Archive for January, 2015

Snowy dinner

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015


Here are Andy and Joanne enjoying a delicious Pho dinner on a very snowy day in downtown Denver. Great Art courtesy of the exclusive iPhone-cam, taken during our recent trip to visit Andy in Denver, and part of my famous Food, Joanne, and Vacation series.

I had Com Ga for dinner – chicken with rice – and enjoyed it thoroughly. I think that was either the second or third time I’ve eaten at that restaurant and I will definitely go back again. It’s a short walk down the street from Andy’s apartment and it’s an excellent Vietnamese restaurant.

We spent an excellent weekend in Denver, by the way. It was very cold and there was a very nice snowstorm on Saturday, which is perfect for a brief visit to snow country. Joanne hadn’t ever really been in a snowstorm and she was tickled by it. We stayed in one of the guest apartments in Andy’s building. I’ve stayed in that one before and loved it, and I felt the same way this time. I think the price is very reasonable, the apartment is luxurious and nicely appointed, the building is absolutely amazing, and the proximity to Andy is excellent. We visited the Natural History Museum (or whatever they’re calling it these days) and drove around to look at our old houses and my work. We also had some excellent meals, including a Saturday evening stop at a little New Orleans-themed restaurant/bar for drinks and beignets. Excellent! This was the third time in the last few months we’ve seen Andy. I’m already looking forward to our next Denver trip.

Next up in the travel plans: Sonoma, California and a highly-anticipated birthday visit with Katy, Cliff, and Mia! We’re going there later this month.

Not much going on today. Spent a lot of the day reading. I bought a new sound bar for the television in the office. The little Vizio TV’s speakers are so horrible as to be unusable, and the 5.1 surround system I had bought when the TV was new has never been any good. It was a cheap RCA system and had an extremely defective amplifier that made a terrible humming sound after it warmed up. It was a great pleasure to throw it away. The new sound bar is the smallest Vizio I could get and it sounds just fine. It integrates well with the Vizio TV, allowing me to use the TV’s remote control to operate it and just working. It sounds just fine and I’m pleased with it.

I got the sound bar at Walmart. I hate that store, but they have things I can’t get anywhere else. And I’d much rather go there than Best Buy. Their price was exactly the same as Amazon’s and this time I decided not to wait two days to get the goods. So I went and bought it during a trip for a few groceries.

Speaking of which, they were pushing cake mixes for a buck at Walmart, so I bought a yellow cake mix and baked it this evening. I baked the cake, took Mark out to Rubio’s for dinner, and then came home and frosted the cake. I found a recipe for an excellent cream cheese chocolate frosting, so I made that. The cake’s pretty good! I think it possibly baked just a bit longer than it needed to, which is strange, as I baked it for the minimum time specified on the box. I think maybe the pan was dark enough that I should have set the oven 25° cooler, but the box didn’t give a different time or temperature for dark pans, so I didn’t do it. I’m learning, though!

My new powered antenna for the TiVo arrived today. To my surprise, it’s much larger than my existing patch antenna, but it looks like it will fit okay behind the TV. As long as I get good reception there, it should be fine. Otherwise, there’s no way I would put that thing on my wall. We’ll find out tomorrow. An antenna is necessary because I haven’t been able to figure out how to get the TiVo to recognize the local channels the cable company puts on the cable for me. The TV can recognize them, but the TiVo box can’t seem to figure them out, so the only way for it to work is to hook it up to an antenna. Sheesh.

But I sure love not having cable TV bills to pay.

Speaking of which, Dish Network has announced a $20/month service they’re putting on Roku and other systems that will deliver some very popular cable channels, including ESPN, Food Network, and HGTV. It’ll be a month-to-month service and I just may buy it. If they included TCM, I think I’d do it for sure. I’m excited for the service to become available so I can see the details. Even though (or possibly because!) I’ve worked with Dish people on a few rocket launches, I’m still deeply suspicious of their business practices, so I won’t just sign up without contemplating it a bit.

And that’s about it for today. I’ll leave my Loyal Readers with this shocking food violence news: chocolate heist!

See you tomorrow.

Giant guitar

Thursday, January 1st, 2015


Here are Andy and Mark playing KISS miniature golf, standing in front of a giant guitar. I don’t exactly remember how we found out about KISS mini-golf, but I’m certainly glad we did. The course is indoors in a building near the strip that also features some KISS (and many other bands) memorabilia – clothes, signed album covers, and even an old Porsche. Also the awesomest wedding chapel ever. Pretty much the whole place is lit with black lights, except the gift shop. Great Art courtesy of the exclusive iPhone-cam, taken a few days ago at the KISS mini-golf center in Las Vegas, and part of my famous Las Vegas, Machinery, and Statue series.

I contend that that giant guitar counts as both machinery and a statue. As usual, Loyal Readers are free to disagree in their own blogs.

It’s 2015! We had a great New Year’s Eve celebration! We went with 18 friends to the Westgate Hotel (the former Las Vegas Hilton) for dinner at Benihana and then an “old school” New Year’s Eve party. Our organizer told us the “old school” designation referred to 50s and 60s music, which I thought would be fun.

Turns out she was wrong. In reality, it referred to “old school” hip-hop music. That worked out to be way better. I recognized a few songs from the 70s and 80s, but most were more recent than that and therefore quite unfamiliar to me. I loved it all! I had no idea I was such a fan of old school hip-hop music. The crowd was fun, the music was great, the DJ was very entertaining, our table was close to the stage and dance floor, and we generally had a wonderful time of it.

Most of us snuck away to go see the midnight fireworks show on the strip. Apparently, seven or eight of the big hotels set off identical fireworks shows from their roofs simultaneously. We could only see three of them from our window, but it was amazing! Highly recommended.

Joanne and I spent the day together today, right up until just a few minutes ago. We didn’t do all that much; after a late start, we came over to my house, made a nice breakfast together, played several Wii games (we both won a few, which worked out well!), sat and chatted, made dinner together, ate dinner together (along with Mark), and then bid a fond farewell so Joanne could get her beauty rest before work tomorrow.

Plus, she has to pack this evening or tomorrow morning for our weekend trip to Denver. The plane leaves at 6:45 tomorrow afternoon, leaving her very little time to catch it after work. I, on the other hand, am planning a somewhat more leisurely day.

I hadn’t played on my Wii for quite some time. When I bought my TiVo, I had to unplug the Wii from my TV because it could only handle a single analog input. A few days ago, I ordered a Wii HDMI converter. It arrived yesterday, so I reinstalled the Wii today. It’s fun, although we only have Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort. That’s been plenty of entertainment for me. I wish we had a Mario Brothers game, though. I don’t even know if they have one for the Wii.

I recently read an article by Leo Babauta, who writes the excellent Zen Habits website. Leo frequently writes about living a life free of goals. Rather, he emphasizes mindfulness and the establishment of habits. At first, I had a hard time seeing the difference, but I think I’m starting to get it. Living without goals and to-do lists doesn’t mean you excuse yourself from keeping commitments and completing things. Rather, it means (to me at least), you establish patterns in your life that result in accomplishing what you need and want to do, on time and under budget, without undue stress.

With that in mind, I am not making any resolutions (not that I ever really did), but I do have a few habits I hope to establish this year. Let’s look at my initial list, shall we?

Exercising regularly and early – My desire is to lift weights Monday through Friday, take a nice long walk on Saturday, and take Sundays off. I want to go to the gym at about 8:00 M-F. I appear to naturally wake up at about 7:00, so my current life without an alarm clock won’t be affected by this. Joanne drives to work at about that time, so I would like to chat with her on the phone during my drive to the gym. I have gotten a heart monitor and MVP account on MapMyFitness (thanks, Andy!) to optimize my workouts – and for the entertainment value, truth be told.

Writing daily – I love writing. I would like to improve my skills and perhaps even find a niche where I could grow an audience. I think that starts with writing every day, either here or on a different website that’s accessible to the public. I want to make essentially everything I write public. I would like to publish an article on this website every weekday and on my other websites on a regular schedule.

Reading meaningful content daily – I have always been an avid reader. I spend a large amount of time reading now, but I would like to make my reading more meaningful. To that end, I would like to seek out excellent books, both new and old, and fill my reading time with them. I also want to keep up with the news and other entertaining content, but I don’t want that to take up so much of my reading time that the good stuff gets forced out.

Eating well and in moderation – I would like to make and eat excellent food and to eat it in quantities consistent with good health and a sustained weight of about 180-190 pounds. While I love eating out on a regular basis, I would like to eat excellent food in reasonable portions in restaurants too. I would like to eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’m not hungry anymore.

Beautifying and simplifying my environment – I love my home. I love the quiet, peaceful feeling here. I love much of the artwork and furnishings. I want to continually beautify my home and yard and continually simplify them as well, getting rid of things I don’t want or need. This will reduce the expense and effort required to maintain my household, make my environment feel more spacious and elegant, and give me an enhanced sense of peace and happiness.

Learning to meditate – I want to learn what it means to be mindful. To that end, I want to learn how to effectively meditate. I believe this practice will give me increased peace.

These habits can’t all be successfully established at once, so I’m going to take them one at a time. I’m starting with exercising regularly and early. I went to the gym yesterday at about 8:00 and I’m going to do that again tomorrow. After I’ve been doing that successfully for a month or so, I’ll pick another habit and work on it until I’m doing it successfully too. I feel a strong desire to establish all these habits right away, so it’s going to be difficult to not try to do too much too soon. I’ll work to stay focused on one thing at a time.

Anyway, that’s my plan for this year, or at least the first half of the year. More habits to come as these get mastered.

And I’ll leave my Loyal Readers with this shocking food violence news: incorrect hamburger order shooting!

See you tomorrow.