I’m still alive

and I’m still here

I just haven’t had anything to say for a bit, or rather, anything I’d like to blog about. We’re getting ready for our big excursion to the continent as they say, and that has been keeping me busy.

I’m generally disappointed with the Michelin travel guides for Europe, even penny-pinching Rick Steve’s guides are a lot more useful. And the Frommer’s is the best. I think we’ll be carrying those with us.

Hey U of I alumni! Thanks for liking my blog name and motto. It makes this native son of Chicago proud, although I went to school somewhere else…

Last Olympics thoughts

and they aren’t positive ones…

Dear NBC, please don’t take a lack of ratings on the Olympics to mean there is a lack of interest. Instead, take them as a criticism of your crappy coverage (again). Maybe you could spend less time doing puff pieces about the athletes and more time showing the actual events. Also, instead of breaking up the events across an evening, maybe you could have the whole event followed by another whole event, so we don’t have to watch 20 minutes of skeleton to get book-ended snow-boarding coverage. Take a lesson from the CBC, they do it much better for both Winter and Summer games which is why we mostly watched them instead of you.

Dear Canada, Avril Lavigne? Really? Whose idea was that? I mean, she is better looking than most of your music exports, but Sum41 or the Bare-Naked Ladies are much prouder Canadians and they are also much better musicians. Also, I mean, the ceremonies are supposed to be full of art-wank moments, but I have no idea what you guys were going for. I know having the Cirque Du Soleil guys do the event would have been expensive, but they would have done a much better job for the 3 billion people judging your country.

Dear Olympic Committee, nothing like capping the Olympic games where men and women compete on the global stage as equals by having Ricky Martin trot out dancers dressed like hookers caressing him and each other. Don’t wait too long to remind those female athletes that they really are just objects after all. Also, was having him a budget cutting move or is he much popular in Europe than he is in the US these days?

Seattle Meals By Location

Here are some of my favorite meals by neighborhood, these aren’t the once a year meals, there are the once a month meals (not that I eat all of these every month, I’d be dead of heart disease if I actually ate like this every night). I mean that they are all reasonably priced (and some are quite cheap!)

Pike Place Market
Duck Confit or Cassoulet at Cafe Compagne

Mixed Seafood Grill at Queen City Grill
Poulet Forrestierre at Le P’Tit Bistro

Paella in the bar at Brasa

Queen Anne
The Brisket or honey stung fried chicken at the 5 Spot

Mixed Tandoori platter at India Bistro
#2 at The Other Coast
Udon at Bento Sushi
Chicken Pad See Eiw at Thaiku

Indian Buffet lunch at Quazi’s
Gyro Omelette at Costa’s
Captain Neon Burger at Dad Watson’s

Super Chicken Burger from Red Mill

Sausage and Black Olive Chicago Deep Dish Pizza from Delfino’s

Capitol Hill
Veggie Sandwich from Olympia
Super Chicken Burrito at Bimbo’s Bitchen Burrito Kitchen
Lasagna Bolognese at Machiavelli Ristorante

netflix part deux

supposedly, the more you rent from netflix, the slower your service will be. They do this so that your per-rental fee will always be above $2. I can understand this from a business perspective, but from a customer service perspective, it sucks. Given a choice, I would rather pay more money for my membership and never have my movies delayed. As it stands, I don’t see a major reason to stay a netflix customer if I have to wait a week between each rental. The local video store may be more expensive, but if they have the movie, they give me the movie, they don’t make me wait a week for it.

Here is someone else’s netflix disappointment page:

my e-mail to netflix

I sent the following e-mail to netflix this morning

There is a longer and longer gap between when we send movies and when you acknowledge receiving them. Also, once you have received them, you are taking longer and longer to mail out the next film in our queues. We live in downtown Seattle, films dropped in the mailbox in the morning will usually be received by your Tacoma facility THE SAME DAY. Films sent from Tacoma should take no longer than one day to reach us. However, it is now taking up to a WEEK to get the next films in our queue when we send in others. It used to take 2-3 days when we first joined your service.

Is this the level of turnaround we should be expecting?

Icon Grill

worth checking out if someone else is paying

Walking in the door any night at the Icon Grill, you’ll see large parties of people. These are business groups on expense accounts. You will also see a fair number of tourists due to its proximity to the Westin and other hotels. That these groups are the staple customers should point out one thing to you, which is that this place looks better than it is. The atmosphere is funky yet kind of fancy. However, the booth we were seated in had a huge hole in the vinyl seat that was covered with packing tape. This would be OK in a Denny’s, but not somewhere with $20-$30 entrees. The food itself is Northwest-fusion with some staples. The pizza Margherita was worse than tasteless, but the squash soup was good. Their Stuffed Tuscan Chicken was tough and hard to chew, but the sauce it was in was good. My drink was watered down which I find to be the height of evil.

Basically, this place is just a bad bang for your buck. You are paying for the atmosphere, but not the quality of the food. If atmosphere is all that is important to you, there are better places to go. If food is what is important, then there are better places to go. I think you get my general drift here.

If they dropped their prices by a third, this would be a fun go-to. Not the first choice, but an occasional one. As it is, there is much better food to be had near by for the same price or less. Check the place out if you are on an expense account or stop by for a beer or wine (which they can’t water down), but don’t spend your own money here.

The logic of this stuns me

or maybe just the cruelty

So the new nonpartisan CBO budget projections are out, and the long and the short of it is that if GWB’s tax cuts are made permanent, there is no end in sight to the budget deficits. The government won’t be able to take in as much money as it spends for the foreseeable future. This means that paying off the national debt will become a larger and larger part of our lives and our children’s lives. There is a simple and obvious solution to this which is to rescind the tax cuts. We’ve got a war to pay for and cities to rebuild. Now is not the time to ask Americans to contribute less to the cause. Of course, what the Republicans are proposing instead is something much worse. Rather than ask the wealthy to pay more (since the tax cut favored the highest tax brackets the most), they are instead asking the poor to survive on less. In 2004, the budget deficit was 413 BILLION DOLLARS. For last year it is projected to be 318 Billion. In order to “close the gap” the Republican congress and White House are pushing to reduce programs to help the poor and sick by several million dollars and to then call that even. What kind of crack is K street dishing out these days?

I can’t wait for the new “Health Savings Plan” announcement. This is either incredibly stupid or just obviously cruel. A huge percentage of Americans have no health insurance or benefits. This is due to the costs of insurance being so high for those on limited means. The Republicans response is to allow Americans to put aside money tax-free that they can use on health care. So, in effect, this will be another tax cut. I can’t wait for the details because to me this just looks like another way for the richest to skip out on paying their fair share while simultaneously screwing the poor and making corporate America better off for it.

More Bush administration obfuscation

A NASA scientist reveals that the administration is attempting to silence his findings

Dr. James Hansen who is a leading climatologist has announced that the Bush administration is attempting to censor him because he is calling for a reduction in emissions to slow Global Warning. New York Times Article This isn’t the first such accusation, the scientific community has been trying to call public attention to this for years. The Bush administration and industry have been trying to silence critics of their policies while simultaneously raising up poorly researched studies from the low-rate “scientists” and claiming that the scientific community can’t agree.

If the government is in the right, why do they continually try to silence anyone who would question them? Don’t they think we can make up our own minds given the real facts?

The double-speak is back

Spying on American citizens is now the “Terrorism Prevention Program”

So the Bush administration has been on a barn-storming PR campaign to create credibility for the President’s order to spy on US Citizens without congressional or judicial oversight. We return to 1984-esque arguments and double-speak here. The actions were justified because we are at war. The War On Terror is an unending war against a dispersed enemy. A war that can never be won, and even if it was won, we couldn’t be sure that it was. Using a “War On Terror” for extra-legal actions is basically declaring the presidency above the law for all time and administration knows it. If the president gets away with this, the President can do anything he wants under the guise of “protecting our freedoms.” They already claim that people who disagree with their policies are “giving aid and comfort to our enemies.” The next logical step is to jail dissidents. That is what Big Brother, The Cold-War-era Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein would do. Maybe Bush will declare himself “Leader for Life” because no one else could protect the American People. After polling showed that the American people weren’t so incensed if the spying on Americans was done to find terrorists the spying policy was renamed the “Terrorism Prevention Program” and that talking point was hammered home over and over on TV. The problem is that we already know that the NSA net was cast far wider than the Bush Administration would have us believe. They refuse to give out the details for fear of alerting our enemies to our tactics, but that has become boilerplate for the administration preventing the American people from knowing anything about what is really going on.

If we want to truly show the world the power of democracy and freedom, we should be doing whatever we can to protect the people while making civil liberties and general welfare the highest priorities. The government should be welcoming light being shown into its practices, not obstructing truth everywhere it can. The US looks more like the oppressive regimes of the Middle East these days than the freedom-loving, liberty-preserving beacon of hope that we claim to be.