Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Hangover

So another Thanksgiving is in the books. Our crew was a little lighter this year with Mom and Dad in Albany this year helping out my sister. Our guest list this year was Andy, Dana, MaryAnn and Nana. As usual, I was in charge of the turkey and Keds had many of the sides. What was different this year is that we had our guests bring some. Andy and Dana brought the stuffing, while MaryAnn brought her signature spaghetti squash.

This was Nana's first trip to our house. For those that don't know, Nana is 94 and while not a blood relative, someone we really care about. She was so excited to be coming to our house for Thanksgiving. Typically, her daughter and son-in-law will take her out for dinner, but due to some volunteer commitments were not going to take her out until Friday. She had a blast, even though her hearing aids were on the fritz, which made for some interesting conversations. However she understood enough when Andy said he was thankful for his partner Dana. She promptly asked "so what kind of business are you in?" They handled it well, but Keds explained it - without having to resort to pictures.

The meal was just awesome. The turkey was moist, and had a good flavor. Andy's stuffing and Armenia Rice Pilaf was nummy, the spaghetti squash was interesting and Keds' sides were stellar.

It was an interesting mix of people. It could have been a disaster, but it ended up being nice. I have a lot to be thankful for this year, and was just happy to spend it with my soulmate and people I cared about.

So Internets, how was your Turkey Day?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend Recap

Sorry Internet peeps, I know it's been a while since I posted, so I figured that I'd take a few minutes and at least catch you up on my weekend.

This weekend was relatively uneventful. I think I'm still in political withdrawal, though. I've taken to filling this time with watching reruns of the West Wing. I love that show, and it's amazing how strikingly similar the final season was compared to this past election. There were clearly some things planned, some things were just eerily similar.

One of the good things that came out of being politically active is that we have made a number of new friends. Saturday night, we went over to Sherri and Paul's for dinner and some board games. Dinner was amazing. It was a tag-team effort and just yummy. We played Trivial Pursuit 90's Edition. I forget how long it can take if you play it they way it was intended. We didn't even finish because it was too late and our brains just weren't working anymore. But it was still a good time.

Sunday we met our friend Kara out in Green Valley. We went to a technique class at William-Sonoma where we learned about making pie crusts. The best part was sampling the pies! After that, it was lunch at Lucille's, the site of our first date. After wishing Kara a Happy Thanksgiving, we headed back home. The afternoon was mostly a mix of football and West Wing, but not in a bad way. Our Sunday Dinner was much more laid back this week with Mom and Dad helping Beth out after the birth of the twins.

The highlight of the evening, though, was a vist by the Bowens. I don't think I've seen Casey since Marshall's birthday party. That's just not cool. Paris and Marshall were cute as always. And Jennifer brought cookies. Always a welcome treat.

So Internet peeps, how was your weekend?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh what a night...

I remember Election Night 1992 like it was yesterday. It was my first presidential election as a registered voter. I had seen then-Gov. Bill Clinton three times in person. Sitting in Scott's apartment watching the Election Night returns come in was nothing close to amazing. I was inspired and excited. Very little drama and I remember that feeling of elation when Clinton won. I was so happy.

Fast-forward to last night. Once again, there was a candidate who did more to inspire than candidates past. The night did not hang on a single, to-close-to-be called state. No talk about disenfranchisement, hanging chads or butterfly ballots. It all seemed too good to be true.

As it became clear that Obama was going to be elected President, the attention focused to local races, specifically the race in Assembly District 13. The early returns looked good, but not great. As expected, the Democratic edge in Early Voting was apparent, and we were ahead, but closer than most of us would have liked. It was a harbinger of things to come. As the returns trickled in, the lead narrowed, with the incumbent pulling a slight lead around 10:30 p.m. Then, around 11:30 it happened. The final results were in. Andrew lost. By a little more than 1,000 votes or a little more than 1 percent. He amassed more than 37K votes more than any other winner of an Assembly and even some state Senate races. But alas, the incumbent had just a few more.

Keds and I were devastated. I can't believe Andrew lost. He seems to be taking it in stride. He is obviously disappointed but I know that he'll be OK. He'll run again, and I'll be happy to work with him once again.

Last night was still amazing. Barack's acceptance speech was awe-inspiring and McCain's concession was classy. How many days until Inauguration Day?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We'll just say this is from the "What?!?" department

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Putting politics aside

One of the most frustrating things about politics is that people get so entrenched in their positions that they won't give an inch because they don't want to yield their agenda even though it is probably for the greater good.

Let's take a current issue - teenage pregnancy. As it is playing out in the news right now, I won't rehash the current news story. However, I think that Roland Martin of CNN hit the nail on the head. Check out his link here.

We need to reopen discussion in this country and actually debate issues and act in the common good, without focusing on imposing. As Matt would say, we need more proposers, and fewer imposers.

Check out the link and let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An interesting theory

For the second time in a couple of weeks, I’ve seen stories that have linked the war in Georgia (the country, not the state) with attempts to influence the outcome of the Presidential Election.

Now normally, I would not buy into something that Vladimir Putin is pushing. Clearly, he wants to control the news cycle and spin within his sphere of influence. Second, I would like to believe that the US public is smarter than that, too. However, there was an article in The Nation that really started me thinking. While I’m not sure the US Government orchestrated the conflict in Georgia, I do think that members of a US Presidential campaign are involved.

I’ll just take a quick moment to recap events. On August 8th, the Georgian government tries to re-establish authority over South Ossetia using its military. This provided Russia with the excuse it needed to go in and re-establish primacy in South Ossetia. The Georgian Army was simply overmatched.

Why would the President of Georgia do this? The conflict over South Ossetia was hardly new. South Ossetia was an autonomous region of Georgia prior to independence. He had to know that the Russian military would respond, given they had troops in the region as “peacekeepers.” My guess is that President Saakashvili assumed that “the West” would step in and help or it would help change world conditions in such as way to help his cause down the road.

Here are some interesting facts. President Saakashvili is good friends with a guy by the name of Randy Scheunemann, who, until March served as a lobbyist for the Georgian Government for four years. When Scheunemann left the service of the Georgian Government, he went to work as the Sr. Foreign Policy Adviser to the Sen. John McCain campaign. He also served in a similar capacity on John McCain’s 2000 campaign. In 2005, Scheunemann and McCain worked together on legislation pushing for Georgia’s entry into NATO and in 2006, accompanied McCain on a trip to Georgia where McCain re-iterated his support for Georgia’s policies.

It would make sense that by trying to re-establish control in South Ossetia, the Georgian government is doing what it can to act in their longer term interests. Influence the outcome of the US Presidential Election by changing the focus from problems at home to issues of foreign policy. And in making Vladimir Putin the second coming of Josef Stalin, they are creating a new bogeyman which Americans should be afraid.

Here's to hoping that Americans can see past the charade and focus on issues of real importance.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How to fix education

As we get closer and closer to the general election, one of the “hot button issues” is sure to be education. All of the conversation is going to be how will fix education. Most Democrats will tell you that it is all about money. There isn’t enough money. Most Republicans will tell you that while money is important, there is a lot of waste and we need to find a way to incent good teachers.

Unfortunately, they are both avoiding the single largest determining factor in whether or not a child succeeds has little to do with per-pupil funding or there are 50 administrative positions for every teacher. It is parental involvement. The beauty is that parental involvement costs the taxpayers nothing. Zilch. Nada. All it takes in the time of the child’s parent. This is readily apparent in the Clark County School System. A good friend of ours teaches in a school where the parents are very involved. So many parents volunteered to help out in the classroom last year that she had to make a schedule so there weren’t too many in the classroom at once. On the other end of the spectrum, one of my neighbors works in the library at middle school that has, let’s just say, less parental involvement. The students are struggling. They work the system so as to keep progressing, but aren’t getting a solid education. That’s not to say the whole school is failing, but it is difficult to work in that environment.

While additional parental involvement may be of great assistance and is, well, cheap, it’s also something you can’t legislate. As an example, in Roland Martin’s commentary on today, he talks about this very topic. In Chicago, the superintendent of schools was on his radio show. Parent after parent called in, livid that they did not find out until right before graduation that their child was not going to graduate. Turns out, progress reports that highlight this fact were made available to parents. They were sent reminders during every marking period that their child was at risk of not graduating – they just had to come into school and pick up the cards and warnings.

Is it any wonder that with parents abdicating their responsibilities that we are seeing issues in education?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Every four years

I love the Olympics. Something about them just reels me in each time. I was too young to remember the 1976 and 1980 Summer Games. But there is something about the pageantry of the Olympics that gets me every time.

But what gets me about the Olympics is that every time, we focus on sports that we normally don’t give a second look to in non-Olympic events. No, not the itty bitty sports like judo, badminton or rhythmic gymnastics. No, I am talking about the “marquis” events of gymnastics, swimming and diving in the summer and figure skating and ski events for the winter games.

I mean, how many times do you sit down and watch swimming on TV when it occurs during non-Olympic years? Or gymnastics? Or figure skating? You don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there is something about seeing the world’s best on the most visible stage that makes these sports more entertaining. You throw in that they are competing for their country and for the glory of taking home a medal, and you have something special.

So, you can bet Keds and I will be watching the Olympics this year. Watching the video of the Men 400m relay was something quite special. Can’t wait to see more!

Friday, August 08, 2008

How did I manage to come out unscathed?

One of the consistent themes we are coming across as we religion shop is a dislike or distrust for organized religion. Keds often asks how come I don’t refer to myself as a “recovering Catholic” or seem to have any hang ups about my faith. I also am not pretentiously Catholic and walk around with Confession Schedules in my wallet.

You would think I would be scarred. The right pieces were in place. Crucifixes up around the house, an uncle who is a priest, and my Mom has two cousins that are Nuns. We went to church every weekend, and for a while it was at 8 a.m. on Sundays, in Buffalo, during the winter. The homilies each week became more and more about the evils of abortion. The final pieces of the puzzle – both my sister and I went to Catholic universities.

But a funny thing happened. Faith and religion both ended up being really important in both mine and my sister’s life. I think part of it is that we both went to Catholic universities – she to St. Bonaventure, me to Canisius. There were chapels on campus. Mass times were convenient to a college student’s life. And the Masses were meaningful. The homilies were directed at the issues that effect a college student’s life, and faith’s place within it. The priests were approachable. College is a time of personal growth, and both St. Bonaventure and Canisius encouraged my sister and me to do just that. We got to see Christianity and it’s worldview beyond the structure of Mass and you get to see the message of the Gospel.

My parents played a big part as well. Even though Dad isn’t Catholic, he still went to Mass with us every weekend. It was a part of who we are, an important part of life, but not forced on us – and both parents were supportive. My mother did not engage in the sort of religious blackmail that many of my friends note with their parents. In a way, we learned that faith is flexible and God is forgiving by the examples we received at home.

Two common complaints about organized religion that I just didn’t encounter was their desire for money and a falling out with a priest. I was never chastised or denied access to anything for donations being too small. Even if we had issues with a priest, there were enough churches around that you could just go to another. Heck, Denis told me he was uncomfortable with Uncle Mickey’s sermons because they were too political around the 2004 election. He just went to a different church.

So, that's why I think I'm not scarred or don't refer to myself as a "recovering Catholic." Between the role it was made in my life while growing up, the reinforcement I received at Canisius and the comfort it allows me now, I think I'm a better person for it./

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A different kind of shopping

Now, I don't mind shopping. My wife will vouch for me here. However, last week Keds and I were doing a different sort of shopping. We were religion shopping!

As many of you know, Keds and I are getting ready to start our family and we are tackling the question of how are we going to introduce faith in our family. Since she is Jewish and I am Catholic, you can see the conflict.

Months ago, Uncle Mickey recommended that we shop around and find both Catholic and Jewish faith communities where we were both comfortable. It was a reasonable request. On the Jewish side, our choices are relatively limited - we would need to go Reformed and there are only two Reformed Congregations in town. On the Catholic side, there are a bunch of options, but the key is going to be distance, accent and approach. After all, as my uncle pointed out, there are far more areas of commonality between the two than areas of disagreement. It's just the one big area of disagreement.

So in typical Kraft Family Fashion, we decided now is the time and dove in head first. On Wednesday, we met with the former Rabbi of the Reformed Congregation in Summerlin. On Saturday we met with the Pastor of Christ the King Catholic Community in the southwest part of town. Both were extremely progressive and concurred with my uncle that we need to find faith communities where we are comfortable as a family. While they both clearly preferred that we stick with their respective faith traditions, they were also supportive if we chose the other.

So, after meeting with the men of the cloth, we decided it was time to check out houses of worship. The original plan was to check out Congregation Ner Tamid, the Reformed Congregation in Green Valley on Friday. However, the Rabbi was out of town and the Cantor would be leading services so we opted to pass. We are going this coming Friday, though. I'll let you know how that goes.

However, we did check out Christ the King's 9:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday. Aside from being late, it was a nice Mass. It was nice to be able to understand the priest, his homily was brief and to the point and it was relevant to our lives. In addition, it's not your typical Catholic Church. The congregation sits around the Altar and Pulpit in the round. There are no kneelers. We will definitely give a thorough try-out (4-6 Masses). I just wish it were closer, that's all.

So our quest continues. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Problem With Politics

With all due respect to my wife, the biggest problem with politics is not the amount of time I spend devoted to it. It is that when there are complex issues facing our great state and Republic, solutions cannot be reduced to a slogan. Unfortunately, slogans, gimmicks and sound bites are what sell well and can influence elections.

One example of this is the rising price of oil and the corresponding increase in gas prices. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. In a truly free market economy, prices are set by the forces of supply and demand. However, even with rising demand from emerging economies like China, India and Brazil, there is enough oil being produced to satisfy worldwide demand. I’m too young to remember the last major supply shortage, but last time I checked, there are not long lines to get gas (unless you go to Costco on a Saturday.)

So if global supply and demand is generally in balance, why is the price of oil so high? It has to be speculators. That’s got to be it. There is a little bit of truth to this – speculators have artificially inflated the price of oil by reacting to global events and looking ahead to the prospects of a more limited supply. Yes, there is the Enron Loophole that has allowed the US Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to go along, unregulated and unsupervised with no transparency since the early 1990s. While Congress is now closing the Enron Loophole, it will really only apply to domestic traders.

But what about all this talk about offshore drilling and using domestic reserves in Alaska and the Rockies? Wouldn’t this help reduce American demand while making us self-reliant on our own supply? There are a number of problems with this solution. First, what isn’t well known is that there are currently 90 million acres open to oil companies, of which only 20 is being actively drilled on. The oil companies do not want to invest the money to further drill and explore because they are hedging their bets. They don’t want to risk creating excess supply and setting their organizations to fail down the road. They are simply pursuing offshore leases and Alaska because it is popular, and cheaper. But again, who is to say they will actually invest in the necessary infrastructure. Also, you won’t see a drop of oil from any new exploration for seven to 10 years.

The national security piece (relying on our own reserves versus importing) is also problematic. Currently, the United States consumes 21 million barrels of oil PER DAY. Our current domestic production is about 5 million barrels per day. Even if Alaska and more coastal areas are opened up, it will only net an additional 8 million barrels per day. So, by my math, that leaves an additional 8 million barrels per day that we need to get from somewhere. Plus, why would an oil company take less money on domestic oil than what oil is trading for globally? OPEC and other oil-producing nations would most likely reduce production to account for the reduction in global demand.

The answer to rising gas prices is not a simple one. We need a multifaceted approach. How else are going to address this when you consumer 25% of the worlds oil, but can only possess 3% of the world’s oil reserves?

First, we need to kill all tax breaks for the integrated petroleum companies. Tax incentives should be reserved to help protect fledgling industries that are in our national interests. To this end, we need to provide additional tax incentives for renewal energy sources and engineering to reduce our need for fossil fuels. The oil companies can not be rewarded for not investing in their own businesses. Second, we need to encourage conservation and privately-driven alternative fuel development at home. See the example of T. Boone Pickens who announced today that he will build a wind farm in Texas. We need increased transparency and oversight at the CFTC. I mean really – why wasn’t the Enron loophole closed after the electricity crisis of the late 1990s?

Unfortunately, our country has developed based on the availability of cheap oil, and there is no easy solution in sight. Find me a politician that will come up with a sensible plan, and we can talk.

Monday, July 07, 2008

More Life Updates

Before going into some more heady issues later this week, I wanted to take a pause a give a quick life update.

The past week or so has been challenging, to say the least. With Thea passing away suddenly, Keds was simultaneously thrown into reliving her Mom’s passing nearly two years ago and trying to help her best friend through the grieving process. I was so proud of her. She held up well emotionally and was able to be there for her friend.

Remember that faux birthday party? Yeah, I fell for the gimmick and scheduled an appointment for us with the financial planner. My timing could not have been worse. The initial advice was stuff we already knew we had to do, it just really wasn’t the time to have the conversation. But sitting down with an impartial third party was extremely helpful and made us realize that we need to start moving on some stuff. That didn’t mean it was a comfortable experience, as Keds and I both felt like vomiting at a couple of points during the meeting. I’m still not sure if we are going to sign up with this guy, but if he leaves us in a better position financially without incurring more debt, it could be money well spent.

The holiday weekend was good, but busy. The best part was that we saw a TON of fireworks. On Thursday, we got a front-row view of the North Las Vegas fireworks at Seastrand Park from our friend Sarah’s house. Friday night, we went to a friend’s house in Centennial Hills and got to watch fireworks all across the valley. Keds was in heaven. Saturday was dinner at the Bowen’s, with a cookout at Teri’s on Sunday. We held true to our word and made it to the gym both Friday and Saturday.

We are having an issue with Mom. To make a long story short, Mom canceled on brunch plans for Sunday after being called into work. This was after Keds went out of her way (again) to add Mom to plans she made with friends because she figured she would enjoy it. Mom has not given us any indication that she is going to change her behavior, so we are going to have adjust ours. I’ll have a conversation with her this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

This week is already shaping up to be fun. While it sucks that the heat is forcing me to move my lunch-time workouts until after work, I should be able to get home at a reasonable hour. We are having lunch with Mike and Kyria on Wednesday. I am so excited. Mike and I do not spend enough time together, and he’s going to be in town. They may be stopping by after dinner on Wednesday as well, which is exciting. I also heard a rumor that Vegas Princess and her husband Charming are coming over for dinner on Thursday, which is always fun.

Not sure what’s in store this weekend, but we are definitely going to allocate several hours each day to the pool!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Life Updates

Whew. It was nice to take a little bit of a breather on Sunday. It’s been a crazy little stretch for the Kraft clan, but we seem to be weathering it nicely.

After a quick trip to LA the previous weekend for Elizabeth’s wedding reception, we managed to spend Father’s Day with both of our Dad’s which was nice. Keds had a random illness pop up on Monday – including a 103 degree fever. That curtailed our activities through Thursday. Unfortunately, it also meant we needed to cancel dinner plans with our friends Vegas Princess and her husband Charming, her folks and my parents. We tried to make it up, but more on that later.

Thursday was a really tough day. It appears that my new company likes to have “cutting the fat” exercise about once a quarter to twice a year. It started with the VP who hired me getting let go first thing in the morning. Having just started, and losing my last job in a “financial restructuring,” I did get a little nervous. OK, I was a lot nervous; especially when two people that I worked closely with were let go. But in the end, it looks like there was a strategy to cuts and there will be some good things that come out of this. We seem to be banding together as a division and are focused on service our customers.

Friday was highlighted both with a night out at the 51s game and getting out of work early. We were all ordered to leave at 3:30 as our office was being sprayed for bugs. From there, Keds and swung by and grabbed Dad then picked Mom up from work before heading to Cashman. Our plan was to try and watch the game with Princess, Charming and their families, but we weren’t able to get tickets close to them. Plus, it was like 100 degrees in the shade and the 51s got their butts kicked.

Saturday was a little crazy. First, I went canvassing for Dina Titus and Andrew Martin as part of the coordinated campaign. I was paired with a relatively pessimistic retiree, and knocking on doors in 100 degree heat was not all that fun. But we were able to leave some literature and spoke to some people who had never heard of Andrew, which was pretty cool. The lunch afterwards was pleasant, but it was reinforced that I need to keep my mouth shut when I start listening to idiot conspiracy theorists. After babysitting my favorite toddlers for 30 minutes (OK, they were both napping), Keds and I got ready for a dinner party at our favorite loan officer’s house.

Mind you, prior to last week we hadn’t received the invitation, and if I had checked our mail it may have been in there, but we were both a little miffed when we realized the point of the evening was not exactly as advertised. It was billed as a birthday party for our friend’s boyfriend to be catered by a professional chef. Turns out, it was actually a financial planner’s marketing event. At first, I was really annoyed and felt like we had been duped (I’m sure Princess knows how this feels J), but it ended up being a nice evening. The Financial Planner actually didn’t even try and push his services on us. We happened to have a couple of questions, and he answered them. We may end up using him for somethings in an effort to diversify. Also, our current guy, while good, is in LA so any deposits need to be mailed to him. Plus, since he was Leni’s guy, my concern is that he is almost like an uncle, and not in the good way – especially with money. Plus, we made friends with the field manager and his girlfriend, and the financial planner’s wife is actually a Registered Dietician. So, it ended up being a productive evening.

Sunday was much more laid back. The lesson learned, though, was to keep an eye on the pool temperature. No matter what the temperature, 96 degrees is not refreshing. Mom made stew meat and gravy for dinner which was uber-yummy. But it ended up being a much-needed relaxing day. Plus, the A’s won, which made it even better!

So what’s new with you?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nevada’s Budgetary Issues

So it’s official. The nation’s least-effective governor has finally called for a special session of the legislature to deal with the state’s fiscal crisis. On the front-end, I really do believe that the reason the Governor finally called for a special session was due to the Textgate Scandal and the fact that the RJ published a poll showing the Governor’s approval ratings in the sewer. He wants to change the story. However, given that our Governor has not done anything substantive and has literally danced while Rome (or Reno, I get the two confused) burn, a special session is necessary to create sound fiscal policy for the next fiscal year so that things aren’t any worse by the time the budget is ratified.

The agenda, as I understand it, is specifically to talk about suspending Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for the upcoming year. Also on the list is how to stabilize the budget for the next fiscal year. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. There may be legal ramifications to this, as contracts with the various labor unions may guarantee that the raises go through, forcing the money to come from somewhere else.

While suspending raises is not popular, I’d rather see raises suspended than see layoffs in vital services. Having worked in the private sector my entire career, suspending pay increases is not uncommon. When I worked at ClientLogic, annual increases for salaried employees were suspended or deferred for three years during financially lean years. In addition, they suspended matching funds for our 401(k). Sure, it is a demotivator, but at least you still had a job.

What I would like to see is some sound fiscal policy come out of this special sesson. I’m not holding my breath that it will, but I can still hope. These are tough times for Nevada. Real leadership is needed. I don’t care that it’s happening in the middle of a campaign or if the Governor is calling the session just to change the subject. My call to Speaker Buckley and Sen. Majority Leader Raggio is to do what is difficult and do what you were hired to do – legislate in the best interest of the State of Nevada.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Tom!

In past years, today would have been an awesome day. Sure, we'd both have to work, but we both knew what was in store for us after work - drinks (Crown Royal for Newman, Beer or Jack Daniel's for me) and dinner either at Santora's or Nikki Lee's. After that, we'd most likely head to the nearest PT's for a few too many games of GoldenTee and some more drinks.

However, this is not past years. As many of you know, Tom passed away on September 16th. The picture above was the last time I saw him and the last time we spoke was via e-mail the following July. I regret that working together caused some friction between the two of us, especially once he went out on leave and the way he ended up leaving town left a little bitter taste with both Keds and I. That didn't change how I felt about him. It was more of an annoyance.
I find myself thinking about him more and more lately. Mostly because it's baseball season. Tom was an avid Braves fan. It would annoy him to no end that the Braves aren't on TBS that much anymore. After baseball came football, as we both were huge Bills fans. I occasionally feel guilty for not being a better friend, but the reality is that he pulled away as he got more sick and was in increasing amounts of pain. His communication was more erratic, I'm sure partially because of the amount of pain but also because of the way things were going with Slash for him.
Tom would have been 33 today. That is simply just far too young to die. I take some solace that he was in a lot of pain, having endured double hip replacement, a shoulder replacement and had some back problems along with the severe asthma that plagued him his whole life. He is in a better place now. I'll do a shot of Crown for you tonight...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Where's Ken?

I know. I know. It's been a while since I've posted a little comment out here. I've been a bit busy and nothing too exciting has happened. Work is phenomenal. I'm really digging this new job. The only issue I have is the commute. Going from no commute to a cross-town commute has been a little bit of an adjustment. Plus, there have been some adjustments at home. Going from being able to do my own thing, to leaving the house at 6 a.m. and not getting home until between 5 and 6 is an adjustment for Keds - and that's assuming I ONLY go to the gym after work. A meeting or an event or something really kills the rest of the evening.

Getting more and more involved in local politics. We hosted the local Assembly candidate for a Meet and Greet with the neighbors, which was a lot of fun. Right now it is all about organizing, most of the "get out the vote" efforts won't start until September or so.

I'm really focusing on staying focused with my nutrition and the like. It's hard when there are office birthdays, lunches and breakfasts going on, not to mention not really caring sometimes. But I'm confident I'll get it back together here soon.

I apologize for not being better about commenting on other people's blogs. It's amazing what happens when you don't have time to goof off at work...

Anyway, expect a more thoughtful and organized post later in the week.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A broken process

A couple of news items this morning caught my eye and my ire. The first was that three initiatives circulated by the Las Vegas Sands and owner Sheldon Adelson were submitted to the County Registrar of Voters for verification yesterday. The second was that the Teacher’s Union reached a deal with three gaming companies to keep another initiative off the ballot but place an advisory question regarding an increase in the gaming tax.

I am not going to discuss the merits of any of the initiatives. I haven’t read them in their entirety and I’m sure they will be challenged in court. I cannot find fault with people using the means currently in place to ensure their interests are protected. I am going to discuss the process.

The initiative process is the wrong place to determine public policy. This needs to be done in the legislative branch of government. As the bill works through the committee and sub-committee process, it is vetted for potential pratfalls and loopholes. Areas of contention are addressed prior to a bill becoming law. All of this is skipped in the initiative process.

The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act (I think that was the name) is a good example of why the process is flawed. Many states and counties had passed similar ordinances banning smoking in public indoor spaces. I would assume that similar attempts to pass one in Nevada were thwarted by the gaming lobby. So, in an effort to get something passed, the backers of the initiative specifically excluded the major casinos. Once passed, it was challenged and the criminal portion was thrown own, leaving the Health District to enforce the act – something they are not equipped to handle. So, the act is actually being interpreted differently in different parts of the state and you have these hokey efforts to meet the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Some restaurants closed their kitchens altogether others during off-peak hours. Some just flagrantly don’t enforce the act.

Many of these issues would have been avoided if we would have followed the “how a bill becomes a law” process we all learned in 5th grade. The language would have been crafted with court challenges in mind. The enforcement of the law would have been clear. And it would have been enforced consistently throughout the state. But the issue is that since the Legislative branch has done little, other than rubber stamp a budget, for the last 10 or so years it is no wonder that interested parties are reaching out to the initiative process.

The solution is to elect leaders who have the backbone to make tough decisions facing the state. Our elected officials need to act in our best interest, not those of the special interests. We, the citizens whom elect these individuals to serve us, need to keep an eye on our elected officials to make sure they are spending our tax dollars wisely and acting in our best interests.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Musings

A few musings this afternoon as I watch the A's lose, which makes me sad, and the Penguins rout the Flyers, which makes me mildly happy.

My sister called this morning to tell me that one of our childhood neighbors passed away this morning. Ron Crowley in many ways was like an uncle to us. The last time I saw him was three years ago before my folks moved, and he was doing well. However, years of smoking finally caught up to him. He had a portion of his lungs removed not that long ago, and recently they discovered a brain tumor. After sending him home from the hospital on Friday and brining in hospice, he passed away this morning. Mr. Crowley, you will be in our thoughts and prayers as will your wife and children Kevin and Eileen.

This makes me even more nervous for my Dad. My Dad has had a disgustingly gross cough for the last few years. His skinny as a rail, is a closet smoker and drinks probably a six pack of beer a day (at least.) What scares me the most is that he refuses to go to the doctor. My Mom, my sister, my uncle (his brother) and I have tried to get him to go the doctor. I even took him out two weeks ago to urge him to go to the doctor. My sister is pregnant with twins and Keds and I are getting ready to adopt. I used the "Beth and I want our kids to know their grandfather" line. I'm 98% certain it went in one ear and out the other. At this point, short of telling him we are going to Disneyland and taking him there under false pretenses, I don't think anything will get him there.

This was a nice, lazy weekend. We spent almost all day Saturday in the pool. Today, between the gym, church and another afternoon in the pool I think I'll be well-rested heading into the work week.

I opened up a new single-origin coffee this morning - Ethiopia Fancy. I blended it with my remaining New Guinea Highlands. It was an, um, interesting blend to say the least. I'll be interested to try it on its own tomorrow. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, so that adds a historic element to it as well. Another shipment is on it's way. In trying to find the perfect pound that Ked and I will both enjoy, I'm trying at least one new coffee everyone shipement in addition to the New Guinea and Major D that we already like. One thing I did learn is that Keds does not like the French Press (yes Matt, I wussed out and bought one). It does make a STRONG pot of coffee, but it was different and I enjoyed it.

This week is shaping up to be busy, with a lot of after-work activities. A meeting with Jewish Family Services on Monday, the Andrew Martin for Assembly Kickoff event on Thursday and Andrew on Tuesday will make for a busy week heading into Memorial Day weekend.

Anyway, I hope y'all had great weekends as well. I've got a couple of good posts planned for the week, so let's see how that shapes up.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I keep counting down the days until January 20, 2009. The lengths that our current President will go to in order to score political points will never cease to amaze me. I appreciate a good foreign policy discussion as much as anyone. But this President has no interest in having a discussion. Instead, he took an opportunity speaking in front of the Israeli Parliament to make a political swipe and inject himself into November’s election.

True peace in the Middle East is going to be difficult. To achieve peace and stability in Israel/Palestine and Iraq will require a lot of effort on all sides. It will mean direct engagement. Calling it Appeasement is a bit like referring to our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a new Crusade.

Our President made an already difficult situation in the Middle East worse. What he proved today is that he just doesn’t care, and that he will do anything for political gain even as he rides off into the sunset…

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's a picture of me and my Mom. I just wanted to do a quick post wishing her and all the mother's out there in blog-land a very happy Mother's Day.

My Mom has always been there when I needed her. It's hard to believe that 19 years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was right after she had completed her bachelor's degree while working full-time and running a household of four. She may frustrate the living crap out of me sometimes, but I love her just the same. My life wouldn't be the same without her.

Mom, I love you. I hope you enjoyed your brunch and will continue to enjoy your Peet's Coffee (even if it is decaf!).

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Filibuster

Yes, please note the irony in the title. This post is going to be both politcal and more than just a quick read.

A small item made news here yesterday about a bill proposed by Congressman Dean Heller from Nevada’s First Congressional district. Don’t get me wrong, it will play well in his district that covers Reno, rural Nevada and a very small piece of Clark County. The bill is an amendment to the Voting Rights Act to remove the requirement that bilingual ballots be provided if 5 percent of the voting-age citizens are deemed limited in their English-speaking skills, as determined by the US Census.

I will admit that I have mixed feelings on this bill. To be able to vote, you need to be a US citizen. To be a US citizen, you need to pass a basic English proficiency exam. So why do we go through the taxpayer expense of printing dual-language ballots? How much English do you have to understand to read what office the candidate is running for and the candidates’ names? The complexity comes in when reading and understanding ballot initiatives. This are often very wordy and tough to follow, even for those with a firm grasp on English. It makes sense that they may need to be translated to be adequately understood.

The immigration debate in this country hasn’t changed in 200 years. It started with the first waves of non-WASP immigrants. First, it was the massive amounts of Irish immigration. The next waves were from Italy and other, poorer and mostly Roman Catholic areas of Southern Europe. Many people today don’t realize there was a serious effort to bar Catholics from both citizenship and the right to vote in the 19th century. During the California Gold Rush and construction of the transcontinental railroad, there were massive amounts of Chinese immigration. If you were to walk through the ethnic neighborhoods of any major city (New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the languages of the “old country” would have dominated. Children learned to speak English, and served as translators for their parents who had a limited grasp of the language.

The general debate hasn’t changed. The only wrinkle is that there are a substantial number of people entering the country outside of the established processes. We need to protect our borders. We need to maintain our national security.

However, the bill as proposed by Rep. Heller does nothing to secure our borders. It just makes it harder for those citizens that are still gaining confidence in English to understand ballot questions and fully participate in every voting-age citizen's civic duty – take an active interest in public affairs and vote.

We need to call this bill what it really is - an election year stunt to rekindle debate on a “wedge” issue without actually solving things. Chances are Rep. Heller was only asked to propose this bill because it will play well in Reno, Pahrump, Ely and the rest of rural Nevada.

This country has real problems that need to be solved. People are losing their homes. Our military is under-funded and stretched thin in two theaters, compromising their effectiveness. Our infrastructure is old and at greater risk of failing.

Introducing this bill is a bigger waste of taxpayer money than printing bilingual ballots. I only hope that Jill Derby can use this argument against Congressman Heller. It's obvious to me that he is not independent and simply a tool for Republican leadership.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Work Update

I'm sure several of you (need to be realistic here) are wondering how the new job is going. Generally speaking, it's going well. The worst part of it is commuting to and from work every day and getting up at 5 a.m. so I can be there by 7. Everyone is nice, and very supportive. They are making sure that I am set up for success, which is AWESOME. It's just that horrid part of a new job where you know you are competent, but aren't completely independent yet. However, I spoke to my boss yesterday and he's very pleased with my development. So things are going well. I should get my benefits packet in the next couple of days (YAY) so we can stop paying COBRA...

However, starting a new job has led to some other adjustments. I'm trying to maintain a healthy diet and exercising regimen. It's just easier said than done. The diet isn't too hard, it's just finding a way to make it into the gym as often. And when I get to the gym, I'm freakin' exhausted. My trainer even commented that I am gassing out a lot faster than I used to - the effort is still there, but energy is not.

I'm sure I'll adjust in due time. Until then, I just need to keep on truckin'...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Weekend Update

Before our trips to LA and Florida, Keds and I agreed that we were not going to make any plans for this past weekend. We were going to take the weekend to rest, recover and recuperate. Well, that got thrown out the window even before we left for LA.

Saturday morning was the Komen Race for the Cure. Since my Mom is a 19 year survivor and my company was sponsoring a team, we decided to do it. I registered us both for the 5K walk. While we are in better shape today, neither of us could see doing the run. However, about ¾ of a mile in, we were wondering why we didn’t sign up for the mile fun walk. Oh well, a nice 3.1 mile walk on Saturday morning never hurt anyone.

We did manage to keep some down time on Saturday afternoon. We decided it was time best spent in our 92 degree pool. Needless to say, it was more than pleasant. We both got a little sun and it provided some much-needed down time. After that, we headed over to a Meet and Greet with Tom Collins, our Clark County Commissioner. The candidate didn’t stick around very long, but we visited with some folks we know, Keds got to meet a bunch of the political types I’ve been talking to, and I think we made a new friend. Not too bad for a little bbq, I would say! Then it was off to Paymon’s for dinner, which is always yummy.

Sunday was a little more crazy. Keds and Mom went to Trader Joe’s and Costco. I met Dad out at his watering hole for a “father-son chat.” You see, Dad has this lovely rattling cough. He’s a not-so-closet smoker and refuses to go see the doctor. I get that when you are feeling ganged up on, you did your heels in and you may be just a little bit scared, but sticking your head in the sand won’t fix it. It could very easily be what kills him and ends up being a drag on Mom as well. I took a different tactic this time. Given that he will be a grandfather in the not-so-distant future, I used the imagery of his own Dad and wanted him to be around to know his grandkids. I got the impression I was talking to a brick wall, but we’ll see.

Sunday night was typical dinner with Mom and Dad. However I got the break out my new French Press. I didn’t use my favorite sort of coffee (code for ‘Not Peet’s’), but some decaf sitting around since Christmas. Adding insult to injury, I ground the beans a little too fine. Mom dug it, I enjoyed it but Dad left half his cup sitting there saying it was “chewy.” This from the man that still asks if it’s Brim…

Monday came way too fast. Getting up at 5 a.m. SUCKS, but I’m enjoying things and getting myself a routine set up.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Over the course of the last two weeks, a lot in our life has focused on family. Whether it's getting ready to start our own, dealing with the ones that live close by or visiting them in Florida and California, family seems to be a central theme in our life these days.

We are getting ready to start the adoption process. We have decided to work with a local agency because we want an infant. The initial interest form is nearly complete and ready to send in. While we are disappointed that a biological child is not in our future, we are excited to provide a loving home to children that might not have that opportunity otherwise. While the payoff is going to be great, we are not looking forward to the proctology exam we are about to endure.

One item that we are seriously working through is how to instill faith in our children's lives. As many of you know, we are an interfaith family. While we both agree that in theory all that matters is that our children have a strong moral compass and a solid faith foundation, we are working through the importance of "rights of passage." In addition, it is very important for us to show a united front with our children. Regardless of our choice, we will celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, Passover and Easter. However, it will be present in a way that these are the holidays we celebrate and here is why they are important. It will NOT be presented as "this is what Mommy believes" and "this is what Daddy believes." We also agree that it is unfair to make a child choose between competing faiths. They will choose once they are an adult, but not before.

Speaking of holidays, about two weeks ago we went to LA to celebrate Passover with Keds' family. I enjoy these functions. We get to provide support for her Dad and get to see everyone. This year, we missed Uncle Larry and his clan. His daughters were with their Mom's family for Passover. While we missed seeing them, it actually made things a little easier. I really think they are starting to get to know Keds all over again, and it's neat to see the development. Oh, and Britta is an amazing cook. That alone is reason to attend family functions!

This past week was a trip to Florida. While we spent the most time in Orlando, we got a chance to - you guessed it - see some family. Our second night there, we had dinner with two of my cousins on my Dad's side. While there is a large age difference, we always have a good time when we get together. It's great to bounce things off of them as well and share stories.

On Saturday we headed to St. Pete to see Keds' sister, our nieces and nephew. We also got to meet our grandnephew. This was my first time meeting Keds' brother-in-law and the kids. The girls are amazing and David is growing up to be quite the young man. We saw David's PeeWee A Hockey Team, the Gulf Coast Flames, They won the game, which was awesome. We then had dinner with the whole clan before heading back to Orlando for the night.

Sunday we were off to Ft. Myers to see the rest of my Dad's side of the family. Yes, I realize we were halfway to Ft. Myers when we were in St. Pete - I never said we were good planners. Dinner with my uncle and cousins was great. They have definitely taken a liking to Keds, especially my cousins two girls. We definitely don't see each other often enough. Monday we spent some time with my uncle and his girlfriend before heading back to Orlando to catch our flight home.

As I mentioned, I've been thinking about family quite a bit. We really do need to get back to Buffalo. My aunt is going to celebrate her 70th birthday this summer, and it's been three years since I've seen my cousins. I was reading my cousin Therese's MySpace page, where she mentions her siblings that have moved away and Grampy. I miss them all so much.

Anyhoo, I'm really just rambling now. A life update and thoughtful blog post all in one! How's that for blog value?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Coming soon

Sorry I've been MIA. Things have been a little crazy and we were on vacation for a week. But don't worry, there is another post coming soon. After all, I just got a fresh shipment of Peet's!

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Friends and Internet Crazies

You may have noticed two new links on the left hand side of this blog. They are "The Deacon's Bench" and "Perspectives from the Summit." The first is written by Deacon Greg who happens to work for Katie Couric as a writer and is also a recently-ordained Roman Catholic deacon. The second is written by Greg who is a teaching pastor at a Christian church in Oregon. Who they are isn't really important. Rather my focus today is the differences in the blogs.

At first I thought the Deacon's Bench was interesting. Some Catholic news items, his personal experiences as a recently-ordained deacon going through his first Easter season. From personal experience, Easter is rough on priests. You are basically in church for five straight days. Saying Mass is often the least fulfilling of a Priest's duties. The best part for them is the sermon. He does like to throw some current events in there. However, he's gone into overdrive with the Pope's trip to the US this week.

Now I am as interested in the Pope coming as your next run-of-the-mill Catholic. However, some real humdingers were posted. First, it was about how the President really respects Catholic theology and has more Catholics on his staff than any other blah blah blah. The next piece that got my attention was one about how Sen. Obama has a group of Catholics as advisers for the Pennsylvania primary campaign. I don't think it was his intention to draw the crazies out, but he certainly did. First it was the comments about how they wouldn't be surprised if "W" converted after his presidency. I nearly wanted to vomit. Then there were the series of comments about how evil Sen. Obama is and how now they have a convenient list of supporters of this evil man to pray for. I nearly lost my dinner.

Remember how I had to step away from the blogs after the caucus? I had to do it again. First, I was offended that politicians were using MY faith for political gain. The implication is that a photo op with the Pope or a list of prominent Catholics as advisers is an endorsement for all Catholics. Second, I was offended because there are people out there that will fall for this! Enough people simply do not care about details to judge for themselves. It's conveniently forgotten that the late Pope John Paul II chided Pres. Bush for the war in Iraq and for not doing more to help God's less fortunate children.

Matt's blog is interesting. Matt's the craziest, but that's mostly because of his obsession with Peet's Coffee that makes mine pale in comparison. His deals with weighty issues of faith. It makes me think.

Anything out there rubbing your pet peeves or making you think?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What a week!

Sorry I've been away for so long sports fans. Having to get up and having to gasp drive into work has cut into my blogging/surfing time.

My first week at work was interesting. While I understand the process of project management, getting into the world of affiliate marketing is something completely different for me. So I've spent most of my first week trying to wrap my head around the industry. The one thing I hate about starting a new job is that initial feeling of non-productivity. You don't really have work of your own yet, so you are dependent on your boss to get you up to speed. That, and since I am brand new, I don't have a badge yet, which means that I can't get in and out of the building on my own.

I have managed to create my own morning routine, though. I get my coffee pot ready the night before, the alarm goes off once at 4:51 and again at 5. I get myself a cup of coffee, take a shower and get dressed then eat breakfast before leaving the house at 6 to get to the office by 7 since the office is across town. Keds has been nice enough to get up most mornings and make me breakfast, which is definitely appreciated.

So work is good. Everyone is nice and for once there is a clear induction program so that I don't feel totally lost and don't feel overwhelmed. Plus, this place promotes a healthy work-life balance which is a plus. They like to keep total hours worked in the 40-45 hour per week range.

I'll admit that I haven't been really good the last couple of weeks in watching my nutrition and getting my happy self into the gym. This week was just bad. With Annie and her brood in last weekend, I didn't get to the gym and didn't feel like going on Monday. I really worked my legs Tuesday, which was good until I remember that I was going to be doing some cardio-based stuff on Thursday with Andrew.

Let's just say that Thursday was one bad decision after another. First, I scheduled my appointment at 7. When I got home, we decided to go out for dinner, but I didn't really have a lot of time. Then we had Mexican. While the food was decent and we got to see our favorite neighbors, I was kinda full when I got to the gym. So my measurements were a disaster and the workout was less-than-pleasant. I could barely breathe, my legs were still sore from Tuesday and I was exhausted. Andrew was disappointed that I quit. And I did. But there was good reason. I just need to get back into the habit of working out and going to work again.

This weekend will be good. Saturday is the reconvened County Democratic Convention. Keds and I are both delegates, so we'll swing by the Thomas and Mack and vote. We then have reservations at Mesa Grill, sort of a combination celebration/belated birthday dinner. Tomorrow we'll go to church and the gym, but take the rest of the day off before craziness sets in for the rest of the month.

How was everyone else's week?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Rekindled Passion

As many of you know, I love coffee. Not just any old, run-of-the-mill coffee, mind you, but really good coffee. I like my coffee strong and I don't dilute it with cream or sugar. Sometime around 2001/2002 I became disillusioned with Starbucks. I think it was precisely when I realized that I could stand on my rooftop, throw a rock and hit about 3 or 4 Starbucks outlets that I realized they lost their proverbial soul. I put them up there with Microsoft and Wal-Mart as a member of the Triumvirate of Evil, intent on taking over the world.

First, a little background. I drank coffee sporadically in high school and college. I worked at McDonald's and worked the opening shift (i.e. show up at 5 a.m.) on the weekends. I'd drink their perfectly passable coffee to get me going, but that was about it. I'd drink coffee occasionally to help me get through an all-nighter after I ran out of soda. When I moved to Vegas and started working a steady day shift, I found Starbucks. First, it was Frappuccinos. Then I switched to Caffe Mochas. Right around 2001-2002 I decided I needed to lose some weight. I was going to Starbucks every work day and getting myself a Grande Caffe Mocha, complete with whole milk and whipped cream. Not only was it expensive, but calorie dense - 360 calories per drink! That was practically a meal!

I needed to take drastic action. I was working at ClientLogic at the time, and we had just landed the Gevalia Kaffe account. Most people know Gevalia for their free coffee maker offers. The Project Manager and Call Center Director were both friends of mine, and they sent me some free coffee to try and I signed up for the delivery service as well. I used to water my coffee down with cream and sugar, but those were calorie luxuries I could no longer afford. I relegated myself to one non-fat latte a week. I have been a black coffee drinker ever since.

In the intervening years, I went on a quest for good coffee. Gevalia was good for a while, but their quality started to suffer greatly about 3 years ago. It was about that same time I discovered the Coffee Bean (oh, and met my wife, ironically at the Coffee Bean three years ago yesterday. Happy Anniversary babe!). The whole bean coffee wasn't quite as good as Starbucks, but their Caramel Lattes are way better than Starbucks' Caramel Macchiatos. They were close to the new house and gave me a free coffee when I bought a pound of beans. Alas, the location in the Aliante Information Center closed after a Starbucks opened across the street.

So it was back to buying my coffee at Starbucks. At first, I had them grind my beans for me, as I didn't have a grinder at home. Then, we used a portion of a Bloomingdale's gift card to buy a burr (as opposed to blade) grinder for the house. The burr grinder provides a lot more control over the grind of your beans, providing a more consistent coffee ground which makes for better coffee. Since Keds and I have become aware of the subtleties of food, I figured we could tell the difference in coffee. However, we couldn't tell the difference between blends and varieties. It all tasted the same. Which led me to try Peet's.

My first awareness of Peet's Coffee was back in 2002 or so. I read Howard Schultz's book about how he ran Starbucks. If you work in corporate America, I strongly urge you to read the book. It explains why they are one of the best companies to work for and you can totally see what your company is doing wrong. In it, we learn that Starbucks was founded in Seattle by three former Bay Area residents that were fan's of this place called Peet's Coffee in Berkeley, not far from the Cal campus. In fact, in their first year of operation, Peet's actually supplied them with their raw beans. After Schultz left to form his own company that would offer espresso beverages, Starbucks actually bought Peet's. They later re-engaged with Schultz. Eventually, Peet's and Starbucks went their own way.

I tried Peet's Coffee at Mitch and Samantha's. It was good. However, as my disillusionment with Starbucks bean quality grew so did my desire to search out Peet's. Then, one day we were in Whole Paycheck (sorry, Whole Foods), and I saw Peet's coffee sitting there on the shelf. However, I was aghast at what they were charging for 3/4 of a pound! Surely it would be cheaper to buy it direct. But I also wanted Keds to try the Arabian Mocha Java blend - one of my all-time Starbucks favorites. So I go into my local Starbucks and request it. I was absolutely devastated when they told me they had discontinued this classic blend! That was it. My quest had been set.

On our next couple of trips to LA, we had every intention of stopping at a local Peet's outlet and picking up a pound or two of Arabian Mocha Java. But it didn't work out. This last trip in, though, we made the time to stop buy. I picked up one pound of Arabian Mocha Java and one pound of their signature Major Dickason's Blend. I could actually taste the difference between the blends and taste the difference in the quality of the coffee. I decided to take the plunge and set myself up for home delivery. So I did. I placed my order on Thursday, it shipped on Friday and it arrived on Tuesday. One pound of Mocha Java and decided to try something new - New Guinea Highlands. What impressed me most was that both pounds of beans had their roasting date on them - Thursday, March 27th. So cool.

I opened my pound of Mocha Java this morning and nearly got a contact high. That got me through my shower. When I took the first sip from my first cup this morning, I was hooked. I could taste all of the flavors within the coffee. I finally found what I am looking for in a coffee. I can't wait to try the New Guinea. Their write up indicates that the original coffee trees were transplanted from Jamaica's Blue Mountains. We love Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. We drank it every day on our honeymoon. I am now a certified Peetnik. Fellow readers, if you are a coffee or tea drinker, don't be surprised if you get Peet's as a gift...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

City Council Meeting 4/2/2008

While I don't mean to scoop ScandalMonger, I am going to report a little on tonight's City Council meeting. We knew it was going to be a hot one, that's for sure. On the Agenda were two hot items, both relating to apartments. I specifically went to speak against Agenda #32, a zoning change for property at the northwest corner of Centennial and Valley from a Planned-Use Development to R3, or apartments. When I handed in my card, it was mentioned that the requestor was asking the item be removed from the agenda. Basically, they had at least three of the five votes against and with all three running for Mayor next year passage wasn't likely, so they are most likely going to the original zoning, which is for condos, or waiting until a later time.

However, the real hot issue was agenda item #2 - the Site Plan Review for the parcel at Centennial and Revere. The land was already hard-zoned R3 and to not pass it would violate the Open-Land Development Agreement. Basically, the city would be sued by Pardee Homes. The City Attorney basically said she couldn't find any justification to disregard the OL-DA other than the citizens were mad.

About 50 people stood up to speak against it. The Mayor and Council both said they had never seen so many people turnout. Some were a little crazy, some were very methodical and presented logical arguments. In the end, the citizens of El Dorado's gripe is with Pardee Homes and they need to file a class action lawsuit against Pardee. The City Council's hands were tied. If they voted against it, the city would be sued and Pardee would have come after the city for legal fees. We already pay they highest tax rate per assessed value of any municipality in the Valley. It was much less raucous than I thought it would.

The vote went exactly as I thought - 3 -2. Mayor Pro-Tem Robinson and Councilwoman Buck voted against. Councilwoman Buck's vote was purely a self-preservation move. She lives in El Dorado and is running for Mayor. Prior to this, she didn't find an apartment project she didn't like. Poor Councilwoman Smith. She basically sealed her political fate tonight, but did the right thing. People won't understand it, though, which is sad.

What I did notice, though is that our mayor is a jerk. He was rude to people and talked down to them. Now don't get me wrong - people were sometimes out of line, but you let them make fools of themselves and don't look like the bad guy. I can't believe he's been in office nearly 12 years. What a schmuck.

That one agenda item took nearly 2.5 hours to listen to all the public comments. The rest of the meeting went pretty fast. The next showdown is next Wednesday at the Planning Commission. Basically, Pardee wants to add two more parcels totalling nearly 1,100 MORE apartments for the adjoining parcels. Should be quite the showdown because the troops are now mobilized.

Bachelor Week

As many of your know, Keds is in LA this week keeping a friend company while her husband is at Science Camp. So that's left me on my own this week.

So what am I doing to fill my time? It's not like Keds left me with a laundry-list of "honey-do's." Don't get me wrong - there were a couple of things like get the sheets out of the dryer, water the plants and make sure the guest room is ready for the housekeeper. But that's about it.

No, rather, I've been spending my time watching baseball, the History Channel and playing Civ. Opening Day was Monday, and the A's played their home opener last night and I'm watching the second game this afternoon. I'm catching up on some of my History Channel programs I've recorded.

I've also worked on closing out a few business-related items, since I won't be around during the work day anymore to work on some of these thing. Plus, the casita is a disaster and I need to clean that up too. I am working with a local activist to establish a Democratic Club in this part of town. I need to get the by-laws written. The goal is to serve the needs to those north of Cheyenne or Craig Rd. on both sides of Decatur. We just need a name. And a logo.

Oh well. Enough of that for now. The A's game is on. Hopefully they can salvage a split with the Red Sox.

Monday, March 31, 2008

So funny...

I just got done watching this week's How I Met Your Mother - TWICE. It was that funny. And to top it all off, there was a commercial for the new Harold and Kumar film!

Barney was at his funniest. The whittling down of his top 64, the frantic nature of explaining why certain places are great places to pick up women, even the Doogie Howser bit at the end. It was such a great episode. And everyone got in on the zaniness, even Robin, which was amazing.

Anyway, I'm saving it on DVR for Keds to watch when she gets home on Thursday...

Did you catch the episode? What did you think?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Updates and Tidbits

First, thanks to everyone who stopped by on either this blog or Keds' blogs to wish me a happy birthday. I had a great day. It was followed by a rather pleasant Easter Sunday, ironically with a lot of the same people from the night before. Keds outdid herself again making an amazing feast and enlisting some help with side dishes. For dessert, we had a Costco Carrot Cake that doubled as my birthday cake. Unfortunately, we didn't pack enough of it off and we are still finishing it up. But it's still uber-yummy.

Keds and I are gearing up to start the adoption process, once my employment situation is stable. In the process, we are working through some pre-adoption child-raising issues so that we have a game plan we can talk to during the process. My Uncle Mick has been helpful, and we are going to be talking to some others in the coming week. Unfortunately, this is once again one of those areas where I have now jumped in with both feet and want to get it resolved.

Speaking of employment situation, the hope is to have this sorted out soon. I am expecting a job offer today (why won't the phone ring?!?) and have a couple of more options that look promising. I'm just getting frustrated. This waiting game is the worst. I just want it to be over...

I am pretty excited about some things, though. I signed up for recurring deliveries of coffee beans from Peet's Coffee. It's owned by the guys that founded Starbucks, because they remember getting really good coffee there while they were students in Berkeley. The coffee is roasted in small batches and then shipped direct to customers. I enjoy quality coffee and this will be a nice little treat when each shipment arrives.

I also bought a new solar blanket for our pool. With the weather unseasonably warm, I'll turn on the solar heat and hopefully the pool will be ready to go by the end of next week. How exciting!

Next week, Keds will be in LA helping a friend redecorate her master bedroom, and we have Annie and Jason visiting at the end of the week. Life just keeps getting better, if not busier as we get into April!

Update - The offer came in higher than expected. Needless to say, I took the job...

Friday, March 21, 2008

March Madness 2008

March Madness is one of my favorite times of year. First, you have the drama of the conference tournaments. You can see a team like the University of San Diego knock off both St. Mary's and Gonzaga in a matter of two days to play their way into the Big Dance.

This weekend, you can totally overdose on college hoops. I mean seriously - 12 hours of practically non-stop basketball. Then, it's watching the underdogs give the big guys a run for their money. Who would have thought Belmont would come "this close" to knocking off Duke? And then there are the upsets. I just watched San Diego, who would not have made the Big Dance had they not won their conference tournament, take UConn to overtime, and then beat them. Who'd have thunk it?

If the first day and a half are any indication, this is going to be a GREAT tourament.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Weekend Update

What a difference a few years makes. A couple of years ago, I would have spent this past weekend on the couch watching College Basketball and obsessing over my bracket. Not so much this year. Did I watch some basketball? Of course I did. I did miss the one game I wanted to watch, but I caught the last three minutes of the UNLV game and got to see them punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

Rather this weekend was filled with lots of running. On Saturday, I let Keds sleep in as she was really sick and was up most of the night hacking. I was able to spend most of the morning watching the History Channel, which I never do anymore. It was quite the interesting program on the Apocryphal books of the Bible. Took me back to my sophomore year New Testament class, only without have to talk about the Gospel of Q. I did find it ironic, though, that the Virgin Mary gets more mentions in the Qu'ran than in the New Testament.

After lunch, we headed out shopping as I needed a new suit, for a couple of reasons. First, all of my suits are simply too big. My navy suit is the closest to fitting, but the pants are still a little big. Second, I am out interviewing for a new job. I have a second interview on Wednesday, and wanted to make sure I wore something different. I know that sounds a bit girlish, but I did and I'm not afraid to admit it. Our first stop was the Outlet Mall on Charleston.

As many of you out there know, I am something of a brand snob. I got hooked on Brooks Brothers suits before I moved to Vegas. They aren't too pricey at the outlet mall and they are cut really well. So that was our first store. After purchasing a brand new charcoal grey suit, three dress shirts, three ties and a belt I felt more than a little satisfied. Since it took way less time than we had planned, we decided to shop the mall for spring/summer clothes as we both need them. It was a productive day, and pretty much wiped Keds out.

Sunday started off with me picking up my Mom for church. She got the biggest kick out of it. She was so happy that we were going to Mass together, she could hardly contain ourselves. When I was a kid, I always had mixed feelings about Palm Sunday Mass. You came home with a present (a palm frond), but you had to stand for the Passion. When you are 8, standing still for like 20-25 minutes is a really long time. Some parishes let you sit now, but not St. John Neumann. We stood like real Catholics. One quick funny story - as Fr. Bede was coming around the Sanctuary blessing the palm fronds with holy water, when he got to our row, he "reloaded" and pretty much aimed for Mom. She was soaked. We couldn't help but chuckle (respectfully, of course, since we were in church).

I don't know why, but the Passion definitely effected me this year. As I was listening to it, I could see a little piece of me in each of the main characters. Definitely a learning experience. I enjoy the opportunity to grow in my faith and have it connect with my everyday life.

After church, Keds and I headed out to run some errands. They were all home-related and pretty routine. We rounded out our weekend with dinner with my folks, which was pleasant. I don't know what's up with my Dad, aside from his obsession with our carpet cleaner, he's been really, really cool lately. He hasn't hassled us, and is actually friendly and engaging in conversation. What's even more surprising, there are new stories!

On Monday, we had dinner with the Bowens. A traditional St. Patty's Day feast of Corned Beef, Cabbage and Potatoes. I am personally not a huge cabbage fan, but the corned beef was awesome! Keds once again pulled together an absolutely fabulous dinner.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm sure I'll post something later on this week!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What kind of city do you want?

As many of you know, I am getting more and more involved in the issues that effect our community to compliment my involvement in politics. There is a saying that all politics is local - that being that issues that effect us closest to home are the issues that shape our general political views.

In an effort to be more informed, I attended the NLV Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday night. Without boring you all with details, what struck me most was the Commissioner's lack of ability to see the forest for the trees. From what I've seen of zoning changes passed by City Council, I would have to guess the same since only now that there is some organized opposition to some zoning changes to build apartments that they are taking a serious look at certain issues.

What happens is that first the Planning Commission, then the City Council review and vote on proposed zoning variances or changes. Both meetings are open to the public, but are usually sparsely attended. As the Commissioners, Councilpeople and the Mayor vote on issues, you would think that they would have some sort of master plan that they use as a guide. Well, they do. However, they are constantly ignoring or changing it. In fact the latest Master Plan is only a few weeks old and has already been either ignored or modified slightly.

Here is a perfect example. When the El Dorado tracts were purchased by Pardee in 1988, they agreed to specific zoning, including 15 foot minimums for backyards in residential neighborhoods. Well, the first item on the agenda was a request by Pardee for a zoning variance to allow for smaller backyards. Planning and Zoning Staff recommending denying the request, given the 'hardship' was self imposed. The variance will allow them to introduce a low-cost housing (sub-$200K) product in this parcel. Pardee positioned themselves very well - since the land is zoned for as many as 25 units per acre and they are proposing less than 9 units per acre, they should be given the zoning variance. To introduce the same product given the zoning restriction that have been in place for 20 years would have reduce the subdivision by about 9 lots. So that left the Planning Commission in what I like to call God's Little Acre - either approve low-cost housing or let Pardee build apartments. What disturbs me the most is that Planning Commission members were helping Pardee's attorney make her own arguments!

When Keds and I bought in Aliante, it was under the assumption that this was the "new" North Las Vegas. However, if this keeps happening, it will be the same old North Las Vegas. If the Planning Commission, City Council and Mayor's office are fine with North Las Vegas remaining the blue-collar suburb, that's fine. Just say it and move on. However, don't be surprised when the City doesn't hit their new Vision 2025...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Let the Madness Begin!

If it's March, it means two things. First, my birthday. Yes, I'm still a little childish when it comes to celebrating my birthday, but my folks always made a big deal out of it, so it's still a big deal to me. But, it also means that it is time for March Madness!

What other time during the year can you absolutely overdose on college basketball? I realize most of this blog's audience could care less (except maybe Jennifer if BYU makes it in and Lora if UNLV does well), but this is just such a fine time of year.

Other than the Super Bowl, how else can you make some easy money from your co-workers and not have them get mad at you?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

When do new episodes return?

Given the overwhelming response to my posts from the other day, I figured I would put something up that may be of more interest (yes, please note the sarcasm). I am so glad we start seeing new episodes on Monday of many sitcoms, and a month from now on many hour-long shows. It will be a welcome break from some of the strike-filling drivel and the glut of reality TV.

This year, we've passed on our American Idol obessession to continue our Biggest Loser obsession. We both find The Biggest Loser to be less filled with BS, though it does have it's share. We were both very sad when Bernie was voted off this week. Ironic that he was the Biggest Loser the week previous, and sent home the next. I just want Dan sent home. If he makes the final I will be slightly upset.

Is there anything keeping you occupied on TV as we wait for new episodes?

Monday, March 03, 2008

An odd fact that interests only me, and maybe Denis

Did you ever wonder what happened to Mindy Cohn? For those of you a bit younger than I, she played Natalie Green on The Facts of Life. Well, it turns out she's back in TV - sort of. She's the voice of Velma on What's New Scooby Doo? currently airing on Cartoon Network. If catch the Scooby Doo-themed DirecTV commercial, listen closely and you can totally tell. If you don't believe me, check here.

Active Particpation

As I was sitting in church yesterday, listening to the priest's Homily, I was struck by something. No, not a bolt of lightning or a rock. And it certainly wasn't the kid behind me kicking my chair. What struck me was while we all have different callings when it comes to how best to serve our communities, the answer is the same - we need to be active participants. This may not what he was saying exactly, but it's what I got out of it.

Being an American is hard work. It's advanced citizenship. It requires us to be aware of our community and do our part to help make it better. It means understanding the issues that face our community and ensuring we elect those we feel will do the best job addressing these issues. If they aren't, it means voting them out of office, but we should not ever judge them solely on their soundbites during the 6 or 11 o'clock news, what the candidates say in advertisements, what they or their surrogates spread as rumor or innuendo or what scare tactics are used. We need to do the research and decide for ourselves.

However, community participation goes beyond voting smartly. It requires us to be engaged in our community. We should not be content to sit back and let other people worry about our communities. We need to be out there doing what we can. We also need to be active particpants in our family life. Too often in today's society we are relying on our teachers to raise our children. This is not fair to the kids nor is it fair to our teachers. Teachers have at least 30 kids per class, and if you are looking at middle and high school teachers, that number gets closer to 150.

It is by getting involved and being active participants in our society that we can start to turn back some of the ills that we face. Don't expect someone else to do it - get off your sofa and do it yourself.

PS - Sorry if this sounded like a lecture, but this is something that's been stewing for awhile. Yesterday's homily just gave me the impetus to bring it all together.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A new hobby

"We might be millionaires." That's the sentence that started off my newest hobby. Without going into a huge amount of detail that sentence was from a conversation with my Dad about a week and a half ago. Turns out that a great uncle of his owned some land that may or may not belong to my Dad and his brother. However, we aren't sure if this is a hoax or honest request. So my Dad asks for my help since I'm better at searching the Internet than either of my parents.

Mind you neither my Uncle or Father could tell me anything identifiable about this property. Just that it belonged to his Uncle "Mick" who was the brother of my great-grandfather and that it was in a small town by a river (I am being deliberately vague here). But that was it. No address. So initially, I call the Assessors of both possible counties to no luck.

So finally, I went back to a hobby that I work on from time to time - my family tree. Using the tools available through a Genealogy website, I found his name, his wife's name and their children. Some of it is sketchy because it was collected by hand, but no property addresses. But it got me going again on the family tree. For kicks, I decided to add Keds' family tree as well. I figured as long as I'm working on this, I should at least create something for our kids.

So now this is in full-blown obsession mode. I made contact with distant cousins and was able to fill in a tremendous amount of information. My first cousin did a lot of work on our mutual grandparents so I have that info. Plus, I got a TON of old pictures from my folks. It's really interesting. Mind you, I may go blind in the process trying to figure out what ship my ancestors were on coming through Ellis Island, but what the heck. It'll give my kids a great story!

Have any of you done work on your family trees?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A few random thoughts

A few random thoughts as I wait for the Green Flag to drop at the Daytona 500.

My Valentine's Day gift this year was a new cell phone. The one I settled on was the LG Shine. It's a slider phone, which is new for me. It's 3G, which is cool because I do check scores on the Internet often. The voice quality appears good and I'm just figuring out what else it does.

We also got our Harmony remote this week. I got it set up on Saturday. Keds is very excited. She feels like she can now used our TV without messing with multiple remotes.

Keds and I went out on a date last night. Dinner at PF Changs (always yummy) and then a movie. Last night was Charlie Wilson's War. It was definitely the sort of movie I'd enjoy. Based in history, it's the story of a real-life former US Congressman that made it his personal goal to fund the Afghan Mujahideen defeat the Soviet Red Army. He happened to be on the right House subcommittee to make it happen. A number of characters in the movie are historical, while I have no doubt that some of the scenes were dramatized to help keep the audience interested.

What struck me as we were watching the movie was that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In 1980, the real front of the Cold War went through Pakistan to Afghanistan. In 2001/2002, the front line of the War on Terror went through Pakistan to Afghanistan. Because the US did not focus on aiding the fledgling Afghan government in the 1990s, the country descended into anarchy and gave rise to the Taliban. It was only six years ago that we drove the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan, but we are doing the same thing. Yes, we have made some improvements keeping troops on the ground there, but since our focus is divided we aren't doing what we need to do to ensure the fledgling government can get it's legs underneath it.

You can say the same thing about Iraq. Our government was so naive thinking that we would go into Iraq and they'd welcome us as liberators. You need to make sure people's basic needs are taken care of before you can advance to a more participatory form of government.

So enough of the soapbox and back to the movie. It was clear that this was the bias of the movie. It was written by Aaron Sorkin. But as Phillip Seymore Hoffman's Gust Avrakotos said towards the end of the movie, "we'll see." I also like Charlie Wilson's quote that was put up on screen. I can't repeat it here, but it was apropro.

Have a great week. If something strikes me, I'll post again.