Monday, February 18, 2013

A Thousand Miles From Nowhere...

Two major biking milestones today.

1. Odometer crossed one thousand miles.  Since last September I have ridden the equivalent of New York City to Daytona, Florida.  Not bad for an old man (and I took January off).

2. New top speed. There is a big ass hill near our house and today, assisted by a nice tailwind, I got the Fuji up to 40.2 MPH.  That is haulin' some major A.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Voodoo Chili

Well I was standing next to the crockpot
I added Jalapenos and I smiled
I was standing next to the crockpot
Chopping habaneros with some guile

The second Annual Risk Dept. Chili Cook-Off was held last weekend, concluding weeks of planning, scheming, trash talk, finessing and stealing recipes.  Shopping lists were made, erased, and added to.  To the faithful, the age old questions remained: whether to add beans?  How much tomatoes?  What kind of meat?  Which varieties of peppers?  I swear wars have started over the beans / no-beans thing.

Making chili is both art and science.  Too much of one thing and you get stew, too much of something else and it well be a hot mess. After doing my research and reading up on the Chili Queens of San Antone, I deemed beans to be required.  This year I left the shopping a bit late and could not find fresh jalapenos, so it was serranos and habaneros (and plenty of each).  I used a couple of pounds of chuck steak that I cubed and few pork sausages to boot.  I used chili powder and some other seasonings.  Big old onion and fresh garlic went in too.  The piece de resistance, a can of Guinness.  If I had to do it again, I would ease back on the tomatoes.

The result was decent, maybe not my best.  The competition was fierce, nine entrants.  There would have been ten but one guy was in Florida and his Black Bear Chili did not make it.  He shot a bear in Alaska last summer and yes, it was going in the pot.  We did however have venison chili, chicken chili and assorted other creations. We had three prize categories: Overall Best, Most Unusual and Hottest (picante not caliente).  Yours truly won the latter.  The chicken concoction won Most Unusual - it was a close cousin to gumbo but tasty none-the-less.

I was surprised at my victory and I can think of several things I can improve upon.  However, there is nothing like having office bragging rights for a year.  The prize was some Tabasco, corn bread and big tube of venison salami which my fine young sons have almost devoured.

The planning for next year has already begun.

Some of the entrants awaiting the severe taste buds, scathing eye and caustic comments  of the Judges

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Viva Lost Wages

I have been to Las Vegas (Nevada, not New Mexico) exactly twice, some 18 years apart.  We may have driven through the NM version on the way back from Taos; cannot say for sure, If we did, it was forgettable.  Its erstwhile more famous cousin, a city built on gambling and other vices, could be a den of inequity, although what I saw was sanitized and sort of harmless.  However, both excursions (which were for different reasons) left the same feelings of awe, bewilderment and desperation, in that order.  At first you are drawn in by the lights, sounds and the sea of humanity but it is all a big Siegfried & The Mauled One act and within 24 hours you want to get out and away, quickly.

In 1995, while living in San Francisco, we drove to Las Vegas and not down Highway 5 either.  We took our time and the scenic route.  Northeast to Reno and Lake Tahoe (including a stop at the Ponderosa, Bonanza fans!), south through Yosemite (where Fiona took her first steps and was almost kidnapped by some adoring Asian woman), through several quaint gold rush towns (including Bodie, the coolest ghost town evah!), along Highway 49.  We visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon and spent Thanksgiving in Bakersfield (sounds like a Dwight Yoakum song) and headed east to LV but not before a detour through Death Valley.  Finally, after about 900 miles of driving, we were in Vegas.  The drive was all a bit Hunter S. Thompson-esque, without the narcotics and a lawyer.

Vegas Vic - the famous neon cowboy across from the Golden Nugget
We stayed in the old part of town at the venerable Golden Nugget.  This was the setting for the Vegas of the 1960's, big Cadillacs and Lincolns, the Rat Pack, highballs, etc.  In 1995, the Ballagio and the Venetian had yet to built, so North Las Vegas was still popular.  The Golden Nugget was a fine old hotel and one of the originals, built in 1946 when the city was still in its infancy.  Our stay was brief, we enjoyed the rooms and dining, did not gamble but were enthralled by the shows out front at Treasure Island, etc.

Fast forward to 2013 and North Las Vegas is a bit of a relic and all the action, glitz and gaudiness is a few miles further south on the Strip.  This time I went for a convention and stayed for two nights at the Paris.  The city was hopping, although there was nothing major going on.  It was just Vegas being Vegas.  The sidewalks were thronged early and late.  Irony of ironies, when we decided to lose a few bucks, we went to the Golden Nugget.  This area now has a roof and the streets are closed to pedestrian traffic only.  Vegas Vic is still there but he no longer waves. (I believe Vic to be a cousin of Big Tex back in Dallas, I did not mention arson...).

Gustav would be impressed
The old part of town has cheaper tables and is less crowded in a Yogi Berra sense, although there is definitely an edgier clientele.  Luck was on our side; we all came away from the blackjack table well ahead of where we started.  Our undoing was to stop at the tables in the Paris before bed.  Our winnings quickly disappeared.  By the evening of day two the the incessant noise of ringing slots, piped in music, carnival barkers, loud drunks and assorted wack jobs made my head hurt.  I could not wait to get out and home.  See you in 2031.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Frogs vs Bears

With NCAA basketball in full swing, we decided to make the short drive to Fort Worth and see Texas Christian University take on Baylor in their first ever Big 12 meeting.  The Bears has put St. John's to the sword earlier in the season and it would be an opportunity to see how good the once ranked Bears really were.  Unfortunately, the Horned Frogs of TCU were poor opposition, having lost the first six of their Big 12 games.  The home fans were well out-numbered by the Baylor faithful and the visiting team did not disappoint. 

Pierre Jackson scored 20 and Isiah Austin (all 7' 1'' of him) contributed 18 as the Bears ran out 82-56 winners.  Guard Brady Heslip who torched St. John's from three point land (he had eight three's) was kept quiet and had only eight points.

The Frog fans will remind themselves that basketball is secondary.  Last October TCU beat Baylor 49-21 where it matters most in Texas - on the football field.