Tech Talk A Lunch Community <![CDATA[ Fireside Is Dead To Me]]> Wed, 1 May 2013 03:37:45 +0000 <![CDATA[Apple Inc. Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> First of all, I'd like to say that I'm NOT a fanboy for Microsoft and PCs, I just hate Apple.

I don't like Apple for many reasons.  One of them is for the fact that for what you get in the products they sell, you get horribly price-gouged.  I'm not joking, I have an Alienware Aurora gaming desktop with an i7 Quad Core 2.66 gHz processor, dual 1 GB graphics cards, 9 GB DDR3 RAM, a 1 TB hard drive, a 21 inch 1080p monitor, and a keyboard and mouse specially made for gaming for a total of about $2500.  A friend of mine got a Mac Pro that has about 80% of the computing power my Aurora desktop does, yet that Mac Pro cost $3500 (this measurement took place in early 2011).  At least in this respect, you're paying $1000 on a name.

Also, I think from a business point of view, Apple makes a lot of stupid decisions.  This company maintains a totally empty "elite" status symbol with its niche customer base, and they'd sell a hell of a lot more computers if they'd drop the prices to the point of making them competitive with PCs.  They'd make even more money if they'd license their operating systems and exclusive software to people that don't own Apple electronics.

I should also point out that if you're into playing games on your computer, there aren't nearly as many games to choose from on a Mac as there is for computers with Windows on it.

Even if I ever start making over $100K a year, I won't give Apple a penny of my money because they'll still be the same hipsters price-gouging people getting a totally meaningless status symbol in return.

]]> Thu, 7 Feb 2013 23:56:26 +0000
<![CDATA[Banyan Tree Bangkok Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> The hotel is in subpar standard and not well kept. Unfortunately, Banyan Tree precedes its own reputation in the past and that has created a letdown experience.

Too many frustrations during check-in and leave a bitter aftertaste. Other than that, there are something in the hotel that's worth applauding too! Considering the prices it's charging, it is not forgivable for it to make such mistakes!!!]]> Sat, 8 Sep 2012 08:43:23 +0000
<![CDATA[Moo Business Cards Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
Hence, I'm upgrading the rating from a -1 to +2. I do like the printing quality and the flexibility in the designs. It'd probably be a better deal for those who resides in US and Europe!

If you'd like a discount, email me and I'll send you a code for a 10% discount!]]> Wed, 10 Aug 2011 12:53:22 +0000
<![CDATA[Gold Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
Gold rules! Staggering losses in stock markets around the world! More bloodshed if governments are unable to calm the markets!

]]> Tue, 9 Aug 2011 03:03:41 +0000
<![CDATA[Reuters News Pro for iPad Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
There is also a real time currency converter on this one!]]> Sun, 31 Jul 2011 04:13:57 +0000
<![CDATA[ The See's Candy Rules of Engagement]]>
When you decide to take a piece of chocolate from a See's box, you are entering into a contract.  You are blindly taking a leap of faith that the piece of chocolate you pick will be of your liking, but even if it's not, you are obligated to finish that piece of candy.  Throwing a half eaten piece of candy away is wasteful, and even worse, the offender is usually quick to back into the box to their luck again (once again without any qualms about tossing another half-eaten piece of candy into the trash).  This is chocolate we're talking about.  It's not like there's a poison chocolate in there, or a chocolate covered brussel spout.  Worse case is you get nuts when you wanted nugget or a cherry when hoping for caramel.  Suck it up and finish the piece of chocolate.

Some people try to sidestep the rule above by cutting the chocolate in half to see what's in the middle.  That defeats the whole purpose.  Forrest Gump didn't say, "Life is like a box of chocolates... stick a knife in it and see what oozes out".  No one wants to grab the discarded half piece of chocolate that's already been passed over more times than a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.  Unless you go in with an accomplice who's willing to eat the other half of your butchered chocolate (while adhering to the rule above), then put the knife down.

In the case where you receive a double decker chocolate box, no one is permitted to "go downstairs" until the top layer has been completely finished.  There's nothing worse than taking one for the team by taking the last remaining "nuts and chews", removing the dividing layer and finding nothing but a collection of empty grave wrappers down below.  I'm sure as technology advances, we will eventually have a See's chocolate box with some sort of laser protection seal which prevents people from accessing the lower level until the top level has been finished, but until then, we will have to rely common decency.

See's chocolates are a privilege, not a right.  By adhering to these rules of engagement, the experience will be even more enjoyable for all.]]> Wed, 27 Jul 2011 17:09:47 +0000
<![CDATA[Banyan Tree Macau Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
Personally, I prefer Banyan Tree in the resort style setting. This one though is a city resort. It's pricey as far as Macau goes.

]]> Thu, 7 Jul 2011 09:11:44 +0000
<![CDATA[ The World is GREEDY!]]> This review was originally published on Feb. 3, 2010 on

Is it Sports or is it simply a mechanic of capitalism?
Tennis, Football, Basketball, Golf… they are all multi-billion dollar businesses and a lot is at stake for the players and audiences alike. Games could be rigged. Coaches could be replaced depending on how the games were being played.
Rigging aside, there is also the question of underground gambling and betting. It seems they do go hand in hand. To deny all these are existing in the background is to deny the existence and influences of capitalism. Authorities may institutionalize the gaming of sport games. That in essence is the most obvious case of capitalism functioning at its grassroots level.

We are too far into the world of capitalism to deny its existence & its vices. The world can simply be easily classified into a "no money no talk' kind of societies. It is so deep rooted now that it even penetrates families and the institutions of education, hospitals and leisure (or should I say, especially so?). 

Milton Friedman on Capitalism

Well, how many families need to be financially sound to send their children to a private school and then tutoring from the early stage of life? Can you get a good education in the later stage of life if you didn't go to a good one to lay down the foundation? I very much doubt it as with many parents as well. So, what did they do? Charity works simply so that their children could get into a specific or choice of school (or even day care for that matter!)? Voluntary work too, am I not right? It is more rampant in the developed cities than the developing ones, I do believe. Think Harvard, do you think anyone could simply go to Harvard? I very much doubt it. Same for Cambridge, Yale or MIT.

Dalai Lama on Capitalism & Education

Health Care
Hospitals need funding and the best hospitals in L.A., New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore are among the most pragmatic in the world. They do not even allow you to enter the hospitals if you do not have a medical insurance policy in place or a fat bank account. Talk about the medical field's intention of saving human lives. I'm not being cynical, just pragmatic. Look at health care in California State; plenty of people with cancer are dying at home simply they don't have the funds needed to even get the medication to alleviate pains, let alone treatment and chemotherapy or surgery!

Bill Gates on Capitalism

Ronald Reagan & Barack Obama on Capitalism
Like it or not, Capitalism is here to stay. How we choose to deal with it is up for discussion, I'd say. And how the world choose to balance the power of money & greed is up to the world's largest economies & governments. I do believe we're seeing a change. Good or bad? I'm not so sure. What work before may no longer work in the future. Globalization has brought about such a big gap in the have and the have not that the world is destabilized, imho. We are up for a major change in how we conduct our lives and businesses.]]> Thu, 7 Jul 2011 07:09:38 +0000
<![CDATA[ Can Slim?!]]> This review was originally posted on May 4, 2009 but since no one has rated it and not a great deal of people have read it, I'm reposting it today. 

Written on May 4, 2009
Today, I found out about Can Slim. By the way, it's a registered trademark. Sure, I need anything that helps! I've been putting on way too much weight after my 2 year stint in Shanghai, China. Food is great in that city and for now, still cheap. But, the world doesn't simply stop today and with time, it gets more and more expensive by the day! I can attest to this after having visited the city of Shanghai since 10 years ago. Inflation is high! So, I certainly need anything that can slim me down!

Can Slim is not a diet pill, nor is it a diet drink. It is something I still need to know and keep in mind. It is an investment strategy. To make my life simple, I don't plan to repeat what others have done. Instead, I'm just going to quote what Wikipedia has written. In case anyone of you have not come into close encounter with wikipedia, this is your major discovery today. I love Wikipedia, it is the best tool I've ever found on the net, other than Google, that is. Try it and find out what it can do! I know most of the English speaking world has come across Wiki many years ago. But since I am assuming some of my readers will be from China, I can quite safely say today, most of them have not used Wiki before. In fact, even on Wikipedia home page, Chinese language is not highlighted; instead I've to search high & low before I can find it. So, I'm assuming there aren't many pages uploaded in Chinese although that'll likely change in the future. What the Chinese knows well for now is Baidu (百度). And I'm sure many parts of the English world have not discovered Baidu yet. Baidu is what someone in China has labeled as Chinese Google. It is the most popular Chinese search engine. & it has the most good looking & young CEO I've come across (who happens to be bilingual too!)! When Baidu was listed on Nasdaq, his networth was as high as $1 billion! Amazing, isn't it?

Ooops, too much sidetrack. Back to the main topic, Can Slim. According to Wikipedia, "CAN SLIM refers to theseven-pronged mnemonic publicized by the American newspaper Investor's Business Daily, which claims to be a checklist of the characteristics performing stocks tend to share before their biggest gains. It was developed by Investor's Business Daily editor William O'Neil who has reportedly made several hundreds of millions of dollars by consistently using its approach.

C - Current earnings
A - Actual earnings
N - New product/service

S - Supply & Demand
L - Leader/Legard ?
I - Institutional sponsorship
M - Market Indexes

The way I see it, well, it's the Micro (CAN) + Macro (SLIM) Combo. I was joking with another colleague that there ought to be a third dimension to this strategy. There is that most important element, PSYCHOLOGY! A good understanding of human nature (weaknesses & strengths) will make the added dimension a 3-D powerplay. That possibly is what the world markets are all about! So, what do you think?
Can slim?! Can slim?!]]> Tue, 5 Jul 2011 07:55:02 +0000
<![CDATA[Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> HERE COMES EVERYBODY to his latest. We are in transition as regard to our roles in the new world and Shirky didn't quite spell out where we should focus our energies on, imho. He did bring in some interesting observations with regards to what's happening in the world of ours. As with us, this book seems like a transition, more like a series which I'm quite sure he'll follow up with a sequel.

Entertaining, interesting but not too enlightening!

]]> Sun, 12 Jun 2011 12:42:37 +0000
<![CDATA[Skype Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
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<![CDATA[Singapore Airlines Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>

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<![CDATA[Money Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>

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<![CDATA[Gold Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>

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<![CDATA[Robin Li Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
Robin Li may have been criticized for many things but I do believe he has made the world a better place for some 1.5 billion Chinese both in China and the world! He also proves that one doesn't have to be an American to be highly successful! He lives the dream of many Chinese youths and entrepreneurs! Both fluent in English and Chinese, Robin Li is one of the most successful person in China! ]]> Sun, 1 May 2011 10:17:45 +0000
<![CDATA[Business Week Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> occasionally to see what's up in the business arena. It's sufficient for my needs and is still a very good source of information. It's free too! 

For those who like the entire magazine, you can now get them on for as low as $1 an edition!]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2011 03:40:10 +0000
<![CDATA[U.S. Dollar (USD) Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2011 02:30:55 +0000 <![CDATA[Inflation Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2011 07:41:05 +0000 <![CDATA[Grand Hyatt Macau Hotel (Cotai) Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sun, 3 Apr 2011 05:37:31 +0000 <![CDATA[Four Seasons Hotel Macau Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sun, 3 Apr 2011 05:30:05 +0000 <![CDATA[Westin Grande Sukhumvit Bangkok Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sat, 12 Mar 2011 14:58:09 +0000 <![CDATA[Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Fri, 11 Mar 2011 14:52:11 +0000 <![CDATA[All Seasons Sathorn Bangkok Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Fri, 11 Mar 2011 14:47:55 +0000 <![CDATA[ Passing with flying colors]]> All Seasons by Accor hotels that I'm staying in and reviewing. I must say it has surpassed any expectation I've of it! Coming out of Westin Sukhumvit (a 5* hotel, you know, it's Westin! Review coming soon...) and checking into a "budget" (presumably 3*) hotel can be a daunting experience. But, it is NOT and that's the best news of the day!

I've no idea what All Seasons hotels are like, except that it's one of Accor's many brands. It's actually in the same category with Ibis (on Accor's website) and I had stayed in Ibis when in Europe. They are clean and affordable so I've a little idea of how All Seasons might be like (esp. since i've also been in many budget business hotels in China; mostly chains by local entrepreneurs who have listed these companies on Nasdaq!). I saw the many All Seasons in Bangkok and decided to try one of its newest (if I remember correctly, there are no All Seasons in US yet, most are found in Europe and Australia). From the pictures online, it looks great and knowing the quality of furniture in Thailand, I know it's not going to be bad. The only concern is location (as you well know, if you had been to Bkk, the traffic here can be horrendous!). I spotted on the website All Seasons Victory Monument and the site said it's only 2 mins walk from a BTS train (station is not Victory Monument but one stop north of it). I know this would be it! After checking out the price (with tax included, it's only THB 1200 a night!). That's just very tempting offer, isn't it? A mere US$40 (everything inclusive, SC+taxes which amounted to 17% & a buffet breakfast)!

These days, 5* hotels are overcharging its customers. Hotels like All Seasons will capture quite a bit of business from the gap between prices and services. So, before we get on to what's wrong with 5* hotels, let's dwell on what is right with All Seasons.

It's not on Sukhumvit or Silom or Sathorn. Where it is is north of Siam, about 4 stations away and tucked in a quiet neighborhood. I like it because there aren't so many vendors and people loitering around it like those hotels on Sukhumvit. Traffic is less and you don't see prostitutes around either although I can't vouched for other guests who might bring them back. On the neighborhood though, it's quiet and clean. There's a 7-11 store around where one can get SIM cards to call home or friends in the city. 

[Phone cards are usually 99b with stored value of 33b. You may want to get a top up amount of 60b which would allows you to use the SIM card for a period of 1 month.]

I don't know about other All Seasons, this one in Bangkok is on par where services are concerned with those in Westin. Granted, their exposure and training may not be all encompassing but their attitudes are what I'm concerned with. The Thai has great attitude when it comes to the hospitality industry. This makes it such an advantage to the industry as a whole. On my first night here, I was made to feel welcome and at home. 

I check-in in this particular hotel twice. The first time was perfect, albeit a little slow. The next night, I decided to switch hotel (just for the sake of checking out another on in Sathorn area, embassy strip, which was a little older but from the website, things look perfect. I found out otherwise after a night there). I came back on my 4th night in Bangkok (my first was at Westin). 

During my 2nd time checking into this hotel, the new staff is not good in English. I found out in my first night that on the odd number rows of rooms, it's facing a construction site. I didn't want that even though it didn't disrupt my sleep (it's probably because it was a weekend night and they don't work on Sunday!). I specifically told her to give me a room not facing the construction site. I'm now assuming she didn't understand the word "construction" or she didn't know which room faces what! Anyway, it's just a minor problem and after getting to the room I had managed to get it changed quite quickly (assuming the bellboy tells her what the problem was after I pointed out to him the construction site!).

Another strange thing about check-in process in this hotel is this. I reserved under two reservation for my 4th and 5th night. Same hotel but 2 different online bookings as there is a special on the Monday night. During check-in, I told the staff that I'd be staying in the hotel for 2 nights in the same room. Normally, in other hotels, you can either pay everything upfront or pay everything later. In this case though, they made me pay every morning instead. They don't even want to take authorization. Everything is settled daily. Not the usual practices in most foreign hotels.

Lobby is nice spacious and bright with a wine bar around it where you can order something to chill off. It's a nice color theme and I do love the look of it. Drinks are reasonably priced and delicious!

I didn't see any group tours around the few days I was there and I hope it stays that way too. Most are independent travelers from Europe and Hong Kong. Didn't see any Americans either. Understandable since they are usually found in Starwood hotels or Marriott and Holiday Inn chains of hotels. This one belongs to Accor so the Europeans are most familiar with it.

Bed is king sized and very comfortable. I love the fact that it makes full use of spaces and the floor is not carpeted which translates to better upkeeping. Bathroom is much bigger than most budget hotels and nicely decorated. No toothbrush provided unless you ask housekeeping for it. 

No CNN but Fox News is available. 

Rooms are equipped with mini-bars and safety deposit boxes. Mini bar items are reasonably priced and laundry facilities are available.

This hotel has some of the best facilities with swimming pools and exercise rooms. I was surprised but I suspected it'll upgrade itself to a 4* hotel when it has a stable occupancy rate. 

I was impressed with the food quality of this particular hotel. The Thai food is even better than some of those in-town restaurants like Cabbages & Condoms. I love it so much so I had spent almost all my meals here! In addition, the prices are reasonable and if on extended stay, I'd have consider making this my home! Love the curries (130-140 thai baht) and fresh Mango, Lychee and Strawberry juices (90 baht) here! Tom Yum Goong is excellent too. Stay clear of the noodles though.

Just one tiny tip, if there are many people and they have not been served and you're very hungry, try eating somewhere else. Service is a little slow at night (I suspect there's only one chef in the night!).

Value for money. Couldn't ask for better! If one intends to eat in a lot and stay here for an extended period of time, Accor does provide further discounts with its Accor Advantage Plus Program.

Ease of reservation
Quick and simple. Credit card is essential. 
Official Site:]]> Fri, 11 Mar 2011 14:44:49 +0000
<![CDATA[Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas Quick Tip by vegaslove]]> Thu, 10 Mar 2011 22:46:45 +0000 <![CDATA[Land O' Lakes Quick Tip by OrganicAWA_farmer1]]> By Tim Koegel

Long before now, everyone in the organic community as well as most of the conventional community, have become thoroughly familiar with RoundUp Ready Alfalfa (RRA). Of course there have been countless outcries against Monsanto, and it has been Monsanto's name in virtually every print and web article as well as radio and TV show. But if Monsanto is the devil as many would say, then there has been little if any mention of those doing the devil's bidding here, in this case that disciple being Forage Genetics International (FGI). FGI is a wholly (or rather "unholy") owned subsidiary of Land O' Lakes. While Monsanto owns the patented RoundUp Ready (RR) gene, FGI is the developer of RR Alfalfa and licenses the patents to do so from Monsanto.
Many have asked, "Why the big deal now? After all this is only one more in the string of GMOs." Perhaps one of the most significant points in this case is that genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa is the first perennial GMO. It can cross breed with wild alfalfa and provide a rogue GE gene pool, greatly increasing the probability that eventually all alfalfa will become contaminated. Alfalfa is also considered "insectary" due to the large number of insects it attracts, which will also accelerate the genetic contamination. If GMO alfalfa follows the same path as GMO soy and corn, then within 15 years we should expect to see 80-90% of the 21 million acres currently planted in alfalfa to be of a GE variety. This means a serious challenge to producing organic alfalfa, vital for organic dairy. It also means a substantially increased environmental human exposure to the herbicide RoundUp, a known endocrine disrupter.
Plant pathologist Don Huber, PhD, professor emeritus of Purdue University, says the repercussions of introducing Roundup Ready technology to another crop, like alfalfa, could be disastrous. "If indications hold true, we're set up for the greatest disaster that this country or the world has ever seen, that will dwarf any major famine or drought that has ever been recorded," says Huber.
Should consumers choose to take their own action against this assault on human health, we wanted to point out some of the Land O' Lakes brand names & licensees so that you can contact them and tell them what you think about their grand "little" experiment on mankind. Here are a few of the most well known names:

Land O' Lakes
- (800) 328-9680

Purina Mills (Livestock feeds)
- (800) 227-8941

Dean Foods (Owner of Horizon Organics) packaging LOL products under license
- (214) 303-3400
- Dean Foods Consumer Response P.O. Box 961447 El Paso, TX 79996

White Wave (Owned by Dean foods) packaging LOL products under license
- Land O'Lakes products: 800-878-9762

Alpine Lace (Lowfat cheese products)

Of course you could also contact Forage Genetics directly at:
- Forage Genetics International, P.O. Box 339 Nampa, ID 83653-0339
- (800) 635-5701
- Mark McCaslin, PhD, President -

If consumers let these food giants know that they will NOT buy their poisons, they WILL have no choice but to eventually listen

Go here to get this file in a PDF:]]> Thu, 3 Mar 2011 15:57:05 +0000
<![CDATA[Grand Hyatt Macau Hotel (Cotai) Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Wed, 16 Feb 2011 15:41:21 +0000 <![CDATA[ Outstanding All Around]]>
The staff is very professional and service all around is excellent. We dined at the Copperleaf Restaurant and were very pleased with the service and food quality. There is an emphasis on local food and drink, which we appreciate since one of the main reasons we travel is for the "foodie" experience.

The free breakfast buffet is without a doubt the BEST we have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Items offered include house-made granola with dried fruit, hazelnuts, and almonds; smoked salmon; an assortment of breads, rolls, and bagels; boiled eggs; oatmeal; cold cereal; coffee, juices, hot cider, hot cocoa, and my favorite (and not a cheap item, either!) - a selection of Mighty Leaf teas!

While we were walking the outdoor paths along the protected wetlands area, we saw a few garden beds and several fig trees - we were later told that the restaurant grows some of its own fruit, vegetables and herbs. The landscaping is beautiful; we enjoyed just being outdoors and were amazed at how clean and crisp the air is, even though the hotel is close to an airport.

We stayed in one of the suites with a fireplace. It was more spacious than we expected, and very clean. Each building has a common area with a fireplace and free snacks such as potato chips, malted milk balls, yogurt, string cheese, bottled water (usually NOT free at hotels!), and mini containers of Haagen Dazs.

We received an incredible deal as AAA members (about 2/3 off regular price for staying 3 nights), so I hope that they continue offering AAA discounts. We will certainly return to Cedarbrook when we visit Seattle. The value for the price is hard to beat.]]> Fri, 11 Feb 2011 21:11:04 +0000
<![CDATA[ "Get Motivated!" -- borderline bait and switch and a motivation killer]]> time in particular is usually more helpful to a wider audience than saying that a movie is a must-see or similar praise.  “Get Motivated!” is not just a colossal waste of time, it is very close to a bait and switch scheme.
The “seminar” in Birmingham had 8 scheduled speakers (one was added after the slate was set and billboards posted--I will get to that in a moment): Rudy Giuliani “America’s Mayor”, Gen. Colin Powell “World-Famous Soldier Statesman”, Laura Bush “Former First Lady”, Rick Belluzzo “Legendary President of Microsoft”, “Zig Ziglar “America’s #1 Motivator” and Krish Dhanam “Top Sales Training Expert” (the other two were Nick Saban Alabama’s football coach and Gene Chizik, Auburn’s football coach I have them listed parenthetically for both symbolic and structural reasons that will hopefully be clear in a few paragraphs). 
I am a liberal who doesn’t really care about football, so I am either hostile or indifferent to all but Mr.s Ziglar, Belluzzo, and Dhanam about whom I knew little until looking them up which then put them in either hostile or indifferent categories.  I didn’t want to hear any of them speak but the ticket to the event was presented to me and my co-workers in such a way that it seemed attendance was required.  Realizing I was baited with something I didn’t like that was switched to something I didn’t want or need, I decided I needed to go to the office and do the work I’m paid to do.  Glibly, I was motivated to leave but rather than go home and veg, I did in fact go back to the office to work.
I want to continue the bottle of wine metaphor.  The promise on the label is a dry red valued at let’s say $100 discounted to $10.  I read the label very carefully thinking there has to be a catch, but I find none.  It turns out that the bottle is only half full, is watered down altar wine and comes with a special prize—a crucifix falls into the glass.  I wish I was kidding.
Here’s what I mean.  The ticket says “Get Motivated!”  I assume that the people listed will speak on the topics that appear under their names in the material.  Rick Belluzzo “Business Skills” reminded us many times that he worked for Hewlett Packard (he mentioned Microsoft exactly once) and that when the market changes, your business has to change; he makes no mention of how.  So cross that off as ineffective.  Next was General Powell “Leadership.”  He was funny and personable but spent more time talking about his ties to Birmingham through his wife than anything even close to leadership; all I could take away was that I needed to be nice to parking attendants and that if I had grandkids the only way to keep up with them was to get a twitter account.  So cross that off as ineffective.  Laura Bush was given the vague sobriquet “Special Guest.”  Unlike the others she had a podium and written speech which she delivered in the same way any of us would after just half a semester of Public Speaking 101 and with a very heavy drawl.  Apparently she was given no assignment to write/read a speech to motivate or inspire.  She spent her time giving us an update on her family—I have never liked her family … ever; I didn’t want to know anything about them when any of them were in office let alone now that they are all, hopefully forever and ever, out of the public eye.  I left after her speech.  But there were two other speakers—one on the billboard, the other not—between General Powell and Ms. Bush, and they are what made me (and make others I will get to in a moment) very angry.
The one not on the billboard was the first of two men I’ll call the “Timeshare-Hardsell” dudes.  I don’t want to name them or their “products” here from principle alone, but what they are and do is the issue not who they are.  He spent an hour pushing a website/service for buying and selling stock.  To retire in a couple of years with a cool two million, all I have to do is follow the red and green arrows on the website to advise me on when to buy and sell; literally all I have to do is click when the arrows say to.  But wait, there’s more.  The site/service runs a 2 day seminar on how to use the tool and it usually costs $2300.  But since we are motivated enough to brave traffic, rain, cold, and hard seats, “Get Motivated!” leaned hard on this company and we can get all of that for the low low low low price of (you guessed it because it is the magic number) $99.  The problem is that “Get Motivated!” didn’t expect as many people as showed up, so there are a limited number of slots so better sign up fast.  Before more specific comment I want to say I am very proud of the fellow sufferers in section 4U of the BJCC Arena, only about a dozen of the 200ish people took the bait.  Though we had been sitting in uncomfortable spots, too close to one another, we stayed where we were – our school of fish lived to swim another day with our finances in exactly the same condition now as before.
First, bullshit.  “Get Motivated!” has known for at least a couple of weeks how many people would show up.  They would have to get up way earlier than I did – and I got up at an obscene hour in order to get there early enough to get what I call escape-parking (easy in but more importantly, easy out) – for me to fall for that old saw.  That offended my intelligence, but what happened sandwiched on either side of Timeshare-Hardsell Dude 1 offended me personally.
Krish Dhanam was supposed to speak on “Communication.”  He sort of did, but only the extent of it was to tell your wife and child every day that you love them.  For his first turn on the stage about a third of the words he lilted were his own the rest were quotes nearly all from the early days of the American experience.  He ran through Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech, the whole thing, in about 8 seconds sounding like an Indian auctioneer selling mislabeled bottles of wine (and he forgot to name the actual speaker of that famous quote).  I learned his wife’s and son’s name, that he loves them, his father’s birthday, and that he loves him and he can memorize long quotes from other people.  So cross that off as ineffective.
The emcee claimed, twice, that when “Get Motivated!” polls people like me, the number one thing we want to hear about are spiritual matters “with finances being second, of course.”  Ok, bullshit.  Not everyone wants to hear about the Christian God anyway, let alone on a Monday, let alone at a “business seminar” that doesn’t say the first thing about spirituality, but most people going to a business seminar would be interested in hearing about money … I mean business is money, so context tells me that. 
However, since most of us want to hear about spiritual matters, they call back Mr. Dhanam to make a second pace around the stage.  He explains that, though he had everything he ever wanted, he still had a gaping hole in his heart.  Then he went to a seminar very much like this one where he heard what he called a “motivational aphorism.”  The short version is “Come into my life lord Jesus Christ and be my number one.”  I wish I was kidding, but those are the first words of this motivational aphorism.  I sat there totally agape for 10 minutes as 18,000 attendees at what, to all the world looked like a secular gathering, were witnessed to.
This ultimately means one thing, which I will use as a bridge to a wider angle.  It means “Get Motivated!” has done the focus studies that tell them people who speak about a personal relationship with “The Living God” as Mr. Dhanam called Him/It connect with other believers making them slightly more likely to agree to whatever is said, even if it is counter to core tenets of faith.  That they can afford to offend a wider audience, most of whom were there under the same circumstances as me.  Please understand I am not saying that all believers behave as sheep and many around me were offended (and became even more so, apparently when Timeshare-Hardsell Dude 2 used the word “God” in every other sentence pushing his financial brilliance—I cannot speak to that directly since I had already left; but based on what I heard, my head would have exploded had I stayed).
More broadly, “Get Motivated!” uses almost exclusively white men, roughly half are Republicans or openly support conservative candidates.  For Birmingham and the next 4 cities (Fresno, San Diego, Portland, Memphis) there are only 2 African Americans—both male—and three women—all white.  Of these 5 people--General Powell, Bill Cosby, Laura Bush, Julie Ziglar, and Leigh Ann Tuohy—none have run a business.  Ms. Bush and Ms. Ziglar are famous by marriage and Ms. Tuohy is known only because Sandra Bullock played her in a movie.  There are people of color and women who have run businesses and can speak specifically to that matter, why are they not on any of the billboards or anywhere in the “Get Motivated!” pipeline?
One telling clue to this is the other people that fill up the billboard: football players and coaches.  Joe Montana seems to be a standard for the western sites, Terry Bradshaw and Lou Holtz for the middle of the country (I can’t speak to the east coast at present).  And in Alabama?  January of 2010 Nick Saban led the Alabama Crimson Eleph…oops Tide to a BCS National Championship.  So “Get Motivated!” has him apparently to speak about “Teamwork” but while Alabama began the 2010 season as #1 in the polls, two embarrassing losses ended the hope of a repeat.  The slate of speakers would probably not have changed except for the fact that Alabama’s rival, Auburn, took over the #1 spot and a year after the Bama win, Auburn won the same title.  Realizing that if Jesus was a Tide fan, the Auburn crowd would become Hindu, “Get Motivated!” had to add Mr. Chizik. 
“Get Motivated!” is structured to do the hard sell to white, straight, married, conservative, Christian men who know a thing or two about football.  They also seem to focus on these men living in B to B- cities (Birmingham, not Atlanta; Fresno, not San Francisco; San Diego, not Los Angeles; Portland, not Seattle or again SF; and Memphis, not St Louis).  Cynically (and I believe totally realistically), putting a person of color or woman who has or is running a successful business (other than pushing “Get Motivated!” or “Get Motivated!”-lite services) would tend to put off their target audience.  Glibly, and again I think realistically, people of color and women who have or are running successful businesses realize that shilling for Timeshare-Hardsell dudes is beneath them.
If they happen to snag a woman, person of color, single, gay, moderate or liberal, religiously-other … I can’t finish that conditional because if that was true the world would probably grind to a halt from the absurdity.
If your company is considering or has paid for tickets to any of the events, please just enter the following into a Google search: “Get Motivated” either the first or second automatic fill-in will be “seminar scam.”  Take a quick look at those and realize that taking the office to play paintball is a far better way to motivate people than having them deal with apocalyptic parking problems and sitting in hard seats for 8 hours.
No straight, white, conservative, married, Christian, football loving men were harmed in the writing of this essay.  Having been born in Georgia the essayist is allowed by the rococo Alabama Constitution to remain neutral on the Alabama vs Auburn war.  And he is a firm believer in the bon mot from Dave Matthews that it isn’t “where but who you’re with that really matters.”]]> Thu, 10 Feb 2011 22:42:33 +0000
<![CDATA[The Strand Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Mon, 31 Jan 2011 10:20:38 +0000 <![CDATA[Telecom Digital Wireless Data Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sat, 22 Jan 2011 03:37:41 +0000 <![CDATA[ Happy New Year to All Chinese!]]> I’m NOT a typical Chinese. I’ve had American friends who claimed that I’m more American than Americans. So, having said that, I think I’m still in a good position to write about Chinese since I do speak the language, live in the country and have had lots of experiences growing up under Chinese households.
Over the years, as we age, my cousins and I are lamenting on how different we are from our parents. There are many obvious differences and yet as they say, there are also chips off the old blocks! My cousin lives in Hong Kong now and is educating his daughter slightly different from the way his parents educated him (more or less, the correct term should be, disciplined).
So, let’s begin with the word DISCIPLINE.
This is one very obvious difference between the Chinese and the American as well as the European societies. Discipline is something that many Chinese households observe. Remember, whatever that’s being discussed about Chinese here is literally generalization, a common thread among most Chinese, NOT everyone.

From young, children are taught to observe discipline. Some families are very strict, while some less strict on this. Depending on how much western education influences the parents to begin with. So, it is quite safe to say if the parents are those that have had higher education abroad or studied in English schools, they’d be less strict on this front.

There are often household rules that one has to observe. Say for example, the young in the family should always greet everyone first before eating and should be the last one to take the food on the table. Adults will have the first dip into whatever that’s on the table. You shouldn’t start eating until the most senior person (say, your grandparents or your parents or relatives) has begun. Manners are being taught from a young age. I do believe this is the same among many Asian families. In many ways, Chinese children are often restricted in terms of movement and freedom of speech. It is taught to be very disrespectful if you rebut a senior. Also, one will never dream of addressing one’s parents or older relatives by name!!! There are many more instances of unwritten rules that one will have to abide by, as some of these practices will ultimately fall into your work place.
OBEDIENCE is the result of “training” under the principle Discipline. It is one of the end results. Being obedient is treasured and highly looked upon in society. That’s why you do not see much creativity or innovation in the Chinese Society. It is not encouraged and prized for one to be the odd one out or to be unique. Parents will never encourage individuality in their children. If they do, it is because there is something that they couldn’t accomplish when young and hope to see it accomplished by their off-springs. It is usually not because their kids are born different! Chinese parents see their children more an extension of themselves rather than individuals with their own destinies. That’s why you see parents planning so many things (in terms of education and extra-curriculum) for their kids in the hope that they would be ahead of others in life. Chinese will always have this fear, that they’d be left behind by societies (since there are no social welfare nor is anyone going to care if you die in the streets; too many Chinese in China and the world that even if you’d like to help, there are just too many of them and there is no decent way to help!). Hence, from young, Chinese are being told and ingrained in their subconscious that one is on his/her own. The only possible support one may have is from one’s own family. That brings me to the 3rd observation and principle. Family!
FAMILY is the backbone of every Chinese society. It is where one gets support and affirmations. If your family is powerful, your life is much more pleasant than most as long as you follow the rules and doesn’t mess it up on your own. Family reputation is being highly looked upon. If your family reputation is good, you get lots of societal approval and hence life is made easier. As you may have known, each Chinese has a specific dialect he/she speaks, depending on which area of China his/her heritage is. If one is from Shanghai, one speaks Shanghainese. If one is from Canton (present day Guangdong, in south China, near to Hong Kong) then one speaks Cantonese.  Most Hongkongers are descendents of Chinese from the Guangdong province and hence speaks Cantonese. There are others like those from Taiwan have had grandparents from the Fujian province, hence speaking Fujian or Hokkien. Some Chinese presently living in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are descendents from Fujian. Hence if one can speak these dialects, one can converse with Chinese in these countries, ie. You don’t always have to speak Mandarin! Most of those Chinese you see in Chinatowns in L.A., San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver are descendents from Guangdong (Canton) province who speak Cantonese or Taishan (another variation of Cantonese which I do speak too). All in all, I can speak 4 dialects on top of Mandarin. Hence, I’ve had no problem conversing with most Chinese :-)

Now, why do I explain about these dialects? Well, you see, in the past, there are clans. Clans are formed among people either with the same family name or come from a specific village. Businesses are built around these clans. People from the same clan with do business with those they know. Hence, reputation comes into play and thus trust and ultimately credit! In other words, strangers are frowned upon in these relationships. There are no way for one to check on reliability if one is not known. That is why Americans find it hard to do business with the Chinese. Unless, one has the reputation of Coca-Cola or McDonald! Now, there are good and bad from this kind of reasoning. Sometimes, if your reputation precedes you, you’d find that you’ve an easy way doing business with Chinese. Many times, your reputation is your asset, you don’t even need to supply any collateral! It is of course, a double-edged sword too.

Hence, it is WHY many Chinese are afraid of failing. Once a Chinese fails, he finds it hard to pick himself up from that society. Many doors are closed and no longer will he has a fair chance at success. Now you get it, don’t you? Why Chinese mothers (& fathers) are so hard on their kids. Why all the disciplines and training. Why it is crucial for their children to observe all the unspoken rules. It is afterall, for their own good! It is also why you can never tell them they are wrong and insane to do so to their children. They do know what children don’t know (in terms of what’s out there awaiting them) and what the Americans and Europeans fail to grasp! It’s not hard though, when you begin to live in Chinese society for awhile, you’ll begin to see the light and the way! At times, some think it’s good to adopt the middle ground, ie, be a little stricter to their kids. At other times, they merely leave because that’s not their kind of lifestyles. Like it or not though, you’d have to content yourself with such ways as with more globalization and partnerships around the business world, more will be demanded of your children and their free-thinking and leisure life will be changed forever and ever.

When a country is filled with a generation unable to compete in the world arena (say, if their math is bad, then the engineering students will be lesser and lesser, then a country will be losing competitive edge as a result), that spells the end of a great nation! If you’re in tune with what’s happening in China (and to a lesser extent in India), you’d know that China produces some 3-5 million graduates a year! That’s the population of Singapore. Imagine…  how a small country like Singapore or many small nations in Europe are going to compete with China in the future. That’s a scary thought. I’m awfully glad that I’m not the future generation and am at this age I’m at now. It’s a grim future for many nations! And, if one lives in China, one will think of ways and “tricks” to make sure one’s kids have a fair advantage over others!
Next, LOSE FACE. This is one of the big things in Chinese mentality. Do not ever make someone lose face by either insulting or challenging another’s belief, especially if the person is senior, either in terms of age or ranking or position in life (be it real or corporate). It is a no-no among the Chinese. I do believe it is also the same with Indonesians, Thai and Japanese. Hence, you will find yourself an enemy if you do what you are doing in America. It is best not to try to challenge someone in a way where he/she will “lose face” in public where a Chinese is concerned. That will encourage the other person to retaliate and have unforeseen consequences which you might find it hard to deal with later (even if your intention was a good one to begin with). Act tactfully in a Chinese society and you’ll be rewarded with a pleasant and smooth ride!
Well, these are just a few of what makes Chinese a Chinese. There are a lot more and it’s impossible to cover them all in a review. For Chinese as a language, you might find my review on Chinese Language interesting or alternatively, my last year review on Chinese New Year. The Chinese will celebrate the Year of Rabbit beginning this Feb. 3 and it lasts for 15 days to Feb. 17.

Happy New Year to all Chinese & and all those born under the Year of the Rabbit!

P.S. Some of the Chinese concepts are based on Confucius teaching. One of which is filial piety. If I'm not mistaken, it is illegal for Chinese to abandon one's own parents too! So, the principle of one has to take care of one's family does not apply just on immediate family but also one's own parents! Children are expected to be respectful (hence, no rebuttals and talking loudly to someone more senior or older!) and examplary. In fact, being Chinese can be pretty stressful ;-)

]]> Fri, 21 Jan 2011 06:29:33 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Spot To Stay In Pittsburgh]]>
Location - It is perfectly centrally located in the heart of downtown with views of the river, adjacent to the Heinz Hall (concerts/shows), an extremely short walk to PNC Park (home of the Pirates), to Heinz Field (home of Steelers) and many restaurants, bars and retail..

Rooms - What you would expect from a Fairmont 2010 opening hotel, high quality through and through. Very nice furniture, comfortable bed, high end bathroom fixtures. I received a free suite upgrade which was huge, but imagine regular rooms are good size as well.

Amenities - Everything in the hotel is state of the art, featuring one of the nicest health clubs/gyms I have ever seen in a hotel, including a steam room and dry sauna. There is also a full spa.

Food/drinks - The lobby features Andy's, a lounge that has become a happening happy hour spot that serves casual fare. A full restaurant, Habitat, offers cuisine focused on local, sustainable ingredients. I did not end up making it to Habitat, so I can't shed any light there.

Cost - The two room, upgraded suite I had, with "river view" was $204/night. This was over MLK weekend in January, Steelers playoff game.

Quote - I'll leave you with this. The opposing team, Baltimore Ravens, were staying at the hotel while I was there. Heading from gym back to the room, i was greeted in elevator by six of the Ravens players. Talking about the hotel, one of them said, "This is the nicest hotel we've stayed at, the only other one maybe as nice was the Ritz Carlton in St Louis".]]> Thu, 20 Jan 2011 08:56:24 +0000
<![CDATA[ Perfect for the Outdoor Enthusiast]]>
Located on Main Street, 45˚ is the epitome of a well-equipped sporting goods store, with all the benefits that local can offer: laidback, accessible and reasonably priced.

Body & Feet:

They offer a beautiful and quality selection of men’s and women’s outdoor wear (keeping you warm and dry), innerwear (for extra warmth), and even underwear (great for all day comfort!). Brands include Cloudveil, Ibex, and Mountain Hardware that offer options such as jackets, shells, gloves and hats. They have Horny Toad, Kavu, and Kuhl fleeces (which are basically my standard at home gear), sweaters, tops and pants. What I love about their appropriately sized selection is that these garments not only do their job – keep you warm and sweat free – but are equally successful in making you look sophisticated and trendy.

Trust me, if you are looking for a gift for your man (perhaps for Valentine’s Day) 45 Degrees is a superb place to shop. He’ll love the thoughtfulness of your gift and you’ll love the way he looks in one of their beautiful Merino wool sweaters! And if you’re going all out, you can literally dress him from head to toe. From Keen hats to Cloudveil gloves, Rab jackets to handy eco-bags, Vasque boots to Superfeet insoles, 45 Degrees has full-body solutions.

In terms of footwear, they offer a selection of trail shoes (hiking boots) and daily shoes (think UGG, Keen, and Simple) that are durable, comfortable and look good.

The Adventure:

For outdoor adventures of a more intense nature, 45 Degrees provides plenty of gadget and gear options like sleeping bags, back packs, dry sacks, filtration systems, compasses, first aid kits, utensils and even furniture.

Their website is especially helpful as it provides gear lists for a variety of different activities, so you’ll know exactly what is recommended for a day hike, and a boundary waters or a backpacking trip. They also tout their staff as local and global resources, so you’re encouraged to come in, explore the store, look at maps and ask questions.

At 45 Degrees you can enjoy a fun product selection at good value, as well as a comfortable shopping atmosphere. What makes this store different is that you can tell they truly care about the outdoors and the process of experiencing it in the best possible way. ]]> Tue, 18 Jan 2011 17:31:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN]]>

Cuisine: American, Irish, Pub Grub, Fish & Seafood, Steaks
Restaurant Features: Bar, Flat Screen TVs, Happy Hour, Hotel, Kids Menu, Indoor Patio, On-Site Parking (pay-lot at Embassy Suites)
Location: St Paul (Downtown/ Lowertown)
Address: 175 10th St E  St. Paul, MN 55101 651-224-5111  (Within Embassy Suites)
Hours: 7 Days 11am-11pm
Links: Cork’s Irish Pub Website Cork’s Pub Facebook Page *Google Map

Embassy Suites ~ St Paul, MN

Embassy Suites ~ St Paul, MN

Outside Cork's Irish Pub in Embassy Suites~ St Paul, MN

Outside Cork’s Irish Pub in Embassy Suites~ St Paul, MN

Atmosphere: Located within the Embassy Suites in downtown St Paul, Cork’s Irish pub is a fun place to enjoy a good meal or drink.  As the name suggests, the atmosphere is reminiscent of the pubs in Ireland  with wooden floors, a big wooden bar, and several wooden pub tables.  The theme is carried out through the traditional Irish fare, “pub grub”,  as well as a plethora of beers, scotches and whiskeys.  There are also multiple flat screen TVs hung throughout the restaurant, giving it the slight feel of a sports pub as well.

Inside Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN copy

Inside Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN copy

Cork’s also has a patio area that looks out into the indoor courtyard of the Embassy Suites, where you can see tropical waterfall gardens such as these.  Who says you ned to go south to feel a touch of the tropics!?

Indoor Garden outside Cork's Irish Pub in Embassy Suites ~ St Paul, MN

Indoor Garden outside Cork’s Irish Pub in Embassy Suites ~ St Paul, MN

Menu: Appetizers at Cork’s include Scotch Eggs, Chicken Wings (Hot or BBQ), Fresh Chips (with cheese, bacon and green onion), Onion Rings, Chicken Fingers, Crab & Artichoke Dip, Fried Goodness Sampler, Crudite Platter (fresh veggies, olives, pita bread and hummus), 7 Layer Dip, Jack & Blue Sticks (blend of cheese and buffalo sauce battered and fried), and Cod Chippers.

Salad options are The Irishman (fingerling potatoes and corned beef on romaine with Guinness vinaigrette), Caesar, Grilled Salmon, Chicken Cobb, Bourbon Steak, and Country Chicken Salad.

Cork’s Sandwiches and Burgers include Club House, Hot Pastrami on Rye, Petite Steak Burgers, Build-A-Burger or Chicken Sandwich, The Downtowner (ham and cheddar on sourdough), Blarney Stone (corned beef, roast beef, and pastrami with swiss, cheddar and sauerkraut), Chicago Style Roast Beef, Asian Pork Burger with Peanut Sauce, Walleye, and Cranberry Turkey (turkey, swiss and cranberry mayo).

Cork’s also has Supreme Pizza, Irish Potato Pizza, and Build-Your-Own Pizza.

Entrees at Cork’s include 14 oz Sterling Silver New York Strip, Shepherd’s Pie, Pasta Vodka, Panko Walleye,  Fish N Chips, Sea Scallops with Corned Beef and Cabbage, Fettuccine Alfredo, Grilled Walleye, Grilled Salmon, Drunken Broil (grilled steak served with a splash of whiskey and au jus), Potato Crusted Chicken, Chicken Marsala, and Bangers N Mac (penne in creamy cheese sauce with grilled lamb sausage).

Kids Menu items include Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Grilled Cheese, Chicken Fingers, Cheese Pizza, Macaroni and Cheese, and Fettuccine Alfredo.

The heavenly dessert options are seasonal and this season include Carrot Cake, Creme Brulee, Pumpkin Mousse Torte, Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae (all year), and Pear and Dried Cherry Crisp with Cinnamon Ice Cream.

Click here to see the large selection of Drinks at Cork’s Irish Pub

Price guide: Appetizers $8-10  Salads $8-15  Sandwiches $10-13  Entrees $12-32  Desserts $5-7

Happy Hour:

  • Monday-Friday  4-6pm
  • Half Price Appetizers, Rails, Calls, Martinis and Specialty Drinks
  • $3 House Wine
  • $2 Standard Bottles and Taps
  • $3 Premium Bottles and Taps
Weekly Specials:
Monday 1/2 off Martinis all day
Tuesday- Free BINGO 8pm
Wednesday- Free Trivia 8pm
Thursday- 1/2 off Bottles of Wine  Live Music 7pm
Friday – Two 12 oz Sterling Silver Prime Rib Specials and a bottle of house winefor only $50. Hendricks and Tonic $4, All Day
Saturday- Silver Butter Knife Prime Rib served with soup or salad, veggie, potato, and glass of wine
What we ordered: My companion and I started with an order of Scotch Eggs, a must-order item for me if I ever see it on a menu.  I was pleased to see six halves of the delectable sausage-wrapped hard boiled eggs in the order, atop a bed of baby greens and sweet cherry tomatoes.  These eggs were some of the most delicious I have had to date!  The thin layer of sausage wrapped around the eggs was slightly spicy and full of flavor and the deep fried bread crumb batter added the perfect crunch to the layers of texture.  There were two spicy mustard sauces served with it for dipping.  I could probably eat these for breakfast several times a week!

Scotch Eggs at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Scotch Eggs at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Our entrees both came with choice of soup or salad. One of the daily soups included Buffalo Chicken, so that is what I tried.  This was a hearty, spicy, creamy and chunky blend of chicken, celery, carrot, corn, and peppers.  I liked it very much, it is the kind of spicy soup that is perfect for a cold day!

Buffalo Chicken Soup at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Buffalo Chicken Soup at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

My companion tried the other soup of the day, the Steak Ranchero.  Every bite if this was heavenly! It was very similar to chili, but with more vegetables than just beans and several bites of tender beef.  Savory and delicious.

Steak Ranchero Soup at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Steak Ranchero Soup at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Our meals also came with French Bread, which was light and soft on the inside and slightly crusty on the outside.  I loved it even more when dipped in the Buffalo Chicken Soup ;)

Basket of Bread at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Basket of Bread at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

There were many items that sounded wonderful (mix of Irish fare, pub grub and American) but the Scallops with Corned Beef and Cabbage sounded like a unique and winning combo.  At the base of this dish was the corned beef and cabbage (which on its own would be a hearty meal), then topped with at least a half dozen large, tender, seared sea scallops.  When I say tender, I actually mean melt-in-your-mouth.  These scallops were so good! In the center of the dish was a large serving of cooked, mashed lentils.  I haven’t had much experience eating lentils but they are similar to a bean or a pea in both texture and taste, and slightly earthy.  The texture of the mashed lentils was soft yet still firm enough to stay in a scoop.  A nice change of pace for a side dish! This meal was also served with a slice of fresh buttered rye toast.

Scallops over Corned Beef and Cabbage at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Scallops over Corned Beef and Cabbage at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

My companion ordered the Prime Rib Saturday Special, a 12 oz. Silver Butterknife Steak served with green beans, mashed potatoes, soup, and glass of wine for $27.  I tried several bites of this beef  and it was delicious! Although cooked slightly more than preferred, this cut of beef was extremely tender and flavorful.  The rind on the outside held all the flavor of the seasonings, each bite doing a little dance in my mouth.  The Silver Butter Knife steaks that Cork’s serves are the same as the steaks served at the best steak houses in town, including Wooley’s and Murray’s.

Saturday Prime Rib Special at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Saturday Prime Rib Special at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

I was almost too full to try dessert but this Pumpkin Mousse Torte was the perfect Autumn treat.  The cake was light and the pumpkin mousse was even lighter, and only slightly sweet. It had just a subtle taste of pumpkin but when paired with the sweet-tart cranberry chutney that accompanied it, it was like a beautiful duet of fall flavors. The best part of this dessert was its lightness, which may be a complete opposite of the richness of a chocolate cake.  Excellent!

Pumpkin Mousse Torte at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Pumpkin Mousse Torte at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Service: We had excellent service at Cork’s Irish Pub at the Embassy Suites in St Paul.  Our server was very friendly and knowledgeable of the menu and despite my need to make my visit under an hour, the service never felt rushed.  Our food was spaced just right for each course, drinks were kept filled, and we left very satisfied.

Overall Impression: Cork’s Irish Pub is a hidden gem in Lowertown St Paul, located within the Embassy Suites which is just a few blocks from other popular area hang-outs.  Happy Hour is a great deal with nearly all appetizers and drinks at half price, plus the crew at Cork’s especially loves to take care of the downtown working crowd.  Both the food and the service stand out amongst other establishments in the area. I’ll meet ya there after work sometime ;)

Written by Kristi Sauer
If this information was helpful to you, please leave me a comment and let me know!
Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Sun, 16 Jan 2011 14:43:14 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Best Sushi Happy Hour in Cupertino!]]>

They actually don't call it Happy Hour but, Sake Night Fever. With good reason, later in the evening, the manager will come out with a megaphone and count in Japanese "1...2...3 SAKEEEE BOMMMMBBBB!" If you've been there before and have a group, he'll happily hand over the megaphone so you can say your own drunken version of SAKEEEEE BOMMMMBBBB!


This gem is located two blocks from my house on Stevens Creek Boulevard in Cupertino aka Appleville (Cupertino is Apple headquarters and nearly everywhere you look, there's an Apple building). When we first tried Harumi's- we had a couple of Sake Bombs ($1 for a small sake and $2 for a full Sapporo draft) and the Harumi and Pink Lady- our bill came to $25. With free Miso soup, some of the most deliciously fresh Sushi I'd had in a while, sake flowing, and those yummy Mango hard candies that you can get at a Japanese Dollar Store, Nando and I were sold. Bonus points for being walking distance to our house :P

Melting Abalone                                         Most Popular- Flaming Dragon

            BBQ Mussels                                   Sashimi Combination Plate

Nando's Favorite- Harumi Sushi              One of my favorites- Pink Lady

Every single time since then, we've tried some other menu items and everything is so fresh, you'd think you were on the beach. The sauces that they drizzle over the rolls are always complimentary and never overpowering. The pieces are so beautifully arranged, that you ALMOST hate to eat them...I did say ALMOST!

Some tips before you head to Harumi's:
  • They do take reservations and I highly recommend them!
  • Get there early to get a table, especially if there's more than 2 of you (two can usually find some spot to squeeze into at this incredibly busy place)
  • If you actually want to have a conversation, choose to eat at the typical dinner hours, around 5p-7p
  • If you want to witness the megaphone sake demands, imbibe cheap Sake Bombs and get a little loud or don't mind loud conversation, head there around 8p
  • They also do take out, so if you're not in the mood to cook but, you're not in the mood for drunken college kids, this is the way to go.

If you're ever in Cupertino and want to have some fresh sushi and get a buzz on with sake, head on to Harumi Sushi. If you live in the area, pick up a frequent diner card and after you've had 10 meals, you get one free!]]> Sat, 8 Jan 2011 23:09:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ How society has changed from passive consumers to active participants...]]> Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. I found myself starting to understand how and why the shift from consumer to producer occurred, and what it means to me and to society.

Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus; Means; Motive; Opportunity; Culture; Personal, Communal, Public, Civic; Looking for the Mouse; Acknowledgments; Notes; Index

The term "cognitive surplus" is what Shirky uses to describe the advances that our society has made since the end of World War II. People are more educated and spend less time on manual chores due to technology. All this free time and additional mental capabilities largely went untapped, as the growth of the TV broadcast market meant that many used that free time to be entertained, to be a consumer of content pushed out over the airwaves. That's fine for awhile, but it doesn't really move society forward. The internet has started to change that, as people can now easily produce content and actively participate instead. Those spare mental cycles and hours in the day can be harnessed to inform others and create a lasting change. For instance, Shirky uses the example of Wikipedia, a voluntary encyclopedia of information open to be updated by all. He estimates that the time spent building Wikipedia into what it is today is equivalent to 1 percent of the man-hours spent watching TV. People cut back one mindless sitcom, and look what happens? Information abounds...

The question usually crops up on these types of efforts, however. "What do *I* get out of this contribution?" There are many paybacks that Shirky covers. Some do it because they enjoy it. It's a hobby, much like collecting stamps or growing flowers. But there are also tangible rewards, such as when you choose to contribute to a site like You invite others into your home for short stays, knowing that you will be able to do the same if and when you need it. To make that work, you need people who both give AND take, and thus participation lets you become part of the overall group that benefits.

I too participate in many of these cognitive surplus activities (such as writing reviews of what I read for Amazon and other sites). It's something I enjoy doing (writing), and I get a personal reward when I get feedback for doing so, as well as helping people make choices. Shirky's book helped me put these things into a better context in my overall life. Looking at the book, I think I could have gotten much of the same information from a shorter book (or series of longer articles). But overall, Cognitive Surplus is a good read if you're at all interested as to what motivates people to be active online participants and content creators.

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed]]> Sat, 8 Jan 2011 19:08:45 +0000
<![CDATA[BP Gulf Oil Spill Quick Tip by djevoke]]> Fri, 7 Jan 2011 18:09:54 +0000 <![CDATA[BP Gulf Oil Spill Quick Tip by devora]]> Fri, 7 Jan 2011 08:39:51 +0000 <![CDATA[ Sundays just aren't that special anymore.]]> Sunday in many parts of this country. Sundays were pretty much reserved for activities like going to church, enjoying dinner with the family, curling up with a newspaper, playing with the kids, visiting relatives and friends or perhaps kicking back and enjoying a sporting event on TV. Indeed, Sundays were different and very special.  It was a day to slow down, reflect and enjoy… know the proverbial day of rest.  But sadly all of this began to change in the early 1980's and in my opinion the passage of statutes permitting retailers to be open on Sunday has been a major factor in the destruction of family life in this country. Have you checked the divorce rate lately? I argued passionately that this would be the result when these ideas were first being tossed around in the late 1970's and nothing I have observed since that time has changed my opinion one iota.

Now observing the Sabbath has been a very important part of both the Jewish and Christian traditions since Biblical times. The term "Sabbath" derives from the Hebrew "Shabbat" which means "to cease". When I was a kid everyone looked forward to Sunday. It was a day that you weren't required to do a lot of things. Most of the stores were closed and traffic was extremely light in marked contrast to the hustle and bustle we had to endure the rest of the week. But in the name of "progress" the pressure to repeal the old "blue" laws that restricted Sunday sales in many states began to rear its ugly head.  I remember all of the arguments. For one thing we were told that no one would be required to work on Sundays. It would all be purely voluntary. Yeah, right. We were also fed the line that retailers would only be open for a few hours on Sundays. Initially, most retailers opened from 12:00 to 5:00 but over the years the hours have gradually expanded to the point where Sunday is just another regular business day. And yes, people are now required by most employers to work on Sunday. I have turned down a couple of pretty good jobs myself over the years because of this requirement. Sunday sales laws have also given rise to expanded business hours during the rest of the week. Allowing Sunday sales has also had a negative impact on many family-owned small businesses who are placed at a competitive disadvantage when big-box retailers are allowed to open on Sundays. I will contend until the day that I die that allowing retailers to open on Sunday and the subsequent emergence of the "24/7" economy have had an extremely negative impact on family life in this nation. I see the evidence of this everywhere I turn. Is this really the way most of us want to live??? Would you change it if you could? Think about it!

In March 2010 author Judith Shulevitz's "The Sabbath World: Glimpses of A Different Order Of Time" was released. I have not read the book yet but according to the product description the author makes an impassioned case for the idea of restoring the Sabbath in some way, shape or form to our society. According to Shulevitz "the Sabbath is not just the holy day of rest. It's also a utopian idea about a less pressured, more sociable, purer world."  I completely concur. You need not be religious to see the wisdom of observing a Sabbath. She goes on to say "If everyone has to stop working, then they have to, sort of, pay attention to their family, to themselves, to their community".  I could not have said it better. In my view society has paid a very hefty price for allowing shopping on Sundays all in the name of convenience. In addtion to the negative impact on families a 2008 study by economists Jonathan Gruber of MIT and Daniel Hungerman of the University of Notre found that "repealing America's blue laws not only decreased church attendance, donations and spending, but it also led to a rise in alcohol and drug use among people who had been religious."  Having said all that repeal of Sunday sales laws or the establishment of a weekly day of rest is not likely to happen during my lifetime. There are very powerful interests at both ends of the political spectrum (Chamber of Commerce, ACLU) that would vehemently oppose such a notion. Furthermore, since Sunday is considered to be a working day in most Muslim countries as well as in Israel it would be very tricky to settle on one particular day of the week in a multi-cultural society like our own. But I believe that it is an idea that is at least worth considering. Let me conclude with the observations of author Stephen Miller who has written another book on the subject called "The Peculiar Life of Sundays". According to Miller "It's fast becoming like other days, because of the commercialization of Sunday. We're losing a day of rest. We're sort of ‘on' all the time now. As a result I think we are losing something."   Perhaps the Puritans were onto something here. In any event, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. This could make for a very lively discussion.

"The Peculiar Life of Sundays" by Stephen Miller (Harvard University Press, 2008)
"The Sabbath World: Glimpses of A Different Order of Time" by Judith Shulevitz (Random House, 2010)
]]> Tue, 4 Jan 2011 23:03:54 +0000
<![CDATA[ Brasa Premium Rotisserie ~ St Paul & Minneapolis, MN]]>

Cuisine: Creole: (American and Caribbean)
Restaurant Features: Bar (Beer & Wine only), On-Site Parking
Locations: St Paul & Minneapolis, MN
Addresses & Maps:

St Paul- 777 Grand Avenue  St. Paul, MN. 55105  651-224-1302

Minneapolis-600 E. Hennepin Avenue   Minneapolis, MN 55414  612-379-3030

Hours: Sun – Thurs: 11am – 9pm  Fri- Sat: 11am – 10 pm
Links: Brasa Website

Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Atmosphere: The St Paul location of Brasa is located on Grand Ave, near many other popular restaurants.  The inside of the restaurant is contemporary, with a mix of tables and booths.  The pendant-style lighting is comprised of long, skinny, transparent light bulbs.

Dining at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Dining at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

The walls of windows inside Brasa are not actually windows, but rather garage doors that can be opened during nice weather.

Dining Inside Brasa

Dining Inside Brasa

I saw one little nook at Brasa that contained a large round table. Perfect, cozy little  place for a group to share a meal!

Inside Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Inside Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Menu: Sides of Vegetables and Salads at Brasa include Yams and Andouille, Collards with Smoked Turkey, Creamed Spinach with Jalapeno, Sweet Plantains, Fried Green Plantains with Garlic Oil, Crispy Yuca with Mojo, Romaine & Tomato Salad, Cabbage and Mozzarella Salad.

Grains and Beans include Yellow Rice and Beans, Rice and Pigeon Peas with Olives and Ham, Cornbread and Beans, Rustic Cheese Grits, Homemade Chips and Guacamole.

Side orders of bread include Cornbread with Honey Butter, Griddled Garlic Toast, and Masa Corn and Cheese Cake.

Sandwich options at Brasa are thePulled Chicken, Roasted Pork, Braised Beef, Vegetarian Bean Fritter, Smoked Sausage, Scrambled Egg and Chorizo, and Fried Catfish.

Meat & Fish Platters include Rotisserie Chicken, Pulled Chicken, Slow Roasted Pork, Braised Beef, Smoked Sausage (Mpls only), and Fried Catfish (St Paul only).

Dessert specialties include Pineapple Upside-down Cake, Chocolate Pudding, Rhubarb-Strawberry Shortcake, White Birthday Cupcake, and Big Cookie of the Day.
Price guide: Breads $2   Veggies $3.75/5/9.50   Grains/Beans $3.25/4.50/8.50   Sandwiches $6.50-9.50  Meat/Fish $5-20 (Served 1/4 lb, 1/2lb or 1 lb)    Desserts $2-5

What we ordered: We started with the Corn Bread Muffins with Honey Butter ($2/ea).  These were big muffins, moist and on the sweet-side from the honey butter glaze.  Very tasty!

Corn Bread at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Corn Bread at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

The Pulled Pork at Brasa was delicious! It was seasoned with Mojo, which is a marinade of lime juice, garlic and olive oil.  The pork was tender and quite flavorful, the marinade was distinct yet subtle.

Pulled Pork at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

The Braised Beef was out of this world!  The meat was very rich, tender and moist, cooked in a sweet and flavorful red sauce (made with brown sugar).  A pound of this delicious beef might not go very far, depending on how hungry you are!

Braised Beef at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Braised Beef at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

I had never had Fried Yuca before, but so glad I tried these Crispy Yuca Fries!  They were thickly cut (like large steak fries) and then fried like potatoes.  The taste of them was similar to potato but with a hint of sweetness and more flavor! They were served with a delicious homemade cilantro-lime-garlic mayo for dipping.  So darn good!  I wish more restaurants would start serving these, they are a great change-up from the usual potato french fries.

Crispy Yucca at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Crispy Yucca at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Service: We were lucky to find a parking space that was relatively close, as parking on Grand Ave can be tricky sometimes!)  We sat ourselves as the sign indicated and were greeted by our server within just a few minutes.  Our server was very friendly and helpful with the ordering process; you could tell she genuinely enjoyed everything on the menu!  The food took awhile to be served but I have to admit I was starving and slightly impatient.  Everything was excellent.
Overall Impression: I had heard about Brasa long before I had the pleasure of eating there and can honestly say its reputation is well-deserved.  The ingredients are fresh, all natural and local.  The Roasted Pork is delicious and the Braised Beef is phenomenal.  Prices are a little high but the food is worth it!  Try the Crispy Yuca Fries!

Written by Kristi Sauer

Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Tue, 4 Jan 2011 15:19:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ Looking for a Baby Shower Gift? Go to Nat & Helen's!]]>
Luckily I found the adorable and conveniently located (East Lakeview) baby store called Nat & Helen’s. This small local shop specializes in products that are not only cute as a button, but organic and sustainable (i.e. good for the planet and good for baby).

Minimally decorated, I still managed to find quite a few unique items with cool brand stories. I purchased a silk screened onesie with the words “Mi Amore”, a Maggies Menagerie (100% worker-owned cooperative made) and got our BFF a Bum Genius sprayer just for kicks (who knows, it might actually be the perfect gift!). From bamboo wash cloths to body milk lotion, MooMe bibs to Miyim organic toys, Nat & Helens is a low pressure, pleasant shop to explore.

Items are reasonably priced and I love know that I’m gifting products that are green and promote healthy living. I also recommend checking out their blog – They provide fun gift ideas and suggestions for mom’s to-be.]]> Tue, 28 Dec 2010 01:13:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Best Chinese Restaurant in Chicago]]>

Won Kow, is a local, neighborhood restaurant nestled on the main drag of Wentworth Ave. surrounded by stores filled with cultural Chinese knick-knacks. My friend and I hiked up the restaurants two flights of stairs (following the mouth-watering aromas) to find a vast room filled with fellow foodies and gorgeous artwork.

The menu was overwhelming, with over 300 items, making it a long (but fun) ordering process. I started with pot stickers which were enormous and tasty, followed by egg rolls (my favorite), BBQ pork, and Crab Rangoon. With ridiculously reasonable priced entrees I felt like I could order one of everything on the menu and still leave with money in my wallet. For entrees I tried the Moo Shoo Chicken and the Kung Pao Beef. Both were fresh and flavorful and the portions were huge (two people could easily split one entrée).

Stuffed to the brim and happily taking home leftovers, I am certain that Won Kow is one of Chi-town’s best kept secrets and one of my new favorite restaurants in the city. Beyond the expansive food selection, Won Kow also has a fun selection of cocktails! I recommend the Singapore Slinger, its sweet taste and potent alcohol content is serious business!]]> Tue, 28 Dec 2010 00:41:52 +0000
<![CDATA[ Crave ~ Mall of America, Edina, and St Louis Park, MN]]> Cuisine: American, Sushi, Seafood, Steaks, Pasta
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour
Locations: Mall of America, Edina (Galleria), St Louis Park (Shops at West End)

Addresses & Maps:

Mall of America-
368 South Avenue Bloomington, MN 55425 952.854.5000 (3rd Floor Across from Macy's)

520 W. 70th Street Edina, MN 55435  952.697.6000

St Louis Park-1603 West End Blvd. St. Louis Park, MN 55416 952.933.6500

Hours: MOA- Lunch 11a-4p  Dinner M-Sa 4p-10p Sun 4p-8p

Edina- Lunch 11a-4p  Dinner M-Th 4-10p Fri-Sat 4-11p Sun 4-9p

St Louis Park- Lunch 11a-4p  Dinner M-Th 4-10p Fri-Sat 4-11p Sun 4-9p

Links: Crave Website  OpenTable Reservation

Atmosphere: The Mall of America location of Crave is on the 3rd floor of South Ave, across from Macy's.  The restaurant is large and spacious, with a large bar off to the left side near the entrance and a sushi bar centrally placed along the wall in the middle of the main dining room.  Although the majority of seating is at tables throughout the dining room, there are also several high-backed booths that allow for more privacy.  The lighting is dim and romantic, with mood lighting created by the illuminated art behind the sushi bar and the softly glowing candles at each table.

The kitchen is open along the back of the restaurant, with subtle views of the place where the chefs work their magic.  The lighting from the kitchen also gives the nearby tables a soft glow.


Menu: The menu changes seasonally and features natural, organic and locally grown ingredients.  All beef is certified beef.

Appetizers on the new Fall Menu at Crave include Calamari, Chicken Satay, Lemon Garlic Wings, Pita & Spreads, Seared Scallops, Baked Crab & Artichoke Dip, Pesto Shrimp, Mini Burgers, Gingered Beef Eggrolls, Artisan Bread Basket, and Edamame.

Salads offered include Asian Noodle Salad, Atlantic Salmon, Steak Niçoise, Starter Crave Salad, Starter Caesar, Starter Roasted Beet & Walnut.  Soups include Hearty Tomato Pesto, Roasted Chicken & Wild Rice, and Leek & Potato.

Pizzas and Flatbreads at Crave are also quite popular.  Flatbread choices are the Roasted Chicken (with pesto, sun dried tomato and portobella mushrooms), Grape & Apple (with Amablu cheese and honey), Thai Chicken (a peanut sauce with cilantro, Asian cabbage and marinated cucumber), and the Napoleon (with garlic prosciutto). Pizzas include Pepperoni or Sausage, Margarita, Shaved Ribeye and the Chipotle BBQ Chicken.

Sandwiches on the dinner menu include Steak Sandwich, Ahi Tuna Steak and Crave Burger.

Pasta selections at Crave include Seas Scallop & Shrimp Fettuccine, Fettuccine & Roasted Mushrooms, Shrimp Scampi Al Fresco, Roasted Chicken and Penne, Baked Truffle Macaroni, Baked Cheese Penne, Spaghetti Pomodoro, and Ravioli Bolognese. Crave offers the option of a half-order of any of their pastas.

Crave has a nice selection of dinner entrees as well, such as the Grilled Petite Tender, Grilled Ribeye, Crab Crusted Filet Mignon, Tuscan New York Strip, Brined Pork Tenderloin, Chicken Stir-Fry, Crispy Half Chicken, Mango & Prawns, Grilled Ahi Tuna, Pistachio Crusted Salmon, Minnesota Walleye, Miso Glazed Sea Bass

The sushi selection at Crave is also pretty extensive.  Nigiri and Sashimi offerings include Crispy Rice Bars with Spicy Tuna, Scallops Poppers, Amaebi (sweet raw shrimp), Hamachi (yellowtail), Hirame (flounder), Hokki-Gai (surf clam), Maguro (red tuna), Mutsu (escolar), Sake (salmon), Suzuki (striped sea bass), Ebi (cooked shrimp), Unagi (cooked eel), Masago (smelt roe), Tako (octopus), Tobiko (flying fish roe), Wasabi Tobiko, and Seaweed Salad.

Maki Sushi offerings are the Tekka (tuna), Sake (salmon), Negihama (yellowtail and scallions), Unagi (cooked eel), Kappa (cucumber), Spicy Shrimp Cones, Chipotle Ocean Roll, Keilani;s Roll (shrimp tempuraavocado, wrapped with eel), Mexican Roll (yellowfin and escolar with avocado, cilantro,  jalapeños and spicy mayo), Number Nine (crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll), Dragon Wraps, Rainbow, Caterpillar, Spider, Veggie Roll, Tempura Roll, Spicy Tuna, California, Minnesota(cooked smoked walleye), Dynamite, Spicy Salmon, Crunchy Roll and Fire Roll.  There are alsoa  couple of sushi combos like the Sushi Sampler, Sushi Lunch Combo and Sashimi Lunch Combo.

Crave also has a delicious selection of desserts that changes seasonally.  The Fall desserts at Crave include Golden Raisin Bread Pudding, Key Lime Pie, Molten Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, German Chocolate Cake, and Coconut White Cake.  The dessert menu also includes a variety of after-dinner drinks such as the Girl Scout Cookie and Buttery Bailey's, Ports and Dessert Wines, and hot cafe drinks.


Price guide: Appetizers $8-13 Salads $8-15 Pizza/Flatbreads $12-13 Pastas $14-24 Entrees $24-37 Nigiri/Sashimi $6-10/order  Sushi Rolls $7-19/order
Happy Hour Specials:


What we ordered: My companion and I started with a couple of the Crave specialty cocktails, the Cranberry Smash and the Blueberry Lemonade.  The Cranberry Smash was made with vodka, ginger ale, mint leaves and cranberry juice.  The Opulent vodka revved up the drink but it wasn't overly strong. The ginger ale gave it a pleasant sweetness that I wasn't expecting, but the cranberries were tart enough to counter the sweetness.  I loved that the cranberries were frozen into ice cubes and floated at the top.  The Blueberry Lemonade was also very good and slightly sweeter than the Cranberry drink.  Excellent blend of flavors.


The Pesto Shrimp appetizer came highly recommended by our server so we started with that.  What a great start to a great night of food! The sauteed tiger shrimps were served
on little slices of crostini toast that had been topped with oven-dried tomato, and then the shrimp toast was covered with pistachio pesto.  The shrimp was perfectly cooked so it was tender and complimented the crunch of the toast.  The pesto sauce was creamy and rich, a perfect sauce to go with the shrimp.


The Panko-Crusted Scallops also sounded really good so we tried an order of those as well.  These scallops may have been some of the best I have ever eaten! The scallops were large and coated with a layer of panko bread crumbs before being seared to a golden brown in the pan. They were cooked so that the meat was tender enough to melt in your mouth, yet the panko and seared edges gave it a nice crunch.  The scallops were served with a dressy arrangement of picatta buerre blanc and fresh field greens.  The butter and capers added the perfect touch of saltiness to compliment the sweetness of the scallop meat.


Sushi Chef Tony Lam brought us a special sampler platter that included a Mexican roll, ceviche, flying fish roe with quail egg wrapped in salmon,  amaebi (sweet raw shrimp), crispy rice bars, prawn heads, and three different fish mixtures atop cucumber slices.

The Mexican roll (pictured top right in photo above) is Crave's most popular roll and became my new
favorite after just one bite.  This roll is the perfect marriage of
Mexican and Sushi, two of my most favorite foods.  It had both yellow fin
tuna and escolar with avocado, cilantro, a slice of fresh jalapeño
and spicy mayo wrapped in rice and seaweed.  It is then topped with a soy citrus sauce (ponzu), and
chili oil with fresh lime juice squeezed on top. It was so good! I
loved the spiciness of the jalapeño, and the lime and cilantro gave it a
fresh citrus twist.  The tuna and the escolar inside the Mexican roll
were very tender and not at all fishy. Bravo!

The Crispy Rice Bars were also wonderful.  The rice cake was like a thick chewy rice cracker and had a lot more flavor than ordinary sticky rice.  It was topped with a heaping pile of spicy tuna mix, flying fish roe, and sliced jalapeno pepper. The combination of textures went together really well and I enjoyed it quite a bit.


The ceviche was one of my favorite items that Sushi Chef Tony Lam made for us to try.  A very thin slice of potato was fried with tempura batter and then topped with sliced raw fish that was marinated with a citrus soy sauce, scallions and fresh chili peppers.  It was packed with flavor and the tenderness of the fish paired with the texture of the tempura potato went perfectly together.

The sushi was so good we ordered even more of Sushi Master Tony's creations.  Clockwise From Lower Left: The Mexican Roll, Fire Roll, Number Nine, Dragon Wrap (top right), Hokki and Hamachi Sashimi, and Scallop Poppers (pictured in photo after the one below)


The Number Nine was filled with pieces of shrimp
tempura, spicy mayo, kaiware and yama gobo wrapped with salmon and
avocado and topped with a sweet soy based sauce. The Fire Roll was filled with pieces of shrimp tempura, cucumber, kaiware and yama gobo wrapped with
a spicy salmon mix and topped with chili oil.  This one was nice and spicy, just the way I like it.  The Dragon Wraps were also good.  Instead of rice, this roll is made with an egg omelet wrapped around  spicy tuna,
fresh water eel, avocado, fried green onions, crunchy flakes and miso
dressing.  Served in two big rolls.
  The Scallop Poppers were also excellent. The scallops were baked in spicy dynamite sauce then wrapped in salmon and topped with crunchy panko flakes. Loved the combination of flavors and textures. 


For my entree I ordered the Crab Crusted Filet MIgnon. This was outstanding! The filet was thick and cooked medium, as I requested.  It had a creamy crab and cheese mixture with just the slightest hint of buttery breadcrumbs baked on top and served on a bed of lobster cream sauce.  This absolutely melted in my mouth. The crab and cheese together created a rich flavor that went slendidly with the tender and juicy beef.  Herb roasted new potatoes and buttery seasoned baby carrots were also served, both were very good.

My companion had the Miso Seabass.  The perfectly-cooked Korean miso sea bass was served atop a bed of steamed white rice and adorned with baby bok choy and a crimson ponzu sauce.  Asian pickled cucumbers sat layered atop the fish.  This dish was delicious as well! The flavorful yet mild sea bass went really well with the sweet, fruity panzu sauce.


Despite being extremely full after enjoying all of this delicious food, we also tried a sushi dessert.  What an extraordinary creation this was! The middle of the the roll had homemade vanilla-bean cheesecake and a slice of fresh mango then wrapped with a thin layer of rice and topped with a thin slice of strawberry. The roll was arranged atop a drizzling of chocolate and vanilla sauce.  The cheesecake and rice were such a unique combo of flavors and textures and together it was like a thick, fruity, creamy and sweet rice pudding.  So different and so, so good!

Service: We had exceptional service at our first visit to Crave.  The hostesses were very friendly and our server, Dawn, was very knowledgeable about the menu and had some wonderful suggestions about appetizers, entrees and cocktails too.  We ordered a lot of food and took our time but never felt rushed since food was paced perfectly.  The restaurant wasn't too busy (nor was the Mall in general) on this pre-holiday-shopping-season Tuesday evening and we were able to get great customer service and attention from everyone all the way up to the manager.

Overall Impression: The culinary and sushi creations were outstanding. I tried quite a variety of foods and loved every single thing.  The Mexican Roll should win an award! There is quite a variety on the menu and the Happy Hour specials are a really good deal.  Great place to have a casual yet elegant dinner and worth every penny for the fine ingredients.  The service was exceptional.  I can't wait to go back again soon!

Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Mon, 20 Dec 2010 19:52:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ Freight House Restaurant & Nightclub ~ Stillwater, MN]]> Cuisine: American
Restaurant Features: Bar, Patio, Live Music, Night Club
Location: Stillwater, MN

Address: 305 S Water Street Stillwater, MN 55082 (651) 439-5718


  • RESTAURANT Sun-Thurs 11am-9pm    Friday & Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm
  • NIGHT CLUB  Friday & Saturday 9:00pm-2:00am

Links:  Freight House Website   Google Map


Atmosphere:  The Freight House restaurant is located near the St Croix River in downtown Stillwater, in a building that was originally built in 1883 as Stillwater's freight depot.  The inside of the restaurant has been converted into a lovely two-story dining room, with a selection of booths and tables.

Freighthouse-insidediningThe decks at the Freight House are vast and spacious, running the entire length of the Restaurant and Adjacent Night Club. There are enough tables to seat several hundred people and also a couple of outdoor bars. Great view of the St Croix!

Freighthouse-outsidedeckThe Freight House also offers Live Music on the deck over the weekends.

Freighthouse-livemusicThere is also a popular Night Club that is open weekend nights, with a full bar and DJ.


Menu:   Appetizers at the Freight House include Artichoke Dip, Buffalo Wings, Onion Straws, Mini Burgers, Pizza Sticks, Walleye Fingers, Zucchini Fries, Rough-Cut Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, Fruit Plate, and Chicken Wild Rice Soup.

Salads offered are the Steak Knife Chicken Caesar, St Croix Cobb and Bistro Salad (with candied pecans, dried cranberries and bleu cheese).

Freight House also has a large selection of 12" pizzas including Margherita, El Taco, Quattro Formagi, BBQ Chicken, Wild Mushroom Brie, Pepperoni, Sausage, and Smoked Brisket.

Sandwiches include BBQ Pulled Pork, Smoked Beef Brisket, Chicken Sandwich, Cajun Chicken, Grilled Reuben, Hawaiian Chicken, Veggie Wrap, Southwest Chicken Wrap, Walleye, Atlantic Salmon, Jumbo Hot Dog, and Fish & Chips.  Burgers include Freight House, MIni Burgers, California Turkey Burger, North Dakota Bison Burger, Black Angus, Swiss Mushroom Black Angus, and Black Bean Veggie Burger.

Price guide:  Appetizers $9-11  Salads $10-13  Pizza $11-13 Sandwiches/Burgers $9-11
Weekly Specials:  Wednesday Night Fish Fry -All You Can Eat Cod, Cornbread, Salad and Rough Cut Fries $12.99 (kids under 12 $6.99)  4pm-Close

What I ordered:  The Artichoke Dip came highly recommended, so my companions and I ordered that to start.  The dip was very good, with several chunks of artichoke throughout the cream-cheese based dip.  The dish was creamy and had cheese baked on top as well. The pita wedges were hot and slightly toasted, a great combo with the dip.

Freighthouse-artichokedip I also ordered a Spicy Bloody Mary, which came with a beer chaser.  I do not often drink Bloody Mary cocktails, but I thought this one was very good.  It was spicy, not too thick, and was garnished with olives & pickle spear.

Freighthouse-bloodymaryFor my meal I was debating between a couple of different sandwiches.  The server helped to make my decision easy when he explained that Freight House uses real corned beef form the brisket, so of course I went with the Reuben (please excuse this terrible photo, the photo I snapped at the restaurant was somehow damaged so this one was taken at home of my leftovers).  The Reuben was great! The corned beef was indeed the real-deal, slightly shredded and piled on top of the grilled marble rye bread, and the Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut were plentiful.  I ordered my sandwich with the rough-cut fries and thought they were also very good; hot and slightly crispy.

Freighthouse-reubenOne of my companions had the Walleye Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries.  The walleye fillet was large, lightly breaded and pan-fried.  The walleye had excellent flavor but wasn't very crispy on the outside.  It was served on a toasted & buttered hoagie bun.  The sweet potato fries that my companion ordered were awesome. They were thinly sliced and crispy, the best sweet potato fries any of us had tried before!

Freighthouse-walleyesandwich Another companion had the Smoked Brisket sandwich.  Wow!  This was a monster sandwich, with at least a half-pound of shaved beef brisket and caramelized onions piled onto the sourdough hoagie roll, then covered with melted white cheddar, served with a side of seasoned mayonnaise. Also came with a giant pile of sweet potato fries.

Freighthouse-brisket Another companion ordered the Freight House Burger.  This delicious, flavorful burger comes from grain-fed Black Angus and is topped with sauteed onions, wild mushrooms and white cheddar cheese then served on a toasted ciabatta roll.  Sweet potato fries were selected as the side.

Freighthouse-burger For dessert we shared the Turtle Cheesecake.  The cheesecake itself was very creamy and good, but when drizzled with caramel and pieces of cinnamon-roasted walnuts….. we have a big winner!  Extremely delicious and rich, perfect for sharing.



Service: Our service at the Freight House was excellent from the time we arrived.  The hostesses and manager were very friendly and the server was also great.  Our visit took place on a very nice, busy weekend day and my companions and I were all impressed with how quickly our drinks and food were served.

Overall Impression: The Freight House is the perfect place for patio dining, especially if you like a nice view of the water.  The inside is nice as well and the Night Club is a fun place to go on the weekends.  The service was excellent and the food was very good.  I would also recommend checking out the Minus 5' Ice Lounge that is temporarily located on the deck of the Freight House for just a little while longer!

Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Mon, 20 Dec 2010 00:18:54 +0000
<![CDATA[ Best chicken sandwich at the Naked Lunch, SF]]>



I give credits and much thanks to Kat's 9 Lives for taking me to this wonderful sandwich joint.  The girl is definitely my go-to person for finding good eats in SF.  When I first heard about it, she pretty much had me at "fried chicken Tuesdays" and the melt-in-your-mouth foie gras sandwich that are often sold out.  It's a very small place tucked away on the corner of Broadway and Kearny near Chinatown, and more easily located with the help of the much larger Enrico's restaurant sign beside it.  It is opened from Tuesday to Saturday only for lunch from 11:30 am to 2 pm with a fairly limited selection.  There's hardly any seating space inside, but a huge patio seating space at Enrico's are made available for the Naked Lunch patrons.  


Luckily, the famous artisan foie gras torchon with duck prociutto and with truffle salt was available that day for a whopping $16.  Pretty steep for a sandwich, but reasonable for a thick slab of creamy foie gras that you wouldn't find anywhere else.  I must emphasize how creamy it was, and it combined perfectly with the saltiness of duck prociutto and truffle salt.  The only downside, as with the majority of the places I've come across so far, the bread was still a bit too hard and crusty for my liking.  


At first glance, I could already tell how crispy this chicken sandwich was going to be (*drools).  As I looked around, almost every single person came to order this sandwich.  The fact that it is only available on Tuesdays makes it that much more special.  They fried the chicken with the skin on and I cannot emphasize enough how crispy it was.  The meat was succulent, juicy, and well seasoned between buttery toasted buns and mayo.  I smothered with hot sauce and completely indulged in what I could only describe as one of the best fried chicken I've ever had (tear).  I started thinking about how far I would go and what bad things I could do to fight for this sandwich.  It was addicting and memorable, like a first romance.  



]]> Sun, 19 Dec 2010 20:11:34 +0000
<![CDATA[ It's no Four Seasons but it's good for the four seasons!]]>
Four Points by Sheraton is a Starwood Hotels & Resorts hotel brand. That I know even before visiting. That's one of the reasons why I chose the hotel. Another is because it's brand new (a mere 2 weeks of openings) and is giving its customers great bargain while the hotel staff learns their "crafts".

Let's take a closer look at what the Four Points in Bangkok offers.

Located just a few steps from the other 2 Starwood hotels, namely Westin Bangkok and Grand Sheraton Sukhumvit, it is well poised to take advantage of the convenience of Sukhumvit area. Robinson (shopping mall) is next door and Times Square is just opposite. Four Points is on the side street (ie. Sol 15) of Sukhumvit Road and is between Sofitel and the Westin. That translates to top notch location as we all know that big hotel brands won't set up their hotels out in nowhere or in areas that is questionable.

As for the horrible traffic jam in Bangkok, Four Points is about 5-7 mins walk from Nana BTS Skytrain station. Alternatively, one can also walk back from Asok Skytrain station or Sukhumvit subway station.

There are many hotels located on Sukhumvit and hence restaurants and bars are found almost everywhere. To my surprise though, a restaurant by the name "Cabbages and Condoms" (I bet you'd remember this name thereafter and whenever you visit Bangkok!) is located right opposite the hotel, on Sol 12. I read about this restaurant a few years back when I was active on However, I had never been there the last few times. On this visit though, after checking with the Concierge and was pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually just 5 mins walk from the hotel (on the street opposite), I went ahead and checked it out (twice, in fact). It is indeed worth visiting the restaurant. I'd write a review on it after this. Do check that out if you're even "vaguely" interested! :-)

Yes, indeed. A hotel is only as good as it is if it falls within our budget, isn't it? For now, the introductory offer is 1900 Thai Baht + 10% service charge & 7% VAT. For 3 nights, I paid some 6700 thai baht (about US$222). That translates to US$74 inclusive per night (Room rate does not include breakfast though). Not a bad deal, eh? As for how long the offer lasts, I've no idea. All I know is that it is a practice for hotels to increase the rates as soon as they've got good businesses! The same happened before for Courtyard by Marriott in Hong Kong. Hence, do make your reservation while the offer is still on! 

For a 4* hotel rating, Four Points is adequate. The beds are the same for all of Starwood hotels. Hence, that's the bargain. On the other hand, you might have to put up with some disturbances since this particular hotel is still not fully operational. In fact, on one early morning (9 am is early for me ;p) I could hear renovation work done on the 7th floor. By the way, this hotel is no skyscraper. So, if you want a view that's unbeatable, this is not the one for you. Also, I forgot to check out the swimming pool so I'm not sure if it's any good. I did ask for Spa and was told there is none. The hotel that's next to it has one though, just in case if you're interested in one nearby. I didn't visit it. I've appointments with Oasis Spa which I visit every time I'm in Bangkok. I did visit another new spa which is just next to Cabbages & Condoms Restaurant for a foot massage. It's across from the hotel so that's a good one to go if you merely want to stay in the area. Alternatively, Westin, Grand Sheraton and Sofitel should all have their own spas.

Check-in & Check-out
Check-in was a tad slow. I was told the rooms were not ready yet since many of the guests left late that day! It took more than 30 mins to check in. What a drag! I won't be surprised since I was allowed for a late check-out of 4 pm 3 days later. That's the benefit of being a Starwood member!

Hotel Lobby & Reception Area

Nice and chic decor give it an art deco feel to the hotel lobby. I like the high ceiling and the spacious lobby with nice comfortable & colorful sofas and sitting areas. There is also a corner with some Mac machines for those who'd like to use the facility to go online. Extra charges apply.

Room Amenities
Safety box, ironing board and most of the usual basic amenities are available. My only complaint is that housekeeping is not consistent. One day there is shampoo, conditioner and bath gel. Another day, there is none but a mouthwash is given instead (it could be she guessed I don't need it since I had some of my own, but even after asking her to supply before she cleaned the room the next day, they weren't supplied and I've to call guest services to send over instead). As for toothbrush, you have to ask for it. Otherwise, it won't be supplied.

One other problem with the bathroom is the washing basin. There is design flaw and you'd find water splashed all over. In no time, the hotel will need another renovation in this regard!

Light is sufficient so no complaint in that regard.

LCD TV is a little too small, imho. The writing area is also not sufficient. One wonders if this is a business hotel or a leisure hotel! In any case, I see mostly business travelers and solo travelers. 

The hotel charges for internet access of some 530 (+17%) thai baht. This seems to be the trend for Starwood, Marriott and other American brands of hotels operating in China, Hong Kong and Thailand. Note that other local hotels do NOT charge for internet access and the room rates are lower too (for the same grade of hotels). I suppose if one is charging the bill to the company and is a business traveler, no big deal. For individuals who are traveling for vacation, the only recourse is to use free wifi in the lobby area!

Oh, by the way, something weird I found in this particular Four Points! A condom packet on its mini-bar!!! That is not a sight one would expect from a Starwood Hotel. I can understand their intention but hey, it is not of good taste as far as I'm concerned. No matter what one thinks of Bangkok and no matter what the other Bangkok's hotels are practising, I simply think Starwood group of hotels shouldn't do it! As a matter of fact, it is surprising considering that their GM is an Australian lady. So, what to make out of it? That it's guests would bring prostitutes back to the room?!!! That's yucky for other guests and one wonders about the safety of the hotel in that regard. I surely hope they will take a closer look on this matter. In fact, I'm planning on forwarding this review to the hotel as soon as I'm done!

I didn't visit any although I did think of having lunch one afternoon. However, I was told there's only buffet and yet I didn't see many people eating there (that's about 1 pm). That makes me wonder how fresh the food is! On second thought, why would a newly opened hotel simply offer buffet? That just doesn't make sense to me!

I did check on room service prices. They are pretty reasonable for a hotel but about twice the price in a restaurant. There are many restaurants around Sukhumvit so I'm not sure if anyone will eat in, unless one is not well or too late in the evening.

Customer Service
Staff are friendly and helpful although not highly productive! On the other hand, concierge took the effort to make reservation for my spa appointments. When I asked about tours to Sukothai (an ancient city some 400+ km from Bangkok), he wasn't able to help and suggested instead of private tour. That's something I'd never do. Private tours are hyper-expensive if you booked through the hotel. 

From the airport, there are 2 types of taxis you could take. One is more or less the limousine type (aka private car, not exactly limousine as in Vegas) which charges some 500 thai baht (that was a few years ago when I took it, not sure if the price has increased) and another is metered taxi. For the last few visits, I took the metered taxi since I'm already familiar with the city. However if you are arriving late night, I suggest you take the limousine ones. It's safer that way. From the airport, there is a 50 baht service charge on top of the meter fare and also a 25+45 baht toll fee. All in all, it's about 330 baht to Four Points.

What I'd like to point out is this. Due to the recent oil hikes and also traffic jams, many taxis are not willing to go by the meter during peak hours. As I was leaving the hotel on a friday afternoon (4 pm), despite the hotel's porter who got me the taxi telling the driver to go by meter, I was told by the taxi driver after driving a block from the hotel that he wanted a flat rate. Of course I told him to go back to the hotel. He then told me he wanted some 300 baht (including the toll fee which he'd pay) after he realised that I know the meter will be some 220 baht. That's blackmail on his part (even if it's just a mere 30 baht more; would have been more if he thought I didn't know about the prices!)! 

Anyhow, it's about some 30 baht more than I'd have to pay by meter I reckon and since it's true that traffic can potentially be extremely bad on a friday afternoon, it's no big deal and I don't want to have a huge argument with him. That's not the point though. Be very careful esp. if in the night and if you're alone. Taxis in Bangkok are not the safest and honest! If you suspect something is wrong, make sure you get off at the earliest possible when in a busy road or area in the city. Do not ever allow him to drive far from where you boarded.

I took down the guy's plate no. E7795 and thought of launching a complaint. I do believe one can call 1584 for complaints. I didn't on this occasion since I did arrive at the airport without much event and all the guy wants is a better income. Alternatively, if you do not have much baggages, you might want to take the Skytrain to the airport instead or call the hotel at the earliest possible time should you suspect something is amiss! 

I'm lucky in that this is the 3rd time it happened to me throughout my years of travel. First time was in Madrid, 2nd time in Zagreb and this is the third. All of them involved trips either to or from the airport!!! So, these guys do try to take advantage of tourists! In all respects, I was also able to get away without paying a lot more since they know that I know the market prices in each case. However, if you're not well traveled, you might have to part with a lot more than you should. In any case, it is best policy to check with your hotel prior to arrival how much each trip would roughly cost. That way, the taxi driver won't have the pleasure of knowing that you know nothing and hence he can easily overcharged!]]> Sat, 18 Dec 2010 12:05:48 +0000
<![CDATA[Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Sukhumvit 15 Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Thu, 16 Dec 2010 06:33:40 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Good Grub Presents ... Prizzi's Piazza]]>

 Softball catchers, a winter coat, a slice of pizza ... some things are just better thick.  Now don't get me wrong, The Good Grub really likes himself some thin crust pizza (see: Angelino Pizzeria) ... but I'm in love with the thick stuff.  So when we heard from our buddy John B. that there was a spot out in Los Feliz serving up some really rich, chock-full of goodness, one-part-thick-crust, one part-stuffed-Chicago-style pizza, it wasn't long before the GRUB-pains started and Prizzi's Piazza started calling my name.  Pizza in general ... but Chicago-style most specifically ... is like a great metaphor for America.  You know?  ... it started in Italy ... then we brought it over here ... but we made it better than the original! ... then we invaded Iraq under false pretenses ... and it's got tons of good stuff, like cheese and pepperoni ... (please tell me your a fan of Mike Birbiglia, or have a sense of humor in general, or hate America, otherwise ... awkward).  After scanning the menu, there was really only one obvious choice ... the meat lovers.  Because, you know ... I'm pretty sure that if I was ever on eHarmony I'd be matched up with Italian sausage ... I mean, it does match you up on 29 dimensions of compatibility.  From bite to bite, I was giddy at how good it was.  Just super dense, super flavorful, super cheesy, super meaty ... just plain delicious.  Every mouthful was loaded with pepperoni, mozzarella, ground beef, and of course, Ms. Italian Sausage.  My GRUB-mates and I were pretty overwhelmed with the massiveness of each slice ... they settled on one slice a piece and some leftovers for tomorrow, but of course I pushed myself through to that second slice ... oh yeah, feel the burn.  And this was all after our starter ... the-innocently-titled,  but anything-but-innocent "garlic stix."  We were expecting a simple basket of a couple of bread sticks or something, and received these giant spears of crispy, buttery ... ultra garlicy ... goodness.  We went for the half order and when these monsters showed up, we were glad that we did ... but when they were gone, I secretly longed for another one ... or twenty.  I guess it's one of those signs that the Grub is Good ... you always want more, even after you're stuffed beyond compare.   And even as I'm writing this ... belly filled to the brim ... I secretly wish I had stolen their leftovers.   And so the journey continues ... bring on the GRUB.

Check out all the GRUB at]]> Wed, 15 Dec 2010 05:06:34 +0000