Friday, December 28, 2012

Pink Dog

Place: Pink's
Lunch: Chili dog, Pepsi

Pink's is a legendary Hollywood hot dog stand you've probably heard of before.  Their signature item is their chili dog.  This is that very same chili dog, but not at the original Hollywood stand.  I'm at Pink's at Planet Hollywood on the Strip (literally...patio seating right on Las Vegas Blvd).  There's about a dozen locations where you can get Pink's dogs now in California and Nevada.  Who knew.

They do make a good chili dog, albeit at an inflated Strip price ($5.99).  But there's far worse ways to reflect on the passing year than while people watching on the Strip with an overpriced chili dog in hand, so let's get to it.

Las Vegas Travel Tip of the Year: If you ever book a suite at the Cosmopolitan, plan on investing a full day figuring out the lighting system in the room because all the lights (lamps, overheads, everything) are connected to a Lutron system.  They have individual switches and dimmers (almost EVERYTHING has a dimmer) but there's also two master switches that turn EVERYTHING on or EVERYTHING off.  It took me like a day to understand how to just have a few lights on instead of every bulb in the suite all the time, let alone that I could actually control light zones through the TV.  Then again, it also took me a day to realize my suite had a second bathroom, so...

(I started writing a blog post about my Cosmopolitan experience, but it was boring and long-winded.  Like that ever happens here.)

Album of the Year:  Rush - "Clockwork Angels".  Yeah, I was as surprised as anyone.  Probably in their top five best overall albums.  It's a concept album that is completely ironed out in a novel of the same name co-written by Kevin Anderson (a sci-fi author who's first novel was inspired by Rush's "Grace Under Pressure" album) and Rush drummer Neil Peart.  Which means that, yes, I actually read a non-fiction book this year.

Tour of the Year:  Rush takes that one too.  They hit the stage at 8:17.  They left the stage at 11:17.  There was an intermission in between, but man was that a show.  The first half was very eighties heavy (they opened with "Subdivisions" for crying out loud).  The second half of the show featured an eight-piece orchestra for nine tracks from "Clockwork Angels" plus some classics.  They went FOUR cuts deep into "Power Windows" overall.  FOUR!  As if that wasn't enough, they threw three parts of the 2112 overture into the encore, making "Grand Finale" the...grand finale.

Movie of the Year:  You're all saying "The Avengers".  That's because none of you bothered with "The Perks of Being a Wallflower".  Stupidheads.

New M&M's Flavor of the Year:  Mint Dark Chocolate.  M&M's has done limited time mints during the holidays for years, but these are in regular rotation.  I think using dark chocolate is a new spin too.  They also had a white chocolate candy corn flavor for Halloween.  Those were kind of gross.

Pringles Flavor of the Year: Memphis BBQ.  TANGY.

Fast Food LTO of the Year:  Burger King's Wisconsin White Cheddar Whopper.  Quite possibly the best Whopper ever.

Disappointing New Fast Food Item of the Year:  Arby's turkey.  So flavorless, even my cats didn't want any.

Fast Food Minimalists of the Year - Finally got around to trying Raising Cane's.  You know what they sell?  Chicken fingers.  And sides.  And drinks.  That's all, y'all.

Fro-Yo Topping of the Year:  Cocoa Pebbles.  Genius.

Scary Food Item of the Year - Ever have a desire to try a $1 ribeye steak?  Because Dollar Tree was selling them last summer.

What Do You Mean They're Not On the Menu of the Year: LJS started letting you choose your own sides to go with your fish and chicken, so I chose Madagascar Goat Cheese Soup and Sweet Chili Fritters.  I somehow ended up with fries and cole slaw anyway.

Thing I Wrote on a Restaurant Comment Card of the Year: "Dammit!  I ordered the wrong sandwich!"

Food Phopah of the Year: Dear Minute Maid, when you put the word "Premium" on the label and the ingredients include high fructose corn syrup, you've lost all credibility with me.

Why Does Every Fast Food Chain Suddenly Need This of the Year:  Sweet potato fries.  Practically everybody who serves fries started serving these.  I don't get it at all.

First World Problem of the Year: "This is confusing.  I'm going to Steak n Shake."  (Elderly woman at a Florida Yogurtland, trying to comprehend the self-serve concept)

Bad Convenience Store Move of the Year:  Found a 7-Eleven that replaced their soda fountain with a Coke Freestyle machine.  Over 100 flavors.  NONE OF THEM PEPSI PRODUCTS.

Grocery Store of the Year:  The Fresh Market.  It's a gourmet chain that's not exactly organic (they sell some regular stuff...even high fructose corn syrup stuff), but they sell lots of high-end items I like, and are reasonably priced compared to Whole Foods...usually.  They even have Nathan's restaurant-grade hot dogs and Cheerwine in glass bottles.  Their store brand whole chocolate milk is wonderful.  Actually, so is their lemonade.

Fortune Cookie of the Year: "Love".  (Seriously.  That's all it said.)

Dumbing Down of America of the Year:  Mom: "You didn't put cheese on it!"  Young Daughter: "I put on PROVOLONE cheese!"  Mom: "Provolone's NOT cheese!"

Sucker Marketing of the Year:  Who came up with this "chocolate diamonds" nonsense?

New Coke of the Year:  Infiniti's new boss (former Audi USA head Johan de Nysschen) decided to put his stamp on the company by renaming the entire Infiniti lineup of vehicles to "Q" for cars and "QX" for SUV's, with numbers after the letters identifying the model (the previous number identified engine displacement).  FX37 and FX50 become QX70.  JX, a very different vehicle from the FX, becomes QX60.  And so on.  He claims extensive research went into this, but it feels to me like the executive team was probably having lunch at Jollibee and were inspired by their menu board combination number scheme.  He claims it's "easier to understand".  I claim "he's an idiot".

Number of Guitars I Owned in 2011:  0.

Number of Guitars I Owned in 2012:  3.  Plus a bass.

Thing I Should Really Do in 2013:  Learn how to play the guitar.

Holy New Slang Terms of the Year, Batman!:  "Holy Crapifornia!" (counter girl at a Maverik) and "Holy smackaroni!" (customer at Taco Casa)

New TV Show of the Year:  "Arrow" on the CW.  As in Green Arrow.  This is not your Smallville Oliver Queen.  It's freaking great.

Why Didn't Anybody Watch of the Year:  Game Show Network did a new revival of "Pyramid" and it was FREAKING AWESOME.  So why didn't anybody but me watch it?

TV Commercial of the Year: The FedEx Office "Candidates" commercial.  "Hey, good call on those mugs!  Can't let them see what you're drinking."

Dumb Commercial of the Year: Dear ad agency for Robitussin, please send whoever thought up the tag line "Don't Suffer the Coughequences" over to my place so I may kick them in the junk.

Fantasy Commercial of the Year:  I want an Allstate commercial where Aaron Rodgers walks in to an agent's office to switch, saying "You wouldn't believe those ass clowns at the State Farm office".

Missed Opportunity Commercial of the Year: I searched high and low for outtakes of the "super sparkly day" cashier in Citi's "Happy Princess Wonderland" commercial to no avail.  Having her (actress Tania Pilar) doing a bunch of random cute/funny/ridiculous lines would have been awesome.

Out of Context TV of the Year: Closed caption: "has turned to hate and resentment".  Image on screen: Huckleberry Hound.

Random Parking Lot Moment of the Year:  Girl jumped out of a minivan in a Walmart parking lot, handed me a Watchtower, then jumped back in and drove off.

Personalized License Plate of the Year: "BRAAINZ", which I saw just yesterday.  Didn't hurt that it was sporting an Oakland Raiders license plate frame, because that pretty much describes their performance.

Odd Dream of the Year:  Dreamed I inherited a house I didn't really want, but the cats totally dug it.

Unintended Result of the Year: Read Steve Jobs' bio and found myself having a whole new level of respect for...Bill Gates.

Rest in Peace Or Not of the Year: Heard of an old work colleague passing and mourned...right up until I realized I was thinking of the wrong colleague and the actual deceased was a total dick.

Airline Economics of the Year:  A non-stop round-trip "Business Select" Southwest ticket from OMA-LAS costs $1012.  But a round-trip "Business Select" Southwest ticket from OMA-DEN with a stop at LAS (the very same non-stop flight) costs $528.  So what's stopping me from booking the OMA-DEN flight and just skipping the LAS-DEN connection?

Flight Attendant Announcement of the Year: "We are dimming the cabin lights for the duration of the flight so that you will go to sleep and not bother us." - Southwest Airlines (yes, she was kidding.)

Profiling of the Year: I was looking at a couple in Wienerschnitzel and thinking "That guy couldn't possibly be more redneck", when suddenly his cell phone blared the General Lee car horn as a ringtone.

Lazy of the Year: Why can't my HOA services include loading my dishwasher?

Retweet of the Year:  "I bet Gloria Estefan's kids were terrified of rhythm."  - @BDGarp

Well, I'm off to play some pinball before heading to the airport to fly home and work on my New Year's resolutions.

Which probably won't include guitar lessons.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: McRibble, McDouble, McNuggets, McFries, McCoke

So I decided to have my annual McRib today.  Apparently, somewhere in the ordering process, I was asked if I wanted to add a second McRib for a dollar more.  Apparently, I agreed.  So I ended up with two.

Knowing I wouldn't actually eat two, I took off the top buns and folded the two together to form one double McRib.  I then shattered a champagne bottle against the bow and christened it the "McRibble".

I ate about half of it.  Ate about half of everything I ordered, actually.  Kind of surprised since it's my first hot meal since yesterday morning.

We had what's being called the "Blizzard of 2012" Wednesday night.  Indeed, it's been a long time since we've had one this big...years, maybe.  The snow arrived just in time for the evening commute and didn't let up until morning.  11.5 inches officially fell in my little bedroom community.  And while most communities pre-treated the streets in advance, the stupidheads in my town didn't see the need.  They also didn't see the need to sand.  They plowed and left it at that, leaving the streets and highways literally a sheet of ice.

So I tried to get to the office at noon yesterday.  I headed down my road, creeped on the highway, and headed east.  Made it about a mile before saying "This isn't happening" and turning around.  Blinding snow had me creeping on the way back at about 20 mph when suddenly, directly in front of me, I saw brake lights.  Dead-stopped break lights.  You know that scene in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" when Khan and Kirk are playing cat-and-mouse in the nebula and suddenly Reliant's brake lights show up in the view screen?  It was EXACTLY LIKE THAT.

So I hit the brakes, and of course, didn't even slow down.  Luckily, my right tire caught the ever-increasing snow drift, and I dipped to the right and stopped just in time.

So I backed out of the snow drift (which itself took some effort), moved to the left lane, and went around.  The woman in the car with the brake lights had also hit the drift just in time to keep from slamming into the rear of a big semi car hauler, which was caught dead in the drifting snow.  I couldn't even see the car hauler until I was going around it.  Not even stopped in the drift.

I crawled back home, nearly getting rear-ended once and side-swiped by somebody else.  Upon arriving, I discovered the power was out.


The power remained out until somewhere around 5-ish this morning.  Thank goodness my iPad was fully charged.  I read a book in the evening, cats curled up against me for warmth, then we all crawled into bed around 9.  With the house temperature hovering around sub-60, even Maggie Cat went under the covers.

Anyway, woke up to power, just in time for the apocalypse.

I'm sure that's the way the Mayans saw it.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Place: Abelardo's
Lunch: #5 combo (crispy ground beef taco, ground beef enchilada, rice, beans), Mr Pibb

Abelardo's is one of those regional fast food Mexican chains you see in Southwestern markets that are owned and operated by actual Latinos who routinely take over old abandoned major fast food structures, throw up some festive paint colors, and open for business selling cheap eats with 24-hour drive-thrus.  In Utah, you have Rancherito's.  In Vegas and San Diego, you have Roberto's.  They usually have ridiculously extensive menus similar to full-service Mexican restaurants.  They're commonly referred to as "Alberto's copycats", referring to the California chain most consider the original to utilize this concept.  (Indeed, the taco holding guy in the Abelardo's logo is an exact replica of the one in Alberto's logo).

I was surprised to stumble upon this particular one as these operations are few and far between in the Midwest, let alone discover this is their third location in town...all opened this year.

The first went into the old Hardee's on Ingersoll.  That was as busy a Hardee's as there ever was back in the nineties, especially at night with its 24-hour drive-thru.  Long abandoned, it was a gutsy move for Abelardo's to move in since there's a relatively new Taco John's right next door.  But the Taco John's isn't open 24 hours, so I bet they make a killing overnight.

This location is in the old Radio Diner space in an upscale lifestyle center that couldn't have been developed at a worse time economy-wise, so I'm guessing the rent is cheap.  It's apparently open 24 hours despite the fact it has no drive-thru.  (EDIT: New signs say 8am-10pm.)  (EVEN MORE EDIT: They now have a drive-thru.)

The tacos here are great.  Generous amounts of ground beef with one of the better seasoning mixes I've had.  The beans are even better.  Nice and soupy and not too smoky.  Just about perfect.  My new favorite beans in town.  They have a nice little salsa bar to enhance your purchase that includes a spicy jalapeno-carrot mix that I don't understand but which every one of these chains has and people always point out as something awesome in reviews.  (EDIT: Shredded beef tacos are a must try too.)

Menu pricing?  Horribly inaccurate.  The combo shows up on their website as $5.99.  The menu board in the store shows it as $6.29.  The actual price rung up on the register as $6.99.

Yeah...they need to fix that.

The food here IS worth the price though, and I'm under the impression everything on the menu is available all day, including the breakfast items.  Ground beef tacos for breakfast?  Here's hoping.

Christmas finally arrives next week.

Is it just me, or has December moved along at a pace that feels like the whole rest of the year combined?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Overkill

Place: Jollibee
Lunch: Chickenjoy and Spaghetti, Pepsi

The plan WAS to do the lunch buffet at Round Table Pizza, then catch a movie at the theatre in this shopping center.  But the last four Round Tables in Las Vegas closed sometime between August and now.  Not surprised, but disappointed anyway.

So I decided it was finally time to try Jollibee at the other end of this shopping center.  I've always been sort of fascinated with this place and its cute bee logo.  Looked a little too professional for something I'd never heard of before.

Turns out Jollibee is the biggest name in fast food...if you live in the Philippines.  The parent company started with an ice cream shop, switched to hot dogs, and expanded both the menu and locations into an empire.  They've also bought a bunch of other restaurant chains over the years which largely operate in the Philippines and China.  They're also the Philippines sole Burger King franchisee (another acquisition).

But the core brand that started it all is so entrenched in Filipino culture that Jollibees have started popping up in other countries, including a couple dozen outlets in the US in areas with bigger concentrations of Filipino populations.  Jollibee claims only the spaghetti recipe has been altered for American tastes, but I've seen a difference of opinion on that with the faithful.

The US Jollibees are branded "Jollibee Chicken & Burgers" to fool people into thinking this is a typical American fast food chain, but "Yumburgers" are about the last thing anyone orders.  The burgers get poor ratings at the usual online review spots.  They have the seasoning cooked into the meat and kind of taste like a dry Salisbury sreak.  Chicken (called "Chickenjoy") and spaghetti reign supreme here, though there are other things on the menu too.  The breakfast menu includes sweet pork, milkfish belly, and Spam, all on plates with an egg, rice (absurdly heavy on the garlic), and a tomato slice.  This particular location shares space with another Jollibee brand, Red Ribbon Bakery.  Which had some stuff I definitely need to try.

Anyway, you immediately know you're not in Kansas anymore when you walk in the door.  This is clearly NOT an American fast food place, even if you didn't notice the Filipino television programming playing on the flat screen or the big mural showing examples of global markets where it operates.  At the same time, nothing feels cheap either.  Professional marketing materials hang on the windows and from the ceiling.

The fried chicken has a texture similar to the Colonel's original recipe and doesn't even need the cup of gravy that comes with it for dipping.  But you'll use it anyway because it's good.  The spaghetti sauce is a meat sauce that I can't really describe the flavor of.  It's sweet and maybe has some sort if an..,Asian?...kickto it.  It has hot dogs cut up into it.  I loved it.

Seriously...this is my go-to lunch spot when coming out to this side of town to see a movie going forward.

It's Black Friday, and I spent it the same way I usually do...watching it unfold on the early morning news as told by cute bouncy local news reporters.  And holy crap are the reporters and anchors on Action News 13 cute and bouncy.  They had a reporter stationed live at the Las Vegas Premium Factory Outlets, a massive indoor factory outlet mall that's crazy on a normal day.  And she's standing there with the outlets in the background and saying "Well...there's not really much going on here."

Then "Good Morning America" came on with the announcers claiming things were "crazy" while showing four simultaneous live shots of malls and big box stores where...almost nobody was shopping.

So where is everybody?

The Action News 13 reporter reasoned this was because the mall opened at midnight and everybody'd already grabbed the "door busters" (hot items sold at a loss to get people in the store).  Indeed, there's been a lot of complaining about Black Friday starting earlier and earlier, even moving into Thanksgiving evening (which I've heard referred to as "Grey Thursday"), and the door buster items were gone almost immediately.  Action News 13 had footage of a woman in a local K-Mart parking lot throwing a fit that she'd waited in line for hours and didn't get ANY door buster deals.

Both they and Good Morning America were showing a security video of a guy shouting threats to stab anyone who got in his way at a store entrance.

I saw a Tweet about somebody getting knocked out over a bottle of shampoo.

So the media still got their tabloid shots.

Hooray for them, I guess.

I suppose I could suggest that stores have reasonable sales on items they have plenty of instead of encouraging this nonsense with loss leaders, but what fun would that be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Place: Burger King
Lunch: Wisconsin White Cheddar Whopper (no lettuce, no tomato), onion rings (w/Zesty sauce), Coke

This BK location got a mild refresh in the dining room with a creamy new paint color that really lights up the place.  They also replaced the plastic menu board with video monitors, which are largely static menus except for one dedicated to promos.  That one rotates images and videos.  Occasionally, all of the monitors sync a virtual "Celebrating 55 Years of the Whopper" banner.  I wonder if this annoys people trying to read the menu.

Actually, I envision a time in the not-too-distant future where fast food places have a smart phone app that lets you read the menu specific to the location that you're in, create your own order, and transmit it to the cashier, payment and everything.

The Whopper celebration, of course, features an LTO Whopper that also seems to be BK's answer to McDonald's CBO, though they're really not in the same league.  While the McDonald's version on paper sounds more impressive with its 1/3 pound Black Angus patty, white cheddar, and bacon, the BK White Cheddar Whopper is far FAR better.  It's a regular Whopper with regular toppings ( onions instead of white) plus bacon and a very natural looking, feeling, and tasting white cheddar slice. This cheese is Tillamook quality, unlike McDonald's near flavorless mystery cheese.  The charbroiled patty and the bacon bring out a smokiness in the cheese that makes this quite possibly the best Whopper ever.  I will be eating a lot of these while it's around.  It needs to become a permanent menu item.  Are you listening to me, Burger King?  NEEDS TO BE PERMANENT.

Hardee's also has an interesting LTO burger currently.  The Memphis BBQ burger has pulled pork on it.  A burger patty and pulled pork.  Which gave me an idea.  McRib is back at McD's.  What if you got a CBO and a McRib, then put the McRib patty in the CBO, between the patty and one of the buns?

(Admit it.  You're thinking of trying that.  But I'm not.  I'm far too in love with this Whopper.)

T-shirts and shorts weather for Thanksgiving?  I'll set foot in five states Thanksgiving day, and every one of them has favorable weather.  Especially the last one, where it will be in the low 70's.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Twinkie Trauma

Place: Cici's Pizza
Lunch: Buffet, Pepsi

I saw a Cici's commercial the other night where they were hyping the buffet for "only $5.00 for a limited time".  First off, the regular buffet price at this location is $4.99.  Second, it's recently been $2.99 with the purchase of a drink.  So the commercial makes no sense.

The $2.99 price is driving traffic.  I haven't seen this place this busy in a year or two.

If you didn't think the world was in trouble before, you should now.  In a world where the parent company of Twinkies goes out of business, something is seriously wrong.

Hostess announced it's winding down its business.  The final straw was the inability to settle with striking union workers.  The company has been in bankruptcy (more than once, historically) for awhile now.  No more Twinkies, CupCakes, Sno-Balls, Donettes, Wonder Bread, or even Dolly Madison products.

Twitter users, of course, are all over this...

"Hostess is shutting down right when marijuana is getting legalized?  Well that's just not right." - @ZBeebs42

"Worst part about Hostess going out of business is now there's nothing to eat to cope with Hostess going out of business." - @rejectedjokes

Then you have the health Nazi's dancing in the street, and the organic crowd pointing everyone to "real bakeries with real baked goods".

Settle down, hippies.

This reminds me of my youth when the workers of a local spruce mill went on strike amidst threats from the parent company that it would result in the permanent shutdown of the mill.  The strike happened, the mill shut down, and the union had two guys posted at the gate with strike signs daily for TWO YEARS before deciding the company was actually serious and giving up.

I don't think the Hostess thing will be quite as dramatic.

Hostess will sell their brands.  The company who buys them will be able to start production without any existing union contracts.  They won't even have to use the existing Hostess plants.  Some off-brand snack cake maker could just slap the Twinkie brand on their existing knockoffs.  It might not happen immediately, but it will happen.

Still, it's kind of mind-boggling it got to this point.

Truth be known, I don't buy snack cakes of any kind very often.  I'll miss Wonder Bread more than anything.  But I still swung by QuikTrip and grabbed a package of Twinkies this morning just for nostalgia.  And chocolate CupCakes.  And my personal favorite Hostess product, orange CupCakes.  There was no shortage of supply.  They were fully stocked with all your favorites.

They'll be enjoyed, but if it's the last of their kind for me, it's no big deal.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Support Your Local Sheriff

Place: Taco Bell
Lunch: Enchrito, Doritos Locos Taco Supreme (no tomato), Nachos Supreme (no tomato), Pepsi

Me: "I'll have an Enchrito..."

Fast Talking Counter Girl: "Beefchickenorsteak?"

Me: "What?"

Fast Talking Counter Girl: "Beefchickenorsteak?"

Me: "It's an enchrito.  There's only one option."

Fast Talking Counter Girl: "Nothoseoptionsareavailableeventhoughthey'renotonthemenu".

I hate you.

In case you've been living under a rock, it's Election Day.  I usually vote over lunch as I've found my polling place is pretty empty if I leave a little early.  Five-ten minutes process tops.  But we have a new polling place this year and I was up early, so I headed straight down ahead of their 7:00 am opening.

Enter the big spacious lobby of the YMCA.  Greeted by some very friendly guy who points me to the obvious line.  Not bad...I count 13 possible voters ahead of me.  Two minutes to opening.  The line has a view of the YMCA's pool.  Old men, some in Speedos, are standing around the pool in what looks like some bizarre Twin Peaks scene.

(Someday, I'm going to be that guy.  The old man in the Speedo.  Yes.)

7:00 am sharp, the line starts moving.  This is where things get stupid.

The voting room is small.  REALLY small.  Less than half the size of the old place, maybe even a quarter.  There's three points you have to check in at versus one in the previous election that I remember.  You have to fill out a form at the first point, give it to the second point who verifies who you are and puts a sticker on the first form, then the third point where you pick up your ballot.

There's nine voting booths.  Three of these are unusable because the line to get through the check points are right up against them.  Doesn't matter because the second check-in point takes so long that there's never more than two or three people voting anyway.

I fill out my form at the first point then get back in line for the second point, which is crammed between the first check in point and the unusable voting booths.  It winds around the small space where the other voting booths are and the machine you submit your ballot in is.  The woman handing out ballots, having nothing better to do while the people verifying voters are taking forever, comes up to the line and says "You can't be this close to the voting booths".

We argue that there's no more space to stand in.  She sort of agrees, then decides to push the voting booths closer together.  I am not even exaggerating when I say the Fire Marshall would shut this room down if he saw this. It's absolutely ridiculous.

When I get to the second check-in point, I notice the holdup is because the two girls checking for registration are taking three to five minutes per do their job.  There's an option to scan your drivers license at the check point to expedite the process.  I do this.  This does quicken the process, but the girl still stares at the screen forever before asking me what my date of birth is for verification.  But I'm still out far faster than the voter next to me.

I get my ballot.  I go to a "booth" (a small plastic surround divider) and get to voting.  There is absolutely no way in this space that my voting is least a couple in line can't help but have full view access to my ballot.

Voting is quick if you're a straight-line ticket voter (which I'm not).  You can vote party, then flip the ballot over for everything else, which is nothing but a few judges.  We're not one of those states/counties that has a crapload of silly propositions.

Push through the cramped space to the machine you stick the ballot in, argue with the woman manning it, submit the ballot.  Squeeze your way through the single door this room has, which is full of people trying to come in.  Done.

28 minutes from door to exit, with only 13 people voting before me that I counted.  At that rate, they'll be lucky to get 400 voters voted in this precinct by closing time (9:00 pm) tonight.  The old place could handle roughly a dozen voters at the same time easily.

Who approved this space?  It's not like this is the world's first election, let alone this county's.


At least the TV campaign commercials will go away now, to be replaced by the usual bombardment of ads for prescription drugs.

Which I find every bit as offensive as the campaign ads.

Monday, November 05, 2012


Place: Subway
Lunch: Spicy Italian (the November featured $5 footlong), chips, Coke

Ever go by a Subway and think "Gee, I never noticed that Subway before", and it's because it just opened and even though you drive by there every day you didn't see it coming?

I suppose that's because Subways just kind of magically appear in strip malls overnight, and possibly because who cares, there's like fifty Subways within a ten-mile driving distance of any point on Earth.  Or at least it seems like there is.

Anyway, they opened last week.  Who knew.  No grand opening banners.  Few customers. That's a good thing here because this may well be the slowest Subway crew EVER.

My sandwich looks like it was run over in the parking lot before they served it.

Slightly more noticeable last week...Dunkin' Donuts returned to the market for the first time in...oh...a few decades.  The press release claimed it's "the first Dunkin' Donuts restaurant in the area since 1972", but I think that's when the last one OPENED.  I think they were here until 1980 or so.  There's definitely one old Dunkin' building still standing in town that until recently was a taco place.

I stopped by on opening day.  It was busy, but not ridiculously so.  I parked right out in front.  Waltzed right in.  Third in line.  Had a free Munchkin.  Ordered my usual...a Boston Kreme and a hot chocolate.  Also got a Strawberry Frosted just because.

Total $3.28.  Handed clerk $20.28.  Got back NOTHING.

Didn't think about it for a second, then caught on.  " owe me $17."

She stands there looking innocently confused, then says something to another employee.  "It'll be just a minute, sir."

She rings out the next customer, because she can't just open the drawer, according to the other employee.  She needs a transaction where the drawer pops open so she can make change.

Except this guy is paying with a credit card.

So does the next customer.

Why do people use credit cards for $3.00 transactions?

Another employee asks me if he can help me, not because he's helpful, but because I'm in the way now.  I explain why I'm standing there.  He gets a manager, who nervously shows the cashier how to open the register.

I finally get my change and move over to where you wait to pick up drinks.  Mine, of course, has been sitting there for awhile.  One of those regional people franchises bring in to oversee store openings wastes no time explaining to me that they're just opening today and these things happen and therefore it's nobody's fault.

Short-changing has become such an issue with me that I have to wonder if cashiers are doing this on purpose to supplement their low wages.  We have a local Target store where you simply couldn't pay cash without exact change...they'd skim you every time, regardless of who the clerk was.  (Don't know if it's still like there, I quit going to that one years ago.)  I also had it happen to me at a Walgreen's recently.  I confronted that clerk and she got upset, completely denying it.  I confirmed I was right when I got home and balanced my books.  (Yes, I'm that anal...I track every penny.)

Then I stopped this morning at QuikTrip for Lotto.  I had a $1 winner and was buying $3.  The machine was directly in front of me behind the counter.  The clerk inserted my existing ticket.  The machine made its "You're a winner!  Woo hoo!" sound and the display showed I owed $2 after he plugged in my $3 plays.

He turned right around to me and said "No winner on that ticket.  $3.00 please."


I pointed out that he was incorrect.  He turned again.  "Oh, right.  $2.00."

Maybe that's why everybody's paying $3.00 tabs with credit cards.

I went back to Dunkin' this morning.  Hit the drive-thru this time.  Got a couple of doughnuts and a hot chocolate.  Paid with exact change.

Drove off only to later discover they gave me the wrong doughnuts.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Survey Says

Place: Cici's Pizza
Lunch: Buffet, Coke

Cici's (at least this particular one) is having a special where you get the buffet during pre-dinner hours (10:30am-4:00pm) for $2.99 with drink purchase, making this lunch $4.85 including sales tax.  This usually comes to $6.97.  Jeepers.  They really weren't cheap enough already?

Smiling Store Manager takes my money and hands me my change.  I grab the receipt directly from the cash register.  "I always forget you keep those!", she exclaims.  "Hey!  Will you take the survey?  Nobody ever does."

Me: "Huh?"

She points me to the sign inviting me to take the survey, which also prints on the back of the receipt.  "Our regional rep was here and says they've never received a survey for this store.  I don't know why.  It takes like ten minutes and you get a discount when you come in next time."

Me:  "They probably think they're going to get their e-mail address on a marketing mailing list."

Her:  "Oh.  Hadn't thought of that.  But we don't do that"

You see these survey invitations a lot anymore, and some companies have their front line people verbally encouraging customers to take them.  Sometimes you get a coupon or discount in return, sometimes you're entered in a contest to win a prize.  $1000 in gas, free appetizers, edible shoes...apparently it's cheaper and considered to provide more accurate customer feedback than traditional research methods.

I doubt a lot of people take these.  You forget about it the second you exit the door of the business.  The only surveys I take are ones requested of me by e-mail, usually by hotels or airlines based on recent business, because they're right in front of me and accessible immediately.  But those aren't necessarily anonymous.  I found that out when the manager of a hotel I stayed at replied to me about my survey responses.  (It wasn't like I punked the survey with silly responses...I pointed out some legitimate concerns and he addressed them professionally.)

Some companies are going further with this.  One I do a lot of business with sent out invites to certain customers to join a secured community website that is full of surveys for new product ideas, community discussions, company news, and the like.  It's like a hardcore customer fan site where you get real input into the product.  There's enough information here that I actually feel like I have a better idea of where they're going with their product than even the company I work for is going with theirs.

Anyhoo, I took the Cici's survey.  I responded favorably.   And no e-mail address or other personal information was collected.  Just some generic multiple-choice questions and a couple of comment fields.

Sort of boring, really.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: CBO, fries that have been sitting WAY too long, Coke

"CBO" stands for Cheddar, Bacon, Onion.  It's a 1/3 pound burger from the Angus line (they still do the Angus burgers?  Yes, who knows why) with a white cheddar, bacon, and grilled onions.  It also has a mystery sauce that appears to be some sort of pepper mayo.  I tried to find out what exactly the sauce is because McDonald's doesn't even acknowledge the thing has a sauce at all, but the best answer I got was "a mustard sauce".  I disagree, but what do I know.

It's okay overall,  I'm not a fan of their Angus patty to begin with.

They also have a chicken version of the CBO. know...chicken instead of beef.  You could always buy one of each and morph the two into one freaky monstrosity.  You rock, freaky foodie.

"Monopoly" is over.  I didn't win a Fiat.  WHY MONOPOLY GODS!  WHY COULDN'T YOU THROW ONE MEASLY 500 MY WAY????

I suppose I could always just buy one.  They're pretty cheap.

Nah.  Winter's coming.  Not terribly sensible.

We did finally get a local Fiat dealership.  A South Dakota dealership group who's never ever done business here before got conned into it.  They bought a seriously old long-abandoned dealership building on the cheap that they plan to remodel into something more Fiat-y, but apparently people got wind of them coming and started calling their South Dakota office freaking out about Fiats, so they brought some down and are already selling them.

That's a positive, I guess.

It was 80 and humid yesterday.  It's windy, rainy, and 41 today.

I'll take windy, rainy, and 41 over warm and humid any day.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Local LUV

Place: Wendy's
Lunch: Bacon Portabella Melt (single), chili, grape Fanta

This sandwich sure seems familiar.  Web sources match it up to the Bacon Mushroom Melt of 2011.  Except with "portabella" (Wendy's spelling) mushrooms.  I always thought it was spelled "portabello", but a Google search revealed that people and restaurants go either way.  My spell-check doesn't like either spelling, and in both cases suggests "Portability".  Portable mushrooms?  Has spell-check ever tried hand-carrying around mushrooms sauteed in butter, let alone drenched in liquid cheese like on this sandwich?

Stupid spell-check.

Anyway, the burger is actually pretty decent, but I wouldn't go out of the way for one.  You can get it in a single or double.

There are certain milestones every city wants to hit before it's considered all grown up.  The big milestone for any city with commercial air service is getting Southwest Airlines.  And this weekend, we got them.

On Saturday afternoon, N929WN, a Southwest Boeing 737-700, flew in from Southwest's home base in Dallas.  On Sunday morning, that aircraft made its first scheduled revenue flight, officially making us the 77th city Southwest serves.

Southwest replaced AirTran's service here.  AirTran was acquired by Southwest a few years ago, and the phasing out of that brand is still in process.  Not all AirTran cities will continue to be serviced by Southwest.  We sort of got lucky there.

Initially, we get service only to Chicago-Midway.  This means I'll almost never use them out of the local airport.  Give me DAL or DEN non-stops and I'll stop driving to other airports to use Southwest.

Southwest's big selling point is low fares (though truth be known, my experience is that Southwest isn't really all that low anymore) but there are other benefits.  Major aircraft being one of them.  Southwest operates Boeing 737's exclusively, and will be operating the first 737's seen in this market in years.  That's an amazing statement considering the 737 dominates the single-aisle aircraft market.

Most of the aircraft for local flights are smaller regional Embraers or Bombardiers.  Some of these are REALLY small.  And the MD-80's Delta and Allegiant fly don't count because I hate MD-80's.  That leaves United, who flies an Airbus A-300 series in once or twice a day.  Frontier did briefly too, but went back to E190's.

Operating efficiency and quality of service is another perk.  I'm amazed at how quickly Southwest can turn a flight around.  I love watching the process.  Employees, especially flight crews, tend to be fun people who are encouraged to put a little personality into their job.  They make the other discount airlines look amateur by comparison.

I also love that I can book a flight just a few days in advance without being punished for doing so.  On most airlines, regular fares increase as the date to the flight approaches and the flight fills up.  So the same class seat I booked a month ago for $400 may be $700 or more if I tried to book it today instead.  I once was booking a flight on a major airline, and the price increased WHILE I WAS BOOKING THE SEAT.  I got the quote, went through the process, had my payment info inputted, and when I clicked the last button, I got a warning screen that the price had increased since I'd started the booking process a few minutes previous, asking if I wished to continue.


But with Southwest, I've never seen that.  I can look a day or a month into the future and see the same price.  I have some of the prices memorized on certain routes.

Hey!  It's October!

I love October.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: 10pc Chicken McNuggets (w/sweet chili sauce), fries, Hi-C Orange Lavaburst

I'll never understand McEconomics.  A 10pc Chicken McNuggets sells for $4.19.  A 20pc, according to the tray liner, sells for $4.99.

McNuggets may be like crack, but I don't think even I could eat 20 of them.  Even for just $.80 more.

Maybe today I could have.  These taste like they were just cooked.  That's not always the case.  The place to go for nuggets is Jack in the Box.  They're ALWAYS freshly cooked, and they're cheaper.

Mc D's annual Monopoly promotion just started.  I'm planning on winning a Fiat.  But not today.  Today, I won a medium fries, although I did get one of the Fiat pieces too.  Probably not the magical impossible to find piece, but whatever.

There's some sort of manager training program going on in here.  There's nine people dressed in black with name tags wandering the kitchen and dining room taking notes.  Another woman is overseeing them.  After their inspections, they break up into groups in the dining room and are instructed to discuss "priorities" and "bravos" they noticed.  "Priorities" apparently means things being done wrong.  Bravos means things being done right.  It's like the finishing school of fast food or something.

The big "priority" apparently has to do with breakfast burritos in the cooler after breakfast hours.  The leader is having a hard time communicating to her students that breakfast burritos aren't served during lunch hours.  Seriously...they're not getting it.  I'm not getting why there's pre-made burritos at all.  Are they shipped pre-made, or do the restaurants pre-make up a bunch and reheat them to keep the drive-thru moving?  And more importantly, why do I care either way?  I NEVER order breakfast burritos.

Of course, nobody brought up the alarming price differentiation between 10pc and 20pc McNuggets.  I totally would have.

Not much going on.  Been staying home more lately.  The weather has turned more autumn-like.  Good open window nights.  Leaves are turning color.  Saw some beautiful pics of Utah fall colors.  Hopefully colors will still be in full swing when I get out there in a couple of weeks.

Werther's came out with a "caramel apple filled" version of their candy for the fall season.

They're freaking awesome.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Chicken Little

Place: KFC-Taco Bell
Lunch: Doritos locos taco supreme (no tomato), nachos supreme (no tomato) extra crispy thigh, Chicken Littles sandwich, Pepsi

I'm in line behind four guys making separate orders that are odd.  The last guy walks off without his receipt or change.  Smiling Counter Guy doesn't know what to do about it.  So he leaves it on the counter for the guy to pick up later (which he does when he gets his food).

Smiling Counter Guy disappears for awhile, then comes back and points at me without saying anything because apparently he wants me to order now.

Me: "One Doritos locos taco supreme..."

Him: "For here?"

Me: "Yes."

Him:  "That's it?"

Me: "No."

Him: "..."

Me: "One Doritos locos taco supreme, no tomato..."

Him: "Okay, wait.  You want the one with the sour cream?"

Me: "..."

Him: "I just want to make sure.  You'd be surprised, we get people who don't want the sour cream, they want the regular one..."

He went on for about fifteen more sentences, but I'd tuned him out by then and just waited for him to finish before processing an answer.

Here's the problem with interrupting my order flow...I'm easily confused.  When you jump in with some unexpected question, my brain basically shuts down and I start making irrational requests.  Then I end up with a taco topped with something ridiculous like pizza rolls.

When they called my number, the guy who brought my food to the counter said "Doritos locos taco supreme, extra tomato!"

Me:  "No, I..."

He busts out laughing.  "Just kidding!"

He is, too.  Everything's made the way I ordered it.

This KFC Chicken Little sandwich...a mini sub roll (think hot dog bun) with a standard chicken tender with mayo and pretty awesome.  At least with a very recently cooked tender, which this one is.

I guess KFC once had a different sandwich called "Chicken Little" that I don't remember.  But it has a legion of fans who were campaigning to get that one back and got this instead.  They're not happy.

But I am.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Jantzen Beach

Place: Taco Casa
Lunch: Taco Lite (no tomato), Chilada, Coke

Taco Casa's slogan is "Still the same since 1972".

No freaking kidding.  Have you ever seen something so awesome in your life?

Food's good too.

It was while having lunch that I saw the headline about the Jantzen Beach Thunderbird Inn burning down.  Wow.  The landmarks visible from the I-5 bridge are falling at a rapid pace in recent years.  The Waddles sign now touts Hooters.  Jantzen Beach Center may as well be gone.

The Thunderbird (the original Red Lion Inn) was an expansive property with multiple buildings (two of the six apparently survived the fire).  In its heyday, it was a beautiful top notch hotel and convention facility.  It's been closed for the past few years, supposedly in the way of a new bridge (though Walmart wanted to build there once.)  I saw some pictures taken of the interior just this year by somebody somewhere.  Still looked pretty nice.

I'm pretty sure I never ever even once set foot in the hotel, but the sprawling facility was instantly recognizable in my mind.  It was an impressive sight when driving over the bridge.  And hearing the news of the fire got me reminiscing about the Jantzen Beach area in general, at least as I saw it in the 80's and 90's.

Jantzen Beach started out as an amusement park in the 1920's.  One of the original investors was Carl Jantzen, co-founder of the Jantzen swimsuit empire.  The amusement park's amenities included four swimming pools.

In the 1970's, the amusement park made way for a shopping mall.  A merry-go-round from the amusement park dating back to the 1920's was installed in the mall, and is still there today.  The mall's history has always been sketchy at best (the whole area...shops, cars, condos...have always been targeted by thieves), but I liked the place.  There was always something just a little different about it.  

It was the last place I ever saw a Whirla Whip vendor.  When Stereo Super Stores liquidated their Jantzen Beach store, I got a new pair of speakers for my '75 VW Dasher wagon (yellow with fake wood paneling!) for five bucks.  (The car had a factory AM-FM 8-track with stereo sound...the left channel being in the center of the dash, the right being in the right rear quarter panel.)  Even when I was living elsewhere, I'd drop in when visiting the area.

I have a memory from my childhood of being in the mall's Montgomery Ward looking at a small race track toy that was one uni-body piece of plastic with cars roughly the size of Hot Wheels. It had a mechanical pump winder that fired the cars from a rubber wheel peaking out from underneath the starting point, which upon contact, sent them flying around the track.  The motor made quite a racket, one that for whatever reason I hear in my head now when I play Tiny Wings.  When the birds drop into a dip and go flying, I hear that noise.  Every time.

Most of the mall was demolished in the 90's in favor of big box retail.  The rest of it is apparently going to be demolished (if it hasn't already) as part of a Target store replacement project.  (Target currently operates a weird 2-story store in the old Wards building.)

I wandered the remaining wing a few years ago.  It just made me angry.  They'd painted all the wood beams in a dreadful gray and navy color scheme.  Few businesses were still operating in there, mostly local mom-and-pop oddball shops.  The few 'customers' inside all seemed to be homeless people using the place as a daytime hangout.

At least they're claiming the merry-go-round will be salvaged...even restored.

Still, won't be the same.

And with the hotel gone, now even less is the same.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Artificial Sweetener

Place: El Pollo Loco
Lunch: Barbecue chicken stuffed quesadilla, thigh, pinto beans, Coke

El Pollo Loco is a Mexican version of fast food chicken that, unlike other Mexican chains, actually started in Mexico.  Their chicken is grilled, not fried.  If you're looking for a really tasty grilled chicken, this is the place to go.

Frowning Counter Girl took my order, took my money, gave me change.  I said "Thank you".  She muttered "You're welcome".


Shouldn't THEY be thanking ME for patronizing their business?

But "you're welcome" has suddenly become a thing, I guess.  This is at least the third time I've noticed this over the summer.  Normally, they'll say "Thank you", and I'll say "Thank YOU" in return.  Apparently, saying "Thank you" for me is now a reflex thing as soon as I have change in hand.  So I'm trying to get out of that habit and say nothing if they don't say "Thank you" first.

This also happened yesterday at Jack in the Box.  But they made up for it when the girl who brought my food to my table said "Thank you, my dear."

WOW.  That made my whole day.

And that's another thing.  Artificial sweetness.  A couple of weeks ago in a RaceTrac, I got a fountain soda and realized there were no cup lids in sight.  A store girl noticed my confusion and asked "Looking for lids, love?"


Then the next night at the same RaceTrac, another girl who was stocking one of the coolers I was looking in asked "Sorry, honey.  Can I get in there?"

Then last night at the Kiss/Motley Crue show, a random pair of girls who needed around me said "Thanks, sweetie!"

Have I fallen into an alternate universe or something?

This was my thirteenth Kiss show if memory serves, and they were awesome, of course.  As the guy next to me said, "They never disappoint".  One of their cleanest and most colorful stages ever, with a huge HD video board (no lighted KISS logo...they use the video board for that), additional video panels throughout the lower stage areas, and colored lighting all around.  Their set is actually the shortest I've ever seen, but they still fit all their trademark gimmicks in.  Kiss has always been stronger musically when Ace and Peter weren't in the band, and having Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley makes for Kiss's strongest musical lineup.

I'm not a Crue fan, and this show didn't convince me otherwise.  They had a ridiculously elaborate stage that included a roller coaster loop that the drum kit was attached to so Tommy Lee and his entire drum set could rotate to the top of the stage, hanging upside down during his drum solo, which wasn't really a drum solo at all.  It was basically a 2/4 beat synchronized with pre-recorded synth and video.  So the roller coaster contraption was apparently supposed to distract you from his inability to do anything but provide a backbeat.  Their whole show was like that, absolutely pounding the audience with intense lights and bomb blasts.  And strippers.  Loads of distraction from the fact there was actually a band up there somewhere.

Timing was another thing.  There was a point in their set that the Crue was hounding the crowd for being quiet and rallying us up.  At which point they immediately launched into "Home Sweet Home".  A BALLAD.

Otherwise, they played about a dozen songs that sounded exactly the same.  And they swore.  A LOT.

I don't think Kiss could have picked a better group to co-headline with.  They made Kiss look so much more professional in every aspect, including musical ability.  When you can make Kiss look good musically, you HAVE to have sold your souls for your fame.

A third band also played.  "The Treatment" described themselves as "a bunch of 19 year-old kids from England".  They played their own take on 80's metal.

They were better than Crue.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Home Show 2012

Place: Taco Time
Lunch: Crispy Taco (no tomato), crispy chicken burrito, cheddar fries, Mr Pibb

They usually give you a fork with the cheddar fries.  They didn't this time.

"I need a fork," I say.

Frowning Counter Girl points to shiny new automated fork dispenser machine thingie with an expression on her face that says "You should have noticed we installed that without me having to point it out".

(This level of customer service is the norm in Iowa.)

The annual local 
Home Show Expo opened this weekend.  Several local builders get together and build "dream homes" in a new neighborhood that showcase concepts and new technologies.  Before the homes are occupied (some are already sold and some are for sale), locals pay $10 each to wander through them and gather ideas for their own dream homes.  Each home is usually staffed by representatives of the builder who can answer technical questions, or in one case, by three bitchy realtors who were sitting there bad mouthing other realtors.

This year's show had twelve homes.  Previous shows have had far more elaborate properties, even million dollar mansions.  Guess nobody's buying those anymore.  While each home was custom designed, decorated, and furnished, all of them had similar layouts with certain things about today's homes that drive me nuts.

The rules of modern home building include:

-All homes must not have upper floors, but must have finished walk-out lower levels (formerly known as 'basements').

-All homes must have master suites on the main level.  (Because we're too fat and lazy to climb stairs anymore...except to walk-out lower levels.)

-All homes must have 852 fireplaces.

-All homes must have HDTV's hanging above all 852 fireplaces.

-All homes must have showers the size of the kids bedrooms.

I prefer having second and even third floors (the Townhouse of Solitude is a three-story row house format with bedrooms on the third level) but people just seem to hate stairs anymore.  The compromise comes with the walk-out lower level format...the front of the house is street level, but the property slopes towards the back so that the walk-out lower level is at ground level on the back side.  With the master bedroom on the back side of the main level, the windows are on the second level.  Still, the entrance is usually off the living room, dining room, or kitchen, or even a combination of the above in cases where there's entrances on both ends of the suite area.  A couple of homes even had access to the walk-in closet end from just off the garage entry.

Showers...what is the deal here?  They're getting bigger and bigger.  One of the homes even had a walk-through.  A walk-through shower!  To me, the perfect shower is a standalone unit in an enclosed space that's about the length of a standard tub space but a little wider, and with a full pressure shower head.  Or maybe a couple or even a group of shower heads working in concert.  Steam will build naturally and you'll feel like your sinuses and head have completely cleared.  These bigger spaces can't hold the steam.  In fact, one of the showers I saw actually had a steam generator to compensate for this.  Really?

(If you ever go to Vegas, stay in a villa suite at the Marriott Grand Chateau.  They have the perfect size shower with two full shower heads.  It's heaven.  And the place is very reasonably priced for what you get.)

Fireplaces...I don't mind one or two (I actually prefer candles for atmosphere),  but some of these homes had them EVERYWHERE.  And they're all gas, of course.  Nobody has real fireplaces anymore.  And they're almost always placed where you'd put the TV, so the TV has to hang above them, sometimes six to eight feet in the air.  Hello sore necks.


Anyway, on to the homes.  If you go to the link I posted earlier, you can download the official home show guide in PDF, which includes technical specs, drawings, and floor layouts of each home.  You're welcome.

The development is on a golf course.  You can walk right out to the cart path.  Some homes even had garages for golf carts.

When you tour the homes, you are required to put on booties.  Most take their shoes off and leave them at the entrance, fiddling with booties at each home.  I figured out this year that I could just leave the booties on and slip in and out of my shoes without them coming off.  So I did that.  At at least a half dozen homes, people said "Why didn't I think of that" when they saw this.  In a couple of cases, wives saw this and told their husbands THEY should be doing that.  In those cases, the husbands universally grumbled and refused to try it.

Home 1 - $499.000

The main floor common area (the big area where the living room, kitchen, and dining room are one big space...which was nearly universal at all the homes) had a huge open ceiling with natural lighting from a sort of windowed mini tower thingie at the top.  Whereas most homes had stained wood rails, cabinets, and accents, this home had white wood everything.  It had really neat hanging iron light fixtures.  The one over the dining room table was made up to look like a large grouping of candles, lit by flickering LED's.  NEAT.  I wonder if I could find a smaller one to hang over my kitchen island.  The master bath was the most elegant of the bunch with mini lamp sconces, a proper size walk-in shower with multiple heads, and a soaking tub in its own mini room off the main bath space.  Gorgeous.

Home 2 - $695,000

This was the home I was most looking forward to seeing, based on the home show guide (which I'd previewed before going to the show).  The round tower in front holding the circular staircase looked SO cool.  Alas, this house was also the biggest disappointment.  The kitchen was walled off from the living room (though their was an arched opening through).  The television must have been EIGHT FEET IN THE AIR to clear the fireplace below it.  The ceiling fan was didn't have blades, but two circular fans hanging from a center pole.  Weird.  The master bath shower was HUGE.  So big that it ran the entire length of the bathtub (a large standalone tub directly in front of it) with enough room for a generous entrance door past the  tub's end.  The master closet was small in comparison with the others.  This house actually had a small second story to access the kids rooms and a kids bath.

Home 3 - $749,000

The cool factor in this home started with the copper kitchen sink.  The lower level entry had a barn-like sliding track door, which was also kind of cool.  There was a dedicated home theater space that was way too open for my taste, and the screen STILL had a fireplace underneath.  There was a neat wine cellar sort of hidden behind the screen wall.

Home 4 - $899,900

The first impression I got was when I walked in the door and saw the office just to the right.  Beautiful wood beams in the ceiling.  Great space.  I walked in further to see a great open common area done in a very western theme.  The decorator, Colorado Classics, lived up to their name.  Every bathroom had a deep soaking tub (not a large jetted tub, just deeper than normal).  The lower level had a REALLY impressive bar.  It was a HUGE rectangular U-shaped thing with a natural feel wood top.  The lower level also had a dedicated golf cart garage.

Home 5 - (SOLD - No price displayed)

This home was custom built for an Italian family who re-purposed a bunch of stuff to give this home an old world feel.  This included an arched stained glass window (from an old church) above the living room, and hand-distressed wood beams and trim.  The commons area was just beautiful.  The two negatives I noted about this place...The laundry room is too far from the bedrooms, and one of the bathrooms had a urinal.  This is a dumb idea in a home.

Home 6 - $849,000

The highlight here was a staircase just off the dining room that led to a beautiful sitting room with a rotunda overlooking the golf course.  It had a mini kitchenette.  There was also a bedroom up there.  The master bath had a walk-through locker room-style shower designed for two, and a tub with LED lighting to light up the water.  TV in downstairs bar area displayed an alternating sequence of exterior security cameras.  You can get drunk while watching for intruders, giving yourself an exciting new level of paranoia.

Home 7 - (SOLD - No price displayed)

For once, there's no TV above the fireplace.  Instead, it's in a built-in cabinet NEXT to the fireplace.  At floor level.  Seriously?  Am I the last person in the world to sit in my chair and have the center of my TV at eye level?  So I can just stare straight ahead?  What is wrong with you people?  This house also had a Christmas tree.  Christmas in July.  I once was driving through Nebraska in July and one of the welcome centers was throwing a Christmas in July party.  Weirdos.  One of the bathrooms had a sink with a flat surface that the water runs off of into sort of culverts to the side.  Okay.  The master bath didn't have a tub, but DID have a proper size shower (with loads of shower heads) and...a coffee maker.  And a mini fridge.  Many people walking through declared this genius.

Home 8 - (SOLD - No price displayed)

This was the FIRST home with a properly positioned TV in the common area.  No fireplaces at all aside from the back deck.  That didn't stop them from mounting the TV WAY too high on the theater space wall.  This was the home with the steam generator for the shower.  The steam generator was in the walk-in closet right behind the shower wall.  It was exposed, albeit in sort of a cubby hole.  This home was the least 'grand' feeling of the twelve.  The highlight was probably the dual bunk beds with a center ladder/stair thing.  Those were cool.  Decent space for four kids, if having four kids in one room is even legal anymore.

Home 9 - $659,000

Very beautiful, throughout, but the highlight was the master bath.  That had skylights that really let the daylight in and a wide walking space that had more people than just me going "Oh WOW" as they entered.  The lower level bar had some cool hanging lamps.  Me: "Nice lamps."  Guy: "Thanks."

Home 10 - $515,000

Nothing remarkable.  Home theater space was the best so far, but still flawed with the built-in cabinets limiting TV size.

Home 11 - $399,900

Though each home was staffed by people to answer questions, none reached out to me even though they reached out to others because, even though I dressed nice, I'm freaking scary looking.  This house was the exception.  The woman manning the helm was very nice and welcoming.  This house had the best office with its corner double-door entry and its double size compared to the others.  Even at this price, it had a nice master suite.  And a proper size shower.  If I were in the market, this would be the house on this tour I'd seriously look at.

Home 12 - $525,000

Hey!  A
Nest thermostat!  Which is the only remarkable thing I remember upstairs.  Downstairs had an exercise room complete with a mirror wall.  Young couple: "We need those mirrors."  Best home theater space of the show with a front projector, two rows of stadium seating, and a popcorn machine.  Yes, they were making popcorn and allowing you to sit there, eat, and watch the movie.

(No, I didn't.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Place: Chick-Fil-A
Lunch: Chicken sandwich, lemonade

Hadn't had one of these in awhile.  Still don't get what all the fuss is.  The bun is cold, even though it was toasted.  How does THAT work?   I WAS going to have chicken soup with this, but that's apparently seasonal.  They're building a standalone Chick-Fil-A like a block from this mall food court one I'm eating at.  This is apparently a very big deal.  Because it will sell the EXACT SAME FOOD THIS ONE DOES.

Cheerwine is a soda.  Sort of a cherry cola.  It's NOT alcoholic in any way (I don't drink).  Hard to describe, really.  A staple of the South and available in cane sugar form in glass bottles, I discovered it a few years ago and while it became part of my regular soda rotation immediately, it's now the official soda of me, ever since the soul-crushing fascists at Dr Pepper-Snapple Group successfully killed off the Dublin Dr Pepper brand.

Cheerwine isn't exactly distributed nationally, but they have a finder thingie on their website where fans have posted information on stores that carry it.  Or you can order cases online directly from them.

So I pick up some bottles whenever I'm in an area where I can find it.  Pops has it.  Some of the Rocket Fizz stores have it.  Jungle Jim's has it by the caseload.  And honestly, I don't drink a whole lot of it (I still have several cases of Dublin on hand, and when that runs out, I have a feeling soda pop will be a fading thing with me), but I like one or two a week.  Still, it's nice to have around, even if it's hard to come by.

Or so I thought.

Yesterday, Cheerwine posted this on their Facebook feed...

"Having trouble finding Cheerwine?  Remember that all Cracker Barrel General Stores carry Cheerwine glass bottles!"



This is NOT on their website finder thingie, and as far as I know, this is the first time Cheerwine has publicly mentioned this.

If you've never been to a Cracker Barrel, it's a restaurant with a general store that sells country-type stuff and some retro goodies.  Think Stuckey's back in the day, but less touristy.  Heck...they even have pecan logs.

I almost never go in them though.  I'd completely forgotten about the 'general store' aspect of the place.

But you can bet that was my first stop after work yesterday.  Or second, actually, after a failed attempt to satisfy a chicken nugget craving.  You'd already know this if you followed me on Twitter, fool.

And son of a gun...they had Cheerwine.  Cane sugar bottles in four-packs.  For $4.44.  Which is cheaper per bottle than any place I've gotten it at, except the couple of times I've gotten it by the case load at Jungle Jim's.

So if you're a Cheerwine fan and didn't know this...heads-up.

But I'm SO mad that I didn't know this previously.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The New Dallas

Place: Taco Bell
Lunch: Doritos Locos Taco Supreme (no tomato), nachos supreme (no tomato), pintos and cheese, Pepsi

 It's so weird to have a real modern Taco Bell in town.  Weird, I tell you.

"Dallas" returned to television last night.  The iconic series best known for the whole "who shot JR" deal has been remade for TNT.  I watched "Dallas" and its spinoff "Knots Landing" starting a few seasons in pretty much to the end of both runs, though I was actually a bigger fan of "Knots" than "Dallas".

Most of the original core cast are in attendance with the exception of those played by actors who've since died, and Victoria Principal's Pam Ewing (Bobby's wife in the new series is "Ann", played by the always outstanding Brenda Strong).  But they're just here to pass the baton.  The new show is really focused around the youth of Dallas, specifically Christopher and John Ross, JR and Bobby's sons from the original series, and the women in their lives.  One of the women is played by Jordana Brewster of the Fast and the Furious movies.  

I thought the boys looked WAY too young to be where Christopher and John Ross would be age-wise today, but I checked the ages of the actors, and they were born at right about the time their characters would have been.  They look young, in shape, and they look really good shirtless.  That's something guys didn't have to be in the days of the original series.  Women today are much more into the eye candy than they used to be.

I thought the show was great, if not SERIOUSLY heavy on the plot twists.  As for Larry Hagman?  He stepped right back into JR's shoes.  He may be old and frail, but he's still the devil.

The ratings were good.  The show gets a ten-episode run this year.  I hope it does well and continues, but as they transition stories more towards the kids, I'm not sure how capable this bunch will be of maintaining the legacy.  We have so many brilliantly written dramas today, and like the original, this isn't remotely in the same league as, say, "Mad Men".

The new Gen 3 QuikTrip opened today, just across the street from here.

Think I'll check it out on the way back to work.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Green Burrito (was) Neato

Place: Carl's Jr/Green Burrito
Lunch: 2 beef tacos, side of beans, Famous Star (no tomato), Coke

Green Burrito used to be a small California Mexican chain that was known for its signature "Green Burrito"...a massive burrito with green sauce and pretty much every conceivable Mexican ingredient on hand.  It weighed well north of a pound.

Green Burrito's growth largely came through co-branding with Carl's Jr outlets, who eventually came to own the brand.  In the early days of co-branding, they had one of the best commercial campaigns ever, featuring a simple green dot pouty face on a black screen singing acoustic emo jingles that included...

Green Burrito is neato
Green Burrito, packed with meat-o
Green Burrito, good to eat-o
Green Burrito, smell my feet-o

(I can't find the actual commercials on YouTube, but I did find the audio for them.)

They've done a lot of modifying to the menu over the years.  You can't even get the Green Burrito anymore.  Rice is gone too.  No more platters...just combos with chips or fries.

So it was with some confusion that I walked into Carl's Jr/Green Burrito on Sunday.  I noticed no more "deluxe taco", which was nothing more than their standard taco with sour cream added.  Tried to order it anyway.

"Do you still make deluxe tacos?"

Mediocre Counter Girl shouted something in Spanish to the back.

The back responded in Spanish.

Mediocre Counter Girl then turned to me and said "Ya, okay."

"Okay, I'll have two in a platter."

"A what?"


"Oh, we no have platters no more.  We just have chips."

I look over the menu to see if beans are still present.  They are, as a "side of beans".

"Okay, two deluxe tacos and a side of beans."

"What kind of tacos?"

At which point my level of frustration went past the boiling point.  I turned around and walked out the door.

So today, I went to a different Carl's Jr/Green Burrito.  Because I apparently have a fetish for punishment.

Smiling Counter Guy:  "To stay or to go?"

(NOTE - "To stay" is what they say instead of "For here" in the Intermountain West.  This is a universal rule.  If somebody in the Intermountain West says "For here" to you, you know they're one of them furreigners from the Midwest or worse.)

So I give him my order, which includes the language "Two crispy beef tacos".  I notice that as he enters the tacos, the price for two is WAY cheaper than the price of one on the menu board.

Me: "Did you ring one taco or two?"

Smiling Counter Guy: "Two.  You want the crispy tacos, not the beef tacos, right?"

Me: "What?"

Smiling Counter Guy: "Well, there's the cripsy tacos, which are two for a dollar, or the beef taco, which has beef, lettuce, cheese, and salsa."

Me: "What's in the crispy taco?"

Smiling Counter Guy: "Beef, lettuce, cheese, and salsa."

It's times like these that I'm really impressed at how well I've gotten at controlling my temper.

So I tell him to go with the "beef taco".  He does.  Order complete.

So the food comes.  I had also ordered a side of beans, which were delivered, but no spoon was included to eat them with.  So I go to the counter.

Me: "I need a spoon for my beans."

Smiling Counter Girl: "We don't have spoons."

Yes.  Seriously.  They fully intend for you to lick them out of the bowl.

Smiling Counter Girl, after noticing I'm coldly staring at her: "Sorry...would you like a fork?"

The sad part about this is the Green Burrito refried beans are my favorite thing on the entire Carl's Jr/Green Burrito menu.  They're soupy and wonderful.  I could go there and just order like a half dozen bowls and be happy.

I went online to see if the Carl's Jr website would have a better description of the "Crispy Taco".   They did...even including a picture (which the Carl's Jr menu board does not).  They are apparently clones of Jack in the Box tacos.  With the American cheese slice and everything.  

Apparently there's no soft shell beef taco anymore, so in Green Burrito speak, there's no point in specifying whether or not you want a crispy or soft taco.  I firmly believe the marketing genius at CKE who thought of this arrogantly believes anybody who doesn't catch onto this immediately is an idiot.  That's certainly how the counter help acts.

What makes me even angrier is that I now want to try the Jack in the Box clone tacos too.


Spent the morning taking pictures of the spring flowers at Temple Square and checking out the new City Creek Center, the new outdoor mall/lifestyle center that replaced two shopping malls...the ZCMI Center and Crossroads Plaza.  The highlight?  The new Harmon's, which is a grocery store.  But I'm really into grocery stores.  Also chatted with a friend who manages one of the City Creek stores.

Weather has just been beautiful the past couple of days.  Perfect for being outside.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lazy Town Update

Place: QuikTrip
Lunch: Chili dog, Pepsi

Lunch was SUPPOSED to be at Hardee's, who announced on their Facebook feed that the Grilled Cheese Bacon Thickburger (beef, cheese, cheese, cheese, bacon, mayo on buttered and toasted sourdough bread) was returning today.  Naturally, the local Hardee's didn't get the memo and weren't offering it.  I'm betting it'll be two weeks before they can be bothered.

Yet another example of the laziness that ensues around here.

Speaking of laziness, here's an update on the laziness I blogged about in early April.

Taco Bell - The new pre-fab Taco Bell that's taken months to build is FINALLY opening May 23rd.  I found a newspaper article written months ago where the franchisee claimed they'd be opening in early April, and that the old store would be closing "a few days before" to move some equipment over.  That store will have been closed about two weeks once the new one opens.

Whole Foods Market - Apparently July.  Was originally supposed to be "Spring".  The whole thing was already enclosed by the time last year's construction season ended.

Taco John's Broken Facade because Some Idiot Drove Their Car Into It - They're replacing the glass today...something like two months after the incident.  It's just glass and glass framing for crying out loud.

The next one that might be interesting to watch is the re-debut of Dunkin' Donuts into the market after a decades-long absence.  They're rehabbing an old Kum & Go (actually, I think it was originally a QuikTrip, then later became Kum & Go) that Kum & Go later replaced with a new location.  Franchisee is pegging September for the opening.

Uh huh.  I'll believe it when I see it.