#TheBestOf… 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.)

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 19: Work hard, play hard #COVID19

I think it’s pretty safe to say that many of us are suffering from pandemic fatigue. I know I sure am. I’ve written a few times about my job search frustrations, and quite frankly, it’s wearing on me. I’ve mentioned in my job hunt presentation (which I’ll be presenting on October 3 </ShamelessPlug>) that looking for a job is, itself, a full-time job. It easily occupies most, if not all, of your working day. And it can be very wearing… not to mention stressful — and frustrating.

With that, I’ve been turning to my activities to keep myself sane. Now that New York State has allowed gyms to reopen, I’ve been going to CrossFit classes (whenever my schedule and my aching back/shoulder allows it). I’ve also tried to stay on top of professional endeavors; last Monday, I attended a very good user group meeting in which Mindy Curnutt talked about spatial data. (I had no idea that you could do stuff like that in SQL Server!) And I’m looking into other ways to keep on top of my professional skill sets; I’ll be speaking at (and attending) Memphis virtual SQL Saturday two weeks from this Saturday, as well as virtual PASS Summit in November.

However, staying on top of skill sets isn’t just limited to professional endeavors; they apply to my extracurricular activities as well. I mentioned earlier that I’d gotten back into songwriting and music recording again. While this is primarily a hobby and not something I do professionally, it is, nevertheless, a hobby that I take very seriously — to the point that I treat it as though I do it professionally. I’ve invested time and money into equipment and software. I’ve attended songwriting workshops in the past, and I’ve even spent time in professional recording studios. And I’ve started looking around on Google for courses in audio engineering and multitrack recording; while I’ve learned a lot working on this on my own, I realize that there’s also a lot I don’t know, and while I’ve gotten better at my craft, I also recognize that there’s a lot of room for improvement.

If you have an activity that you’re passionate about doing, I think it’s just as important to work just as hard at it as you would your profession. You’ll sharpen your skill sets in a number of ways — even your extracurricular activities can often benefit you professionally. And you’ll also gain a greater deal of satisfaction and appreciation for your art — whatever art that may be.

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

A wandering mind can be a dangerous thing. 🙂

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: Revisiting MIDI sequencing and songwriting #COVID19

Years ago — another lifetime ago, it seems — I was a songwriter. I actually had several demos that I put together (you can listen to them here), and I had a few friends who helped me put them together (mostly because I don’t play the guitar, and I can’t sing worth a damn). My idea was to put together songs in my own living room under the guise of a “band,” similar to what Tom Scholz does with Boston. I attended songwriting workshops, and I even entered a songwriting contest in which I received Honorable Mention recognition.

Had I pursued this endeavor more vigorously, it’s entirely possible that I could be making a living off my music, rather than pursuing a career in IT and writing professional development ‘blogs. Alas, as John Lennon once famously sang, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” My “band” lost touch with each other and went on with their own separate lives (one of them actually died tragically). I went to grad school, got my Masters degree (in a field unrelated to music), got married, and went down the technical career path on which I continue to this day.

Although it’s not the main reason why I stopped making my own music, one of my big deterrents was the tools at my disposal. I had a MIDI sequencing setup that utilized a Kurzweil Ensemble Grande piano (the original model), a Kawai G-Mega sound module, and a Macintosh SE running Trax. It was a setup that worked very well. It was very easy to use, and it did what I wanted it to do.

Unfortunately, it also started showing its age (when was the last time you saw a Mac SE?). I still have the Kurzweil piano and the Kawai module, and even though they’re about thirty years old (maybe more), they still work. The computer, however, was another story. The screen built into it was starting to fade, and it was clear that it would eventually get to the point where it would become unusable. So I pulled as many MIDI files off of it as I could and transferred them to my PC.

I also managed to get a copy of Trax for the PC, but as I upgraded my PCs, my version of Trax became incompatible. I looked into getting another MIDI sequencer — and that’s where my problems began.

I had purchased a copy of ACID Music Studio (at the time that I bought it, it was a Sony product). I liked (and still like) using it for mixing and mastering, but I still preferred using Trax for creating my MIDI sequencing data and importing them into ACID.

When I tried recording MIDI data, I kept running into problems, neither of which I was able to resolve. Either…

  1. my computer kept blue-screening, or…
  2. I kept having massive (and very nasty) latency issues.

Unfortunately, these issues (especially the latency) became so bad that it discouraged me from working on them. I set them aside and never got back to them…

…that is, until last night. Last November, I bought a new laptop, much better than any machine I’ve previously owned (although I did need to install a new hard drive in it). Additionally, I bought a new MIDI interface a few months ago; it turned out that my old one was not compatible and no longer supported. And I upgraded my copy of ACID a while back; even though I had originally bought it 20+ years ago, when I went to the vendor‘s web site, I was happy to see that my software license was still valid, which allowed me to download an updated version.

So now, my setup consists of the following.

  • HP Pavilion x360 laptop running ACID Music Studio v.10.0 on Windows 10 Home
  • Roland UM-ONE MIDI interface
  • My thirty-year-old Kurzweil Ensemble Grande piano (hey, don’t knock it — it still works, and I love that I can use a full-sized piano as a MIDI controller)
  • My nearly-as-old Kawai G-Mega MIDI sound module

I spent last night (I was up until 1:30 am!) experimenting with my setup. The computer remained stable, and I did not experience any serious latency issues. After being away from it for several years, it looks like I have a working MIDI setup once again!

However, the setup wasn’t without its problems.

  • As I mentioned above, I created my MIDI sequences in Trax and imported them into ACID. I’d forgotten about this when I tried creating and editing MIDI sequences directly in ACID, and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to (easily) do what I used to be able to do. It turned out that I was accustomed to creating them in Trax. I should be able to do them in ACID, but I’m finding out that there is a steep learning curve involved. I might look into getting another easy-to-use sequencer; the thought of investing in a new version of Trax has crossed my mind.
  • One thing missing from my setup: a good audio interface. As anyone involved in recording can tell you, you don’t want use the default input to record audio directly into your computer; it makes for poor sound quality. I have a Lexicon Alpha which has served me well, but while tinkering with it last night, it suddenly stopped working. I reinstalled the driver and rebooted the computer (several times), all to no avail. The website says the Alpha has been discontinued, and although the driver is supposedly Windows 10-compatible, my machine would not recognize it after several restart attempts. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I may need to invest in a new one. If anyone has any suggestions for a good audio interface, feel free to comment below.
  • I still can’t sing or play the guitar to save my life! Anyone who can do either (or both) want to help me make demos?

It’s been several years since I worked on my own original music. Now that I have a working (albeit clunky) MIDI sequencing setup once again, I can return to a hobby that I once loved but abandoned years ago.

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.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 10: We’re having a parade! #COVID19

This morning, the local grammar school put on a car parade by its teachers. I took some photos, and I wanted to share! Good things happen in neighborhoods, and I have good neighbors!

First, my neighbors wanted to show their support! The chalk art was by my neighbors across the street. I could also see other people out in front of their houses with balloons and signs to show their support as they drove by.

I figured it was a good excuse to take out my horn, so on a whim, I grabbed it and serenaded the cars as they went by. I figured, what’s a parade without a band!

Here goes the parade! I guess-timate that there were about a dozen or so cars, maybe more. I only got a few of them because I was busy playing my sax as they drove by!

Despite the COVID-19, everyone is making the best of the situation. This put a smile on my face today.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 7: Creating my own college football conference #COVID19

One of my admitted addictions is my Xbox 360 and EA Sports NCAA Football 2013. With all of us shut in during the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands lately, and I’ve been playing football on the Xbox a lot more than I care to admit.

One of the things that NCAA Football 13 allows me to do is align my own conferences. So I decided to have some fun with it.

With conference realignment, we have teams that, geographically, don’t make much sense. West Virginia in the Big Twelve (a conference whose easternmost school was once Missouri)? Seriously? Also, college sports conferences often have their own identity relative to their geography. With no Eastern conference, that identity no longer exists.

When I was a student at Syracuse, there was no eastern football conference (at that time, the Big East was basketball-only). Instead, there were a bunch of eastern independent football programs under the umbrella of the ECAC (not an organized conference) that pretty much played each other every year, so for all intents and purposes, they informally made up their own conference, even though there wasn’t one at the time.

The late Joe Paterno once said that we need to have an all-sport Eastern conference (this was before Penn State joined the Big Ten). I’ve often thought, if we had an Eastern conference, this is how it might have looked. Well, since NCAA Football 13 allows me to align my own conferences, I could make that happen. I decided, why not!

NCAA Football 13 represents the 2012 season, which is the last season of the Big East conference and the year before Syracuse and Pittsburgh joined the ACC. It means that, in this gameplay universe, there would always be a Big East conference, and the American conference doesn’t exist. Additionally, the four-team FBS championship hadn’t yet been implemented, so I’m stuck with the BCS (boo!). It is what it is.

So in setting up my all-Eastern dream superconference, I decided to kick out any non-traditional Eastern football teams (so long, USF) and bring back the old, traditional Eastern independents (hello, Boston College, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, and West Virginia), as well as pilfering other traditional conference teams and independents (looking at you, Maryland and Notre Dame — in this fantasy world, Maryland leaves the ACC, where they were at the time; in 2012, they hadn’t yet joined the Big Ten — and Notre Dame relinquishes its independence. Hey, before you Golden Domers yell at me, this is my setup, and I can do what I want!). I also kept other Big East teams that weren’t “traditional” — Cincinnati, UConn, and Louisville.

Of course, since I took teams from other conferences, I moved some teams around in order to balance them out. It’s interesting how your own fantasy conference realignment affects the other conferences as well! So, among other things, UCF and USF became ACC schools, Missouri went to the Big Ten, and Texas A&M went back to the Big Twelve. (I might have made some other moves as well, but I don’t remember what they were off the top of my head.)

Including twelve teams allowed me to split my conference into two divisions, along with an end-of-season championship game, so I created Eastern and Western divisions. When all was said and done, my new Big East conference looked like this.

Big East (Eastern Division)

  • Boston College
  • Cincinnati
  • UConn
  • Maryland
  • Rutgers
  • Temple

Big East (Western Division)

  • Louisville
  • Notre Dame
  • Penn State
  • Pittsburgh
  • Syracuse
  • West Virginia

(Note: yes, I know Cincinnati is further west than West Virginia. I wanted to keep as many of the traditional Eastern powers together as much as possible. Hey, my scenario, my rules!)

When all was said and done, here’s what my new “Eastern Football Superconference” looked like!

I also set up cross-division rivals, similar to what the ACC currently has — Syracuse (Atlantic Division) plays Pittsburgh (Coastal Division) every year, and so on. So in this setup, Notre Dame plays Boston College every year and Louisville plays Cincinnati. (I don’t remember what other pairings I had; I think I paired Penn State with Maryland, Pitt with Temple, West Virginia with Rutgers, and Syracuse with UConn.)

(Speaking of which, EA Sports keeps insisting that SU vs. UConn is a major rivalry. As far as I know, that rivalry only existed in basketball, and it wasn’t all that heated, like SU vs. Georgetown. Personally, I have nothing against UConn, except when we play them!)

I set up a championship game played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. I actually wanted to set it up at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, but unfortunately, NCAA Sports 13 doesn’t offer that as an option, so I tried to pick the most centrally located stadium in a big metro area (so Penn State was out) that was offered by the game.

(Okay, maybe Pittsburgh is more centrally located. The game does allow me to change it at the end of each season. We’ll see.)

It makes for an interesting setup. I keep the geography of the former Eastern independents, and it has its own Eastern identity. If I could imagine what a geographically-sensible college football realignment might have turned out, this is how it might be organized. Oh, what might have been.

By the way, I just finished playing a season in which I took my 14-0 Syracuse team to the national championship.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

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 (my home arena), ALDS
  • Yankee Stadium* (old), Bronx, NY — NY Yankees (former home arena)
  • Joseph Bruno Stadium, Troy, NY — Tri-City ValleyCats (another home arena), NCAA Div-III tournament regional
  • Heritage Park*, Colonie, NY — Albany-Colonie Yankees (former home arena), Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs
  • Robison Field, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (my home field)
  • 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 (my home arena)
  • ECAV Stadium, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (my other home arena)
  • ’86 Field*, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (another 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 (NOT my home arena!)
  • Giants Stadium*, East Rutherford, NJ — Syracuse Orange (also not my home arena!)
  • 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 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 (my home arena), NCAA tournament
  • Manley Field House*, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Orange (women)
  • RPI Armory*, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (my other 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 (my 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 — 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 (my 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!

Every once in a while, say “what the heck”

“Sometimes, you gotta say ‘what the f@%k!'”
— Miles Dalby, Risky Business

“All we are is dust in the wind…”
— Kansas

“While you see a chance, take it…”
— Steve Winwood

Last night, I checked an item off my bucket list.  I met and got my picture taken with my favorite band!  The pic is above.  That’s me in the middle, along with the guys from Kansas: from left to right, Phil Ehart, David Ragsdale, Richard Williams, yours truly, Ronnie Platt, David Manion, Zak Rizvi, and Billy Greer.

I became a fan of Kansas sometime around college.  I saw my first Kansas concert a couple of years after college, in Pittsfield, MA (unfortunately, by then, group stalwarts such as Kerry Livgren and Robby Steinhardt had already left the group).  Last night’s concert was in my hometown of Kingston, NY (well, my actual hometown is Woodstock — yes, that Woodstock, NY — but most of my hanging out when I was in high school was done in Kingston), so that made it an extra-special experience for me.  I don’t know how many Kansas concerts I’ve attended in-between, but some notable ones included Syracuse at the State Fair last year; the “Big E” (New England fair) in Springfield, MA; Pittsburgh, PA for the beginning of their Leftoverture 40th anniversary tour (and the night before I spoke at Pittsburgh SQL Saturday — which was why I was in Pittsburgh in the first place); an Alive At Five concert in downtown Albany; and Latham, NY at the now-defunct Starlight Theater.

That was a great experience, although if I really wanted to complete my experience, I would’ve liked, as a musician, to have played just one song with the band!  Alas, I realized that just wasn’t in the cards, if it ever happens (I’m not holding my breath).

I splurged and paid the money for the meet ‘n greet (or as we Kansas fans — a.k.a. “Wheatheads” — refer to them, “Wheat ‘n Greet“) event, along with a seat right in the front row.  So why pay a few hundred bucks (or whatever it was) for a twenty-minute meeting with a band and a front row concert seat?

Let me ask you a question.  How many times in your life have you ever said, “I wish I’d (fill in the blank)” and didn’t follow through?  How many times have you had the opportunity and the resources to fill in that blank, only to not follow through and let that opportunity (which might have been the only such opportunity in your lifetime) slip through your fingers?

In my life, I’ve had a number of significant experiences, more than a lot of people can say they’ve ever done.  As a musician, I’ve had a chance to perform in large events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a major college bowl game, an NCAA tournament, and major league baseball and football games.  I’ve met sport celebrities such as Reggie Jackson and Jim Boeheim.  I’m friends with some television and media personalities (granted, they’re not prominent big names, but still…).  I’ve taken trips that I never thought I’d take.  Through my involvement with SQL Saturday, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and make friends with some big names in the database industry, and I’ve become a fairly respected speaker myself.  Last night, I took advantage of an opportunity that came my way, and I took full advantage of it.  I have absolutely no regrets about spending those few hundred dollars.  As far as I’m concerned, that was money well spent.

A fulfilling life is about taking advantage of opportunities when they come your way.  Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t take a chance and end up regretting it later.  Grab the opportunity when it comes your way.  You’ll be smiling afterward — and you just might end up with a great story to tell.