Monday, October 27, 2008

Owen J. Roberts Class of 1988 20-Year Reunion Teaser

Carved in Water

For those of you looking for pictures from the class reunion this past weekend, here they are:

On Zooomr (my preference)

So far (as of 10/27 at 11 pm) I have the morning party shots processed and uploaded. I should have the evening party shots up probably tomorrow night. The night party shots are now also posted. For others with pictures hosted online, label them with the ojr88reunion tag. For other Zooomr users, that tag will add your photos to my reunion set automatically.

Now as a disclaimer: I may not have pictures of everybody, your name might be misspelled or missing altogether, and not all the photos I took are online. If anyone wants full resolution copies of any of these pictures, e-mail me at diamonddaveroth at gmail dot com, and I'll be happy to send them to you.

In a few days, I'll have more to say about the parties, if anyone wants to check back to see that. In the meantime, enjoy the photos. I definitely enjoyed taking them.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How to Walk to In-N-Out Burger from the Las Vegas Strip

I talk about food on this blog. I talk about it a lot. This post is no exception. Actually, this post is all about food. Food in the context of a small personal victory. This post was two and a half years in the making.

In May 2006, when we were out at Lake Tahoe for Jennifer's brother Jonas's college graduation, we ate at In-N-Out Burger for the first time. Jonas has spoken of the restaurant in glowing terms, and their brother Jordan seconded the endorsement of Jonas. So when we ate at the In-N-Out in Reno, we quickly agreed with Jordan and Jonas.

In-N-Out is a privately-owned burger chain that exists only in the American West. It has always been owned and run by the same family since its founding in 1948. It has never been a public company, and never franchised. They've also never installed a freezer in their restaurants. Everything comes in the door fresh, the meat, the buns, and the fries come in the restaurant as potatoes. The restaurants are spotless, the employees loyal, cheerful, and well-compensated. So as you can guess, the food's pretty good. The menu consists of four items: hamburger, cheeseburger, double-double, and french fries. You'd think that's simple, but it's not. There is a whole list of customizations to your food, and that's known as "the secret menu." The secret menu items are already laid out on the cashier's terminals, so it's not much of a secret, but you need to know what you want before you come in, as those special upgrades aren't advertised in the store.

There also isn't an In-N-Out burger within 2000+ miles of my house, so the only time I get to return is when I'm traveling to the west. My first chance to return to In-N-Out was September 2007 when I was in Las Vegas for work. Despite my best efforts, I failed to make it to the restaurant. I knew where it was, scoped out the route on Google Earth, figured out the schedule of The Deuce, and headed off on foot on a 100 degree day. Despite my best efforts, I never discovered the Northwest Passage over I-15. I should've taken a taxi, I guess, but it seemed excessive to spend $20 for a $6 meal. I determined that I would take a taxi the next time, if it came to that.

But I was hoping it didn't come to that this year. I'm back in Las Vegas for work again, and I did my homework. I found three In-N-Out restaurants within reasonable walking distance, and definitely within taxi distance. One on the UNLV campus didn't require an Interstate crossing, though it was a three mile trek from the hotel, or a little under two from the Deuce stop. The one I attempted last year was about 0.6 miles from the bus. . .provided I could get over the interstate. I opened Google Earth and Google Maps with street view, and researched the route to see if there was anything I had missed.

And it turns out there was! One thing I saw on the map, and one thing I didn't see until I was on foot today.

First, in the green circle, what are those stripes? A crosswalk! Since there was a crosswalk, there must be a sidewalk. That's a good start.

So with a break at lunchtime, I made my second attempt at the summit. Here's how to do it.

Take The Deuce to the Excalibur
Near the main drawbridge entrance to the casino is an escalator up to the overpass. Take the sidewalk around the escalator,

heading West parallel to W Tropicana Ave.

Once the sidewalk takes you under the on-ramp, you have a choice to make. This is where I screwed up last year. The sidewalk bifurcates, with one path headed West toward the restaurant, and the other heading East.

Take the eastbound (right) sidewalk. That sounds counterintuitive, since it's heading away from the restaurant. It snakes around, up onto the bridge, heading West... the way you want to go. (see the green path in the Google Earth capture above.)

Here's that crosswalk that was visible from space.

From there, it's a piece of cake. Cross I-15 on the bridge, then via lighted crosswalks, cross the on-ramp, Tropicana Ave (headed north), and the on-ramp again (headed East), and you're there!

And now back to the food.

It was noon, and the place was packed. They had a ton of friendly people working, so the line moved quickly.

I ordered a double-double, animal-style, extra toast, with french fries, well-done, and a chocolate shake. You'll need to do your own research on the secret menu to see what that means. $6.39 including tax

Here's what it looks like though.

In-N-Out Meal

Burger of my Dreams

How did it taste? You'll just have to visit In-N-Out for yourself. I don't know if it was that burger I was in love with, or the idea of that burger, but this was a cheeseburger I could be happy with for the rest of my life. And rolling-back the failures of last year's quest made lunch taste all that much better. Now the only question is, do I go again for lunch tomorrow, or wait 'til next year. I think you know the answer ;-)

In-N-Out Burger Las Vegas
Monday, October 13, 2008

Made it to Nevada

I'm here in Las Vegas, and for proof, here's a picture of me in my room.

Take me Back to Las Vegas

Leaving (for) Las Vegas

I'm headed to Las Vegas again for work, returning once again to the Infor user conference, Inforum 2008. It's foggy here at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, so my 8:15 plane had to divert to Norfolk to refuel, is supposed to land here at 9, and depart at 9:15. It's 8:40, and still pretty foggy, so I'm not placing my bets on a 9:15 departure either. At least Southwest Airlines does usually appear to make a real effort to be on time.

Track my flight here: Flight Tracker SWA298
And another: Flightview
and another: Flightaware
Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Shooting in the Theater

Our local theater company, The Mebane Acting Company, knows that I like to take pictures, so with their current show, Steel Magnolias, opening this week, they invited me to the dress rehearsals to get some shots for their scrapbook.

At first, I was hesitant to do it. After all, I lost my good camera a few months ago and haven't replaced it yet, so I wasn't very excited about what I'd be able to do with any of the point-and-shoots we have sitting around the house. Going backwards in equipment quality has really taken the wind out of my sails. Plus indoor shots in a dark room (preferably without flash) are tough under the best of circumstances, and trying it with snapshot-quality gear would only make it worse. But I decided to do it anyway, because they were going to get pictures anyhow, and at least I know how to use my cheap(er) cameras, so I should be able to get something usable, as frustrating as it may be

I was happily surprised! Using a tripod and the High ISO setting on my Sony DSC-H2, yielded some not-too-shabby pictures. There's blatant sensor noise in there, but it's not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. Kudos, Sony!

Steel Magnolias


Steel Magnolias: Shelby

And there were some other parts of the task that made it more fun than I had anticipated. First, since I was the "official" photographer, and it was a dress rehearsal (empty theater), I could feel free to go wherever I wanted to to get the shot. I was all over the place, and the actors were instructed to ignore me, which was perfect. That's so much nicer than trying to get a decent photo from wherever you happen to be sitting in a crowded theater, while not using a flash and not disturbing the other patrons. . . . and all that's assuming that photography is even allowed, which it usually isn't.

Another enjoyable part of the process is that I had my iPod on and cranked while I was shooting. Since Steel Magnlolias is really a chick-flick of amateur theater, I didn't really care about the dialogue. With the music blasting, the whole process was kind of surreal, with the disconnect between the sight and the sound. I highly recommend this process.

Once I took what I thought were enough shots, I left the theater and shot some surprisingly cool stuff in downtown Graham, using my same loud rock soundtrack in the process.

Courthouse Steps

Graham Furniture Mart

I left Graham that night feeling pretty satisfied with the work I'd done, and realized that this was the most enjoyment I'd had with a camera since losing my 40D in July . Photography is fun again.

UPDATE: 05-October-2008

The theater company was happy with my work, and asked me to return to shoot the remaining three scenes of the play. (It turns out that I had previously only shot one scene.) Since Jennifer wanted to see the show anyway, she came with me to the Sunday matinee, where she watched the play, and I got an additional 280 shots. Actually listening to the dialogue, I and the other three men in the audience (in addition to a few dozen women there) found some really funny lines, and some excellent acting.
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