Monday, September 29, 2003

Cafe Rio: Good or Horrible?

Last week Rachel and I went to Cafe Rio for dinner. Ask anyone who lives in Provo - Cafe Rio is one of the best places in town for good (and not so expensive) food.

The problem with Cafe Rio, however, is that their lines are super long. Usually the line goes right to the door. It takes about 5 minutes to get far enough in the line so that you are in their cattle-herding markers. Then you are there for about another 10 minutes.

So Cafe Rio must be good, because I would never wait in a line that long for any other restaurant. But is the food really that good? Or have I just gotten super hungry from waiting in line so long that anything would be good at the point?

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Dog has more effect than Saturn

Today I was reading a very funny thread on slashdot.org about horoscopes. Someone quoted Carl Sagan where he was saying how ridiculous the idea of astrology was:

"'The idea behind horoscopes is that the way the planets were aligned when you were born affects you. The only way this could actually be true is if it was their respective pulls of gravity against your body while being born.' Then he pointed out that the gravitational pull of the obstetrician that delivered you far outweighed that of any celestial body."

Here was the response to this quote:

"There was a related incident on NPR a couple of years ago. Someone claimed that, if you have a large dog, its gravitation pull on you is more that the pull of Saturn at its closest approach. Someone else questioned this. So someone else looked up the numbers in an astronomical reference book and did the calculations.
As I recall, they assumed a 50-pound (20-kg) dog. It turned out that at about 3 or 4 meters the dog has the same gravitational pull as Saturn at its closest approach to Earth. If the dog is closer, it's pull is greater that Saturn's. And if you're touching, even a small dog has a greater pull than Saturn.
I also recall thinking that a large dog that's very close when you're born might very well have a greater effect on your life than Saturn. But this is not due to its gravitaional pull.
Ain't physics wonderful?"

And then in reply to the response:

"What you sayin' bout my momma?!"

Monday, September 22, 2003

Steak Amnesia is real

I think that it is impossible to remember what a steak tastes like - either that or I have steak amnesia.

Yesterday I was at my parents' house for a Rowell family BBQ. My dad made this T-bone steak that was mmm, mmm delicious. While I was eating it I just kept thinking, "Man, this is the best steak I've ever had in my life."

However, I remember thinking the exact same thing a few months ago. And I especially remember feeling the same feelings at Sizzler about a year ago. Steak amnesia is real. You can remember kind of what it's like, but it's impossible to remember the supreme joy you feel while eating a good steak.

UPDATE: As of 20 Feb 2007 the best steak I've ever had was at Bob's Steakhouse in downtown San Fancisco. At least of the steaks I can remember.

Will work for food (except at Wendy's)

A few weeks ago I was driving by Wendy's and I saw a homeless man standing out front with a sign that said "Will work for food."

Then I looked up at the Wendy's sign and it said, "Help Wanted." I couldn't help but laugh because of the irony of the situation. Maybe he didn't know how to read - I'm not sure.

Wendy's should hire the guy, put him in back on the grills and pay him in hamburgers. They'd save a lot of money and he would get the food he wanted.

Hive Gone

So what ever happened to The Hive? I realized today that I never wrote the story of The Hives' disappearance. (FYI, The Hive was a PC Gaming center in Provo, UT that three friends and I opened up. People would essentially come and pay to use our computers and play our games. It was located inside Laser Assault in Provo.)

On the night of Thursday, 10 July 2003, we decided that enough was enough (or rather, not enough money was not enough to stay in business). Rich, Dave, and Adam all thought that we should wait until Monday to close - but I felt like we should do it the very next day to avoid problems with the landlord. We were on a month to month contract and we didn't want him to try and get us to pay for an extra month or anything. That selfsame night I took home four computers that were my personal assets. I was going to come back for the rest (3) the next day.

The next day Adam went in to The Hive for the afternoon shift and called me up all panicked. "Please tell me you came last night and got two more computers," he said. "Nope," I replied, "just the four that I took last night. Why, what's wrong?" As it turns out, the owner of Laser Assault, Jim DeGroot, had stolen two of our computers when he came into work and saw that four of them were gone. He was scared that we were going to move out and he was going to lose his lease money for the next month (which was an error on his part, because we were on a tenancy-at-will agreement with him, so he had no right to expect rent for the next month). So he was holding two of our PCs, valued at $1800 for ransom until we paid up. Needless to say, we were all pissed and we all left work immediately to come down and resolve the issue.

Luckily, Adam was able to convince Jim to return the computers before we got there. (There would have been some serious trouble had he not). Adam simply told Jim that the IRS would be getting a call about tax fraud if he didn't return the PCs right away. Somehow the computers magically appeared within five minutes. Rich went and got his brother's truck and we loaded all of the monitors and boxes into it and took my portion to my house and the rest to Adam's house.

It was unfortunate that we had to leave Laser Assault with such bad blood. Jim tried to cover for himself and blame the fact that he stole the PCs on us somehow. We were going to close down anyway that weekend, so it wasn't too much of an inconvenience, but we still can't believe he did that.

The Hive was fun, there's no doubting that. But PC Gaming Centers just don't make enough money to make it a profitable venture. As a side note - I still wear my Hive shirt at least once a week. I'm actually wearing it right now.

Friday, September 19, 2003

McDonalds MIA

From the movie Money Train: "McDonalds is forever"

... except on 900 E. I've always wanted to save up enough money to one day open a McDonalds. It seemed to me as though McDonalds was a sure investment. Maybe I was wrong.

For the first time in my life, I saw a McDonalds close. It happened this summer to the McDonalds on 900 E in Provo by Gold's Gym. One day I went there with Jason and Van to have lunch. It was business as usual. We all ordered our food and were served by smiling employees. The next day I went back to get a double cheeseburger and the windows where boarded up with huge black boards.

A few weeks later the place was torn down and now there is just a big dirt spot in the middle of a parking lot, as you can see from the picture. I'm not really sure what happened. The word on the street is that this particular franchise was the dud of all the McDonalds in Provo, but who knows if that is true. I guess from now on we have to drive to East Bay or Bulldog-and-Freedom if we want McDonalds.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Embarrassing Order

Today at lunch I was sitting at Barry's Drive Inn in Spanish Fork eating my mozzarella sticks when suddenly three old guys walked in. One of them said, "I'll take the usual." Then the other said, "Make that two." Then the third, "Make that three."

For some reason I can't bring myself to order the same thing as someone else. It feels very strange. It's almost embarrassing to me. But these three men were so casual about their duplicated order that it made me feel comfortable. These men have inspired me. From now on I'm going to order what I want - even if someone else already ordered it. It may take a while to get used to, but I know it's the right thing to do.

Van VS Honor Code

Van Phillips recently took on the head guy at the honor code office. This was no simple matter that any counselor could take care of. This was serious. Very serious. This was a matter for the DIRECTOR.

Van went to eRentPayer's competitors and got a demo from them of their product. Van told them that he was a property manager for Kree Management, which he is. He got several important facts out of this demo, but the most important thing he learned was that they don't have a product yet and they are still in very early stages of development.

While van was there one of the staff recognized him from BYU and tried to interrupt the demo to tell the guy that Van was an alleged spy. But the guy shrugged him off as being rude to a potential client. A few weeks later Van got a call from the honor code office. Apparently a faculty member associated with them was so upset that he referred Van to the honor code office for being dishonest and deceitful. We know it was faculty that referred Van, otherwise there is no way that such a stupid matter would make it all the way to the top.

Of course, when Van went in he quickly caught the director of the honor code office in his words and proved to the guy that this whole claim was unfounded. He was, in fact, a property manager looking at potential software. He was disappointed in what he saw. The faculty member also made a claim that Van told a potential funder not to invest in the competitor which is absolutely not true and unrelated completely.

These guys have resorted to tattling on us to BYU to try and get Van in trouble.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Vacation from the vacation

I just got a letter from my sister that lives in Italy. She had a baby a while back and it sounds like she is having a wonderful time in Europe. She said that she is going to come visit Utah in the spring! I can't wait to see her and the new baby.

Louise brought up an interesting point in her letter. She said that they went to London for two weeks to visit Fred's mom and tour with some friends - and then when they got back they were so tired from that trip that they needed a vacation from the vacation! She said, "We totally need a vacation after that vacation. So, this week we are going to Sardenga, a big island off of Italy."

I totally agree with this. Every time I go on a vacation I come home exhausted the night before I have to go back to work or school and I feel like I need more rest. From our last trip, Rachel and I came home 2 days early. That gave us plenty of time to get settled and relax. I think that's the best way to do it.

Fees returned

Please consider this blog an addendum to "Utah Crappy Crap Union" that was posted on Friday, Sep 5, 2003. At that point I was overwhelmed and upset with my bank because of an excessive amount of overlimit and overdraft fees. To be more precise, $125 of banking fees.

I was all sad about this and then Jason told me that if the bank gives you fees all you have to do is ask for the money back and they'll give it to you. I didn't believe him. I thought that the bank would be spineless if they did that. But I am here today to tell you that it is true. The secret is to find a friendly employee that looks nice. I went to the Spanish Fork branch and they simply said "no" - which surprised me because they are usually the nice ones. On the way to my parents' house I tried Pleasant Grove.

The guy at Pleasant Grove gave me the $40 overdraft fees back right on the spot. Then he had me fill out a form for the $85 overlimit fees and they were just returned to me this morning. Needless to say, I'm a happy camper now. For proof, see below:

09/12/2003 Deposit REIMBERSE NSF FEE Checking $40.00
09/15/2003 Cr Crd Pmt REFUND OVERLIMIT FEES Cr Crd Payment $85.00

Can You Raed Tihs?

I thought it was very weird when I read this. I suppose it's true. We don't read every letter of every word - so it doesn't really matter what order the letters in the middle are.

Scrambled words are legible as long as first and last letters are in place.

From the languagehat site: 'Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.'"

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/09/15/2227256&mode=thread&tid=133&tid=134&tid=186

Friday, September 12, 2003

Time to be healthy

My wife has encouraged me to eat healthy and always get something to eat in the morning before work. Today on my way to work I decided that it is about time that I listen to her and be a healthy person.

On the way out I even made my own lunch and took it to work to eat it there. My breakfast included a Coca-cola and two Nutty Bars. My wife will be so proud of me when she hears that I've taken the first step on my own. I can't believe I never did this before. Breakfast is great!

Three year response

Tonight I got an email from Kevin Corbett. He wanted to know if I was available for work so he could hire me. Here is a copy of an email that I sent to Kevin:

Yes I'd be interested in being a part of the hottechnology.com team. I attached a copy of my resume in word format for you to look over and I should be available for hire within a few weeks.

Please keep in mind that I wrote this email to him on Friday, July 07, 2000 2:58 AM. Note the year - 2000.

I got this email today:
James, Are you available?

It took him THREE YEARS to respond to me. I understand that corporations are slow and it takes some time for paperwork. I can see how it might take 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, or even 3 months for him to get back to me. But 3 years? That is just insulting. It is as if I haven't worked or done anything for the last three years and I've just been sitting by my computer waiting for him to respond. I told him that I was available for $100,000/year. We'll see if I get a response in 2006.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

We'll miss mom

Late Tuesday night, at about midnight, my mother-in-law, Nancy Bartlett, passed away.

Needless to say, everyone is shocked and sad. We miss her terribly. The day after I took work off to stay home with Rachel. She is taking it quite well. While it's not good to dwell on the why and how it happened, I'll explain briefly. Nancy had breast cancer that was found earlier this year in its very late stages. The doctors started her on chemo right away and she has been very sick from the treatments over the last several months.

Last Saturday Nancy was out painting in her backyard and spending time with her family. On Sunday she was at church for James Bartlett's baby blessing. Then, on Monday, she started to have some really serious pain in her abdomen. The doctors supposed it was her appendix. The pain got so bad that they took her to the ICU at Utah Valley Hospital. Upon surgery it was clearly evident that she wasn't going to survive because she had a blood clot that almost completely destroyed her colon - not to mention the fact that her immune system was shot so that recovery from an operation was almost impossible.

All of the Bartlett's were able to be there to say one last goodbye. We'll miss mom. She was so loving and caring of everyone around her. Nancy's funeral will be this Saturday at 11:00.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

New Office

I was looking for some pictures of roundabouts (I can't remember why) and I came across a picture of a roundabout by Seven Peaks that happens to have Belmont in the background. That big pile of dirt is where my condo is now. I just thought it was kind of cool to see how things were before my building even existed.

We finally found a tenant to move into Belmont, which means eRentPayer has now moved to its new office downtown. The new place is much, much larger than our old one and it is a refreshing change that the company needed. We now have almost limitless space for our sales and integration departments.

Pay as much as you want at the drive thru

So I just got back from going to Taco Bell for lunch. They told me over the intercom that it was going to be $4.79. I pulled all of the money out of my pocket and saw that I had a measly 10 bucks. I started rummaging through my car for extra change and realized that my ash try was full of coins.

My ash try is amazing. I've been buying stuff at drive thrus for about a week now with this change and the coin level hasn't gone down one bit. I think that I could retire off of my ash tray.

Drive thrus generally have somewhat long lines at lunch time, so when I handed the guy a hand full of nickels and told him it was $4.79 on the dot he just took it and through it in the register. This made me think. You could pretty much pay as much as you want to at the drive thru. No employee getting paid 5 bucks an hour is going to sit there and count nickels while there is a huge line of cars full of hungry people. I could have given the guy 2 dollars in nickels and he would have never known. Not that I would ever do it, but you could pretty much pay whatever amount you want to as long as you pay in small coins.

No country without good mood

On the way home from Zion National Park Rachel and I were both very tired. We couldn't wait to get home and rest for a bit. I was flipping through the channels on the radio and came across a country station. I listened for a moment.

I generally like country. It has really grown on me in the last few years. But this was not a good time for country music. I was thinking out loud to Rachel about how you can't listen to country when you are in a bad mood. She said, "It's true. You have to be in a good mood to listen to country." I'm not sure why, but when you are tired or upset about something, country music is just simply unbearable.

Usually I have to listen to pop for a few minutes and then switch to country for about 15 minutes, and then go back for air. If you listen to country too long you may just suffocate.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Over and under the limit in one day

I've had some recent, bad experiences with UCCU. It's not totally their fault, but nonetheless you always have to blame the bank.

On our honeymoon, Rachel and I put hotels, dinners, and other minor expenses on my Visa with UCCU. I knew that my balance was close to my limit but I didn't know how close because I was out of state and had no way to check. When I got back in town I looked online and saw that my balance was OVER my limit and that I had been charged a $68.00 "overlimit fee."

Okay, where the crap did they get the number 68 to charge me. Sounds like some teller just pulled that out of her crack. Anyway, it turns out that there is a $17 per transaction-over-the-limit fee. BUT WHY WAS THE BANK AUTHORIZING TRANSACTIONS OVER THE LIMIT!?!?!? What is the purpose of a limit if the bank is going to authorize anything ANYWAY?

So I emptied out my savings account and put all of that money into Rachel's personal account so we could have money to buy our new house. Then I transferred everything except $100 from my checking to the credit card. Within 30 minutes after doing that my stock broker took $200 from my checking account (auto-withdrawal program for savings) and the bank charged me $20 for overdraft fee and then another Visa transaction came through from Sprindale, UT that put my Visa over the limit again and the bank charged me ANOTHER $17 fee. Needless to say, things are a little crazy right now.

Pledge of Michael Jackson

My school only said the Pledge of Allegiance until I was in 2nd grade. Why did they stop? Because we made up our own inappropriate words and ruined its image.

There have been some recent debates in the news about legislation to make the Pledge of Allegiance illegal or unconstitutional in the United States. Certain people didn't think it was appropriate for children to be forced or pressured to say the pledge when they went to elementary school. At my school when I was a child, this wasn't even an issue.

I remember going out to the swing set during recess and chanting these words with my friends:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Michael Jackson is a fag

We would keep yelling that over and over until the recess lady would blow her whistle at us and send us back inside. A few kids said that when everyone was saying the pledge to the flag and so Mrs. Lawrence, the principal, just called off the whole thing.

Why it's good to be married

I get asked the question 'So how is married life?' a lot now. I'm sure Rachel does, too, since she spends her days at BYU and is surrounded by friends. So far it has been difficult to come up with a good answer.

Sure, it's nice to have someone who loves you unconditionally ... but there is one thing that has made it all worth it.

The other day Rachel made these enchiladas that were like WHOA. "Holy crap this is the best things I've ever eaten," I said with a tear of joy swelling in my eye. These enchiladas have made it all worth it.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Family Home Dating

In the LDS Church there is a program recommended to its members called Family Home Evening. Essentially every family is supposed to take Monday evening off from other activities and stay at home and share a spiritual message and activity together. It promises to bring the family closer together and invite happiness into the home.

There is a flaw with this program. Because the leaders of the church asked everyone in the world to participate in FHE (Family Home Evening) this blanket invitation also included college students and all single adults alike.

I look back at my FHEs when I was a single and rarely did any of them ever have any spiritual uplifting going on. For the most part, people simply would not go. And for the remaining people who actually did show up, it was only to see who was there and possibly get to know someone so you could ask them out. I like to refer to it as "Family Home Dating."

Of the three elements contained in the name we only got one of them. 1 - Family. We are at college ... the people at that meeting are not my family. 2 - Home. It's just an apartment that I'm renting out for the semester ... it's definitely not my home. 3 - Evening. Well, it is usually at night. We gotta give them at least that.

I personally took advantage of Family Home Dating while I was single. I think that I got about half of my dates from it. I like the concept of getting together once a week as friends to do something ... but it definitely shouldn't be affiliated with FHE.

Stationary Store

I saw a really funny quote the other day and I thought I'd put it down here.

Herb is the kind of guy who likes to walk into a stationery store, go up to the clerk and say, "You're right. This place isn't moving at all."

It's pretty dry humor but I gotta admit that it makes me laugh. Along this same random note - my uncle John used to be the CFO of some Jewish community up in Salt Lake City and he made a few comments about how funny those Jews were. The Rabbi especially would make fun of Jews all the time. He said:

The only down-side of being a Rabbi is that you have to work with a bunch of Jews.

Wendy's - Only Source of Food

I've been eating at Wendy's way too much lately. The problem is that it's just way cheap there and the food is pretty darn good.

I can eat lunch at Wendy's for $2-3 and it would easily cost that much to make a lunch for me at home - not to mention the time it would take to make the lunch and the annoyance of having to store the lunch in a public fridge in the break room at work. Wendy's is just more practical than buying groceries.

While Jason and I spend hours and hours working on eRentPayer we get pretty hungry. A few weeks ago we looked at the clock and it was 1:45am. He looked at me and said, "We need to leave right now. Our only source of food closes in 15 minutes!" Only source of food? At first that sounded ridiculous ... but I thought about it for a second and he was right. Besides Little Caesars awesome price of $5 for a large pizza, Wendy's really was [is] our primary source of food.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Weeping Rock, Zion National Park

A cool place we went to at Zion National Park was called Weeping Rock. From what I understand, this particular place has slate on the bottom and sandstone on the top. The water seeps through the sandstone very slowly and eventually hits the slate. At that point the water slides along the slate until it falls out of the side of the mountain - which gives it the appearance of "weeping." It was pretty cool to see water coming right out of the side of the rock. Some of those water droplets are up to 40 years old.

The ranger at Zion got really mad at me when I called the park Zions. But everyone around here calls it Zions because we have Zions Bank. Everyone asks me 'How was Zions Park?' ... so I guess I'm not the only one. The lady ranger copped an attitude and said in a very nagging voice, "It's not Zions, it's Zion. See, no S. You must be from Utah."

Okay lady, just let me in the park, please. Whatever. The Zion Lodge has some freakin awesome ice cream. We'd go there after hikes and get some.

Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

We went on a hike in Zion National Park up a trail to a place called Angel's Landing. On the map it seemed to be quite a short little hike. Just off of the road and back for a few miles. Little did we know that those few miles were STRAIGHT UP.

I was impressed at how many people were there. The majority of the people we ran into were actually from England. They had come all the way from England to hike this trail in Utah. I thought that was amazing.

Before we left Provo, Rachel's dad had put some drinks and snacks in our car as a surprise so we'd have something to eat on the trip. One of the things he gave us were some bottles of water. As we were leaving the hotel for our "little hike" we decided to grab three bottles just in case we needed them. All I can say is - if we hadn't have gotten that water I don't know if I'd be here today to tell the story.

At the top of the trail there are a few parts where the trail just turns into some slanted and steep rock and they just put a little chain for the hikers to grab on to. It was terrifying to me. If you slipped you would fall right off of a cliff. I was even more surprised that they let anyone go up on that trail. Old people and young kids were going up that thing (and even harder, going down it). They say nobody has ever died on that trail. But I didn't want to be the first. The view from the top was outstanding. No picture could ever capture the feeling you get while you are up there. I highly recommend this hike - oh, and take some water!

Hines Mansion in Provo, UT

After you get married you're supposed to go somewhere close by so you don't have to travel a long ways after such a big day when you're totally exhausted. At least, that is what everyone told me. So I decided that Rachel and I would go to a local B&B that was at a mansion-converted-to-hotel in Provo called Hines Mansion.

The rooms were beautiful and the breakfast was great. We loved how the rooms were themed and they had nice big, comfortable beds and jacuzzis in each room. Seems like a great "getaway" for any couple in Provo that needs a night away from home.

However ... I do not recommend Hines Mansion if you want privacy. It is the perfect place to relax, but not the best place in the world if you want to be alone. If I ever go back I'm going to tell the hotel owner that they need to invest in installing insulation in the walls. We could hear the TV going in the next room! We could hear people talking across the hall! Luckily we didn't have to hear anyone doing something else!

This also made it very weird for Rachel and I so we were glad to get out of there and go down to Vegas and stay in our suite there. Don't get me wrong - I liked Hines Mansion. But it is not the place to go when you need to make any noise at all.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Tournament of Crap

When I was in high school I went to Toronto because my choir was in a tournament (which we won, btw) and the awards ceremony was held at Medieval Times. It was great. That was so much fun.

Las Vegas has something similar called Tournament of Kings at The Excalibur. Rachel and I decided it would be fun to go so we faced the extremely large bill (after all, it was our honeymoon) and enjoyed ourselves. They gave each person a whole rotisserie chicken. It was really good meat, I was impressed. They made you eat with your fingers, because in the Medieval Era they didn't have silverware. However, I guess they did have Pepsi - because that is what everyone was drinking.

The show was fun. It wasn't the best show in the world but I would recommend a friend to go see it once to have the experience. They had some acrobat guys come and do all sorts of flips and tricks, and they were really awesome. The sword fights seemed a bit too choreographed, but what can you expect after those poor actors have done it so many times. The whole time we just kept thinking how fun this show would have been if we were kids.

IMAX

I just got back from my honeymoon. It was great, to say the least. We spent two nights at a fancy bed and breakfast place in Provo called Hines Mansion, then three nights at a suite in New York New York in Las Vegas, and then three nights in Zion National Park.

Rather than writing about everything in one monster blog, I'll just split up over several shorter blogs to keep things interesting.

One of my favorite experiences in Vegas was going to see a movie at the IMAX inside Luxor. When I saw that I just about crapped my pants. They walk you up into this theatre that is way high up inside the Luxor's pyramid. The screen is 7 stories tall. I've never seen anything like it. You walk along the aisles and sit down and then the railing folds down over your lap and locks you in similar to the way a roller coaster rail holds you into your chair. This was necessary to do because the stadium seating was very steap. Needless to say, they don't want anyone going to the bathroom - which made me need to go the bathroom. hahah

With the combination of the screen being so huge and the sound system being absolutely perfect, it made for quite an awesome experience.