#TheBestOf… Visiting the ballpark

This is part of a series of articles in which I contribute to uniting our world by showing off a part of my own. A while back, I proposed writing articles to bring people together by showing us something special about your world that you want to share.

Todayโ€™s topic: the joys of taking in a baseball game.

I’m one of those fans that you’ll see at the ballpark keeping score!

One of my favorite activities is to take in a ballgame. It relaxes me, it’s fun (although I understand why a lot of people find baseball to be boring), and (for those of us who do “get” baseball) it can be mentally stimulating. I’m one of the people that you’ll see keeping score at a ballgame. People who find baseball to be boring often don’t understand that baseball is actually a chess match — the managers are making moves based on probability, and certain strategies are employed based on certain situations (e.g. what kind of pitch to throw, whether or not to steal a base, substituting a player, and so on). I’ve had a lifelong love affair with baseball, going all the way back to my early teens, and I will take in a ballgame whenever I have a chance to do so. I’ve even been known to schedule vacations around Major League Baseball schedules. I even wrote a previous article in which I talk about the ballparks and arenas that I’ve visited.

With that, there are things that I make sure I do whenever I visit a ballpark. Every ballpark is an experience, and with the number of different stadia around the country, each experience will be different.

  • Mingle with the fans around you. Fans are often representative of the local culture, and you can often experience a lot just by talking to fans. They can often tell you about things to experience, places to eat, and maybe talk a little about the history of the home team or the area that you’re visiting. Conversations with local fans can often be quite interesting. And often, you’ll speak the common language of baseball, even if you’re rooting for opposing teams!

    I once attended a game at Fenway Park (a dangerous place for a Yankee fan like me, I know), and I struck up a conversation with a lady sitting next to me. After a while, she said to me, “you’re from New York, aren’t you?” I said, “yeah, how’d you know?” She said, “something you said. You definitely have a New York accent.” To this day, it’s the only time I’ve ever been told that I have an accent of any kind!
  • Sample the ballpark fare. I mentioned in my previous #TheBestOf article that I make it a point to sample food that’s representative of an area that I’m visiting. The same holds for ballpark food. Most, if not all, ballparks have their standard hot dogs, of course, but a lot of ballparks will often have fare that’s representative of their locale. I’ve sampled, among other things, streak sandwiches and bacon on a stick (a friend who accompanied me to a game once said to me, “that’s not bacon, that’s a pork chop!”) at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Franks and hot cocoa at Fenway Park, coffee and garlic fries (not together, mind you!) at Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park), and French fries at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre). Granted, a ballpark isn’t a four-Michelin-star restaurant, but a lot of concessions have come a long way since the days of a hot dog and a beer (although you can still get those).
Monument Park is one of my favorite places in Yankee Stadium to visit!
  • Explore any unique features of a ballpark. Not all ballparks are created equal. I love to explore ballparks, especially one that I’m visiting for the first time. Fenway has the Green Monster. Yankee Stadium has Monument Park and the Yankee Museum. Tropicana Field has the manta ray tank (I was going to mention the Ted Williams Museum, but was sad to see that it had been closed). Many ballparks have features that are usually worth checking out, and if they’re fan-accessible (Monument Park is one of my favorites), I suggest you go check it out!
  • Buy a souvenir. Any tourist will often get souvenirs unique to his or her trip. Ballparks are no different. I have a small collection of items from ballparks I’ve visited. I have caps, shirts, jerseys, and other swag for the Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos, and Colorado Rockies (and maybe a few others that I’ve missed). (Okay, as a Yankee fan, the only memorabilia I won’t buy is anything for the Boston Red Sox or New York Mets! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) They all represent ballpark experiences I’ve had, and even though I’m a Yankee fan, I will wear these items proudly!*

    (*Well, okay, maybe except on days when the Yankees play them!)
  • Keep score. I regularly keep score at ballgames. A scorecard does a number of things. It makes you pay attention to whatever is happening on the field of play (and, if you’re new to baseball, it can help you better understand the game). It can be a conversation piece; often if other fans around me see that I’m keeping score, they’ll often ask me things like, “what did such-and-such batter do his last time at bat?” (I remember someone once said to me, “if you’re keeping score, you immediately become the god of that section where you’re sitting!”) And at the end of the game, your scorecard becomes another souvenir of the ballgame!
  • Admire the history and the architecture. It’s often said that sports are a reflection of society. As such, a great deal of history comes along with a ballclub. (If you want a good synopsis of the relationship between baseball and history, check out Ken Burns’ Baseball.) Understanding the history of a ballclub, as well as the architecture of the ballpark, often reflects the history of the municipality that it represents.
  • Enjoy the environment. There’s a reason why baseball is called “America’s Pastime.” For me, there’s something very satisfying and relaxing (or exhilarating, if an exciting play happens) about spending a beautiful summer day at the ballpark along with good friends (or even by myself), a scorecard, a hot dog, and a beer.
  • Visit the surrounding area. Areas surrounding ballparks can often be attractions in and of themselves, and they often provide great destinations after the game is over. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is within easy walking distance from Camden Yards. Denver’s LoDo neighborhood is a stone’s throw from Coors Field. Fenway Park is right around the corner from Kenmore Square and Boston University. And Safeco Field/T-Mobile Park is only a short distance from Seattle’s Pioneer Square and the waterfront.

If you are as big of a baseball fan as I am (or even if you’re not), and if you like to travel, make sure you take in a ballgame. It will enhance your travel experience so much more!

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 21: ์•ˆ๋…•ํ•˜์„ธ์š”. ์ €๋Š” ๊น€๋ ˆ๋ชฌ์ž…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค #COVID19

In case you don’t read Korean Hangul, here’s what I wrote above.

“Hello. I am Raymond Kim.”

Phonetically, it would sound like this.

“Annyeonghaseo. Jeo-neun Gimrehmon-imnida.”

At this point, you’re probably wondering what this is all about. Why am I introducing myself in Korean?

Well, this is another COVID-19 pandemic project undertaking. For whatever reason, last night I decided that I needed to reconnect with my ancestral culture. Don’t ask me what prompted me to pursue this, because, quite frankly, I have no idea. (It might have something to do with me poking around TripAdvisor the other day.) What I can tell you is that this is something I’ve been meaning to pursue for a long, long time. Despite being Korean-American and growing up in a Korean household, I never learned the language. My late grandmother, who spoke almost no English, tried to teach me when I was young, but I never quite grasped it. I had a hard time with it. It probably didn’t help that, because she didn’t speak English, she couldn’t explain to me what she was trying to teach me.

Other than my family, my other source of the Korean language came from watching M*A*S*H reruns.

Last night, I found a Korean language learning program online, and decided to check it out. I signed up for an account and started my latest learning endeavor.

I stayed up past my bedtime — until 1 am.

I discovered that Hangul (the Korean written alphabet) is amazingly easy to learn. If you look at Korean characters and get intimidated, don’t be. The way they are structured is actually very simple, and once you grasp the concept, it’s not bad.

Basically, it’s just these concepts.

  • Every character is a syllable.
  • Every character is structured around a block.
  • Each character block is made up of at least one consonant and one vowel. They may have another consonant, and there’s something (I’m still learning about this) that involves double-consonants and double-vowels, but every character is required to have at least a consonant and a vowel.

I think there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s what I’ve learned so far. In one of my lessons from last night, I learned the Korean vowels. I’m drilling myself to remember what they are phonetically (I’m having a little trouble distinguishing between the vowels ใ…— and ใ…“), but so far, I’m enjoying the learning process and am having a lot of fun with it!

Earlier during the pandemic, I decided I would teach myself French. I haven’t stopped that endeavor, but I have slacked off on it. I think I learned more in one night learning Korean than I did in one week of learning French. I’m having a lot of fun with it, I’m finding it easy to learn, and I feel like I’m connecting to my ancestral roots.

Let’s see how much of this I can learn. Hopefully, before long, ๋‚˜๋Š” ํ•œ๊ตญ์–ด๋กœ ๋งํ•  ๊ฒƒ์ด๋‹ค!*

(*Okay, I used Google Translate for that last bit. Sorry to disappoint you. I’m working on it!)

“Your opinion matters…” Helping people by sharing your experiences

My wife and I have an anniversary coming up, so I started planning a getaway trip to celebrate. (Because of the pandemic, we decided to keep the trip short — only one night, and we’re not venturing very far — only about an hour’s drive from our home.) While I was making my travel plans, I started poking around my own TripAdvisor profile. I had posted a few reviews, and I thought I’d post a few more. I figured my experiences and opinions could help other people looking for travel information, and it’s entirely possible that, by the time you’re finished reading this article, I’ll have written a few more reviews.

One of the biggest reasons why I started my ‘blog was so that I could write about my own experiences for the purpose of helping people. Helping other people is one of my great passions, and while I can’t always help physically or financially, I can help by providing information. It’s what I do professionally, and it’s what drives me as a professional technical communicator.

However, you don’t have to be a professional technical communicator to help provide information. There are countless forums out there, covering nearly an endless number of topics, in which you are able to provide your feedback. You’re probably tired of hearing automated support lines that say “your feedback is important to us.” But feedback is important. Feedback is data. Whatever feedback you provide helps to make products and services better.

How often had you looked something up (e.g. an answer to a technical problem, a hotel review, suggested driving directions, etc.) and became frustrated because you weren’t able to find any information? If you’re an application (or any type of IT) developer, have you ever been frustrated because you asked for feedback about your product, and no one would give it to you? That feedback would’ve been valuable in debugging and improving your product. This is why QA testing is a big deal, and is usually a critical step in development life cycles.

This isn’t limited to just IT professionals. It applies to just about anything in which information is involved. If, for example, you were making travel plans and wanted information about a destination, have you ever been interested in, say, a bed and breakfast, but you couldn’t find much information about it, and no one had written any reviews about it? Those reviews would have gone a long way in providing information about that place.

A lot of us brush off the messages that say “your opinion matters.” The thing is, it really does. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion or to provide feedback. What you say can help someone make a better decision, help improve a product, or possibly change the course of someone’s business for the better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and write a few more TripAdvisor reviews…

#TheBestOfโ€ฆ Dining out in Troy, NY

This is part of a series of articles in which I contribute to uniting our world by showing off a part of my own. A while back, I proposed writing articles to bring people together by showing us something special about your world that you want to share.

Today’s topic: my favorite dining options in my adopted hometown.

I generally like good food, so I suppose I can refer to myself as a foodie. Whenever I travel, I make it a point to sample fare that’s indigenous to or representative of that area. Some of my friends seem to support my tastes; one of them often says that “Ray knows where the good eats are,” and even my wife has said that I rarely steer her wrong when it comes to good places to eat.

I thought about writing about my favorite dining spots in the Capital Region, but with the Albany-Schenectady-Troy-Saratoga-Schoharie metropolitan area covering such a wide expanse (2018 population: 1,171,593, according to Wikipedia), that could make for a long article. So for this initial #TheBestOf article, I decided to focus on my adopted hometown of Troy, NY.

My wife and I moved to Troy in 2004, and as of today (in 2020), we’re still here. I enjoy living here, and I’ve pretty much adopted it as my hometown. Indeed, in the past several years, Troy has become a hip town, even described as being “the new Brooklyn.” (Don’t just take my word for it; articles have been written about it.)

There are many good restaurants in Troy. I used to tell people that “when it comes to foodie towns, Troy is the best-kept secret.” I don’t say that anymore, because it’s no longer a secret. Troy has established a reputation as being a good city to find a place to eat.

These are some of my favorites. Note that I only list places with which I’m familiar; there are a number of places that I either haven’t been to in a while (such as Ilium Cafe — note: when I looked it up, it appears that it is now permanently closed), or have good reputations, but I’ve never been (such as The Ruck). So if I don’t list it, it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like it; it could mean that I’ve never been there or I’m not that familiar with it.

I also left off places that are no longer open; for example, I loved The Shop, and they definitely would’ve made my list if they were still in business.

These are in no particular order; I just listed them as I thought of them.

  • Brown’s Brewing — I frequented this place when I was a grad student at RPI, and it is still one of my favorite places. They brew their own craft beer; my personal favorites are the oatmeal stout and the whiskey porter. They are one of the better brew-pubs for food; I recommend the bourbon-glazed chicken wings. (They used to have a sandwich called the Smokestack Wrap — unfortunately, it’s not on the menu anymore — that was, essentially, a Thanksgiving dinner in a wrap, very popular with RPI students.) And when the weather is nice, you can dine on their back deck, overlooking the Hudson River.
Here’s a photo of me enjoying a beer while sitting outside on the deck at Brown’s!
  • Manory’s — Manory’s is Troy’s oldest restaurant (est. 1913) that is still in operation, and it’s my go-to place when I want to treat myself to breakfast. I especially enjoy the Trojan omelette, filled with sausage, potatoes, and jalapenos, and covered in gravy.
  • K-Plate and Sunhee’s Kitchen — As a Korean-American, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Korean restaurants. There are not very many of them around the Capital District, but two of them are in Troy, and they’re both pretty good. K-Plate has a small menu, but you can’t go wrong with anything on it; my personal favorite is the short-plate. And of course, you can’t go to either one and not order kimchi. Sunhee’s makes their own; in fact, many of their ingredients comes from their own farm in Cambridge, NY.
  • Troy Kitchen — Troy Kitchen is actually five restaurants in one; it’s actually five food vendors within a central food court. I’ve described it as being “food fast, not fast food.” K-Plate got its start here before they moved into their own place. I don’t remember all the vendors there (for all I know, they may have changed), but the last time I was in there, they had halal, Hawaiian poke, and sweets. Troy Kitchen also features live entertainment, although I’m not sure whether or not they’ve been doing that during the pandemic.
  • Dinosaur BBQ — Most people around the Northeast know about Dinosaur BBQ; their flagship restaurant is in Syracuse, and they have several other locations, including their Capital District location, which happens to be in Troy. Like Brown’s, Dinosaur is right on the bank of the Hudson River, and in the summertime, you can sit outside on the deck, with its full bar, overlooking the river. My wife and I cannot go there without ordering the fried green tomatoes, and the mac ‘n cheese is quite tasty. I regularly make the Mac ‘n Cheese Shepherd’s Pie at home (it’s not on their menu, but it is in their cookbook); it’s my go-to dish whenever I attend potluck events.
  • LaBella’s — LaBella’s is actually located in Wynantskill, not Troy (although the two towns adjoin each other, so I suppose it counts). My wife and I discovered this place when we decided we wanted to go someplace different, and we’ve been enjoying this place ever since. It’s a family restaurant with really good Italian food.
  • Verdile’s — Speaking of really good Italian food, check out Verdile’s if you’re interested in a place that’s more high-end. They’re currently offering only takeout due to the pandemic, but note that the last time I ate in their dining room, they had a dress code and rules about seating your party (they won’t seat you until your entire party is present), so that’s something to be mindful about.
  • Shalimar — Whenever my wife and I are in the mood for Indian food, Shalimar is our go-to place. We regularly get the chicken tikka masala and the palaak paneer.
  • Pancho’s — (Note: music plays when you visit their website — you’ve been warned!) While it’s not necessarily the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, Pancho’s is very good food. I usually go with the chimichangas if I’m getting takeout, and fajitas if I’m eating in.
  • Ali Baba — If you like Mediterranean food, you’ll love this place. Ali Baba is a Turkish restaurant. I regularly order the curry ishkender. And I can eat their yogurt sauce all day; it goes well with their lavash bread. I usually get a large order of yogurt sauce so that I’ll have leftovers (I’ll eat it with chips or pita bread). I’ve even tried making my own yogurt sauce, but it just doesn’t come out as well as theirs does!
  • Lee Lin — This is a Chinese take-out place that has really good food. Greg Moore (who lives nearby) and I have gotten into arguments about what’s better: the General Tso’s or the super-spicy (as he orders it) sesame chicken. Lately, though, I’ve been ordering their coconut chicken.
  • Recovery Sports Grill — Recovery Sports Grill has several locations around the Capital District (and they’ve opened in a few other states as well). The Troy location is inside of the Hilton Garden Inn. I’ll usually come here if I decide that I want to catch a game on TV someplace other than my own living room. I’ll usually get the chicken wings (what flavor I get usually depends on my mood), and they have a nice selection of craft beers.
  • Tipsy Moose — Good hearty meals (it isn’t unusual for me to order something for dinner and having the rest of it for lunch the next day) with a decent beer selection. For menu items, I like the blackened filet tips and the brisket mac n’ cheese.
  • Junior’s — This is another sports bar with good food. I recommend their burgers and their sandwiches. Their wings are also quite good as well.
  • DeFazio’s — My wife and I are big fans of wood-fired pizza. DeFazio’s is the place in Troy to go. You can’t really go wrong with any of their pizzas, but the last few times I’ve ordered from there, I’ve gotten the pesto pizza.
  • Friendly’s — I try not to talk about chain restaurants, but I’m making an exception for this one. Friendly’s is based just outside Springfield, MA, and has locations all around the Northeast, but a few years back, this beloved ice cream chain fell on hard financial times and closed many of their locations. The Troy location is one of their few restaurants around the Capital District that is still open.
  • Iron Works BBQ — This is one of the newest places on the Troy food scene; as of this article, they’ve only been open a few months, and their brick-and-mortar location was still under construction/renovation. For the past couple of months, they’ve been operating out of a trailer in the parking lot where they’re building their restaurant. I haven’t experienced all of their menu yet, but I’ve had the tri-tips and the brisket, and they’re both very good!
  • Plum Blossom — Plum Blossom has great Chinese food, but while their food is very good, it’s not their food that I rave about; it’s their architecture. This is a place where you must eat in (while respecting social distancing protocols, of course) and admire the ornate decor. I actually remember this place while they were working on the interior, and the transformation from work-in-progress to finished product is nothing short of amazing!
  • Okinawa — If you like sushi, this is the place to go. I usually get a pork katsu Bento box and a Wynantskill roll (or maybe another type of sushi, depending on my mood).

    Note: if you’re interested in a teppanyaki restaurant, there are a few around the Capital District, but none of them are in Troy, so you’ll have to venture outside of Troy to find one.
  • Famous Lunch — This is the place to go for hot dogs with meat sauce. They’re small hot dogs — you’d want to get at least four (if not more) on a plate. I get my dogs with the works — mustard, onions, and meat sauce. Note: Famous Lunch is cash-only, so make sure you stop at an ATM before coming here.
  • Testo’s — While Testo’s has a sit-down restaurant in Lansingburgh (North Troy), I’ve never been there; I’ve only ordered from their take-out location near Wynantskill. Lately, I’ve been addicted to their Friday night dinner special: penne ala vodka with chicken and mushrooms.
  • Red and Blue — This is Asian fusion. They do have typical Chinese fare (which I don’t get, only because you can get that anywhere), but they also have a number of other items that you won’t find at other “Americanized” Asian restaurants. I’ve been ordering their rock shrimp quite a bit lately.
  • The Hill at Muza — My wife and I discovered this place by accident. We decided to go out one night, and actually intended to go to Muza (which is run by the same family, but is actually a different restaurant). Instead, we ended up at The Hill at Muza (which is actually located above Muza). We enjoyed the patio atmosphere and the good food! Their menu is not extensive, but what they do have is quite good!

    (As of this article, I’ve still never eaten at Muza, so I can’t comment on it.)

#TheBestOf… Bringing the world together by telling us about your special world

A wandering mind can be a dangerous thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re a ‘blogger who’s looking for something to write about, read on. Perhaps this will give you an idea.

This afternoon, I was doing a mundane, household chore (specifically, I was washing dishes and doing some cleaning in the kitchen), and whenever I do mundane chores like that, of course, my mind tends to wander. So today, I decided to write about what my mind was wandering about.

I don’t know what sparked this idea — maybe it was because I had Andrew Zimmern’s Delicious Destinations on the TV in the background. First, a little background. As a first (or maybe it’s second — I never know how these things work) generation Korean-American, I tend to appreciate cultural diversity. I love experiencing cultures and traditions that are not my own. I enjoy traveling, and I wish I could do more of it (only the lack of time or money — usually both — and these days, the COVID-19 pandemic — keeps me from doing so). I have friends and family around the world — maybe not as many as other people who’ve traveled more than I have, but nevertheless, I have friends I’ve made either by friends I already knew who have relocated to other countries, people whom I’ve met through my association with SQL Saturday or other PASS-related endeavors, or through work or school.

I also thought about things to bring the world together. I don’t need to tell you how divisive the world is these days. A while back, I wrote an article about bringing the world together. I started thinking of a way to do that.

So with all that said, here’s the idea that my wandering mind cooked up.

Let’s say that you have a friend from a foreign country or culture — one that is not your own — over to your home area for a visit. You want to show him or her the best of what your culture or your home turf has to offer. What do you show or tell him or her?

Personally, I would like to show my friend everything that my home state of New York has to offer — New York City, Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes, apple picking, the Adirondack wilderness, Buffalo chicken wings, the Baseball Hall of Fame, music, county fairs, festivals, historic sites, etc. There’s a lot here to show off.

So, I’ll write an article now and then (usually whenever the mood strikes me) in which I talk about something — whether it’s a place, an art, a sport, a food, whatever — that is significant to me, and I’d like to show off to a visiting guest. I’ll precede these articles using the hashtag #TheBestOf followed by whatever I’ll write about (e.g. “#TheBestOf… Baseball” or whatever).

Here are some ground rules for this project. The topic — whatever it is — is something special or unique to me that I think a visitor would appreciate. It can not be divisive, disrespectful, or disparaging — partisan politics, for example, is verboten — unless it’s within the context of something historically or culturally significant (e.g. Benedict Arnold’s role in the American Revolution, etc.).

And if you’re a ‘blogger and would like to take part, knock yourself out. The best way to think about this little project is to pretend you’re a travel writer describing your home turf or culture. I would enjoy reading about what makes your world special, and what you’d show off if I came over to visit. If you’d like, feel free to refer to this article for reference or context.

Let’s see how this goes. If you’d like to take part, great. If not, no worries. For all I know, this might be the only article in which you’ll see this hashtag.

Have fun!

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 18: Exploring your backyard (and places to visit near Albany, NY) #COVID19

(Photo credit: U.S. Grant Cottage State Historic Site)

This morning, I saw a Facebook post from a friend of mine who visited the Ulysses S. Grant cottage. He posted about its historic significance, and included a number of photos that he took around the site. It was a neat post, and it made me want to visit the site.

I looked into it to see where it was located, and was surprised to find that it was just north of Saratoga — less than an hour’s drive from my home!

It got me thinking about traveling to places that are nearby. It’s been often said that some of the best places to explore are right in your own backyard. It’s especially important now with the pandemic restricting travel. My wife has complained to me about the need to de-stress and take some time off, and I’ve suggested doing a weekend (even just one night) up in Lake George — not too far from my home (it’s easily do-able as a day trip), but just far enough away to warrant a weekend.

It also got me thinking about what places are worth the trip for those who aren’t from around here. Granted, the Albany metropolitan area doesn’t exactly pop up on most people’s radars when they’re considering vacation spots or places to visit. Even I’ve been occasionally at a loss for words whenever friends ask me about things around my home that are worth the trip. But when I stop to think about it (as I’m doing right now for this article), there are a number of places around here to visit.

So, here’s a not-so-comprehensive list (really, just things that come to me) that are within an easy day trip from my home in the Albany area (including a few places that I’ve already mentioned above).

(There are probably a lot more things that I’m missing, but that would make for a very long list. This isn’t a travel ‘blog, and I am not a travel writer.)

What are some good places to visit in your own backyard? (Feel free to comment below.) If you’re itching to check some places out, go out and do so.

Leaping before you look

(Image courtesy of The Telegraph)

Not long ago (I don’t remember how long — I’ll say a couple of weeks), I stumbled across a ‘blog post that someone had written. Apparently, this person was a new SQL Saturday speaker. I don’t remember his name, and from what you’re about to read, it’s probably just as well.

I don’t remember exactly what was said, so I’ll paraphrase: “I just applied to speak, and was accepted at, a SQL Saturday in (some city that’s not local to me). Now I have to figure out how to pay for my trip! Can you all help me? Here’s a GoFundMe page to help me out!”

I resisted the urge to write him back to say, “you’re a f**king moron. You’re not getting a single dime from me. Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency (or charity) from mine!!!”

SQL Saturday is an all-volunteer event, and organizers go through a great deal of time and effort to plan it and ensure that the speakers are lined up to the schedule. Committing to speak at SQL Saturday and not keeping that commitment disrespects the organizers, and it does not reflect well on you. If you renege on your commitment to speak at SQL Saturday, try seeing if you’re ever invited again.

It’s not just about travel planning, either. If I was interviewing this person for a job (note: I’m in no such position), I would highly question his ability to make smart decisions. Unless he could demonstrate to me that he learned from this mistake, I would not ask him back for a second interview.

Clearly, this person leapt before he looked, and in my mind, he has no common sense whatsoever. Whenever I apply to speak at a SQL Saturday, the first thing I do is check to make sure that I can do the trip. Among other things, I make sure the date is clear on my calendar, and I make sure that I can actually get there (there’s a reason why the large majority of SQL Saturdays where I present are ones to which I can drive).

On March 21 (a few weeks from today), I will be speaking at SQL Saturday Chicago. I Googled the driving time from Albany to Chicago, and it told me it would take 12 hours, which is much longer than I am willing to drive for a short weekend trip. I put together a hypothetical itinerary using Amtrak (I love traveling by train — I prefer it over flying whenever possible) and Chicago-area public transportation, Lyft (which I tend to prefer over Uber), and hotels. (I also looked into renting a car, but there were very few rental agencies near Union Station that were open for the hours that I needed it; besides, I didn’t want to deal with traffic in a strange city, and it was also more expensive than the other options.) I came up with a game plan that was workable and would not break the bank. When I realized that the trip was do-able, I went ahead and applied to speak (and was accepted) at SQL Saturday #945 in Chicago!

I wrote a previous article about choosing which SQL Saturday to submit. You can read the article here.

So before you commit to anything, make sure you can honor that commitment. It does not reflect well on you if you cannot keep your word. Don’t leap before you look.

#SQLSaturday #953 Rochester — the debrief #SQLSat953 #SQLSatRoc

This past weekend, I spoke at SQL Saturday #953 in Rochester, NY. As it is with all SQL Saturdays, I had a great time: doing my own presentations, attending others, and spending time with #SQLFamily! And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Andy Levy and the crew at the Rochester SQL User Group, who did a bang-up job putting the event together! Great job, all!

The weekend began with the speaker’s dinner. While I had a great time hanging out with all my wonderful SQL friends, we also had a compelling conversation — enough that I wrote about it that night. It reaffirmed just how important professional development is within technical circles, and the importance of my endeavor of presenting professional development topics. Even Matt Cushing sent a tweet mentioning just how important professional development is. It made me feel pretty good knowing just how much I’m contributing to the technical community.

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#SQLIceCream with (L to R) Paresh Motiwala, Slava Murygin, and yours truly!

Of course, after dinner, Paresh and I just had to go for ice cream. On this occasion, we hit a Coldstone Creamery around the corner from the speaker’s dinner. For those of you who don’t follow me regularly, it has become tradition for Paresh and me (and anyone who joins us) to go out for ice cream at any SQL Saturday that we both attend. Paresh even started using a Twitter hashtag for it: #SQLIceCream!

There was a lot of talk about the weather leading up to the event. The National Weather Service had predicted heavy lake-effect snow (as much as two feet) leading up to the event. Rochester sits right on the bank of Lake Ontario, and as anyone who lives in upstate New York knows, is prone to lake-effect snow. The weather forecast even prompted the University of Maryland to reschedule a women’s lacrosse game against Syracuse. As it turned out, the talk about bad weather turned out to be exactly that: talk. When I drove out to Rochester on Friday, the amount of snowfall was negligible, and the Thruway was clear sailing all the way from Albany to Rochester. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground when I woke up the next morning, but that was about it. Despite all the hype about the weather, it turned out not to be a factor.

I arrived at RIT a little later than I would’ve liked. Ordinarily, I like to settle into the speaker’s room, maybe get myself some coffee, talk to some people, and relax a bit. But by the time I arrived, sessions were about to start. I barely had enough time to drop my stuff off in the speaker’s room before getting to the first round of sessions.

Of course, the first session I attended was Matt’s. I’ve pretty much attended his session each time I’ve had the chance. For a while, I had attended it every time he presented it, but that streak was broken when he started traveling to other places (such as Austin, TX) that were difficult for me to get to. Last year, Matt (along with another friend, Deborah Melkin) were named IDERA Aces. I won’t get too much into the IDERA Ace program (use the link for more info), but one of the benefits is funding that allows you to travel to speak at events like SQL Saturday. (Congrats, by the way, Matt and Deb!) Matt is encouraging me to sign up for the IDERA Ace program for this year. When applications start coming out later this year, I will definitely look into it!

During his session, Matt complained that he and I didn’t have a selfie together. Well, consider that rectified!

Speaking of Deborah Melkin, her session was up next in the room next door. I’ve seen her session before, and she does a great job with it. I have to confess, however, that I wasn’t paying all that close attention (sorry, Deb!). The reason: my lightning talk session was up next, and I was going through my slides, making sure everything was ready to go. Last November, I had purchased a new laptop (an HP Pavilion x360), and this was my first time using it for a SQL Saturday presentation. I checked my slides, I tested my presentation clicker, and made sure everything was ready to go.

I do my lightning talk!

The next round included my lightning talk. I was scheduled to do my talk, along with two friends: Taiob Ali and Kimberly St. Jacques. The last time I saw Kimberly was at PASS Summit, which wasn’t a good time for her. She had been scheduled to present a lightning talk at Summit, but was unable to do so because she had lost her voice. I’d felt really bad for her! I was glad to see that she had regained her voice and was able to present again!

My talk was sandwiched between Kimberly’s, who spoke about SQL Server 2019 Enhanced PolyBase, and Taiob’s, who talked about extended events. Kimberly and Taiob both gave great presentations!

Going on at the same time was a presentation by Tracy Boggiano, who talked about mental illness in tech. It sounded like a really interesting talk, and I desperately wanted to attend, but it conflicted with my lightning talk session. I told Tracy that I intend to attend her session the next opportunity that I had.

Lunch was the next order of the day. It was either Andy or Matt Slocum — I don’t remember whom — who had a good relationship with a BBQ restaurateur. This same person has catered Rochester SQL Saturday every time I’ve attended, and the food was excellent every time. I highly recommend the pulled pork!

I decided to take the next round of sessions off. As much as I love attending SQL Saturday, one thing that never fails is that it tires me out. After lunch, I felt like I was going to fall asleep, so I retreated back to the speaker’s room to relax. I pretty much just surfed the web and conversed with other speakers in the room.

I did attend the next session by Anna Hadnagy, who gave a presentation about feedback. This was her very first SQL Saturday presentation, and she knocked it out of the park!

The last time slot of the day came about, and it was time for me to do my own full-length presentation. I actually had a pretty good-sized audience: I’ll guess around fifteen to twenty people. Even though it was the last session of the day, and everyone (including me) was tired, I made it a point to keep my audience engaged. They seemed to be into my talk, and I like to think that I presented well.

I did attend the after-event party. I enjoy hanging out with these people (they’re called #SQLFamily for a reason), and any chance I get to spend time with them is welcome. I had a long drive home ahead of me; I left the party around 7:45, and pulled into my driveway around 11:30.

All in all, it was yet another awesome SQL Saturday! (Of course, I think they’re all awesome!)

My next scheduled event is SQL Saturday Chicago on March 21, only a few weeks away! This will only be my second time in Chicago (changing planes at O’Hare doesn’t count), and it’ll be my first SQL Saturday where it is not feasible for me to drive. It should make for an interesting trip. See you there!

The sports venues that I’ve visited

I enjoy attending sporting events. My previous post got me thinking about the sports venues that I’ve visited, and I thought it’d be fun to compile that list!

A few caveats: I only list venues (along with their home teams and/or events) in which I’ve actually seen a game. For example, I’ve set foot in Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, but I didn’t actually see a game there, so it’s not on my list.

I don’t list opposing teams. I’ve been to so many events that I don’t remember them all. Also, for “home” arenas in which I’ve seen large numbers of games, they’d be too many to list, anyway.

I also denote any arenas that are homes to “my teams.” While I live two hours away from Syracuse, I still consider the Carrier Dome as my “home” arena. Geographically, Siena and UAlbany are only minutes away from me, and I do root for the home team in those arenas, but they’re not necessarily “my” teams or home arenas.

I only consider organized professional (major or minor league) and NCAA (any division) teams or events. Organized non-professional or collegiate events (e.g. Little League World Series, Olympic games, etc.) count too, although I’ve never been to one. The pickup game of touch football in the public park doesn’t count.

These are listed in no particular order, although I try to list my “home” arenas, places I’ve visited more often, and places geographically close to me first.

I mark arenas that either no longer exist or are no longer used for that sport with an asterisk (*).

All games are regular season games, unless denoted.

I have never been to an NBA, NHL, or major soccer game, which is why you don’t see them listed.

So without further ado, here’s that list.

Arenas I’ve visited

Baseball

  • Yankee Stadium (new), Bronx, NY — NY Yankees (home arena), ALDS
  • Yankee Stadium* (old), Bronx, NY โ€” NY Yankees (home arena)
  • Joseph Bruno Stadium, Troy, NY — Tri-City ValleyCats (home arena)
  • Heritage Park*, Colonie, NY — Albany-Colonie Yankees (home arena), Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs, NCAA Div-III tournament regional
  • Robison Field, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (home arena)
  • Fenway Park, Boston, MA — Boston Red Sox
  • Shea Stadium*, Queens, NY — NY Mets
  • Citi Field, Queens, NY — NY Mets
  • Kingdome*, Seattle, WA — Seattle Mariners
  • Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park), Seattle WA — Seattle Mariners
  • Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD — Baltimore Orioles, All-Star Game
  • SkyDome (now Rogers Centre), Toronto, ON — Toronto Blue Jays
  • MacArthur Stadium*, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Chiefs
  • Alliance Bank Stadium (now NBT Stadium), Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Chiefs
  • Olympic Stadium*, Montreal, PQ — Montreal Expos
  • Veterans Stadium*, Philadelphia, PA — Philadelphia Phillies
  • Tiger Stadium*, Detroit, MI — Detroit Tigers
  • Coors Field, Denver, CO — Colorado Rockies
  • Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL — Tampa Bay Rays
  • Damaschke Field*, Oneonta, NY — Oneonta Yankees
  • East Field*, Glens Falls, NY — Glens Falls Redbirds, Adirondack Lumberjacks
  • Stade Canac, Quebec City, PQ — Quebec Capitales
  • Dwyer Stadium, Batavia, NY — Batavia Trojans
  • Silver Stadium*, Rochester, NY — Rochester Red Wings

Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: Wrigley Field, Chicago; Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles; Oracle Park, San Francisco; Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City; Petco Park, San Diego; Nationals Field, Washington DC; PNC Park, Pittsburgh; any Nippon Professional League game in Japan

College football

  • Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Orange (home arena)
  • ECAV Stadium, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (home arena)
  • ’86 Field*, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (home arena)
  • Bob Ford Field, Albany, NY — UAlbany Great Danes
  • Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA — Boston College Eagles
  • Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD — Navy Midshipmen
  • Michie Stadium, West Point, NY — Army Black Knights
  • Veterans Stadium*, Philadelphia, PA — Temple Owls
  • Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT — Yale Bulldogs
  • Met Life Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ — Syracuse Orange
  • Giants Stadium*, East Rutherford, NJ — Syracuse Orange
  • Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH — Ohio State Buckeyes
  • Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA — Sugar Bowl
  • Pontiac Silverdome*, Pontiac, MI — Cherry Bowl
  • Tampa Stadium*, Tampa, FL — Hall of Fame (now Outback) Bowl
  • Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ — Fiesta Bowl
  • Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY — Pinstripe Bowl
  • Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL — Camping World Bowl
  • Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (now TIAA Field), Jacksonville, FL — Gator Bowl
  • Fenway Park, Boston, MA — Fenway Gridiron Classic

Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: Harvard Stadium, Harvard; Memorial Stadium, Clemson; Beaver Stadium, Penn State; Rose Bowl, UCLA; Michigan Stadium, Michigan; Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame

College basketball

  • Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Orange (home arena), NCAA tournament
  • Manley Field House*, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Orange (women — home arena)
  • RPI Armory*, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (home arena)
  • Times-Union Center, Albany, NY — Siena Saints, MAAC tournament
  • Alumni Recreation Center*, Loudonville, NY — Siena Saints
  • SEFCU Arena, Albany, NY — UAlbany Great Danes, America East tournament
  • Pittsburgh Civic Arena*, Pittsburgh, PA — Pitt Panthers
  • Lundholm Gymnasium, Durham, NH — UNH Wildcats
  • Case Gym, Boston, MA — Boston University Terriers
  • Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome*, Minneapolis, MN — NCAA tournament
  • Reunion Arena*, Dallas, TX — NCAA tournament
  • Madison Square Garden, New York, NY — St. John’s Red Storm, Big East Tournament, NIT Preseason Tournament
  • Barclays Arena, Brooklyn, NY — preseason tournament

Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: The Palestra, Penn; Allen Field House, Kansas; Pauley Pavilion, UCLA; Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke

RPI has a new arena: ECAV (East Campus Athletic Village) Arena. I have yet to see a game there.

College hockey

  • Houston Field House, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (home arena)
  • Messa Rink, Schenectady, NY — Union Dutchmen
  • Times-Union Center, Albany, NY — Mayor’s Cup/Capital Skate Classic, NCAA tournament
  • Glens Falls Civic Center*, Glens Falls, NY — Mayor’s Cup/Capital Skate Classic
  • Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY — Cornell Big Red
  • Starr Rink, Hamilton, NY — Colgate Raiders
  • Tate Rink, West Point, NY โ€” Army Black Knights
  • Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, MA — Harvard Crimson
  • Yale Ice Arena, New Haven, CT — Yale Bulldogs
  • Thompson Arena, Hanover, NH — Dartmouth Big Green
  • Olympic Ice Arena, Lake Placid, NY — ECAC tournament
  • Walter Brown Arena*, Boston, MA — Boston University Terriers
  • Cumberland County Civic Center (now Cross Insurance Arena), Portland, ME — Maine Black Bears
  • Hartford Civic Center (now XL Center), Hartford, CT — I don’t remember the event, but it was four teams: RPI, Maine, Colgate, and I don’t remember who the fourth team was.
  • Madison Square Garden, New York, NY — Rivalry On Ice (Yale vs. Harvard)

Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: Alfond Arena, Maine; Hobey Baker Rink, Princeton; Matthews Arena, Northeastern

AHL Hockey

  • Times-Union Center*, Albany, NY — Albany River Rats, Albany Devils

NFL Football

  • Giants Stadium*, East Rutherford, NJ — NY Giants (home arena)
  • Rich Stadium (now New Era Field), Orchard Park, NY — Buffalo Bills
  • Sullivan Stadium*, Foxborough, MA — New England Patriots
  • Veterans Stadium*, Philadelphia, PA — Philadelphia Eagles

Although I’ve been to Met Life Stadium, it was for a Syracuse game. I have yet to see the Giants there.

CFL Football

  • Landsdowne Stadium*, Ottawa, ON — Ottawa Roughriders

Arena Football

  • Times-Union Center*, Albany, NY — Albany Firebirds


Wow, I’ve attended a lot of sporting events!

Anyway, this was a fun exercise, and a neat list to put together. I’m hoping to add to it!

On the NCAA basketball road

I like to read articles and surf the web during my lunch breaks. Today, I stumbled across an article about a guy who’s on a mission to visit all 350+ men’s college basketball venues. He even has a ‘blog in which he writes about his travels.

I became interested in this ‘blog for several reasons. I am an alumnus of an NCAA Division I power conference basketball school. I am a college basketball fan, and a sports fan in general. I was a pep band member in college, so that fandom tends to be amplified. I enjoy visiting and exploring sports venues. And I love to travel (although I don’t always have the time or money to do so).

I became curious about his ‘blog. I did a quick skim of his impressions about my “home” arena. I also have two Division I basketball schools within fifteen minutes of my home (Siena and UAlbany), so when I have a chance, I’ll have to read those as well. His ‘blog looks interesting, so I’ll have to read through it some more when time allows!

I applaud the gentleman’s efforts. While I’m not as ambitious as he is to try attending 350 basketball arenas, I do enjoy catching games whenever I can (I recently caught a St. John’s game at Madison Square Garden during a weekend getaway down in New York). I will confess to having a pipe dream of attending games in all thirty Major League Baseball stadiums. (So far, I’ve made it to Yankee Stadium [both old and new], Citi Field, Shea Stadium, Fenway Park, Camden Yards, SkyDome/Rogers Centre, Olympic Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Veterans Stadium, Kingdome, Safeco Field [or whatever they call it now — T-Mobile park, or whatever it is], Tropicana Field, and Coors Field. Whew! I think that’s all of them!)

Everyone needs to go out and experience life. One of my ways of doing it is attending sporting events. Whatever it is you enjoy, go out there and enjoy life!