Archive for the ‘Vacations’

SAS Global Forum 2013: San Francisco, CA

This week I am in San Francisco for SAS Global Forum 2013; my annual trip to talk about being a data nerd in front of thousands of other data nerds. While I am giving a talk this year, due to how busy I’ve been for work (~10 weeks at 70 hours), I haven’t had much time to prepare (well, honestly, not at all) for my talk so I’m giving a short and sweet version of a post today.

I have done some food touring including eating at Thai Idea Vegetarian which looks like your standard Thai menu until you realize all of their meat offerings are vegetarian faux meats. It was beautifully plated and tasted great but the best part was spending time to catch up with an old friend, so much fun! On Sank’s recommendation I walked into Chinatown and down to Delicious Dim Sum for, well, dim sum and darn if it wasn’t delicious and super cheap!

Yesterday, a spur of the moment decision was made by a previous coworker’s new team to take a cab to the Golden Gate Bridge and walk across it. I didn’t even know you could do that except in zombie movies. So off we went, just before a foggy sunset and made the 40+ min walk taking pictures and enjoying the view.

Have you ever been to SF? If so do you have any must-do recommendations for things to see or do while people are here? Food to eat? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Ice Fishing in Western Wisconsin

This past weekend I invited members of my team at work to head up to Sank’s cabin on Big Blake Lake in Western Wisconsin for some team building and ice fishing. Sank and I drove up on Friday night, braving the snow and ice as well as drunk Minnesota drivers weaving from shoulder to on-coming lanes to shoulder, to arrive just before midnight. We “slept in” until 7 AM, had breakfast at Ida Mae’s in Amery, and did some grocery/beer shopping. Around 10 AM I had the miserable pleasure of driving across the ice (30″+ or not, it was still scary) in Sank’s truck.

Around 10:30 AM the guys arrived and we sat around for a few hours while Sank prepped lunch and dinner and we waited for the temperature to come up above -451F so ice fishing wouldn’t be as miserable. After a lunch of gouda and cheddar grilled cheese with tomato/basil soup we headed to the ice before realizing that we had forgotten our fishing licenses while stocking up on booze. Oops.

After 2+ hours on the ice we had exactly one blue gill the size of the palm of my hand to show for it but we had an opportunity to see two new Minnesota transplants (one from TX the other from Ethiopia via Seattle) get out on the ice and stand around in single digit temps for a few hours drinking “Adult Snow Cones” (root beer schnapps and snow). While I wasn’t a fan of the cracking and popping while the truck drove across the ice that morning, I did enjoy the crazy noises the ice makes as it cracks as you stand there–something like a cross between sonic booms and trance music bass.

After cleaning up, which took almost as long as getting ready and far less than actual fishing time, we were back inside the cabin eating spaghetti and Bambi meatballs (which were to die for). After three meatballs and a little bit of pasta I was passed out on the couch for two hours. Man, nothing takes the wind out of your sails like a day on the ice. Wow. After the nap we watched Svengoolie and the Wolf Man while watching Sank pass out with his ultra friendly dog sleep on his chest. After a nice long nap of 6.5 hours, I “slept in” again until 7 AM on Sunday morning, helped clean and do dishes, and we were out the door by 8:15 and on our way home.

Overall it was another wonderful weekend with Sank and one that I enjoyed. I hadn’t been on the ice to fish since I was a young kid and while it’s not something I need to do anytime again soon, I would if someone asked. I think my team had a nice time and it was great to take another weekend to relax and enjoy myself.

When was the last time you were out doing some ice fishing? Is it something you enjoy? Do you drive in cars on the ice (30″+ or not)? Do you know what causes the crazy noises when it cracks? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Taking Your Kids to See National Treasures

For the last few months I’ve been using this great app on my phone called Flipboard. It provides a super nice way to get at a bunch of the latest news in a variety of my favorite topic areas quickly and easily in a format which is conducive to quick reads. Yesterday I was literally thumbing through Flipboard when I came across this article from Parents entitled, “7 Places to Take Your Kids (Before They Grow Up)”.

The list is more than 7 items as it groups a bunch of potential spots into groupings:

    A Natural Wonder
    An American Monument
    A Civil War Battlefield
    A Great American City
    An Unspoiled Beach
    A Desert Landscape
    A Man-Made Wonder

I am an East Coaster and as such I have seen a lot of the individual suggested areas listed (Gettysburg, Lincoln Memorial, Boston, NYC, and the Statue of Liberty to name a few) and through my travels later in life I have (or will soon have) seen some others. However, I’m not sure if taking my kids to these places as children will do that much for them.

Let’s take, for example, Gettysburg. I visited the area with Scouts when I was probably 12 or 13. While I remember the trip itself, a whirlwind 3 day weekend, and the fact that one of the other Scouts’ fathers had a van with a TV and a Nintendo in the back, I couldn’t really tell you all that much about Gettysburg itself. However, since I saw Niagara Falls when I was 17 and the Hoover Dam when I was in my late 20s, I have a much better remembrance of those visits.

I have told The Wife that I really want to take the kids to see Mount Rushmore (I’ve never been to the Black Hills myself) and to the Grand Canyon where smog may eventually severely limit visibility on a regular basis but I really hope they can get something more out of it than remembering about some random unrelated memory like the van story and a patch on a shirt.

However, I don’t know if this list is good enough. What places have you visited that you would add to a must-see for your kids list? What about it made them worthwhile and what was memorable about them for you? Did you dread these sorts of trips as a kid or did you look forward to them? What made them exciting or boring? How many of these places have you visited? Are any of them on your must do list? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Japanese BBQ: My New Favorite

Last night was our last night in Los Angeles and, for fun, a group of us headed out to Gyu-Kaku for some Japanese BBQ and happy hour. I was a little surprised that I was being introduced to something I’d never tried but once we arrived I realized the open flame in the middle of the table was probably too dangerous for Minnesotans–very much like fireworks.

The menu was exhaustive and I didn’t even bother to look as someone else ordered a variety of meats (several times over throughout the night). We had everything from edamame and spicy tuna rolls to beef short ribs and filet mignon. The platters of raw meat were delivered to the table and you threw them on the grill in the middle of the table to cook to your liking (raw for me!). While they were cooking several rounds of sake-bombs came to be with much chanting (“I say sake you say bomb; sake…bomb!”) and much splashing a sake dropped from the chopsticks above the beer glass and into the beer.

The meats were delightful; the flavors were excellent and I knew the chef wasn’t going to overcook them (heh). It was really fun to have such a social dining experience driven by cheap beer and sake. We ended the evening with the very traditional (heh) Japanese dessert of s’mores. While roasting marshmallows over a grill isn’t the same as over a fire pit, the result was very much the same. I’ll admit that I’m not much of a s’mores fan but it was a nice way to end the evening. While at first I didn’t think it was going to be for me, I left wishing we had Japanese BBQ joints all over the Twin Cities so I could take more friends out for a fun night with some great food.

Do you know of any Japanese BBQ places in the Twin Cities I might have missed? Have you ever tried one yourself? If so what did you think of it? What’s your favorite restaurant experience that you can’t get in the Twin Cities? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.