Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: February 27th

Howdy folks!

Been away a few days.  I was in Vegas from Sunday through Tuesday.  Now I am back at my house that I call home in Santa Monica... more like an apartment I call home.

It is raining outside, and quite thoroughly too.   Let me try to recap the particulars of the Vegas trip.

No hijinks to report, really.   I know people have this vision of Vegas teeming with babes spilling out from the bar stools ready to pounce on you.  That's just not what it is in real life!   The guys in Vegas are just other tourist jokers like me... no doubt, you'll see babes in club gear walking up and down the sidewalk at night, but not that many...   the rest of the crowd is just average mongos from all over the land.

Vegas *this* time around was a very different experience.  My friend and I flew in instead of driving... rock bottom rates from Virgin America.  Virgin America is a fantastic airline!   I'm even willing to forgive the 2 hour plane delay on the return flight... I had no other plans so I thought they handled the malfunction as well as they could.    2 hours isnt *that* long a delay... it could have been a lot worse.

Why do I like Virgin America?   Much more comfortable seats, a more attentive staff, and better services on a basic coach flight.  I get satellite TV and some music on demand, much like that on JetBlue.   The rates were pretty good too!  The flight from LA to Vegas was comically short... I don't think the actual flight time was very long... roughly 35 min, but another 20 minutes were spent landing.   I think we were hovering over San Bernadino county only 20 minutes in. on our return flight.

Gambling wise, I was hot and cold all weekend.  You talk about a gambling rollercoaster, there it was.  I got obliterated at blackjack on Sunday late night, and again on Monday night.   My sunday morning was spent turning 20 dollars into 90 dollars.

Trying to recap how that all happened would be overwhelming, but the basic details are this.  It all started at  Double Diamond slot machine... somehow I doubled my money with that.  Next, to the Wheel of Fortune slots... that went REALLY well... it ended w/ me winning 100 bucks...

but then... it came to the Wheel of Fortune ONE DOLLAR machine.  I thought the payout would be akin to the usual quarter machine with enough plays.  Not so... I tell you, Casinos purposely skew the odds for payout so that dollar spinners get an extremely small amount of money.   That was nuts.

THEN... moving from my hotel at Monte Carlo where I did most of my gaming, I went to the Mirage w/ my friend where she was just having a blast winning in Blackjack left and right.

I know I talk up Blackjack a lot on here, but I had a great time with Blackjack too!   The only problem is that I would go way ahead during most games and THEN mis-time my exit... so I'd be up double my investment (so like 60 bones becomes 120 during a blackjack session).. and id find a way to lose all my money completely.  but with all that said, the vast majority of my blackjack sessions would go over an hour.

Finally, I must detail my dining adventures in Vegas.  We went to the Carnegie Deli outlet over in the Mirage for our first meal.  The Pastrami was good as advertised.  In a twist, I couldn't get any sleep so I woke up early Monday morning and got my next meal from the "Stage Deli" at MGM Grand.  The pastrami sandwich I got at Stage Deli was also VERY very good!  Maybe superior to the Carnegie. 

There's nothing quite like eating a pastrami sandwich with your coffee in the MGM Grand Sportsbook while watching Mike and Mike in the morning on ESPN2.   They even kept the sound of the show on.

Meal Number 3... ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh baby was this the meal of the month.   I had the best buffet of any kind at any location in any city in the union.   This is food you'd eat at a 4 star restaurant served in unlimited quantities.  Red Velvet Pancakes, juicy sliced beef culotte pieces, crab legs, a superb eggs benedict, angry mac and cheese, delicious desserts, sushi, chinese food, and many more delicious delectables I've forgotten.  I speak of the WICKED SPOON BUFFET at the Cosmopolitan.

I am telling you, this buffet blows any other buffet I've had out of the water.   They'll tell you all about the MGM Grand Buffet, the famous Rio Buffet I had years and years ago, even some decent buffet runs back here in California.   Wicked Spoon Buffet blows them all *away.*  and everyone had talked up Wicked Spoon for two years!!  What a wonderful experience.  And all for the weekday Brunch price of just 26 bones.

Vegas -- a wonderful experience in total.  My hotel of choice during the last 5 years has been Monte Carlo, near NYNY, MGM Grand, and Aria.  It's the best... great accommodations, good service, and friendly people for a budget price.   I think if I concentrate my future trips and gaming at Monte Carlo I may get some comps there someday.  Stay tuned!

Did you ever notice that Crispix and Chex are really similar to each other?  It's almost like the same kind of cereal.

I didn't even mention the remaining meals of the trip... I believe the meals I had afterward were the Five / 50 pizza at Aria, and on the final day, the Aria Buffet for brunch.  Good times, good times.

That's all from here.  It is still wet in Los Angeles.  Take care, stay dry, and stay warm!

Mike Francesa Had a Show...

Mike Francesa had a show
Bok bok bok bok bok
and on that show he had some bricks.
Bok bok bok bok bok

and a brick brick here and a brick brick there
Here a brick, there a brick, everywhere a brick brick

Mike Francesa had a show
Bok bok bok bok bok

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: February 17th

I had a lot on my mind during this Presidents' Day, so I'd like to share some ideas with you.

First of all, there is the subject of Frosted Mini-Wheats.   You know, I was at the store the other day to get some Mini-Wheats, inspired by Rollins' tweet about it (Rollins is on Twitter: @JLB1031).  So I went to the store and got the orange box of Mini-Wheats... the jokers at Kellogg's actually made a SUPER tiny Mini-Wheats, even smaller than the Bite Size versions... but get this!  They did an orange box for those *too.*

So now we have regular Mini Wheats in the Red Box... Bite Size Mini Wheats in the Orange Box, and now these super duper minis in another Orange Box.  I poured those bad boys into my bowl and was like "get outa here!  Look how tiny these are!"

Boy they have really made Mini Wheats into its own industry!   I remember back in the day when they sold regular shredded wheat, and the damn thing was a giant BRICK of wheat strings.  HAHAHAHAHA, that was a challenge to get into the bowl.  You only needed one piece for your whole breakfast.

I had a dream this morning and in the dream we were at a basketball game.  I think my Mom and Dad were both there with me.  So later in the game my Dad comes over and brings Chloe Sutton and says, "Hey Dave!  Here's Chloe Johnson."

and I thought "Chloe Johnson?  That's not her name."   It was indeed Chloe *Sutton* though and I said hi how's it going, and she enthusiastically said hi nice to meet you etc and we talked for a while.  Then I woke up.  I also do not know how my Dad knew who Chloe Sutton was unless he listened to the podcasts I did with her three years ago.

and then we come to the topic of the Fairfax Burrito Dog.  Boy was that a magnificent piece of food on Friday!  I started what could be a Valentine's Day Tradition, with it being 2/14 that day.  Here's what it looks like:

Boy was that good... but foods this dense come with a price.   I was getting it pretty good for my buddies the rest of the weekend.  First it was on Facebook... somebody posted a picture of me and a friend said "Oooh one too many Burrito Dogs buddy!"  HAHAHAHAHA  It wasn't even that bad... I think the picture had me at a bad angle... 

but in fairness, I looked at myself today and I said "I look like a guy that had a Fairfax Burrito Dog this weekend."   Even at swim this morning one of my swim colleagues who saw my FB pic of the Burrito Dog said "Dave that burrito dog must be getting to you!"  LOL.   People have been giving it to me good my friends!

Needless to say, I won't be eating that Fairfax Burrito Dog from Fab's Hot Dogs more than once or twice a year.  I'll tell you what though, it tastes fantastic!

On a tangent, I was quite amused by how much buzz that burrito dog picture got on Facebook.  I posted it to show just how much I enjoyed it, and it sounds like everyone else thought it looked amazing too.   If you're in the area, Fab's Hot Dogs really serves it up.  They do great with regular hot dogs and burgers too.  Yes, even their BURGERS are quite remarkable.

Yesterday I was at the Northern Trust this open with my pop and wouldn't you know it, I met my Dad there at the 9th tee just as Bubba Watson was teeing off.  Somebody, I can't even tell who it was because I didn't hear it, was trying to take a pic of him behind him as he teed off.   I honestly didn't see who it was... I know my Dad was trying to sneak in a pic too but he stopped once he was going to hit the ball.  Bubba's caddy beforehand was saying "Hey no pictures, no pictures guys put the phone in your pocket."  And the guys around us were saying "What are you gonna do, try to fight us?"  Oh my *goodness* I had to strain to keep myself from laughing out loud.  Bubba Watson's caddy is such a scrawny guy, he wasn't intimidating anybody.

Needless to say, Watson yakked the shot a good 40 yards to the right and THEN he really chewed out the fan behind him that took the picture...  alllegedly, I didn't even see the fan take a picture.   Watson was being a real jerk about the whole thing, but this is what he's done his whole career.  Pretty classless in my opinion, and besides, the shot still landed on a very short rough with a clear line of sight to the pin.    Bubba got the 2nd shot right to the green and made par on the 9th hole.  So what was the big deal, Bubba?  Calm down.  Bubba Watson went on to win the Northern Trust Open Championship... he really played some great golf.  As others said he has a little Phil Mickleson in him with those crazy shots... he's a pretty oafish kind of guy too; not a very friendly guy to his fans.  and he has a lot of fans.  There were like 500-1000 extra people that followed him around vs the other golfers.  Every shot was almost like a rock concert here at Riviera.

One other sidebar to the event, which occurred the day before.  I shall not speak of the epic FAIL that was the City of Santa Monica transportation system and their snake oil "deal" to get shuttles from SM to Riviera... that whole plan folded up like a cheap suit.  That's a blog entry for itself really... you can't advertise this great system of shuttle buses and then respond with just ONE freakin' bus after advertising your plan on the Northern Trust Open *website.*  anyway...

The sidebar was for Saturday's round, and as the action was heating up I noticed that a couple groups were right near the top of the leaderboard, and one of them was Jordan Spieth's group.  Jordan Spieth had some pretty good shots at birdie throughout the tournament and he was doing fairly well on Saturday.   Anyway, as I was following his group and two others, this woman in workout pants, brown hair and sunglasses kept going to all the same holes I was.   After a while I put two and two together and asked "Is this Jordan Spieth's Girlfriend?"    This afternoon I hit the google and dug it up... I think it is Jordan Spieth's GF!  She even has the same sunglasses shown in this picture w/ the aforementioned Spieth:

I have her at about 5'6" or so, she was a lil' shorter than me height wise.   Spieth you dog!   That kid is just getting started... incredible talent.  I did not realize he was so young.

It's been an eventful weekend.  See you all again here soon!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: February 13th and 14th

Well I am overdue on blog entries, so here's another one.

I have tickets to go see the Northern Trust Open this weekend.  One for Saturday and one for Sunday.  This is going to be a most fun time.  The Saturday round I'll probably see on my own.  For Sunday, my Dad and his friend will be joining me.   By then I can show them the ropes and point out the best  locations for the course to watch the competition.

Ever have one of those gym bags with the rubber feet on the bottom of it?  Those things are like shoes! When I put it down it sounds like the gym bag is walking.   A gym bag with shoes on it, I get a kick out of it!

Some sobering news regarding the rBlink bluetooth sound device I set up.  I've been struggling w/ latency all week with this thing.  It was to be expected.  Bluetooth isn't usually streaming audio to headset or to stereo at very high rates.  Thus, the forums and Arcam itself recommended me to make some tweaks in Apple Terminal within OS X to fix the latency, or at least improve it.

I'll tell you what, it improved a good deal… quite a bit… but it's not perfect.   So I made yet ANOTHER tweak once I saw the official response from ARCAM.   Long story but basically, Mac OS X has a comically low setting for "bitpool" streaming rate which feeds the audio to the rBlink DAC across the office.  So setting the minimum and maximum bitpool rates to higher amounts allows for smoother audio.

The other half of it is that this only is a problem with my MacBook Pro!  If I change the device to my Galaxy S4 the sound has zero latency or stuttering issues whatsoever.  The bottleneck is clearly with the laptop.

One issue that will not be correctable is the slight lag between the sound on the computer vs the rBlink. It takes a split second for the audio to get from one to the other so when you watch videos on the MacBook Pro, it shows a pretty clear lag between what you hear and what you see.  So if someone were to hit a baseball on the screen you wouldn't hear the crack of the bat for about half a second longer.  Know what I mean?

I don't think that's a real problem because my primary uses of the computer are work and music listening.  If I want to do video and sync matters, I'll just switch to the laptop speakers instead of the rBlink.

Then again… I may find this to be a complete problem and I'll just switch to a USB headphone amp instead of the rBlink.  I haven't decided yet.  Onward.

Friday afternoon will be a short day for me.   Our department will close early for the 3 day weekend, do the dance!

but NOW… what will I do with that free time?  and it came to me -- I think I'll go to Hollywood.   I'd be interested to see the LEGO movie.

My friend Coach will be returning from his long trip to Israel w/ his family.  He returns Sunday.  and I bet you he will be *tired.*

I don't think I wrote my opinion of Derek Jeter's retirement… it's nice.   I think it's good timing all around.  I was going to rip Jeter for milking a whole season of farewell tours instead of just calling it quits, but I realized it was also the last year of his contract.  In that case, what the hell?  Might as well ride it out.

But the interesting part is - will he be able to make it that far??  Dude is struggling to even get *on* the field.   It would take a lot for him to last all year long without hurting something.

Not much else on my mind, suddenly.    Have a good 3 day weekend, everyone!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: February 9th (and 10th)

Well here it is folks!   We have a BIG change in television.  A new talk show coming up, a new host, and America is going to be facing a new era in the talk show, coast to coast.

and of course, I speak of "Mike Francesa" moving his Sports Show Simulcast to Fox Sports 1.

BIG news... Michael Kay can get his new set and doll up the graphics, add in his radio partner and dump coke bottles, but that was but the battle.   Now you have Tank showing up larger than life on a fully national Cable Network.    KAY, YOU LOSE.

I am thrilled at this news.  MSG would have been nice for the local market, but for people who didn't want to pay $13.99 a month to subscribe to the one dopey radio show on TV, we're in for a LOT of fun.    Now I can DVR the show too, although it may not do much for me immediately.

I can't wait, fellas!  Onward...

So Jimmy Fallon did his final Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon show on Friday night.   It was, in a word, wonderful.   I've been a fan of his for years.   He killed it -- kept it simple, had only one guest, Andy Samberg, and had his performance w/ the Muppets.  The whole thing was beautiful!  

Jimmy Fallon, to me, represents the first host of a television program I know that didn't act like he was bigger than the room.  It's not a *bad* quality to have, to be honest, but a guy NOT having that kind of ego is downright refreshing.  It shows!   Seems to me like guests LOVE going on the program.   I'll tell you right now, he's going to be great on the Tonight Show, and I mean *great.*

Now the guy from SNL taking over for Fallon at Late Night, Seth Meyers, I know nothing about.  I am fully unfamiliar with his work other than his role as the Weekend Update guy.  I may have to talk to the Oat Man to see what Seth Meyers brings to the table.   Hopefully he can fill me in.

The Beatles 50 Special last night was a pleasant surprise.  I really enjoyed it!  A few modern day artists with covers of Beatles' songs, followed by Ringo and Sir Paul on stage performing themselves.   It was sublime.

Man, you *know* a special is good when both Katy Perry AND Yoko Ono try to torpedo it, and it still keeps going! 

Among other highlights of the weekend, in a month where I usually put sports on the backburner, two albums I listened to for the first time, actually make that three:  It started on Friday when I heard Pink Floyd's "The Wall" album on Spotify. 

Well, drat, now I realize I heard a fourth album in there, more on this later.

"The Wall," was a true circle of life.  Everything my friends said it would be.  Damn good music my friends.  What an odd introduction to Pink Floyd LP's - their last complete work.  I think they did do some followup album before they broke up but I won't count it.

Album number two from the weekend was Steely Dan's "Aja."  I've wanted to hear this record for quite some time, but never found a good enough copy at a decent enough price to buy.  Finally, I got to hear it - on Spotify.  The journey to this moment was quite a story check it out:

I decided last week that I needed to finally move my backup amp, a NAD 7020 Stereo Receiver circa 1983, to my office.  It was something I wanted to do since the day I moved to SM, back in July, but it was only this week when I was allowed to borrow Coach's parking pass, that I thought to act on it.  After all, unlimited free access to Parking Garage 2 was quite the story!   I said, "let's do it."

But then came the matter of how to connect my computer to the stereo.  Take a look at where it is... it was on the desk, which has 3 feet between itself and the shelf where my stereo was at the office.   There was no way to do this with cables that wouldn't be ugly looking or resulting in some cable stretching across the doorway.  I had to figure out how to connect it wirelessly.

Then I did some research on Friday and learned there WAS a Bluetooth Digital to Analog converter, and a rather good one at that.  Basically it would act similar to a bluetooth headset, but instead of being just a headset, it would instead send the audio through an analog RCA input to the NAD Receiver.  It was brilliant!  So I said is there a high quality version of this and there was -- the Arcam rBlink DAC.   Magnolia (inside the Best Buy) had one in stock so I went "lock and load", let's get it.  And I did, and it rocked. 

I got the DAC on Saturday and, in an extremely unusual move, I took the car w/ parking pass and DAC device, AND a CD (more on THIS later, it's like Inception) to my office.  I *never* go to my office on Saturdays, but there was no way I'd install all this on the clock.  That'd take too long for anyone not to notice, so Saturday it was.

Nobody was in the building other than some people who were going to a talk that evening.   I took all this equipment upstairs to connect it.  First, the Amp, which I lifted all the way from my car about a quarter mile away from the office.  Then I took out the rBink and set that up.  Then I powered them both on and used my Macbook Pro to discover the rBlink on Bluetooth.  It took a while to get all the sound levels just right - and I say that because I heard the sound breaking up in the early moments... well as it turns out, the sound broke up because the line input into the stereo was too hot, it was just too loud, so I had to turn down the output from the Mac and from the individual programs (Spotify for instance).  THEN it sounded just fine.

As I was doing this, I started listening to music to get a feel for it.  First out of the box was Steely Dan's "Aja," over Spotify.   Sound clipping issues aside, that record sounded just glorious over bluetooth and a Spotify Premium upgrade.   Music really came alive, but such is the case with most Steely Dan music.  The true genius of Steely Dan is its ability to create such pretty melody against such disgusting and disturbing lyrics.  I love those guys. 

So I heard the sound clipping during parts of the album, then adjusted sound levels, and asked to myself whether there were internet connection issues.  To help me find out, I put on a CD, which needed no network connection.  It was Weezer's debut album.  and IT was great!  I've heard a bunch of the songs from their CD before, but not the whole thing, and the whole thing rocked.  Incidentally, no clipping issues.

Nonetheless, I noticed that as I turned down the volume, the sound didn't break up anymore, so I determined that output was the issue and I made the adjustments.  Here's what the setup looks like in the picture below.  It is so awesome to have full control of the sound, and have the ability to mute it with the Mac too, so that if I get a phone call they won't hear Loverboy blasting in the background or something.  Bluetooth will send the audio across the room wirelessly to the rBlink which is then connected to the receiver on the shelf.

The setup took about an hour but I was so hooked on the music that I stayed in my office for most of the evening.  I may have been there for over 3 hours listening to music and testing things out.  It was truly a marvel.  I heard Queen's "A Night at the Opera" album as well but I've heard that one before so it was not among my "first listens."  I even tested the ESPN and WFAN sports radio streams.  Never in my life did I hear Steve Somers and his callers with such crisp digital clarity.  Somers had some running gag about how people were concerned about him smoking and he said it didn't bother him because "when you die you die, why stress out about it?  Everyone will die at some point eventually" or some jazz like that.  Finally, after many pieces of music with some Somers in between, I turned everything off and left the office.  It was a very fun afternoon, if not an odd one.

My fourth album of the weekend  I heard at home the next day.   I got my first listen to Herbie Hancock's "Head Hunters" Album from 1973.   This one I came into with zero expectation... I thought "this might be interesting for a minute or so."  Then I put it on and IT BLEW MY MIND AWAY.

"Chameleon", it's opening track.  That song is just breathtaking!   I was fully unprepared for it, and it was so far ahead of its time too.   I read the liner notes and learned that Herbie did this cross between Jazz and Funk as a tribute to Sly and the Family Stone.  I'll tell ya, this thing was just rocking my socks!  Herbie would change the music landscape again ten years later when he did "Future Shock" and its opening track "Rockit".

It would seem, based on my cursory knowledge of Jazz History, that this album had huge influence on the creation of a format known as "Jazz Fusion," taking elements of popular music like rock and funk and adding them into jazz arrangements.   Rock was also added into folk music a decade earlier creating the format "Folk Rock," which otherwise would sound like an oxymoron.

I am certainly no stranger to Jazz Fusion, having listened to Bob James and Lee Ritenour's work on an extensive level.   I feel like Herbie was as big a contributor if not THE big contributor to the format's beginnings.  What a treat to hear such an influential album like Head Hunters, and to think, I picked it up as an afterthought in a 3 for 1 sale at Barnes and Noble... my first choice was "Foreigner's Greatest Hits" but I said "I want to try something different" and went after Herbie.  That was a great choice, my friends.

On that happy note, I wish you all a great Monday!  Have a good week everybody.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: February 4th

Look at this: I'm watching a Clippers Game replay on Prime Ticket.  What am I doing with my life?

I was thrilled with the podcast last night.  Andy in Seattle shared some heartfelt emails from his friends who were Seahawks fans.   VERY cool... uber cool, really.  Check it out on the Dave podcast (

I'm numb...   The Kings are a complete disaster right now.  1 win in the last ten games.  They also scored 1 goal in 5 games... three other goals were scored last night but they look hopeless out there.  I know this team is better than they've showed... but the last two weeks, man.  So frustrating!   Go lose to Columbus and take a much needed Olympic break. 

Lakers are not bothering me that much... they're a bad team, they were supposed to be a bad team, and I think it's a necessary step.   If the Lakers continue the path they're on they should be in line for a top ten first round pick.   We stay tuned...

Last night we tried a pizzeria called Stella Barra.   People on yelp *raved* about this place, but here's a case of where Yelp can be misleading.  The place got 4.5 stars on Yelp... when you get 4.5 stars on yelp that's a big deal... so Coach and I tried it.. and I gotta be honest... we thought the pizza at "Brick + Mortar" was better!   and their pizza is hyped only half as much.   SB pizza was good... but it wasn't like blow me away crust or ingredients either.. .it was very good... but not earth shattering.  I must say, that the Prosciutto/Ricotta pizza at Brick + Mortar is so outstanding by comparison, and the crust, just a tad crispier.

You ever wonder what I look like on video?  Well, here's your chance!

That came from the Recital our family did about two weekends ago.   Out of the blue, I asked my pop if I could address the audience, which I'd n e v e r done before!   I thought, "hey, it'd be like a giant podcast."   Well, it seemed to go positively.  It sounds like the crowd got a good reaction. 

I thought I had something else to add, but I think that's all for now.  Have a good Tuesday!