Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vegas Nights!

Part of our joint celebration of Christmas with our daughter was to go to dinner and a show in Las Vegas,  We decided to keep it simple and have both at one resort - the MGM Grand.  Dinner was at Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak.  The show was the Cirque du Soleil's 'Ka'. 

Dinner was first, kind of early at 17:30 but we are all early birds and staying out to midnight isn't our style any more.  Craftsteak doesn't look it but is a surprisingly large space.  We started with a drink at the bar - $40 (including tip) for two wines and a beer is pretty normal for the strip; not so much for the real world.  When we got seated, we were in a kind of a hurry so didn't order much - salad for me and the daughter, soup for my wife, a steak entre for each and a side of potatoes to share - not a lot I would have thought.  Add in an $85 bottle of quite nice California Cab and the bill was $350 before the tip. 

My wife and I have dined in a lot of expensive places; sometimes on our own dime, sometimes on our employer.  You get tired of the pretense that this steak is so much better than the other guy's.  I guess you would have to say that we are disgruntled foodies; or maybe never foodies at all.  Anyway, the food was good but jeez.  The salads were good, large but nothing special.  The lobster bisque was, as we heard on the web, excellent. My shortrib had fantastic flavor.  I'm only sorry I couldn't get the sauce out of the pan - they seem to think diners like kitchenware since they don't plate anything but serve everything in a pan..  Our daughter had an aged New York Strip steak; aside from being much larger than advertised I couldn't see it had a lot going for it.  My wife had the Wagyu beef flat iron steak; she loved it.  The fingerling potatoes were, well, potatoes.  Would I do it again, nope.  It just isn't worth all the hassle.

The show, Ka, was an athletic masterpiece.  The cast must number fifty, each one a aerial performer of significant talent.  The 'story' is of a young brother and sister who are on a journey.  It is interrupted by various trials and tribulations but they manage to fight though all that.  The 'star' would have to be the staging - the main stage is this huge space, perhaps 20 ft by 50 ft (7m x 17m) that is mounted so it can move forward and backward and can tilt up to almost 90 degrees.  There is lots of acrobatic climbing, running and jumping and a significant about of flying about on ropes.  We liked it but again, don't need to see it again!

So I guess that's the end of Christmas.  Maybe I don't have to do that again either.  We'll see.  Have a good one!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We made it; now for some fun!

We made it through Christmas so now for some fun:  New Year!  I have always liked celebrating the new year.  One reason is that we always make it very low key, just me and my wife celebrating alone at home.  We usually have a special dinner but nothing elaborate, maybe an especially nice steak or, back when I could eat shellfish, lobster.  We usually have a fairly nice bottle of champagne as well even if it doesn't go particularly well with our dinner.  After dinner we will talk about the year gone by and the year ahead.  It's time to talk in broad terms about trips we might make, changes to the house or yard, earthshaking stuff like that.

After the first of the year, I'll be looking at our investments.  Perhaps it is time to lose a couple that haven't done well or perhaps it's time to take a little profit.  I used to try to make those decisions before the end of the year but I found that the holiday made me hurry, and maybe make decisions that weren't the best. 

I was standing in a line next to a total stranger the other day.  He found the card he wanted on the first try.  We talked about maybe it was an omen for the new year.  It would be good if we could all have a better 2012 than 2011.  Here's hoping it turns out to be so.  Have a good one.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Almost ready....

Ready for Christmas, that is.  It's getting close.  We aren't doing a lot of gifting, it seems silly between adults.  But there are a few things under the tree.  What do you do?  After a child is over some certain age they are earning their own money, making their own decisions; what does a shirt from the folks really mean?  If they don't know they are loved, you've sure screwed up!  If they need the shirt, they've screwed up.  Or we can blame our current economic troubles but I do have some trouble with that excuse.  It's the answer to whats wrong with everything. 

I was watching Anthony Bourdain's new show, Layover.  He zooms into some city and eats and drinks too much for about 30 hours then zooms back home.  This particular show was about Singapore.  I've read things about the place for years but have never visited it.  From what was shown it must be an amazing place.  The architecture was fantastic.  The public transportation was unbelievable.  Everything seemed clean and new.  It seemed a true melting pot of a place with leftovers from colonial days, all the new building, and people from all over Southeast Asia, China and India, not to mention ex-pats from Europe and the English speaking countries.  It sounded like New York must have seemed years ago.  It made me wonder if the place of the U.S. in the world hierarchy isn't much lower than we think. 

There are, of course, downsides.  Though Bourdain claimed to have never seen a policeman, he spoke of the severe penalties for drug possession.  I'm sure firearms laws are even more strict.  They have no traffic problem because the license required to buy a car costs more than the car itself (per the show).  According to Wikipedia,  Freedom House calculates that the people are only 'partly free'.  And the jury system has  been abolished leaving a suspected criminal at the mercy of the judge.  The execution rate for criminals is said to be very high.  All in all, when I win the lottery I may visit Singapore but I'm thinking I won't move there.  I haven't broken a law other than speeding in about 30 years but their brand of justice is just a little scary.

Have a good holiday if that's your thing; and all you Druids, happy belated solstice! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Las Vegas Day

We left home about 10:00 and spent the rest of the day in Las Vegas.  My wife and daughter wanted to do some shopping so I was officially released from duty for a few hours.  I tried my best to get into trouble but you know how tough that is when you are trying!  LOL 

There is an outlet mall on the south end of the strip and I walked that thing from one end to the other.  Whew!  Didn't buy much but that wasn't the case for most folks.  Business seemed to be pretty good; certainly there was a crowd for a Tuesday afternoon.  This particular place has little stands lining the sides of the mall between the store window fronts.  The worker will have one to five different stands, each with it's own kind of trinket.  There is every kind of bead necklace or stone polished and made into whatever.  Tons of cheap games or covers for your cell phone or practically any glittery thing you can imagine.  It gives the place a kind of carnival atmosphere unlike your usual suburban mall.  Of course there is massage, either by a person or a machine, tooth whitening, oxygen therapy and I don't know what else.  Fun to look at but I'd be afraid, very afraid, to participate!

Later I drove over to the strip and walked around in the MGM Grand casino.  I walked steadily for 15 minutes from the place I parked the car to what I thought was the other end of the casino.  In between is the hotel lobby with it's Golden Lion surrounded by metalic Christmas trees.
Sorry about the quality of the photo.  Every tourist wanted his/her photo taken in this spot and I'd left the camera in the car anyway.  The trees were actually silver I think but the gold of the entire room took over. 

In the end we got home in time to go out to dinner at a local bbq place.  They make a nice rack of pork spareribs for $22; a nice relief from the prices of anything in Vegas!  They have a nice menu but my wife and I really can't get beyond the spareribs.  Well, we don't try that hard either.

Have a good one!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


The day started off a mite foggy.
The wind sock is about 200 feet away.  The house behind us is probably another 200 feet away.  The good news is that the fog burned off after a while and we had one of our usual sunny days.

The only thing I did of note yesterday was to buy a bunch of toys for the annual Marine Reserve Toys for Tots drive.  Jeez, toys are really expensive!  I only hit the toy aisle once a year so I kind of forget.  There are tons of $40 and up toys out there, all of which I ignored!  I can do an $8 soccer ball or a $10 doll but that's about my limit.  One thing I found was a bunch of books illustrated with Cars that were teaching math.  I bought several!  We have way too many people who think math is difficult so they try to ignore it.

Gotta go.  Have a good one.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Food Drive

Like most communities we had a food drive this weekend put on by our local radio station.  I heard them talking about it yesterday but promptly forgot it.  Today I had to take my library book back so I popped the radio on - then I heard that I had 16 minutes left before they were closing up!  Grrr!  You would have laughed to see me zooming around in the store trying to find stuff and get checked out in under 16 minutes!  One of the groups that have problems are some homeless vets who live out in the desert.  I figured I'd buy for them since we did a turkey and stuff like that on Thanksgiving.  I was absolutely amazed at the number of things that you can get that don't require a can opener!  Canned fruit, soup, stew, tuna - I don't think I bought anything that needed a can opener.  We don't usually buy these prepared items so it came as a major surprise to me. 

After all that excitement, I went looking for a billboard I thought I'd seen on one of our trips to Vegas.  It was closer to town than I expected and on the opposite side of the road from my memory of it but there it was.
Someone from the Philippines is going to open a mission out in the desert!  I'm just speechless but good luck to them. 

I talked about our little Christmas tree:  here it is.

It's only about 4 feet tall (1.3m) but works for us.  The ornaments are from all over - straw ones from the Netherlands, crystal from jewelry stores, home made ones the kids did 30 years ago.  The skirt was made by my wife's sister probably close to 30 years ago.  We have one box to hold the tree and one to hold the ornaments.  Just the right amount of stuff to store away.

Have a good one!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas cards

Tis the season for Christmas cards.  We do emails to most of our friends but some of the older folks aren't quite ready to give up on the cards so we do send and receive a certain number.  Unfortunately those same older folks are having health problems so the annual Christmas card is when we learn that this cousin has cancer, that one has Parkinson's, and so on.  Just to make it a truly jolly time of year, we got a call this morning informing us that another cousin passed away last night.  It all just really puts one in a crappy mood. 

We are trying to organize our holiday season; you wouldn't think it would be too tough since there are only two of us but, ha!  You'd be wrong!  We've got at least three trips into Vegas planned, probably within the next 8 days.  Good thing the RAV gets pretty good mileage.  Today is decorate the house day.  As atheist's we probably shouldn't but we like a party as much as anyone so we do our thing.  Our decorations reflect our lives - some that the kids made when they were small, some purchased locally, some from the Netherlands, some that are just old.  They range from paper to straw to wood to crystal.  You can't say we've got a dull tree.  I'll take a photo after it gets put together.

Here's hoping for a safe rest of year!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Couldn't help myself from taking a couple shots of the moon rising last night over the Spring Mountains to our east.  I just love the red color the mountains take on when the sun is setting.

Yeah, if you know me, you know I ran to get the camera when I saw this happening.  Anyone up for a contest to make this into an 'alien attacking' photo? 

Have a good one!

Friday, December 09, 2011

On your mark!

Get Set!  Go!
Yep!  It's started already.  Ron Paul supporters are out putting up the first sign.  Gotta give them credit for being the early birds. 

We went to a little craft sale thing in one of the casino parking lots this afternoon.  Got mugged by another bunch of Ron Paul supporters.  OMG, one guy told me how he joined the John Birch Society back in 1989.  He was also of the opinion that President Obama idolizes Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.  Another guy asked if I thought the President loves America.  When I said I am sure that he does, the guy zoomed off to bother someone else.  Jeez.  All the nuts aren't in the can!

Don't get me wrong, I'm severely disappointed in the job Mr. Obama as done.  I'm amazed at how little he has gotten done and how his relations with the Congress seem to be non-existent.  Of course the fact that the Congress is totally mired in party politics makes them all look like idiots.  (Ok, maybe the fact that they ARE mostly idiots might have something to do with it.)  I don't mind a lot of what Ron Paul has to say when he is being a libertarian but there are a few items that don't work for me.  For instance  (this is from a handout we got from his supporters),
1.  Phase out the IRS
2.  End income tax
3.  Stop foreign aid
4.  End the Federal Reserve system.
I guess I've got to pass on this guy.

Someone sends a message around every now and then asking for an amendment to the constitution saying something like:  Congress will pass no legislation pertaining to themselves that does not pertain to the entire population of the U.S.    The idea is that all the special benefits given to members of Congress should be abolished.  I'm good with that, I just wonder why all the new Tea Party candidates who were elected last year haven't proposed the legislation.  Or for that matter, why hasn't Ron Paul gotten it passed.  LOL  I'm shocked and amazed.

Well, it's going to be an interesting year.   Have a good one.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Nice and chilly out here today.  18F (7C) and the birdbath was totally frozen.  Brrr.  I know it's nothing where it really gets cold (I was born in Iowa and 18F ain't that bad there!)  but here it is about as cold as we get.  The birds may be chilly but they are still hungry!

 We keep trying to count the number of finches on the sock but they move so fast it's tough.  Then there are the guys waiting in line for a position to open up.  It's life in the REALLY fast lane for these little guys!

I watched a movie yesterday that was really interesting for me.  Let me put this is prospective:  I'm an older white guy.  I grew up in rural Iowa in the 1960's when segregation was still a fact of life in the South and there were absolutely NO 'persons of color' in my little town.  My folks brought me up to see people as people regardless of skin color.  However, it is true that I've had relatively little contact with people of other races.  I've worked with people of different races but I've never had a friend of another color.  Well, I'm kind of a loner so I do have lots of 'acquaintances' and very few people I call 'friend' but the fact remains.  Anyway, the movie was called "Something New".  It was made in 2006 and starred Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker.  The premise is that a rather upper class black woman meets a rather middle class white guy and after the usual difficulties they fall in love.  Ok, a typical romantic comedy.  What intrigued me was the discrimination that the woman's family felt about her marrying outside her race.  I've seen it discussed in other movies but this one seemed to do a really excellent job of portraying the situation.  Gotta say, I like it a lot.  I'd give it at least an 8 out of 10.

Have a good one!

Saturday, December 03, 2011


Two of our local casinos have huge flags flying.  On a day like today you can really enjoy it.

Just had to share the sight.  Take care.

Regular stuff

The weather is doing it's usual crazy stuff around here.  Thursday I reported on, Friday was calm as anything and today it's blowing like crazy again.  Oh well, it's not like I'm out trying to put up fence panels or something.  And the good news is that the mountain is looking like the photo on the blog again.  It's been pretty brown for the summer and now I have snowy peaks in front of me.  ('Snow Peaks' - sounds like it should be the title of a soft porn movie.)

This cool weather makes me want to make comfort food so yesterday I made choucroute garni - there are a million different takes but mine is sauerkraut with smoked pork chops, kielbasa, potatoes and seasonings.  Many versions require several different sausages but that's tough to find around here and we are happy enough with the kielbasa.  One of these days I'm going to go hit Whole Foods or somewhere and get the real thing.  Unfortunately then we'll have a version that will feed 4 people for three days and there are only two of us.  You cook it together for a couple of hours and you are good to go.  Some recipes are for the stovetop and some are for the oven; I go stovetop just because it is easier to check on.  Usually I use chicken broth and vermouth but didn't have the vermouth so I used pinot grigio (don't tell my wife I used her wine!). 

I was checking out this story on Yahoo about the saddest cities in the U.S.  Well, I should have guessed, number 1 is our very own Las Vegas!  They looked at things like unemployment, suicide, all the stastics you might expect.  It pretty much goes downhill from there for me because both Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida are on the list.  Before we moved here we lived kind of equidistant from each!  Maybe I owe Las Vegas an apology for bringing my own personal rain cloud?  Maybe I should go visit Afghanistan? 

Gotta go.  Have a good one!

Thursday, December 01, 2011


There is a weather front north of us bringing in rafts of clouds that look like giant gray mud flows.  The wind is 25 mph (40kph) with higher gusts.  NOT pleasant.  The good thing is that the desert north of us is relatively untraveled.  Closer to town where people use ATVs in the desert as a car, there is a lot of blowing dust.  Here we are just getting a share of it without the 'duststorm' aspect.

We've spent much of the morning watching the birds on the feeder.  It's on the south side of the house so the wind isn't too awful.  I'm not sure what caused it but we have just a pile of finches.  (If anyone would like to correct me on what a whole bunch of finches are called, I'd be more than appreciative.)  Feeding the birds has become quite a quest here.  I've no idea where it came from since neither of us has ever cared much about birds.  Five years ago I doubt if my wife could tell a robin from a wren and I wasn't much better!

Here's the lesser gold finches enjoying the thistle sock.

I said it was blowing - here's the wind sock that my wife bought for me - no slack today!
Have a good one!