Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Blind Pig Co.

I made it out to check out The Blind Pig last night thanks to Wes' recommendation.

Since they do not serve food and because I had read way too much hype about the place I started the evening at Guido's. It's a sports bar nearby with rude waitresses that seem to have an aversion for tables of one. No problem though, I moved to the bar and got good service and at least some small talk from a couple of the bartenders. Had a Bass and a surprisingly good hamburger there before heading over to the Blind Pig.

I made it inside just after the group of 30 british car owners doing a pub crawl. Most of these nuts were dressed up in Ren Fair costumes -- I waited for my beer at the bar next to the king and the fat friar. All of them had several annoying strobes that made the place look like a rave. Once they had their two rounds and cleared out the night got much better.

The Blind Pig is cozy. For those who spent time in College Station it is about the same length as the Dry Beam and about 3 times as wide. The bar runs down the left side and they've got small tables down the right side. The lighting is poor enough that the decor doesn't matter, but good enough that you can read the beer list and notice that there is a deck of cards somehow stuck to the 20-foot ceiling -- magic was the explanation given by the bartender since that was the explanation he was given.

After 9 they have two bartenders -- when I arrived there was only one poor guy trying to get 30 flashy weirdos drinks -- who are very friendly and will help you find a beer you'll like. The list below is what I had. I'll definately be back there over the summer for more great -- and very reasonably priced -- beer this summer.

König Ludwig Weiss -- the lighter of the two beers pictured.

O'Fallon Wheach -- Peach wheat beer. Just about the only thing peach flavored I've ever liked.

Two Brothers Domain DuPage -- one of the last pints from the cask. I never knew room temperture beer (cellar temperture of 55 degrees actually) could be so good.

Buffalo Bill's Brewery Orang Blossom Cream Ale -- This one wasn't on tap, but The Blind Pig also keeps a large selection of bottled brews on hand. I heard several folks ordering this one and thought I'd give it a shot. A very light beer -- Coors Light may be heavier -- with a sweat orange taste. Great summer beer.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Living large in the corner office

I've survived my first week of work in Illinois. I think the lab in Champaign is a great place to work. Everyone in my group is smart and nice. Their general attitude has been, "you're working on a PhD. you know the problem. Here's the source code. Go and have at it and let us know if you have any questions or need something." I've done my best to hit the ground running with the project and get something useful accomplished.

The weather has turned much warmer in the past two days. We've been in the mid 80's with around 60% humidity, so I certainly am not missing the typical Texas summer weather, I'm living through it instead.

My office is certainly a nice place to be. I somehow managed to wind up in a corner office with two walls of huge windows. It is great! I do have an officemate -- interior offices are typically just for one person -- but that doesn't bother me at all. My officemate is a rowdy old sysadmin, and he rocks! He'll swear out loud and yell at the machines. I love it. It reminds me of my first co-op term at HP when I was also officemates with a rowdy old sysadmin. That guy taught me about cigars... I wonder what vices BIll can teach me about this summer.

So Intel is a great place to be right now. I'm really missing the family, but I think we're all going to survive. Ana slept through the night -- 10pm to 7am -- for the first time last night! Everyone keep their fingers crossed that this is a permanent thing and not just another two week phase.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

First Impressions of Champaign

The end of my third full day in Champaign and I've finally gotten all of my walking/biking/bus riding around town done and my apartment resembling a livable place. The final touch was a new CAT6 cable since the cable left by the previous tenant was a piece of junk that would drop packets like crazy if bent the wrong direction. Fun stuff.

Urbana-Champaign, UC, Chambana or whatever you want to call it is a nice place. The weather is perfect spring weather... high of 70, sunny, breezy, and a little humid. Looking at my Google home page and seeing 90 in College Station really makes me feel sorry for the family suffering through another long BCS summer.

I've found my office, the Y, Best Buy, Borders, two Wal-marts and a grocery store now so my routes around town are set. I think I've also found the quieter streets to bike down, but we'll see how it all works out in rush hour tomorrow morning.

The UIUC campus is gorgeous. The consistent red-brick facades make the campus feel very homey and unified. Not like A&M where very few of the buildings look similar. I have seen the UIUC football stadium. In one word it is "quaint". I wanted to go up to it and pick it up, pat it on the head and tell it, "Don't worry. You'll grow up to be a big football stadium some day. Even if you don't you're still really cute." I think I've also seen the basketball arena... only slightly smaller than the football stadium. :) Seriously, it looks smaller than Reed Arena, but that is because it is a dome and I think quite a bit of it is below the surface.

One final note about campus for now. The squirrels are domesticated to a point that makes the A&M squirrels look like spooked gazzels on the Serengeti. I was waiting for a bus when a squirrel jumped up on the bench and gave me the sad squirrel eyes bit. When that didn't work he walked up and put his front paws on my bag and tried to look more worthy of a snack. At that point I decided to let him have the bench before he decided to switch tactics and beat me up for my lunch money.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I've made it to Champaign, IL after my first trip via Amtrak. The train ride from Chicago to Champaign was fun, but I really wouldn't want to be one of the folks that will ride the train all night and the better part of tomorrow to get to New Orleans.

The trip as a whole was pretty routine with a brief period of sprinting in the middle after the flight from Houston was delayed over an hour. We made it to Chicago about 50 minutes late which gave me just enough time to grab my 100+ pounds of luggage, run to the L and jam the bags through the turnstyles just in time to catch a train downtown. I made it downtown and into Union Station just in time to get the bags on the train and board. The lesson here: what spare time you give yourself in your travel schedule to walk normally and catch trains with the airlines will take away.

Tomorrow is going to be a fun-filled day of picking up paperwork from Intel to fill out over the weekend so I can cut out on the HR lecture early Monday and then camping outside my soon to be apartment so I can get my bike from the FedEx man.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hooray for short weeks

I've got a couple of short weeks coming up here to wrap up the school year. This week I'll skip town on Thursday with the family for a trip to the Panhandle to see my folks and my newest niece, Jayci Joy, who is now 2.5 weeks old.

Since it is Texas Tech's graduation weekend getting a flight out of Lubbock on Sunday was impossible at a decent price, so we're coming back to College Station on Monday. I'll be back at school for just two days before I pack my bags and head off to Intel in Illinois -- Champaign to be exact -- for the summer.

Unfortunately I do have to get some work done still, but the thought of two short weeks in the office makes me happy.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Reason #2 I'm still in grad school

I get to play with some really cool toys. I've just finished reworking some code of mine so that it runs on a small version -- if 2048 processors can really be called small -- of the fastest computer in the world. Yeah, I'm a big nerd. Tell me something I don't already know.

FYI, reason #1 I'm still in grad school is that I don't want to have to get a "real" job just yet.


This morning on the way to school I spotted the first pair of "love bugs" on my windshield. A couple weeks ago Lidia found the first junebug in the backyard. I hope that the drought that managed to prevent most of the blue bonnets from blooming this year is at least severe enough to keep the populations of these pests down too. If I can't enjoy the flowers then I don't want to have to tolerate the bugs!

Way to go delivery guy

A Jason's Deli delivery guy just stopped by my office with a big bag of food and a gallon of tea.

DG: "Hi, I'm looking for Meredith."
Me: "There's no Meredith here."
DG checks the ticket on the bag
DG: "This says it is supposed to go to 514 Blocker."
Me: "This isn't Blocker. This is the Bright building."
DG: "Oh yeah. This isn't Blocker."

I should have charged that kid a sandwich for setting him straight. I typically feel sympathy for the lost delivery people on campus, but I could tell this guy was an undergrad with his head planted up his ass. He had no excuse for going to the wrong building other than he was playing with the radio in the car too much as he drove across campus.

Monday, May 01, 2006


This weekend I participated in the BTU TRI-O de Mayo triathlon. I managed to finish with a smile on my face after turning in my fastest times on the bike and swim. My time on the run was just a little slower than I had hoped, but I'm very happy with the time. The break down of the time is approximately 9 minutes for the swim (I forgot to start my timer until I was on the bike and didn't get my splits from BTU yet), 52 minutes on the bike, and 32 minutes on the run, with 3 minutes in transition. It seems like I spent a lot longer than that getting my shoes on, but I guess having guys with a good transition routine sprint past with their bikes skews one's reality.

This was a great first triathlon, and I'm looking forward to my next race. Maybe one of these days I'll be one of the old guys you see doing the Iron Man in Hawaii. It's going to take about 30 years of training before I can run a marathon though.