Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quick thougts from recent Paris trip...

I'll have much more to say on this in the future, but here are some thoughts I wanted to commit to print while everything is still fresh in my mind....

- Don't EVER transfer through Canada if you're coming back to the States from Europe. It's just too much of a hassle to go through security in Europe, have to get your bag in Canada, go through pre-customs and re-check you bag, go back through American security and make it to the gate on time. Add that to the fact that the American customs officers in foreign countries typically have the personality of cardboard and it's just brutal. Pre-customs at the beginning of your flight is OK, but in the middle of your itinerary it's just too much of a hassle. Lesson learned on my end. (Note: This is OK if you think you might want to spend some time in the City in which you're laying over, but not that much time. If you're not leaving the same day you have to check back in with Canadian immigration. America makes it difficult to travel overseas at times.)

- Your flight will NOT leave on time from CDG. Trust me, it just won't. Looking at the big board on the day of our departure over 1/2 the flights were delayed.

- You think traffic in Houston is bad? Heh. Paris makes us look like Oklahoma City. Plan to spend some time getting to and from the airport. The train is just about your best option.

- There is no escape from Les Halles Mall. At least, it seems that way until you finally find the exit door located somewhere in a dusty, dark corner. Good shopping though. Terrible food in that mall however.

- Air Canada has nice planes, we had good plane staffs, but if you're delayed for some reason good luck getting any information whatsoever out of their ground staff at CDG. The delay just is.

- In Paris, bread & bread w/butter and jelly is an acceptable breakfast. They do not apologize for this, nor should they.

- European coffee kicks the biscuits out of American coffee.

- A scarf is a must if you visit Paris on February. If you don't have one, you will look like a tourist. That being said, the weather wasn't that bad. Cloudy, a little chilly, but you're walking so much that it's OK.

- Odd fact: Parisian Italian food is oft-times off the charts good.

- Your first meal in Paris, if you choose the correct Bistrot, is going to taste wonderful. If you fly United coach you might think this is partially because your food on the flight was so pitiful that toasted paper stock w/melted cheese would taste good. This is true, but if you stay away from the obviously touristy restaurants the food is typically fairly cheap, and really good.

- Eat dessert w/every non-breakfast meal. Trust me on this one. You'll walk enough in Paris that the calories won't matter.

- Two words: Croque Madame. You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What's left of Houston's former news daily

isn't really news at all....

1. Look! 1/2 naked Brazilian women! (Please increase our click-count)

2. Look! Models falling! (Please increase our click count) **At least they didn't have an upskirt shot like they did they ran this photo series***

3. McDonalds being the "new" walk of shame. ( Unless you're an urban elitist that is.)

This is what happens when a news organization loses sight of their mission.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What we used to do is now a "boycott"

...yet another strange dispatch from the ever-twisted world of education politics.

Fed up with menu, students stage lunchroom boycott,
Macaroni and cheese again? Students at a junior high school near Texas' Gulf Coast staged a four-day boycott of cafeteria food last week to press for more menu choices and healthier alternatives.

About 30 students at Austwell-Tivoli Junior High School in Tivoli, Texas, shunned the cafeteria's offerings and brought their lunches from home for four days last week

The Chron blurb links to this story, from the Victoria Advocate, as their source material.

All of which leads me to this question: When I was in school I brought my lunch almost every single day. My Mom made it up for me and I happily ate it, instead of those cheesy egg rolls or mystery meat burgers or something that, was the opposite of what pizza should be. Was I boycotting?

No, I was just eating a better lunch than the school provided day after day. Of course, these days, my lunch probably wouldn't make the cut.

The lesson that should be taught to these children is that, if you don't like the free option, you're perfectly welcome to bring your own lunch as a substitute. Instead we're telling them that they're entitled to more than they're already given, despite the fact they clearly don't need it (after all, they had the money to bring their lunch right?)

Let's be honest, none of us, with the possible exception of some fringe elements, want to see little children go hungry, and I've no argument that free school meals are the last Maginot line for some children between basic nutrition and starvation. Those aren't the kids that I'm worried about here.

What I'm concerned about are children from families with means deciding that the free lunch their getting isn't suitable because it's not all that they feel entitled to.

The solution is to bring your own, if you can. Not to scream that other people need to pay more of their hard earned money because you're tired of mac n' cheese.

Because it's Monday

I give you this image, BEARS! Painted on the back of this guys moto-tricycle. Because it's not funny enough driving around on the grown up version of a big-wheel, one must add some really odd custom art.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cue protests

Poor guy....

Heart Attack Grill in Vegas lives up to it's name. Dan X. McGraw, ChronBlog
A customer suffered a heart attack while trying to put down a Triple Bypass Burger, according to Fox 5 News in Las Vegas. The man reportedly is recovering from the heart attack.
Amazingly, most people, so far, in the comments are just live and let live. Odds are this poor guy wasn't an Adonis walking into the HAG so that burger he was eating probably had little to do with the actual attack. More likely it was years of overeating and bad living.

And so what? Which way would you rather go? With a burger in one hand, a beer in another and laughing? Or eating a green salad with oil and vinegar on the side?

Give me the former any day.

Unfortunately, given the propensity for Nanny-stateism in America these days it won't be too long before some well meaning politician somewhere decides that this moment was the proverbial tipping point and that all of us need to eat more like they think we need to eat. Put down your soda and burger (while they get to keep their foie gras and brie of course) and everything will be just fine.

Meanwhile, those that truly WANT to be unhealthy are going to continue to find new and creative ways to do so, no matter what you outlaw. What we forget is that there is a market tool designed to discourage this behavior: Higher insurance premiums and costs. What's happened is that we've removed that tool from the system due to over-regulation and placing much of the onus for our health care on others.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wait! I thought Texas schools were OUT of money

The "$4 Billion in cuts" were obviously not everything we were led to believe (By Texas' lock-step political media that is)

Fort Bend ISD approves $18M plan to replace textbooks with iPads, KHOU
Fort Bend ISD is going high-tech. The school board approved an $18 million plan to replace textbooks with iPads.

As far as I know, there are no scientific studies proving that the use of iPads over textbooks lead to higher student test scores. So basically this is just the case of a school district deciding to spend some money on a piece of technology because someone, somewhere has decided it would be cool.

If Texas school districts have $18 Million to blow on "cool" then possibly it's time to re-examine their cries of poor? Or maybe it's just time to tune out Texas lockstep political media and the InterLeft when they band together and tell obvious whoppers. In fact, school funding INCREASED over the last biennium. Just at a slower rate than it would have under the old formula. That's a reduction in growth, NOT a cut. Obviously some ISDs could have used a cut if they're wasting money on items such as this.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Historic doesn't mean anything....

...if this building is considered "historic"....

Post office parcel is a gift from our past, Lisa Gray, ChronBlog
How different was Houston in 1962? Imagine this: People were thrilled about a big, expensive new post office. In 1962 Texas, big and expensive were always good. And post offices were important.

For months, the city's newspapers reported breathlessly on the complex under construction at 401 Franklin, at the north edge of downtown.

"The House That 4-Cent Stamps Built," as a headline in the old Houston Press dubbed the "rambling, palatial structure," was believed to be the most modern post office in the country. More than five miles of conveyor belts would carry mail inside the enormous long, low factorylike block where mail would be sorted - a place "so big that electric scooters are being provided for executives to make their rounds."

If the nannies that be won't let Houston rid itself of this eyesore then there's not much left to do.

The building is ugly.

The building is NOT old. (50 years is not old)

The building is useless.

This is the same kind of thinking that's preventing us from blowing up the Astrodome and replacing it with a parking garage. It's this mentality that's holding Houston back, a mentality that's pretty recent in nature and used to not stand in the way of things getting done.

What made Houston great was its business climate and the ability to get things done. There are several in Houston, most of Ms. Gray's political ilk, that are working as hard as they can to undo both of these things.

Yet they want to work hard to protect an eyesore.

Houston's opinion-driving class is in worse need of a re-do than is this building. Unfortunately, given the state of the former newspaper of record, this ain't happening any time soon.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Context is everything....

And when you take something outside of it you can make things seem like whatever you want.

Case in Point: Eric Berger's blog post today on food regulations.

As much as we may hate food regulation, it works. Eric Berger, Chron.Com
Now a new study (see abstract) suggests those efforts have borne fruit. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that blood levels of trans-fatty acids in white U.S. adults decreased by 58 percent from 2000 to 2009.

“Findings from the CDC study demonstrate the effectiveness of these efforts in reducing blood TFAs and highlight that further reductions in the levels of trans fats must remain an important public health goal,” said Christopher Portier, director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health.

The study does not provide a causal link, but it does suggest that strong labeling guidelines, public health campaigns and some regulations can limit the consumption of harmful foods
Great, all well and good. We're all for people having full information when it comes to lowering levels of unhealthy substances in their diet, if they so choose.

What Berger didn't mention was why Trans Fats were so prevalent in our diet in the first place. You got it, government food regulation. You see, back in the day it was felt that margarine was inherently healthier than butter and other animal fats, so the government promoted its use. This lead to the rise of the lipid theory which (in a really simple description) laid the blame for most heart related illnesses on fats. Specifically: saturated fats. It turns out now that this wasn't the case, that the "Trans" fats the government then promoted (with strong urging by large food corporations) was actually akin to shooting yourself with a bazooka, from a heart health perspective.

It's not unusual to find this lack of historical context in many of Berger's scientific arguments. He tends to only report on, or pay attention to, theories that line up with his existing beliefs, casting everything else off to the "junk-science" realm.*

The important thing to remember is that humans don't know quite as much about the physical realm as our scientists think they do. We see things happen, but explaining why they happen is currently beyond science. Belief that we know everything is why proponents of post-normal science believe that the "science is settled" on Anthropogenic Global Warming, why "fat" was once removed from all "diet" food in the name of cheap, low-calorie carbohydrates and why the scientific method came with an expiration date.

One last (quick) point: Reporting on science does not make one a science expert, nor does blogging about the same. I'm no expert, but I understand context, and history. A large swath of the "scientific" community seems to be hell-bent on removing consideration of prior events from current observations. That mistake is giving us the "scientific" mess we have today. It's led to greater political influencing, and created some pretty spurious results.

*Junk science, ironically, is a closer description of the methods of most legitimate scientists these days, substituting the observable world for the world of computer models. Garbage in, Garbage out.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'm blind in Vegas.....

Yup, that's a Kreuz sign. In Lynard Skynard's inside Excalibur.
Straight from Austin to Vegas...the Mexican Martini as created by Rodrigo of Rock & Rita's at Circus Circus.

My last trip to Vegas had a Hill Country flavor. Granted, it was a light flavor (especially in the BBQ, which was edible, but not Texas BBQ) but it was a flavor.

It appears the good folks at Excalibur brought in the pit-master from Kreuz to consult on their BBQ. I'm not saying that it wasn't good (it was good, not great) but it wasn't Texas BBQ. All that being said, it's not fair to compare brisket smoked in an electric smoker (which this certainly was) to the brisket cooked in the gigantic wood pits at Kreuz. Still, ordering from the meat counter, and getting your meat wrapped in butcher paper were neat touches, as were the miniature replicas of the Kreuz pits that sat behind, even if they were just heating bins.

As for the Mexican Martini, if you spent any time on 6th street during the 90's you remember something about those. It's been a while, but it tasted just about right to me.

Good times.

Note: My apologies to Blackie Lawless and the boys over at W.A.S.P. for taking liberties with their song title.

There's first class.....

....and then there's this.

During my last trip to Vegas this was my "first class" meal on United.

It was billed as "a Monterrey Chicken Sandwich" in reality it was a very (extremely) dry chicken breast on a stale bun with all of the sauce (some kind of gloppy, ranchy mess) and cheese having slid off of the sandwich and onto the plate. The day-glo orange pot beside the sandwich was "tomato bisque" Yes, it was greasy, having possibly separated, and just generally unpleasant.

Since I was in the middle of a free upgrade, and had the good sense to grab breakfast at Burke in the Box at McCarron, I didn't complain. Had I PAID for this "first class" ticket however I would have been pretty steamed. Not that I expected food like this on a 3-hour-and-change domestic flight, but I at least expect the food to be edible.

It should come as no surprise that this was served on a United 757, which I consider to be among their worst travel options. One thing that did irk me was that the seat plug wasn't working, so I had my iPad plugged in for 3 hours and it didn't charge a lick.

I'd complain, but of all the trips I've taken with Continental (United) and all of the surveys I've filled out I've only had ONE response. One. I've yet to fly on a 757 where everything is satisfactory (or even, in some cases, just OK) and one response. Because of my time and status with United I'm staying with them, they've got two chances in the immediate future to get it right. Fortunately, I'm not going to be on a 757 for either of these flights.

I'm just wondering in what world someone in charge of customer service takes a look at that Sandwich and decides that it's acceptable to serve on a flight whose price is north of $1,000? From what I understand from my friend Kevin, their Chicken Cacciatore is even worse looking than that. I can hardly imagine.

On the bright side: Yay! Upgrade! The seat was more comfortable for the inevitable nap home from Vegas than are the seats in steerage. I should also note that I've recently had a couple of regional flights with Continental express (United Express?) which were excellent.

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