Sunday, September 16, 2007

Where2 fails it and other stuff from our trip to Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill

A co-worker and I spent a week in Raleigh, which was cool overall. In an effort to mitigate tedium we tried out a different restaurant every night, but we were amazed at how often Google or our GPS system (where2) sent us to a place that was no longer in business, for example:

MVP Sports Bar (colleague is football-obsessed.)

2 Bar-B-Q places (Bar-B-Q and Ribs (?), Cooper's (in a seemingly dodgy part of town, first of all, and devoid of any signs of life when we got there)).

Some Indian restaurant w/ 'Sitar' in the name (fortunately 'Bombay Kitchen' was close by and made for a very satisfactory plan B).

On Wednesday we tried out NC-style BBQ at Smithfield's Chicken in Wake Forest (recommended by a classmate from the area). NC-style BBQ is vinegar-based, it's not the sticky, messy, but transcendantly delicious BBQ I was used to. It was good for what it was, but I'm not a convert; I still prefer the tomato-based approach. Anyways, since we were in Wake Forest we decided to check out the Wake Forest campus. The Where2 computer voice lady directed us to the center of a really beautiful little town, past a seminary we at first thought was the campus. We arrived at our destination to find a plaque marking the place where the Wake Forest campus WAS, before it moved to Winston-Salem in 1956. D'oh!

On Thursday I made my 15-years-too-late pilgrimage to Chapel Hill, a capital of indie-rock goodness in the early 90's (Polvo, Superchunk, etc, etc). As Steely Dan says, those days are gone forever, over a long time ago, but they did still have several Polvo CDs at Schoolkids records. I bought a Thee Hypnotics (early 90's Stooge-Hendrix rock) CD for $3, the new Cinematic Orchestra CD, and the new Aesop Rock CD. This signalled to the clerk either a) I have diverse musical tastes or b) I have an shakily ill-defined personality as these choices cancel each other out. Anyhow. My colleague was not much into the Schoolkids Records scene, but is a good guy and let me do the aimless shelf perusal thing for a bit, and took the opportunity to check in w/ his mother, I think (he was speaking Gujarati during the call).

The campus was really nice, just crawling with attractive, seemingly bigger-than-average young people. Bigger as in taller, as in scaled up in all dimensions. Half the kids had cell-phones to their ears, which looks weird to somebody who graduated from college 17 years ago. Some juggling club had a tight-rope strung between two trees. A guy fell off, the boingy sound of the rope followed by the thud as he hit the ground (he was OK, folks). The campus is really beautiful (the non-people part, too).

We ate at 'top of the hill', a brewpub establishment 3 stories up, with an outdoor eating area overlooking Franklin Street. When we got there the football coach was doing the live show college football and basketball coaches at all schools do, hosted by a guy with a voice identical to every other host of one of these shows in every town everywhere in the USA. 'Top Of The Hill' was another classmate recommendation. UNC seemed really cool and gave me a sense of optimism about America's young people, cell phones notwithstanding, or maybe that was the beer at Top Of The Hill (colleague consumed one beer and drove).

A couple other things we learned (aside from how to leverage SQL Server for yr BI needs) in our week in Raleigh:

  • Seemingly 90% of the people in Raleigh are in some branch of the military, or were at one time.
  • Downtown Raleigh seems eerily abandoned. You could fire a cannnon down the street and not hit anyone.
  • I have no idea what Research Triangle Park looks like, even after driving through it. It's obscured by trees, unlike Silicon Valley, the place too busy to give a shit what it looks like.
  • Like everywhere, when you go out to lunch in Raleigh you overhear computer-related conversations all around you. It's pretty boring. People need to get hobbies, in Raleigh and really everywhere. You'd think they could relive their military days of flying helicopters and blowing shit up. It would be more entertaining for people in the vicinity to hear about that sort of thing.

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