Saturday, August 30, 2008

Good Eating - Redneck Style

Tonight I finally dug into my halibut. I had about 41 pounds in the freezer, and now its down to 39. I fried up two packets in peanut oil and Zatarain's Southern Style Fish Fry.

I then proceeded to eat and eat. I gorged on the beautiful white meat, and I am stuffed. No side dishes, no bread, no salad - not even french fries. Just golden brown perfectly deep fried chunks of Alaskan halibut. I did sprinkle malt vinegar on it and it was perfect. Just three minutes in the fryer is all you need.

Angie, Dylan and even Marissa loved it. Cassie didn't really give it a chance although I did make her try it. I wouldn't care if they all hated it - that would just mean more for me.

Dylan and I are already thinking about more ways to make it. He suggested a ceviche and I thought he was right on - that would be outstanding (Michele - get a recipe for that and I'll get the guacamole and the tortilla chips). We thought grilled (lemon-pepper style) would be somewhat boring, but still yummy. Blackened is another way we'll try it to.

I can't wait to get that deer so we go have some Redneck surf and turf.


A Question: Is the halibut so delicious because I caught it, cleaned it, and cooked it? I know the dove breasts, catfish, and the turkey I've harvested were...there may be something to having caught it yourself. Maybe its more fresh that way. What do you think?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pretty Veep

John McCain just introduced, "the next Vice President of the United States", Sarah Palin.

I'm struck by how attractive she is and how much of an interesting choice she is, but it is too soon to know whether she is a winning pick. She may be as the reaction from the press has been mostly very positive.

She is a true conservative.

She is a woman.

She is young.

I believe that the dems only chance of winning was a combined ticket of Obama/Clinton. Since they didn't go that way, I don't believe they can win - particularly in the fact that McCain is not the Bush 3rd term that the dems present him as...he is a moderate who has a history of working with Democrats.

As I hear Governor Palin speak, I'm beginning to think she's going to capture the Hillary vote, thus cementing another Republican white house. I still believe that is ok.

And besides, at least for the next couple of months, we'll have someone pleasant to look at during all those speeches.


Monday, August 25, 2008

School Zones

The kids started school today and there was no drama of which to speak.

Dylan started High School today. If mom is suffering from this fact, she isn't showing it. I think that once Justin graduated a couple of years ago, she came to grips with her kids getting older. He had a good experience on his first day - leaving so early this morning for the bus that I never saw him. He couldn't stop talking about the Chipotle line at lunch and the senior girls, very many of which were "hot".

Marissa returned to junior high school. She really came into her own last year, and we look for her to continue. She was very nervous this morning when we met a couple of her friends at Starbucks. I don't think that the Vanilla Bean Frappaccino she order settled her stomach, but going to school with some girlfriends probably did. By the time we dropped them off at school, she seemed fine - and informs us she had a good day.

Cassie entered first grade today and has instantly fallen in love with her teacher. Angie met her this morning, and although she seems very young, she's got a couple of years under her belt. Cassie made a song up with lyrics that explain how nice her teacher is and how much she loves her. I hope that lasts through the year.

Angie and I start our classes tomorrow. She is taking English Comp and Art History. I am taking Business Communications and Strategic Management. I'm really excited for her, but not so much for me. I only have eight classes left and I am seriously getting burned out.

As much as I couldn't wait for the summer to be over, I can't wait for school to be done.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's Too Piercing

Cassie and I returned late last night from our holiday in New York.

The big story? She got her ears pierced, as promised.

We started talking about it on her firth birthday. I told her then that when she was ready, I would take her. I wanted to be a part of the momentous occasion. In fact, it is the second time I've taken someone to get their ears pierced. My Aunt Carole reminded me this past week that we took her when she decided to get her ears done (she was tired of being referred to as 'sir', so she thought getting her ears pierced would help - not sure if it had the desired effect, but I told her she might want to stop lurking in men's rooms, too).

Cassie contemplated it for her sixth birthday back in January, but ultimately deciding not to do it. Out of nowhere, she said she wanted to do it on her last full day in NY. I wasn't sure she was going to go through with it, but on Friday morning she continued to say that she was ready.

AMA took Cassie and I to the Piercing Pagoda in Roosevelt Field Mall. Paul's girlfriend, Jackie met us at Cassie's request. We had the cameras going and mom on the cell phone, so we were very prepared. Cassie picked out a basic Cubic Zirconium stud for her starter earrings, and AMA purchased matching pink heart earrings for her, Cassie and Jackie. She'll be able to get them going in six weeks.

After meticulously measuring the ink dots, signing the release paperwork, and with dad giving the final OK, the two attendants put guns to ear and squeezed. It was over before it started and Cassie said no big deal when she stated, "it really didn't hurt." She's since revised her story and said that it hurt bad, but only for an instant.

She looks so grown up and I can't believe how pretty she looks in all of the pictures from our week in the big apple. I guess she's growing up...she starts first grade tomorrow AND she lost her second tooth today.

Tomorrow, she'll be fighting the boys off like her twelve year old sister. Sheesh.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

New York Minutes

I am a man with two homes. There are two places on this earth where I am "at home". One is in Texas. It is where my home, my family and my future reside (at least my near future).

The other is where I am from - New York. Fortunately, because of the fact that I telecommute, I am able to spend a week "working" from AMA's house in NY, while she and Cassie get to play. Although I have gotten a ton of needed work done (all I need is my laptop, my mobile phone, and a broadband Internet connection), I have also had a great deal of fun.

On Sunday, AMA had a monster Hawaiian-themed cookout, making my favorite of hers - sweet and sour chicken. There were about thirty people at the house, including some old family friends that I hadn't seen since I moved to Texas over eight years ago. My aunt (AMA) knows how important that is to me. On one such visit, she surprised me by arranging family from Canada to be here. I cried.

I worked on Monday.

On Tuesday, I took the day off and several of us went to visit my sister who is living and working for the summer on Fire Island. We took the ferry over, sat on the beach, ate at the restaurant where she works (and got taken care of by the exec. chef), and generally had a great time. The scenery was pleasant and the weather outstanding.

On Wednesday, I worked, while the girls went into Manhattan. They spent the day at the American Girl Store buying a doll, accessories, having dinner, and taking in a show. However, the real show didn't start until I met them on Broadway, for "The Little Mermaid". I know it is a kids show, but it was OUTSTANDING. The singing, dancing, and production were just really amazing. I hate to admit it, but I had a wonderful time. Some of that wonder was just watching Cassie enjoy it.

I don't know what they are doing today, but I am working. I will try and go see my Mets play one last time this year, and say my goodbyes to Shea Stadium. It gets razed after this season and replaced by Citi Field right next door.

Tomorrow, I am also working, but will take an extended lunch to go get Cassie's ears pierced and to help AMA pick out a nice laptop so I can set her up before I go.

Who says you can't go home again - I go every summer, and I couldn't imagine not doing it. I want my family to know New York like I do.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Open Letter to American Airlines

To whom it may concern,

I understand today's business environment. I understand that the ever increasing price of fuel is squeezing your margins and ability to operate profitably. I understand the costs incurred for additional security measures and safety protocols. I even understand the need to maximize revenue through baggage fees, snacks and ticketing assistance.

That being said, I truly believe that the problem with your airline and the huge operating losses that you are incurring has nothing to do with the above - it is a result of your totally and completely inept management.

During the past several months, I have been inconvenienced by your airline like no customer should ever be inconvenienced - yet, I continue to purchase your service. At this point, I must begin to ask myself why I remain loyal to your airline when I know that my loyalty is not returned. I know that my loyalty stems from the fact that I feel invested in American Airlines. For the last ten years, I have flown American Airlines as exclusively as possible, earning over 1.2M program miles. This year I have already flown American sixty times for over 85,000 elite miles. Yet, today, I find myself asking why.

Several months ago, I was stranded in Raleigh, North Carolina as your airline cancelled hundreds of flights to reinspect and repair your MD-80 fleet. You blamed the FAA for more stringent requirements, but we all realized the truth. You mismanaged the process and had to do it all over again. Every other airline seemed to manage this better than American, yet I remained patient, stuck away from my family, and waited for you to accommodate me. It only took three days.

Last weekend, I was stranded in Anchorage, Alaska with over $1,200.00 of thawing halibut as you cancelled my flight home. Correction - you didn't cancel the flight, rather it had been delayed for twenty four hours. Again, a situation of complete and utter mismanagement. We received no information for three hours while we waited. We then were instructed to claim our bags and go to ticketing for meal vouchers and lodging assistance. We claimed our bags, but when we went to ticketing, it was dark. After waiting for thirty minutes, we decided to get lodging on our own. I'm not sure what everyone else did, but I heard nothing about complaints about the rest of that evening.

The comedy of mismanagement continued as we reported for our "delayed" flight. Although reimbursed for our meals, taxi, and lodging - we were denied the storage charge for our fish. I presume the airline rather reimburse for $1,250.00 worth of spoiled fish rather than $29.00 for freezer storage.

Then, the crew arrived at departure time. Instead of boarding however, the captain wanted to test the engine for himself. I applaud his thoroughness, but I question why he didn't report early to the plane so that he could test and we could still leave on time. More mismanagement.
When we finally took off, I noticed that there were eight empty first class seats. It got me to wondering why the airline wouldn't review the passenger list and proactively upgrade it's executive platinum and then platinum frequent fliers. Inept management is my only answer.
Clearly, customer service is not as important as American Airlines communicates. It's clear in the state of the fleet, your management and your employees - some of the most bitter people I have ever run across.

Although I appreciate the 20,000 program miles that I received for this recent screw-up, and the $500.00 voucher I received for the inspection issue, I don't believe that your airline has done enough. I've been in customer service for well over a decade. Should I ever provide a service as poorly as American has provided, I would refund the customer completely.

Therefore, I respectfully request:
1) A $750 travel voucher to act as a refund for my round trip flights between DFW and ANC
2) Immediate designation of Executive Platinum status within the AAdvantage Program
3) Four VIP system wide upgrades
4) An additional 80K program miles
5) Your fervent pledge to replace all operational management with more able resources
and, finally, your immediate cessation of blaming September 11 for the airline's problems.

Clearly, 9/11 had nothing to do with your troubles. Your problems are of your own making.



Thursday, August 14, 2008

Old Lady Grabs My Meat

Gotta love catchy titles.

Since we arrived in Homer late, and we had to get up at 5:00am to catch our fishing charter, we turned in early. Since Homer is really just a small fishing village, we weren't missing anything anyway.

We got to Bob's Trophy Charters at 6:00am. We had to pay for our two days of fishing and purchase non-resident Alaska Sports Fishing licenses. We did and were instructed where the boat was. In the office, they had a huge 5-ft (presumably over 300+ pound) Halibut replica hanging on the wall. That got us jazzed to catch the big one. We proceeded to find the Nauti-Lady and meet our crew and fellow fishers. (Clay fished with Bob's about a decade ago...the boat name is all he remembered. We googled it a couple of months ago and found the charter - last time they caught 80-pounders. We were hoping for that on this trip).

Day 1 was beautiful, but the seas were a little rough. The roughness was countered by the beautiful scenery, including a steaming volcano. Fortunately, fishing was good with lots of action. Between the two of us, we caught at least 20 halibut, but were only allowed to keep two each. I had the biggest on the boat for the day, at about 50 pounds. For the day, we had approximately 32 pounds of fillet meat.
Day 2 was more calm, but the fish weren't biting. We fished a spot for about four hours, with only two caught on the entire boat. The captain stayed there way too long in my opinion, and I got frustrated and took a break. He got a call and we motored to a different spot. Apparently, every boat in the bay did the same, but man were the fish biting. The second your line hit bottom you started getting bites. Clay and I probably caught a dozen each in those couple of hours, with about 50 pounders getting kept. I also brought up a large octopus, but we released it as someone else had just brought one up which was shot and used for bait. We ended up with 50 pounds of fillet meat, which almost became 34 pounds.

Homer has a fish processor that takes your meat, cuts it into smaller pieces, vacuum packs it and freezes it (assuming you want them to). They pick the fish up at the boat on the dock, so the first day, we just let them take the meat. The second day, we decided to go up to the processor to pay for their services. We didn't intend on catching up with our fish, but accidentally did - and noticed that our names were in the wrong color bin (we were blue tags both days). I inquired about this, and the old lady standing near the bin stated that she didn't know which color she was and things "got confused". I told her, "Bullshit they are confused - we are blue!" She proceeded to apologize and switch the names back. The blue haul - 50.2 pounds. The old lady haul - 34.0 pounds. At $15 / pound retail in Dallas, that comes to be $243.00 worth of fish.

We were so pissed, and the more we thought about it, the more pissed we got. We started wondering about our low take on day 1 - we thought we had a similar day 1 to day 2...but the weight was 18 pounds less. We steamed over the situation for the remainder of our stay in Alaska. Had we seen that lady again, we would have really let her have it. We learned a hard lesson - stay with your fish until it is weighed and you get a receipt. There are a lot of unscrupulous old people.

Afterwards, we had some beer-battered halibut, salmon, shrimp and scallops. That made me feel better.

Then American Airlines made me forget about the old lady. More on that tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On The Rocks

After sleeping in, we left for our seven hour ride to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. The drive took us back through Anchorage and onward south. It was very picturesque, and somewhat interesting (in 1964 there was a massive earthquake that caused a 40-foot tsunami that drained the bay then devastated the area - the effects of which can still be seen - called Ghost Forests).

We arrived in Seward and walked the waterfront. We hadn't eaten real good yet (food is not that great in Alaska, although like everything else, it is expensive). We found a dinky little place that had fish and chips (using Halibut) and thought we'd try it. It was outstanding! We knew where we were gonna have dinner again.

The next day we started on our six-hour cruise through the Kenai Fjord National Park. The cruise touts itself as a way to see the wildlife and the glaciers of the area, and it didn't disappoint. Upon sailing, we quickly saw a couple of humpback whales, puffins, stellar sea lions and dahl porpoises. We also saw some amazing scenery. The glaciers were truly incredible. They are fed by the Harding Icefield and some are retreating and some are advancing. The boat parked about two tenths of a mile from the Holgate Glacier which is advancing into the bay. We listened to the ice crack and thunder into the water below, sometimes dropping the 300-400 hundred feet that the glacier stands. The pictures make it look small, but it is truly an awe inspiring sight. Some of the icebergs were as big as a car.

As you can tell, the cruise was absolutely stunning, even if we didn't see an orca. We returned to shore and headed right back to the halibut and chips. Since we were fishing in Homer early the next day, we were off for the four and a half hour drive.

A drive in which we continued not to see moose or eagles!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bear Emergency

On Saturday evening, we arrived in Anchorage with no difficulty. I had started in Houston in the morning, and was tired, but Clay and I were in Alaska and beginning our week long adventure.
Adventure turned to fear when I woke up at 5AM unable to swallow. There was something wrong with my throat, we were leaving for the wilderness of Denali in a couple of hours, and we were in only choice - wake Clay and go to the emergency room. I was afraid that I was having an allergic reaction, but the doctor informed me that I actually had trauma to my uvula (uvulitis - probably suffered yelling at the Mets-Astros game and I've since learned that I have an infection and my tonsils and throat are swollen). He told me not to worry and I would be fine.

So, we started the 4.5 hour drive to Denali National Park. Since we had a travel day, we had plenty of time and took it slow - soaking up the views and the mountains that seemed to never cease.

The next day we started our eight hour tour of the park. Upon entering the park, we quickly saw a couple of grey wolves (apparently a sight that isn't very common) and a red fox. We then ran into the grizzly bears. We watched a mother and two cubs avoid a big bull male. Would have been a sight to see them mix it up. We also saw a couple of caribou, several more bears, and several species of birds. We never saw a moose and that became the rallying cry for the rest of the week...

When we got to the end of the road within Denali, we took a quick look at Mt. McKinley (covered in clouds and virtually un-viewable, which is normal) and then maneuvered to get close to the grizzly headed our way. He got within about 30 feet of the tour bus which was really exciting. On our way out, we saw several more animals, and stopped to see the polychrome mountains. Their coloring makes them really beautiful.

We ended a very interesting day with dinner and a ton of great pictures and video.


Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaack!

I'm finally home (a day late thanks to American Airlines) and have caught up on some sleep. I am way behind since we got in a day late so I'll post about my adventure as soon as I can. For now, the following pic will need to suffice.

Needless to say....awesome.