September 30, 2008

Long Overdue Report #2: Vegas

Yeah, I went to Vegas a couple weeks ago. Here's the highlights.

  • The suites at the Bellagio are pretty damn nice, though to be honest I didn't think they were good value as they cost two arms and a leg. Not saying I regret staying there, but I'm not sure I'd go back. Their pool is also pretty sweet, albeit a step or two behind the Flamingoooo or Mandalay Bay.

  • Casino Royale no longer has $1 craps on weekends! BOOOOOO! I did have a very nice run on a $5 table at Bill's, though. When the first shooter after you get in the game makes five points, that's a good start. I made three myself when the dice made their way around. Gambling was mostly a wash for the weekend--I lost fifty bucks, which I can live with. My only regret is that I couldn't fit in a poker tournament.

  • When someone tells you the Moderate hiking trails at Red Rock Canyon are actually easy, he's full of crap. But I survived, and the effort was well worth it.

  • Tor & Jesse at Red Rock
  • Foodstuffs: Once again, Bellagio comes in as "very good, but I can do better"--their breakfast buffet was enjoyable, but Paris does them one better. The Steakhouse at the Wynn gave us a truly memorable meal, which is just what we expected. The Brewpub at the Monte Carlo is plenty solid, even if they don't actually brew beer there any more. And the breakfast buffet at the Excalibur was worth every penny of the $2.14 I paid to eat there.

  • Speaking of the Excalibur, moving there after two nights at the Bellagio is something of a downgrade. The nicest thing I can say about it is that it's cheap.

  • A Las Vegas sports book on an NFL Sunday is a hell of a fun place to be. LVA is on to something when they say sports gambling is one of the best entertainment values in America. I actually rooted for the New England Patriots for three hours, then for the Steelers, and on net it cost me two bucks. (Plus what I spent on food and drink, of course.)

Bottom line: Holy crap I love Vegas. Thanks to Crazy Steve for getting engaged and prompting all this, and to the rest of the dudes who came along and made it a great weekend.

Posted by Carl at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)

Long Overdue Report #1: MASN Fantasy Camp (and other Nats notes)

If you're one of the 9,000 households who watches Nats games on TV, you've seen ads for MASN Fantasy Camp, MASN's effort to build a user community. Post videos, write blog posts, maybe you can win a chance to be on the MASN Fantasy Camp All-Stars! After seeing this ad two dozen times or so, I figured I should actually enter--very few of those seeing the ads would actually bother, and most of the ones who did sign up would come up with complete crap. So I signed up, wrote some blog posts (which I'd have done for the FoolBlog anyway) and uploaded a picture of chili dogs. Sure enough, I soon got notice that I was the final week's winner, and soon thereafter I was invited to come to the Fantasy Camp broadcast.

There were four of us, including fellow Yudite and Nats blogger Miss Chatter. We were ushered up to the press box (which, as everyone tells you, is really freakin' high up there) and into an auxiliary broadcast booth, where we were given a heap of game notes and stats and told to prepare ourselves. We also took a side trip to the regular MASN broadcast booth, where we met Don Sutton (who was friendly enough but also was quite ready to get us out of there before too long). Miss C was designated the "sideline reporter," and she got to go down on the field and interview Luke Montz. Then Bob Carpenter came in, and he was very gracious and helpful, showing us his whole scorebook-and-laptop setup for the broadcast and discussing how he prepares for the game. At one point he talked about working with Jack Buck in St. Louis, saying as a newbie he came in with a ton of material, and I said "Jack probably had, like, two pieces of paper, right?" Bob answered, "Try no pieces of paper."

skyline from the press box

When the game got underway, they had a two-microphone setup, and had us rotate through play-by-play, color, and live game blogging. I must admit that broadcasting is harder than it looks, though I'm sure it gets easier with practice. I'd be all looking around for a stat sheet or whatever, and thinking "Say something, moron!" The "broadcast" didn't go out over the air, but it was recorded, and our "producer" said they'd match it up to the video later and send it to us on DVD. Unfortunately, the game itself was rather forgettable (a 6-1 loss), but I was on the mic for the Edgar Gonzalez home run, and the ball that went over Willie Harris' head in left. I believe "disdainful" would be the best term to describe the calls. But on the whole, it was a great time, and an interesting tour into yet another part of the baseball experience.

broadcastin' fool

I took the wife & kids to the ballpark on Sunday, and we were treated to another loss to the Padres, 6-2. Highlights included the Presidents' Race on Segways, and Manny almost getting ejected for arguing a play at first. Much has been made about Manny's laidback attitude, and while on the whole I think that's a good thing, I really wanted to see him get run in that spot. The team was kind of going through the motions out there, and maybe getting ejected would have gotten them fired up out there.

Presidents on Segways

I had planned on attending the season finale on Thursday, but given the awful weather, I decided to pass. Just as well, as the game was cancelled, and the club didn't bother to give away all the Fan Appreciation Night prizes (typical Lerner family cheapness, IMO). That left my record at Nats home games for 2008 at 8-8, the first year they haven't had a winning record with me in the building (pretty remarkable, all things considered). Much has been written about this debacle of a season, and as mentioned in the previous LFF, I'm quite torn as to whether to renew for next year. There's ample time to deliberate on that.

Posted by Carl at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2008

Linking Fool Friday (Saturday edition)

I was busy yesterday, OK? Leave me aloooone.

So you may have heard something about this financial crisis and bailout. Here's the best explanation I've read so far. If Paul Krugman doesn't like the deal, that's usually enough for me. It says a great deal about our national priorities that we're constantly told we can't afford universal health care or to fix our bridges or to run Amtrak, but unlimited defense spending or a sudden $700 billion financial package--no problem!

Some things I already knew about politics: we hold our politicians to lower standards than our physicians, a neat trick largely perpetrated by the Republicans. A presidential candidate who went to Harvard? The horror! Also, you can't convince anyone to change their mind once it's made up, which is why I tired of discussing politics long ago. But just in case, be aware that Sarah Palin is a Christian supremecist and End-Timer.

The baseball: It's somehow appropriate that the Nats' last home game of the season was rained out and will not be replayed. Loverro and Boswell have good wrap-ups. I am still severely torn as to whether to renew my season tickets next year; by all indications, the Nats are running a nickel & dime operation, and I feel like the only way to get through to the ownership that they need to shape up is to come to the ballpark less. On the other hand, I like being a major league baseball season ticket holder.

Elsewhere in baseball, the question not enough people are asking: if the history and tradition of Yankee Stadium are so wonderful, why are they closing it? Oh that's right, so the ownership can make even more money.

Lastly, the always-excellent Jon Katz tells of his hospice dog.

Posted by Carl at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2008

Mid-Week Cookie Break

Posted by Carl at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2008

Swedish Food Monday

Posted by Carl at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2008

From the press box


More to come Monday, but: Yours truly won a spot on the broadcast team for MASN Fantasy Camp.

This press box is high.

Posted by Carl at 07:49 PM | Comments (1)

September 19, 2008

Linking Fool Friday

We got some good readin' today.

Have I mentioned you can make a case against the Iraq war on the economics alone?

Another version of the McCain-Obama tax chart that should be front 'n' center for the Obama campaign.

How to think like a Republican! Confused on how to vote? Nothing makes sense? This explains it all. Also, remember to take offense at any perceived slight, no matter how small.

CJR has a great article on the current financial crisis, and how the outrageous practices of big-time mortgage lenders led us down this path. I was particularly entertained by the discussion of Countrywide on page 2. Countrywide has held our mortgage for a few years now, and about every two weeks we get a call asking us to consider some REALLY GREAT OPTIONS that could SAVE US MONEY!! Usually I just hang up, but sometimes I ask "The only thing you could interest me in is a straight-up reduction in our rate, maintaining a fixed rate and not adding any more time onto our payment schedule. You gonna do that?" To which the caller usually says "Um, what? No, no I don't think so." Well, of course not; it seems bloody obvious that your lender isn't going to call you out of the blue and give you something for nothing; they're bound to gain from the restructured loan, or they wouldn't do it. But I suppose a lot of people had trouble figuring that out, or were otherwise goaded by CW and their ilk.

Lastly, I was in Vegas this past weekend, and maybe next week I'll get around to writing a trip report. Craps has altogether passed blackjack as my favorite game, but if you do play blackjack, here's an old article on why to avoid the 6-5 game.

Posted by Carl at 04:17 PM | Comments (2)

September 11, 2008

Linking Fool Friday (Thursday Edition)

Yeah, I'm going out of town tomorrow. Read a nice summary on why we shouldn't teach intelligent design, and check out just about the coolest parking garage ever.

Posted by Carl at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2008

Mid-Week Cookie Break

Posted by Carl at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2008

Remember the Cannoons?

Boy howdy, I wish my schedule allowed me to go to a Carolina League finals game down at Potomac this week. Championships are rare, at any level, and the P-Nats only have two wins to go. Since I moved to the DC area in 1994, the Cannons/P-Nats have made the playoffs twice (my trip to their playoff game in 2004 is detailed here), which you wouldn't think would be that difficult in an eight-team league where four teams make the playoffs. But that's the low minors for you--year to year, you never know what you're going to get, and we've been through quite a dry spell.

The playoff games in 2004 were, sadly, not well attended, and the first-round games this year haven't been either (851 Wednesday night, 812 Thursday night). So do as I say, not as I do: get thee down to Potomac Thursday (and if necessary, Friday or Saturday) and hopefully cheer the Nats of the Future on to a championship.

Posted by Carl at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2008

Swedish Food Monday

Posted by Carl at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2008

Did you know: Flickr

Most photos tagged with turkey are pictures of a country bridging Europe and Asia, rather than pictures of a bird you cook on Thanksgiving.

Posted by Carl at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

Linking Fool Friday

Once again, I haven't been watching the Republican convention, but this is hysterical: yeah, that's Walter Reed all right.

Did I not say that Republicans would have absolutely no problem ignoring Sarah Palin's flaws, even when they keep calling out the same flaws in Democratic candidates? Oh yes I did! And remember, when the media reports on "scandals" surrounding Republicans like Palin, they're they crazed liberal media, attacking unfairly. If they do the same thing to Democrats, they're just doing their jobs!

Speaking of politics and the speaking of half-truths, BBC News is running a great series on how people lie with statistics. There's no one front page, so check the MetaFilter item. This is exactly how McCain can run ads saying Obama's tax plan will raise taxes for the average American (see last week's LFF to see how this is misleading).

Sports news flash: Citizens Bank Park no longer homer-happy. That will not stop sports analysts from referring to it as such, though.

And a final sports thought: You may have heard that Chase Utley plowed into Jesus Flores on a play at the plate last week, resulting in a sprained ankle and a trip to the DL for Flores. There was much ado as to whether it was a dirty play or not, and in the next game, Odalis Perez plunked Utley in the first inning (after which, he, uh, scored on a Ryan Howard home run). After Utley got plunked, Don Sutton said something like "You have to ask yourself, if Elijah Dukes had done the same thing to Chris Coste, what would you think?" Bob and Don then agreed that in that situation, if your guy does it, you see it for what it is: a good hard-nosed baseball play, no quarter asked, none given. But they forgot the flip side of that one. If Elijah Dukes went headlong into Chris Coste and knocked him out of the game, all the next day we'd have heard from the Philly media and fans how Dukes is a thug and he should be suspended, if not thrown out of the league. There would also be Facebook groups dedicated to hating him.

WAIT WAIT THERE'S MORE: More Jon Stewart, that is! Freakin' community organizers!

Posted by Carl at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2008

Mid-Week Cookie Break

It only occurred to me today that I posted "Swedish Food Monday" on a Tuesday. Well, it felt like a Monday yesterday.

First ten seconds or so of this video is glitchy, but it gets better.

Posted by Carl at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2008

Welcome Deadspin readers

So I'm reading my RSS feed for Deadspin, and this item makes mention of Henry the Puffy Taco. It's hyperlinked. Oh snap. Yup.

You know what that means: another site traffic graph that looks like this! Also, it's likely to mean comments on the Deadspin item asking "WTF is up with that guy?!"

Posted by Carl at 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

Swedish Food Monday

Posted by Carl at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

Bouncin' through Nats Park

Why yes, I was at the game against the Braves on Sunday. But I did not see Aaron Boone's home run to give the Nats the lead in the 8th. On account of we had just gotten off the moon bounce. This is what happens when you bring your three-year-old to the game. At least I knew someone had hit a home run, thanks to the fireworks going off, but over in the kids' area there is no indication as to what's going on in the game--no TV monitors, no radio feed, can't see any part of the field or the scoreboard.

It's all good, though. Seven in a row as of yesterday. What's up with this team? Two things:

1. After myriad injuries, the desired line-up is more or less intact, save Kearns' outfield spot (and honestly, they're better off with Willie Harris right now) and first base (where Belliard and Boone are filling in OK, aside from Belliard's fielding). The A-team really isn't that bad--not pennant contenders, but a serviceable major league team. But when a couple of guys get hurt, their spots become .200 sinkholes, and the whole offense just goes off a cliff.

2. Regression to the mean; that is, our luck is changing. Those 2-out hits that evaded the team for weeks on end are starting to fall in.

Good times, sure, but I agree with Harper that a strong finish is going to make the Powers That Be say "Look, we're not that bad! We don't need to do much of anything in the off-season!" (Not that there are many significant upgrades to be had--I don't think the Nats could persuade Sabathia or Texixixxxiera to come to Washington even if the US Mint loaned them a printing press for a weekend.)

Posted by Carl at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)