Friday, April 28, 2006

Fear of flying

Oh my, major trauma for a techie: problems with my computer. It started a few days ago with an error when I turned the computer on, the dreaded BIOS message that there were errors, press a key to enter the BIOS setup program. Then something about the secondary hard drive not talking. Well, I only have one hard drive, so I browsed through the BIOS settings and continued on with the startup sequence. Everything looked OK until I tried to get email – couldn’t talk to the internet. Or the other computers on my home network. So I got a new network card, and last night had problems installing it.

Fortunately I’m in with the help desk group here at work. So I brought the computer in, and after a few hours Jeremy couldn’t get it to work either. Out to Fry’s for a new hard drive. For those of you that have never been to a Fry’s, imagine the biggest store you’ve been to – like Costco or Super Walmart. Then double the size, and make everything inside electronics or computer related. That’s Fry’s. And lunchtime on a Friday besides. But there was a 250gb fast hard drive on sale for $89. My old drive is only 80gb, so this will provide lots more room. For what I have no idea, still lots of space available on the old one. The old drive still works, but Jeremy wanted to install Windows XP to sort out the hardware problems. So my old drive will still be there, but now I’ve got to reinstall all of my programs and passwords and pointers. Not a fun way for a tech guy to spend his weekend.

The good news, I’ll move up to Windows Office 2003. I’ve written lots of programs for one of my customers, a travel agency. Part of the main booking program lets them click a button and send an email to a customer. One of the new computers has Office 2003, and the programmed link to Outlook does not work with Outlook 2003, so the person at that machine can’t automatically send emails. I will now be able to try and figure out the problem, if I can find any info on why 2003 does things differently. That’s sure to kill quite a few hours. But it also means I’ve got to move all of my emails and address books over to the new Outlook, and I’m sure there will be problems – there always are.

Yes, I know in the big scheme of things a new hard drive and operating system upgrade is rather small potatoes. But it’s where I spend many hours a day, so to me it is a big deal.

But we’re off to see Rita Rudner tonight. She’s been a regular at New York New York for almost five years, and her contract is due to expire and not be renewed. I liked Rita when I saw her on TV years ago, she is supposed to have about the ‘cleanest’ show on the strip. I don’t know what is going into the space her show occupies, but the casinos like to rotate shows. I also want to hit the feathers and showgirls at the Tropicana before that closes – the parent company is in negotiations to sell all of their casinos, and the Trop is one of the older properties on the strip. Rumor has it that the building will be torn down and fully rebuilt, when it opens again I am sure there will be different things there.

That’s interesting about Vegas – anything over ten years old is old. If the owners can redue they will, if not then it’s an implosion and new build. Caesar’s Palace just finished a big remodel; new hotel tower, doubled the shopping space, revamped the casino. Wynn knocked down the Desert Inn. Lots of other casinos are scheduled to be torn down and rebuilt. I wish I made enough money in ten years to be able to fully revamp myself. That might be interesting – but not sure how I’d like a full implosion. Though some days I feel like one is happening anyway.

Our daughter and family are out of town this weekend. They went up to Portland to look around and buy a house. Her Canadian husband just does not like Vegas – not enough green and too hot. Portland is a good change; lots of moisture, lots of green, and nowhere near as much sunshine. But that means granddaughter goes too. Oh well, if that’s what they want to do, nothing could stop me from moving out west, so I doubt if there is anything that could keep them from moving away either.

My wife attended a Red Hat Society dinner the other evening. I don’t know how widely the group is distributed, but it seems quite popular here. There are about a dozen Red Hat groups in Vegas. Basically it’s just for ladies, they wear purple outfits and red hats and go out to party without the guys. I’ve seem stories in the local paper. They’re off to picnics and casinos, last summer taking a whole busload out to a brothel in Pharump for a tour and barbeque. I get out to play with trains and stuff, B needs an outlet away as well. One of the ladies here at work was discussing the group and invited B, so off she went. Had to go shopping for purple and a red hat of course, those are not normal colors in our house. Don’t know why, it looked pretty good to me.

I signed up for a WalkAmerica thing tomorrow morning. It starts at Neonopolis downtown, and wanders the streets. We haven’t been downtown in the daylight in quite a while, so we’ll be off to see the sights on foot. I haven’t seen the revamped canopy down there at night – years ago Fremont Street was closed off and made a walking area, with a big canopy extending over several blocks. The canopy is composed of thousands of little lights, and it becomes a giant computer screen for several shows a night. Last year they replaced the relatively big lights with a lot more little lights, basically improving the resolution, so that you can now go downtown and watch a really big screen – a street wide and three blocks long.

Over at Google, no really good shots, but you can go look at Bill & Toni's Wedding and see some nice pics and a movie. My camera isn’t very good at night, so you probably will not get many pics from me. Well, you will definitely not be getting any until I get my computer fixed. Looks like Brighton is having computer problems too.

Rob asked about airport security. Well, I think they do similar things in Europe, but the US has become really anal about ‘security’. We’ve hot a whole new government organization, called the Department of Homeland Security, that does nothing but spy on citizens and figure out how to make life much more annoying. Since the aircraft hijackings on 9/11 one of their big focus points has been airports. We used to have armed National Guard troops patrolling the airports, don’t know what good they would do, I was more afraid of being shot by accident than appreciative of them ‘protecting’ me. The hijackers back then bought tickets and just boarded planes, so the guards would have been useless. But today they are all over in Iraq, so nobody’s left to act like soldiers. But there are full time employees that just live to make your trip as miserable as possible.

It starts out with an interrogation when you purchase your airline ticket. Then there is a long wait to go through one of the ‘security checkpoints’. One of the waits I went through in Los Angeles was over an hour. You get up to a metal detector and must remove all metal items and place them, along with all carry on items, on a moving belt for the xray investigative treatment. This usually includes your coat, belt, and shoes, as well as any keys, coins, phones, pens, or whatever metallic item you might have in your pocket. Experienced travelers just start stripping things off in line when they get close, emptying pockets in anticipation of the interrogation. Then through a metal detector that frequently detects the fillings in your teeth. Any beep requires you to be pulled to the side and examined more closely. This sometimes can be 10% of the crowd going through, slowing things even more as the limited number of searchers end up with another line. A full wanding, and at times a move behind a screen and removal of other items of clothing.

If you look suspicious, or the xray shows something unusual, your carry on stuff will then be torn apart and closely searched. They automatically take away such violent-prone articles as nail files, fingernail clippers, and any pointed object. Your items then might be wiped with a special magic cloth, which is deposited in a machine that supposedly detects explosive materials. Which I understand can also be set off by certain types of hand lotion. If that detects something you are then taken away, with all of your items, to another room. I have no idea what goes on in there.

Your name is also searched for in a big database of people that are not allowed to fly. On this list are names such as Ossama bin Laden (at least I hope he’s on there) and Robert Jacobson and some other very violent sounding names. Problem is, if you are Robert Jacobson, not the violent Robert Jacobson, you too are not permitted to fly. This list is not published, you cannot find out how your name got there, if it is even there, except by the inference since you will be escorted from the airport, or how to get your name off the list. There have been stories of six month old kids being denied boarding because their names were on the watch list. Serious stuff here.

A newspaper article a few months ago discussed some of the people on the election campaign for George W’s opponent during the last election. They were continually on airline flights during the campaign, off to speeches and appearances and stuff. But right after the election suddenly their names appeared on the ‘do not fly’ list. It took them several lawyers and almost two years before they were allowed to fly again. Strange, how their names just showed up. No, not revenge or anything. There was not even an admission from the government that their names were on the list, they just were thrown out of airports. Sounds like a good way to get back at somebody you don’t like, tell the IRS that they are cheating on their taxes (resulting in endless financial audits) and report them as potential terrorists. Oh, mean.

If you get through that line prior to your plane taking off you then might get caught up in another inspection. Some people are ‘randomly’ pulled off for additional inspections as you board. This usually catches my daughter (the potentially violent person she is). Supposedly this is a random selection of people, but when you look over at who is chosen you will usually find five or six Arabic looking guys and one small blond girl. The blond is usually my daughter, chosen I suppose to prove that the selection is random, and not just because of a person’s appearance. That way they can say ‘no, we don’t just pick Arabs, see, there is a little blond woman there too’. Yea, right. This group again has their carry on luggage torn apart, and some of them also are strip searched, depending on the ‘random’ selection of the computer. Hopefully the inspection is done before the airplane takes off, hopefully.

And any luggage that you check in is also available for inspection. You no longer can put locks on your luggage to prevent things from ‘mysteriously’ disappearing in flight, as an inspection might be required. If you have a lockable suitcase then a big pry bar will be used to force open the case, which may or may not then be taped shut to continue on the flight, spilling items as it goes. The federal government is buying large high-speed machines that supposedly detect explosives inside of luggage. Every airport is supposed to inspect every item of luggage by the end of the year. Las Vegas is getting enough machines to process about 15% of the bags that flow through. The airport has no idea what they will do, as they are required to inspect but not given the tools, or employees.

So, you are told to be at the airport several hours before your flight, in case of delays in the inspection process. Then you still might be delayed if you are one of the ‘chosen’, or right behind one of them. If the line is short you are then faced with a multi-hour wait at the boarding gate, with probably not enough seats for everyone, so you get to stand or sit on the floor. Most airlines have given up on any type of food service, and some don’t even offer peanuts any more. With seats being pushed closer together in order to fit more people on each plane a flight is more like a bus trip than an enjoyable experience.

With fuel costs increasing it will soon be even more uncomfortable on the plane. On the news last night one airline said that they are cutting back on weight, just removing five magazines per plane would save them $10,000 in fuel costs over the next year because of the reduced weight. If their analysts can come up with things like that, expect the removal of all items that are not necessary, such as seat cushions, pillows, water, and who knows what else. You can ask Virginia Gal, she works for an airline and frequently comments on how to make flying easier.

So I no longer fly if I can drive someplace. Thus what should have been an hour flight to San Francisco can become a four hour ordeal. I would much rather sit in my car for eight hours, look at the scenery, listen to music I select, not have to fight for an armrest or put up with some idiot next to me than fly.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Back in Vegas

Back from our San Francisco trip. We drove out to see the boys and spend some wet time. It’s a pleasant drive – South on 15 into California, then loop around through Bakersfield and the central valley into the bay area. It’s about a nine hour drive – yes, a long time sitting, but somehow still better than putting up with the crap in the airports. Plus we got to take a trunk full of stuff that we couldn’t get through the checkpoints.

It’s wet there; Northern California has had a very wet winter, with mudslides and river overflows and all. We spent a day wandering around the city, some time through Chinatown and then over to the big park. San Francisco has a lot of parks scattered around. Las Vegas has very few, most with grass and some with water and lots with desert landscaping. It was sunny on Friday when we walked the town, but rained the rest of the time.

George W visited while we were there. Didn’t know he was going or we would have ignored him anyway. He flew in, then visited a big company, appearing in front of only invited guests, the rest of the place requested to work from home that day. Then off to wine country for a day of rest (from all the hard work flying). Then to Southern California, where the Republican up for reelection that he flew in to help boycotted his appearance. And on to Vegas. This time we missed him. He came to talk at a fund raiser for a local Republican, raising $440,000. But the airport was closed when he flew in/out, along with two of our major freeways. Can you imagine closing off I15, five lanes in each direction, and the biggest north/south route in the entire state, along with every overpass. The police overtime alone must have been over $440,000, not to mention lost time by people forced to sit and not watch (stopped too far back) just to protect one of the most disliked presidents in recent history.

At least it’s warming up to springtime here. In the 80’s and due to move into the 90’s by the weekend. Yes, that’s spring. But my network card died at home. No email, no Internet, and no blogs there. Oh my, to pull the card tonight and a new one tomorrow and then the joys of configuring hardware. If you hear screaming it’ll be me.

Sorry you don't like the bubbles, Rob. I wanted to get some nice shooting stars or something sparkely, but couldn't find it. It's a Java script thing, taken from one of the script web sites. But for all of you with comment problems, I have no idea what to do with those. I just started the comments stuff and pasted in the code they said to use. No ideas. Sorry.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Off to San Fran

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've come down with a beautiful head cold/ sinus infection. Haven't been able to do anything for two days.

We're off for San Francisco to see the boys tomorrow, back early next week. I can leave you with an E Easter pic:

She likes the bunnies.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Monday Cheerios

OK, another Monday. One of these seems to be happening every week at about this time, don’t know why. It was a fairly uneventful weekend. We worked around the yard on Saturday, planting some new oleander bushes along the wall and another tree up front. Need to start on that front patio before it gets too hot. Sunday was Easter, we didn’t do much, all the kids are too big (except for me) and Eli is too small. Well, mom didn’t think so, she got some plastic eggs and filled them with treats and tried to get E to look for them. Sorry, not much a kid that size can do. She’s eleven months now, big birthday planned for next month.

Since we both have flat houses out here E hasn’t had the opportunity to learn about steps. We did get a nice little slide that she is practicing on:

It’s got sides to hold onto, and she is learning how to pick her foot up and step up. Hasn’t figured out the slide part yet.

We grilled up some salmon, L is an ‘almost’ vegetarian, but eats fish and some chicken. Came out pretty good, but E isn’t up to that level yet, she still likes her Cheerios.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Wheels in the back yard

Just thought I’d run down the list of vehicles we’ve got in our back yard. Besides my hot rod Lincoln and old truck, which appear in the background several times, I mean the smaller stuff.

I’ve already shown you the wagon – that was discovered only two weeks ago or so, and now a backyard tour is expected several times a day. You will notice that one of the cup holders is being put to good use. But there are also other items that we purchased for the entertainment of our Swedish visitors last Thanksgiving.

First is a little car that you push along with your feet. Well, pushing along has not yet been learned, so the use of an external motor is frequently squealed for. The lack of full word pronunciation has not diminished the lung capacity or volume level of requests. So when pushed the feet are frequently run over, resulting in much complaining.

And the battery powered jeep, the battery being in the closet in the house, is being pushed around the yard, not ridden in (yet). She has discovered how to open the hood and examine the engine.

So the yard is filled with wheeled delights. I’m sure the over-eager grandparents will get in another spoiling mood and soon provide more.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thursday the 13th.

Oh no, Friday the 13th comes on a Thursday this month! Did not start out very well for me. The past two weeks at work have been basically not very fun. Somebody got a promotion a long time ago, and the work he used to do, and is still doing, is getting in the way of his new job. So now his old stuff is starting to fall to me, but unfortunately this is not to replace what else I am doing but to be added to. On top of really doing the work of two (the last guy fired wasn’t replaced, I just picked up his stuff) I now get to do the work of three. And this last addition isn’t just programming – it’s support of the floor and operational programs. So when something there breaks it means several hundred people can’t take phone calls, or take money, or whatever.

This morning I thought I’d bring in the big car. Several years ago my youngest son gave me his car. Sounds nice, but he lives in San Francisco, and this is a boat that he grew tired of fixing and trying to park. It’s a 1965 Lincoln Continental, commonly called a ‘slab sided Lincoln’, with suicide doors. I thought our other car was heavy, but this was about the biggest, heaviest car sold that year. It does float down the road nicely though. It’s been parked in our back yard for two years, and I finally sprung some bucks to get it fixed. All new brake stuff, new exhaust system, carb rebuild, transmission cleaning, and general stuff. It runs pretty good now, but I have only driven it a few times. Well, this morning it started up ok, but the parking brake did not release. This model has the brake release build into the transmission – when you shift into drive it is supposed to release the brake. That’s supposed to. This morning it didn’t. Kind of hard to drive with the parking brake on. I did get through the back gate and closed it, but then when I tried to drive away it didn’t go. So it’s now parked along side my house, awaiting my return and greasy figuring out how the thing works. Oh well, the joys of an old car. I just need to get a nice paint job and put on those 'For Sale' signs. We have enough vehicles, and I would rather have an old little one than an old big (and I mean BIG) one. I'll take some shots so you can see it.

And here at work, we are testing a new system that will replace the collections system I have been supporting. I was supposed to help with the rewrite, but have not had time to learn the new stuff. But I am now responsible for assuring that the nightly processes run in the testing area. And of course this morning, the second day of my control, the stuff has not worked. Since I don’t know how it’s supposed to run I now just wait until everyone else gets in at 8 to figure things out. Hope the people testing are not dependent on what was supposed to run.

Enough of the complaining. Back to reality – oh, wait, that is reality. Let’s just get to some more yard flowers.

These are bush morning glories, out in our front yard. A nice pile of white in the sunshine. The bush will eventually get to about three feet across and a foot high. We put two in last year and they are doing well.

Last year we bought a packet of California Poppy seeds. Only one plant out back and one out front put out flowers. I had some photos a few weeks ago, but now the volunteers across the back yard have started blooming. Not as full as the California hills, but the yard is full of gold.

There are a lot more over to the right as well, and a fair amount out front. Contrasts nicely with the dark green and little blue flowers on the rosemary.

OK, need an Eli fix. We all went out for breakfast last week, and E was given a balloon by the waitress. She really enjoyed it.

She liked pulling it down and watching it jump back up.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Birds on the feeder

Sitting out in the sunshine this weekend, trying to get pictures of birds for Deana. She posts such pretty ones and asked me to show what was in my back yard.

Well, this area of the desert doesn’t have any pretty colored birds. There are some finches with pale red breasts, or dull yellow, but most birds here are either dull gray or brown. Nothing as dramatic as on the east coast. We have a feeder out back, hanging from the peach tree. I just have a little digital camera with a small zoom capability, so these are fairly fuzzy. But here is what usually comes to our feeder.

They sit over the wall on the tips of the neighbor’s plants and wait for an opportunity.

Usually there are twenty or thirty around, all taking turns pushing each other off of the feeder perches and grabbing a few bites before being shoved off in turn. The sit on the bushes or atop the wall or hold onto the bark of the peach and fly at the ones eating, chirping all the while.

Usually some pigeons and doves also show up, to walk around underneath and pick up what falls. They used to sit on the feeder and clean it out in under ten minutes, but then I cut the lip off the feeder so the perches are now too small for the bigger birds.

This is the section of wall where we put up a wooden decoration. It’s done now, just needs some black touchup paint on the screw heads.

Buster doesn’t bother the small birds, the pigeons only fly away when he walks too close. Max runs over and chases them off, but Buster doesn’t care.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Monday complaints

Some interesting (and disturbing) articles in the newspaper this weekend.

The first one I came across was on Saturday morning, discussing how the Reno, Nevada, police were arresting more people on outstanding warrants than ever before. It seems that Reno hotels must log into a new police computer system every night, and load information on registered guests. The police computer then compares hotel guests with wanted names, and soon policemen are knocking on hotel room doors.

This just conjures up images in my mind of men in uniform with strange accents standing on street corners saying ‘papers please’. Only they don’t say please. And here they make the hotels do the initial examination. Couple this to the requirement for ‘standardized’ state drivers licenses, and add a few more examination points, and we’ll soon have that full police state that only science fiction writers used to think about. But ask the average “guy on the street” and the response will probably be the same as it is for wiretapping – “Well, I don’t have anything to hide, why should I worry”. Ties in to that old saying about “First they came for the xxx and I didn’t say anything because I’m not one of them, then they came for yyy, . . . and when they came for me there was nobody left to say anything”.

Yea, I worry about this stuff. I didn’t ask the government to keep track of everybody. I didn’t ask to have my library records entered into a computer, or my hotel stays, or my airline flights. You can say it will never happen, but I am sure that the CIA someplace has a computer system that pulls all of this stuff together, or will shortly. They can already pull up my credit card records, or now even my checks, and look at check images. Next thing you know we’ll have to show ID to use cash, so that every purchase can be tracked.

Sorry, I felt that I lived in a free society, where everyone was free to do as they please without a father figure watching over it all. If you use the excuse that those people deserve to be arrested, and we should not feel bad about little restrictions on everyone, stuff it. Think of how many more bad guys would be caught if we all had real national ID cards, with photos and fingerprints and DNA and retina prints, and if they had to be presented on every street corner and in every store and every airport. A “bad guy” couldn’t get very far, could he? But somehow the rest of us wouldn’t either, and when somebody decided that something else was bad and should be illegal it wouldn’t take long to crack down.

No, I do NOT want to give up anything to be a little safer. Get rid of those airport security checks and put in good cockpit doors, perhaps make it so the only way into the cockpit was from outside, making a hijacking rather impossible. How many millions of hours are wasted, how many dollars, just because somebody thinks it’s the best way? Stupid politicians.

The next article was one that many people have already commented on – how the administration is considering nuclear strikes against Iran to prevent them from building a bomb. Just what we need, half of the world absolutely bent on destroying us. Somehow I do not feel safer with Sadam out of power, I just look at how many have died and how much money is being thrown away and think it might have been better – for the US as well as the Iraqis – if we had never invaded. Somehow I really doubt that we would be safer if Iran was bombed. And we have already been flying drones over Iran to take pictures and sniff the air. And we’ve already sent special forces into the country to spy things out directly. Come on, it DOES NOT have to be taken care of before the next guy is elected.

How about punishing somebody for something they have done, not what they might do? Somehow I think the world would really come down on us for using a nuclear weapon on Iran just to prevent something. But if Iran ever used one on anybody then the rest of the world would not hesitate to jump on them. Then it would be OK to wipe out the country.

Sounds like spanking a kid to prevent him from doing something bad instead of assigning punishment for their actually doing something bad. Maybe we can start just locking random people in prison for a few years, to prevent them from killing others. Who knows how many murders might be prevented if everyone was in jail? Up front punishment does not usually work, it usually makes people hate you.

The third article came out this morning. It seems like the first ever Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament is in Vegas right now. First prize is $50,000. I thought that was something used to decide who rode shotgun on rode trips, who knew it could become a profession, with big bucks attached. Guess I should pay more attention to the seemingly mundane things, and try getting better at everything. Maybe I can find a tournament that might reward my chocolate habit – oh, wait, there are already a bunch of food eating tournaments. Oooh – and excuse to practice. Let’s see, there is already a hot dog eating contest, and I’ve seen on TV the “King of Vegas Buffets” contest, perhaps we can talk Godiva into sponsoring a truffle eating contest, and talk myself onto the team – yes, sponsorship, and a truck full of Godiva truffles at my place – (good dream Joe).

Finally, Spring is here. Yesterday it was up in the mid 80’s, and the forecast for the upcoming week has changed, moving upwards to predict high 70’s and low 80’s all week. Yessssssss.

Look at that - no pictures or links. Sorry.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Traveling artists

Following up on my ‘Things to do in Vegas’ list, here are some specials floating through in the next few months:

Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor – MGM Grand Arena, May 27. Anybody Madonna fans? Sting – Mandalay Bay, April 29. Martina McBride - June 24 Mandalay Bay, Reba – May 3 – August 26 (assorted days), Hilton. Billy Joel – April 8, Hilton. Tom Jones – April 27, MGM. GooGoo Dolls – May 13, Red Rock. Those are a few of the ‘big’ names coming up soon.

Driving in to work this morning I was struck by the amount of trash in one of the freeway underpasses. Vegas has a big problem in I-15 north of town, it’s on the way to the ‘sanitary landfill’ which all of the trash trucks use. The freeway up there is just lined with plastic supermarket bags and things that blow out of the trucks. There have been lots of complaints, but our collections company denies that their trucks are doing it. Sure. But it makes a really poor impression of Vegas for people driving in from the north. Sorry, Utah, don’t want to look pretty for you guys. The ones from LA coming from the south have the empty desert to look at. OK, Jean is down there on the border, but it’s not a trash lined freeway.

But the trash on the streets, that seems to be from people throwing things from their cars. When I go on my lunchtime walks I’m always coming across things left behind – usually fast food wrappers and drink containers. I don’t understand how some people think, that this stuff doesn’t matter, or they are done with it just toss it out the car window, or if they even think at all. The same with the smokers – Vegas has a lot more smokers than San Diego did. Just toss those butts out the window, more unusual are the ones that stop at a traffic light and dump their ashtrays out the window – what do these guys do at home, just flick the ashes and butts on their floor? Sheesh. I’ve taken to picking things up as I walk, guess I’ll start bringing along a trash bag and just filling it with finds.

And how about me – just rambling on about trash when the US military fatalities in Iraq have jumped to 2344. And the TV every day has reports on civilians being blown up and found beheaded or tortured. And what am I doing about it? Perhaps we should be starting more protest marches. When in Arizona a few months ago there was a group of women dressed in black holding a silent vigil on the town square with signs protesting the war. I thought that at least they were doing something.
I took a flyer, have to see if I can find it tonight and find their web site (I found it back then) and see if there is a Vegas chapter. Perhaps it’s time to get active and do something rather than just complain. But it’s so easy to just stay home and do the same old same old.

OK, enough complaints (well, maybe not enough, but the people that need to hear don’t come by so why burden you all).

Our little queen (no, DM, not of the Universe, just of our portion of the world) found the wagon we got when the Swedes came. She climbed in, and somehow figured out that people would pull her around if she asked, or just stood in it. She doesn’t like to sit, would rather stand.

Here she is waving with Max watching the parade. He’ll watch but he still runs away when approached.

And this is the royal wave, to her loyal following, or whomever is nearby.

See, she can do it with either hand. And notice how clean the hands are.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Salad bar

Getting close to Easter. OK, for may of you the new Politically Correct term perhaps should be Spring Break, but calling them Spring bunnies and colored eggs just seems wrong. We usually do a picnic in the back yard, now we’re back to little kids in the yard. It’ll take a few years before we do eggs or anything similar, but the concept is there.

Last week we went to one of our ‘standard’ restaurants, Sweet Tomatoes salad bar. Back in San Diego we would hit the salad bar quite frequently, different chain there, same concept. You’ve got about a hundred feet of counter filled with lots of little bins of different items.

The above pic covers about a quarter of the serving area. You start with the base layer, several types of lettuce or spinach, then move down putting on tomatoes, cheese, onions, cucumbers, beans, broccoli, well, you get the idea – almost anything you can think of that would be on a salad, and quite a few more. There are also prepared salads – Caesar, Chinese Chicken, and a few others. Around the corner is the soup area, usually six different soups. Then assorted muffins and rolls, cornbread, focaccia, and three kinds of hot pasta. And a dessert section, with cake and brownies and frozen yogurt and stuff. Pay and keep going back as much as you want. I think it’s about $12 per person for dinner. Lots of food, and if you’re a vegetarian it’s pretty good.

I ended up with some of the Chinese Chicken salad, a sweet spinach with dried cherry dressing, and a pile of stuff (lettuce, cucumber, red onions, kidney beans, green bell pepper, chopped eggs, blue cheese, raisins, sunflower seeds), the rosemary potato soup was good, as was the cheese soup and the cream of tomato.

Ended up with a small bit of the chocolate lava cake for dessert. And then somebody came around with fresh chocolate chip cookies.

We had a friend out from back east a few years ago and went to a similar place. She just could not understand the concept. She liked it, but was used to a small pile of lettuce with a meal (sometimes). Is that still the same, or are these places now standard across the country? How about in GB or Europe? We didn’t see any when we were there, but were more interested in local food as we are able to get enough California grown stuff here.

Old story I probably told before: when our daughter went to visit a friend in Minnesota a few years ago. One night going out to eat the friend (also used to live in California) wanted to show her the ‘California Burger’ at a local place. What made it a ‘California Burger’? Avocado? Bean Sprouts? No, just a single piece of lettuce. I don’t know, does adding a little green to something make people think of California?