Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Morning at Zanzibar's

Welcome to Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure!!
Home to fine coffee, chess players, and the occasional celebrity sighting!

  For the third year in a row I combined three vacation days with the Thanksgiving holiday to have a week off from work. Or at least that was the plan. My main responsibility at work is a program that closely interfaces with a government agency program. On Sunday, the government’s program stopped working which caused my interface to stop working. I shut down our side of the interface and restarted it at 11 that night after the government agency performs a weekly reboot. All was well or so I thought until 8am on Monday when I got a call from a client to let me know that all the transactions we were sending to the government’s program were failing. It seems that the government agencies program lost all the permissions for their registered parties and no one had permission to do anything.

  After spending the morning sorting through that mess, I was able to resume my vacation and had a relaxing afternoon. On Tuesday there were no government agency problems and I had a relaxing start to the morning but just as Kathy and I got Daisy and Baxter ready for their 9am walk, the phone rang. It was Fred (not his real name), a customer of the retail store software company I worked for from 1994 to 2008 when it was sold to a company from Indianapolis that had their own programmers. The new company switched the software from a desktop version to the ‘cloud’ and discontinued support for the desktop version in 2011. Since then I’ve been helping the old desktop users with their problems for an hourly fee.

  Normally I can help these people via email. Fred had switched to the cloud version and wanted to go back to the desktop version. He didn’t want to work via email and had a setup where I could remote into his computer. Last month I spent 90 minutes one Sunday remoting into his computer and talking on the phone configuring his software (printers, screen preferences, etc…). Once we were done Fred realized that he had been logged into the software as the wrong user. And we had to do all the work all over again. The next day Fred restored a backup of his data and overwrote all the changes I had made and we spent another hour configuring his software. Three days later Fred accidentally restored his data and we spent another 45 minutes configuring his software. The good news was that we were getting faster at configuring the software; the bad news was that we had to keep on doing it.

  On Tuesday Fred called because he wanted to go over the procedures for getting the data from the registers to his desktop computer and vice versa. We spent some time going over that and while we were talking I got some emails from another retail store customer who had a problem with getting the data from one of her registers. All in all I spent two hours on Tuesday helping retail store customers and while I like helping these people and I like getting the extra money and most of all I like the satisfaction I get from knowing a software program I hadn’t changed in more than seven years is still working like a Swiss watch I wasn’t feeling like I was on vacation.

  On Wednesday I had a relaxing day with no work related issues and after a nice Thanksgiving and uneventful Friday I did have a fairly relaxing vacation after all. On Saturday my vacation could be said to be technically over since I wouldn’t be working on the weekend anyway but on Saturday I made the time to visit one of my favorite places and headed to Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure for some coffee and coffeehouse chess with my friends Dan and Mike.

Dan Troxell and Mike Jeter, the Zanzibar's regulars!

  The last time I visited Zanzibar’s was the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year and I played poorly. Mike trapped by queen with a tricky tactic and I gave away a piece against Dan (luckily only after I had already won a piece). Between work and beagle walking I didn’t have much time for chess on my vacation but I did take breaks for bursts of one minute chess games on and the Internet Chess Club so I could be in good form for my visit to Zanzibar’s. I wanted to play well against Dan and Mike but there was also the chance that I could impress one of the many celebrities that frequent Zanzibar’s and get some extra Christmas money giving chess lessons or playing time odds blitz. Some people doubt I've really seen all the celebrities I claim to have seen at Zanzibar's but I have plenty of photographic evidence to back up my claims (you can see my past celebrity sightings here) so they can doubt all they want while I keep adding to my celebrity photo collection from Zanzibar's.

The $9.99 ‘Breakfast Eggstravaganza’ was
  After taking Daisy and Baxter for their 4:30 am Saturday beef stick walk to the Jiffy, I hung around the house with the beagles and Harry the cockatiel until 7 when I started on the hour long drive to Zanzibar’s. I wanted to hit the ground running so I took along a can of AMP Focus Energy (my preferred energy beverage) and drank it on the way down.

  I arrived at Zanzibar’s at 8 but Mike and Dan weren’t there yet so I decided to have some breakfast. I ordered the top of the line ‘Breakfast Eggstravaganza’ which consists of two steamed eggs with cheese, two slices of toast, a small glass of orange juice, and a cup of coffee. My favorite Ethiopian coffee wasn’t available so I ‘settled’ for Kenyan Dark Roast which was strong but not nearly as strong as the Ethiopian brew.

  Between the time I ordered and the time my food was ready, Mike came in. He ordered the ‘Breakfast Eggpress’ and we sat down to chat while waiting for our food to arrive. Just as our breakfast arrived, so did Dan. Dan set up the board and Mike and I ate our breakfast. My breakfast was pricey but very good. The eggs and cheese were melted together expertly and the toast and juice were perfect. My only quibble is that for $9.99 I would have liked a bottomless cup of coffee. Mike and I decided to play first and I drew the black pieces for what was my first time playing a long game since the Jackson Open in August.

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of
  Except for losing his queen to a trap, Mike played pretty well and the game lasted almost an hour. I was happy with my play and the way I kept the game under control once I had the edge. During the game I recognized one of the diners that kept on walking back and forth checking out our game as Pat Boone. With the Iowa primaries less than 14 months away he was no doubt scouting the territory to determine which conservative candidate he was going to stump for. I told Pat that I got a number of his phone messages to urge me to vote for Joni Ernst for the Senate and asked him if he’d like to play a game of chess for a small wager. Like most of the celebrities that frequent Zanzibar’s, Pat values his anonymity and acted like I had him mistaken for someone else. He did say that that while he’d like to play chess, gambling was a sin and I should find someone else to gamble with. While we were talking I noticed that Pat had his gaze fixed at a table on the other side of the building and he muttered ‘What’s she doing here?’ I looked across the room and there was Hillary Clinton reading the paper! I was tempted to ask for an autograph but Dan wanted to play me so I settled for a picture, drew the Black pieces and started my second game of the day.

Pat Boone and Hillary Clinton were as far apart in Zanzibar's as their political views as they each try to scout out Iowa in advance of the upcoming primaries...

This game took around 45 minutes and except for Dan losing a rook at the end it could have gone on for another hour. Dan had to bring his daughter to work so Mike and I loaded up on another cup of Kenyan Dark Roast and had a rematch with me having the White pieces this time.

  This was another hour long game and I think I made it a lot harder on myself by using my queen too much. Pat and Hillary were long since gone and it seemed that the Hollywood crowd had taken over Zanzibar’s. I spotted Ben Affleck at a nearby table. I would like to have played the future Batman in a game of chess but Affleck is more of a poker player (as you can see from this article). Mike asked me if I had ever seen the ‘Hunger Games’ movies. I told him I hadn’t and he told me the star of the movies was Jennifer Lawrence and she was standing at the counter. I took a quick picture and wondered how many celebrities were at Zanzibar’s that I failed to recognize because I’m so out of touch with modern ‘culture’. Hoping to spark some chess interest among the breakfasting ‘Who’s Who’ I played Mike 4 games at the time odds of 1 minute to 10 minutes. We split the four games and the banging of the pieces and slamming of the clocks drew quite a bit of attention and some people even took pictures but we couldn’t entice anyone to join us. I can only assume they were too busy reading scripts for upcoming film and television projects.

Mike spotted Jennifer Lawrence while I was able to snap a close up picture of Ben Affleck (who looks much younger in person).
Meanwhile, Mike and I attracted a crowd of picture takers playing time odds blitz. Maybe they mistook us for celebrities...

  Once Mike and I were done playing speed chess it was time for me to get back home so I said good bye to Mike and Zanzibar’s until my next visit. Looking at all three long games I thought I could have been more aggressive but I never left myself open to any shots and never in danger of losing any of the games so I think I played pretty well in the chess department but before my next visit I’ll have to study the Weekly World News and Midnight Globe to brush up on my celebrity spotting.