Tuesday, July 31, 2012


What? LAS to MSP again?  Yeah, later this afternoon.  In the meantime, it's early morning, and I'm at a Starbucks at the Monte Carlo, enjoying the pleasure of morning coffee and oldies (Hendrix, Stones, Supremes) on the intercom.  The guilty self-indulgence thing again:  waking up at the Aria in the beautiful corner "junior suite" we were upgraded to, lying in bed looking out the windows down the Strip and beyond the Strip at the airport, the desert, the mountains in the distance.  Our room is theoretically on the 51st floor, but it can't really be the 51st floor since we notice in the elevators that the room floors skip from 39 to 50 with no 40s... Maybe they think we will feel more like VIPs if we think we're on the 51st floor.  Well, my coffee is about done.  On the intercom:  Fleetwood Mac, "Go Your Own Way"...

Monday, July 30, 2012

cleavage as a fashion statement

I admit there are some things I don't pay a lot of attention to, but, let me ask you this -- are young women's breasts, real or enhanced, um, way more apparent than they used to be -- or is it a Las Vegas thing, maybe carrying over from California? -- or is it like that everywhere now and I just wasn't noticing?  I mean, these slinky black dresses are so low-cut that I wonder how they, um, hold anything in at all?  And is it possible that being so obvious -- so out there, so  to speak-- might bring out nervous laughter rather than admiration?  On the other hand, I realize that I'm not the target audience!

(Sorry -- I think my blog content just hit an all-time low! In the future, I'll try for something more, um, uplifting...)... :-)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

the view from an 18-dollar martini

It was maybe one of those moments that we work so hard for and yet feel guilty about --  the self-indulgence aspect, you know.

The photo is from the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel... the Mandarin Bar, perhaps the most over-the-top extravagant cocktail lounge I've ever lounged in.  It's a place where Jerry and I go once each time we come to Las Vegas... It's dark, quiet, elegant, a bit decadent... with a view that keeps your attention.

I wish I could remember the name of the martini I had... I want another one.  Next visit.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

maybe a bitter rose

Pete Rose now and then
Remember Pete Rose, the former baseball star, one of the best who ever played the game, the guy who can't get into the Baseball Hall of Fame because he had a gambling problem (that included betting on his own team)?  I know that it's hard for you to imagine that I'd run into him in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world, of all places?

But there he was, signing pictures for fans but apparently only if they were willing to pay for them... I wasn't about to pay to have my picture taken with him, and nobody was lined up, so I snuck this photo real quick, much to his obvious disgust.

Maybe he was having a bad day, or maybe he was feeling a bit degraded that this is what it's come to, but he sure wasn't very friendly.  If he had been cool or maybe if he had been wearing a baseball cap instead of that dumb hat, I might have felt differently.

Friday, July 27, 2012


"All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...". Hmmm, who said that? Actually, I'm past that stage, am waiting to board after going through the degrading security process... Oh well, my blog readers know about such things. A person really has to want to get out of town to put up with it. I guess that's us.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

writing without anger

With the encouragement of a couple of my friends, "E." and "DYA", I've been thinking more and more about getting serious about doing some writing.  I've set up a space at home to do it, and, to make it actually happen, I'm trying to think of the best ways to carve out time to write in some sort of structured way.

But, at present, I'm hung up on something:  I am most inspired to write when I'm angry.  For instance, if I were writing today about what's on my mind, I'd be attacking backstabbers, lying preachers, and willful ignorance.  Shouldn't I maybe be writing instead about making the world a better place instead of pointing out how f-'ed up it is?  Isn't there enough of that these days?  Or do I wander into fantasy, escape or "the good-ol'-days" past?

When I was young, maybe ages 15 to 21 or so, I was writing all the time -- obsessively, even.  I carried little notebooks with me at all times.  Something changed.  I lost the drive.  It might be coming back.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

a sucker for free stuff

This will sound to my regular readers like I'm getting very repetitive, but this is how it is:  I'm going back to Las Vegas this weekend... But hear before out before you roll your eyes --

--  Jerry is going with me this time, and he hasn't been there in close to a year...
--  We had a free Delta companion ticket that expires on July 31st, and airfares to Vegas were the only ones that were remotely reasonable compared to any desirable within-the-48-states alternatives...
--  We don't need to rent a car there.
--  We have free hotel rooms (plus other perks) at the Aria Casino Hotel, which is one of the nicest hotels in Vegas.
--  It's hot there, but Aria has a great pool with misters.
--  Las Vegas, despite how irritating it can be, has become my default getaway place.  A lot of people in Minnesota have their lake cabins as their getaway places; I have Vegas.

We leave Minneapolis Friday night, back Tuesday night, by which time I will be wondering once again what I was thinking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

mid-summer sports update

Mike Trout
Referring back to my June 7th post "a millville boy becomes an angel":  Mike Trout, from my hometown of Millville, NJ, is having a dynamite rookie year with the Los Angeles Angels.  He's still leading the American League in batting average and multiple other statistics.  For me, following his progress has been the highlight of this year's baseball season.  The Phillies and the Twins are lousy, and who cares about the other teams?

Later this week, the Summer Olympics begin in London.  Wow, has four years gone by already?

And, much to my dismay, I see a Facebook friend posting today that football pre-season games start in eleven days.  Now, don't get me wrong, I like football as much as the next guy, but I'm just not ready to think about summer being on the downslide.  Once football season starts, suddenly it's Christmas. :-(

Monday, July 23, 2012

i thought i had something to say

Still mulling over the Colorado shooting massacre last Friday, I had planned to say something today about violence, automatic weapons, etc., especially when I see people posting stupid stuff online about how the answer to gun violence is MORE guns, and I realize I have nothing to say that could make any difference.

Thanks to spineless politicians and the National Rifle Association, the leadership and members of which don't care how much blood they have on their hands, there will never be any satisfactory gun control laws in this country.  It's a Wild West nation that should apologize right now to the future victims of gun violence and tell them that their lives are just not worth the effort to incorporate common sense into law.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

what an online application doesn't show

Danny, our new "project", is looking around for employment, and the experience has been eye-opening for me.  How impersonal the process has become!  The majority of places where he visits tell him they don't take applications in person, he has to go online to do that (What if a person doesn't have a computer?  That doesn't appear to be an option anymore.).  I guess he needs to figure out how to get his personality and neat appearance, two of his major assets, to somehow come through on a stuffy, generic online application.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

another dark night in colorado

A nutcase in Colorado who had access to as many weapons as he wanted to buy opens fire on a midnight movie-theater crowd that was there to see the new Batman movie.  12 people die, 59 are injured.

The country is shocked and stunned again, even though we keep seeing these tragedies being played out over and over.

And there will be more of these random shootings -- as long as we have such lax gun control and as long as the shooter gets massive publicity.  The creep's picture over the past 36 hours has been on every news program and newspaper and all over the internet.  He got what he wanted, and the next killer is paying attention.

Friday, July 20, 2012

july 20, 1969: the moon, it's still out there

The first moon landing.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon, and Americans were riveted to their televisions to witness the moment (I wasn't.  I was living in Germany with no TV, and who knows if the Germans were covering the story anyway?).

The vision everybody had at the time is that it wouldn't be long until there would be passenger flights to the moon.  Well, that doesn't seem to be happening.  Do you know how many other people after Armstrong and Aldrin actually have walked on the moon?  Ten!  None since 1972!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

'billy elliot' the movie

We were delving through the Comcast OnDemand list last night, looking for a free movie to watch, and happened upon Billy Elliot, the 2001 movie that the Elton John Broadway musical Billy Elliot was based on.  A cool movie! Makes me want to see the musical next time it hits the Twin Cities (next fall at the Ordway, I think).

One thing you'll notice if you watch the movie:  English is a very diverse language.  When these characters speak in their northern-England dialect, there will be times when you think you're watching a foreign language film without subtitles.  You'll get the drift of it, though.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the downside of being mitt romney's CPA

The political hubbub this week has focused on getting Mitt Romney to release more of his prior-year tax returns.  He refuses to do so, even though many of his fellow Republicans are urging him to just bite bullet and get it over with, and the more he refuses, the more people think there is something embarrassing or at least politically uncomfortable in those returns.

As a CPA, I say, just do it, dude.  Nobody understands tax returns anyway.  So what if you had your money stashed in the Cayman Islands?  Your political base probably thinks the Caymans are in the U.S. anyway!

When they were released back early this year, I did look over Mitt's 2010 and estimated-2011 returns (or should we call him by his first name -- Willard?.. which reminds me, do you remember that '70s movie Willard, about the guy who loved rats?).  They are fairly complex returns.  Most people who only have W-2 income and file a 1040-EZ probably would be overwhelmed by them.  Interesting notes from those returns:  his income is about $21 million each year; he has zero W-2 income; he has about $4 million annually just in interest income (Do you realize how much investment assets it takes to generate $4 million in interest these days?).

His CPAs:  Pricewaterhousecoopers, one of the Big Four CPA giants, for which I have no love.  These returns will undergo rigorous scrutiny -- I hope they had extensive internal review at PWC before Willard and Ann signed.  And I hope that no clients of mine ever run for President!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

disjointed thoughts on a lazy hot afternoon

--  Wow, airfares sure are high this summer!  I have a free companion ticket that will expire July 31, but airfares for a first ticket seem to be what two normal ticket prices should be.
--  Besides, where in the lower 48 states does a person go in July?  It's hot everywhere.
--  I need to stop eating ice cream...
--  ... and Oreos...
--  ... and I need to get back to the gym.
--  If I weren't so depressed about the upcoming presidential election, I would be amused by some of Romney's potential vice presidential candidate choices.  Tim Pawlenty, seriously?  He only became a Minnesota governor because there were third-party candidates in the races, which meant he could win with 43% or 46% or the vote.
--  I wonder who will retire first -- David Letterman or Jay Leno?
--  What's for dinner?

Monday, July 16, 2012

danny has air conditioning and hair product

A follow-up to my July 3rd post, "the migration continues" -- The Danny Project seems to be moving along.... Danny has found an apartment and moved in over the weekend, although moving in took about ten minutes since he has almost nothing ("just clothes, shoes, and hair product").  Now he is on a mission to find furniture and household items (if anybody has anything they're dying to get rid of, let me know!), the first major purchase being a Craig's List used air-conditioner since today had temps back up around 100 degrees!

Then there was a resume to come up with... that was yesterday's group project, and it turned out okay.  Now he will hit the streets and job-hunt his butt off, I hope.  It's not easy these days getting a start at age 20.  In some ways, I feel bad for these kids; in other ways, I envy the hell out of them.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

howard's gardening hints #2

A follow-up to my June 23rd post -- "howard's gardening hints" -- to show you -- especially Jon -- how the plants on the patio are doing.  "Take pictures!" Jon keeps telling me.

The best part of mid-summer is that this is when plants and flowers and trees are looking the best.  In August, they start to get scraggly, and then September is the beginning of the end.  Enjoy the moment.  Plant life in Minnesota is short.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

le quatorze juillet comes around again

July 14, 2012.  It's Bastille Day in France and with French-tolerant people around the world who appreciate an excuse to party.  Here in the Twin Cities, the biggest Bastille Day celebration I've seen advertised is at Brit's Pub -- (British, obviously).  Here in our household, the only celebrating we've done (so far) was having for lunch some French fries (which are Belgian in origin).  Vive la France, anyway!  Maybe I'll get back there someday.

My sister Mary headed home to New Jersey this morning, and we miss her already.  She is perhaps the easiest-to-be-around person that I've ever known.

Friday, July 13, 2012

swimming with neil simon

The summer plays on the two main Guthrie Theater stages tend to be crowd-pleasers:  Currently on the Proscenium stage is the newly musicalized Roman Holiday (see my June 22nd post, "me, a member of the press?") and on the Thrust stage is the early-'70s Neil Simon comedy, The Sunshine Boys.

A couple nights ago, Mary and I saw Sunshine Boys, and it's a show that is enjoyable from beginning to end, thanks to actors that seem made for their roles -- in particular, Peter Michael Goetz as the crotchety king-of-one-liners, Willy Clark.  The show is there until September 2nd -- see it if you can.. You need a good laugh.

Then, last night, for a totally different experience, we had tickets to a mostly dance program up in the much smaller Dowling Theater, a performance called Swimming With My Mother, featuring a dancer with his 78-year-old mother, in sort of a synchronized swim/dance.  Hard to explain.  We liked parts of it, not sure that we really got it.  The sound system needs some improvement for this show -- the guy's lines were very muffled.  If we knew what he was saying, we probably would have gotten more out of the story.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

jimmy has a busy but maybe unprofitable day

Late morning today, I stopped at the office in the northern burbs where my son Jon works, and he and all his co-workers were eating sandwiches from the fast-food chain Jimmy Johns.  Why?  Because Jimmy Johns had $1 sandwiches today between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and who can resist a bargain like that?

Well, I resisted any temptation to stop at the Jimmy Johns near them, and I think it's a good thing I did.  When I got back downtown and was walking through the skyway, I passed a Jimmy Johns where there were literally about a hundred people waiting in line for their dollar sandwich.  The whole area was cordoned off for the customers, like they were waiting to meet the Pope or something.  I noticed some very well-to-do-looking people in the line -- some attorneys, for instance, who probably bill out at $400 an hour -- and they are looking to save a couple bucks for a half-hour wait in line?

I went to Arby's.  No line.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

heimlich at the german restaurant

The Black Forest Inn, the German restaurant at the corner of 25th & Nicollet in south Minneapolis, is in my Top Ten of local restaurants.  It's just the kind of place you can't eat at too often -- the food fills you up and definitely requires some recovery time!

We were at the Black Forest last night for dinner -- the outdoor patio there is beautiful this time of year -- and had a great meal and were in recovery mode, regretting having ordered desserts, when a man at a table a couple tables from us stood up at his table, choking, panicking and in obvious distress.

A young man at the table next to him and calmly started administering the Heimlich Maneuver on him.  After a few squeezes and pounds, the man coughed up the lump of weiner schnitzel (or whatever it was!) and was okay, and all the restaurant customers cheered.

We don't know if the choker bought the Heimlich guy's dinner or not.  He possibly owed him his life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

july 1968: fort polk, louisiana

I was chatting with my co-worker Jeff this morning, and the subject of my military service came up (Most people who know me can't believe that I was ever in the Army).  That conversation has me mentally lingering on where I was in the mid- to late-summer of 1968:  Two months of Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) at Fort Polk, in the swamps of central Lousiana.  It was a summer of heat and humidity and foxholes and snakes and armadillos and M16 rifles meant to prepare me and my fellow trainees for the jungles of Vietnam.  It was the summer that I swore that I would never go camping the rest of my life or ever return to the state of Louisiana.  So far I have kept those pledges.

Monday, July 9, 2012

waiting for meatloaf

Poor Jerry. He had two teeth pulled today and isn't feeling so hot, and there he is in the kitchen baking a great-smelling meatloaf. Danny, meanwhile, is telling us that he had four shirts stolen out of his car today. Mary just finished reading her book. We're apparently going to watch the movie "Time Traveler's Wife" tonight. And I'm wondering why I can't think of anything to blog about.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

hangin' out at the nuclear power plant

Mary and Joan and I, along with my sort of "adopted nephew" Danny, took a Sunday afternoon drive out today into the country (actually, only an hour out of downtown Minneapolis, but it seems like country to us).  It was a beautiful day that followed a week of heat and humidity, so it seemed only fitting to be doing something outdoors  and out of town.  Besides, Danny wanted to see the nuclear power plant at Prairie Island since he is job-hunting and his most recent job was at a nuclear plant in New Jersey and Joan wanted to have us drive through Red Wing, a cute city there along the Mississippi, about an hour southeast of the Twin Cities.  The power plant is next to the Treasure Island Casino, which, give us some credit, we resisted the urge to visit.  Along the way, we had a lot of laughs and learned from each other.  I don't want Mary to ever leave.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

people who watch Wimbledon

My sisters Mary and Joan are tennis fans, and Mary's visit with us happens to coincide with the Wimbledon championship, so our TV has been tuned to ESPN daytimes this week for the matches live from London. This morning we watched Serena Williams win the women's title, and tomorrow morning we will be having breakfast while we watch the men's title match (Federer vs. Murray)... One good thing: there aren't many commercials, but what's funny is that most of the ads are for Rolex watches and Mercedes-Benz. What does that say about the tennis audience? Might we be the only ones who don't belong to a country club?

Friday, July 6, 2012

walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

This is the old Lovin Spoonful song, "Summer in the City", sung by Joe Cocker.

Wonder why I thought of this song today.... Just because it's another 100-degree day?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

it's better than heat stroke

I don't admit this to just anybody, but I can be honest with my blog readers:  I was a fan of the old Dallas TV show (J.R. Ewing, Sue Ellen, Jock, Miss Elly, etc.)  and watched it from 1978 until it ended in 1991.  I even made it past the season that turned out to be a dream.

The show is back after all these years.  OK, it's on cable TV now (TNT) instead of the main channels, and J.R. Ewing and Cliff Barnes are old codgers now (although Sue Ellen is still looking pretty good), and the primary stars are an all-grown-up John Ross and Christopher Ewing, and it's too much about characters that are either all-good or all-evil, but it sure looks good on HD (way better than the real city of Dallas looks in person).

It's not all my fault that I tuned in to see the updated version of the show.  It's been 100 degrees here in Minneapolis the past several days, and we needed some entertainment within the air-conditioned condo and, darn it, sometimes a person gets desperate, so we watched (On Demand) the first four episodes of this new Dallas.  What's scary is how much I remember of the original show.  I just forgot a few minor details -- for instance, that Christopher is really the daughter of Kristin (who shot J.R. way back when after they had an affair), Sue Ellen's long-deceased sister and that he was then adopted by Bobby Ewing and Pam (also dead), sister of Cliff Barnes, the arch-enemy of J.R.... well, never mind.  It becomes almost-incestuous when being described.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

a movie you might like

Summer movies are usually crap, but we went to see a quirky, funny little film last night that was worth seeing -- Moonrise Kingdom.  It stars people like Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton and a bunch of no-name little kids... and it's sad that I still can't think of a better word than "quirky".. !  Let me know what you think.

By the way, to all you people and countries born on the 4th of July, Happy Birthday!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

the migration continues

My nephew James moved here a year ago at age 18, has done well and has apparently inspired Danny, his cousin and best friend, age 20, to move out here also.  Danny visited us here in Minneapolis back in January and liked it here, and, if you like Minneapolis in January, you'd like it anytime.  After anguishing since January about whether to make the move, he started out driving here from New Jersey last night (in an un-air-conditioned car with temps near 100) and is almost here.

Danny is a good kid and has a lot of potential, he just was finding very limited options where he was.  Let's hope he can make it work here.

The Danny Project begins...  This time, James will show the way.

Monday, July 2, 2012

the shocking news of the day

Anderson Cooper (wikipedia)
Anderson Cooper, star of CNN and son of Gloria Vanderbilt, today finally came out of the closet as a gay man.  Yay, Anderson!  Of course, the only people who could be surprised by this news would be those people who have never seen him on New Year's Eve with Kathy Griffin.

I suppose that the people who are boycotting Oreos (for making a rainbow-filled Oreo) will start boycotting CNN now.  Oh I forgot -- homophobes already watch Fox News.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day, you guys up there...

July 1, 2012... Canada has been a country for 145 years today!  Seems like only yesterday!