Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blissful Mediocrity

Place: Golden Corral
Lunch: Lunch buffet, Pepsi

I love buffets. I'm not one of those people who pile up plates of food that look ridiculous...I make a few trips getting small samples of stuff. It's like every trip is a treasure hunt. Particularly in recent years when the quality of food offered at buffets has increased substantially, largely thanks to improvements by Golden Corral, forcing the competition to step up.

My goal for 2009 was to fly under the radar. To go through the year with nobody dying. No major moves. Just a year of normalcy. A year where all that was new is now routine. Blissfully uncomplicated. Yes. That's the ticket.

Somehow, it happened.

Here's a reflection of random moments that defined 2009...

Speaking of buffets...I'm driving down I-15 in Las Vegas this summer when I see a banner hanging off a downtown casino advertising "Las Vegas's only seafood buffet". But I don't go there...I go to the buffet at the Wynn. While waiting for the hostess to seat me, I listen to the phone conversation she's having with somebody. "No, we don't have a seafood buffet. We have stations with (this food, that food, this food...) So she seats me, my server gets my drink, and I head to the non-seafood buffet that includes: Chilled crab legs, chilled shrimp, smoked salmon, smoked trout, grilled salmon, grilled halibut, some sort of seafood stew, a salmon salad, some sort of fried fish, and about a half dozen other items from the sea. But since that encompassed maybe a fourth of the offerings, I guess they don't technically have a 'seafood buffet'. The Wynn buffet may be expensive, but it's worth every penny.

Space for my Ladder
- I bought it at Costco when I moved last year. It's one of those ladders that folds from a step ladder to large regular ladder with lots of options in between. It's big. It's heavy. And it's almost never needed anywhere but the third floor, and there was nowhere to store it on the third floor. Until the day I thought to see if it would fit under the bed. You know what? It does. Chester did not approve of this idea as it disturbed one of his hangouts.

Star Trek -
The big movie redux hit a home run. Multiple viewings at the multiplex.

Kentucky Grilled Chicken - I tried it. It was okay, I guess. Haven't had it since. Health factor is a moot point since I ate it at a KFC-Taco Bell alongside some nachos and a couple of tacos.

Odd Habits-
Ever hear of people dipping their fries in their milk shake? A co-worker said her daughter dips her fries in her Wendy's frosty. I'd never heard of such a thing. Naturally, and almost immediately, Wendy's put a commercial on the air validating this bizarre behavior.

Twitter - I'm hopelessly addicted. It's almost like having actual friends. I love my Tweeps.

Cancel My Service -
My DirecTV receiver lost signal. Checked DirecTV tech forums (on their own website) and discovered it's not only a known issue, but they issued a recall on my model receiver a YEAR ago. Thanks for telling ME! So I call to get a replacement. Long story short...I argue with various reps over nearly a week's time until I say those magic words..."cancel my service"...and finally they send me a scratched up used replacement that they can't activate on my account because it's active on somebody ELSE'S account. The rep's response to this? "It's an honest mistake, SIR." "Cancel my account, MISS." Retention fixes the problem immediately. Moral of this story..."Cancel My Service" are the only words that will ever get anything accomplished at DirecTV. Even if you're calling to change your billing address, say "Cancel my service" at the opening prompt or you will be put through hell. Oh...And the new receiver sucks.

You Light Up My Life - So I'm in Dillon's Marketplace in the furniture area when Debby Boone's one and only hit plays over the store's sound system. I haven't heard this song in decades. And the strangest thing happened...It completely grabbed me. I had to have it. I have no idea why. So I found it on an old out-of-print Billboard "Top Movie Hits" compilation. It ended up having an awesome collection of 70's movie themes on it, including that sort of disco-ish Close Encounters theme.

About a Dozen - Number of times co-worker Donette called me and said "Sorry, I didn't mean to call you" when I answered.

Sugar Sugar
- Pepsi rolled out "throwback" versions of their flagship soda and Mountain Dew. It was a limited time thing, but I bought a whole bunch of Pepsi. Even though I already have regular access to real sugar Pepsi in glass bottles at my local Mexican grocer. They did a lousy job of promoting it, though, and grocers typically put it anywhere in the store but the soda section, as if they were hiding it. Jerks. They brought it out again at Christmas in retro packaging that is much easier to distinguish and far more awesome looking. You should be able to find it for the next eight weeks or so. And if that isn't enough, I just heard that there's a limited-time real sugar Dr. Pepper under the guise of "Heritage Dr. Pepper" in stores now. From what I hear, it's probably made from cheaper sugar than the cane sugar that Dublin Dr. Pepper uses and doesn't quite taste the same, but is much better than the HFCS version. I've also heard that original Pibb fans think it tastes close to their long lost favorite. If Coke brought back a limited-edition retro real sugar Mr. Pibb, it might just cause a stampede. Specialty distributors are even making real sugar versions of Moxie, Nehi, and Faygo flavors, as well as Dad's root beer and cream soda, and even Bubble-Up, all in glass bottles. Real sugar sodas may be a specialty market, but it really seems to have come to the forefront this year.

Musical Artist Discovery of the Year - Greg Laswell. Who ISN'T new this year...just new to ME.

McDonald's Angus burger line - I'd rather not remember this, actually.

Bad Use of a Classic Rock Pun - I saw a billboard in Minnesota for a minivan that described it as an "Oreo Speedwagon".

Bad Marketing Evolution -
Remember when drink cup game pieces showed you if you were a winner instead of making you register a number at a website?

Bad Choice in Bumper Stickers -
"Bad boys drive bad toys"...on a beat up old Geo Metro.

Bad Lodging - LaQuinta: Spanish for "We still make carbons of your credit cards".

Bad Local Television - STILL no local HD newscasts.

New M&M's Flavor of the Year - "Strawberried Peanut Butter". They were good, actually.

Other New M&M's Flavor of the Year - Coconut. Really? Yes.

I'll have a 1/3 pound Mushroom-Swiss, side of Haystacks, and a Dr Pepper please - Our HuHot franchisee brought in a smashburger franchise that instantly caught on. I hadn't been terribly impressed with smashburger previously, but the local one is REALLY well run and for some reason makes burgers that are tastier than the other stores.

Another reason the government shouldn't have bailed out GM -
Chevrolet is bringing back the Caprice brand on a new sedan exclusively for police fleets. And they'll have an "undercover" version. Of a car EXCLUSIVELY SOLD TO POLICE.

But do they have fry sauce? - The Salt Lake City area with more burger chains than anywhere I know of...gets In-N-Out Burger, the chain with the best reputation. Not the best burgers, mind you, but don't tell Californians that. The only thing more amazing than the traffic the first two stores were doing when I was in town (two weeks after they opened) was the fact that none of the other burger joints around town seemed to be affected.

Frameless wiper blades - Have you seen these? They're awesome! At least the Bosch ICONs are...

WinCo Foods Enters the Salt Lake City market - This eliminates road trips to Pocatello for Tillamook and Santiam products. I mean, I like Pocatello just fine, but...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - I gave it three stars and watched it six times during its theatrical run. And even though I watched it six times, every time I watched it, I thought "I was right at three stars".

Keep Clam - The home version of Ivar's clam chowder was reformulated so that the non-dairy creamer is built in. Previously, you added milk or your own non-dairy creamer. The result was nothing like the restaurant chowder. The new result is VERY much like the restaurant chowder, one of my favorite tastes in the world.

Relocate Clam - Utah's last Skipper's...the one in Murray...closed. But the Orem store re-opened after a two-year hiatus. The Orem store is in better shape anyway.

"What other orchestra would have this in their catalog?" asked the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra conductor as he and Over the Rhine tore into the Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)". This July evening at Devou Park in Covington, Kentucky was the highlight of the summer. An amazing performance with some great surprises.

There you have it. How can 2010 possibly top this?

I have a few ideas, but I'm not telling...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Driving Driving Driving

Place: Pal's Sudden Service
Lunch: Pretty much everything on the menu and about four large Cokes

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas. I spent it on the road. I did the "stay home" thing last year, and it sucked. It really really sucked. The road wasn't much better, but at least I was busy. At the same time, I can't imagine being around people. It probably would have driven me nuts.

My original plans had been to be in Oklahoma for the next couple of days so I could swing down to Texas and re-stock my Wolf Chili and Dublin Dr Pepper supplies. Then later next week, I was going to swing down to Tennessee to finally cover Pal's for my fast food pages. I've been planning to come down here for years...down to having hotel reservations...but something always comes up to delay this.

So on Christmas Eve, I got home from work, made lunch, and fell asleep for a couple of hours on the way to being snowed in all weekend. Then I got up, re-checked the weather forecasts, and suddenly realized I could flip the trips around and escape the storm. So I flipped around the reservations and took off. The cats looked horribly disappointed. Don't worry, kitties. Misha's coming over to visit.

So today, I wandered the back roads and US highways of northeastern Tennessee and finally experienced the goofiness that is Pal's, which I will add to the fast food pages next week, along with Bojangles, who may very well make the best biscuits in the history of the world. It was a beautiful drive in perfect driving weather.

As for Pal's, I visited five different locations through the day and sampled pretty much everything on the post-breakfast menu. I don't think I actually ate a whole sandwich. But I did drink four Cokes. My stomach is a swimming pool right now.

Before running around eastern Tennessee all day, I also re-thunk my trip plans and decided I'd be much better off just running to Texas from here and making a big loop trip instead of going home and hitting the road again. So by the time I get home, I will have traveled about 2,900 miles. But I'll have a few days to unwind before going back to work. And maybe I'll decide to stay home for awhile.

The cats would appreciate that.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quick Jaunt

Place: McDonald's
Lunch: Big Mac, fries, Hi-C Orange

Sometimes you just gotta have a Big Mac. Even if it costs a buck forty more than it should.

Here's my weekend in a nutshell:

Friday 5pm - Leave work and drive to Peoria in snow and crap. Pick up dinner at Steak n Shake drive-thru along the way.

Saturday 8am
- Leave Peoria, Dunkin' Donuts white hot chocolate in hand.

Saturday 11am - Lunch at Schroeder's in Danville.

Saturday 4pm
- Arrive Cincinnati.

Saturday 5:30pm - Arrive at Arnold's Bar & Grill (the oldest bar in Cincinnati, apparently) for dinner with 40 fellow members of the message board of the band we are seeing tonight.

Saturday 7:20pm - Arnold's FINALLY serves dinner. I have lasagna. It's cold. Not lukewarm...not room temperature...COLD.

Saturday 8pm
- Arrive at Taft for Over the Rhine homecoming show. Buy beautiful poster done exclusively for this show.

Saturday 11pm
- Depart Taft. GPS gets confused and sends me on a wild goose chase trying to get back across the river. A trip that should take five minutes takes twenty. I can drive to downtown blindfolded, no problem, but can never get back out without some ridiculous winding route through timbuck two.

Saturday 11:20pm - SERIOUSLY need soda. Great big freaking huge AM/PM Mini Mart Pepsi acquired.

Sunday 9:45am
- Gas tank filled. Great big freaking huge AM/PM Mini Mart Pepsi (yes, a completely different one) acquired. Depart Cincinnati (well, Covington technically, but...)

Sunday 10:45am - Stop at Kroger in Batesville, IN for
groceries I can't get at home. Also picked up a bag of Cheetos "Giant White Cheddar Jingle Balls" for no other reason than the amusing suggestive branding.

Sunday 11:15am - Lunch at Skyline Chili in Batesville, IN. Also picked up two LaRosa's pizzas next door to take home and have cold through the week. The car smelled WONDERFUL the whole way home.

Sunday 3:30pm - Have argument with Frowning Counter Guy at Hardee's/Red Burrito in Morton, IL over whether or not "no tomato" means "no salsa" on my tacos.

Sunday 4pm - Weather goes completely to crap between Morton and Galesburg.

Sunday 8:30pm - Arrive home. Cats throw party and have a big fight.

Now I have to find a 19 x 25 frame for the poster. I wonder if World Market would have one.

They couldn't have just made the thing 18 x 24, could they. They had to go with some random odd size.

Downtown Cincinnati is absolutely beautiful at night during the Christmas season. And it's bustling with activity.

Seriously...It's December 21 already?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Images and Words

Place: Arctic Circle
Lunch: Double cheeseburger, fries well done (with fry sauce), Pepsi

For those interested, you can view my photos of the Utah Christmas light displays I went to this week via my Facebook albums here, here, here, and here. These are a tradition for me that I absolutely treasure. They're one of the primary reasons this is my favorite week of the year.

I love Utah. I love the people, I love the scenery, I love the burgers. I love Chuck-A-Rama's potato salad. I love...oh forget it. I have today and tomorrow left to embrace you like a warm hug, and I fully intend to do so with gusto.

Regarding Facebook...If you're somebody who has sent a friend request but I don't know you (I'm amazed that random strangers actually read this silliness), I probably ignored you unless you sent a note along explaining who you were and why you were friending me. So if you're still waiting...that's why.

I don't use Facebook much anyway. I'm a total Twitter addict though.

If you are a Facebook friend, my brother has been posting old family photos up over the past couple of days. You should be able to see them from my Facebook home page. Amuse yourself with images of the skinny blond kid I once was. Wonder aloud just 'what the heck happened'.

Well...I'm off to see a movie. Got a couple more to catch before leaving.

I'll miss Utah. But I miss my cats more right now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Personal Effects

Place: tesg's Townhouse of Solitude
Lunch: Marie Callendar's Pasta Al Dente Chicken Carbonara, garlic cheese toast, Dublin Dr Pepper (in a can)

Over the weekend, I went looking for something I was sure I had a spare of. This led to searching the usual areas and coming up with nothing.

This led to the computer room closet.

It's far more daunting than it sounds.

The computer room closet (aka the 2nd bedroom closet) is a vast wasteland of boxes and items that got moved from the old house, never to be seen again. Boxes of I'll get to sorting this and seeing why I bothered moving it at all later type stuff.

Three of these turned out to be boxes of personal effects Wife #1's company gave me after she passed away. I'd never opened was far too hectic between her passing and getting on with life, let alone a major move.

Three boxes. I guess you can accumulate a lot of stuff over a two-decade career at the same place.

So I finally went through them. It was sort of a revealing experience.

Some of the things I found...

-A mystery glass sealable food container that didn't match any of our sets.
-A box of Hamburger Helper single microwaveable packs of chicken Alfredo (unopened).
-A hand can opener that looked like it had never been used.
-A couple dozen photos of our cats (the current cats and the three previous).
-A framed picture of us at Cannon Beach.
-Several mini cat figurines.
-A Star Kist tuna fish, crackers, and mayonnaise lunch kit (unopened).
-A mini desk clock she'd asked me for for Christmas around ten years ago, looking as if it never left the box (it was indeed still in the box).
-A stuffed bear.
-A portable electric fan.
-Several company-branded items, trophies, and tokens.
-A random T-shirt I'd never seen before

But the one that really haunted me was the 2007 365-day cat calendar. One of those calendars where you pull off a page every day.

The day displayed, of course, was the last day she was in the office.


Time just stood still at that point, I guess.

Well, the closet has a few less boxes in it now, and my trash can is full.

I never did find that gadget I was looking for.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Place: Qdoba
Lunch: Chicken Mexican Gumbo, Dr Pepper

"Paraskevidekatriaphobia: The fear of Friday the 13th. I personally think that there are better phobias out there, but that's just me." - @stephaniemabey, Twitter

Probably true, and I hardly ever even think about it when it happens to be Friday the 13th. But MAN has this felt like a Friday the 13th.

I came to work to a nearly empty Inbox and a new toy...a headset-microphone to use with our phone system. We have a PC interface. Neato.

So I get through my work, trying to finish everything before a phone deposition at 10:30. This isn't easy as people keep contacting me with more stuff to do that's totally an emergency. Worlds may fall if I don't drop everything RIGHT NOW. Lots of that today.

Anyway, the attorneys for the deposition call me early because they're running ahead (which NEVER happens). So we start early, and I'm on my new headset. In the middle of questioning, they ask me something, I answer, and there's silence.

Then somebody says "Are you still there?"


They ask the question again.

The microphone apparently didn't work when I answered.

Then it did this again later in the morning during another call.

Then I went online and searched for this headset (something I didn't do ahead of was kind of an impulse purchase).

This is apparently a very common problem, and I should expect it to totally fail within the next week.


And I'm pretty sure I threw out the packaging. And it's garbage day.

Oh well.

So between general mayhem and non-functioning equipment, I'm thinking I should just go home and hide for the rest of the day.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Place: Taco Bueno
Lunch: Taco Deluxe (no tomato), Cheeseburger Taco, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Coke

The Cheeseburger Taco is a flour tortilla half-wrapped around a flame-grilled taco-shaped hamburger patty with cheese and special sauce. And tomato, but I always skip those. You can add lettuce and onion upon request. It's...kind of odd. Not bad. Certainly unique.

What's better is Bueno's new Deluxe Taco. It's the normal taco with a new sour cream salsa sauce. The sauce makes all the difference. Brilliant.

It should be a beautiful evening for trick-or-treaters in Wichita (aka "home away from home"...where I am today). Iowans, being the weird know-it-all's they are, hold "beggars night" on the 30th. NO idea why. I had zero trick-or-treaters. Possibly due to the weather. It was nasty out last night, and there didn't appear to be any groups out at all. But the KWCH Eyewitness News (in HD) weather guy is proclaiming a perfect evening for Wichita.

Why does Wichita have a news channel with an actual HD newscast while Des Moines stations can't be bothered? I know, I know...But spending that kind of money might affect the general sales manager's bonus!


WHO-TV occasionally jury rigs in a report shot in HD and even the occasional news promo, and they do have some HD graphic overlay capability they use for sports and weather alerts, but otherwise they and KCCI shoot in anamorphic SD to fill the screen. Or, as I like to call it, "Fake-D".

KWCH is so awesome that they end their weekend newscasts with a dog occupying the fourth news desk chair.

Millie the weather dog.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Full Circle

Place: Hardee's
Lunch: French Dip Thickburger, onion rings, orange Hi-C

Less than ten years ago, Sonic Drive-In debuted their first area location on this very lot. They had to staff people on the frontage to handle the traffic flow. Across the intersection to the northwest sat an abandoned Hardee's, one of ten (out of twelve) locations to have closed in the metro around that time.

Now Hardee's has demolished that very Sonic and built their first new store in the metro in nearly two decades. The lot that used to have the old Hardee's building, itself long since demolished, is now parking for Family Dollar. The new Hardee's is doing a solid amount of business.

We've come full-circle.

Sonic is still in the market, but with only half the stores they originally opened with, and a completely different franchisee.

I can't believe how fast Autumn is flying by. High school football is in the playoffs. Colorado and Utah have snow aplenty already. None here yet, but the holiday Utah trip is just around the corner.

And we'll have it by then too, I'm sure.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blake in the Box

Place: Jack in the Box
Lunch: Bonus Jack, two tacos, and a wild cherry Slurpee I got at 7-Eleven earlier

Made a Texas chili and general supply run today. It was a completely spur-of-the-moment idea. I was halfway there anyway. It hadn't even been considered before 7:30 this morning.

On the way back out of the state, I hit the drive-thru at the Jack in the Box in Sanger. The drive-thru guy gave an extended greeting that I think included the company brand, the city name, his name, and "how may I help you" type stuff. Or something.

I placed my order and waited in line to move around.

A tall lanky kid greeted me at the window. He took my money. I noticed he had a Jack in the Box antenna ball tattoo on his right arm. I assumed it was temporary. Turns out it wasn't.

He pointed out the tattoo. He pointed out all of his company pins on his tie. And along with my food, he handed me a sheet of paper with search terms that lead to stories about him. It also had his work schedule. Then he autographed my receipt. He said something about making people smile.


Meet Blake Cartwright, easily the most enthusiastic Jack in the Box employee I have ever encountered. He's worked for Jack in the Box for eight years here and at the Corinth location (he doesn't work at Corinth anymore because, when he started getting press, the Texas labor board jumped all over him for working too long a work week...or something...) He works two 16-hour shifts per week now...Mon & Sat 2pm-6am. How awesome would that be. Work a long day, sleep a day, work a long day, be off for four days...(No, I don't think this is his only job, but don't tell the labor punks that.)

He never misses work. He has regulars who will call or text in orders if they're in a hurry, and he'll have them ready when they arrive. They can go straight to the window.

He is an unheard-of example of low-wage dedication.

If you're wondering, the "Bonus Jack" is a limited-time only sandwich that apparently used to be on the menu long ago. It's the Jack in the Box take on the Big Boy...a lovely double-decker with a thousand-island like dressing, lettuce, onions, and pickles (yes, actual pickles...not diced pickle mixed in the sauce.)

As double-deckers go, it's a pretty good one.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

You Wanted the Best...You Got...Something Else

Place: smashburger
Lunch: 1/3 lb All-American with egg (no cheese), haystack onions, Dr Pepper

Skinny blonde girl in front of me orders her burger. Counter girl asks "1/3 pound or 1/2 pound?"

"Whichever's smaller," she says.

Boss #25 and I were in here last week. One of the managers walked by and said "Hey! Our regulars!" I guess she was surprised to see her 'regulars' knew each other.

JEEPERS it's windy today.

Kiss released a new album today, which I snagged on the way to work because I've been a Kiss fan since the 6th grade and it's just one of those things one has to do. Kiss is only one of two bands from my teen years I still keep up with, Rush being the other.

Circumstances beyond my control kept me from seeing Kiss live until the Hot in the Shade tour, even though I'd been a fan since Love Gun came out. But I've seen them live twelve times since, so I guess I've caught up.

Kiss's last effort was an album they pretended was made by the original lineup and was largely forgettable. The hype on Kiss's website for the new album ("Sonic Boom", if you were wondering...yes, I also think it's a dumb title) includes reviews from around the industry that have gone as far as to claim this is their best effort since "Rock and Roll Over", a ridiculous statement considering "Rock and Roll Over" isn't exactly one of their best efforts. They've put out several albums better than "Rock and Roll Over" since it came out. I'm assuming the "Rock and Roll Over" comparison keeps happening because the same guy who did the cover art for that album did the cover art for this album.

I'd peg this one as their best album since "Revenge", but keep in mind they've only released two studio albums in between, and one of those was a throwaway project aborted when the original band reunion came together. And just because I say it's their best since "Revenge" doesn't mean it even remotely compares to "Revenge", which was their best album since "Love Gun".

One reviewer said the new album had a "70's feel with 80's sensibility". Pretty accurate statement. Basically, it feels like "Crazy Nights" but with heavier guitars and a more raw feel. And no synthesizers. And no ballads. I suspect they were trying to capture their 'live' feel.

There are riffs that sound strangely familiar (bringing to mind Phil Collins, Head East, even the Rock n Roll Over album, among others)
. As for the songs...Compare "Never Enough" to Patty Smyth's. She may have a lawsuit here. (Smyth's, for the record, is better.) There are three solid tracks ("Modern Day Delilah", "Danger Us", and "Say Yeah") and one decent effort that Tommy Thayer sings, but that one doesn't actually sound like a Kiss song. The rest is the filler some claim doesn't exist.

The CD is being sold exclusively at Walmart for $12 in a package that includes a bonus "greatest hits" CD of several classics re-recorded by the current band (why do bands re-record their classics? That drives me nuts), and a concert DVD from their South American tour. This has become a popular way for old bands to release new material. Journey recently did exactly such a package at Walmart. I would say the overall package as $12 is a good value. Not so much for the M&M's, though.

"M&M's?" you ask...

Walmart is devoting their entire "Music Spotlight" section to band merchandise, including Halloween masks, catalog DVD's, and Kiss M&M's...Collector packages of plain M&M's in Kiss colors with Kiss faces stamped on them. A 7oz package will set you back $6.00. SIX BUCKS for less than half a pound of M&M's.

Anyway, this should tide me over until the latest Tragically Hip CD shows up in the mail, which some are calling "their best since Trouble at the Henhouse", and others...mostly Hip fans who hated Henhouse...are calling "horrible".

I loved Henhouse and don't like their other stuff. So this should be awesome.

I should be dead tired right now. I was wide awake for no reason until at least 2am.

But I'm not.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Place: Chick Fil-A
Lunch: Chicken sandwich, chicken noodle soup, lemonade

So the Iowa Hawkeyes, who defeated number 5 Penn State last week in a stunning example of watching a team collapse, are looking to continue their perfect season at home against the impassable football titans known as the 1 and 2 Arkansas State of the Sun Belt league.

The game starts well for Iowa, with two touchdowns on their first two drives. Then they start thinking about caramel apple milkshakes and give up. Not enough to get behind, but it was a three-point final. Enough to shut up the fan base I'm sure, who are dreaming of a Rose Bowl bid. HA HA HA HA HA HA! Right. See you at the Outback Bowl. Again.

The play that will probably get the most press came in the fourth quarter. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw a picture-perfect pass to Demario Davis, who ran 75 yards for the touchdown. Trouble is...Davis plays for Arkansas State. Oops.

As Davis enters the end zone, this poor kid who will probably never be on this big a stage again does a mid-air somersault for the score in celebration. Flags fly everywhere. "UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT! EXCESSIVE CELEBRATION! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL!"

He goes back to the bench. His coach is SCREAMING at him. The announcers are basically calling him an idiot. A group of Wiccans surround him and chant out a myriad of curses while pelting him with burning insence. His mother grounds him for the rest of the weekend.

How DARE he be excited!

Doesn't he realize football isn't something to be celebrated? That fun is simply not allowed? This is a for-profit business for crying out loud! How DARE he have fun! How dare ANYBODY have fun!

The whole 'excessive celebration' thing just drives me nuts. I'm waiting for the day they no longer allow fans to cheer or boo.

I'm just waiting for the day some college or professional athelete shows up at the press conference after the game and explains what the team has to do to be successful by saying something like "We need to continue to improve and win games so that our fan base will have incentive to spend ridiculous amounts of money on our tickets, re-mortage their homes to pay for a parking space, buy our $10 corn dogs, $50 T-shirts, $100 jerseys, and support our television sponsors. We must maximize our profit potential and overall return to our investors."

Said athelete would probably then be fined for saying that.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Place: Long John Silver's
Lunch: 3 chicken, 1, wait...3 fish, 1 chicken, Dr Pepper

I order my chicken and fish ala carte so I don't have to have a plate full of crappy cole slaw, hush puppies, and fries. And I usually order 2 chicken and 1 fish or 3 chicken and 1 fish, depending on how hungry I am or my mood. Do you ever eat just because you're in a bad mood and not because you're hungry? Yeah. Me too.

Anyway, the food comes, I go to my table, and realize I have three pieces of fish and one piece of chicken, which I would NEVER order. Long John Silvers has some of the worst fish in the restaurant industry. And if it isn't just out of the oil, it's untolerable. I go to the counter, think to check my receipt to see what I paid for, when the counter girl coldly says "What."

"Well, I thought I ordered three chicken and one fish, but the receipt shows I paid for three fish and one chicken, so never mind, I guess."

She walks back to the kitchen without another word.

This is a textbook example of customer service in Iowa.

At least the fish was hot out of the fryer.

And why does my Dr Pepper taste like bubble gum?

The new TV season is here! And I still have absolutely no reason to watch NBC or ABC! Yay!

Actually, I probably would have watched "Pushing Daisies" had I known about it when it was on. I sort of stumbled upon a rerun, one of the last to air. Oh well.

And I did watch one episode of Leno. Yawn. I have been watching Conan fairly regularly. But the late night talk show I really like is Craig Ferguson. That guy is brilliant.

CBS is rolling out their new fall programming this week. CSI: Miami was just short of a throwaway retro show. NCIS was awesome. NCIS: Los Angeles was absoutely horrible.

The new NCIS spinoff was teased to us towards the end of the previous NCIS season. The team was headed by Clara Macy (Louise Lombard, who used to play Sofia on CSI) and had this dark office in an unmarked, apparently abandoned building. Looked pretty good.
She was replaced by 175 year-old Linda Hunt. WHAT?!?

The new show has an absurd office that is decorated like a Mexican restaurant. LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell are in this. It isn't helping. I shut it off ten minutes in. So Tuesdays this fall will be the original NCIS, then whatever hockey game I feel like watching.

Thursday is a full-night lineup for me. Fox rolled out Bones last week, which I got into over the summer. Cyndi Lauper was awesome in the season premiere. She should act more. Original CSI and The Mentalist roll out tomorrow night. Apparently Jorja Fox is coming back to CSI, at least for a little while. They're dropping the Riley Adams character.

They should do a CSI in a Canadian city, like Vancouver or Toronto. They could sell it to a Canadian network and syndicate it in the US.

Smallville is on Friday now, I guess. Smallville has become a show that does two or three really good episodes a year, then falls flat on its face the rest of the time. Yet I keep watching the damn thing. Also on Friday is Dollhouse.
Somebody had written a review on the Blu-ray release of Dollhouse's first season and noted that it was a Joss Weadon series. That's all I needed to know to catch up on it. Freaking awesome. New shows start Friday. I still wish he'd find backing to get another Firefly movie made, though.

Tonight we have the season premieres of Criminal Minds and CSI: NY. CSI:NY is my favorite of the CSI shows. There's nothing on at 7. I should go out for a really nice dinner or something beforehand.

I can't believe I ate all this fish. I think I'll stop by QuikTrip on the way back to work and pick up a proper Dr Pepper.

And some Boston Baked Beans.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Place: smashburger
Lunch: Mushroom Swiss, haystack onion rings, Dr Pepper

Our local smashburger (it's an all lower-case logo) opened today. I don't know what these guys are doing differently than the Wichita store is, but the end result is WAY better here.

Last night's DirecTV program guide, a vast display of reruns and nothingness, indicated preseason NHL hockey was live on the NHL Network. So I checked it out.

There on Channel 215 was the wrong game. It was repeat of a VS (you know, Versus, the sports network) broadcast from last year's playoffs. So for some reason, I wondered if the advertised game might be on the actual VS channel.

Say...Where IS VS?

In place of where DirecTV puts VS is a message from DirecTV that says "Comcast, which owns Versus, has forced us to take down the channel because we will not submit to their unfair and outrageous demands". They give a link to DirecTV's website, where you will find a message that reads:

Unfortunately, Versus is no longer available on DIRECTV. Comcast, the largest cable company in the U.S. and our largest competitor, owns the channel and has forced us to pull it down. Here is the situation.

DIRECTV was already paying Comcast more than any other TV service provider to air Versus — and now Comcast is demanding an overall rate hike of 20% on top of that. Comcast also forces DIRECTV to make Versus available to a much larger portion of our customer base at our own expense than they require from other TV providers — most notably, DISH Network. We simply cannot accept these unfair and outrageous terms. All we're asking from Comcast is equal treatment.

Comcast and Versus are currently engaged in a noisy publicity campaign to distract attention from the fact that they are trying to take advantage of DIRECTV and our customers. The bottom line is this, if we were to accept their unreasonable demands, we would have no choice but to pass on the increase in cost to our valued customers. We do not want this to happen, especially in these difficult economic times. That's why we're standing firm in our negotiations with Comcast.

Regardless, we will continue to work in good faith with Comcast to try to reach a fair and just settlement. Our commitment to deliver the best TV service for the best price is and has always been our first priority. We truly appreciate your patience and understanding during this time.

DIRECTV still leads the industry in sports programming, whether or not we have Versus in our channel lineup. For college football, NHL hockey and other sports, here's just a brief list of what's available on DIRECTV:
  • College football: Available on Big Ten Network, CBS College Sports, ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN GamePlan, The Mtn., local channels and your RSN.
  • NHL: Available on NHL Network, NHL Center Ice, and your RSN.
  • Mixed Martial Arts: Available on HDNet, Spike TV, and UFC on DIRECTV Pay Per View.
  • Auto Racing: Available on IRL on ABC, Formula 1 on Fox and Speed.
  • Bull riding: Available on ESPN2 and the Houston Rodeo on DIRECTV Pay Per View
  • Hunting and fishing: Available on ESPN2, The Sportsman Channel, The Outdoor Channel, and Pursuit TV.
Versus, of course, has a rebuttal on their website:

If you are a DirecTV customer, you are most likely aware that VERSUS’ contract with the satellite provider expired on August 31. Throughout our discussions, VERSUS made fair and reasonable offers to DirecTV – simply asking them to carry the network at a comparable level of distribution as they had for several years, at the same market price that other operators are currently paying. Yet, despite our good-faith negotiations, DirecTV chose to remove VERSUS from its programming lineup and deny millions of passionate sports fans access to our comprehensive coverage of the sports they love.

DirecTV has also been trying to cloud the real issue in its comments to the press about this situation. What DirecTV has conveniently neglected to mention is that they demanded a deal that would place VERSUS on a tier, removing the channel from more than six million subscribers who were getting it at no additional cost. DirecTV would then force those subscribers to pay an additional fee to get access to VERSUS. We hope to resolve this soon, but DirecTV’s current offer of taking VERSUS away from sports fans only to charge them more is simply unacceptable and we refuse to submit to such an unreasonable demand.

DirecTV has openly insulted our passionate sports fans and viewers by calling VERSUS “an infomercial network.” It is absolutely shocking that the self-proclaimed “leader in sports” would call the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Lance Armstrong’s remarkable comeback in this year’s Tour de France, top-ranked college football, IndyCar Series racing, World Extreme Cagefighting and PBR events “paid programming.” Furthermore, they have belittled hunters and anglers, our vast and loyal field sports fans, by dismissing your programming entirely.

We started hearing from a large number of sports fans the second VERSUS was taken off the air, demanding that DirecTV return the network to its lineup. This overwhelming support that VERSUS continues to receive from our passionate fans is why VERSUS is one of the fastest growing sports cable networks in the country.

Thankfully, you do have options and can sign up for another video provider, one that cares about sports fans. We want to make sure you don’t miss out on any of our upcoming programming, including college football featuring nationally ranked teams such as Texas, BYU, TCU and Kansas just to name a few plus the start of the NHL season, the conclusion of the IndyCar Series season, several live WEC and PBR events and much, much more.

We thank you for your tremendous support over the past few days and want nothing more than to resolve this issue quickly and amicably.


Jamie Davis
President of VERSUS

The best part of Davis's message was that on the sidebar of the very page his letter was on was a DirecTV banner ad. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

The Los Angeles Times reported "people familiar with the situation" were claiming the increase would be $.21 to $.26 per month. So it would appear DTV is paying a buck, buck ten per subscriber currently. The same article claims that ESPN is currently getting "almost $4 per subscriber".

I hope that $4 is for ALL the ESPN channels combined.

It's no wonder my TV bill...with no premium $72 a month, easily double what it was when DirecTV launched. That doesn't even include NHL Center Ice. Even at that rate, one has to wonder how cable and satellite companies, bringing 100-200 channels into your home, are able to make any money at all.

Ah, the good old days when the cable industry was a shameless monopoly with a 35-channel capacity who could dictate and crush any aspect of the industry on a whim. I worked in cable back then. Pure evil. Fun times. I used to say that TCI was the greatest company in the world to work for...and the worst company in the world to not work for.

Cable and satellite are less central to many of our lives anymore anyway. We have the Internet to entertain us. We can download programs to our portable media devices. We're getting out more. We're spending all day texting. Are you really watching all those channels? Or are they merely background fodder?

My bedroom television is strictly pulling TV over the air. With an indoor loop/rabbit ears unit, I get 16 free digital and HD over-the-air channels with perfect images. There's the major networks, plus sub-channels they run that carry continuous weather programming, old movies, old TV reruns, religious channels, a Spanish channel...I even pick up an old low power snowy analog home shopping channel, making my lineup 17 channels. I can remember when cable didn't have much more than that. And digital over-the-air TV has program titles and program guides now, just like the pay providers.

Between OTA, the DVD player, and video games, pay TV is completely expendable if I'm willing to sacrifice hockey. If I find the need to cut back, that might be the thing that goes.

If VS ceased to exist tomorrow, I'd hardly notice. They do two hockey games a week. Big deal. I have access to far more. And it's a well-known fact that ESPN wants hockey back, so even if VS and DirecTV never come to an accord, I don't think it'll matter in a year or two. As far as their other programming goes, I don't care about the Tour de France, Indy racing, cage fighting, or rodeos. In fact, well over 3/4 of DirecTV's channel lineup could bite the dust tomorrow and most of us wouldn't even blink.

I think the pay TV industry as a whole...from the networks to the providers...needs to take a step back and reconsider how much they're demanding from consumers. It's easier than ever to say "enough is enough". And don't let that pesky neighborhood association bully you into not putting up an aerial if you really need it. The FCC has regulations in place to protect you from such nonsense.

Don't even get me started on today's neighborhood associations and their draconian garbage. THERE'S a group that needs to be seriously reigned in.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Durr Fooball

Place: Incredible Pizza
Lunch: Lunch buffet (some tacos, some pizza, some bbq...) Dr Pepper

(Yes, the goofy title spelling was intentional. I thought it looked fun.)

Ever notice how excited everybody gets about the start of football season? It's a bigger event than any other professional sport. And there's a very good reason for it...Football is the only professional sport that doesn't overstay its welcome. Everybody else has too long a season.

Hockey should be done in March. Basketball in mid-April. Baseball in early September. When I see baseball highlights after football starts, I think "Who cares". (Okay...I think "Who cares" anytime I see baseball, but still...)

For Week 1 of the NFL season, DirecTV did a "Sunday Ticket" free preview. And I learned a valuable lesson from this...Viewing multiple football games is sensory overload. In a bad way.

It's crazy. I'm flipping through like four games and not really getting the gist of any of them.

So don't expect me to fork over the $300 a year for Sunday Ticket. I need to just settle down and watch one game.

I was watching when Cincinnati's non-existent offense marched down the field as Denver played dead and let them score a touchdown. And I was watching when Denver, out of their own clumsiness, inexplicably scored a touchdown of their own, and won the game. Until the end of the game, the scoring was two long field goals. I fully expected a 0-0 tie at the start.

Now don't get me wrong...there's nothing more fun than listening to WLW the day after the Bengals lose, but there's NO way Denver should have won that game. And Denver's my team!

And HOLY COW...What was up with the idiot on the Bills trying to return that kick last night? Was there ANY point in even trying? If that guy isn't unemployed by the end of the day, Buffalo deserves to lose every game this year. The guy may as well have been intentionally throwing that game.

In fact, why is it that so many games will be all but decided in the first half, then the team leading the whole game will roll over and play dead in the last five minutes, allowing for a dramatic finish? How many times do we see this? It happens ALL the time. It drives me NUTS.

Then there was the season kickoff Thursday night, where a half-hour pre-show that had absolutely nothing to do with football aired. The Black-Eyed Peas played a couple of songs. I've heard of the Black-Eyed Peas, but have heard very little of their actual music. I've never quite understood what the deal is. But I get it now...It's a boy band with a girl. And what was the deal with that ridiculous robot song?

Then there was Tim McGraw, who proved that modern "country" music influences begin and end with Lynyrd Skynyrd anymore. And country fashion influences begin and end with the Village People.

Letterman had George Jones on the other night. When he introduced him, he referred to him as the real deal. Real country music. So it was with some mild amusement that I noticed this real country musician had a drummer playing an electronic drum kit. Built by Roland, no less.

I guess I must have known they exist. Neil Peart has had an electronic kit stuck on the back of his regular drum kit (he can just spin on his throne from one kit to the other) for years. But I thought they were just effects toys, not for full-time drumming.

Maybe I should go to the music store and mess around with one. I used to play the drums. If you can plug in a headset and have no noise for the neighbors to complain about, maybe it might be worth having.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fall Preview

Place: Taco Bueno
Lunch: Mucho Nachos (no tomato), combination burrito, Dr Pepper

Mucho Nachos is a meal unto itself. Not sure why I bothered with the burrito.

We're getting a sneak preview of Fall this coming week. Clear weather, low humidity, low temps. Highs in the mid-60's to low-70's through the week. Lows in the mid-40's to mid-50's. When I get home, I'm opening the windows. The cats will be thrilled.

The signs don't just start with the weather. Football is starting. The local high schools started up regular season this weekend. Colleges next week. NFL the week after. NFL pre-season is all over the dial.

Then there's Garden Ridge, who is starting to put up Christmas stuff.

For the uninitiated, Garden Ridge is like a Pier 1 on steroids. The stores are roughly the size of a Target (in fact, the one I was in this morning IS an old Target building, and Garden Ridge takes up the whole space). They are the ultimate stop for wall art and picture frames. Plus they have vases, candle stuff, some furniture (interior AND patio), mirrors, throw pillows, throw rugs, fake plants, flower pots, discount books and CD's, storage and laundry totes, and an impulse buy area you have to navigate to the check stands that rivals Fry's Electronics. Lots of chips, candy, and "As Seen On TV" crap. I think I counted three knock-off variations of Sham-Wows alone.

"But what about garden stuff?" you ask. No, none to speak of, really. I have no idea why it's called "Garden Ridge".

The whole place is in sort of a thrown together warehouse style. It isn't unusual for whole aisles to be empty of any product as they get ready for changing seasons. There's maybe five employees in the whole place at any one given time.

Stuff comes, stuff goes, and you really can't resist browsing the whole store every time to make sure you don't miss something. I take about an hour to get in and out of the place.

Everything's really cheap too.

Anyway, they have Christmas trees in already. Green ones, white ones, black ones, silver ones, purple ones, orange ones, red ones, pink ones. Not the lights...the actual trees. In blazing color.

I got a couple of clear orange pumpkin candle holders and some frames. And some strawberry Piroulines. Stupid impulse buy aisle.

Tonight, I'll put out the fall accessories and candle stuff. And light up the candles, which I get at Pier 1. You have NO idea how expensive Yankee Candle has gotten until you comparison shop at Pier 1. NO idea.

I love Fall.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pasta Al Decent

Place: tesg's Townhouse of Solitude
Lunch: Marie Callenders "Pasta Al Dente" Cavatelli Chicken Carbonara, Dad's root beer (in a glass bottle with real sugar the way God intended), Brown Cow "Cream Top" strawberry yogurt

Have you seen these Marie Callenders "Pasta Al Dente" thingies?

It's a microwave meal that comes packaged in a plastic bowl with a floating basket. The sauce is in the bowl and everything else sits above it and gets steam-cooked from the heat below.

Then you just dump everything in the basket into the bowl and mix it together.

No microwave burn. No crunchy meats or pasta. No punching holes in plastic. No cooking part way and stirring. Put it in, set the time, press "Start", it's done, toss, eat.

Somebody at ConAgra should be proclaimed an international hero.

These are being used in two ConAgra brands...Marie Callenders "Pasta Al Dente" line, and Healthy Choice "Cafe Steamers".

I'm totally into this.

My favorite is Rigatoni Marinara Classico, but there's about five different varietes that I like. They're REALLY good.

Website here. They're under $3.00 at Walmart and Target.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

John Hughes

Place: Texas Roadhouse, Dinner: 10oz Ft. Worth Ribeye, chili, rice, Rattlesnake Bites, bread, Coke

Every once in awhile you get the right server and the right guy making the steaks and everything is just perfect here. This is one of those nights. Nice.

John Hughes died today, and I felt like waxing philosophical, so it's a rare dinnertime post.

His signature accomplishment will always be "The Breakfast Club". He wrote it. He directed it. He was also responsible for the only other movie you'll remember Molly Ringwald for..."Sixteen Candles".

He was a writer for a couple dozen other things you'd recognize...the "Vacation" movies, the "Home Alone" movies, the "Beethoven" movies, "Pretty in Pink", "Weird Science", "Planes, Trains & Automobiles", amongst others.

So I was a bit surprised to discover I don't own a single one of his movies. In fact, I haven't seen a single thing he's been involved in the past twenty years. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's been at least that long since I've sat down to watch ANY of his movies.

I saw "The Breakfast Club" on TV after it had left its mark on teens and just-past-teens everywhere. I recognize the greatness of it. In its own little way, it was a masterpiece. Still...watched it once, that was enough. I remember when St Elmo's Fire came out, people who knew I'd seen it would ask me "Is it like "The Breakfast Club?" Not because of John Hughes, who had nothing to do with it (it was a Joel Schumacher turd)...but because some of the "Breakfast Club" stars were in it. I couldn't reply, because I hadn't seen "The Breakfast Club" by then.

I saw "Some Kind of Wonderful" largely because of Mary Stuart Masterson. Masterson and her character "Watts" reminded me of Ginger, a girl who was my best friend for about five minutes of my childhood before she got better sense and walked away. People do that with me. A lot. This is why I will never let my cats outside. "Help us! We need a better human!"

I saw "Pretty in Pink". Can't remember a second of it.

If you were to peg me down to a John Hughes favorite, it would have to be "Sixteen Candles". I may have even had a VHS copy of that one for awhile. Upon reflection, Sixteen Candles was more like a light Kevin Smith movie. Maybe I'm just remembering it wrong.

Hughes used to talk about a sequel to "The Breakfast Club" if he could 'just find an excuse to bring that group of people into the same room again'. I thought the 20th high school reunion would be a fascinating study to see how those characters turned out.

I wonder if they'll all be at the funeral.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wash Me

Place: Taco Time
Lunch: 2 crispy beef tacos (no tomato), crispy chicken burrito, Coke

Ever have one of those things you need to do but just never get around to?

For, like, a week?

Mine was washing the car. I meant to do it before heading on vacation last week...actually the week before last as of now.

July 16, 2009 - Go to ShortStop to fill up and run through Soaks the Car Wash. Totally forget about Soaks the Car Wash.

July 18, 2009 - Filling up at Maverik in Evanston, WY. Spy the self-car wash next door. Plan to use said self-car wash. Finish filling up, run into store to purchase large soda, run out, leave without washing the car.

July 19, 2009 - Car is rained on. It's a very dirty rain. Poor thing is filthy. Pass dozens of car washes without even thinking about it.

July 21,2009 - Drive to Vegas and back. Look for car washes along the way. Never actually see any.

July 22, 2009 - Notice car is started to be covered in bird poop at Farr West 7-Eleven. Decide to swing by Chevron self-car wash up the highway. Drive by it five minutes later having completely forgotten why.

July 23-24, 2009 - Wake up determined to wash car. Forget the minute I walk out the door.

July 25, 2009 - Drive through heavy downpours in Colorado. Clean rain. Bird poop washes away. Most of the dirt too. Still needs washed though.

July 26, 2009 - I'm so tired and in a bad mood from driving through Nebraska that I just don't care anymore.

July 27, 2009 - Eleven days and seven states later, I finally wash the car.

Now if I could just remember to vacuum it...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Place: Wienerschnitzel
Lunch: 100% Angus chili dog, Sea dog, Pepsi

Yes, Wienerschnitzel has a fish dog now. The picture you're drawing in your head is truly frightening.'s just a long strip of battered deep fried cod served in a hot dog bun with lettuce and tartar sauce. It's quite "der"licious, just as the advertising says.

Wienerschnitzel has jumped on the "Angus" beef bandwagon. Why not...almost all of the hamburger chains have.
The new dogs replaced the "100% beef" dogs option that used to be there. They're a buck premium over the regular dogs, and they're much larger than the all-beef dogs they replaced. They're easily the best dogs Wienerschnitzel has ever offered. Well worth the upgrade.

Then there's Eisenberg hot dogs, which I saw at a theatre concession stand are advertising that they're "Angus" AND "Sirloin".

It's gotten completely ridiculous.

So what's the deal here?

"Angus" refers to a breed of hornless cattle that the American Angus Association promotes as having beef of a higher quality. To be certifed as "certified Angus beef", the beef itself has to meet certain criteria. As far as I can tell, there's nothing special about raising or processing practices of said cattle, unlike organic beef. It's just supposedly better beef.

Some regional chains have been using it for years. Back Yard Burgers and Arctic Circle...who use it in everything, even the cheap small hamburgers...are such examples.

A few years ago when Burger King and McDonald's were beating each other up in a dollar menu war, Hardee's abandoned their entire after-breakfast menu in favor of an Angus beef line of burgers called "Thickburgers".
It may well have saved the Hardee's brand from extinction. Sister chain Carl's Jr went to Angus beef in their "Six Dollar" line.

Success breeds contempt. Burger King rolled out their own Angus offerings (which they've apparently discontinued in favor of their "steakhouse" line), and now McDonald's even has a line. "Angus" has become the darling catch phrase of modern fast food.

It's not just Hardee's/Carl's Jr though. A whole bunch of former regional chains are making national strides by expanding into strip mall space. If you don't have a Fatburger, Five Guys, or Smashburger near you, look for one soon. The traditional players are trying to keep up with the Jonses, as it were.

I can't decipher any difference in taste of the pure patties, and I find nothing out there suggesting Angus or Sirloin patties are any more healthy than anything else out there. Flavor tends to come down to seasoning and cooking practices (ie. 'fried' vs 'charbroiled'). It's ground beef, for crying out loud. Sure it's dressed up...often in better buns with red onions and maybe premium pickles over the regular offerings, but it's really just flashy marketing to identify an alleged 'premium' product.

Then there's Jack in the Box, who are marketing "Sirloin" burgers. Jack in the Box made fun of "Angus" burgers in a couple of commercials that sort of implied "Angus" had something in common with "Anus". Carl's Jr even tried to sue them over it, which just made it funnier.

It all still comes down to taste for me. The Hardee's/Carl's Jr products are pretty good. The McDonald's "Angus" burgers are absolutely dreadful...WAY too heavily seasoned.

I'll take an "Original Freddy" at Freddy's Frozen Custard over all of them any day of the week. And I don't recall seeing anything "Angus" anywhere on the menu board.

As for the hot dogs, Eisenberg claims their product is made with "100% Black Angus sirloin steak and beef cuts" with a "unique recipe of Worcestershire steak seasoning and the Black Angus Franks are then cooked in smokehouses; the old fashioned way." They claim their dogs "do not contain extenders and meat substitutes such as phosphates, monosodium glutamate (MSG), potato starch, and milk solids."

I suppose I should have tried one.

Oh well. How many hot dogs can one eat in a couple of days, anyway?

Don't answer that.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Place: Schroeder's Drive-In
Lunch: Double-Decker, Super Deluxe (no tomato), Pepsi

Never ever in the history of the world have I had a burger here that tasted microwaved.

But these do.

If I had a paper and pen with me, I would have dropped a note in the comment box that said "Lose the microwave".

Last night, my favorite band Over the Rhine played a one-off outdoor show with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, covering a few of their tunes, some great American classics, and a couple of unexpected quirky covers. It was an incredible night. Easily the highlight of the summer.

I did a lot of driving this weekend to get to and from this show, part of which required going around Indianapolis. Which prompted me to write this open letter...


Dear City of Indianapolis,

Recently, I approached your city on Interstate 74, heading east. I was greeted by a sign warning of construction on Interstate 465, the loop that circles your city. It advised to expect frequent delays and suggested to use "alternate routes".

My question is this...WHAT alternate routes?

You can't just take 74 through town because it and 465 are one and the same. There's no way to get to the other interstates that go through town without completely navigating the construction you are warning about. The only option for "alternate routes" that I can see is to drop off the freeway system completely and wander around town.

And what's with the speed limit, anyway? In the non-construction areas (where the speed limit is 45 mph), I-74/465 is 55 mph? Why? There's NOTHING around the south loop of town except wide open six-lane interstate, some distant industrial areas, the airport, and the rare "gas-food-lodging" area. It's one of the most boring half-hour drives there is. It feels like you're crawling in comparison to the 70 mph elsewhere in the state.

There's NO reason for that loop to be any less than 65 or even 70 mph. NONE. Except, of course, "revenue enhancement", which seems to be the going theme here.

I find this terribly ironic considering you are a city known for racing.

It's a good thing I only have to pass through a couple times a year.

You suck,



Okay. I feel better now.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Over the Top

Place: Incredible Pizza
Lunch: Buffet, Dr Pepper

Years ago (1992 or so), Radio Shack decided to get in the big box retail business and started a chain called "Incredible Universe". The massive outlets had a centralized entry area with a center court surrounding by what may as well have been mall slots specializing in different things. There was a camera store. A software store. A computer store. A music store. A phone store. A gadget store (in essence, a Radio Shack within a...never mind). In the middle was an entry into a massive television/audio/appliance area...itself the size of today's Best Buy's...with unheard of features at the time like listening rooms and home theater rooms. Then you wound around to a checkstand area where other miscellaneous items were sold.

It was very cool, but they only built a couple dozen of them before shutting it all down.

Still, it was unique and very impressive. Over the top. Even if my cousin and I referred to it as "the Incredible Overglorified Radio Shack".

Incredible Pizza has nothing to do with Incredible Universe, but I sure drew a lot of similarities to them on my first visit today.

It all started a month or two ago when I noticed they were painting the old long-since abandoned Albertson's. Then they started putting up signage. Buffet. Salads. Go-Karts.

An 85,000 square-foot buffet?!?

Turns out Incredible Pizza, a chain out of Missouri, is something of a buffet/indoor theme park. Think Casa Bonita without the waterfall. Cartman would LOVE this place. I don't think they're using all 85,000 square feet the building has to offer, but they're using at least half of it.

You walk in and pay for the buffet and buy a game card (the game card is optional). The game card is a "credit" card you put however much money you want on for games. Instead of tokens or quarters, the games all have card readers. How cool is that.

The "pizza" buffet, a 50's theme in white red and black, is far more extensive than just pizza. You can make a REALLY impressive salad here. They have soups. They have pastas, including lasagna. They have chicken strips. They have country-fried steak strips. They have some sort of mystery meat strip that falls somewhere between a Swedish meatball and meat loaf. They have potatoes, casseroles, all sorts of crap. They have fresh fruit. They have an almost Golden Corral-extensive dessert counter. They have taco fixings with TWO KINDS OF TACO MEAT! Soupy and non-soupy. I love you already.

And they have pizza, of course.

Nobody will credit Incredible Pizza for top-notch quality food. It's average at best, but none of it is bad by any means. It's well worth the price. $5.99, drink included, during lunch. $9.99 for dinner except Friday and Saturday, when you'll pay $10.99. The west side Cici's will hurt because of this place to be sure. Happy Joe's may as well close. Again.

After you fill your plate, you need to choose a dining room. By mean "choose", I mean there's FOUR of them, all themed. There's the "Gymnasium", the "Route 66 diner", a family room theme of some sort (it's the only one I didn't enter), and the "Starlite Drive-In", which is a dark blacklit room with a cheesy yet workable drive-in movie theme. No, you can't drive your car in. Yes, they show movies. "The Parent Trap" is running this afternoon. Oh yes...they also have several private party rooms.

Once you've eaten (and yes, you could make four trips and eat in each dining room if you fact, you can't really save your existing seat if you're alone anyway), it's off to the fairgrounds. This is an arcade room with video games, pinball, games of chance, miniature golf, bumper cars, and a go-kart track (they appear to be electric...they make no noise at all...and don't go very fast). The place is overrun with kids, of course, but anybody is welcome. And everything here could appeal to any age. Imagine your company department being on each other's nerves and settling the score with a trip to the bumper cars. The game rates are all reasonable too. The go-karts are the priciest option at $4.50 for a race. And yes, while you can't take food into the fairgrounds itself, nothing is stopping you from eating a plate, playing some games, and coming back out and eating some more. Totally legal. I'm **not** sure you could come in just for games, though. And kids can't show up under a certain age without adults. I can't remember the age. Actually, why would I care?

The only complaint I have is that they need more pinball machines. There's only one. Video games too, actually. Too much of the fairgounds is devoted to games of chance where you try to win tickets. There's easily space available for more.

But yeah...Pretty cool place.

Very over the top.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Place: Hickman Buffet
Lunch: Lunch buffet, Pepsi

I have a new favorite Chinese buffet. WOW this is good. WAY better than Shangri-La or that one over by Half-Price Crooks.

Okay, I get it. He's dead.

Shut up.

I was never a fan of Michael Jackson, really. Never owned any of his albums. Respected that "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" were great works. Played the hits off them a lot in my young days as a radio dork, back when AM stations still played music. The guy was a huge talent and deserves his place in music history. And I had no problems with him up until the moment MTV played the "Thriller" video for the first time. After that, he was a walking cartoon for the rest of his life.


The XM broadcast of the PGA tour event over the weekend used hits from Jackson's library in and out of nearly every break. Radio talk show hosts all over the country did it Friday, and some still Monday. As a direct result of all of this, "Thriller" has been stuck in my head all weekend.

I will consider it a national terrorist act if this happens when Lionel Richie kicks the bucket.

It's not like he's the only celebrity who's died in the past week. Farrah. Ed McMahon. Fred Travalino. Billy Mays. BILLY FREAKING MAYS. Do you have ANY idea how sad I was to hear about that one?

I shouldn't have to put up with this.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Place: Subway
Lunch: Five...Five dollar...Five dollar Meatball Marinara foot long (toasted), Lays potato chips, Dr Pepper

It's hot.


Hot hot hot.

And humid.

And hot.

You'd think I'd have gotten a cold sandwich, wouldn't you.


This will totally not help my lack of sleep last night at all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pennies from Illinois

Place: Taco John's
Lunch: Six tacos (it IS Taco Tuesday, after all), Dr Pepper

Frowning Counter Girl gives me my change, which is exactly three pennies, and something about them catches my eye as being terribly odd.

So while crunching down tacos, I check them out.

The front looks normal. The back has some guy who looks like Kramer from Seinfeld sitting on a log doing something.

Not sure what.


So I Googled. Maybe I should Bing. You've heard about Bing...Microsoft's new search engine, right? They're spending tons of money advertising it. Haven't tried it.

Turns out it's the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. And the centennial of the debut of the Lincoln penny. Don't feel bad...I didn't get him anything either.

Anyway, "Kramer on a Log" is apparently supposed to be Lincoln on a log. You had Lincoln Logs as a kid, right? Whole different thing. Oh...that something he's doing is reading. Probably Harry Potter. Reading books from the future would explain a great deal about Lincoln's brilliance.

They have four designs, one which is nothing but a log house. Again, not intended to be a tribute to Lincoln Logs, although it could easily be replicated with them. The log house is supposed to be Lincoln's birthplace.

"Kramer on a log" represents Lincoln's "formative years in Indiana Reserve".

Then there's one in front of an obvious government building which represents his "professional life in Illinois".

Finally, there's the "Presidency in Washington DC", which features the not-quite-finished US Capitol building. Lincoln's nowhere to be seen. He's probably hiding with Waldo.

The US Mint website has a nice summary of what each coin represents.

I'm sure they'll be part of the annual collection this year.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Half-Price Snobs

Place: El Aguila Real
Lunch: Number 4 combo (two tacos, an enchilada, chili con queso), bean dip, chips, salsa, Coke

We have about a dozen local Mexican casual restaurant brands in town, a few which have multiple locations. They all have identical business practices, almost identical menus, and use almost identical recipes. Every one of them has a lunch special called "Speedy Gonzales". But one of my Facebook friends thinks these guys are the bee's knees.

Personally, I like La Bamba a little better. Are they even still around? I haven't been on that side of town in probably a year or more. They're housed in an old KFC. For La Bamba's first year in business, the Colonel's silhouette was visible in the little roof tower thingie under a coat of green paint.

We had one Mexican place I discovered a few years ago that did their own thing, and they were awesome. Incredible enchilada sauce. Naturally, they lasted about six months.

Oh...And if you're wondering what a "chili con queso" is, it's a tortilla covered in liquid cheese. This place seems to use a flour tortilla, while others use corn. Some of the other places also put beef on it.

Beats me.

So I cleaned out my CD's and DVD's of titles I no longer needed this morning, and headed off to Half Price Books, Earth's worst book store. This ridiculous scab of an operation buys books and "anything recorded" for pennies on the dollar and resells them for several times what they paid you. Example: They say to me "We can offer you $65.00 today." I was genuinely surprised. Until I counted the items I brought while he was writing the slip and realized I'd brought 45 CD's or DVD's, working out to about $1.44 per item.

Books are even worse. After Darlene died and I was cleaning out to move, I brought in her massive collection of romance paperbacks. A good hundred or more. There were some hardbacks too...mostly ones I bought her as gifts. The complete Outlander series, for one.

"We can offer you $44.00 today, sir."


I just stare cold and they just smile back with their "working their way through college so they can pretend they're just a little bit better than everybody else for a moment longer" grins. These people are SO public radio.

The best part is if you bring something really good, because whoever is going through them immediately claims it as their own. Especially movies.

And for the prices they charge, you may as well buy new.

My personal revenge is to never spend the money I get there.

Why double-dip.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Place: Qdoba
Lunch: 3 crispy ground beef tacos, chicken Mexican gumbo, Dr Pepper

Everytime I come here, regardless of the time of day, the staff is sitting in the dining room eating. The WHOLE staff.

Jay Leno ended his run as host of the "Tonight Show" last week.

I didn't watch the last show.

I didn't care.

I grew up a night owl. As such, I grew up with Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Carson was the man. He could make any guest funny without resorting to the scripted, badly acted "interaction" you see today. The man was brilliant. It didn't hurt that he was also pretty much the only thing on at that time of night back then. Remember only having five over-the-air channels...IF you were lucky?

I remember when the Tonight Show was 90 minutes. I remember countless jokes, guests, comedy segments, contract disputes with NBC, divorces...And I remember that final week. Guests David Letterman and Bette Midler in particular. Wow.

When Johnny passed the torch, it was a milestone.

I never liked Leno's Tonight Show. I like Leno as an individual when I see him in interviews discussing other topics (like cars), but the show and his comedy just didn't work for me. I watched Letterman for awhile, but eventually didn't care about any of them anymore.

Now there's...what...a half dozen late shows between the major networks alone? There's nothing special about any of them anymore. Yet there's still apparently not enough. Leno will be back in the fall filling five hours of NBC prime time so they don't have to produce as many expensive dramas or comedies. In recent years, they've proved to be lousy at that anyway.

I did watch Conan's "Tonight" debut last night, at least until Will Ferrell showed up.

Nice set. Nice use of the classic peacock on the intro.

Nothing special otherwise. It's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" on a different set.

Ever notice that Conan, when wearing sunglasses, looks exactly like David Caruso's "Horatio Kane" character from CSI: Miami?

One more note...A quick thanks to Stacy from Tulsa, who took the time to read last week's blog and directed me to some chocolate yogurt.
Brown Cow whole-fat chocolate cream top yogurt was acquired over the weekend. So now I can say I've had chocolate yogurt. And probably won't again. But if you're looking for a premium whole-fat yogurt, check out Brown Cow. You actually have to STIR in the fruit from the bottom (yes, I picked up other flavors too) like the old days. There's a cream top on it too. I guess this is a tribute to how a layer of cream used to float on top of milk or something.

It's super creamy, and might even taste less sugary to you.

Even if it isn't.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Root Beer Milk

Place: Bonanza
Lunch: Lunch buffet, Pepsi

Bonanzas and Ponderosas (same chain, really) are hit and miss. But this one's not too bad. I used to know a guy who managed one. I recall us having this conversation:

(Me): Why'd you replace the black olives with crappy ones?
(Phil): Because they're cheaper.
(Me): But they're crappy.
(Phil): But they're cheaper.
(Me:) But they're crappy.
(Phil): Then go buy your own expensive ones. These are cheaper.

Phil was awesome, if not cheap.

So I was browsing a shiny new Price Chopper supermarket in Kansas City, because this is how I have fun...browsing supermarkets...when I see something new. It's a new flavor milk! Can you guess what it is? Can you? CAN YOU?

Uh...root beer?

No it's...YES! It IS root beer! How did you know?

Uh...the blog title?

CRAP. Well...

Milk has taken many flavors over the years. Chocolate, of course. Strawberry too. Orange cream. Banana has been a popular flavor as of late. Even vanilla. Because plain milk isn't vanilla. Plain Dairy Queen isn't vanilla either, but don't try to tell the teen behind the counter that. Then there's Ovaltine. I'm not sure what flavor Ovaltine is supposed to be...they call one chocolate and one malt...but that's okay. I like the malt one, even if the taste has nothing to do with malt.

This little dairy oddity comes from Shatto. They sell milk with no growth hormones in glass bottles. I guess that's better for you. Nobody knows why, including the FDA according to the bottle. Anyway, their products page shows they have a whole milk chocolate. I am ALL over that. You know what the fat ratio is in whole milk? 3.25 percent. WHY are you bothering with two percent?!?

(Then there's the people shouting that we shouldn't be drinking milk in the first place, proving once and for all that nothing on Earth is good for you, and that humans should starve themselves to death immediately upon birth in the name of the greater good.)

I suppose the idea with root beer was to taste something like root beer float. And it does...but something's missing. It's kind of weird. Like diet root beer float maybe.

Somebody should try raspberry or blackberry milk. Those berries are classics with cream. They do yogurts that way all the time.

Speaking of which, why doesn't anybody make chocolate yogurt? TCBY makes chocolate frozen yogurt, and apparently Yoplait makes some chocolate flavors (yes, I actually Googled before asking to see if a logical answer existed, and the best answer I got was "ugh"), but I've personally never seen a chocolate flavor in stock anywhere.

Anyway, you can find Shatto products in Price Chopper, Hy-Vee, Whole Foods, or a few other grocers around the Kansas City area.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Summer Less Sweaty

Place: Okoboji Grill
Lunch: Boji Cheeseburger Melt (no tomato), Boji fries with ranch, Pepsi

So was anybody ever going to clue me in on stone coasters? The ones that absorb water off drinking glasses?

It gets hot. It gets humid. So goes the heartland. It's not uncommon for me to be to have a large glass full of ice water or limeade at the desk or on the table next to me.

Condensation builds up on the glass, of course, leaving water dripping on the surface. So you keep your glass on a coaster. These come in all sorts of different styles...cork ones, plastic ones, foam ones...I've even seen them made of fabric.

For the most part, they don't do much good. Water sits on them or rolls off of them. Some actually get sticky and adhere to the bottom of the glass. You lift up the glass, the coaster comes with it. And regardless, water drips on everything.

So about a month ago, I noticed "water stone" coasters at Pops, the wonderful tourist trap convenience store with a 66-foot pop bottle on the frontage in Arcadia, Oklahoma.
They claimed to absorb water. So I bought one to try.

Now I have four.

They're THAT good.

You can seriously pick up a glass that's been sweating awhile and NO DRIPS! The stone absorbs water! The glass isn't dry, but nothing's pooling into drips. And in a month of use with no cleaning, it still works as good as new.

They're completely awesome.

They're not quite as good with fast food wax cups, particularly if they've already been sweating between the restaurant and the home/office, but still better.

The guys who make the ones Pops sells are here, where you can buy them cheaper than the $7 each at Pops (but you won't have the snazzy "Pops" logo on them. You're heartbroken, I know).

Similar products are available from other sources as well.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Samuels Family

Place: B-Bops
Lunch: Classic double (no tomato), chili, Pepsi

It's a BEAUTIFUL day for eating outside. Little birds patrol the patio looking for people to toss them pieces of bun, which I do, of course.

Have you noticed how many restaurant chains are using the "surprise it's really our food" element in their commercials lately?

Hardee's/Carl's Jr did it recently with their premium burgers. And Pizza Hut has been doing it with their pastas. The most ridiculous of these is the Pizza Hut commercial running in heavy rotation right now where "the Samuels family" is blindfolded under the premise they're being taken to an Italian restaurant...only to be led back into their own home to be fed delivered pasta.

Suspending disbelief is beyond ridiculous here. Am I REALLY supposed to believe you wouldn't catch on you're in your own house? That you don't recognize your own home's smell? The acoustics? The seating? The steps they go up to their own front door?


Burger King is also apparently fed up. They've taken the satire route. A guy approaches two guys eating Burger King's premium burgers IN a Burger King.

"Well what if I were to tell you that those burgers came from BURGER KING!"

"We're IN a Burger King."


"There's no 'gotcha'. We're IN a BURGER KING."