the palace of carlos v, granada

The third set of pictures is up, these from our honeymoon time in Granada, Spain. After our stay on the Costa del Sol, we drove up to Granada and (in the one splurge we took on the trip) stayed in the Parador, the hotel that’s actually inside the Alhambra. It was only fitting — we actually ended up spending the bulk of our three days in Granada within the walls of the Alhambra, exploring the Nazrid Palaces (by day and by night!), the Alcazaba, and the Generalife gardens. And where Ronda introduced us to Moorish Spain, Granada hit us full-force with it! (The pictures aren’t all captioned yet, but will be in the next day or two.)

anil and alaina getting married!

Congratulations go out to Anil and Alaina — they done got married! In fabulous style, they took over a small parcel of Madison Square Park this afternoon, and under the official eyes of Alaina’s sister, had a bunch of us say a few words before taking their vows and pledging their love. And while it was a little cold in New York today, the sun came out at all the right moments, beaming right alongside their enormous smiles. (Yeah, I know — I seem to have caught Anil in one of his very few non-smiling moments above…) I can’t imagine they could have asked for a better start to their lives together! (For those who are interested, the rest of my pictures are over at Flickr.)

About a month ago, I started getting mail to my Gmail account from Bank of America that contained a bunch of information about bank account deposits, withdrawals, and balances. Trouble is, it isn’t my bank account; all the emails just say something to the effect of “This is an alert for the account with the last four digits XXXX,” and then tell me to log into my online banking account to see details about the alert. The emails come at the tune of one or two a day, and have nothing in them to indicate how I can let Bank of America know that some accountholder put the wrong email address into their preferences.

Tonight, I called BoA’s online banking customer service department and explained the issue to them. The woman put me on hold for a few minutes, and then came back to tell me that there’s nothing they can do about it, and that I should “just ignore the emails.” I was a little incredulous, and asked if they really don’t have a way to search their database by email address, figure out the accountholder, and contact them to let them know their error, and she said that that was all true — the only way they can search their records is by account number. I asked for her supervisor, who came to the phone and repeated their inability to do anything at all. I reiterated that I had the last four digits of the account number, and she said that there was still nothing they could do. She recommended that I just delete the emails, and hope that the owner of the bank account comes to realize his or her error.

Now, being a database programmer, I know that she’s wrong, and that there’s certainly someone within the BoA system who has the ability to search their database by email address. (For example, if an investigator from the Department of Homeland Security called them and told them that they had intercepted a suspicious email, would they really send the DHS rep packing?) What makes me sad is that they’re just plain unwilling to try. When I explained that we have five accounts with BoA, it didn’t make any difference; when I explained that it was hard to justify continuing to use a bank that was so unwilling to try to do the right thing, it made an equal amount of zero difference. So now I’m forced to resort to reporting the emails to Gmail as spam (which they really are, since they’re unsolicited email that I’ve tried to put a stop to by contacting the originator), and writing a letter to the (un-emailable, un-faxable) escalation department at BoA seeing if anyone there realizes the stupidity of this. And when we eventually leave Boston, we’ll see whether BoA retains our business…

minaret in ronda

The second set of pictures is now up — these from the first leg of our honeymoon in the Andalucia province of Spain. We flew into Malaga, one of the larger towns on the Costa del Sol (the Mediterranean coast of Spain), and because we wanted to enforce a little bit of relaxation at the start of the trip, we stayed in a resort in the smaller coastal town of Estepona. On the third day there, we took a day trip to the town of Ronda (one of the pueblas blancas, or white villages, and home of modern bullfighting) and got a great introduction to the Moorish heritage of most of southern Spain.

Next up: our trip from the Costa del Sol to Granada, and our stay within the Alhambra!

On the perfect day for it, Flickr announces photo printing services! This makes me an awesomely happy Flickr user. Right now, the services appears to be limited to people who live in the United States, and allow you to have prints mailed to you or have them printed to any Target store (another hoo-rah from me!). You’ll also have to set your printing preferences before the “Order Prints” button will show up above photos, and everyone’s default is to only allow themselves to print the photos they’ve uploaded unless they specify otherwise. (I’ve set my photos so that anyone in my contact list can print them.)

Thanks, Flickr people!

first dance

I’ve posted the first bunch of pictures from our wedding, nearly all of which graciously taken by a friend of ours, Jill, using our new digital camera. (OK, two were rudely stolen from Anil and Alaina, but since one is of the two of them looking damn good, I figured they wouldn’t mind too terribly much.) It was great that Jill wanted to take pictures for us, since that meant that we were able to upload them to my laptop and see them while on our flight to Spain — it sure beats waiting for the official pictures! That being said, we are supposed to have all the official digital photos from our photographers within the next week, something that makes us very excited.

The next pix I expect to put up will be from the first leg of our honeymoon, along the Costa del Sol in Spain. Keep an eye out for it in the next few days!

Getting wedding gifts from people has been more fun than I thought it would be (it’s still a little weird that people are giving us stuff to celebrate us making a commitment to each other!), and one of the things we got early on that’s made me incredibly happy is a Lodge 12” cast-iron skillet. (If you’re not at the point where a wedding registry is in your life, you can get your own from Amazon for the bank-breaking sum of $13, or from Crate & Barrel for $22.) Last night, I decided to use the skillet to prepare part of our first home-cooked meal as married folk, a cut of sirloin steak. Being the dork I am, I did a little research on different ways to make sirloin in a cast-iron skillet, and ended up with a method that was as damn near perfect as I can imagine coming out of my kitchen.

First, I set the oven to preheat to 350º, put the skillet on the largest gas burner, and turned it on to its highest setting. Then I rubbed each side of the sirloin with a generous portion of salt and a little pepper, and let it sit at room temperature while the oven and skillet heated up. Once the oven was heated and the skillet was hot enough (a good test is sprinkling a little water on the skillet surface; if the water balls up and rolls around a little bit before evaporating, it’s perfect), I put the sirloin in — 30 to 45 seconds on one side, 30 to 45 seconds on the other side, then about 3 more minutes on each side. Once that was done, I put the entire skillet into the oven for another eight minutes (with my slightly-more-than-an-inch-thick steak, good for cooking to medium; add another minute or two for medium well to well-done, or take off a minute or two for a rarer meat temperature). Finally, I took the steak out, put it onto a heated plate, and covered it with tin foil for five or so minutes, enough to let the meat contract a little bit while keeping all the juices inside.

In the end, the meat was done nearly perfectly — Shannon suggested that I use a little garlic powder along with the salt and pepper next time. And since the cast-iron skillet is well-seasoned, cleanup was a cinch! The only thing to be warned about is the stovetop cooking step — know that it’ll generate a little more smoke than you’d probably expect, so be sure to have either your stovetop fan running, or (if you’re like us and don’t have one!) have a window open and a nearby fan helping circulate the air. And remember that you might want to disable any nearby smoke detectors!

Shannon and I got back from the honeymoon yesterday afternoon (or yesterday night, if you listen to our internal body clocks — getting to our house at 5:30 PM felt like the middle of the night to us!), and are just now settling back into a regular routine. We have nearly 1,000 photos from the trip through the south of Spain, and another couple hundred wedding photos already from friends and relatives who passed them along; I’m going to try to post a ton of them as I find the time over the next days to weeks. Feel free to keep an eye on my Flickr photostream — I’m probably going to upload most of the pictures there, and then point to the slideshows from here, so watching that might get you a quicker view of the pix!

I know it’s a bit quiet around here — Shannon and I are puttering around Spain on our honeymoon! We started in Estepona (on the Costa del Sol), took a daytrip to Ronda, and then came to Granada; today is the first day that we’ve had good enough internet access to be able to upload a ton of pictures. Of course, though, we didn’t know that would be the case until we sat down in the internet cafe and saw how awesome their setup is, so all our pictures are back at the hotel! Alas. In the mean time, here’s one of us in the gardens of the Palacio de Mondragón in Ronda, which I was able to cull out of an email we sent the last day we were on the Costa del Sol:

the happy couple at the palacio mondragón

We’re off to the small mountain town of Osuna today, then headed to Seville mid-week, and end up in Madrid for the weekend. More when we get back… or perhaps a day or two earlier, when we reach our net-savvy hotel in Madrid!

We’re in the home stretch of the wedding prep, so I wanted to make the first of what will (hopefully) be a series of posts about my experience with the vendors we’ve worked with for various parts of the planning. Today’s subject: getting silk-screened T-shirts made in a hurry.

small wedding t-shirt

First, a preface: my brother got married a little over a year ago, and his wife’s family did something we loved — they hosted a brunch the morning after the wedding, and incorporated a softball game into the morning that was a ton of fun. The game pitted family against family, and they had T-shirts made up for each side, allowing everyone to change out of their nicer shirts so that they could go out and play without worrying. Shannon and her mother specifically liked that idea, so we decided to do the same. Of course, with everything else that needed to be planned, the T-shirts fell down on the list a little bit, leaving us two weeks ago with the realization that we hadn’t done anything about them.

wedding t-shirt

Needing the shirts on such a short timeline, we thought about just finding someone in South Jersey, but also did a little bit of research on the web. It wasn’t long until I found the site of T-Shirt Pros (also known as David K’s T-Shirt Printing), and I really liked what I saw. The prices were extremely competitive with everything else I saw, I was able to generate real-time quotes (a surprisingly rare thing in the web-based custom clothing world), and the entire process could be completed online. After talking to them on the phone (just to assure myself that they’d actually be able to complete and ship the order on time), I designed a quick one-color graphic in Illustrator and submitted our order; about two or three hours later, I had a final quote in my inbox, and a link to click to approve the order. Then, a few days later, I got an email asking for me to verify that I’d be available to complete a press check the next afternoon, and when that time came, I got another email directing me to a web page with pictures of the first few shirts off the presses. (My favorite thing is that one of the pictures was of an employee actually wearing the shirt, and then another was of the employee holding up a child-sized shirt.) I approved those, and then 24 hours later, I had a shipping confirmation complete with tracking information. Like I said, it was an easy process from soup to nuts, and I felt like every time something could potentially go wrong I was included in the process to approve how things looked.

In terms of negatives, I only have one: the company’s website doesn’t allow people using Safari on a Mac to upload images, so I had to back out of my order and use Firefox. It’s a minor quibble, but trying to upload images using Safari didn’t generate any obvious error (other than the image just not appearing in the right place on the page), so it wasn’t even clear to me what the problem was until I tried putting my order in using another browser. Other than that, though, I was very happy with using T-Shirts Pros for our order, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to friends and readers.

(Now, if we could only get the weather forecast to stop saying that it’s going to rain the entire day of the brunch!)

Shannon and I have started our southerly migration to start getting ready to get married this weekend! We’re in a Panera off of I-84 right now — Shannon bought a book about Spain from Audible (worst… website… EVER!), but it seems to have not made it onto her iPod, so we figured we’d combine eating with using Panera’s free WiFi to grab the book again. A bit after midnight, we should be in South Jersey!

What an exciting last weekend of the baseball season! Last night’s Red Sox win was frustrating to watch, but today’s Yankees win (and clinch of both a playoff berth and the American League East division title) made up for that. Tomorrow brings the Indians fighting for their playoff lives — the only scenario in which they can beat out the Red Sox for the final American League playoff spot is by them winning tomorrow and the Red Sox losing tomorrow and the Indians then beating the Red Sox in a one-game playoff on Monday. Wildcard excitement!

(And sure, there’s no question that the close races have put a lot of potential scenarios on the table going into the final three games of the season, but I think that Jayson Stark probably overplays the “woe is us, how confusing this all is!” card in his column on today. However, it’s damn funny reading about how few of the players on the field actually had thought through the meaning of today’s games at Fenway Park and Jacobs Field, and as a result, how most of the Red Sox didn’t understand why the Yankees were celebrating after they won the game this afternoon.)

Go Yanks!