Saturday, March 31, 2012

War with the electric company

Today I received the final electric bill for my old apartment.  It's OUTRAGEOUS!  They must think they found a sucker (me), but I'm determined to stand my ground.


THE FACTS:  For my last full billing period (2/13 - 3/13; 29 days) my electric consumption was 981 kWh and the charge was $110.92.  For the 12 days from 3/13 - 3/25 TXU Energy is trying to tell me my consumption was 1367 kWh and my charge should be $153.34.  That's a 336.74% increase in consumption (daily average), in a temperate month.  My consumption for the entire month of July, 2011, during a record setting Texas summer, was roughly equal to what they say I used for 12 days in March.  NO WAY!


I called them on it and they just said, "Our records show you used that much.  Did you have any more lights turned on?"  I could turn every light in the house on 24/7 and I couldn't run the bill up that high!


No, I'm not going away.  And I'm NOT paying the thieves $153.34.  I've put my case before them in writing via email (paper trail), and my next correspondence will be with the Texas Public Utilities Commission.  Then I go to the media.  WFAA loves this kind of David vs Goliath story.


Let the games begin.


S


Friday, March 30, 2012

"Do ya' feel lucky....punk?"



I'm a big Clint Eastwood fan, and that was one of my favorite lines from the Dirty Harry series.  Hearing it now, though, I'm wondering if he was just taunting me to buy lottery tickets.  Yeah, while I'm out today I'll probably stop and buy a few tickets.  Lucky?  I dunno.  At least until the drawing tonight I can dream, right?  :)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of "take the money and run", that seems to be what the land developer is doing with the subdivision where I've been building for the past several years.  I can't say I'm surprised.  In fact, I've been expecting it.  Because of the crippled economy his property sales have been few and far between.  Let's face it....people aren't exactly waiting in line to plunk down $150K-$300K for a lot.  Now he's caved, telling me he's agreed to sell almost all the remaining lots (at a reduced price, of course) to a builder who will go in with a "value" line of homes.  

For me it's either cut all sorts of corners, throw quality out the window, and go toe-to-toe with him, or move along.  That's no choice.  I suppose I'll just limp along a while longer doing small remodel jobs and hope one of my doctor connections will come through, deciding now is the time to build something newer / bigger / better.  (They'll pay for quality.)  I've always said "things happen for a reason".  I guess I'll put that to a test.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first local Arts Fest of the year is this weekend.  Looks like Luke (K's puppy) is going out in public.  Hope he behaves himself.  Have a good weekend, everyone.  

S

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our new home....

OK, so since the inside of our new apartment still resembles the aftermath of a battle zone, I took some photos of the outside of our complex to share with you for now:



Across the front on the ground floor is retail space, such as this salon and spa...


...and this sports bar and grill.  It looks like their patio on the east side (with canvas sides on it for now) will be nice when it warms up some.


One place we've visited already is our convenience store, which is also a dry cleaner's drop-off point and a full US Post Office.


Inside there's a nice community room where they hold social events for the residents and their guests.


Last Saturday morning they had a sponsored brunch here in the demo kitchen.


It won't be long until this ^ will be the place to be.  In fact, the weather was so nice this past weekend there were already people out there.  One young lady....she was in her late 20's, blond (?), blue eyes, wearing white shorts (I really wasn't paying much attention)....stopped me and asked for directions there.  


There's also a nicely equipped gym on premises, too.  It has TV's on the equipment for year-round viewing, and a full view of the pool for summertime enjoyment.  :)


There are also two other small courtyards with seating areas, grills, and water features.  

Because of the noise that is bound to exist on the front around the retail and bar areas I decided an apartment at the back would be preferable.  Logic also says the noise echoing off the brick walls around the pool area would be an issue for the adjacent apartments.  The smaller courtyards probably wouldn't be too loud, and a patio or balcony unit might have been nice, but they were already all spoken for.  Day late and a dollar short....story of my life.

So whatdayathink? The best part to me is I don't have to maintain any of it.  YEA!!  It looks good now.  We'll see how it lives over time.

S




Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oooooh.....the HORROR!



What was I thinking???  I don't care how much you plan, how many furniture dollies you have, how much you pre-pack, moving is still a disaster.  Definitely two thumbs down.  Much worse than childbirth (from my perspective at least).  


Most of the heavy lifting was completed on Friday and Saturday, with SIL Donnie assisting on Sunday as I was too tired to lift a napkin holder, much less the final large piece of furniture.  Then it came time to put things away where they belong.  Hahaha!  Where do you start?  K was on one side of a room and I on the other, and all I could see was her head bobbing along as she moved forward.  You couldn't take a step without tripping over something.  I haven't had this many smashed toes since the last time I tried dancing.


I think I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm hoping it's not a....well.....you know.  My last hurdle is IKEA.  I bought a simple assemble-it-yourself TV "stand" there as it was the only one I could find the right height.  What a nightmare!  The parts package was incomplete and one of two critical pieces wasn't pre-drilled....obviously a quality control lapse back at a supplier's facility (read: some Chinese guy's lean-to).  IKEA sucks!


Hopefully by the end of the month (?) everything will be in place.  Our complex is really nice, and I'm looking forward to enjoying it once I put this nightmare move behind.  Pictures sometime in the future.  Hope y'all have been doing well.  :)


S

Friday, March 23, 2012

Plan for the worst, hope for the best


We have a truck, several dollies of various sizes, and lots of muscle-pain-numbing aspirin to see us through our move.  I have help coming on Sunday if needed, but I'm hoping we can get it done ourselves before then.  I'm looking forward to moving but dreading the move itself.

We've already discarded lots of stuff we don't use, and I'm hoping we can cull even more as we unpack.  Call me weird, but I love small, organized spaces.  K says I over-think things, but it's what I do.  My mind can see things 3-D ( no doubt from decades of reading blueprints) so I know where most everything will fit before we even get there.  It drives her nuts, but I see it as an advantage.

Best news of all....late last night after we had gone to bed I had a call regarding purchasing my desk.  Yes, the monster desk from hell!  I'll plan to move it last and hope the guy shows up with cash in the meantime.

I hope this doesn't turn into a near-death experience.  *deep breath*  Cover me....I'm goin' in.


See ya in a few days.  Y'all behave yourselves.  :)

S

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More fun than watching Kim Kardashian put on her makeup

Politics is a fun game to watch, or I should say watching politicians shoot themselves in the foot is fun to watch, and Rick Santorum is the funnest of the bunch.  An ultra-conservative Republican candidate has no more chance of winning the White House today than an ultra-liberal Democrat had of winning 30 years ago.  Rick might win the hearts of the Tea Partyers, but probably not many others.


We're not a country of "ultra" anythings.  The ultra's make a lot of noise and get a lot of publicity, but they alienate so many others along the way they can never win the Big One.   We're a nation of reasonable, responsible, compassionate people who work hard and by-and-large keep under the radar.  Wasn't it Nixon who referred to them (us) as "The Silent Majority"?  We're the ones who will decide elections.  


It took the Democrats years to dig themselves out from under the Mondale / Dukakis pile and get back to respectability, and I predict it will take years for the Republicans to prove to the voters they're not still a bunch of cold-blooded Tea Party knuckle-draggers. 


'Course I think they're ALL a bunch of crooks.  I still love the bumper sticker that says, "Don't vote.  It'll just encourage the bastards."  (I'm still holding out for a new Third Party that advocates shooting all the politicians and bankers and lawyers and mandates year-round football. ;)


S

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pretense

In the mail yesterday I received my yearly REI Co-op dividend, so I went and bought a new pair of super-light casual summer shoes.




I bought the ones I did for two reasons:  They're comfortable, and they're Patagonia brand.


Patagonia is a cool company, the kind of company I want to reward with my business. As a young man Yvon Chouinard lived to surf and rock climb.  He would work just long enough to make a few bucks, then he and some friends would take off on some pretty grand poor-man's expeditions, such as a month-long drive in a clapped-put old van to climb in the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile.  He eventually realized he could make better climbing pitons than he could buy, so he bought some blacksmith's equipment and did just that.  Other climbers saw how good his stuff was and wanted some too.  Later he realized his pitons were damaging the rock faces he so loved, so he stopped making them (giving up 3/4 of his business) and instead perfected hexagonal chocks that would do no harm to the environment.  From there his business grew and grew to become the worldwide company it is today.


Here's the cool part:  I've seen Yvon on several TV outdoor documentaries and he seems to be totally without pretense.  He looks like the kind of guy who would sit next to you on a lunch counter stool and you'd have no idea he was anyone "special".  He could have sold his company years ago and made (even more) mega-millions of $$$, but decided he wanted to keep his company private and on the high ground, doing good for his employees (they say it's a GREAT place to work) and the environment by giving back for all he's been given.  I'm not saying this because I'm a big tree-hugger (I'm not really), but because I respect a man for doing what he believes in and not prostituting himself for a buck.  He's now in his 70's and still doing outdoor things many people half his age can't.


Like most everybody I've often daydreamed about winning the lottery.  Even with all that money I don't think I'd change too much.  I'd still wear my jeans or shorts and t-shirts, live in a modest apartment/home, etc. I would probably travel more, but that's all I can think of I'd like to do that I can't do now.  Heck, I even like my 5-year old car.


I don't like pretense.  If you have to tell me how cool you are, you're not that cool.  I doubt Yvon gives a shit what anyone thinks of him.  My kinda guy!


S

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A stormy day in Dallas

As viewed yesterday on BBC online:


Six held over fake Viagra trade....Six people are arrested in the UK and Spain on suspicion of importing and selling fake drugs including Viagra.


I predict they'll never get a conviction.  The evidence won't stand up in court.  ;)


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Man-oh-man has it rained!  It started last night around 6 pm and hasn't stopped since.  We've had constant lightning and rolling thunder, too, which made for some great sleeping weather.  According to the National Weather Service's color-coded rainfall map my area has received between 5 and 6 inches so far, with another 1-2" expected before it stops.  I've heard it said by the weather experts (if there is such a thing) that substantial rains in the spring helps keep the summertime temperatures a bit cooler than normal.  I hope that's true.  I know our lakes are getting a good top-off, which should see us through the upcoming summer.

This makes no sense to me:  So far this morning airlines at DFW International Airport have cancelled several hundred flights due to the heavy rains.  If there's been that much rain, wouldn't they just cancel all flights?  Were only those airlines flying low-rider jets affected?  You know, the ones with the blue lights underneath, the chromed-chain steering wheels, and the ba-boom, ba-boom speakers in the back?  *scary visual, huh?*  

Our packing continues.  Everything that before resided in cabinets and in closets is now packed in boxes and stacked so thick and high you can't walk through our 2nd bedroom.  I've also taken down our Elfa shelving I installed for some more space when we moved in here 3 years ago.  Tonight I disassemble our sleigh bed.  M-day nears!

S


Monday, March 19, 2012

No gumbo for you!

Over the weekend I read an interesting story in Outside magazine titled "The Gumbo Chronicles".  It's about a man who wanted to see if the BP Gulf oil spill has been as successfully cleaned up as the hype says it has.  To find out, he went to Bayou Lafourche (pronounced la-foosh) just below New Orleans to see how the oystermen, crabbers, and shrimpers in the Gulf and in the bayous are doing these days.  He wanted to buy the ingredients for gumbo and see for himself how healthy and tasty the catch is now.  He found out.  Contrary to what the federal, state, and local governments and chamber's of commerce, not to mention BP, are telling us, things are not as rosy as they would like us to believe.


The proof....catches are less than half of what they were pre-spill.  And the size and quality of the sea creatures is pitiful, too.  Most of the fishermen have gone out of business or are just hanging on, most days not even catching enough to cover expenses.  One crab fisherman used to run 400 cages and he now runs 700, yet his catch is down from 20 pans a day to 13, and dropping weekly.  Similar stories were told by oystermen and shrimpers, too.  Their numbers don't lie.  So why don't we see this at our grocery stores?  Because most of the "fresh seafood" sold here is imported from Asia.  


What about the $20B fund BP set aside to compensate those affected by the spill?  Only about a quarter of it has been paid out, and BP is arguing that since things are now OK, future payments should be curtailed.  OK?  Really?


Here's my point:  We're in a "no-win" situation.  We need more oil in order to escape the grip of the mid-east producers who are robbing us blind.  Yes, we need something besides oil, but for now that's pretty much our only option.  Over time we'll have other options, but for today that's pretty much it.  We've been drilling in the Gulf of Mexico all my life without serious problems, so we know it can be done.  What it takes is REAL OVERSIGHT by regulators who are not bought and paid for by those being regulated.  And let's not kid ourselves, that's exactly what's happening.  


The wealthy, the powerful, get what they want from Washington, and I'm blaming both parties in this fiasco.  We need to allow drilling (and develop an alternative energy source ASAP and mandate conservation, too), but do it with multiple safeguards overseen 24/7 by inspectors who aren't chummy with the oil companies.


I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.  Neither are the Gulf fishermen.  What a mess we're in.


S


Sunday, March 18, 2012

'Splain something to me kind readers....

When I leave a comment on some of your blogs I'm asked to "prove I'm not a robot" by re-typing some contorted letters a robot apparently can't decipher.  What's the point of that exercise?  If some robot wants to read my blog, why should I care?  My blog doesn't ask that and I don't get any unwanted spam comments selling stuff.  It's a non-issue to me.  I've had some scrambled letter tests that were so convoluted I couldn't make them out.  My rule is, if I try twice and can't get it to accept my comment, I move on.  What am I missing? It just seems pointless.


No tales of drunken St. Patrick's Day merriment from yesterday from me.  I was behaving myself, and was actually quite productive.  K and I packed more stuff....I think we still have a frying pan, one pot, a couple of glasses, some dinnerware, and a stack of paper plates un-packed.  All the pictures and window coverings have been taken down, arrangements have been made for address changes, utilities, and the newspaper.  My big coup yesterday was borrowing some furniture dollies to help move the heavy stuff.  The boxes of course can be moved with my hand dollie.  (Is it "dolly" or "dollie"?  As Google lists both, I'll go with "dollie".)  


We also went by Weir's furniture (very good stuff BTW) and scored a great deal on a bar stool.  We only need one as that is where K will sit to use the island as her Wifi-enabled computer desk, while I take the big desk (yes, I still have the damn thing) in the computer "niche".  The stool is very comfortable and covered in a very high quality leather.  The only catch is there's a small scratch on one leg, but we can easily touch that up, and the price was reduced from over $200 to just $69.  Sweet!  K also bought a high-dollar drapery rod, then she got home and found a 20% off coupon in the mail from the same store.  Today she's going back for the old switcheroo. 


If you're into basketball (I'm not) then this March Madness thing has you glued to the TV.   As far as I'm concerned basketball is a sport contrived to give the masses something to watch while football players have their off-season knee surgery and rehab.  I feel like I'm in a TV sports desert.  I can't wait for September.  :)


S


Saturday, March 17, 2012

What I learned from K about grocery shopping....

....she can't do it.  She wants one of everything.  She was almost trembling with excitement she was so overwhelmed with the grocery shopping experience last night.


I usually do the  grocery shopping by myself.  Years ago my ex told me I could either do that or stay home on Saturdays with 3 kids while she did the shopping.  DUH!  No brainer.  Over the years I developed a system; I made a map of our preferred grocery store by aisle listing those things that we regularly buy.  Aisle 1 might be salad dressing, mayo, mustard, ketchup, etc.  I keep this map/list in the kitchen and as we see we're running short of something we circle it on the list.  I go in the door of the store, up and down each aisle in order with my list, get what I need, and end up back at the checkout and out the door.  Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.  30 minutes, tops.


I normally go on Thursday afternoon on my way home after work.  Things were hectic at work this Thursday and I couldn't keep to my schedule, so K and I went together after our dinner out last night.  BIG MISTAKE!  I've learned she's a major compulsive shopper.  She's a sucker for "end caps", those places on the ends of each aisle where you turn the corner.  People's eyes go right to that spot and they often buy whatever's there, whether they need it or not.  She was possessed, I tell ya!  They need to rename them "K caps".   


Bottom line, it cost us about 20% more last night because K just had to have things she saw she couldn't live without.  I'm sure they'll use the store video surveillance camera footage in marketing classes for years to come, and re-write marketing textbooks, too.  The "K" effect, they'll call it.

Next week, I'm goin' it alone.


S


Friday, March 16, 2012

Social media backfires

Besides just being a fun way to keep up with what friends are doing, social media has become much more.  Over the past several years for example it has helped bring down numerous mid-eastern governments.  People in one city can see in real time atrocities being committed in another city hundreds of miles away, inflaming passions and helping to coordinate revolutions.  Syria is on the cusp of that right now, and Facebook is in the thick of it.  It's become a sort of 21st century version of "the pen is mightier than the sword".


But now we learn social media can be used to squash Spring Break here at home, too.  I guess you could say it's turned Spring Break into Spring Brake.  The kid's fear is that a video with them in it doing things that could cause dear old mom and dad to cut off their cash might go viral.  Talk about unintended consequences! 


And in a similar "you heard it here first" vein, it seems scientists have discovered that male fruit flies rejected by females drink significantly more alcohol than those that have mated.  Interesting.  I didn't even know friut flies went on Spring Break. (I wonder if that was a taxpayer funded study?)


Yeah, it's a slow news day.  That's all I have.  :)


S



Thursday, March 15, 2012

A sad commentary on what's important

This week my brother and I began a small remodel / repair job on a $1.1M home.  So far we've had our framing carpenters, plumber, tile setter, garage door guys, gutter people, drywall contractor, and trim carpenter working.  Today we'll have our painters begin.  What I've had confirmed is that just because a home costs over a million dollars doesn't mean it's a well built home.  I'm absolutely amazed at how shoddy this home was built.


I don't think the original framing contractor owned a level, or a square.  The floors upstairs are off 3/8" in less than 2 feet.  That's huge!  We're re-configuring closets and in trying to put in new shelving we've found none of the corners are square.  They're off 5-10 degrees.  How do you f**k up a simple closet that bad?  The water heaters are upstairs, a big "no-no" in my book, and don't even have working pans under them.  And the pressure relief valves were stuck closed.  They could have blown up!


BUT....and this was apparently what the original builder was counting on....the trim and cabinets and paint job look nice.  What the customer can see looks good.  But just under the surface it's junk.


I think this is the reason my brother and I have such a difficult time getting work.  We go overboard doing things right.  It's the only way we know.  Of course this means our prices are higher than almost all of our competition, and today people want a deal.  "Cheap" wins almost every time.  Others get work, I don't.  A few discerning people want things done right and hire us, and we don't disappoint. But more and more I'm just going behind the bad builders and fixing things up.  They get the 6-course meal, while I get the crumbs.  It's frustrating.


S

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Advantages outweigh disadvantages?

The story read, "The White House is debating whether the disadvantages of an accelerated pullout of American troops from Afghanistan outweigh the advantages of staying."


Um....WHAT advantages are there in staying in Afghanistan, Mr. President?  I must have missed that memo.  Didn't we go in there to make the Taliban "government" turn over the Al Qaida operations there?  Didn't we support the various Afghan tribal factions in their effort to run the Taliban out of power, and then go in and get the important Al Qaida operatives one at a time?  Didn't we do that?  Osama bin Laden IS still dead, right?  


What are we there for now?  Are we trying to set them up with a strong national government, complete with a unified army and security forces capable of defending their own territory?  I'm not sure they even WANT that, Mr. President.  They are a tribal society.  That's where their loyalties are, not with a unified national government.  Based on all I've read they've never had a unified, strong national government, so why would they want one now?  Oh sure, they have lots of people signing up to be soldiers and police, because we're paying them about 3 times as much as their civilian pay would be. 


Mr. President, I don't think you'd upset too many Americans if you sent in all the transport planes we have, load up all the troops, load up all their stuff, maybe sterilize those poppy fields on our way out, and let's have one helluva parade here to welcome all our folks home.  And leave Afghanistan and their 13th century society right were it is.


I'm sure we'll still have enough paid informants and satellites flying overhead to let us know if Al Qaida tries to re-establish any terrorist training camps there.  And if they try, I'm pretty sure we have the technology to deal with it.  I would hope that a B-2 over Afghanistan at 2 in the morning could outrun a rock thrown at it in anger.


S

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bad drivers


Can you imagine how early motorists must have felt when they climbed into those first automobiles and roared off at 20 miles an hour?  Yikes!  Compared to travel by horse and buggy 20 mph must have felt insanely fast.  



The 21st Century equivalent of that seems to be Indian and Oriental drivers pulling out in American city traffic and whizzing along at 30 mph, or blasting down the freeway at a breakneck 50 mph. K is always fussing at me to be more understanding, but I say they need to learn to use the tall, skinny pedal on the right.  

If as far as I can see there are cars going 70, and then I see traffic standing on their brakes and swerving all over the road to get around someone doing 50, I see that as a dangerous nuisance.  And 9 times out of 10 it's an Indian or Oriental driver causing all the chaos.  I see it every day.  I have no idea why they're so speed averse.  I suppose that's just the normal way to drive back in their birth country.  Here it will get someone killed.

I certainly don't mean to sound racist here, but many of our new immigrant friends apparently don't know our "rules of the road". I think before anyone gets behind the wheel they need to know more than what's in some silly handbook.  Does drivers ed teach how to merge into traffic?  Do they teach that if you pull out into traffic in front of another car you need to get up to speed fast, or better still, WAIT until there is an adequate gap in traffic?  Or that if you're in a lane marked "Right Lane Must Turn Right", YOU MUST TURN RIGHT? 

To confirm I'm not just imagining this, I heard on the news yesterday that according to Men's Health magazine Dallas has the 2nd worst drivers in the country.  (Only St. Louis has worse.)  I concur.  

S

Monday, March 12, 2012

Details....details....

We're still doing all those little detail things moving demands, like dealing with the change of address notices. Yesterday K was online filling out the form with the Post Office and she came in and asked to use my debt card.  I asked why and she said the USPS charged a $1 fee for online address changes.  Do you believe that?  Mark my words, one of these days the Post Office is just going to wither and die.  They are darn near worthless now....all I ever get in the mail are two magazines and junk mail, and I'd be happy to pay a little more to the publishers to send the magazines UPS.  I don't want the junk mail at all.  That's why it's called JUNK.  At least the magazines would arrive in one piece as opposed to the covers being ripped off like I get now.


Meanwhile I set up our new electric service.  In Texas we have a choice of providers which sounds good but is in reality a royal rip-off.  When we "de-regulated" years ago it was rigged so that we Texas homeowners pay among the highest rates in the nation.  The deciding factor is the length of rate lock-in you want;  month-to-month, 3 months at a time, 6 months, or a year.  I chose the 12 month term and am paying $.086 per kilowatt hour (1,000 KW = $86).  If you don't mind telling, what do you pay per KWH where you live?  I'm curious to see how badly I'm being screwed.


A bit of good news....I have someone interested in buying my huge desk.  I hope he can come by this week and we can make a deal.  My back hurts just thinking about having to move that monstrosity.


We start a new remodel job today so I've gotta get a move-on.  Hope y'all have a good week.


S

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Jeff Beck kind of evening

The weatherguessers finally got one right....it rained most of yesterday.  We did our usual Saturday errand running, but by dusk we were safely ensconced back home.  I was on my 'puter in the study while K was on hers in the den with the TV on in the background.  Then I heard some music which called me.  It was a 2-hour show of guitarist Jeff Beck in a performance from Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London.  He had that thing smokin'!  And if that wasn't enough there were guest appearances by Eric Clapton, Joss Stone, and Imogen Heap.  What an AMAZING performance!  So much so that I went to iTunes and bought them all.  What caught my attention was this little tiny girl bass player....she appeared to be about 14 (she was 24, I looked her up).  Her name is Tal Wilkenfeld, an Australian, and is a natural if there ever was one.



Now is this good "relaxing at home on a rainy Saturday night" music or what?  There's lots more Jeff Beck on YouTube if you're interested.

Have a relaxing Sunday everyone.  :)

S

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Another restaurant review

Last night K and I had our date-night meal at Anamia's.  After it opened a few weeks ago we noticed the parking lot was always full, definitely a good sign.  We tried it and found it to be the best Tex Mex in town, which is saying a lot since Dallas is noted for their abundance of Tex Mex restaurants.  This was our second visit.


  
Their bartender definitely knows his stuff and was not at all stingy with the spirits, either.  I had a Margarita and K had a Mojito, both fairly simple, but the guy really nailed 'em!  K was intrigued by the sugar cane garnish in her drink.  She told me she'd never tasted cane before so I cut her off a piece and told her to chew on it for a second.  She liked it.  Live and learn.


I know it doesn't look like anything out of the ordinary, but trust me, these folks understand seasonings.  The cheese was a 3-cheese blend that was so smooth, and the guacamole was perfect.


Speaking of guac, the table next to us opted for the freshly made "tableside guacamole".  It's an awful lot of guac for just 2 people so we'll need to go with friends sometime and split an order.


K had shrimp enchiladas with perfectly spiced (hot) beans and rice, not the "same ol" stuff most Tex Mex places use as a filler.  And the shrimp were plump and plentiful and a bit spicy, too.  (She had to offload some of her jalapeno pieces onto my plate.  Win-win.)  The saddest part of the evening wasn't the check, but when the waiter removed my licked-clean plate.  :(  This place is definitely on our rotation now.

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Our local weatherguessers so far this week are batting ZERO!  They told us to expect 2-5" of rain, and so far there hasn't been enough rain fall to even get the street wet.  Maybe today their prediction will finally come true.  (Of course it will....it's Saturday!)  Hope y'all have a great weekend.

S



Friday, March 9, 2012

I'm not sure I fully understand the difference between liberal and conservative stances on some issues.  In particular, consumer protection issues.  How is trying to force banks (and lenders in general) to say clearly, right up front and in plain English, what their terms are and what they're going to charge, anything but a good idea?  How is that partisan?  Unless you're a banker or lender intent on snookering the public into thinking they're getting a good deal when in fact you're charging them 28% interest or something like that, how could you not be in favor of such laws?  Where's the down side, unless you're a banker?  


The one thing I've learned from the financial crisis of '08 is that big business can't be trusted to do what's "right".  It's become so bad that as far as I'm concerned the burden of proof is on them to show me they're playing nice.  And to be fair there are a lot who do pass my smell test by honoring their warranties without resorting to loopholes and vague language that to a layman says one thing but legally means another, producing a clearly superior product, etc.   (Examples?....Amazon, REI, LL Bean, Zappos, to name a few.)  I consult Consumer Report regularly, and although I've never tried it, I've heard good things about Angie's List.  I just think it's a shame things have come to this.  Caveat Emptor...."buyer beware"....has never been more true.


What prompted this post was an article I read that told of one insurance company that was suing a bank for misrepresenting a financial instrument the insurance company was covering against default.  Sure enough things fell apart, the insurance company refused to pay up, and both are pointing fingers at each other saying the other side is a crook.  Hahaha....talk about the pot calling the kettle black!  I say a pox on them all.


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On a more pleasant note, tonight it's my turn to pick our date night restaurant, and I'm choosing Anamia's.  We've only been there once before, but it left a grand impression on me.  I can taste it now....yum!  If I can remember to take pictures of our meal before I dive into it I will. 

Happy Friday!

S 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's raining cats and dogs....and sunspots

A cold front pushed through north Texas around noon today dropping temps over 20 degrees.  Combined with the winds and rain leading the front, it's darn cool outside.  I had to go back into my winter jackets I had so meticulously packed away in sealed plastic boxes and pull one out.  Mother Nature is jerking my chain!  We're expecting 2-5" of rain by the end of the weekend.  Maybe that will be enough to top off our lakes and enable us to survive the summer without water rationing.  *fingers crossed*


Is anyone besides me having electronic issues with all the sunspot death rays bombarding earth today?  My computer shut itself off, logged us out and everything.  Then when I tried to restart it, it wouldn't accept our ID info.  After a number of attempts it finally smiled and let me back in.  Go figure.


More leisurely packing is in progress.  An hour or so every evening and we should be prepared for an organized move.  The 23rd will be here before you know it.  Here's what our spare bedroom looks like now:



Note the vicious Mr. Luke in the lower right standing guard over our stuff.  OK, sitting guard.  Oooo....I just spotted something else I can sell on Craig's List.  That blue leather chair in the corner has been collecting dust for several years.  It needs to find somewhere else to live.  No luck on the monster desk yet, though.  Don't people use desks anymore?

S

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Heads we win, tails they lose

This is a news story I thought I'd never see:  The US is on the verge of becoming energy independent.  That outlook is gaining realistic credibility.  We're that close.  Every White House since Jimmah Cahtaa has put forth their plans to get us there, but their plans usually wound up as bird cage lining.  This is for real.


Now here's the rub....a lot of the new oil and natural gas we're producing is via a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" for short, and it's becoming more controversial by the day.  A chemical goop is injected into the ground under pressure, forcing oil and gas back out.   A LOT of oil and gas.  But there's also a lot of scary anecdotal evidence, everything from poisoned drinking water to minor earthquakes, that is giving rise to a bunch of activists opposed to fracking. 


The day may come when we can retire using nasty 'ol coal to produce our electricity (sorry Appalachia) and instead use much cleaner and cheaper natural gas.  This could help revitalize our industries, making them more competitive worldwide.  Think CLEAN AIR and JOBS!  And more than enough gasoline to power our cars and trucks and trains and buses.  We won't have to kiss up to those #$&^*&@ bastards in the Middle East any longer, either.  WooHoo!


Of course, the danger is we'll become complacent and go back to driving our land yachts that get 12 mpg, and put the development of new, clean, less polluting non-hydrocarbon fuels on the back burner.  Are we going to have the political will to impose enough taxes on oil and gas products in order to subsidize R&D looking for these better energy sources for the future?  (I doubt it.  Our politicians have never, in my lifetime at least,  been known for their stiff spines.)


So do we risk it?  Do we plow forward with more fricking fracking (too easy!) and hope we can overcome the pollution problems that come with it, and tell the rag hea....er....Sheiks....in the Middle East to kiss our obese American hineys, or say NO to fracking and just accept the status quo?


In my mind it's touchy, but I say go for it.  What say you?


S


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

More Microsoft pollution

I read today that Ford, which was flying high after saying NO to government bail-out money during the financial crisis, is now in a tailspin.  According to Consumer Report, based on reliability they've dropped from 5th to 10th place, while JD Powers has dropped them from 5th to 23rd place based on customer satisfaction.  And it has nothing to do with the engineering or styling of their cars.  No, by those criteria they're quite good, actually.  They're being panned because of their "MyTouch" system, a dash mounted touch-screen used in place of traditional knobs and switches.  It was developed by Microsoft, and it's crap!


I'm Microsoft-phobic. I loathe Microsoft.  Every PC I've ever owned proved to be more trouble than it was worth, all thanks to Microsoft.  They froze up regularly, need "patches" daily, and were a virus nightmare.  I finally tried a Mac a couple of years ago and have nothing but good to report.  I know Windows runs most businesses, but I also know it's a huge source of irritation for them.  I don't think I'm alone feeling the way I do about this:  Microsoft has been losing market share and their stock price hasn't done squat in 5 years.  Apple on the other hand is on a roll, and is now the most valuable company in the world, worth over $500B.  Which begs the question....What was Ford thinking?


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Our downsizing continues.  Last night a guy came by and bought my file cabinet.  It would have made my day if he'd taken the desk, too, but no such luck.  Fortunately I still have over two weeks to unload more stuff find new homes for my family heirlooms.  *sniff*  Today I'm back to The Container Store for more plastic see-thru storage boxes. Those things are great!  


They ought to put me on TV...."Anti-Hoarders".  All the slobs would watch and think, "Ewwww!  How could those people live like that?"  Haha!

Ciao, y'all.

S

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Dynamic Duo, house cleaning, and found treasure

Yesterday while going through all our earthly possessions in the process of packing K ran across some old photos, one of which was taken at her parent's house on Christmas Day 2006.  It shows both of my dogs together, the dearly departed Tara Belle (the Westie) and Emma Belle (the Mini Schnauzer):



Luke....you've got some large shoes....er....paws to fill, my boy.

She also found my old name patch from my Confederate Air Force days, and a campaign button from my unsuccessful run for General Staff (Board of Directors):


As it turns out I lost by 3 votes, from an organization which at the time had around 8,000 (?) members.  The guy I lost to was a retired USAF Colonel, his last assignment that of being responsible for maintaining the Air Force's Special Air Mission (SAM) fleet of aircraft.  You might be more familiar with it (them) as Air Force One.  Oh well....

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Every time we wash clothes we struggle to find enough clothes hangers for everything as they come out of the dryer.  They can't just disappear into thin air, so where do they go? (Hanging out with those socks that disappear one at a time?)  K and I have both been cleaning out our closets, ridding ourselves of clothes we say we're gonna wear again some day but of course never do.   I took a huge carload of stuff to Goodwill, which means I freed up a few extra hangers:


Now we have 78 to spare.  :)

I've had good luck the past few weeks selling stuff on Craig's List.  I made a bundle selling four framed, signed & numbered aviation art prints, and yesterday K's old stationary bike.  Good riddance!  Now I really need to sell my big 'ol oak desk and file cabinet.  They're way too heavy to move.  I also need to sell the monster pre-lit artificial Christmas tree K just had to have a few years ago.  It's in the storage room downstairs in a box that I do not want to store in our new, more compact place. I'm trying to make room in there for a bicycle.  (K, if you read this, I'm buying a bicycle.)  It looks like we're paring down nicely and should be able to fit in our new 100+ sq ft smaller place with ease.

All in all it was a productive weekend.  How was yours?

S



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cars and Coffee, March 2012

Today was the first Saturday in March, so you know what that means....CARS AND COFFEE!  I met my friends Neil, Frank, and Ron there at 7:30 this morning, but we were NOT the first ones to arrive.  About a thousand cool cars beat us there.  Yes, there was the usual assortment of new exotica such as every Ferrari currently being offered for sale, and all the new Maserati's, Lamborghini's, Bentley's and Roll's, too.  BMW's and Mercedes', Lexus', Mustang's, Camaro's and 'Vette's we're a dime a dozen.  But for some reason I'm always drawn to the old, rare, characterful, and just downright odd cars. (NOTE:  Click on any photo below to enlarge.)




The Mini lineup.  (As the rest weren't leaking I'm assuming they were already empty.)


A really sweet Austin Healey 3000 Mk III.


The aristocracy of the show.


An award winning Alfa Romeo Montreal.


For you muscle car guys (and gals) how 'bout a Plymouth Road Runner Superbird?


Surf's up!


Old cars, like old guys, RULE!  


I came within a hair of buying one of these (Porsche 911) ACBK.  (After College, Before Kids)


But if I had to pick my favorite of all those I saw today, I'd choose this BMW Z8 Alpina.




Yep, this is the one I would have liked to take home with me....


....but unfortunately this old Rover is the only one my budget could afford.  Such is life.  *sigh*

Drive safely everyone.  :)

S