too much for Raegan and her Mom to finish; I finished mine with an effort. It was great stuff, tender and juicy turkey and perfect poultry gravy.

We had tea (sweet and straight) and water; the tea was excellent. Service was fast and very friendly. Our check was $78.32, not bad for such good food for five. I would eat at Lucy’s any time.

Backpack Weight, Again

6 February 2016

I spent most of last week on our third backpacking trip to Grand Canyon. This was the first chance for me to check out some of the new gear I bought.

This started after my realization that my pack was a hefty 46 lbs before a trip in 2014, and getting it down to 36 last year.

This year, I was very happy that my “wet load”, i.e. all food and water, was 36 lbs again, for five days on the trail. Ian had a pack weight of 28 lbs, and so I went about finding the difference after this trip.

After getting off the trail, I went directly to the backcountry office and weighed my pack – 32 lbs. In our room at Maswik Lodge, I pulled almost a full 1.5 pound of trash out of the pack, which was trash both Ian and I generated, and some I picked up from the other guys. That took the pack weight down to about 31.5 lbs.

Here is what I weighed at the house:

Leftover food: 1.7 lb left, out of about 6 lbs taken. I need to eat all of my applesauce, that was the heaviest single item left over.

Clothing: 6.8 lbs. This was the single biggest amount of stuff in my pack. It was darned cold on this trip, I don’t think we got above freezing the entire five days. I also wore everything I carried in the mornings and evenings. I was warm, but the clothing was heavy. I will research to see if I can buy stuff that is just as warm, but lighter. I had these layers: bottoms were base layer, hiking pants, fleece sweatpants, and the bottoms of my Frog Togg rain suit; tops were base layer, a thin hiking shirt, a long-sleeve mock turtleneck, a thick hoodie, and a fleece lined rain jacket with a hood.

Lows on the trip were about 15F, highs near 32F.

I think I could have left the fleece lined rain jacket behind in favor of the Frog Togg top; that was have saved 1.2 lbs.

Tent:  2 lb.  Ian and I split my tent, my part was 2 lbs (maybe a bit less, the fly was still wet from the last day condensation when I weighed it).

Pad:  14 oz.  My new Sea to Summit inflatable pad was 14 oz, about what the far more bulky closed-cell pad weighs.

Bag:  4.1 lb.  I carried my new 5F Teton Sports bag, 4.1 lb (as opposed to my far more bulky Cabelas 0F bag at 4.8 lbs, or my 20F Teton bag at 2.5 lbs).

The lesson here is that the keep-you-warm stuff (clothing and sleeping bag) was really the weight driver for this trip. Ian carried less clothing and his 20F Teton bag (and was a bit colder). I think we could have even left the body of the tent behind, and just used the fly and poles method (no bugs or snakes to worry about), which would have had negligible impact from the thermal insulating standpoint, and would actually have given us more room.

We hike, we learn.

Norma’s Cafe, Addison, TX

29 January 2016

Norma's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back in early December, I was in the north Dallas area for meetings.  On Friday around noon, I headed back towards OKC, and remembered there was a Norma’s around there somewhere.  A quick Google Maps search brought me there.  I got there at 1245, and was seated immediately.

I had a bacon double cheeseburger and fries, just about as straightforward as you can get.  The fries were pretty good.  The cheeseburger was EXCELLENT.  Great beef, grilled with a nice crust on it, the thing even looked good!  The way a burger should be.

Service was very friendly and fast, even though the place was fairly crowded.  My check was somewhere around $12.  The iced tea was very good, and kept refilled.

I will be happy to go back to Norma’s.

Italia Express, Oklahoma City, OK

29 January 2016

Italia Express Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

There was an Italia Express on May Avenue just south of school, and we ate there a lot.  It was excellent, close, and inexpensive.  A second location opened in NW OKC, and the May location just shut down suddenly, which was very disappointing.  We went out to the other location, and it was also very good, but there was one thing different:  the marinara was made with bell peppers (just ruined the flavor).  Since the NW OKC location was far from out usual areas, we never went back.

A couple weeks ago, I was driving along Classen, and there was a brand new Italia Express.  Raegan and I went there a couple days later.

After we were seated, I asked if they made the marinara with bell peppers, and got a yes.

NOTE:  if you run Italia Express, please consider not making your marinara with bell peppers.  The stuff is very, very good without the darn peppers.  Save some money, and my taste buds, and get rid of the darn peppers.

Regardless, I got a most excellent fettuccine al fredo.  It was perfect.  ‘Nuff said.  Raegan got manicotti, and asked for it to be served with one manicotti covered with marinara, and the other with al fredo (note:  she asks for this routinely, and occasionally gets the most scandalized responses that the two sauces will… gasp… touch!  That does not bother her, but we’ve had servers and chefs just get all bent out of shape at the request).  Regardless, she said it was very good, even if the sauces touched, and she also wished the marinara didn’t have bell pepper in it.  We had a starter of garlic bread that was very good, and the iced tea was also.

Our check was around $20.00, and service was very friendly.  We will be back.  I will try the marsala next time, and the al fredo will still be there.

Broadway Cafe, Geary, OK

29 January 2016

Broadway Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back in November, I was driving from a Scout training session in Norman to our Troop 15 camp at Roman Nose State Park.  I had not had lunch, and was passing through Geary, and noted the Broadway Cafe.

It was a bit disappointing.  The Cafe is in a small grocery store.  I got a chicken fried steak, but was kind of disappointed in it.  I think that the CFS was a pre-made item.  It was tender enough, but it was almost flavorless.  The gravy, green beans, and tea were OK.  I think my check was somewhere around $8.  Service was by the owner, I think, and friendly enough.

Would I stop here again?  Probably not.  I like my CFS to have a lot of beef flavor and be fresh and hand breaded, and as I said above, I don’t think this was.


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