Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Happy 2024!!!!

 Well, we made it through 2023. Despite, at times, it's best attempts at foiling us.

2024 is starting off with some promise. Michigan is in the CFP final, it's looking like my cardiac issues are going to be not much of anything, and I'm just going to have to get used to the health challenges that come with being on the North side of 50.

Which means, as you can imagine, all of the usual New Year's Resolutions (get healthy, exercise more, etc. etc.) but also an eye forward to a LOT of change this year. And I'm talking about BIG life changes, not just the little, insignificant things that we poke at.

I'll be sharing a little bit more about those things in the months to come.

For now though let's just be happy that we've made it to another year and that we can all, just, still find a good burger no matter where we travel in the USA.

Good wishes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving

 As the National Day of Giving Thanks approaches I wanted to wish all of my (few) remaining readers a very Happy Holiday.

May you eat, drink, watch parades and football with the best of them.

Me and my house will be eating Turkey but, if you choose not to, then enjoy whatever it is that you will be feasting on. If you choose to be a crank and aren't thankful for anything well.......it's possible this Blog is not for you.

As a reminder, Benjamin Franklin wanted our National Bird to be the Turkey, which would have meant we'd be farming and eating Bald Eagle on this day.  Thank goodness he lost that one.

We'll be off until after the Holiday weekend.

F1 Hates You. (Yes, you.)

 'Las Vegas Biggest Event in Years was a Disaster'

And while I think "Disaster" is a bit of a reach it certainly was not the grand slam that organizers were hoping for.

Yes, the actual race was, by F1 standards, pretty good.  There were actual lead-changes and some overtaking for a change. Typically F1 races are decided by qualifying and the cars, too big for the older tracks they run on, pretty much just go around with the leader (previously Lewis Hamilton but now Max Verstappen) pulling away and winning by several seconds. While it might be among the most glamorous, and most expensive, of the racing circuits, in terms of actual racing it is the absolute worst. F1 is terrible.

But the television broadcast was a pretty thing. (Full disclosure, I wanted none to do with actually being in Las Vegas for this event). The dynamic of the cars going full-chat down the Strip and the really cool Sphere in the background was awesome. Martin Brundle's grid-walk had plenty of rich, famous and other cool stuff, just like they wanted.

I even hear that the high-rollers showed up on race night, and casino employees in the tip pool did quite well. So the very rich Euro-trash showed up on their private jets as well.  Good deal for all.

In the end, that's all that F1 really cares about. That they had stars and the wealthy at the race and on TV providing the whole shoddy mess with an air of faux-sophistication. In some ways, that's VERY modern Las Vegas Strip.

Because, and this is important, just like the employees and owners of the Las Vegas Strip casinos, F1 hates you (and me) the common folk. 

Oh sure, they NEED us, but they hate us. They want our attention and our money and (important for F1) our eyes on televisions but, if they had their druthers, they would really prefer if you'd just take the table scraps that they give you, fork over your money for little return and then politely STFU.

Already there are social media chatter from Las Vegas Strip employees that they would really prefer if just Strip employees were allowed to comment on things and the visitors just be silent. The idea that the Strip employee is the center of Las Vegas, and not the paying customer, is an issue that some cruise ships are dealing with and it's not something good to get a toehold in an area that relies on customer service.

Mrs. TPM and I have been to Las Vegas hundreds of times. We've been on the Strip for many of those. we abandoned the Strip a few years back because we noticed these conditions creeping in but we went back on our last trip to check out a VGK game.

The service that we received at NYNY Center bar was amongst the rudest we've ever experienced. It was very cleat that were were imposing on the bartender's time rather than being the reason for it.

And that's exactly how F1 views the general public. A problem that has to be tolerated, not an opportunity to make new fans. You're a nuisance to them, something they have to put up with in order to take your money from you. They kicked the public out of the viewing areas ahead of Free Practice 2 (after FP1 was cancelled after 8 minutes and everything thrown into a mess by Carlos Sainz' car getting chopped up like scallions in a Gordon Ramsey restaurant by a loose drain cover.) simply because the race organizers did not want to pay overtime to the employees they hired to cater the event.

They did their level best to block the view of any location where people might be able to glimpse a second of race action without paying for a ticket, and (by many accounts) their private security service was screaming at people walking around the Strip during the race. If you weren't walking fast enough, you got screamed at.

Here's the thing though.  The race seemed to do OK. Probably nowhere near the (*snickers*) $1.3B economic impact that was predicted, but well enough to ensure that, next year, all of this happens again, and again and again for the next nine years. On race night, the grand stands were full, Shaq and Brad Pitt were on Pit Lane telling everyone how marvelous things were, Max Verstappen (the race winner and the most unlikable champion of this generation) even put on an Elvis inspired racing suit after weeks of saying the whole thing was a sham, that he hated Las Vegas, and would just skip the whole mess were it up to him.

Now, the checkered flag has been waved, the teams have moved on to their next, meaningless, race (the driver's and all-important constructor's title having long been decided) and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Bureau is warning people that it will take "at least" 8 weeks to tear everything down.

Looking at my calendar that means somewhere around mid-January. Which means that F1 could cock-up the New Year's Strip fireworks as well.

From that sense F1 Las Vegas is peak Corporate Vegas.  Enjoy.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Random College Football Thoughts as Week 11 is here.

As much as we try to prevent it, College Football is nearing the finish line for the 2023 season.

With that, I have some random thoughts:

1. Yes, Michigan broke the rule. Yes, the rule is stupid. Yes, Michigan should go scorched earth on the rest of the B1G.

After SMU got turned in for cheating, and was given the Death Penalty back in the 80's, there has been kind of an unwritten rule among conference members that we're all cheating but we're going to look the other way.  Suddenly someone in the B1G decided to not look the other way. Michigan's letter suggested that they have a TON of stuff on other schools that they're just been sitting on due to this unwritten agreement. If the B1G's new President thinks he wants to make an example out of them they should just run out into the public square and dump it all out for the World to see.  EVERY school is breaking the rules.  Because the rules are stupid and they all know it.

2. The Best Team in the Country is.......Probably Georgia.

I realize that Ohio State is ranked one, and there's an argument that Michigan is playing better than anyone. Several TV pundits love them some Florida State, Oregon etc. Michael Penix Jr. is great. That said, the Bulldogs are the 2x defending champions and haven't lost a game since dirt was young. Until they get beaten, they are the #1 team in the land.

3. Officiating this year has been BAD.

I don't care which team you root for, you can probably look back on several occasions where you wondered what drug the officials were on. Replay has become a joke, with the official looking into the tiny box to make important decisions, instead of these reviews being done in a command center on big screens. Obvious overturns mysteriously "stand" and other nonsense. It's just as bad at the NFL level but there are more college games to draw examples from.

4. The 12-team playoff is going to disappoint.

I realize people are excited over it, but it's just not going to be good. Heck, we cannot even get two decent Semifinal games in the current 4-team format. Think about that. Also, way to ruin the regular season.

5. The big-time college football split from the NCAA is getting really close.

College football in name only. But it's coming and there's nothing anyone can do about it. The NCAA has made themselves irrelevant. They're just whistling past the graveyard at this point.

Bets this week: (All bets are one unit unless noted)

Maryland (-2.5) @ Nebraska
Oklahoma State (-2.5) @ UCF
Pitt (-3) @ Syracuse (I think Dino Babers gets fired very soon)
Missouri (+1.5) vs. Tennessee
Fresno State (+1.5) @ Tennessee.

Enjoy the games, we only have two full weeks left after this.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

It's the end of the Comp as we Know it. (And I'm not Fine)

 In October this year Mrs. TPM and I visited Las Vegas for our "Birthday" trip.  It was technically the week before both of our birthdays (She, Oct 30th. Me Halloween) but we always time it like this because it's easier for me to take off of work during that week.

And, for the first time in about 5 years, we actually set foot on the Las Vegas Strip.

The occasion was a Vegas Golden Knights game. Our birthday gift to each other.  We were staying at Silverton (more on that in a later post) so we took an Uber down to Mandalay Bay, and walked down to NY/NY Casino where we sat at the center bar to allow me to play a little VP prior to the pre-game.

Shock #1:  Even when playing video Poker, you cannot get a Tito's and Soda comped.

Some context here:  I was playing Triple Play, Double Super Times Pay at the Quarter level. That's $5.25 per bet.  As I was reminded, on my last moments on Twitter (X, whatever) that's still a "low roller bet". Yes, it is. I've never stated that I was a high-roller, nor am I making that case here. What I was saying was that I had never had "that" particular alcohol denied at "that" particular bet level. Hell, I've never been denied Tito's and Soda at $1.25/hand.

There's a reason that the Strip has been a no-fly zone for me for quite a while now. Going back to it I was reminded why I did not miss it at all.

Shock #2: $16 bucks for said Tito's and Soda

The second argument made to me was that Tito's was a "premium liquor".

Uh, no. It's most certainly not. If you think it is then you know remarkably little about actual, premium liquor. Tito's is a GOOD vodka at a relatively low price point. A "Premium" Vodka would be Chopin, or Belevedere. (Grey Goose (I guess) which is more marketing and hype than actual quality. Tito's is a much better vodka to be perfectly honest.)

And $16 for a Tito's and Soda is close enough to price gouging as makes no difference.  You can almost buy an entire bottle (750ml) for that amount. Go ahead, look it up.  I'll wait.

Shock #3: Given the prices they charge, the Strip casinos are remarkably shabby.

Dirty, in disrepair in places. Whatever they're using the money for in those now it's not maintenance folks.

When you add this to the news, from these folks that MGM is no longer allowing for redemption of MyVegas (Konami) free play when staying in a comped room, it all adds up to the realization that gambling comps, are the first on the firing line for Strip casinos.

Free play and free drinks are what made gambling in Vegas a greater value proposition than gambling at a locals casino for some. You can debate the pros/cons/worthiness of Comp (or VooDoo) match to your hearts content, at the end of the day saving $100-$200 on food, around $1,000 on a room and receiving $200-$300 in free play, is money that I would not otherwise be able to dedicate to gaming, shows, entertainment or other expenditures.

Yes, you can still receive comped rooms fairly easily through MGM and Caesars, provided you're willing to pay their resort fee, and a pittance in "resort credit" but if you're looking for free play or other gaming related comps the value is no longer there. And it's going to get worse.

The issue with a LOT of the Vegas vloggers and bloggers and Twitter (X, whatever) experts these days is that, despite calling themselves degenerates, none of them are actually GAMBLERS. "What's the difference?" you ask. Well, I'll tell you.  Degenerates hop up on a penny slot and press the heck out of that button, often blowing through money, going to the ATM and then blowing through that.

Gamblers have worked on gaming in an effort to try and get better. There is a strategy to Video Poker that you can learn, there is advanced strategy (above and beyond the basic strategy cards the casinos will sell you) in blackjack. And I'm not referring to card counting. There are people who have played Baccarat for years and can cut up a shoe no matter what the trend is. There is even some, limited, strategy and technique to dice throwing (setting, proper bounce off the wall) that can slightly improve your odds at Craps*. There is no strategy that can help you win at slots.

Even as someone who considers themselves a gambler (not a professional, but a gambler, I admit to just sitting down at a slot and hitting the button on occasion. I'm a sucker for Dancing Drums, I'm a sucker for Piggy Bankin' etc. Some times it's just fun to sit down at a machine, press a button, and laugh at the music and graphics for a bit. To root hard when you get a bonus, or when you tip the lid of the pot, that you're timing was right and you got something good. This is usually after a frustrating session of video poker where you were on a machine with a good pay-table (none of those on the Strip either FWIW) had played perfect strategy for an hour or so, and drew absolutely the cards you didn't need every time. For me, the slots are a sometimes much needed mental break.

Look, I'm not saying that you should not go to the Las Vegas Strip. If you want the fancy bars, the celebrity restaurants, the night-clubs, the party-pools and the illusion of luxury, and aren't worried about paying for it, then the Las Vegas Strip is going to be your place. If you want to party and party and spend money and gain card status off of that spend then the Strip is still probably OK for you.

But if you want to GAMBLE. I mean really GAMBLE to the level that you have a host at several places, are getting decent comps, resort credits and free-play based off of that gamble then the Strip is certainly no longer for you.

Las Vegas is the Entertainment Capitol of the World. What it is no longer is the Gambling Capitol of the World and I don't think they have much of a prayer of regaining that title.

*Note: There is a LOT of disagreement as to whether dice setting or throwing the dice properly to where they barely bounce off the wall works, there are proponents on both sides.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Today I left Twitter (or, X or whatever)

 I finally did it.

Today I decided to deactivate my account on Twitter (x, whatever) and I'm not going back. What was once a fun, social media website that was actually, sort of, social, has devolved into a morass of porn and bitcoin bots, trolls, and just REALLY bad actors.

I have considered this for a while now, and had almost pulled the trigger on it several time but today, after blocking my 20th bot account, I had decided that I've had enough.

No, I'm not paying $168 per year for what is basically, for me, a news aggregate, and I'm not willing to keep on operating day to day having to block someone telling me that "Lisa wait you". (If you've been on there, you know what I'm referring to.

I'm also tired of writing in 180 characters. I've noticed my writing skills slipping so I'm looking forward to writing some more long-form items here and I'm going to consider actually making good on my promise and doing some YouTube videos.  I'm going to move my cooking and beer pictures to Instagram, where there are less bots, or I'm just going to get rid of them altogether, I'm not sure yet. Maybe I'll add some posts to this blog highlighting my smoking, grilling and outdoor cooking adventures.  Who knows?

But I do know that I'm done with Twitter (X, whatever) unless it makes huge changes or something else emerges to take it's place.

Until then, I'm going to enjoy being a little less social for a while.

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