Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pattern Recognition

In the opinion of some, good programmers can identify patterns almost as soon as they arise.

Not too long ago, I wrote about a tea factory adventure in Boulder, CO. The self-jabbing humor of the area remarked that it was 25 square miles, surrounded by reality. I rather enjoyed the setting.

Fast forward a few weeks to the start of Project 3 (codename: project tres) and I'm now in San Francisco for the first time.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the walkability, especially for January. It was on one of said walks, just off the dock, that I encountered something familiar.

49 Square Miles

Ordinarily I'm not one to go inquiring for Jefferson Airplane's take on things, not that there's anything wrong with that, but they are from San Francisco and would seem to know as well as anyone.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gas City's Public Service

There are plenty of lessons to be learned, and relearned, on the metaphorical road of life.

Fantastically, on the actual roads of 14-hour drive from Little Rock to Detroit, there are several reminders of lessons as well. Somewhere on the less-than-direct freeway route, which encompassed introduced us to a quite memorable tower.

The Gas City, Indiana water tower isn't quite as prominent as Florence Y'all, but it will catch the eye of most every person who enjoys a font or two. Gas City is shockingly labeled with the oft-hated comic sans.

Gas City: Home of the Comic Sans Water Tower

It somehow just doesn't have the seriousness any water-tower-having town should. Special thanks to Gas City for this selfless act, reminding all freeway-takers to double-check their font choice next time. Designers rejoice.

If you're unfamiliar with the general disdain for the font that often makes light of serious notices, be sure to check out Comic Sans: The Font Everyone Loves to Hate by Six Revisions.

Another good read is the creator's comments on why comic sans was created at all.

Fun Fact Wondering what freeways one can cover on this northbound route?

  • I-630
  • I-30
  • I-40
  • I-55
  • I-57
  • I-70
  • I-69
  • I-94
  • I-75

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Cattle Auction

"Conway is 30 minutes from here" started a sentence nearly every day for three weeks straight. That's how Kyle Kyle opened our eyes to the home of UCA and what would, on one Tuesday, become a historic landmark for me, Ginger, Kyle Kyle, and one of his friends.

Growing up in the rust belt, one doesn't have much of an opportunity to witness a good old-fashioned auctioneer at work. I only know of the quickly spoken craft from the folks at Mecum, but all they auction is cars.

Perhaps that's why during the cold and rainy last Tuesday of my stay in Little Rock, we headed to the great cattle barn of Conway, AR.

Cattle Barn

I had hoped to see a few cowboy hats, and I was certainly not disappointed. Even the auctioneer fancied a Stetson.

Cattle Auctioneer

But if that wasn't exciting enough, the highlight came from Kyle Kyle, as he exclaimed:

Man, I hope a velociraptor comes out of there next. I'd be like... 2000!
Which probably isn't the best of things to yell during a live auction. Fortunately, he wasn't out $2,000 by the end of the night.

Fun Fact this is now a thing: "hey, remember that time we went to the cattle auction?"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Georgetown Loop Railroad

Back when pioneers like George Stephenson were laying the tracks of the first steam-powered railroad, they were making decisions that would have worldwide impact. Not the least of which was how far apart to lay the tracks. Ultimately, what he chose would become standard gauge. Those who had other visions of what the distance between the tracks should be would later be run out of business...in some cases, resurrected as tourist railroads.

Friends of the blog and attendees of my work Christmas party know that I've got a bit of an interest in rail. I rarely pass up the opportunity to ride a train — particularly when it's a narrow gauge model carving its way through the Rockies whilst Mrs. Claus hands out chocolate chip cookies. Needless to say, we made a special stop on my most recent trip to Colorado when exactly the above occasion occurred.

Georgetown Loop Railroad

Georgetown Loop Railroad

After hauling silver ore from Silver Plume in the 1880s, the historic railroad showed up in 2011 to haul people around Georgetown (with maybe a few more things in between)

Devil's Gate Bridge

Mrs. Claus was aboard and handing out cookies

Mrs. Claus Brought Cookies!

And on top of all that, I got this awesome old-timey ticket.

Old Timey Ticket

Fun Fact Santa has a resistance to getting his picture taken with a bearded 24 year old

Fun Fact Several "new" Georgetown Loop Railroad cars were recently purchased from the Alaska Railroad

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Herbal Tea of 25 Square Miles

Unexpected Brew

As it turns out, one of those awesomely-unexpected things I got from my travels to Little Rock was a phenomenal introduction to the variety of joys that come with the varieties of teas. I'm not a connoisseur, but I've now at least heard of Atlanta-based, publicly-traded Teavana.

Loose Tea

Loose Tea by cherylsmith999, on Flickr

Assembly Lines

Maybe it's the Detroit-area youth, but there's something about How It's Made and factories in general I can't get enough of. Knowing these facts, co-worker and friend of the blog Jordan suggested that I visit Boulder's Celestial Seasonings factory tour on a recent weekend trip to Denver with Ginger.

The Tour

Photos are banned within the tour as the equipment is all custom-made, but even several weeks later, I've remembered some of the fun facts one would get by visiting. A surprising amount were of the traditional consulting "it depends" variety.

Free Tour of Celestial Seasonings

Free Tour of Celestial Seasonings by krossbow, on Flickr

The gems among the facts include

  • Tea shipping containers for ingredients carry between 500 and 1300 lbs, depending on the density.
  • Tea leaves must be stored in a separate room, so they don't absorb the scent and flavor of all the other ingredients in the warehouse.
  • Mint must also be stored in a separate room, and if it weren't sealed an area four square miles around the factory would smell like mint. This stuff is shockingly powerful. Several people on the tour had watery eyes upon leaving.

Without a doubt, my favorite moment of the tour was a thoughtful answer to a question by a guest of the tour in the mint room.

GuideDoes anyone have any questions for me?
AskerHow long does all this mint last?
GuideWell...it depends. If we're making a tea with a lot of mint, not very long. If we're making a tea without mint...a long time.

Stunning. It's certainly worth a visit.

Fun Fact Boulder is affectionately known as "25 square miles surrounded by reality"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rebsamen Park Golf Course

Back in September when I touched down in Little Rock, one thing was instantly clear: This place has some golf to be played. I'd declare it a requirement for anyone coming in, or through, town; though I was disappointingly the only member of the team who took to the course with any regularity.

Within two weeks I had my clubs in hand as I took to the first tee of Rebsamen Park Golf Course. Of the 15 rounds I'd play over the next month, 13 were at Rebsamen. Just about every one would begin exactly the same way, with the nicest mid-60's starter you'd ever meet — Bill.

Bill had a voice that squeaked and just enough twang to make his name rhyme with "heel." Couple that with my shockingly flat Detroiter accent and we had a frequent routine that's still fresh in my mind, months after it became too dark to golf before or after work.

MeHow's it going today, Bill?
BillOh...I'm hanging in there. Headed out there?
MeDefinitely. I'll walk the twilight rate, please.
*I almost always forgot the scorecard*
MeWhoops, almost forgot my scorecard.
BillOhhh yah, you've got to write that stuff down, now.
MeHave a good night.
BillOkay. You go give 'em hell, now.

View Larger Map

Note It's virtually impossible to find the rates anywhere, but monthly passes were a phenomenally low $100.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Singular y'all

Lunch during the first week is often a troublesome proposition. It's all too easy to get stuck in one's consultant cocoon, never branching out or making new discoveries. I'm glad I didn't get stuck in that trap. Had I never ventured to ZAZA Fine Salad + Wood Oven Co with two client developers, I never would have been introduced to the singular form of "y'all."

Now I'm plenty familiar with y'all, not least because of frequent road trips through Florence, Kentucky; perhaps home of the best watertower ever?

The FLORENCE Y'ALL Water TowerThe FLORENCE Y'ALL Water Tower by J. Stephen Conn on Flickr

Kyle KyleSo what kind of music do y'all like?
MeI think the team probably all likes different kinds of music.
Kyle KyleI know different people like different kinds of music. I'm asking what kind of music y'all like.
MeOh. Uh. What?

DISCLAIMER In the interest of representing both sides of the story, Kyle Kyle claims to have never said the above and that y'all's singular form doesn't exist. That's not how the other two passengers remember it, however, and I now believe the elusive singular form of y'all to exist.

NOTE Our team consists of two Kyles. The project manager differentiated them early on by naming one "Kyle" and the other "Kyle Kyle"

Fun Fact ZAZA's has some tremendous gelato.