Jan 312006
 

The following ad appeared in Sunday’s Commercial Appeal:

WEB PROGRAMMER/ DATA ANALYST National Advertising Services Company currently has the following opening in our IT Department for a Web Programmer/Data Analyst. Qualified candidate will work with IT Manager and Client Services Manager to maintain and enhance high profile, high traffic Website with ASP classic and ASP.NET front end , and MS SQL Server backend. Qualified candidate will have substantial practical experience with these technologies, and should include specific description of such in response to this posting. Email or mail resumes to: The Advertising Checking Bureau, Inc. 1610 Century Center Pkwy., Ste. 104. Memphis, TN. 38134 No Phone calls/EOE

This is the company I work for, an open position that is equivalent to mine. The company has a very laid-back atmosphere – we wear jeans to work most days, business casual when clients are in the office. It’s a 7.5 hour work day – I usually get in at 9:00 and leave at 5:00 with a ~30 minute lunch. In the year and a half I’ve been here, there have been very few instances in which I have had to work overtime (although it can happen when we take on new clients or roll out new programs). The boss is a very good about giving you projects that will help you grow as a programmer. Most likely you’d be developing rebate and spiff web applications for major companies. Some of our clients include GM, Panasonic, Whirlpool, Xerox, and Shell. Our office is in a corporate office park near I-240 and Whitten Road. Pay tends to be about average, but this is a great place to learn and is about as free of stress as you can hope to find in a corporate setting.

So if you’re looking for an IT job, I encourage you to apply. If you have questions you can shoot them to paul at paulryburn dot com.

Jan 302006
 

Recently a couple of friends of mine returned from a trip to St.Petersburg, and they told me about a very interesting place they visited down there. It’s called Tastings, and it’s a wine bar – but it’s different from any wine bar we have here in Memphis.

The atmosphere, they tell me, is much like Le Chardonnay here – comfortable, with couches and chairs, very easygoing, conducive to conversation as you sip your wine. But the difference is how you go about getting your wine.

When you go in, you put money on a debit card, much like you would to use the copier at Kinko’s. Then you get a glass and go to one of the kiosks found throughout the restaurant. The kiosks offer various wines – merlots, cabernets, chardonnays, etc. When you decide on the one you want, you insert your debit card and the kiosk pours an ounce of that wine.

The prices of the wine samples vary. A cheap wine might be only a buck or two for a sample. A more expensive wine could run you $8.

There are stations where you can wash your glass out with water between tastings, and you can get a new glass if you don’t want to keep using the same one. There’s also a full bar where you can buy full glasses or bottles of the wines, and there’s a food menu. The kiosks offer a very diverse selection – over 120 wines to choose from, according to their website.

My friends were initially disappointed when their first samples dribbled out of the kiosk. These are experienced drinkers we’re talking about, and an ounce isn’t very much. But by the time they had spent 15, 18 dollars, they began to notice the effects. “Hey, we better slow down,” they said.

What a great idea. We need something like this in Memphis. As much as I love downtown, though, my intuition tells me this would work best in Midtown. Not sure if she still reads my blog, but if you do: ATTN TONYA: quit your job, move back to Memphis, let’s find a financial backer and open a franchise location of this place. We’d make a FORTUNE.

That is, if this place would even be allowed under Tennessee’s liquor laws, and I’m not sure it would. A bartender can cut you off when you’ve had enough; a debit card can’t. For that reason I’m not even sure it could get a license to operate here.

Hmmm… maybe I should drive down to St.Pete and do some research. No, that would take too much time, and I’m too busy at work to take off right now. Maybe I’ll do the next best thing and just buy a bunch of bottles of wine and drink them.

Link to website for Tastings: A Wine Experience

Jan 302006
 

For one night only tomorrow night, Drinking Liberally will meet downtown at Sleep Out Louie’s. It will be a special event, as we watch Captain Dumbass – er, I mean, President Bush – fumble his way through the State of the Union address.

Drinking Liberally is a group of people who come together once a week to drink, socialize and discuss politics. They generally hold a liberal/progressive point of view but have been known to welcome open-minded Republicans (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but there actually are some, I’ve met them) as well.

Event is at 7:30 pm Tuesday, January 31 at Sleep Out Louie’s, on Union between Front and Main downtown. There’s parking across the street at Parking Can Be Fun.

TRIVIA TEAM: Guess what, this means I’m going to miss another week.

Wine post still to come.

Jan 302006
 

A friend of mine who recently got her MBA from Pepperdine has made her first foray into the entrepeneurial world with Valentine Gift Boutique. She has partnered with sites like Red Envelope, Macy’s, 1-800-FLOWERS, wine.com, and more. You should be able to find whatever you need to take care of your Valentine’s Day gift-giving.

All right. Lunch break’s over, so back to work. I’ll be back this evening with a longer post, and this time I’ll even give you the theme in advance: wine.

Jan 302006
 

I made the 8-ball on the break today in a game of pool at the Saucer. (On bar tables it’s considered an automatic win if you make the 8 on the break.) Only the second time I’ve done that in my life. Hopefully that’s a sign of good luck for the week. Thanks to my friend Kenny for teaching me how to do the 8-ball break shot years ago: You hit the cue ball slightly above center, which puts “follow” on it. The cue ball hits the 1, then rolls forward and hits the 8.

I know you all are sick of hearing about the place by now, but I went back to Rio Loco today and ordered Juliza & Kristy’s Special – chicken, steak, pork ribs, shrimp, Mexican bacon and vegetables cooked fajita style. It’s more than enough food for two people and I was by myself. I had to box up two-thirds of it and take it home. Man it was good though. I wish I had thought to take a pic of it with my digital camera before I started to dig in. At least I have some good eatin’ to look forward to tomorrow.

People who went to the International Blues Challenge told me it was the best blues they had ever heard in their lives. I’m sorry that I didn’t make more of an effort to attend. Next year I’ll be there.

And now it’s Sunday night and I’m sitting at home enjoying my latest addiction, the History Channel. I just turn it on and watch whatever program is on as I do work on my laptop. I’m considering heading back up to the Saucer to visit my plate and my waitresses, but I kind of like the idea of getting a restful night’s sleep without alcohol coarsing through my system. That hasn’t happened in a while on a Sunday.

Well, this post certainly wasn’t one of my more interesting ones, but I have some good stuff planned for this week – I came up with 4 or 5 good blog ideas just over brunch this morning at Sleep Out’s. Gonna cover quite a variety of topics (there are actually OTHER THINGS to write about besides Mexican food and Romanians), so check back frequently this week.

Jan 292006
 

So I previously mentioned that I plan on going to ’80s night at Swig tonight.

It’s raining outside. From the radar, it looks like it will slow up, but not quit raining entirely, by about 10. Now, usually on nights like this, I put on a hat and go out anyway.

But Swig has a policy against men wearing hats in their establishment.

I wish they’d get rid of it. It’s just a butt-ass stupid rule, and it’s the only thing I don’t like about Swig. I mean, I could wear a hat down there and then take it off when I go inside, but I promise you that going in with hat-hair would look a lot more unattractive than any hat I own.

I’ve never understood that policy. It seems like management decided, “let’s have one arbitrary dress rule just to piss people off.” I mean, I’ve worn a t-shirt, shorts and sandals in there (it was Memphis in May weekend and I didn’t feel like going home to change) and they didn’t mind at all. But a hat… well, that’s just not proper. For some reason.

Dress codes don’t work in this city.

Jan 282006
 

This one is for people who use Mozilla Firefox. (If you still use IE you’re missing out – Firefox is a better browser. Click on the link to get it)

One of the most annoying websites I visit is the Memphis Commercial Appeal. It has two very irritating Flash ads – one banner ad at the top of the page, and a Chevy Truck (or maybe it’s Ford – who cares) video ad over to the right. These stupid things consume resources on my computer, make the page take longer to load, and really screw things up when I view the CA’s website via Remote Desktop Connection (which I’ll sometimes do from work – I’ll connect to my home PC and use it to surf).

Well, today I found a Firefox extension called AdBlock. I installed it and restarted Firefox. I then went to the CA’s website and went to Firefox’s Tools menu. It now had an additional option: Adblock > Overlay Flash (for left click). I chose that option and it covered both ads with a FLASHBLOCK! graphic. I then left-clicked the ads and AdBlock presented code that allowed me to get rid of the ads for good. Bye-bye!

It also lets you right-click any banner ad (GIF, JPG, or PNG image) and choose to block it. I can’t tell you how this has improved my web surfing experience in the past hour since I discovered it. I’ve been visiting websites and zapping their ads just for fun.

Definitely worth downloading. If you’re an IE user, this tool alone makes Firefox worth the switch.

Jan 282006
 

I just returned from eating at Rio Loco for the third time in five days. Today’s selections: Combo 16 (chile relleno, chalupa, enchilada) and Rio Loco Dip (white cheese dip with pico de gallo and taco meat mixed in). A real chalupa, served by a fine Mexican restaurant, is nothing like the chalupas sold at Taco Bell (although I eat those too). Their chalupa was a flat tortilla topped with beans, lettuce, guacamole, and tomato.

Now, sometimes I like to torture myself by posing hypothetical questions to myself. And I thought up a good one at lunch.

But first, a little background: Up until this month, the only option downtowners had for Mexican food (and I use that term loosely) was Pancho’s. I mean, I don’t have a problem with them calling their fare “Mexican,” but it’s the word “food” that I consider questionable. Every week, they receive shipments from Sysco, cardboard boxes full of tortillas and taco meat. It tastes like they throw that stuff away and cook the cardboard boxes instead.

But now, Rio Loco is here, which has excellent food even compared to Mexican restaurants in other parts of the city, like Cafe Ole and El Porton. I see myself hitting Rio Loco 2-3 times a week as long as they and I are both downtown, which hopefully will be for a long time.

So, here’s the hypothetical question: Let’s say that one day I walk out the front door and head down the Main Street Mall toward Rio Loco, trying to decide what I will have to eat. Shrimp nachos? Tilapia? Carne asada? Hmmm… And then, suddenly, off in the distance, I hear, “Paul!”

I turn around and see two girls, a brunette and a blonde, running toward me. As they get closer I realize that it’s the Romanians!!!! They’ve come back to Memphis!

The brunette reaches me first. “Oh, Paul, you are one of the people I have missed most about Memphis,” she tells me as she gives me a big hug. Then the blonde gives me a similarly big hug. Just to tease her a little, I turn my head slightly as though I am going to give her a kiss. Her face turns bright red, and her eyes get big as saucers.

I tell them I’m thrilled to see them, and ask how long they are in town. “We are once again here for our college break,” they tell me. “We are living downtown and working at Pancho’s. You are going to come in and visit us, yes?”

So, here’s the question: If that were to happen, would Rio Loco ever see me again? Would I sacrifice my taste buds and become a regular at Pancho’s?

I have a feeling I already know the answer to that question.

Jan 282006
 

Had a good time at the South Main Trolley Tour last night. It was warm outside (for January – about 55 degrees) and it was nice to walk around without a jacket.

As I was walking down Main I thought I saw Rachel from Rachel and the City. At least I assumed it was Rachel because this was the girl who appears in more pictures posted to her site than anyone else. So I figured I should introduce myself since she called me “the downtown version of her.” Well, it turns out it wasn’t Rachel – it was a friend of hers named Amy. She and her friends laughed, like she gets this all the time. She was very nice about it though. Rachel needs to post a pic of herself on her site where she isn’t dressed up in a Halloween costume.

Hung out for a while with my hairstylist, Silver, whose shop Silver Salon is in the South Main district. Several women have asked me where to go downtown to get their hair cut. “I don’t want just a haircut, I want an experience,” they have told me. Silver is the experience. He has art hung all around his shop, and the guy is more intuitive than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. He has some specials going on (check out his website) and they now offer manicures/pedicures there too.

Had an interesting discussion with one of the art gallery owners. He told me that downtowners look but they don’t buy. He said 60% of his business comes from Midtown and East Memphis and another 15% from tourists. He also said that there are many people who live right down the street who walk past his shop every day but have never come in. I don’t get that. Why would you live in an arts district and not even come in to the galleries?

I feel bad for not buying more on South Main. There are a couple of pieces in Universal Art that I would love to take home, but they’re big pieces. Didn’t see a price tag on the one that was my favorite but I’m sure it was well into four figures. Similarly, I see pieces at Jay Etkin Gallery from time to time that I’d really like to have. There was one last year, picturing flamingos and pigs riding a roller coaster, but it was $3,500. I guess I just have expensive tastes in art. I need to find stuff I like in the $200-300 range, which is the level that I can comfortably afford to spend at the current time. Actually, I’m a member of a young art collectors’ club that Jay’s gallery has been involved with, that teaches its members how to find pieces in that price range, but the person who organized it got promoted and moved to Atlanta so I’m not sure it’s still going on.

The Folk Alliance drew a crowd last night, with a band and mojitos. They packed the place out – but then, given the size of their building, that only took about 15 people.

I learned that the clothing store at the corner of Main and GE Patterson will be American Apparel. I checked out their website and I gotta tell you, I’m not real impressed with their clothing line. I’ll give them a chance once they open though.

So that was last night. No set plans for tonight, just whatever I can find to get into. I’ll probably stop by Swig for at least one drink to check out their ’80s night.

One of my blog readers e-mailed to inform me that she is going out dancing on Beale tonight in a cute new top that she bought – a TUBE TOP. I’d like to think it was my influence that caused her to select a tube top on her most recent shopping spree.

And finally, here’s a tidbit for you pro wrestling fans: The Royal Rumble is tomorrow night, and I’m betting on a longshot: I’m picking Matt Hardy to win the thing. That will give him a shot at the title of his choice at Wrestlemania, and he’ll use it to jump back to Monday Night Raw (he lost a loser-leaves-town match there a few months ago) and get revenge on WWE champ Edge.