Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Weekend in Chicago..

I had noticed several months back that Kentucky would play in Chicago the weekend before Christmas in the CBS Sports Classic. I knew Josh could get there in a couple of hours so we decided we could meet there and make a weekend of it. Jonathan was iffy about going with us because there was a chance the place where he worked might strike. I went ahead and pulled the trigger on three lower level corner seats when they got below list price. Jonathan finally got word that no strike would happen til the first of the year so he was finally in for the trip.

Jonathan and I headed out on the Friday before. The trip up went smoothly. We got past Champaign before looking for a place to eat. We called up Road Ninja. The next exit had several choices including one that warned us not to go because (I kid you not) one of the waitresses has “meth mouth”. We actually found a Just Hamburgers that appeared to be similar to the one in Paducah. The logo was the same but it was strictly a take out place. The burgers were good though. We got to our hotel by O’Hare airport with no problem and settled down to rest. There was a Steak and Shake next door and given it was Happy Hour, I grabbed us both a milkshake plus some cookies for later. We rested in the hotel until it was time for dinner. I wanted to get pizza from Giordanos so Jonathan could try Chicago deep dish style pizza (and because I like it). We got a medium meat pizza (which easily would feed the three of us). Jonathan loved it and we managed to hang on to a few pieces for Josh. Josh ended up taking the bus to O’Hare from Madison so he could come home with me to visit for the holidays. Picking him at O’Hare was a bit tricky. The airport is huge much bigger than BNA in Nashville. We finally managed to find him and get him back to the hotel. He even came bearing my favorite candy – Chocolate Stars. He also brought his Nintendo 4DS which Jonathan promptly latched onto for the evening.

We got up the next day and had breakfast. We decided to try Uber again. Jonathan signed up via my link so he got a 20.00 credit and so did it. He summoned a driver via his phone app. Murray showed up in about 10 minutes. He was about my age so we talked all kinds of sports from the 70s on. As we got close to the United Center, traffic was backed up. Murray hopped off an exit and took us a back way (that he said his dad had taught him) and we got to our destination with no trouble. We went inside and found our seats which ended up being excellent. The United Center is the home of the Bulls and Blackhawks so there were numerous banners hanging up celebrating their accomplishments. We settled in to watch Ohio State and Carolina. Carolina had absolutely no trouble with Ohio State. In fact with about 10 minutes remaining, we all got up to roam the concourse. Jonathan and I found that the Naismith Trophy for the best college player of the year was on display so we got pictures with it. We also were able to get pictures with Coke Zero props which they turned into a magnet. We got back in time to see Ohio State try to mount a run, but they still lost by eight. Finally it was time for our team (the Wildcats) to play UCLA. Aaron Harrison nailed a three and got a steal for another basket. UCLA called timeout down 7-0. Kentucky kept on rolling jumping ahead 16-0 forcing another UCLA timeout at the 16:24 mark. Kentucky kept pouring it on and were up 24-0 before UCLA finally scored at the 12:21. Kentucky kept piling on points and holding down UCLA. The halftime score was 44-7! I felt a little sorry for UCLA (but not that much). It was easily the best half of UK basketball I’d seen in recent memory. The game was more competitive in the second half but UK still won 83-44. We of course stayed til the end.

We left the United Center and I had to get a look and picture of the famous Michael Jordan statue. We walked away and tried to summon an Uber. It recommended we walk a few blocks east so we did. As we tried to get a car, we found one of the fatal flaws of Uber. When there are times of “high demand”, Uber will raise prices to “get more drivers on the road”. They were quoting prices that would be 3-4 times their normal rate. Being cheap, we didn't want to do that. We tried Lyft, but they were doing a similar thing and quoting 100-150% increases in regular prices. I keep trying on my phone and the prices stayed like this. We continued pressing east towards downtown Chicago. Jonathan grumbled all the way saying “we’re gonna die”. However, there were enough people around us most of the way, so there wasn’t much to worry about in my mind. My phone died finally so we decided to see if we could grab the “el” to O’hare where we could catch our hotel’s shuttle. We finally reached Union Station where we could get inside (it was pretty cold) to look at what seemed to me a very confusing map. Between Josh checking Google maps, we decided we needed to get on the “Blue Line”. We found a station a couple of blocks away and managed to get tickets and get on the train finally. The tickets cost 9.00 total, so it was a good deal. It took about 50 minutes to get to O’Hare (the end of the Blue Line). I called the hotel from the courtesy phone in the shuttle area at O’Hare and they told me they’d be there about 6:30. We got picked up and got back to the hotel no problem. We ended up getting Culvers (so Jonathan could try cheese curds) and then going back to the hotel for the evening. We found out later we walked 2.3 miles from the United Center to catch the train. Fortunately, we are all runners so going that far didn't bother us at all.

We got up the next morning and ate and checked out. We went to Bible Class at the Bridgeview church of Christ. We enjoyed being there. We did have trouble getting out because someone had blocked us in. Several people very nicely found the person owning the car and we got out. We only made two stops on the way back – once to get lunch and once to gas up. We made it back in time so Jonathan could get to Maple Hill and Josh and I to Central. We really enjoyed ourselves on our trip. UK plays Duke at the United Center next fall, so we are already planning to go to that one as well. I also learned that you need to have a backup plan when you Uber somewhere just in case. We should have found somewhere to eat after the game to let the crowd die out and then summon a ride via Uber/Lyft.

Friday, November 28, 2014


One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Clark Howard. He discusses a wide variety of items concerning personal finance and spending money. Something I've heard him extol is the the ride sharing service called Uber. The idea behind Uber is the ability to quickly call up a ride (similar to a taxi). There is an app on your phone that used the GPS in your smartphone to allow a driver to come right to your location and pick you up. The cars are driven by people who simply sign up as a driver usually to make a little spare money in their spare time. The drivers are given background checks. No money changes hands, the app charges your debit/credit card once the ride ends. I've also read about a similar program called Lyft. You can get a fare estimate online to see about what your ride will cost.

I was in Indianapolis last week to see Kentucky play in the Champions Classic. I was about a mile away from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The wind chill was 4 degrees, so I decided I'd give these ride sharing services a try. I tried Lyft first. I was disappointed to immediately see that a "Prime Time" banner appeared that would add 25% to my regular far.e. So, I tried Uber instead. I pulled up the app on my phone and selected my location. You then select the type of vehicle you want. You can go with UberX which is the cheapest standard type of car up to UberBlack which is their luxury mode. I chose UberX and then tapped "Request a Driver". I got a message saying a driver would be there in less than five minutes. I then input my destination. I was able to wait in the hotel lobby until I got a message from Uber saying my driver was arriving - along with a photo of my driver and the make and model of his car. I then saw him pull up and headed out.

He opened the door to his car and said "Stuart?". I could see he matched the picture I was given plus the car was the correct one. I hopped in the front seat and we took off. We chatted about the upcoming game and I found out he was originally from Wisconsin so we immediately began discussing an obvious topic. My driver effectively weaved in and out of traffic and within a few minutes we were in front of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. My driver told me to have a good time and I got out. By the time I was inside, I received a notification in Uber to rate my drivers (I gave him five stars). I also got an email receipt detailing the path my driver took, the time it took and the cost (a reasonable 5.25).

Would I use it again? Absolutely I would. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It's much easier than summoning a taxi (Taxi companies don't like Uber as you might guess). There is an issue with airports (airports want Uber drivers to buck up for permits) so you need to be sure Uber can give rides to any airport you want to use. It's only in bigger cities (you can get a list on their web site). If you are ever in one the cities they serve and you want a ride, I'd say give them a try.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Champions Classic

I had realized earlier this year that Kentucky would be playing in Indianapolis this fall in the Champions Classic. This is a yearly series comprised of Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Duke where the teams rotate playing each other and at different sites. This is as close as they've been so I decided I'd go. They'd be playing Kansas and Duke would play Michigan State. I tried to buy a ticket when they went on sale but all the good seats were taken somehow. I ended up buying a club seat on StubHub so I was good to go. I got a hotel that was reasonably priced (Fairfield Inn and Suites) about a mile from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The game was not at Lucas Oil field where we'd seen the NCAA Regional last year but at the arena where the Indiana Pacers play.

The day of the game came and I headed out. When we went to Indianapolis earlier this year, we went through Indiana. This year, every mapping program I tried sent me through Illinois. I am not entirely sure what changed there, but I ended up liking that route better. I stopped in Effingham at a place called Niemerg’s Steak House. Surprisingly enough though, I got a fried chicken dinner (it was highly recommended). It was excellent. They had a bunch of kinds of pie, but I was really full so I passed. The trip was uneventful and I got to the hotel OK. I checked in and rested a bit. There was a TGIF attached to the hotel, so I grabbed some food from there and ate in my room.

It was time to leave. The wind chill was 4 degrees, so I decided to try one of the new ridesharing services (I'll blog on that separately). I got to the game no problem. While I was line, two ladies from Duke starting talking to me and of course they brought up Christian Laettner. I told him I would never get over that and told them about the upcoming (no joke) 30 for 30 series called "I Hate Christian Laettner". My seat turned out to be excellent. Being in the club section was nice. The first game got ready to start. When Duke came out, they were lustily booed (wonder why? ha). The game was close for the first half but Duke pulled away to win in the second half. The Duke freshmen (Jahlik Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winston) looked really good (I have to grudgingly admit). Although, Michigan State's defense was to play straight man to man on Okafor which seemed a bit odd.

The Kentucky Kansas game started and the atmosphere totally changed. It felt like a NCAA tourney game. There were quite a few Kansas fans but still more from UK. A few minutes into the game, a man behind me complained to an usher about a bunch of guys using very audible foul language. The game was close at the first as the teams looked tight. Kentucky started to pull away. It seemed like every time Kansas drove to the basket, Kentucky blocked their shot. Kentucky was up 17 near the end of the first half, but Kansas nailed two threes and a basket to a single free throw for UK and it was a ten point game at half (38-28). Kentucky's 2nd platoon would be starting the second half and I was a bit nervous. I had no need to worry. They shut down Kansas completely. In fact, UK shut down Kansas completely in the 2nd half. They scored a grand total of 12 points and only 3 baskets. The UK crowd kept getting louder and louder. Kansas fans began leaving. By the time the game was over, Kentucky had won 72-40 over the 5th ranked team in the country! It was a great game for UK. I was so happy I even bought a Champions Classic shirt on the way out. I was so pumped and warm, I just walked back to the hotel. There were enough fans on the street so it was safe. I didn't get back til almost midnight. I got up the next morning and drove back without incident.

If UK can play like that, they will be tough for anyone to beat. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The game is in Chicago next year and Kentucky plays Duke so I plan on going again.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Paul McCartney

I’ve liked the Beatles for about 35 years now, but the path to how I got there was strange. When I was a senior in high school, I started hearing some songs on the radio like Got to Get You into My Life and Come Together. They were from a movie called “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The movie starred a diverse cast of the Bee-Gees, Peter Frampton, George Burns and Alice Cooper. I was talking about the music in Calculus class and my friend David Darnell scoffed. He said “those songs don’t compare to the original releases by the Beatles”. I was skeptical and just filed that away in my brain. The movie by the way was absolutely terrible. I thought about the Beatles again when I was watching Monday Night Football on Dec 8, 1980. Howard Cosell broke in to say John Lennon had been murdered. I knew who he was and remember being really saddened by the tragedy of it. He had this song he’d just released called “Starting Over” which I really liked. How do I remember that date you might ask? Turns out the most wonderful woman in the world celebrated her 16th birthday that day.

A couple of years later, my friend Keith “Corky” Johnson re-introduced me to the Beatles. He had most of their albums which he loaned to me. When I listened to them, I was blown away. Where had this music been all my life? I became totally obsessed with the Beatles to the point where I was obnoxious about it. It was all I talked about. I spent every spare cent I had on Beatles albums and read everything I could find about them. I got a Beatlemania trivia game (that I still have) for Christmas that my friend Rick Alvey and I used to play a lot.

I’ve calmed down about the Beatles since then. But, I still would count them as my favorite. I still scoff when somebody claims to have been as popular or talented (Garth Brooks comes to mind). I’d always hoped they would get back together just once even after John died. I thought Julian Lennon could fill in for his dad. But once George Harrison died in 2001, that dream pretty much ended. My next idea was I really wanted to see Paul McCartney in concert. The right opportunity never came along til recently. His “Out There” tour started last year and I noticed happily he would come to Nashville and Louisville. I chose Louisville because the concert was going to be on June 25th (a Thursday) which worked out better for me. Lo and behold I get an email that Paul had been ill and that concert wouldn't be held. Fortunately, the concert was rescheduled for Tuesday October 28th.

The date finally came and I took off for Louisville. I had to stay across the river in New Albany because an FFA convention pretty much taken every room in the city. I grabbed some Five Guys and headed for downtown Louisville. I got to the Yum center at 6:45 (the concert started at 8). For some reason, they didn’t open the doors til 7. Even when we got in, they didn’t let anybody take their seats til about 7:30. I guess they were trying to convince you to buy stuff. It worked on me – I bought a pretzel and an outrageously priced tour shirt. Finally, I got in to my seat. I had purchased a floor seat and the view looked like it was going to be great.

They were still seating people at 8. The concert finally started at about 8:40. Paul took to the stage and started with “Eight Days a Week”. He played a lot of Beatles songs including my favorite “The Long and Winding Road”. He sang “Something” in a tribute to his old bandmate George Harrison (another favorite of mine). He alternated between bass guitar, guitar and piano. I had to stand most of the time but I didn’t mind at all. He put on a great show. He even got in a reference to Louisville and Kentucky by talking about the time the Beatles met Muhammad Ali in Miami right before he fought Sonny Liston. He played for over two and a half hours. He came out to his first encore with his band and him carrying British, US and Kentucky flags. I could tell his voice was straining a bit when he sang Helter Skelter in his first encore but he still did well. He finished a three hour concert with a second encore singing “Yesterday” and ending with the Abbey Road “Golden Slumbers” finish. I’ll just simply say what I said on Facebook that night “The Paul McCartney concert was AWESOME!!”.

He actually said “We’ll see you next time”. I cannot imagine he’ll tour again. He did great this time – a three hour concert for a 72 year man is amazing to me. I’ve knocked this item off my bucket list. But if he tours again, I’ll be there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oscar Taveras

I had just gotten home Sunday night from going to Arbys after church with Donna, Josh and Shelby to get food to bring home. I was settling into my easy chair with my roast beef sandwich to watch Sunday Night Football when I heard Josh shout. He said “A player on the Cardinals died!”. He then said it was Oscar Taveras. I was absolutely stunned. I jumped on the Internet immediately and saw it was true. Oscar and his girlfriend had died in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic.

Oscar had gotten a lot of publicity during the current baseball season. He had been billed as the heir apparent to Albert Pujols. He had a couple of stints with the Cardinals this year but hadn’t broken out with the season expected of him The Cardinals had even traded Allen Craig to give him an open spot in right field. By year’s end, Oscar had been replaced in right field by fellow rookie Randal Grichuk. He did a good job coming off the bench in the playoffs as a pinch hitter. Plans were for him to get in better shape and work hard over the winter to be ready for the spring. He was only 22 so he had plenty of time to develop. Now, that was all gone.

We already had a couple of memories of Oscar. He made his major league debut on May 31st. This was the day of Jonathan and Cheyenne’s wedding. I was keeping up with the game before the wedding started. In his second MLB at-bat, he hit a home run. I was talking with Mickey Spiceland right after it happened. I think I said something like “I didn’t see that one but I’ll get to see him hit plenty more”. Josh and I went to the see the Cardinals play at Miller Park in Milwaukee in September. Oscar came up to bat with a runner on. Josh asked me what he was going to do. I said “He’s been struggling, he’ll probably strike out”. Josh said “Nah, he’ll hit a home run”. We’d played this scenario out in April with John Jay and he hit a home run. You can guess what happened. Oscar drove a deep drive over the right field wall. It was ultimately the difference in a 5-3 Cardinal win. Again, I thought that he’d hit a lot more for the Cardinals in the coming years. And now just like that, he’s gone.

It’s always sad when someone dies so young. The fact that he was not much younger than Josh hits me hard too. I feel guilty when I occasionally get a thought of what the Cardinals will do without him. It’s almost cliché to say this when a young person dies, but it’s true – we are not guaranteed our next breath on this earth. If there is someone you’ve thought “Yeah I need to do more with that person “ or “I need to clear up a dispute with someone”, this certainly should be a reminder to deal with that quickly. If you haven’t been baptized into the body of Christ or you once did and you’ve turned away from God, you shouldn’t put that off either.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Left My Ballard County

I'm reposting this from three years ago in honor of the day..

Monday September 15th is the 30th anniversary of a day that set my life (happily) on a drastic change.

I was a fledging programmer at what was called Martin Marietta then (now USEC) and living in an apartment in Forest Hills. I had gone over to my buddy Jeff Lawrence's trailer (known to this area as Dr. Jeff on WKYQ). He asked if I had plans for the next evening. I said no thinking we were going to have one of our regular marathon Trivial Pursuit matches. He says "Well, you've got a date". I was aghast. "I've set you up with someone I work with at Trader's Mart" (Trader's Mart is a long defunct want-ad kind of paper). He told me I had to go because I wouldn't be allowed to hang out at his place the next night so I reluctantly agreed.

The next day, I went with my friends Keith "Corky" Johnson and Jim Hill to Massac State Park. I sat on the bank of the Ohio River looking and thinking "What kind of idiot goes out with a girl he's never seen before?".

The hour approached and I headed out to meet her at Trader's Mart in my 1983 Trans-Am. All I knew is her name was Donna Woods and she'd be in a black Olds Cutlass.

I got there and the car was there. I watched the door open with apprehension. Out stepped the most beautiful brown haired brown-eyed girl I'd ever seen. I almost couldn't speak. I finally said "I'm Stuart, do you want to see my driver's license to prove it?". She actually laughed at my bad joke.

She wanted to go to McDonalds and eat so we did. She had a quarter pounder with cheese and I had a Big Mac. I saw some guys I knew and I think they were in shock when they saw me out with this beautiful girl.

She wanted to see Grandview USA at the Paducah Drive-In. I was glad to go there since I worked there for years each summer until I started working full-time at Martin Marietta. My boss (who recently passed away) Richard Phillips was at the ticket booth. I guess he was so shocked to see with such a pretty date that he let us in free. He also told me to go to the concession stand and get free drinks and popcorn. Donna told me later how impressed she was when I brought out drinks and a large brown bag full of buttered popcorn.

The whole date cost 5.00 (including gasoline). She even shared my frugality beliefs! I was enthralled...

The night went great and she even agreed to see me again.

The next morning as I was getting ready to go to church, my phone rang. The caller introduced himself as the "Ballard County Sheriff" and he needed to talk to me about an incident last night. The girl I had gone out with was from Ballard County. My main experiences with Ballard County were to go to the "Game Preserve" (as my Uncle James called it) to camp with my family and a visit to the "Green Palace" (which was really really Green) to watch Lone Oak play in a district basketball tournament. I remember all the kids there blew duck calls the whole game. Anyway, I thought "Oh man, she didn't make it home and now I am the last one to see her and the main suspect". It turned out that they had picked up a couple of guys I know as they came off the Wickliffe bridge and they wanted me to vouch for their identities.

For reasons I'll never understand, she kept going out with me. We've been married 28 years. She still laughs at my bad jokes. I've worked at "Martin Marietta" for over 30 years. We drove that black Olds Cutlass til it wouldn't run any more. I've lived in Ballard County for 26 years now. I still order a Big Mac when I go to McDonalds. And I couldn't be happier....

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jim Brosnan

I was doing my usual morning review of all of my news feeds in Feedly when I came across a link on the St Louis Post Dispatch web site that I had no idea about. Jim Brosnan had passed away at the age of 84. Brosnan was a pitcher for the Cubs, Cardinals, Reds and the White Sox in the 50's and 60's. However, he was much more well-known as a writer.

When I was a teenager, I used to frequent used book stores. One day, I picked up a book that looked interesting called "Pennant Race". It was a diary of the 1961 Cincinnati Reds pennant winning season chronicled by a pitcher named Jim Brosnan. It was one of the best books I ever read sports or not. It predated Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" by a decade. It was a great book for a baseball fan giving all sort of inside information about the game, player/manager relationships and some of the things that go on in baseball behind the scenes (without being vulgar like Bouton's book). I found out later that there was a previous book called "The Long Season" that chronicled Brosnan's 1959 season with the St Louis Cardinals (and after he was traded that summer) and the Cincinnati Reds. I remember checking the book out from the library. I tagged my younger brother with the nickname "Rooms" taken from Brosnan's book "Pennant Race". Brosnan called his roommate Howie Nunn that. Years later (with my original Pennant Race book long gone), I bought both books and read them over and over again. Brosnan's hope of making the 1961 All-Star game and his disappointment of not being chosen by Pirate manager Danny Murtaugh come to mind even now as the All Star teams have been selected. I have even enjoyed looking at to see the boxscores of the games Brosnan describes in his books and how accurate his writings really were. Brosnan was a very intelligent man mentioning numerous books he had read and being given the nickname "Professor".

Brosnan never wrote any more books like these (unfortunately). The White Sox tried to put a clause in his last contract that he not write any more such books and rather than agree to that, he retired. He stuck to writing though authoring other sports books including children's books, but none seemed anywhere near as good as these two were. He was a groundbreaker of the baseball book that is commonplace now. I'll most likely have to pull them down soon and re-read them again.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Commissioners Box...

About five years ago, I was introduced to a section of Busch Stadium that I would suggest that every Cardinal fan do at least once. I was buying tickets that year and when selecting "Best Available", I was presented with something called a "Commissioners Box". It at least looked interesting so I bought two tickets. We got the tickets in the mail in a special envelope and were pleasantly surprised to find what all came with that. First, you get a parking pass that allows you to park in the VIP parking lot right across the street from Busch Stadium. Then, you get to come in when the gates open and stand on the dirt part of the field and watch batting practice for an hour. You get a photo opportunity in the dugout. The seats were excellent. You also get food from a special menu included that is delivered to your seat for free throughout the whole game. It consists of the usual ballpark fare (hot dogs, popcorn, soda, brats, peanuts, Cracker Jack, etc). There are also other items like cotton candy, pretzels, turkey sandwiches and licorice. We loved it and every year since, I get a game with these seats.

Last year Josh and I had seats on the front row of the Commissioner boxes. It was the first time I've sat on the front row for a Cardinals game. All of us sitting on the row had to be reminded to not put things on the rail and not to lean into the field of play. We ate our fill of food plus saw the Cardinals win, so we really had a great time. This year, Donna went. We had front row seats again. They added several kinds of Ted Drewes ice cream to the menu. I had some of that of course. That added stuff like fish tacos and a crab cake, but I stuck with ballpark food. They've also added Pretzel sticks. These are the warm soft pretzel sticks you can get with either salt (me) or cinnamon and sugar (Donna). I got to see my old buddy Lance Lynn pitch again. He looked like he was going to be bad Lance by giving up two runs in the first but finally buckled down. The Cardinals were shut down until the 6th when Shane Robinson doubled in two to tie the game. The Cardinals scored single runs in the 7th and 8th. Trevor Rosenthal shut the door in the ninth and the Cardinals had a 4-2 win.

There are a few things to remember. You need to be in line when the gates open so you be on the field for batting practice. You'll see the visiting team because the Cardinals are already done with theirs. The Cardinals are not in the dugout when you get your picture taken. Finally, we ran into a different issue this year. Several very young girls would try to sneak into the section with baseballs to try and get autographs. Our servers would keep them out as best they could. I finally realized their dads were sending them down thinking they had a better shot at autographs.

These seats are expensive. Now that the Cardinals use "Dynamic Pricing", the cost can vary widely. If you go on a weekday and when they are not playing a "premium opponent", the price isn't too bad especially given what all you get. If you are a Cardinal fan, I strongly recommend you try doing this at least once.

Friday, April 25, 2014

That Scottish Place...

I was not at all surprised to see this on Yahoo Finance the other day

McDonalds profit falls

I have frequented McDonalds all my life. I remember going to my allergist in Lexington as a young boy. On the way out of town, we stopped at this restaurant they didn’t have in Paducah. It was a McDonalds. When I was at PCC, we ate multiple times a week at the McDonalds on Jackson Street. We even had one of our friend’s girlfriend bring us food to our Physics Lab. Our professor protested, so we started bringing him a Big Mac and he was OK with it then. I went on my first date with a beautiful brunette with brown eyes and she wanted to go to McDonalds. She got a Quarter Pounder with cheese and I got a Big Mac. I married that girl. The boys and I went all the time when they were growing up. I love when they have the "Rolo McFlurry".

If I couldn’t figure out where to eat when I traveled, I knew I could stop at a McDonalds and get a decent meal for a good price. Well Ladies and Gentlemen; this is no longer the case. The last several times I went to the McDonalds on Jackson Street, it took me over 15 minutes to get our food. The last time we went, I ordered a Big Mac Meal and Donna got the 2 Filet-O-Fish sandwiches for 4.00. It took 20 minutes to get our food. The man next to me grumbled “I don’t why I come back here, it always takes forever”. I certainly could empathize. I actually complained on their web site. I got a call from the local regional manager. The first thing she did was say “Well, if you have a complicated order it can take a while”. I told her what we ordered and told her that obviously wasn’t a complicated order. She finally admitted that no order should take 20 minutes. She said “we’ll certainly review our processes there”.

So, on the way to see Josh in Wisconsin, we stopped at a McDonalds at Mendota Illinois. It took over 15 minutes for us to get our food again. And, it wasn’t even that good. So, I’ve made a very tough decision. I’ve decided that we won’t be going to a McDonalds for a while. If I am going to have to wait 15 minutes or more, I may as well go to another restaurant – even a sit down restaurant. We did figure out on our way back home that this does limit where you can stop and eat. McDonalds is by far the most common restaurant you’ll see on Interstate exits.

Oh and about that reference to “that Scottish place”. It’s from the movie “Time after Time”. Malcolm McDowell plays HG Wells and has travelled to the future. He eats with Mary Steenburgen and says “Much superior to that Scottish place where I breakfasted.”. As she looks at him with confusion, she finally figures out he ate at “McDonalds”. I think I’ll try some other places to eat as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Miller Park

As some of you may know, Josh accepted a job with Epic Software in Madison Wisconsin and started working there in January. After helping him move in, we hadn’t been back up there since. Donna (of course) wanted to come up here every so often to see him. So, I began to plan when we’d come up. I realized that the Cardinals play in Milwaukee three times a year. So, we arranged trips to Madison around those dates.

I bought tickets to a game in each of the series in July and September. They were much easier to get and quite a bit cheaper than comparable seats at Busch Stadium. For the first series though, I went through StubHub and bought Diamond boxes. We ended up with two seats on row four right behind home plate. I got them for 75.00 each. Comparable seats at Busch would have been at least double that.

The game was on Monday, so when Josh got off work, we headed for Miller Park in Milwaukee. It’s about a one and half hour drive from Madison. Most of the drive is on I-94 and the stadium is right off the Interstate, so it’s an easy drive. Josh slept most of the way and I listened to XM radio. There was some traffic getting to the stadium, but it wasn’t horrible. Miller Park has huge parking lots by the stadium. It costs 18.00 to park next to the stadium and 10.00 to park what would be equivalent to a couple of blocks away. You can guess which option we went with. We walked to the stadium and headed inside.

The temperature outside was a cool 38 degrees, so the retractable roof was closed. It was certainly not warm inside but certainly bearable with a light jacket. Josh had brought three coats which would come in handy as you’ll see later. Our seats were as good as I hoped. We were right behind home plate behind the protective screen. It was as close as I’ve even been to a game behind home plate. I grabbed a polish sausage at the concession stand. It was OK but the price as high (as always at a MLB park). As an interesting tidbit, Miller Park is the only MLB stadium where the hot dog isn’t the top selling sandwich – it’s the bratwurst there. The crowd was of course much less than would be at Busch on a Monday. The stated attendance was 27,000 but I don’t think there were that many there.

We settled in to watch the game. Lance Lynn was pitching for the Cardinals. Most Cardinal fans know that you never know which Lance Lynn you’ll get – Good Lance or Bad Lance. The Brewers were also on a nine game winning streak and in first place ahead of the Cardinals. The prospects didn’t look really good. Both pitchers did well for the inning. In the 2nd, Cardinal shortstop Jhonny Peralta lifted a long high fly towards center field. Josh and I both thought it was “too high” but it carried over the center field fence and the Cards were up 1-0. Lance Lynn continued to pitch very well and ended up striking out 11. His only real trouble came in the 5th. He issued a two out walk and then Schafer laced a double to right. The 3rd base coach held the runner at third. I (and the Brewer’s fans around me) found this a curious decision with the pitcher coming up next. Garza then struck out to end what would be the only real threat of the night for the Brewers.

The key inning was the 6th. Matt Holliday led off with a single and then Matt Adams laced a gapper to the wall. Holliday lumbered (that’s exactly what it looked like) toward the plate. The Brewers made a great relay to the plate to nail him. With Matt Adams on 2nd, Allen Craig hit a grounder to 2nd. Their 2nd baseman made a great throw to nail Matt Adams (who appeared to not expect this) at 3rd. Peralta singled to right to set up a two on two out situation for John Jay. Jay got two strikes on him. Josh asked me what would happen next. I predicted a strikeout. Josh said “Nah, he is going to hit a home run”. I told him that there was no way John Jay would do that, he never did things like that. The words were barely out of my mouth when Jay ripped a long drive to right for a three run homer. This brought much laughter from Josh and the Brewers fans around me, but I didn’t mind at all. This pretty much sealed the deal. Lynn went 7 strong innings and Carlos Martinez threw two perfect innings to close the game – 4-0 in favor of the Cardinals.

When we got outside, it was snowing. Our car was covered in snow. Josh had brought the multiple jackets to wear so he was fine on the walk back. It was a rental car and didn’t have a scraper so I had to resort to the hack of using a card in my wallet to clean off the windows. We got out of the stadium pretty easily. The roads were a bit slick in spots – we saw several cards off the road. I took it easy and slow and we got back to his apartment about midnight. We had a great time. The Cardinals had won but the best thing was Josh and I spent a lot of time at the game just talking. That’s one of the great things about a baseball game. The environment is much better for conversation than other sports. We have tickets for July and September. I am looking forward to warmer weather and seeing what the stadium looks like with the roof rolled back.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Game One

It's been a funny season for UK basketball. There was all sorts of hype about the "greatest freshman class ever" and "40-0". This team has not really seemed to gel all season long. I attribute that to two things - no true leader emerging and point guard play. At least this year, Kentucky was going to be in the NCAA tournament. They were given what I feel was a terrible seed - an 8. I had to leave home before the entire NCAA tournament bracket was announced. Josh was watching and would text me where UK would play. I was honestly hoping for Milwaukee so we could see him. He texted me "St Louis".

You see, I bought into all this hype about the team. In October, I figured that UK would be a number one seed. The closest pod to Lexington for the first two rounds (I don't count that play-in mess) was St Louis. The closest Regional site was Indianapolis. So, I bought three tickets for each of us - for Jonathan, Josh and I to go. I even got hotel rooms in each city just in case. Well, Josh went and got a job in Madison Wisconsin so he couldn't come. Fortunately, Jonathan's fiancee' Cheyenne is a big UK fan, so she was definitely up for going. I had honestly thought that UK would never end up in St Louis, so I was ready to sell the tickets and cancel my reservations. Fortunately, everything had worked out.

So on Friday, the four of us (including Donna) headed for St Louis. We ate at Chick-Fil-a in Paducah. The trip went fine except that our usual rest stop stop at Rend Lake was closed for some reason. We got to our hotel (Pear Tree at Union Station) just fine. I had reserved two rooms and had forgotten that I had reserved suites. The rooms had plenty of space for us. The Pear Tree had also added an interesting piece to their check-in. You now have to sign a statement that you will not have a party in your room. I think that's great - some may disagree. The young lady checking me in told that if we could anything like that going on that we should let the front desk know. While we were gone to the game, Donna heard a ruckus in the hallway outside her and Cheyenne's room. When it didn't let up, she called the front desk. Within a few minutes, everything was calmed down.

The hotel has a restaurant in it called Syberg's which I've eaten at a few times. It has good food but I noted that they no longer had my go to meal of chicken fried steak. I settled for a bacon cheeseburger. I just got the food to go and we ate in one of the suites. We decided to leave when we were done so we could catch the Wichita State game before the Kentucky game. The games were at the Scottrade Center (where the Blues play). The walk from the hotel was no problem, it only took about ten minutes. We conversed with a couple who were there to see Wichita State play. When we got to the arena, there was a huge crowed waiting to get in. They appeared to have only one main entrance open. The Wichita State game had already started by the time we got in. That was not a big deal for us but it was to the many Wichita State fans waiting to get in. We finally got in and headed for our seats.

It turned out we had floor seats in the end zone. We were really close. Jonathan even remarked "you can see the players sweat from here!". We settled in and watched Wichita State blow out Cal-Poly. Wichita State had a lot of fans there, even more than Kentucky. We watched the Kansas State Band file in and sit immediately in front of us. They were entertaining to watch. Their signature song seemed to be "Wabash Cannonball". I always thought Wabash was in Indiana? They did some sort of wild gyrations each time they played the song. Jonathan actually did it along with them once earning a laugh from the security guard. The Kansas State mascot is a Wildcat. It is however, a wildcat head with a human body. It lead me to ask "Can't they afford a whole costume like we can?". He was quite animated and did a good job.

The game began with Andrew Harrison going to the free throw line to shoot two free throws. The acoustics were absolutely terrible and you couldn't hear anything the announcer was saying. I found out later from Donna that a Kansas State walk-on had dunked in warm-ups which you cannot do within 20:00 on the clock. The game got going and it was very physical. It was one of those games that frustrate me to no end. For a while, nothing was a foul than everything was a foul. Kansas State had a big power forward who continually bulled his way to the basket and wasn't whistled for a foul until the end of the game. Kentucky got up by as many as twelve and Kansas State whittled the lead down to six by the half. They nailed a three to cut the lead to three. Kentucky would get a small run and Kansas State would come back. They got a close as two but never could climb all the way back. Kentucky finally got up by 13 with about a minute to go. Kansas State got a turnover and a couple of threes (one double pump three) and got the lead down to six, but UK ended up winning by seven. Julius Randle had another double-double to lead the way.

We got back to the hotel about 11:30pm. It took me a little time to wind down but I finally did and went to bed. We got up that morning and made it back home without incident.

Now Kentucky gets the undefeated Wichita State Shockers. Can they win? They'll have to play a lot better than they did against Kansas State.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I have always had an interest in trivia. I love to read at any opportunity I get and I learn all sorts of trivia. I’ve loved the TV show Jeopardy even from the Art Fleming days. I was thrilled with the release of the game Trivial Pursuit in the early 1980s. I played many a game of that with my friends. Both Jonathan and Joshua participated on the Academic Teams at Ballard Middle and Ballard Memorial. I’ll admit I was a bit jealous. They never had anything like this when I was their age and I would have loved it.

I have noticed over the past few years the increasing occurrence of trivia nights or games by various groups usually for charity. I’ve never participated in one until recently. My work colleague and friend John Witte invited me to a trivia contest that was to benefit the Challenger Learning center. I accepted the invitation having no idea what to expect. I arrived to a packed room that I later found out had 43 teams of six each. I saw my friend (and legal counsel) Chuck Walter. He had the boys former teacher (and A-Team coach) Steve Quartermous on his team (who we call to this day Mr. Q). I knew that was going to be a formidable team and they ended up winning. Our team finished fourth which I thought was really good.

Here’s the basic format. Each team has six to eight members. There are ten rounds of ten questions each. Each ten question set follows a theme like Sports, History or even more specific categories like 70’s Music or Paducah Trivia. A narrator reads the question which also appears on a screen. You write down your answers on a sheet of paper. Some contests also allow you to have mulligans. These allow you to mark a question with a “mulligan” which means it will automatically be counted correct. You are given a minute or so after the questions are read to turn in your paper. The team with the most correct answers wins. You have to make a guess before you start as to how many questions you’ll get right, this serves as the tiebreaker.

Last week, Chuck called me to invite me to play on a team he was getting together. It was a benefit for the New Pathways Children’s Home (which I am familiar with) that was held at Broadway church of Christ. I was all for it this time and agreed to be there. This one didn’t charge an entry fee. You made a donation for the Children’s Home. With this donation, you got five “mulligans” to use. We started and did pretty well. We thought the questions here were a bit tougher than the previous trivia tournament we were in. I was able to contribute some answers so I felt good about that. We got to the final round with a three point lead and the final category was “Technology”. Of course, the pressure was on me to come through on that one. We got enough answers right to end up winning. We ended up getting a trophy made appropriately enough of “Smarties”. It’s what you see above.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed participating in these and hope to get the opportunity to do some more.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hershey Spread

Being a chocolate loving kinda guy, I of course got very excited when I saw the advertisements for the new product Hershey Spreads. I love Hershey bars and Hershey Kisses. I then began to beg Donna (the household’s grocery comptroller) to buy me a jar. She then dropped a stumper on me – “What food will you dip in it?”. I was stumped. I generally eat my chocolate in some sort of solidified form. I’m not one to dunk fruit or other foreign objects in my chocolate. Being the very smart lady she is (and knowing her husband very weel), she came up with a brilliant solution (which I’ll reveal later).

She kept checking for several weeks and nobody had the spreads. Finally, Wal-Mart had them. There are three flavors – Chocolate, Chocolate with Hazelnut and Chocolate with Almond. I of course chose the unadulterated Chocolate. The first thing to note is this stuff isn’t cheap – it was 3.38 a jar. Another thing I immediately noted is the jar isn’t totally round so there is even less product then you might guess in it. I hope this picture (comparing to a peanut butter jar) shows kinda what I am talking about.

Donna came home with Eggos. Not only were they Eggos but they were Chocolate Chip Eggos. I used to eat Eggos a lot when I was younger but haven’t had any in a long time. I eagerly toasted up a couple and slathered a tablespoon of the spread between them. Ladies and Gentlemen, it was exquisite. It’ll be a very good thing when we are out of Eggos and Hershey Spread because I have to have one of these waffle sandwiches almost every day now.

I can’t speak for the other two flavors, but the one I had was pretty good. I imagine it’d be even better if I was a chocolate “dunking” kind of person. If you like Hershey’s anything, I’d suggest giving it a try.