Sunday, February 21, 2010

Food Deals, Tips, and Tricks

In this post, I thought I share some of the food deals, tips, and tricks that I found to be beneficial for me - and of course these food joints are the ones I frequent. I am pretty sure there are more out there - if you know those deals, tips, and tricks, let me know in the comment section and I will try them and add them into this post with credit to you.

Deals: Several times a year, has excellent deals with their discount code. I bought several coupon for $25 off for certain restaurants for only $3 per coupon, some for $4 (depending on the deals). Be on the look out at or for coupon code.

Roosters: on Olentangy River Rd chain, they have appetizers deal on Tuesdays. So each Tuesday they will give you a discount on one selected appetizers. For example, last time I went there, it was $1.07 for an order cheese sticks (has 5 sticks in it).

Qdoba: On Tuesday nights, kids eat free at Qdoba. If you are a Qdoba card holder, get double points on Friday. If you go to the one in 5th ave, they give free chips if you come after 8pm - for any day. Students can have a $5 meal - any day.

City Barbeque: Buck-a-bone Tuesdays. So instead of paying $17.99 for a full slab - pay only ~$12. Some stores have $4 off a sampler Mondays.

Applebee's: 1/2 Price Appetizers with any beverage purchase from 10 p.m. to close. At the bar from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (dine-in only. excludes sampler).

Tips & Tricks:

  • For "more" portion in your fajita/burrito without bursting your tortilla, as for bol/naked with tortilla on the side - no extra charge!
  • Chipotle will make quesadilla for you - even though it is not on the menu
  • Order a Quesorito in Chipotle - a hybrid of quesadilla and burrito.
  • You can get half/half (i.e. chicken and steak) for your meat selection - and pay only for the more expensive price
  • You can get "double meat" and pay extra $2 (nore really sure about the price - but should be close)
  • At Chipotle, if you are ordering salad, you can add fajita onions/peppers with no extra charge
BD's Mongolian Barbeque:
  • Instead of paying the full buffet price ($13.99 I think), you can elect to go once ($8.99 - LUNCH only). For most women, this is usually enough, if not - or if you are a man - read the next point.
  • Now, there is a trick on how to arrange your ingredients in your bowl so that you can have plenty (I am mean PLENTY) of food by just going once. The key is to put your vegetables on the bottom and the meat on top - so that the vegetables will get pushed to the bottom by the meat therefore allowing more room. In detail, follow these steps:
    1. If you do not want vegetables, skip to step 2. Get your empty bowl and go to the vegetable section right away, skip the meat for now. Get your vegetables, try to arrange them neatly and allowing an empty opening in the middle.
    2. If you do not want seafood, skip to step 3. Go to the seafood section. If you have vegetables, put your seafood in the opening in the middle of you bowl. If you do not have veggies, arrange them however you want, but try to be neat.
    3. If you do not want carbs, skip to step 4. Go to the carbs section. Get your noodle/pasta and try to arrange them neatly. These "arrange neatly" thing is important but don't be OCD about it. Just make sure they are packed and not overflowing.
    4. Now go the spices section, get the "cooking" ingredients. What I call the "cooking" ingredients are the items that you want to be cooked along from the beginning with your veggies, meat, seafood. For the ingredients that will go later, I call them "sauce" ingredients. So in this step, go get your "cooking" ingredients; usually something like garlic, ginger, some spices, etc - depending on your style and recipe. Don't want to go crazy here, since you can always add them later in the "sauce" - I usually just get minced garlic in this step.
    5. Go back to the meat section. Whatever you do, put beef/steak last - since it is usually sliced thinly - so you use is as a "roof" to hold everything together. Get your meat - in the order or smallest to largest - then put beef strips last.
    6. Now, assemble your sauce. Depending on how much you got to pile on your bowl, you may require more than 1 mini-sauce-bowl to hold your sauce - which is alright. Put your food bowl and on the sauce counter and assemble your sauce, spices, and condiments. 
    7. CRUCIAL STEP - if the cooking area is crowded, make sure you look and pay attention to where do you think you will be lining up at - and go there ONLY WITH YOUR FOOD BOWL, leaving the sauce bowl(s) behind on the sauce counter. If you are not on the cooking counter directly (someone is in front of you with their food being cooked), put your food bowl on the counter and then go back to the sauce counter to get your sauce. If necessary, go get egg(s) as well and go back to your spot in the cooking line and put your sauce bowl(s) and egg(s) on the cooking counter.
    8. Now wait for your turn ...
    9. Pay attention to your food being cooked and tell the cook about your preferences (sauce now/sauce later, egg now/later, etc). When it's done cooking, make sure the cook put your food in the yellow bowl, NOT the blue bowl. Blue bowl is for repeats, so you will be charged full buffet instead of the single. If for some reason, you got a blue bowl, go back to your seat and tell your server about it - that you only went once with 1 ingredients bowl and don't want to be charged full buffet (this only ever happened to me once).
  • You can combined up to 3 wings sauces without any extra charge. So if you want your wings to be in "chipotle" an "garlic" - just say "chipotle garlic" on your sauce selection when you order.

For some more food items that are not in the menu:

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Using ASP.NET Chart Controls in ASP.NET MVC

In the past, I blogged about using Google Visualization to render charts with ASP.NET MVC here. It's pretty easy, it works, and fast. What if you do not want to use Google Visualization / javascripts to make your charts? Well, Microsoft released ASP.NET Charting Controls late 2008 and this blog post will discuss several options you can have in using it with ASP.NET MVC.
There are several ways you can do this (that I have tried/used):

  1. Generating and rendering the chart in the controller and returning it as a FileResult using MemoryStream
  2. Generating the chart in the controller and put it in the view data and let the aspx/ascx renders it using the webform control
There are advantages and disadvantages for both approaches. Using the MemoryStream approach works everytime, but it does not render the mapping, so it does not attach url, tooltip, etc on the legend and the chart by default. You have to do those things manually.

Now using the webform control gives you all the bells and whistles (url, tooltip, label, etc) - no extra work needed. BUT - in my experience, it does not work if you run your MVC project under a virtual path. For example, if you run your project under root, such as http://localhost:2000/Home/Index - it will work. But if you then go to the Project Property window in the solution explorer in VS 2008, go the the "Web" tab, and set a virtual path, and build and run (i.e. http://localhost:2000/Chart/Home/Index) - it will break. When it runs, it will give you "Failed to map the path '/ChartImg.axd'". I am still unable to solve this problem yet - you can see my StackOverflow question here.

Before I show you my code, I have to give credit to Mike Ceranski - he blogged about how to use the webform control in rendering ASP.NET chart - in which his approach become the one I used in my projects and become a partial subject of this blog post.

You will need to download a couple of things to get started:

First, you will need to prepare your web.config by adding these lines:

        <add key="RenderMode" value="MEMORYSTREAM" />
        <add key="ChartImageHandler" value="privateImages=false;storage=file;timeout=20;deleteAfterServicing=false;url=/App_Data/;WebDevServerUseConfigSettings=true;"/>
            <add verb="*" path="ChartImg.axd" type="System.Web.UI.DataVisualization.Charting.ChartHttpHandler, System.Web.DataVisualization, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35" validate="false"/>
In your development environment, when running using VS 2008 by hitting F5, the images will always be rendered in memory regardless what you put in the appSettings, unless you are including the "WebDevServerUseConfigSettings=true;" in there.

You can also read more about the possible enumerations and values for the appSettings here.

Now, the HTML:
    if (ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["RenderMode"] == "MEMORYSTREAM") {
    } else {
        myChart.Controls.Add(ViewData["Chart"] as Chart);

The controller code:
public ActionResult Index() {
    ViewData["Message"] = "Welcome to ASP.NET MVC!";

    if (ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["RenderMode"] != "MEMORYSTREAM") {
        Chart myChart = CreateChart();
        ViewData["Chart"] = myChart;
    return View();

public ActionResult Chart() {
    using (var ms = new MemoryStream()) {
        Chart myChart = CreateChart();
        myChart.SaveImage(ms, ChartImageFormat.Png);
        ms.Seek(0, SeekOrigin.Begin);
        return File(ms.ToArray(), "image/png", "mychart.png");

private Chart CreateChart() {
    Chart chart = new Chart();
    chart.Width = 350;
    chart.Height = 300;
    chart.Attributes.Add("align", "left");

    chart.Titles.Add("MY CHART"); // Display a Title  
    chart.ChartAreas.Add(new ChartArea());

    chart.Series.Add(new Series());

    chart.Legends.Add(new Legend("MY CHART"));
    chart.Legends[0].TableStyle = LegendTableStyle.Auto;
    chart.Legends[0].Docking = Docking.Bottom;
    chart.Series[0].ChartType = SeriesChartType.Pie;

    for (int i = 0; i < 10; i++) {
        string x = "MEMBER " + (i + 1).ToString();
        decimal y = ChartTest.Models.Utility.RandomNumber(1, 100);
        int memberId = i;
        int point = chart.Series[0].Points.AddXY(x, y);
        DataPoint dPoint = chart.Series[0].Points[point];
        dPoint.Url = "/Member/Detail/" + memberId.ToString();
        dPoint.ToolTip = x + ": #VALY";
        dPoint.LegendText = "#VALX: #VALY";
        dPoint.LegendUrl = "/Member/Detail/" + memberId.ToString();
        dPoint.LegendToolTip = "Click to view " + x + "'s information...";

    chart.Series[0].Legend = "MY CHART";
    return chart;
Now, depending on how your "RenderMode" setting is in the web.config, it will either render the chart using approach #1 (memory stream) or #2 (using webform control).

Additional readings/resources:
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

GeoDocs Reborn, version 8.0 Released!

After a long overdue, GeoDocs 8 was released by AWH on December 2009 (this blog post is late). Last month, GeoDocs revamped its website using the new version, new look and feel, and faster!

In a collaboration with Nationwide Children's Hospital, they became the first client to upgrade to the new version.

GeoDocs was also recognized as a semi-finalist for the 2009 TechColumbus Innovation Awards! GeoDocs was nominated in the category of 'Outstanding Product, Fewer than 50 Employees'.

So what makes GeoDocs 8 to be better than its predecessor?

There are a lot of reasons why GeoDocs 8 is better, as far as the technical aspects - here are some of them:
  • Running on .NET framework 3.5 (GD 7 was running on .NET 1.1)
  • The UI has been rebuilt from scratch using ASP.NET MVC
  • SEO friendly URL
  • AJAX integration with jQuery and jQuery UI
  • Better and cleaner integration with Google Mini/Search Appliance
  • Cleaner code base that enhance development experience
Now if you are a user, here are the benefits of GD 8:
  • Much, much, much faster - and can be faster still depending on you configuration
  • AJAX means better user experience:

    • Less screen refresh to load/reload data
    • Faster feedback in returning on-demand data
    • Nice and unobtrusive animations/cues for user actions
    • Faster and friendlier editing panel (Web View Editor)
    • More robust WYSIWYG editor
  • SEO friendly URL, means nice looking URL and easily crawled by search engine
  • If you are developing your own custom templates/look & feel - it will be much easier
This does not mean that we are removing all the good features and functionality that GD 7 has, GD 8 still has them, but better! GeoDocs since version 7 has boasted robust feature such as:
  • Manage multiple website authors, provide workflow and security
  • Help you manage your graphical brand and optimize navigation and layout
  • Provide secure, granular access and information to defined users
  • Customizable content types that will suit your needs
  • Excellent and popular modules such as Form Builder & Calendar will continue to be supported and enhanced
GeoDocs is a product created and maintained by the Allen, Williams & Hughes Company, or AWH.

You can follow GeoDocs on twitter and on facebook.
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Monday, February 8, 2010

Best Bang for The Buck!

One of the restaurant that I probably most frequently visited in the last 2 years is Tai's Asian Bistro. It's a small place on Lane Ave, close to OSU West Campus (click here for map). How frequent did I go? At least once a week, more likely twice a week and sometimes more. I think remember that there were times when I actually went everyday of the week, excluding weekends.

So, why? Is is that good? Cheap? Economical? Fit my taste? What are the reasons that so compelling for me to keep coming back?

Well, the blog title pretty much sums them up, but here are the details about why Tai's Asian Bistro is the best bang for the buck for me (some may not apply for you):

  • The food themselves are excellent. If you are a fan of spicy food, you need to try their "Hot Pepper Chicken". This used to be Mark Pi's best, but somehow Tai's makes it better. Read for some of my recommendations.
  • It's relatively cheap (between $6 to $8)
  • The portion is HUGE, I meant heaping amount of food. For most people, this can mean lunch and dinner (for under $10).
  • The food is also of good quality. The breaded chicken is breaded and fried fresh daily - not from frozen, the ingredients are fresh, egg rolls are fried on demand, etc.
  • The place is clean, including the kitchen. You can see the kitchen right there and watch your food being cooked.
  • The service is excellent. Food being cooked super-fast and if you are dining in, it will delivered to your seat. All the servers are helpful and friendly.
  • For carry-out, they give you this plastic tub that is awesome and reusable. So instead of styrofoam that barely holds your food and melted easily, they use good quality container.
  • If you are a student, free pop! They also serve beer if you want.
  • Did I mention they are generous with their portion?
Tai's has a small selection in their menu, but for each one, they do it extremely well. I have pretty much tried every single item in their menu and in the order of how much I like them here are the top ten items to order at Tai's Asian Bistro:
  1. Hot Pepper Chicken (very spicy)
  2. Beef with Wild Mushroom
  3. Singaporean Rice Noodle (a bit spicy)
  4. Cantonese Chow Fun
  5. Dan Dan Noodle
  6. Pad Thai
  7. Tai's Asian Chicken
  8. Double Pan Friend Noodle
  9. General Tso's Chicken
  10. Rice Noodle Salad

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Implementing jQuery FullCalendar PlugIn with ASP.NET MVC

I have been using jQuery for most of my javascript work, so when I need to display a calendar related data in a "month view", I did a search for jQuery plug-ins that will work with my existing project (and extensible to be used for future projects as well). My current projects are built using ASP.NET MVC, so working with jQuery and its plug-ins just makes sense.

After a careful research, trial & error, I finally picked "FullCalendar" jQuery plug-in. You can download it here. It says in its website as:

"FullCalendar is a jQuery plugin that provides a full-sized, drag & drop calendar like the one below. It uses AJAX to fetch events on-the-fly for each month and is easily configured to use your own feed format (an extension is provided for Google Calendar). It is visually customizable and exposes hooks for user-triggered events (like clicking or dragging an event)"

So first thing first, let's just try to get the calendar to display. In one of my view, let's call it "MonthView.aspx", I have this javascript (jQuery):
 $(document).ready(function() {
Somewhere in the HTML:
 <div id='calendar'></div>
Set the controller code to display the view:
public ActionResult MonthView() {
   return View();
At this point, we should be able to display the empty calendar by going to http://<site>/<controller_name>/MonthView.

So now, we are going to modify this empty calendar to display the data from somewhere (db/xml/etc) via AJAX. For this, I created a class called "CalendarEvent" which structure is mimicking the JSON object model described in here; such as this:
 public class CalendarEvent {
   public string id { get; set; }
   public string title { get; set; }
   public string date { get; set; }
   public string start { get; set; }
   public string end { get; set; }
   public string url { get; set; }
Then in the controller code:
public JsonResult CalendarData() {
   DateTime start = new DateTime(1970, 1, 1);
   DateTime end = new DateTime(1970, 1, 1);

   start = start.AddSeconds(double.Parse(Request["start"]));
   end = end.AddSeconds(double.Parse(Request["end"]));

   // call middle tier/orm/whatever to get data from source
   List list = SearchForEvents(start, end);
   return Json(list);

private List SearchForEvents(DateTime start, DateTime end) {
   // code to get data here

Now, we need to modify the jQuery to call the action in our controller to return data:
$(document).ready(function() {
      events: '<%= Url.Action("CalendarData", "MyController") %>'

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