Archive for April, 2011

Being one of the newer places in Thousand Oaks, CA, I am not surprised to almost always encounter a wait coming here. This is a great place to come before or after watching a movie at the adjacent Muvico movie theater. As you walk in the large front door, you have to grapple with 1) the sheer weight of the door and 2) the fact that it opens on a hinge near the center of the door, making it somewhat awkward to fit many people through the doorway.

The atmosphere is quite casual- kind of a Carrow’s/Chili’s feel to it, though the acoustics here make the noise level far more tolerable. They have a large bar area that is mostly seat-yourself, but it can be a bit difficult to tell sometimes which tables you have to wait for. If unclear, just ask any of the friendly and attentive staff there.

The food is very good. Some of the sandwiches are almost certain to leave you with leftovers. I have yet to order an entree I did not like. The tomato bisque is amazingly flavorful and their pizzas are all pretty good. The only item that might be improved would be the fries. They are nothing impressive, if those are an important part of your meal.

This is a great place to meet friends for a drink or a good meal. Happy hour is really good and includes a wide variety of choices. I am so glad T.O. finally has a cool casual place to just relax and rest assured you will be taken care of.

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Hello music fans,

Putting my iTunes on shuffle, today’s bringer of melody is Italian gothic rock band Lacuna Coil. The original lineup in 1994 consisted of vocalist Andrea Ferro and bassist/composer Marco Coti Zelati, Raffaele Zagaria on guitars, and Michaelangelo on the drums, with which they released two demos. They originally called themselves Sleep of Right. After some lineup changes that included inviting singer Cristina Scabbia and second guitarist Claudio Leo, in addition to switching out Michaelangelo with drummer Leonardo Forti, the band changed their name to Ethereal in 1997. They came to soon find out that the name ‘Ethereal’ was already taken by a Greek band, so they decided on their current moniker.

Shortly after the release of their self-titled EP, Zagaria, Leo and Forti were replaced by Cristiano Migliore and Cristiano Mozzati and the group went on tour with Moonspell. In 1999, after a second European tour, the band released their first full length album In a Reverie to not great, but adequate reviews. They continued touring and went on to record four more albums. Off of their 2006 release Karmacode came today’s feature on this blog To The Edge. This song is a great example of this band’s vocal dynamic: not quite a call-and-answer, but definitely setting the male and female singers opposite one another. Scabbia sings each verse, while the male voice (Andrea Ferro) accompanies her in the chorus and it creates a powerful harmonic sound. Give it a listen:

Fox Sports (USA)

Image via Wikipedia

I have only been to FOX a couple of times, but so far it has been just satisfactory. This location is not all too easy to find without either knowing where it is already (it’s next to a cemetery) or using GPS. Parking can be a disaster, as they share a small parking lot with another restaurant, a hotel and an office complex nearby. It’s not exactly what I would call your neighborhood “Cheers”-type of place either. Walking in, I got the feeling of a place that was taking itself too seriously for a sports bar: nice wood-like laminate floor, granite bar top, leather seats everywhere… These are just my first impressions.

The food itself, however slow it comes out of the kitchen, is pretty tasty nonetheless. I really dig their mahi burger and the wrap/sandwich selection. Also, I could swear I saw a $30 burger on the menu…no thanks on that. The beer selection is pretty much what you might expect for a typical, larger sports bar in and around the Westlake, California area- not exactly a connoisseur’s dream, but it’ll do and the glasses are always frosty and kept full by a fairly attentive waitstaff.

While I appreciate the availability of a quasi-upscale bar in the area, this is not what I would call a particularly comfortable place to just sit and have a few drinks. It’s loud, hard to move around in during televised sporting events and has a slightly contrived feel. I’ll give it another go if I have a hankering for a little over-priced, not over-the-top food and drinks.

Class of 2007, USAF Academy Graduation Hat Hur...

Image by Beverly & Pack via Flickr

A rather controversial article on TechCrunch this past weekend has apparently caused quite a stir, begetting a follow-up article on the same website. The originator of all the fuss was PayPal co-creator and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel, who proposed that people who drop out of college, or otherwise opt to pursue other avenues to success, are more successful than those who complete college. His basic thesis seems to be: education is overrated and mostly unneeded to be successful. If that is true, then I am profoundly disappointed. After all the all-night study sessions, papers, projects, deadlines and do-nothing group project leeches, I prefer to think of all of my education as a good use of my time. Perhaps only slightly less cynically, I can think of it as something no one can ever take away from me. I may not be a multimillionaire tech entrepreneur, but at least I can put some letters after my name on my business card.

Rather than just bash the guy for putting forth his theory on what makes a success, I will agree with him that the status placed on education, indeed on anything of value, depends upon its scarcity among the general population. In the article, he asks “If Harvard were really the best education, if it makes that much of a difference, why not franchise it so more people can attend? Why not create 100 Harvard affiliates?” In other words, if the goal of education is to be accessible to the greatest number of people, thereby increasing the creative potential of the entire nation, why not take away the pompousness now associated with it? In essence, why not make everyone successful by creating a more success-oriented system? After all, “all boats rise with the tide,” do they not?

The article goes on to describe how Thiel has engaged in an ‘experiment’ in which he is auditioning students from the most elite universities from around the United States. Twenty finalists will be selected and given $100,000 over two years to leave school and start a company instead. In the follow-up article referenced above, Vivek Wadhwa put it to a group of Deans from Engineering departments at schools from around the country (all of them “elite”) to see what they thought of Thiel’s postulate. The consensus is that to drop out after you have started is just plain dumb. They seem to ask in unison, ‘Why not finish what you start?’ After all, part of what makes going to school worthwhile is the satisfaction of completing it, isn’t it?

 

From the oft-frozen land of Finland comes one of the best power metal bands among the many from this particular area of the world. Celesty was formed in 1998 in Seinäjoki, Finland. The original lineup of the band included bassist Ari Katajamäki, drummer Jere Luokkamäki, and in 1999 guitarist Tapani Kangas. This quartet apparently released a demo that was never released, nor saw the light of day. According to the band’s website, Katajamäki and Kangas had to depart the band due to military obligations in 2000, after which the band’s search led them to add guitarist J-P Alanen and vocalist Kimmo Perämäki. It was with these final two additions that Celesty got in the studio and released their first official demo, “Warrior of Ice” in 2001. Though I was able to dig up no audio, the demo has been described as “typical power metal vocalist soaring over the double bass and speedy guitar riffs filling for an epic atmosphere much like you would find on Destiny-era Stratovarius.” With the release came the addition of keyboardist Juha Mäenpää.

Their second demo Times Before the Icewas released in 2002 to “even better reviews” [than of their previous demo] and the band’s popularity began picking up steam. That same year, they signed with Spanish label Arise Records and released the Reign of Elements album to wide acclaim. As the band crept more and more into the consciousness of the metal world, their success and popularity grew, as did their catalog of music. After another change in label and lineup (as with all bands), Celesty released Vendetta in 2009. From this most recent release comes today’s Metal World/Melodic Mondays installment: “Like Warriors.” I chose this song because it excellently displays the blistering guitar solos that metal lovers have come to expect and because of its sheer epic sound. Judge for yourself and leave a comment:

Fosters Freeze is one of a waning breed of great old-timey drive-in-style diners in Ventura, CA. With outside dining, as well as a covered patio, you can enjoy your greasy or delectably sweet order with all the sights and sounds midtown Ventura has to offer. Located within walking distance of Ventura College, you will often see a lot of people there. The counter is staffed almost completely by young people for whom this is likely their first job, so on occasion you may get an order mixed up. Overall though, the service is great.

I would have to go with the prevailing consensus opinion and say that the corn burritos are the best. Sometimes they can get a little heavy handed with the cheese, but it’s easy enough to peel (that’s right- “peel”) the excess off. The “hot” sauce is also quite tasty, if not quite hot enough. Then of course are the desserts. Last time I was in, I had the Mudslide Twister. Mouth-twistingly sweet, but pretty good, though I enjoy the chunks of brownie in Dairy Queen’s offering more than Foster’s bits of Oreo cookie…

They also hold classic car shows in their parking lot once a month. This is a pretty good time, as everyone in attendance revels in a night of hot rod and dipped ice cream cone nostalgia. The flood lights they set up help give it the impromptu feel I believe an event like that needs. The ice cream, the cars, the people…this is one great ice cream stand.

Thank you Huffington Post. I always had my suspicions…