Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry 2011

Place: BK Whopper Bar
Lunch (no...Dinner): Whopper (no lettuce, no tomato; add cheddar, grilled onions, bacon), onion rings, Dr Pepper

Dinner was supposed to be at the Village Seafood Buffet at Rio, but apparently everybody else in town had the same idea.  The line filled their standby space, out the door, around the escalators, and down past the elevators.  That's way beyond my level of patience.

Then I stumbled upon the Whopper Bar.

I've heard of the Whopper Bar, but this is the first one I've actually seen.  It differs from your regular BK in that it has a wider variety of specialty Whoppers on the menu (including a Bourbon Whopper and one with blue cheese) and a wider variety of available ingredients for you to...have it your way.  Whopper patties are cooked in the back, but the end sandwiches are assembled in a prep line in front of customers.

So I figured I'd try it.  My custom Whopper was pretty good, though I didn't expect them to keep the regular onions on it on top of my custom-requested grilled onions.  And I should have also added barbecue sauce.

Across from the Whopper Bar is a Chippendale's boutique.  In front of the Chippendale's boutique is a large wall mural of Chippendale's dancers.  Every woman who walks by it just has to have her picture taken in front of it.

I'm spending Christmas in Vegas, basically playing the role of desert slacker.  Think The Dude without the drugs or booze and with pinball instead of bowling.  Cuz that's how I roll, girlfriend.

The strip at Christmas differs very little from the strip any other day.  At 10pm Christmas Eve, the Bellagio's shops were open.  You could still get jewelery at Tiffany & Co, a handbag at Gucci, or whatever it is they sell at Prada.  And the Miracle Mile shops were open Christmas day.  This is the ultimate procrastinator's dream city.

There was no shortage of people to take it all in.  The strip and the casinos were as busy as ever.  Every nationality in full force, all wide-eyed, gazing at the wonder of it all, and documenting every little thing with their cameras and cell phones.  If there's anything we have in common as a planet, it's our ability to go all googly-eyed at a spectacle.

While I'm a week early, I figured I'd get the annual 'year in review' out of the way, which is mostly just highlights I lifted from my Twitter feed.  So if you follow me on Twitter, this will probably bore you to tears.

2011 was the year I stopped driving everywhere and started flying.  I flew 36 flight segments this year, exactly triple the number I've flown the last twenty years combined.  It's ridiculous how well I know Denver's airport now.

Coal in the Stocking of the Year - The jackasses at Dr Pepper-Snapple Group filed suit against the Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Company to stop them from selling their original cane sugar Dr Pepper formula outside of their market territory and to get them to stop selling it under the unique brand "Dublin Dr Pepper".  (They also threw in revocation of license, but really, they're not trying to kill them outright.  Uh huh.)  The case is pending and Dr Pepper-Snapple Group will probably win, insuring their massive regional distributors and their high fructose corn syrup-laden product (which, as much as the faceless executive cowards would like you to believe tastes the same, doesn't...and neither does any 'Heritage Dr Pepper' I've tried) are kept safe from a small historic bottler who might affect a miniscule fraction of a percentage of their sales.  God bless America.

WTH of the Year - Found an MGM Grand tag on my large suitcase handle.  Which makes perfect sense since I've never stayed at the MGM Grand, and I've never taken that bag to Las Vegas.

Random Mischief of the Year - Ever think about replacing the wall art in your hotel room with something really odd to make the next guests wonder?

Irony of the Year - Saw a girl with huge breasts wearing a T-shirt that said "I Love Boobs" on it. 

Mistaken Identity of the Year - A kid in a Wienerschnitzel was staring at me intently for a long period of time.  Eventually, his mother explained..."He insists you're one of Santa's elves!"  Good grief, kid.  You must think Santa's twelve feet tall.

Fast Food LTO of the Year - Burgerville's Panko Portobello Wedges.  Served with a garlic aioli for dipping.  Fry replacement to the extreme.

Silly Fast Food LTO of the Year - Hardee's/Carl's Jr's Buffalo Chicken Tenders.  Basically, they're the standard chicken tenders slathered in Frank's red hot sauce.  So if you like them and they come off the menu, just bring your own bottle of Frank's with you, order the regular tenders, and make your own.

New Fast Food Permanent Menu Item of the Year - Wienerschnitzel's bacon-wrapped Street Dog.  Oh dear.

Full Service Restaurant LTO of the Year - IHOP's Caramel Apple Crepe Crisp thingie was surprisingly every bit as good in execution as it was on paper.

Fast Food Price Gouging of the Year - I walked into a Taco Bell, ordered three menu items and a soda, and the total was north of $11.  Never thought I'd see the day.

Fast Food Price Gouging of the Year Pt II - A Utah Taco Time was getting $3.09 for a large soda.  What is this...a cinema snack bar?

Dumb Fast Food Slogan of the Year - "Good Mood Food"? Really, Arby's?

Thanks, but I'll Pass of the Year - Trader Joe's shrimp corn dogs.  Ummm...

New M&M's Flavor of the Year - Cinnamon.  For the holidays.  I'm betting if you were in a blind taste test, you'd never guess what they were supposed to be.  Yet I liked them anyway.

Best Tweet while Live Tweeting an Awards Show of the Year - "Somewhere a Snuffleupagus died for that dress."

New Roommate of the Year - A spider moved into my downstairs bathtub in October.  Still there as of last week.  I named her Savannah.

Dream of the Year - I had a dream that I was having a heated argument with Tiger Woods outside of a rural Super 8 motel.  No idea what it was about, or why either of us would even be at a Super 8.

Satellite Radio of the Year - SiriusXM added a "Studio 54" channel for awhile.  All of the disco without the sex and drugs...the only reason people liked that music in the first place.

Cars are Getting Too Smart of the Year - Overheard a teenager bragging about how her new car e-mails her tire pressure readings.

Lifestyle Change of the Year - At the beginning of the year, I had never heard of the self-serve frozen yogurt concept.  At the end of the year, I've probably eaten half my weight in self-serve frozen yogurt...nine ounces at a time.

Flight Attendant Safety Announcement of the Year - "If you decide to be naughty in our potty, the fine for doing so is $3,000.  If you had a spare $3000 lying around, you would have flown Delta today."  (Southwest Airlines flight attendant, regarding smoking in the lavatory)

Only New TV Show I'm Still Watching of the Year - Suburgatory.  First show I've regularly watched on ABC since I can remember.  (I loved "Pushing Daisies", but only caught up on it after it had been cancelled.)  I gave Pan Am a shot too, but not for long.  These shows trying to rip off "Mad Men" just don't get it.  "The Playboy Club" was just dreadful.  If you create a show with that many scenes of women parading around in sixties underwear and I'm not sticking with it, you've done something SERIOUSLY wrong.

TV Commercial of the Year - FedEx's "Erik Gustafson" commercial may be their best yet.

TV Commercial of the Year II - Geico's "Do Dogs Chase Cats" commercial, which rarely aired, was absolutely brilliant.

Dumb TV Commercial Campaign of the Year - Virgin Mobile's commercials where they mock the T-Mobile girl.  Virgin's versions had a dingbat, whereas the T-Mobile girl comes off as intelligent.  Made no sense at all.

Dumb GM Commercial of the Year - Will somebody tell those guys driving around trying to find no cell coverage that it's possible to just shut your phone off?

Mean TV Commercial Campaign of the Year - Am I the only one who thought Best Buy's "Game On, Santa" commercials were really mean, and not in a funny way?

Our Network Sucks of the Year - Local NBC affiliate reports Ashton Kutcher is joining "Two and a Half Men" cast.  Weather Guy: "Is that an NBC show?"  Sports Guy: "No, it's a HIT."

Dumb Question of the Year - ESPN aired the "Carrier Classic", a college basketball game on an aircraft carrier this year.  It was an amazing scene, the President showed up, and the whole thing got national television coverage.  In the midst of this amazing spectacle, they interviewed the Secretary of the Navy and asked him..."You had to sign off on this event.  Why did you?"

Redneck Question of the Year - Overheard at Cabela's..."Do you have car antennas that look like fly rods?"

Album of the Year that I Didn't Already Hear in 2010 - Chelsea Crowell's raw, intimate, and beautiful "Crystal City" is a true headphone record filled with amazing retro noises and storytelling.  Even if you know going in she's the daughter of Rodney Crowell and Rosanne Cash, you might not expect this.  The girl was listening growing up.  Carefully.

Movies of the Year - I gave "The Help" four stars.  Other highlights were Woody Allen's excellent "Midnight in Paris", and Marvel's "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger".  Marvel did my kind of movies this year.  The final "Harry Potter" movie was good, but it really made me sad that series has come to an end.  I still remember seeing the trailer for the first movie the very first time.  It came and went so quickly.

Out of Context Facebook Friend Game Status of the Year - "Amanda has run into a pack of vicious beavers!"

Small Town Advice of the Year - "Tip people, not cows."  (Tip cup at a rural Dairy Queen)

RIP Retail of the Year - Ultimate Electronics folded.  Always had good customer service and, in their prime, premium brands not everybody stocked.  Border's and Waldenbooks also went away.  I'll miss the Waldenbooks name more than Border's.

Witty RIP of the Year - "RIP Sherwood Schwartz.  At his funeral, in lieu of a eulogy, they will play a theme song that tells his backstory."  (@jelvisweinstein)

Out of Context Quote of the Year - "But if they don't have the big inflatable apes, nobody will know where the fireworks stands are!" (Taco Bueno counter girl)

Personalized License Plate of the Year - SLYTHRN - on a Dodge Viper.

Loophole of the Year - I went through the Walmart express lane with two items.  It just happened that I had sixty-eight of those two items.

Official New Hobby of the Year - Gum chewing.  No idea why, but I have a good stash of the stuff in my office.  Dentyne's "Arctic Chill" is my fave.

Religous Moment of the Year - "When Jesus returns, we're all gonna see it immediately on our cell phones." - (Random couple at Taco Bueno)

Religious Question of the Year - Why don't people tailgate before church?

Most Awesome New Grocery Store of the Year - If you Utah peeps haven't been to the new Harmon's at Station Park in Farmington yet, they really outdid themselves.  I'm looking forward to seeing their new City Creek store, which opens February 15.  I probably won't get to see it till mid-year, though.

Airline Fraud of the Year - I've noticed a trend where airlines have stopped updating flight delays on reader boards at airports and just pretend everything's on time.  The most blatant example of McCarran, an Allegiant flight I was supposed to be on actually showed "on time", "arrived", and "departed" before the aircraft ever made it to the airport in the first place.  So I'm wondering if that info is all tied to a database that tracks 'on-time' records, which they are subsequently trying to falsify.

Frustrated Employee at the Airport of the Year - "It's the Saturday morning Las Vegas run.  How do you THINK I'm doing?" (Frontier gate employee)

They Grow Up So Fast of the Year - While eating lunch at a restaurant in PDX, a little girl...maybe eight...came running in to steal a straw for her Starbucks cup.  As she grabs the straw, she looks at me and declares "I am SO gonna miss my flight!" before running off.

For the Love of Innocence of the Year - Mom to little girl as our plane lands..."Who are you more excited to see?  John...or your dad?"  Little girl..."Daddy!"  Mom, clearly disappointed, "Well...I get that."

Retweet of the Year - "It's sad how Wile E. Coyote is remembered for his violence, and not for his brilliantly realistic paintings of tunnels."  (@duncanpow)

Happy new year, kids.  Try to not make any resolutions you won't remember the next morning because you drank too much.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Place: Pizza Ranch
Lunch (no, Dinner): Buffet, Pibb XTRA, Cherry Fanta, Lime Fanta, Strawberry Minute Maid, Raspberry-Lime Hi C

The Pizza Ranch recently added the new Coke Freestyle fountain machines, a new fountain with "100+choices".  Because waiting for kids to decide between six-to-eight flavors wasn't ridiculous enough.

The restaurant manager is quite proud.  I overheard him telling somebody that his store and three others nearby are the first in the state to get them.  They're "testing" them out.

They're not exactly new.  I first heard of them a year or two ago and have seen them before.  Megaplex 17 has a couple.  Firehouse Subs has rolled them out to all locations nationally (and yes, Firehouse cherry limeade is in there).  Taco Time Northwest (the ones in the Seattle area) have them too.

Never seen them in a buffet setting though.

The machines sort of remind you of a big retro fridge, except they have a touch screen and a space for your cup to put ice and soda in.  You begin with the touch screen (or ice if you want).  There's 22 initial brands available (including water and soda water).  Touch one and a sub-menu comes up with available flavors under said brand. can have Coke, or Coke with lime, Vanilla Coke, Raspberry Coke, Cherry Coke, Orange Coke, or Cherry Vanilla Coke.  Pick your poison, position your cup, then push the big silver button. 

(A hint from experience...push the big silver button for a half sec to discharge the previous person's soda, THEN put your cup underneath.)

Anyway, it's a cool looking machine that does cool things.  Kids are elated.  The elderly are horrified.

I sat nearby to observe.  Nobody approached these as if nothing was unusual.  Loads of fascination...and confusion.  I watched one old man walk up, stand, stare dumbfounded, stare some more, then realize there was tea in a pitcher off to the side.  He left with tea.

There was one guy who looked like he made millions in the tech industry who I was sure would have no problem, but he had no idea how to approach the thing.  He eventually put the cup in the hole, got ice, did the touch screen thing, then held his finger on the touch screen for the soda he wanted.  Couldn't figure out why he wasn't getting soda.

One angry looking teen girl chose Coke Zero and made a single mix of all seven flavors available.

If anything, I learned that the top drink with kids is orange Hi-C.  And, when confronted with a lot of options, people will indeed experiment.  Very few people just chose a regular flavor and left it at that.

This was my first chance to be in a setting to explore different flavors while grazing a buffet.  So I would only fill the cup about a third with different things.  I'd drink something, dump the ice, pour something else...

The machine itself could make me a better customer here.  The lime Fanta and the Raspberry-Lime Hi-C were great, and there's nowhere else I can have these locally.  At least for now.

If we could talk Coke into including original Pibb and Fanta Red Creme Soda, that would be awesome.

Wonder when Pepsi's going to come out with something like this.