Dave

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Friday, May 30, 2008

River Walk Construction Update...

So, I have missed a bit since my last update on the San Antonio River Walk construction near my downtown office. It looks as though our hard-hatted, sombrero-wearing mortar workers have made great progress since my last series of happy snaps.Add some water, a few drunks, and a reason, and I think we'd be good to go, aside from the fact that their are no bars or restaurants on the small section I have been showing pictures of. Of course, the Holiday Inn is close by and they have a pretty neat little bar there; my wife and I have been!Anyway, I think the grass has died or at least it could use some water. And the river could use some liquid too.But aside from that, it looks wonderful and I can't wait until the day, years from now I suppose, when we can walk up and down this area.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

GNWatch Meeting Report: Tasty Treats...

My wife and I along with several our our neighbors made the short trip down to the Lodge of the Great Northwest to attend the monthly Great Northwest Watch meeting. And tonight, it was more of a free for all, dig in and eat some vittles type of meeting. We had brisket, burgers, dogs and a multitude of side dishes including my wife's famous chili and numerous desserts.Are you seeing a pattern here? I can't even do volunteer work unless it has some sort of connection to food! I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the "before" on this brisket. My wife talks about meat that can stand on its own without a sauce, and Richard's Brisket passed the test with flying colors - Tasty Treats all around!We had about 40 folks including several of our newest Block Captains show up for the event. In addition to good food, we had Mr. Sean Fitzgibbons from District 6 Councilwoman Delicia Herrera's office and Officer Danny Robles, our SAFFE Officer field questions from the audience.Of specific note was a series of questions one resident had regarding reduction in Section 8 payments the city is paying to landlords. The same resident had some other issues regarding water bills and CPS issues. I appreciated the way Mr. Fitzgibbons was able to immediately accept the complaints, offer his card and put her in touch with the appropriate person in his office to deals with those issues. People, this is why we have representatives, so we can get answers. Kudos to our District 6 staff.Officer Robles fielded several questions from tagging to drug concerns and all matter in between. He talked to us about the Cellular on Patrol program and how we can put together a group of residents to have a class (you need to be certified to get the secret handshakes and such). I'm going to begin putting together an interest list of people that would be willing to take the course. If we can get 15 people, we can do it. In fact, I'm going to contact some folks from neighboring associations and see if they would like to form a joint class. Wanna be in the next COP class? E-mail me and tell me if you would rather do it in an evening (say 6pm to 9pm) or on a Saturday (maybe 9am to noon). You do not need to be a resident of The GNW or a member of the GNWatch to do this. We just want to make the class worth the officer's time.We talked briefly about the National Night Out and what a great deal that is. If you were eagerly anticipating the heat of August for the next NNO, hang tight. It will now be in October (we think October 7th - more on that soon). If you want a good way to meet your neighbors, do like we do: Set up a table out front with a pot of chili, some hot dogs, a cooler full of refreshments and a yard full of lawn chairs. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to have fun! Our coordinator, Ms. Betty Hood is already working on obtaining door prizes. More to follow on this.

I was very pleased to have most of our members of the GNWCIA Board of Directors present. These people put in a lot of hours of their own time and it was super awesome to have them come as members of the GNWatch and meet and mingle with our Block Captains. We appreciate the hard work you do for the association.Finally, I'm going to approach the Board concerning maybe changing the meeting times to begin earlier - even 6:30PM or 7PM (we normally start at 7:30PM). Tell me what you think about it. Would you come to the meetings if you thought we could get in by 6:30 and be out the door by 7:45 or 8PM? If this was your first meeting, I should tell you that we usually are a bit more structured. I walked in the door tonight with no agenda at all and literally shot from the hip the entire evening, fitting in the speakers as they arrived and such. My guess is that many people do not want to attend a meeting that drags on and on (like my blog posts). So please, tell me what you think.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dinner Report: Our Version of 1905 Salad...

During our visit to Florida I mentioned our much enjoyed trip to The Columbia and the 1905 salad I simply love. It turns out that my mom had clipped the recipe from the Tampa Tribune several years ago and she gave it to me to try.This evening, my wife cut the recipe in about a third and whipped some up for us for dinner. You have to make the salad part separate from the dressing, then mix them together just before serving. If you can't make it to The Columbia, my wife makes a great substitute - this 1905 was awesome!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lunch Report: La Playa Sea Food...

It started out as a trip to Red Lobster but my wife convinced my mother-in-law that a better deal and better food could be found over at the intersection of 24th and Poplar on San An Antonio's near west side. And since I had never been to La Playa, and since I really don't care for Red Lobster, it was on!They describe the fare as Mexican and Salvadorena seafood. I'm not quite sure what difference it makes when you are frying up some fish and onion rings, but the end result is Yummy!La Playa is a colorful place with walls painted on the inside to represent the seafood theme. The exterior has a bright look, not uncommon to that part of town, and lots of Go Spurs Go attitude. I especially liked the covered waiting area. Although business was light for Memorial Day, my mother-in-law says it is usually packed during lunch, so maybe people wait outside.We seated ourselves toward the rear of the place and were immediately greeted with chips and salsa and had our drink orders taken. The chips were fresh, crisp and excellent. The salsa was wonderful!My wife ordered the lunch special of fish and shrimp. It comes with a single plank of Alaskan Pollock, and two huge shrimp, salad and she substituted onion rings for the fries.My mother-in-law went with the fish lunch plate which is three pieces of fish and the aforementioned salad and rings.I should have stuck with the lunch special, but not knowing what to expect in size of the plates, I opted for the number 16, which is the same as the lunch special but with a fourth piece of fish. And since they both substituted the onion rings, I followed suit.I know in some places you get the fancy dessert tray brought out to you by your waitress when you finish. Here, we had a man come by, I suspect with no actual affiliation to the restaurant selling slices of cake his wife had made earlier. And we splurged.Need fish for a really fair price and some awesome onion rings to go along with them? Seriously, give this one a try. You will agree that La Playa Seafood on 24th and Poplar is a seriously Tasty Treat.

Cell Phone Update: Chocolate Still Sucks...

You may recall me yammering on obnoxiously about my crappy cell phone, a Chocolate made by the fine people at LG. Well, I have an update to the situation.

One my many complaints was that the phone has a mind of its own and actually calls people randomly. Yes Mom, that call at 11:45PM from the 210 number, it was not me, but it was my phone. Sorry.

Anywhoo... My wife suggested that we zip by the Verizon store this afternoon so I could just get a new phone or maybe purchase a refurbished one. I had no intention of going in there and doing one of these deals where you get some sort of special deal and they sign you up for another decade.

I don't know about you, but I have the same mindset in a cell phone store that I do a car dealership; I'm not happy about being there and I know the end result is that I will be ripped off, even if I feel good about the whole transaction. And this time, things started off pretty much the same. The guy took my phone, handed me a receipt for it and said to come back in an hour because the technician was at lunch. So I stepped it up a bit and asked him to look up my account to see if maybe it was time for a new phone. He said no. Then I asked him if he sold refurbished phones. He said no.

So, I walk over to the display and while I start looking for a cheap flip phone, my wife continues to talk to the sales associate. I picked up a phone that looked cheap, rugged and lacking in any parts that would allow it to make calls on its own and said, "I'll just buy this one." And that's when my wife said, "He says your phone is under warranty."

Well then. I guess waiting an hour wouldn't be such a bad thing after all!

When we returned 45 minutes later the technician looked up from his workbench and said he was just going to replace my phone. I asked him if I could get a different model but he said that was a no-go. While he transferred all my crap from my over functioning Chocolate to a newly refurbished apparently still working Chocolate, I played around with a few of the other phones on display.

Oh, and in case you were wondering what SilverCreek78250 looks like on a fancy internet ready cell phone, here ya go.
I was sure to add the page to as many as I could during the visit.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Update: Automated Trash Pick-up...

A while back my wife and I attended a Town Hall meeting held at The Lodge of the Great Northwest so the the City of San Antonio could present information on the new automated curbside recycle and garbage collection system. I recall that there were lots of concerns from people about only having garbage collection one day a week instead of two. The city folks assured them that people already on the program have had sufficient room to toss all their junk, especially when they get with the idea of recycling.

So, we have had this system in use for a month or so and I'm here to tell you, it works.

I took video of my recycle bin being loaded into the new truck.
video

No, I didn't stand out there all morning waiting for the truck to come by so I could make a 10-second clip. The truth is, I forget it was recycle pick-up day and heard the truck coming down the street so I quickly went outside and pushed the recycle bin from the garage to the street. But first, I had to move my wife's truck out of the way because the bin is too large to fit between the two cars if parked close together.

Which brings up a few key points about his new system, which you simply have to adapt to. First, the cans are large. But the two of them do not take up much more space than my original garbage cans did. We have always kept our cans in the garage so for the most part, I think they would fit wherever people were keeping theirs before the change. Oh, and as long as you tie off your plastic bags before placing them in the garbage container, they won't stink the place up.

Some people were used to keeping their cans on the side of the house or in the back yard behind privacy fences and now, they feel that since the cans are too big to be carried, they simply place them in front of the garage doors. People, seriously, this is in poor form. I am certainly not the golden standard of good taste, but the first step to knowing that you are "Going Ghetto" is to drive through a neighborhood and see these garbage cans parked in front of people's garage doors.

I know of several people who are having to modify gates or add walkways to the side or back of their homes to accommodate these wheeled cans; I know it is a pain, but totally ignoring the fact that it is a violation of the deed restrictions to leave the cans out in front of your house, it just looks bad if you do.

If you are suggesting that the new cans are too large and awkward for elderly folks to move in and out, I would submit that first, my mother-in-law in her 70's can roll hers out with ease because of the wheeled design, and second, if they simply cannot, handle them due to other physical limitations, the city has a program to assist those residents with smaller sized containers. Contact 311 for info.

The bottom line on this is, I understand that the city did not consult with our deed restrictions before giving us these larger containers, but most of the people on my street have been able to accommodate the new cans and keep within the deed restrictions. So I'd love to hear the specifics of why other people can't.

The other thing we have observed is just how much stuff we are now recycling that we had simply tossed in the regular trash before. What we have noticed (and your household certainly may differ) is that in a one week, we generate about triple the amount of recyclable material as we do just regular trash. And I think that was one of the expected benefits the city had in mind when coming up with the program.

I don't have all the facts and figures, but it just makes common sense that when the city has to pay money to take the trash to the landfill, but can generate income by selling off the recycled stuff, the more we can do to increase the recycled stuff and reduce the trash, the better off we will all be. If I were in the Scouts, I might get a merit badge for coming to this conclusion.
The final point goes back to the video of the truck picking up the large can. Did you notice that the driver of the truck never got out and lifted the can? Just think of how much money the city is saving on medical costs associated with back injuries. In spite of the adjustments we as homeowners have to make to get used to this new system, I'd say it was a brilliant program and our city deserves a vote of praise for implementing it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Views of Bandera Road...

I am strictly a point and shoot sort of camera guy and if I ever do happen to come up with a really well framed photo, I assure you it is by accident and because for every one picture I post on this blog, I have twenty more of the same subject, hoping that one of them worked out.

If you scroll to the bottom of this page you will note several links that I think are of use to people who live in, or are interested in San Antonio, and one such page is called Views of Texas.

KeithAlanK, the artist at Views of Texas does not require such luck. I am constantly amazed at his brilliant lighting and the obvious thought he puts into his work. He did a very impressive series of shots on the new high-rise interchange at 410 and I-10 you should check out.
In the mean time, I offer my tribute to him, taken through my son's dirty windshield as we exited Loop 410 onto Bandera Road today. Views of Bandera Road.

Strange in Valrico: Santa on Vacation...

Right next to my hometown of Brandon is another small but growing town called Valrico, Fl. It seems that over the years, the place has just merged into one extension of Tampa, and thus, requires the shopping amenities available to such a populace.

And lucky for us, because we do what everyone does when vacationing in Florida; we go to Wal Mart.
And as it turns out, so does Santa Claus. Yes, kids, it may sound strange, but Santa shops at Wal Mart just like the rest of us.

Lunch Report: Centerpoint Station, San Marcos...

Is it any wonder my girth is expanding? I had a full day planned of simply sitting on the recliner and getting through as many of the 41 TV shows we have waiting for watching on the DVR with the idea that just maybe, I would snack on a few leftovers and perhaps celebrate the Memorial Day weekend by losing an ounce or two. But no, my son comes home and suggests we take a short drive up to San Marcos and get a burger at Centerpoint Station. So, against my better judgment, I put the DVR on pause, and off we went for an afternoon snack.

But before I can tell you about the place, I have to quickly make note of something extremely important. People, I know you are trying to save gas and therefore perhaps driving a little slower, but please, do it on your own time. This sphincter driving a Mopar product was tooling along at a cool 63 MPH along 1604 in the left lane of course, where the limit is 70 and the normal pace is about 75.
Because of the fact that all the people in the right hand lane were zooming by us, it took several miles before the people stuck behind this jerk could finally get around him. Keep Texas Moving! And get off the cell phone while you're at it.

I'm sorry for that little outburst and I promise, my blood pressure had gotten back to normal levels before I began the heart attack inducing eating session which I will describe shortly.
But first, a little about the atmosphere. I've mentioned numerous times how I enjoy restaurants that decorate the walls with old signs and such; apparently, this is the place where they come to purchase those old signs and collectibles. Of course, it has to be done right. You can't take a brand new building, four sheetrocked walls and simply put up a few signs and make it work. The buildings that make up Centerpoint Station are really old with hardwood floors and old doorways and old counters and such - it definitely works. When you first pull up, you notice that the entire exterior of the place is covered in old signs - and they are those newly manufactured remakes - they are the real deal.On the covered porch are toys and gas pumps and such. I liked the polite notice on the front door that says, "If you are a thief, don't come in." If you could stand the Texas heat, you might stand outside for an hour just admiring everything, but we preferred to get into where they keep the food. And once you get in, it is almost overwhelming to the senses just how much genuine crap they have scattered about. I mean that in a good way, not in the way your mom might describe a dirty room.The place is certainly a store with an ice cream parlor and a restaurant, so even if you aren't hungry, it isn't a wasted stop. The one thing that I have to admit I found distracting and a bit tacky was the bar coded price labels on the front of everything. I will tell you right now, if you have to ask how much the stuff here sales for (and everything is for sale), then you can't afford it. I know these original signs are well sought out by the people trying to copy this restaurant style - I mean, between Chili's, Applebees, and TGI Friday's, there is a lot of competition to get the best junk. I don't want to to make you queasy, but some of the stuff I looked at thinking someone would pay a few hundred dollars for had price tags beyond 3 and 4 thousand dollars. My son opined that maybe it was all a joke. Maybe they simply have no intention of selling the stuff but they put ridiculously high price tags on it so nobody will bother to ask. Who knows?

Oh, I know it isn't Black History Month, but this gave me a little jolt when I saw it hanging away from the view of most shoppers.
Yea, I'd say we have come a long way as a nation. I have mixed feelings about selling stuff like this. I know it isn't made up or fake, but it is, well, kind of a shock. Oh, if you need more for your collection, they have a web page full of the stuff. I don't want to dwell on it; we have been into other antique stores and regardless of the motives, there is a market for the stuff.Okay, on to the pleasantness. We have to try onion rings wherever we go. This time, we ordered a combo of rings and fries to share. Good stuff. The onion rings were thick cut and I thought breaded just right. My son said he had had them several times before, and they were much better. I'm not complaining at all.My wife ordered the BLT on wheat toast. She loves the fact that they serve it with the really thick cut bacon. Oh, and the wheat bread seems to be that 7-grain business, not the cheap stuff. My son and I both opted for the bacon cheeseburgers, he had his on the white bread which is of course grilled as it should be.I had mine on a wheat roll and it was fresh and grilled as well. The burgers come with the standard fixins - onion, fresh lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. This burger is enough to eat without the onion rings or fries - you won;t go hungry. But if your are just wanting a snack, they offer a "lady's" version.We could not force down any dessert or the shakes they serve, but my wife did grab tomorrow's breakfast. These cinnamon rolls are huge!So for atmosphere, entertaining prices on the old signs, and outstanding burgers, Centerpoint Station may be a bit of a drive from San Antonio, but if you are gonna go shopping at the outlet mall anyway, why not stop in for a Tasty Treat of your own?

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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