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?