Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gluten Free Dining in Rome

When you visit Rome, you might envision that your food choices are going to be limited to the following:


Pasta Carbonara

For me, this was true.  I had Pasta Carbonara every meal except for three, for two of them I ordered pizza and for the third I ordered a pasta funghi dish because carbonara wasn't on the menu at the bar in which we ate.  Mushrooms were in season so I went that way, much to my delight.

For my wife however, who is Celiac, pasta, pizza and breadsticks were not an option.

In most places this was fine due to the presence of tomato salad, prosciutto and grilled meats.

Burrata and tomato salad

Prosciutto on the slicer

Grilled lamb

There are a wide range of foods available that can be eaten, fairly safely, by those who avoid gluten, but it helps to have a tool available (or be able to speak the language) to explain to the waiters your dietary requirements. The wife uses The dining cards from  Before we leave we print out a handful in the language of the country to which we're traveling, and one is presented to the waiter upon introduction.  We've never had a problem once the card has been presented.

Rome treated my wife very well however, and part of the reason was that we stumbled onto Taverna Barberini
Awning sign
The restaurant also had a sidewalk sign that advertised "Gluten Free" so in we went.  If you suffer from Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or intolerance (or are with someone who does) then you understand how big of a deal it is to find a restaurant carrying this:
Gluten Free roll
My wife also got a good risotto and some sausage with white bean ragu;

The service at Barberini was friendly, there was entertainment, and the prices were reasonable.  All in all it was a fantastic find.

I wish that I could tell you that you could get a gluten-free tiramisu but, to my knowledge, that is just not possible.  However, given that gelato should be classified as a world treasure you're OK if you just stick with that.  Just down the road from Barberini is a tiny little yogurtaria named "neyoyo".  You won't find it on any of the big city guides or websites, it doesn't have a fancy facade or word of mouth buzz.  What it does have is a hand-made sign and an owner who really takes his gelato seriously.

What this place does have are excellent Aperol Spritz, a nice place to eat on the sidewalk, a Google+ page and some of the best Gelato I had in Rome at reasonable prices.

When we were planning our Rome trip the wife and I were concerned that finding food for her to eat would be a problem.  We were very wrong.  It was easy to find several menu options at all the places we visited that allowed her to eat as well as I.  Granted, we never did find gluten free pasta carbonara but we're going to work on making that at home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vegas to expand Zip Line

Every time the wife and I travel to Vegas we take a look up at the Zip Line running over Fremont street and vow that we're going to ride it.  As is inevitable, Las Vegas gets in the way and the lines and time crunches prevent us from doing so.  However, today's news that The zip line is expanding makes me want to now ride it even more.

Zip Line to Zing tourists through Downtown Las Vegas. AP via

Tourists will soon have a new way to see the lights of Las Vegas: By being spit out of the mouth of an 11-story slot machine and zinged down a five-block zip line past some of the city's oldest casinos.

Officials on Tuesday unveiled plans for a permanent zip line on the downtown Las Vegas promenade known as the Fremont Street Experience.

Standing beside a scale model and two showgirls at the unveiling, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the SlotZilla thrill ride was destined to become an iconic city landmark.

On my last trip to Puerto Rico earlier this year the wife and I did a canopy zip-line tour and had a blast.  Obviously the Fremont Street line will be much different but I have to admit that I'm wanting to give it a try.  This being Vegas, it will undoubtedly be overpriced and overhyped but it still sounds like fun.

United to increase Club rates, eliminate 3 year membership option

If you're thinking about purchasing a United Club membership the time to do it would be now.  Possibly you could talk someone into buying it for you for Christmas. 

On January 1, 2013 United has announced a $25 increase to it's membership rates with spousal membership increasing by $100.

They've also announced that they're eliminating the 3-year purchase option which offered significant savings over their year-to-year packages.

Here's the current pricing chart:

Of all the changes, I think the exemption of the 3-year option is the biggest hit.  The $100 increase to the spousal rate isn't great either. None of the changes seem all that drastic to me at first blush.  I will say this though, if you've been in a United lounge lately they are extremely crowded in many cases. I'm unsure if this is a move to reduce the overcrowding, or if United is trying to boost sales of it's United Club credit card.  The lounge prices were already high for a watered down drink and a few pieces of Tilamook cheese, I couldn't see buying in before and I'm certainly not going to buy in now.  With the United Mileage Plus card you get two free passes per year and you get lounge access on International itineraries with Gold Premier status so I'm not making any purchasing plans.  Your mileage may vary if you need to renew, or are just interested in purchasing a membership.  Whatever the case I'd do so before the turn of the calendar year.

Reaction in the "pro" travel blogger arena appears to be "meh".

One Mile at a Time

Frequently Flying (Who it appears was the first mover in blogging about this)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

There's bad travel writing everywhere....

...And this piece by "seasoned travel writer" James Marshall Crotty regarding his recent stay at the Aria in Las Vegas is proof of case for that argument.  (h/t: uggboy from MilePoint for the link)

As one commenter on MilePoint stated. "I stopped reading his rant when the "seasoned travel writer" seem surprised about the $20 resort fee."  And it was the resort fee that has Mr. Crotty all hot and bothered, a resort fee that he says was "never disclosed" to him until after his stay.  However, running through the Aria booking site one finds the resort fee prominently displayed before the reservation process is complete.

Aria screenshot w/booking fee
So IF Mr. Crotty is telling the truth and he DID, in fact, book the room on-site as he claims then it was not a case of the Aria omitting the booking fee, but it was a case of this "seasoned" travel writer not paying attention to what he was booking.  FWIW, the yellow highlight on the above screen shot is mine, the bolding is as/is on the website, so the fee was prominently displayed.

Here's Mr. Crotty's words on the resort fee:
First, there's the Aria front desk. It's modern and colorful in a 1990s Spago way. However, as with any deceptively labeled 5-star loser hotel front desk, once there, you learn that there all sorts of hidden fees you were never overtly, let alone covertly, told about when you booked a room online. For example, there's the $25 "Aria resort fee."

As an aside, I stayed at the Mandalay Bay hotel during the same time as Mr. Crotty stayed at the Aria. The main difference was I was an invited casino guest and, as such, received a lot lower rate than did this "seasoned travel writer".  However, even though I booked by phone the resort fee was still clearly disclosed as a part of our phone conversation, and in the confirmation e-mail that I received. 

I don't mean this post as some defense of the Aria, or any other MGM property.  I've never stayed at the Aria but I have walked through there, it's modern Vegas, bold, flashy and it gives the appearance and feeling of luxury to those who never get to experience it without all of the true costs associated with such.  Like most of Vegas, it's Louis Vuitton.  Faux luxury for the masses.  The thing is, that's OK.  Because people come to Vegas to experience and do things they otherwise wouldn't.  That the bed is actually wholesale, that the pillows are polyfil and not down feathers humanely harvested from pygmy swans, that the sheets aren't 10,000 count Eqyptian Cotton, or that the flatware isn't gold is of no consequence.  The important thing is that it looks nice.  Vegas understands that better than any other city. Why do you think 90% of the gaming areas are filled with penny and quarter slots?  That's where the demand is.

The larger issue, to my way of thinking, is the reduction of standards in travel reporting in today's media.

We've gotten to a point where anyone with a MacBook and a camera can spool up a blog or any reporter can be assigned to a "transportation" beat.  In Mr. Crotty's own HuffPo account he says that he's an education and politics writer. I've no doubt that he travels quite often, or that he might understand a thing or three about how to be from locale A to locale B.  But that doesn't make him a travel writer.  He obviously is lacking a certain eye for detail, nor does he seem to have much of an understanding how the travel industry works.

He's also hampered by the fact that he cannot remain impartial toward the little people around him.  His bile toward the citizenry in Las Vegas that weekend is telling.  Mr. Crotty finds himself unable to pen a decent critique of a place because he was embarrassed by his inability to read terms and conditions, and he didn't like the people that surround him when he was there.  I don't claim to be a "seasoned travel expert" but I do have, on many cases, the ability to at least keep my personal feelings toward the populace out of a review.

In Mr. Crotty's defense there are a LOT of people out there who don't like Las Vegas, who find it tacky and gauche and who don't get the attraction that so many people have to the city.  I get that, and I understand that it's not a city for all people.  But I also understand that you don't have to bet big money to have fun there, and that (unlike Mr. Crotty) MOST travelers don't want a spa day.  I also understand that, for those who do, the choice as to whether spa prices are 'exorbinant' or not is a personal decision, not one that I am going to make for them.

In essence, Mr. Crotty's article is everything that is wrong with travel (and much food) writing in today's media.  You have inexperienced writers with a very narrow world view criticizing anything and everything that doesn't shoe-horn into their limited reality without doing much research in the interim.  When confronted with fact, or a difference of opinion, they just scream louder.

This Blog Post will be of no importance to you.

Some blogging is informational in nature and some blogging is simply cathartic.  Spleen-venting if you will.  This is definitely the latter.

My laptop is toast. Sacrificed to the Starbuck's Gods in a spectacularly clumsy manner by yours truly.  Protip: an entire Venti Skinny Peppermint Mocha and a computer do not make good dance partners.  After moving (in my wife's words) "faster than I've seen you move in years" I was able to get the computer inverted on top of paper towels fairly quickly, but not quick enough.

It will start-up, slowly, with an odd clicking sound that I assume is something fighting through the sugary, sticky goo that's probably enveloped most of my mother board and every other critical component, but the keyboard is only partially functional, and the parts that are not working are (of course) the parts that contain most of the keys I need for my password.

My plan is to take it to a PC repair shop and see if they can take it apart and get it functional again.  I'm sure they see this all the time right? And, if not, at least they can extract the files from my hard drive. Fortunately I've already uploaded all of my travel pictures to my Flickr account, but I do have notes on the C drive for some articles I have coming due fairly soon.

Then there's what to do if it can't be resuscitated?  Do I bit the bullet and buy a new computer?  Or do I obtain a new cover for my iPad with a blue-tooth keyboard and utilize that?  I'm a fan of the iPad as a toy, but I can't see it doubling as an everyday work horse computer.  Plus, I'd be losing MS Office tools that I really like using due to their power and flexibility. I'm sure iApple's productivity tools are fine, and I hear they can even be saved in an MS Office usable form, but are they as powerful as Excel and Word?  Is Open Office compatible with iApple?  I'm going to have to look that up.

There was a (print only) story by Loren Steffy in a recent issue of the Houston Chronicle (it recently went on-line here) where Mr. Steffy talked about the struggles Dell and HP are having staying a-float in the new mobile computing world.  While I disagree with Steffy on many macro-economic issues, his piece here was spot on.  Even though I still think the iPad is a toy it's a useful toy that, along with my Android phone, has replaced my need for a netbook when traveling.  That I'm even considering trying to make it my go-to computing device speaks volumes about how marginalized the PC has become.

That said, there's still something to be said for the power of a home PC and the need to have a machine that can do the heavy lifting.  So, despite my thoughts to the contrary I'm probably going to bite the bullet and buy another laptop should this one prove to be totally dead.  I'm going to look at one of those ToughBooks though, there's no cure for clumsy that I'm aware of.

Short Haul Flights (11/27/2012)

Back from Vegas and needing a nap.......

Bush InterContinental had most expensive fares in 2012 analysis shows.Olivia Pulsinelli, Houston Business Journal. -  The common factor in the top 3 airports?  They're all major hubs for United/Continental Holdings.  Still, I'd like to see a comparison of per-mile costs, rather than overall costs just to see how out of whack costs are at UA hubs. (or, if they are at all). *updated: As PubliusTX points out it's also ridiculous to exclude 1st and Business Class percentages.

Houston Airports open "fast lane" for International Customs. Molly Ryan, Houston Business Journal. Only if you're not checking bags that is.  Still nice for those International guests connecting.

Obese flier turned away by airlines dies overseas. A. Pawlowski. NBC News - Tragic story which, of course, is going to end in several courtrooms.

A Remedy for Air Travel woes. Clifford Winston, New York Times. - Except that this runs counter to the current waves of misplaced Nationalism running amok in American politics so it's never going to happen. *Updated: I don't think Dr. Winston is on base here, nor do I believe he's taking practicality into consideration, but man is he angering the travel blogger, travel community.

Airlines get tougher with overweight passengers. Linda Loyd, - No they're not, they're getting more consistent with how they address overweight passengers, which is a good thing.

Airbus slams Boeing with Pinnochio nose ad. Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY - The gloves come off.

Trip home smooth for many Thanksgiving travelers. Phuong Le, Huffington Post - The trip home was smooth, but weather disrupted the flights to the destinations for many.

And finally....I'm a little late on this but it's big news for United:

Judge Rules United Not Liable for 9/11 Collapse. Reuters via New York Times.

With the Holiday trip behind me my flying for 2012 is done.

Final tally:


55,596 Miles flown, Upgrade % (United) 25 (7 for 28) with 4 legs on US Airways.  34 legs total.

The Wife:

56,369 Miles Flown, Upgrade % (United) 19.23 (5 for 26) with 4 legs on US Airways. 30 legs total


Santa Barbara
Puerto Rico
Las Vegas (2 times)
Oklahoma City twice (Myself, business flights)
Seattle (The Wife, Mileage Run)

Two times I received a complementary upgrade but my wife did not.  The last time in Vegas was confusing because I was cleared 48 hours in advance but she was not.  After I was cleared several Silver Premiers were cleared but my wife was not.  Why she was so much further down the upgrade list is still a mystery to both of us.  United seems to have no answer either. If I hadn't been cleared it would have made some sense, a Silver buying a full fare ticket and getting placed in front of us for example, but since I was cleared that doesn't seem to be the case.  At some point I'm going to figure out United's new upgrade process I hope, because it would sure make things easier.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

HAS Security Times

There has been some news lately directed at the new "security wait time" tracker on
Houston Airport System rolls out new tool to measure security checkpoint times. Molly Ryan, Houston Business Journal

On Friday, HAS said it has equipped the homepage of it website,, with the new time-measurement system. On the site, viewers can see how long checkpoint wait times are at each gate at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Hobby Airport.
HAS is able to calculate the wait time based on bluetooth signals that measure how long it takes customers to go through security checkpoints. The times will be updated every 15 minutes.

This is a great deal, if it's accurate.  The screenshot above was taken at around 12:30 PM CST.  If you're in an airport security line now and see this post, please let us know in the comments just how right they were.  It seems to me that, based on the limited write-up, the system relies on tracking blue-tooth signals from personal communications devices, which could result in lower times because people tend to turn those off before they stow all of their gear into the bins.  That said, it'd be nice if Houston's Tech blogger for our largest daily could dig a little deeper into this and provide traveller's with an idea how it's tracked, but this is not an iApple technology so the sad point is he's just not going to care.

Still, if it works, it's a great tool to help you budget your time when flying in and out of IAH.  I would run some personal test trials at first before basing your "will I or won't I make my flight if I arrive at xx:xx" decision on this tool alone. I know I will be.

UPDATE:  Stephan Segraves tells me (via twitter) that it's a "ping" technology where the system pings your Bluetooth device on the way in, and then pings it on the way out.   So if your Bluetooth is enabled then you're providing a public service as well as travelling.  Makes sense.  Thus endeth the tech portion of this blog.  I'd still give the system a few trial runs before using it extensively however.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

United's computers down (again)

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United Arilines has another large computer outage. Samantha Bomkamp, Scott Mayerowitz, AP via

Thousands of United Airlines passengers around the globe are stranded at airports and on planes after another computer outage at the world's largest carrier.
This is at least the third major computer outage for the Chicago-based airline since June.

If this weren't so sad, it'd be comical.  It's also not a strong vote of confidence for the IT-challenged airline leading up to the very busy Holiday travel season.  As if to make matters worse, the PR department muffs the punt:

United Continental Holdings Inc. spokesman Charles Hobart said the airline was aware of a computer issue affecting some of its flights and was working to resolve it.

It sounds as if "most" not "some" of it's domestic flights are currently grounded.

A little snooping on Flyertalk suggests that the problem lies with the UNIMATIC weight and balancing system and that the (former) Continental planes (using SHARES) are working just fine.  So this is a problem isolated to legacy United metal.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Finally, Rome Pictures On-Line

Being sick on a Sunday will force you to do things you've procrastinated doing.

Case in point....

The Rome pictures are finally on-line

A preview:

Pasta Carbonara

Rome Traffic

Inside the Colosseum

Friday, November 9, 2012

Booking habits for Domestic/International flights

There was a thought provoking (at least to me) MilePoint thread yesterday asking people what "fare class" they normally book.  I hadn't really given it much thought, knowing only that I typically book discounted economy seats which qualify for 100% Premier Qualifying Points and the bonus (currently %25) percent on miles.

This did prompt me to take a closer look at what I have booked for future trips (I'm pretty much ticketed for all travel through June 2013 right now since I've decided to stay with United and I know my goal {gold status again}) and some interesting patterns emerged:

I book economy L, a lot. - For those of you unaware, here's the United Fare Class Chart which reveals what those pesky letters on your booking mean.  L is, surprisingly, the 12th level of coach for UA.  What this means is that I get a pretty good price, but my booking has a LOT of restrictions on it.  this is OK because I typically don't make changes to my itinerary and am certain of my destination before I book.

Most of my purchases fall between the 10th level of economy, and the 13th. I think I've only booked in the "G" tier (the lowest tier), once or twice in four years of travelling.  I'm not surprised by this because, long ago, the wife and I came to an agreement regarding how much time/effort we decided we would spend hunting and searching for "the lowest possible price" out there.  We decided, after much debate, that we wanted a low price but that paying the rock-bottom lowest took more effort than we were willing to expend. This year my $$/mile rate is going to be somewhere around $.09/PQP and next year it's going to drop to $.08/PQP due to some deals that I found to Asia.

What your goal is, will be important. One of the big problems that I have with some of the bigger travel bloggers is their assumption that everyone must value everything the same as them or they're stupid.  For them, it's mostly about garnering massive miles and spending time on so-called "aspirational trips" which involve much time spent in First Class lounges and taking pictures of hotel rooms.  Not all are like that however, Mommy Points is one that often focuses on the destination and not the journey (although she's starting to move into "please click my referral links!" mode often, and Seth, from The Wandering Aramean is pretty good. (Read his blog, but be wary when engaging the guy in conversation, he's irascible at best) and Stephan Seagraves trip reports are outstanding, but he's a hobby blogger so he's not going to update as frequently as the pro or semi-pro guys.

All that said what's important are your travel goals.  For the wife and I, we set a budget, and a target status level we want to attain (Gold Premier for example) and then we try to figure out how we can fit the places we want to visit into that matrix.  We try to avoid pure mileage runs, preferring to visit places we want to see, your mileage may vary on that point.  For other people it's important to travel in comfort, so they focus on BusinessFirst or First Class.  I will say this, had I the budget I would travel in all BusinessFirst and First. Sadly, I don't have rich Uncle and my poker game is not up to snuff to win the World Series Main Event so I'm flying coach.

Maximize your miles, to a point: I book everything on a United card, for some people who have issues with credit this is not possible.  If you can swing it however paying with an airline card, and then immediately paying off the balance, is a great way to go.  I don't make suggestions on which card to use, nor do I receive kick-backs from them if you click on my referral link.  Because of this I don't have any referral links, nor do I expect to have any in the foreseeable future.

In the years since my first International flight (2008 to London and then Paris via the Eurostar) I've found my life and world view unimaginably enhanced. The wife and I watch movies and television shows based in foreign countries and we're still awe-struck that "we've been there, in person, and saw that".  I've got hundreds of memories and thousands of pictures, and I plan to add to each catalogue for as long as I can.  Maybe we'll see you out on the road someday.  If so, let me know what class you booked.  I will probably learn something from how you did it.

Short Haul Flights (11/09/12)

Very heavy Boeing news day today.....

Boeing on course to outsell Airbus - Something the could be short-lived based on information below.

777 Re-vamp decision could take more than a year. - The theory is this could push buyers to the Airbus A350-1000

Boeing shift from Military to Commercial markets cheered. - What with Military spending forecasts way, way down.

The switch will have consequences however - They're planning to lay off thousands of workers, mainly in job-starved California.

The 767 is nearing the end of it's useful life as a passenger plane. - Someone please tell US Airways about that.  Their fleet is horrid.

Priceline Buys Kayak - Opening up the possibility that either Leonard Nimoy or George Takai gets to take part in an ad campaign.

Your US expedited immigration status is now good in Australia - Great news.

United INCREASES the value of it's top tier elite status - I'm sure 1K elites are very happy about this.  Some good news from MileagePlus for a change.

A look at the 787 inaugural pre-flight festivities - Amazingly, there was no heckling of Smisek.

And finally....

American Airlines ventures into post-merger United territory - 58% on-time status.  Ouch.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Short Haul Flights (11/08/2012)

Getting this blog back to it's travel focus....

Romney wins! - Per an e-mail from Spirit airlines pimping their low fares.  Of course, this has angered the sub-set of people in America with zero sense of humor.  Not a fan of Spirit the airline but this was funny.

United breaks the seal on the Dreamliner - Smisek soon to announce that ALL of the companies problems are now solved. (provided you fly on the Dreamliner, some flights of which they've had to change to older planes because Boeing has had to delay delivery, causing people to cancel, and well....nevermind)

Coming Soon: An even BIGGER Dreamliner - Presumably with even bigger production delays.

United October Revenue down - Company blames Sandy.  On-time performance below 70% target as well, airline blames (reason to be determined later)

Boeing looking at revamping 777 - The problem is that, given their production problems of late, airlines might decide to purchase the new Airbus A350-100.

Speaking of Airbus - The company has a cash flow problem right now.  As usual, they're blaming the Germans.

This production delay thing seems to be spreading - Bombardier now having trouble with their new "C" series jet.

More flight cancellations to the NorthEast - As the Nor'Easter blows in.  Hang in there y'all.

Southwest didn't have a good October either - Doesn't seem like many airlines did.  I'm sure they're all hoping the Holiday travel season bails them out.

Delta takes a play from United - Using a city decision with another airline as an excuse to cut some unprofitable routes.  We're now calling this "pulling a Smisek"

And finally.....

Have 250,000 Euros to spend? - If so, then you too can get an EU passport. (If you could sell it at cost on the open market after the purchase that would actually be a fairly cheap passport FWIW.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012 Post-Mortem

Well that was fast.  Before the returns started coming in last night I believed that we'd wake up this morning and still not have a good grasp on who the next President would be.  Instead my prediction was wrong and the predictions of the Media (who I thought were way off base) were correct.  Especially those who had Obama getting around 303 electoral college votes.

You can see my predictions here

So how'd I do?

President: I predicted an Obama win, but a close Obama win with Romney taking the popular vote.  As it stands now Obama will win the popular vote by around 2 Million.

Texas Senate: I predicted a Cruz win with a percentage close to 60 than 50. He got 56.62% of the vote.

US Senate: I predicted the Dems would retain control of the Senate with around 52 senators elected.  Currently they have 51 with 2 Independents that caucus with them. 

US House: I predicted the Republicans would retain control of the House and possibly pick up a seat or two. They did retain control, but the Dems closed the gap.

Texas Statewides: No shocker here, Republicans swept the Statewide races.

Texas House: I thought the Republicans had a better than average chance of keeping the house super majority. I was wrong.

Texas Senate: On this I was correct, not much movement on overall numbers, but a lot of new faces.

Harris County specific races:  I predicted all of the bonds would pass and I was right.  The Metro referendum passed with 79% of the vote. (I predicted it would get more than 60%).  If nothing else this means that fringe groups like Houston Tomorrow and the Citizens Transportation Coalition need to realize that they are outside of the mainstream. (They won't, but if they want to effect policy they should). The county races went just as I predicted. (Sheriff, Tax Assessor-Collector, etc.)

Harris County Judges: I predicted that Harris County Democrats would point to this as a "win" considering everything else that went on.  I was correct here.

You saw this coming: It took about 5 minutes for ChronBlog to write their first negative, post election, smear piece on Cruz.

So what does all of this mean?

The pundits are already going mad suggesting that the GOP blew it because they were "too extreme" or too "right wing".  An analysis of the results doesn't really support this theory however.  In the areas where the GOP did not perform well (President, US Senate) the candidates that lost were more of a moderate bent (Romney, Thompson, etc.) than conservatives. As a matter of fact, the BEST results for the GOP was in the supposedly too conservative House of Representatives.  The GOP is not dead, but they need to make some changes in order to be competitive in the future, most notably when it comes to courting the Hispanic vote.

Future policy is a mixed bag.  ObamaCare is certainly here to stay and, in the immortal words of Nancy Pelosi we're about to find out "what's in the bill".  If implementation is a failure (and the odds of that are better than 50% given government history) then the GOP will be looking at a very favorable climate in 2016 and beyond.  If it succeeds, then America just became a lot more of a European social democracy and taxes must increase to try and offset the increased expenditures.  Either way, things will not continue on as they always have, and America is now a much different place than the nascent country cobbled together by the founders.

Here's the thing: A majority of the American populace wants it that way, the GOP is going to have to find a way to convince them otherwise, a strong platform of reform legislation in the House is a good start.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election 2012 Predictions and other assorted stuff

Yes, I'm no longer a political blogger but, given that today is election day, I feel compelled by the blogger code to at least make some utterly worthless election day predictions. These are worth exactly what you paid for them so here we go.

President: I think Mitt Romney wins the popular vote in a squeaker, somewhere around 50.2 to 49.8 but Obama wins the Presidency by virtue of the electoral college.  271-267.  You can see my map here:

I also think that we won't know for sure who the winner is for quite some time because it will come down to Ohio, and their recount procedures will drag this out.

Texas Senate: Cruz in a landslide.  I'm not sure of the exact number, but Cruz will be closer to 60% than 50%.

US Senate: The Democrats retain the majority in the Senate with with somewhere around 52 Dem senators being elected.  I like the Real Clear Politics Senate Page for these races.

US House: I like the Republican's chances here to gain a seat or two. Again, I'm using the Real Clear Politics page as a guide.  Currently, 224 seats are either safe Repub or "lean Republican" with 33 toss ups.  I think the Repubs grab about 18-20 of those 33.

Texas Statewides: No shocker here: I'm predicting a sweep for Republicans.  There may come a time when Texas Democrats nominate and run a quality candidate for a State-wide office, but it won't be the election cycle.

Texas House: The Republicans will retain a large majority. Possibly even their super majority

Texas Senate: Not much movement in overall numbers, but a lot of new faces.

I don't predict any major upsets in these races.

Harris County:
      - Sheriff: Garcia wins fairly handily.
      - District Attorney: Anderson wins, again pretty handily.

I will be part of the under vote on both of these races.

     - County Attorney:  Ryan hangs on to win 52-48.  Not a fan of Talton but I'll hold my nose and vote for him.  Ryan has not been the "watchdog" that he's promised, nor has he distinguished himself much in this position.  The Dem's main argument for voting for him is that he's not Republican.  Meh.

      - Tax Assessor-Collector: Mike Sullivan should win but I think it will be close.  Ann Harris Bennett is not a good candidate.  Seems like a nice lady, but who knows. Of all my picks I could be 100% wrong on this one.  Sullivan is hit or miss with a lot of people, and doesn't do much to fire up the conservative base.  Watch the under vote here.

Metro Referendum: I don't see any way that this fails.  As a matter of fact, I think it passes handily with over 60% of the vote.

City of Houston Bonds: I see them all passing, and then much hue and cry coming from the resulting tax increases.

HISD Bonds:  I'm torn on this one, but at the end of the night I think they'll squeak out a win.  Of all the bond proposals these are the most specious.  Still, the Houston electorate has shown a willingness to back poorly designed bond packages provided they're packaged correctly.  The packaging on these, and the resulting PR campaigns by the appropriate groups, means something.

HCC Bonds: I think these pass fairly easily.  Even the Texas Conservative Review came out for them.

And finally:

Harris County Judges: With all of the attention paid to these by the Republican Party I think the (R) under vote is going to be pretty small.  I expect the Republicans to pick up a few seats, but the Dems will point to this as a "victory" as the night progresses relative to the rest of their Texas election slate.

And that's it.  So.......go out and vote.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My apologies

For the light blogging the last couple of weeks, have a cold running through the household so not much  energy to do anything but cough and try and get well.

Regular blogging to resume shortly.....

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