Friday, May 29, 2009

London Motorcycles

London Motorcycles, originally uploaded by southiejason.

It has been a very fun few months of trips and vacations. I just checked the distance between my farthest two points - London and Princeville in Kaua'i, and they appear to be 7,202 miles apart.

It's still pretty amazing how Reykjavik and almost all of Europe are closer to Boston than Hawaii is. Being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on American soil was far less of a culture shock than the closer locations of anywhere I have visited in Europe.

Suffice to say, I have an insane amount of photos to review, tag, post, share, and categorize. While they're not all perfect, there are many good ones.

About this photo - I had a few hours to kill in London one afternoon while my friend was with her personal trainer, and I wandered around Kensington. I loved the simplicity of these motorcycles, lined up, owners elsewhere. For a more interesting perspective, I crouched down for a street-level view of the license plates.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

WBCN's new HD Channel - Free Form 104 - 104.1 HD2

Over two years ago, I posting a pretty nasty commentary about WBCN's HD radio channel. At the time, the HD2 channel was an alternative all-music station about which nobody at the station even seemed to care. Granted HD Radio was new and not making money, but if the programmers didn't care...why should the audience?

That appears to have changed with WBCN's present HD Radio options. Major props where props are due.

I happened to stumble upon what they are presently broadcasting at 104.1-2, WBCN-HD2, and I'm captivated.

Actually, it appears that WBCN has split their HD signal into three channels now:

104.1-1 is WBCN's FM programming in HD
104.1-2 is Free Form 104
104.1-3 is Indie 104.1

Indie 104.1 is the channel that they formerly ignored, but now appear to be somewhat focused on playing a deeper selection of unique new rock music.

Free Form 104, however, is all over the place...and that's great! From WBCN's website:

"Free Form 104 celebrates the 40-year continuing experience of Rock in Boston on WBCN. WBCN broadcast its first Rock song March 15, 1968. Since then, BCN has dominated the rock n' roll format in Beantown, from early Rock, Blues, R&B, and other Rock siblings, the Woodstock era, 70's classic rock, 80's metal, and 90's grunge. Not a nostalgia trip, Free Form 104 is past, present, and future eclectic Rock-centric music, a free-life outlook, and attitude!"

I'm going to have to invest more time over the next few days to see if they have simply loaded a few songs from all over the map into their computer and pressed the shuffle button, or if the station is thought-out to any degree.

Just this morning, I have heard such diverse music as:

Eric Clapton - No Alibis
Jane's Addiction - Jane Says
Elvis Costello - Pump It Up
Regina Spektor - Fidelity
The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice
Los Lobos - Will The Wolf Survive?
The Kinks - Come Dancing
Arcade Fire - Keep The Car Running
Roxy Music - Dance Away
Tom Petty - American Girl
Black Eyed Peas / Macy Gray - Request Line
The Animals - Don't Bring Me Down

It's still, however, not live radio, which sadly makes sense these days with many stations automating their music and having personalities record breaks rather than perform them live. I believe they had WBCN personalities from the past record a bunch of fairly generic station ID's and multi-purpose liners that are peppered into the mix every few songs (i.e. 40 years of rock, and now here's something new on Free Form 104). I just heard one ID sending people to, which does not exist at the time I write this. (That's a little sloppy, to be perfectly honest).

According to the video message on WBCN's website from Sam Copper, WBCN's first rock Program Director in 1968, Free Form 104's programming will be focused on 60's-80's music, but will also include music from as far back as 1955 and as recently as now. They are playing a good sampling of live music as well.

HD Radio is still in its infancy, and until it's in every vehicle, the technology will be dead in the water and stands to be surpassed by streaming Internet content once everyone is driving an Internet-capable vehicle and WiFi (or Internet access of some form) is available everywhere. The only reason I own an HD Radio, which I purchased in the Spring of 2006 actually, is because I needed to be aware of its capabilities during my time in the radio research and consulting world.

But the technology is here, and it's nice to see people trying to figure out how to best utilize it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fish Tacos

I really love fish tacos.

I mean REALLY love them.

Well, I love them when they are prepared a specific way.

The first time I ever tried a fish taco was at Rubio's, a chain of mostly Southern California fast food joints. I think I was visiting Brian and Allis back when they lived outside San Diego in 1999 or 2000. Granted, a fast food restaurant probably isn't the best place to have been introduced to such a delicious dish, but Rubio's actually has pretty good fish tacos.

In my mind, the perfect fish taco has lightly battered and fried fish, probably mahi mahi or something else light, inside of soft taco shells, covered in freshly shredded cabbage, a creamy sauce, and served with fresh lime. I'm sure that I'm forgetting a key ingredient, but this is the basic framework for, in my mind, the perfect fish taco.

Whenever I see fish tacos on the menu at a Mexican restaurant like we did tonight at Salsa's in Southie, I am immediately drawn to it, almost as much as any dessert that contains chocolate and peanut butter. The problem, however, is that more times than not, the fish tacos are not good. I had some bad fish tacos at Border Cafe in Cambridge recently, some marginal ones at Kalypso Restaurant in Kauai, and the best ones I've tasted recently at, of all places, Picco in the South End.

Tonight's fish tacos were OK, but prepared far differently from how I prefer them. Salsa's serves theirs not lightly battered and fried, but rather broiled with salsa. Instead of the light Pacific Coast feeling I get with my ideal fish tacos, I tasted a tomato-based fish dish, wrapped in a taco shell. Granted, I cleared my plate and did enjoy the entree, it just isn't how I love them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Photos from Philadelphia

When I woke up yesterday in Philadelphia, I thought it would have been a shame to come to town for three nights, stay in Center City, and not explore a bit.

Figuring it was Memorial Day, I was happy to find myself in Philadelphia and enjoy some of the colonial buildings and sites that are of American historic significance. I seem to remember driving past the Liberty Bell many years ago, but I don't believe I ever stopped to go inside the building in which it's housed. I grabbed my camera and knew that a walk to Independence Mall State Park was in order.

As I wandered around, I noticed such interesting statuary around much of the entire city. I never knew that Philadelphia had so much public artwork. I walked down Market Street all the way to Penn's Landing for a view of the, um, lovely Camden, NJ waterfront. Our softball games were actually in New Jersey, and when we drove across the bridge into Camden, we all noticed a distinct putrid smell. It's moments like those that I find myself defending New Jersey's benefits and beauty.

On Friday, I took a few minutes to walk to Rittenhouse Square while my teammates rested a bit. It was a beautiful day outside, temps in the 80's, right before the start of the holiday weekend. The Square was filled with all types of characters - everyone from bike messengers to children, couples, and artists. The scene was very cosmopolitan and indeed a melting pot.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend in Philadelphia

I'm in Philly this weekend, the first time I have been here in over 3 years. I used to conduct a ton of business in Philadelphia back when I was consulting and moderating focus groups, but haven't had the pleasure to return all that much since.

When I had the opportunity to move out of Central NJ in 2001, it was the other city that I considered besides Boston, obviously (and smartly) losing out. I had spent enough time in the area to know that while Philadelphia has some interesting neighborhoods, it was no Boston.

We are staying at the Marriott in Center City, a very nice hotel in the perfect location right on Market Street. I believe this is my only time actually staying in Center City, as most of my overnights here have been in Bala Cynwyd or West Conshohocken. I used to go to the Hilton on City Line Avenue in Bala Cynwyd so frequently, that I knew many of the hotel staff members by their first names, and they would recognize me instantaneously. It was a bit scary.

This weekend, I'm playing in a softball tournament. Today, we played 4 games, and won 2 of them - losing the other 2 games to the same team. Unfortunately, our second loss put us into an 8am game tomorrow, where we must continue to win otherwise we'll be eliminated. I'm told that we could play upwards of 5 games tomorrow to win the tournament...if we keep winning.

I'm starting to hit my stride and regain my confidence in softball, which is a good thing and something I was hoping would happen here. I hit the ball hard a few times and managed a few cheap hits in between the good knocks. I think I was on base 9 or 10 times out of 14 plate appearances.

Two more nights here in the City of Brotherly Love. I'll try to get some good photos.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lamenting the Lack of Future Trips

I'm back in the swing of things, albeit with a minor cough. Perhaps those facemasks I saw on two passengers during my flight to LA a couple weeks ago weren't so bad of an idea after all.

My luggage is also back in my possession. I missed the call from the delivery service yesterday morning, and instead of waiting another full day for my bag or fighting with them about what time they actually did call me and why I didn't pick up, I decided to drive to Eastie for the luggage liberation. Armed with my GPS Jill and my discounted Fast Lane pass, I had my bag a few short minutes later.

So, I'm officially back, no major trips on the horizon, either vacation or work-related. I have had three months of being on trips or looking forward to forthcoming ones. From Iceland to Hawaii, I hit the extremes of places with volcanic activity - the windswept desolate tundras outside of Reykjavik to the shaved-ice paradise that is Kaua'i.

I'm a bit sad about my lack of future trips, but am looking forward to some time here in Boston. Part of why I (mostly) took myself off the road back in 2006 was to devote more time to a life here in Boston. I think over the next few months, my challenge will be finding a happy medium between being in town and finding reasons not to be.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm Home...My Luggage Isn't

Oh Airworld, how I haven't missed thee....

The past few months of trips have represented the most travel I have done in a two month span in recent memory. After traveling for work during the better part of a decade, I almost forgot what it was like to be shoehorned into full cross-country flights.

Thank you, Delta, for reminding me.

I shouldn't complain, as my ticket was free, and I was deposited to Kaua'i and returned to Boston safely. All six of my flights were on-time (yes, six flights for a round-trip. Double connections are my faaavorite!)

My ticket cost exactly $10 and 65,000 miles. But Delta managed about $20 in food from me during my flights westbound, and earned another $30 total ($15 each way) for my checked bag, which still is not in my possession. I am told that my suitcase ended up on a JFK-Pittsburgh flight somehow. Perhaps the astute luggage handlers at JFK confused the initials BOS with the equally similar initials PIT.

On the two 5 hour flights I flew today, one from Lihue-Los Angeles and the other from LA-JFK, I had window seats on jammed-packed planes, and did not get up once on either flight. Deep vein thrombosis did not kick in, and thanks to the magic of Tylenol PM, I slept for much of the overnight leg.

I had the pleasure of sitting behind a talker on the brief JFK-BOS flight, and felt just a bit bad for the couple who were seated next to this gentleman who talked for, no joke, 55 minutes before after boarding and while we waited on the incredibly busy JFK tarmac. It's never a good sign when 30 minutes after pushback, you're "number 10 for departure." I would have felt worse for them if they hadn't continued to entice him to speak with mild phrases of interest ("wow," "no way," etc.) But they did. So they bore the consequences.

The best part about having your luggage not make it onto the flight home is the waiting at baggage claim. It would be handy if they announced which customers should not expect to see their bags, but that's left for passengers to figure out after waiting for the final bag to drop 30 minutes later.

So, I'm home with a mean tan to kick off the summer, some awesome photos and memories, and a suitcase full of clean clothes somewhere in Pittsburgh, thanks to the washing machine at our Kaua'i condo, and to Delta airlines.

Friday, May 15, 2009

...Still in Kauai

If any trip that I have ever taken has been a constant photo shoot, it's certainly this one. When you combine an amazingly picturesque setting with a few northeastern guys not used to being this tan, you get pictures galore. I should probably speak for myself, since I'm the one responsible for most of this vacation's photos (though both Jeff and Mike have manned the camera and snapped away at many points throughout the past week).

The weather has been spectacular from the moment we arrived; sunny every single day with rolling clouds welcoming us with brief respites from the rays and minimal drops of rain. We have managed to hit a number of beaches - Hanalei Beach (aka Waioli Beach Park), Secret Beach (not sure if we fabricated that name or not), Poipu Beach, Anini Beach, and Haena Park - each with different looks and feels and distinct character.

Unlike most of my other trips to beaches, we have been taking our time and not prolonging our exposure to any particular trip, going to a beach for an hour or two, taking a break, and perhaps heading to another beach or to the pool later in the day. I have been the most diligent of the three of us with the usage of sunblock, thankfully resulting in the least amount of redness, sunburn, and peeling. While SPF 30 scares many away, I view it as the safest way for me to still get incredibly tan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chicken Crossing the Road in Kaua'i

Technically, it's a rooster...

I can't get enough of these wild chickens and roosters here on Kaua'i.

They are brazen. They are loud. And they are everywhere.

Since there are no natural predators for the chicken / rooster population here on Kaua'i, once these buggers freed themselves years ago, they took over and now outnumber humans.

At our outdoor lunch a few days ago, a friendly rooster strutted over to our table, mere feet from where Mike was dining on his distant cousin, slathered in teriyaki sauce.

At Spouting Horn in Poipu today, I could not resist a few photos of this bugger, as he was crossing the road.

Just how many opportunities would I have of actually photographing a chicken crossing the road?

I didn't stop to ask why he was doing it, but assumed that he simply needed to get to the other side.

Shaved Ice in Kaua'i

Part of our daily routine here in Kaua'i includes shaved ice, a local refreshment that's pretty common throughout the island.

I have concluded that shaved ice is better in concept and appearance than in actual consumption. It usually leaves me with a semi-upset stomach.

Basically, shaved ice is just that - a big block of ice shaved and piled high into a styrofoam cup. The ice is topped with flavoring, anything from peach to mai tai. Most shaved ice stands have a ton of flavors, and most customers choose two or three different ones. Topping the shaved ice with sweetened, condensed milk is also popular.

So we have ordered shaved ice from this truck and from a few different stands in Waimea and in Hanalei. I was underwhelmed by my cherry/vanilla combo, and have sampled pineapple, pina colada, lychee, and a few other flavors. Everything topped with the creamy sweetened, condensed milk (called a "snow cap" at one of the shaved ice stands).

It usually looks great and tastes good. Minutes later, however, the overabundance of sweetness doesn't always react well in my stomach. I've always been more of a salty-snack fan, and ice cream is always an excellent indulgence. Shaved ice with flavored syrups....I'm not sure that I am cut out for it, but I have a feeling that I haven't eaten my final cup of shaved ice.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Consistency on Kaua'i

My primary concern these days is applying sunblock. My secondary concern is deciding upon which flavor of shaved ice I want each day.

Life in Kaua'i has an element of Groundhog Day to it. Lots of sameness. Same weather, same temperatures, similar activities. Very relaxing.

  • Wake up early (6:30-ish), as I'm still not fully adjusted to the time zone.
  • Our condo is on a golf course, and the sprinklers go off shortly thereafter.
  • Brew some delicious local coffee and eat a bagel or some toasted bread with guava jam.
  • Begin motivating, don a t-shirt and shorts.
  • Head out to some activity (yesterday was a hike Kalalau Trail for some incredible views of Wainiha Bay and the Pacific Ocean).
  • Find lunch somewhere, sitting outside watching the roosters strut around.
  • Head to the beach.
  • Throw football around in the water for an hour.
  • Tan a bit longer (or in Mike's case, turn pink).
  • Head out, stopping by the shaved ice place.
  • Back to the condo, shower, frozen margarita, relax a bit.
  • Head to dinner, probably in Hanalei, maybe in Kapa'a.
  • Back to condo, exhausted, crash around 9:30pm.

Our plan is to shake it up a bit by visiting a few different beaches and restaurants, but the basic framework is similar. Definitely lots of losing track of time and date, which is excellent.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sunblock and Roosters

Our first full day in Kaua'i was awesome. Beach, sun, clear water, burgers, margaritas, and Wal-Mart!

Prices are quite expensive for everyday items here at the grocery stores (loaves of bread seem to start around $5), so we ventured back into Lihue to stock up on staples for the week, grab some sunblock, and then head to the beach for my first dip ever into the Pacific Ocean.

The sun here is pretty intense; after all, we are sitting on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. I'm pretty diligent with sunblock, since I still tend to get color even with 30 SPF. Most of the stores, though, here carry sunblock up to 85 SPF! I decided to stick with the 30, but might have to move up a bit if I find that I'm getting too red. So far, so good. We limited our beach sun exposure to a few hours, but driving a convertible and simply walking around a bit causes ample opportunities to tan (and/or burn).

I packed my brimmed hat on a whim, but am definitely loving it here and plan to wear it around a lot.

One this I immediately noticed on Thursday during the drive from Lihue to Princeville were stray roosters. Reading online, I discovered that the rooster population exceeds the human one, as there are no natural rooster predators on the island. I wouldn't say that I see them everywhere, but it's not uncommon to see them strutting along the beach or cock-a-doodle-doo'ing in the distance.

Between Sully the Southie Turkey and random stray roosters, I'm beginning to think that farm animals are planning a planetary takeover.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Aloha from Kaua'i

I'm highly amused that a few short weeks ago, I stepped onto an Icelandair jet and a short 4 1/2 hours after take-off, I was at Keflavik Airport outside of Reykjavik. Yesterday, I took three flights to get to Lihue Airport in Kauai, with a total travel time of about 15 1/2 hours...and I'm still in the United States!

The flights were uneventful (thankfully), but rather full. I had people in the middle seat next to me on the BOS-ATL leg and the LAX-LIH leg.

My flight arrived on time, and Mike greeted me at the airport with a lei of fresh flowers. He probably figured I wanted to full experience (he was right). He and Jeff had already rented a convertible, so I added my luggage to theirs, and we drove to the condo in Princeville. I started seeing signs for Hanalei and have been singing "Puff, the Magic Dragon" ever since, though the spelling is different from that in the song's lyrics.

We unpacked, watched the sunset, grabbed dinner and a few Mai Tais, picked up some groceries, and then headed home, where I promptly crashed in bed.

The 5-Day forecast:

SAT - Sunny - High 85 / Low 72
SUN - Sunny - High 84 / Low 72
MON - Sunny - High 83 / Low 72
TUE - Sunny - High 83 / Low 72
WED - Sunny - High 83 / Low 72

Love it. Consistent. Sun. Being a weathercaster in Hawaii must leave plenty of time for surfing.

My body clock is a bit wacky after almost 24 hours awake (less a few naps on planes), in bed by 9 PM local, and up around 5:00 AM. I'm sitting here watching the local morning newscasters not in jackets and ties, but rather Hawaiian shirts.

No worries though. It's vacation. I'm planning to lose track of time and date relatively quickly.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Headed to Hawaii

Finally - it's time for Hawaii!

I'm up far too early with the sole purpose of making it to LA by 1pm local time in order to catch their one flight to Lihue today. I'm hoping both I and my checked bag make it on that plane.

Kauai appears to be 6 hours behind us here in Boston. It's not even Thursday yet there as I write this. 5,133 miles as the crow flies, the second farthest I have been from home in my life (behind Sydney, which is over 10,000 miles from here). Dubrovnik was even closer than Hawaii.

I'm hoping I don't regret my cup of coffee this morning. I was debating caffeine versus sleeping on the plane and picked the former, thinking that perhaps somewhere within my three flights today I'll still doze off for a bit. From my first takeoff to final touchdown, it's a 15.5 hour journey.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Excess Baggage Fee is a Misnomer

I just checked in for my flight tomorrow to Kauai (correction: 3 flights to Kauai. Thanks, Delta, for eliminating the BOS-LAX non-stops. But, it's a reward ticket, so I shouldn't complain...), and have officially paid my first checked bag fee that I couldn't expense.

The receipt for my "purchase," however, is quite the misnomer.

I was charged $15 for "EXCESS BAGGAGE." Shouldn't this simply be a fee for a checked bag? I wouldn't consider checking one bag for a vacation to Hawaii as "excess."

If I had an appropriately-sized carry-on, I wouldn't be charged anything extra for it, and it would, therefore, not be considered excess. Technically, this is a "checked bag" fee. Or a "bag handling" fee.

Since I've already paid to check a bag, I'm considering bringing my monster suitcase (pictured to the right, taken in the parking lot at EWR before my journey to Croatia). I should make Delta work hard for the $15.

And why is the fee imposed per journey and not per flight leg? Thankfully, it's not. But the amount of work Delta will be doing to (hopefully) deliver my bag with me to Kauai is quite extensive. Load and unload onto three separate aircraft. 5 bucks a plane, $2.50 per load-on / load-off. Same charge as if I was checking a bag to LGA on the shuttle.

All I have to worry about tomorrow is waking up on time at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM, and deciding upon curbside check-in or bag drop at the counter. I'll probably go to the counter, since it's a tip cheaper and psychologically, I just kinda feel that the odds improve that my bag will actually make it onto the correct flight.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Preparing for travel used to be simple. Literally put everything into a pile, pack it up, and go. If I forgot something, I'd buy it on the road.

But life has changed significantly since the time when I traveled often for work.

Namely, Rosie the Dog.

She can't exactly let herself out. Or feed herself. And she does require snuggly attention.

Rosie has lived here for about 18 months now, and I have only taken four air trips in that span (Super Bowl in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Iceland/London, and Los Angeles), the fifth being Hawaii later this week. In my "old" life, that could have been a good month of travel for me.

Luckily, I have Ryan for overnight dogsitting and Renee for daytime walks. I hate imposing on Ryan so much, though, since I pay him in pizza, beer, and Cheez-Its, plus the privilege of hanging with Rosie. But he doesn't seem to mind, for now.

So with my forthcoming vacation, I decided to introduce Rosie to a new friend yesterday - Goose. She loves these American Kennel Club dolls, treating them like her friends or children. She never tears them up, prances around proudly with them in her mouth, and often lays on the ground resting her head atop them. Goose now joins Squirrel, Beaver, and Duck in Rosie's animal farm.