Saturday, January 24, 2009


Did you all happen to see Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's press conference yesterday?

He went into this weird diatribe about how he's like a cowboy accused of stealing a horse, and instead of getting a fair trial, the other cowboys say, "Hang him!" There was something else about some of the cowboys being out on the range, while others stay in town, blah blah blah....


Even Chicago's Mayor Daley came out and said that their governor is "cuckoo." I have to say, the guy really sounded nutty, and somewhat delusional. I'll give him credit, though, for one thing: the guy's got a set of brass balls! He talked a lot of nonsense about what he can and can't do legally, showing that he has a very tenuous grasp on the legalities of his impeachment and his criminal case. Unfortunately for Roddy-Rod, his chief defense attorney dropped out of the federal case, implying that his client did not listen to his advice. I can't say I'm surprised, because Blagojevich seems to have delusions of grandeur, and apparently believes that he knows better than anyone else what is good for his defense and good for his state.

In the meantime, watch for him Monday on "Good Morning, America" and "The View." That could be interesting.

All the cowboy talk made me chuckle, because it just sounded so crazy. It also made me think of Kid Rock and his song "Cowboy." I'm not putting up all the lyrics, because if you're familiar with Kid at all, you'll know that Kid has a potty mouth!

Cowboy...cowboy...Well I'm packing up my game and I'm a head out west
Where real women come equipped with scripts and fake breasts
Find a nest in the hills, chill like Flynt
Buy an old droptop, find a spot to pimp
Then I'm a Kid Rock it up and down your block
With a bottle of scotch and watch lots of crotch
Buy a yacht with a flag sayin' chillin' the most
Then rock that bitch up and down the coast
Give a toast to the sun, drink with the stars
Get thrown in the mix and tossed out of bars
Zip to Tijuana, I wanna roam
Find motown and tell them fools come back home
Start an escort service, for all the right reasons
And set up shop at the top of Four Seasons
Kid Rock and I'm the real McCoy

And I'm headin' out west sucker...because I wanna be a
Cowboy, baby
With the top let back and the sunshine shining
Cowboy baby
West coast chillin' with the Boone's Wine
I wanna be a cowboy baby
Ridin' at night 'cause I sleep all day
Cowboy baby
I can smell a pig from a mile away

Friday, January 23, 2009

A cool book

I'm pleased with myself today because I upped my exercise a little bit. I've been trying to increase a little bit every time I work out, and I'm up to 5 miles on the recumbent bike, and I've been slowly increasing the weights and reps on the weight machine. Feelin' good, baby! In fact, the 5 miles was almost easy--I'm going to keep increasing on that to build up my endurance. It's also a great chance to catch up on seems like the miles just fly by.

After that, I shoveled a bit on the driveway. There is one spot that we bog down in when we're driving the Mustangs, and Ken asked me to try to make that a little better today. I didn't shovel so much as scrape off the soft layer on top...I was sort of a little walking snowplow. I hope it helps.

I was really excited to get a new book in the mail today. After reading my numerous entries lately about Googie signage, our friend Laurel (who runs Afton Station on Route 66) recommended American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66, by Lisa Mahar. I was missing that one from my collection, so I ordered it pronto! Laurel said she assisted with some of it, and the first thing I did was turn to the Acknowledgements section, and there she was! Very cool.

I just paged through it a little bit, and I'm itchin' to get at it. It looks fascinating, with discussions of shapes, materials, construction, etc. It seems to be in the same vein as Alan Hess' books on Googie and on Vegas signage, and it is right up my alley. Laurel, thank you so much for the recommendation. I can already tell that I'm going to enjoy it immensely!

Speaking of books, I have a question for you all. Does anyone else love blank journals? I was at Target yesterday and found one on sale and had to snap it up. I don't know what it is about them, but if I see one on sale, I'm all over it. I use them to make lists, or write notes to myself, and whenever we go on vacation and Shane takes care of Sheeba, I leave it out with a note to Shane and he writes a little day-to-day diary of what goes on when he comes over. (And yes, I've saved them all, Shane!) I just love those blank books--maybe it's the thought of all the things I can fill it with--and although I don't buy them indiscriminately, I can rarely resist one that's on sale.

Is it just me?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An apple a day just ain't gonna cut it

I heard something the other day that really bothered me, and when I told Ken about it, it bothered him, too.

A young person was discussing health care, and the attitude I got was basically that if you don't work or contribute to society, you don't deserve benefits such as health care. That if people really want health care, they'll figure out a way to get it, and it's not the government's job to provide motivation.

They went on to say that if someone really needs health care, they can get it by walking into a hospital, that the hospital has to treat them.

When asked what happens with disabled people or those with long-term problems, the answer was "privately funded health care."

I guess I can forgive this young person their ignorance, because they're obviously too young to understand the full implications of what they are saying. (And obviously not paying for their own health care!)

I found a graphic about health care. While specific to New York state, the amounts spent on various categories is interesting, and I would say fairly consistent with nationwide trends. Over half of the health care costs for New York are spent on nursing homes, mental health/mental retardation, family health, managed care, and home care. We're talking about the elderly, children, mentally handicapped, and people who need care in their homes. In other words, people who can't work. What are they going to do about health insurance and health care? This cannot be a pay for play scenario.

As far as I know, there is no regulation stating that a hospital must treat a patient who walks in. Most hospitals treat a certain number of indigents, and that is part of their operating costs. However, that is one of the very things that is broken in our health care system. Emergency room visits are terribly expensive (I'm sure most of you have experienced the costs of an ER visit.) and are one of the things that hike up the costs of health care in general. When a patient can't afford reasonable health insurance that will pay for doctor's visits and preventive care, they end up in the ER and are unable to pay those higher costs, which are then absorbed into the operating costs of the hospital...which are then passed on to the rest of us.

I was aghast over forcing the disabled and those with long-term problems to pay for their own health care. I guess this young person has never experienced being denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition or forced to pay exorbitant prices, and they've never been denied a treatment that will ease their suffering--or a loved one's--because the insurance company has deemed the treatment unnecessary, or beyond reasonable and customary charges.

I was fortunate to work in health care, because I always had great (and inexpensive) insurance. Ken's company provides good insurance, as well. There are many companies that don't, and it's a huge concern for retirees to figure out how they're going to pay for their health care costs, especially when faced with a serious or even catastrophic illness. We've seen loved ones forced into bankruptcy because of illness, and that is a burden on the economy that we need to address.

I'm not in favor of nationalized health; I'd rather not see the government have their hand in every aspect of our health care. But I believe we do need to find a way to insure each of our citizens and give them access to health care. Part of that will entail working smarter, finding inefficiencies, and eliminating them. For example, we don't live in a large city, but we have two large hospitals in our area, and those hospitals compete with each other and duplicate extremely expensive procedures. Let's rethink how we do things, and let hospitals divide up some of these larger services such as MRI's, or let them concentrate on different areas of expertise. One hospital can concentrate on vascular surgeries while the other concentrates on orthopedic surgeries, just as an example. I believe that if we adjust our thinking to making things work better and more efficiently, we can absolutely provide health care for all.

We also need to change our mindset and focus on preventive medicine rather than only on curative. As Barney Fife would say, "Nip it in the bud!" Stop problems before they start. This involves education from grade school up; programs to help people stop unhealthy behaviors, whether it's smoking or unprotected sex; changing the menus to healthier ones in all schools, not just a few; and responsibility on the parts of both producers and consumers. You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. [grin] This is something we can and should do. We can make it better, and we can care for all of our citizens. Employee incentive programs can and do work, and can save thousands in costs down the road, and employers can motivate their employees and save future costs by offering such programs.

As for the young person who I heard this from, as I said, I suppose I can forgive this person's lack of knowledge, because it's something that they just haven't had to worry about. When they start working and get out on their own, I suspect it will be quite an eye opener for them, and their tune might change. In the meantime, I find it disturbing and terrible that their parents aren't teaching them more compassion for those less fortunate, and trying to instill an understanding for those who have been raised in different circumstances, or those who suffer from chronic illness. Shame on them.

I believe we have a moral obligation to care for those who cannot care for themselves, and I believe we can find a way to do it so that good behavior is rewarded, all receive needed care, and the system is not abused.

I'll enjoy hearing all of your comments, and I know there are a few of you in health care. Jimi? Claudia? Melissa? I look forward to hearing your take on this.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mission NOT accomplished

I knew that I wanted to head out to the store today, so in anticipation of that, I went out yesterday and charged my Mustang's battery. (I've had problems lately with a dead battery after it sits for a few days. I've become an expert at hooking up the charger!) When I went out today, it had lost most of the charge and would not start. That was it. I hooked it up to the charger and came back in and called our nearby Ford dealer. They said they could get me in with no problem, so as soon as Slick charged, I headed out.

The plan was an oil change and a new battery, but it was also due for 15,000 mile service, so four hours and $500 later, I got out of there. Needless to say, I wasn't in any mood to go to the store, so I came home and I'll go out tomorrow. I live to fight another day. What a way to spend an afternoon. But never let it be said that I'm not doing my part to help the economy, not to mention an American auto company!

It looks like President Obama had a busy first day in office. The Dow rebounded nicely, although I read little into that considering the volatility of the market right now. Looks like one of his top priorities is to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. I brook no tolerance for terrorists, but the truth is that some of these people have been held for six years without any charges being filed against them. That is horrific and appalling and goes against all of our principles as a country. Close the mother down, President Obama, and good riddance!

On to a lighter subject...and yes, I'm still writing about Vegas!

When Ken and I visited there in 2005, we stopped in at the El Cortez, just a block away from the Fremont Street Experience. While the casinos that are a part of FSE have been updated and generally look pretty spiffy, the El Cortez just looked sad and tired. We found a $3 craps table, always cool, but in this case, there was a guy there laying down huge bets that all of us rollers would crap out. I.e., he was betting that we all would lose, and he was cleaning up. It was such a downer, and I think it's really bad karma. It's a lot more fun when everyone is cheering for each other, everyone is winning (rather than just one Denny Downer), and you whoop it up for a hot roller and shout out "Ee-yo eleven!" when betting one for the croupiers.

We didn't linger there just left a bad taste in our mouths. The whole place seemed dark and dingy, the stuffing was popping out of split vinyl chairs, and there was an almost palpable air of desperation.

Fast forward about four years, and on our recent visit, we hear from our tour guide at the Boneyard, Justin, that the El Cortez is one of the finest examples of old Vegas, and the owners have embraced the history and heritage of the casino and of Las Vegas in general. He said it was worth a visit, because they have placed many photographs of old Vegas up on the walls, and they have torn out that "smelly carpet" and spruced up the place. I'm happy to say that he was absolutely right, and while the ambiance of the El Cortez is still a bit dark (due to the woodwork and dim lighting), it had a much different atmosphere this time around. The photos are great, and the El Cortez is one of only a few Vegas casinos to never have changed its exterior or signage. It has been in the same location since it was built in 1941.

Marion Hicks and J.C. Grayson built the hotel/resort, and although it was originally thought to be far enough removed from downtown that it couldn't make a go of it, the El Cortez quickly proved to be so profitable that it was bought in 1945 by Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum, and Moe Sedway. You might recognize some of those names as some of the bigger players in the Vegas Mob underworld. In 1963, the property was bought by Jackie Gaughan, and his family runs it to this day. The El Cortez is known as one of the main places in Vegas for new dealers to perfect their technique and learn the ropes. Recent renovations seem to have been welcomed, as there were plenty of players when we were there, and apparently it is still a big draw for the locals. I took this picture a couple of weeks ago and changed it up to black and white. Doesn't it look like it could have been taken 60 years ago? The sign is original to the casino.

As someone who is obsessed with highly interested in historic preservation, I'd say that the El Cortez and other downtown casinos are a success story. Some of the signage has suffered (the Mint facade is a huge loss), but I'd say that the heightened interest in the history of Las Vegas has helped the downtown area and preservation efforts in general. Next time you're in Vegas, don't ignore downtown--I think you'll enjoy the old Vegas vibe.

Coming soon: more downtown casinos and more fabulous neon!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a long strange trip it's been

And finally, here we are. First, a few observations, and then although I don't know if I can put into words how I'm feeling, I'll try.

Mr. Cool is now Mr. President. If you've wondered if he can maintain his composure when dealing with heads of state or with the inevitable crises, I think his handling of Chief Justice Roberts' flub of the oath of office should put your fears to rest!

Did you see my buddy Rahm? At the inaugural lunch, he and his wife sat at the same table as John and Cindy McCain. I wonder how that went?

How terrible...Senator Kennedy had a seizure at the lunch. I pray for him and his family.

Did you notice an aide put the riser out for Sasha to stand on while her Dad was sworn in? And did you see Malia tell her Dad after his speech, "Great speech. That was really good." Are those a couple of the cutest little girls you've ever seen? I hope their time as White House residents is a happy one, with no fear.

I loved seeing the crowd on the Mall, and the interior views of the Capitol. It makes me want to go back to D.C. for a visit. So much history there, and a great place to learn and appreciate more about our country.

I'd forgotten how much pomp and circumstance is involved in an inauguration. Trumpets and everything. I guess I tend to think of our government as just going about its business, and forget that there really is a lot of spectacle when it comes to affairs of state or special occasions. And getting back to visiting D.C., I was amazed to see the beauty of the buildings and architecture, the art and sculpture that abounded, and to see just how gorgeous the trappings are.

I think I'll even watch the parade! We have a local connection, as Culver Academies' Black Horse Troop will be participating in the parade. (My folks live in that area.)

I continue to be amazed by the Secret Service, as I watch them walk alongside the Presidential limousine.

I'd like to send a special howdy-do to all those who, when writing about him for the past couple of years, wrote our President's middle name in capitals. He used his middle name when being sworn in, and he is now President Barack HUSSEIN Obama.

As for Obama's speech, he managed to articulate exactly how I feel about our country and about the challenges we face. I've never subscribed to the belief that our country and world is on a one-way trip to hell, and I really do believe that we can make things better. We have the ingenuity, the intelligence, the creativity, and the majority of the time, the integrity, to do what is right and to make things better for all. I believe that, and I make no apologies for it. I'm an optimist, and I believe that if you raise the bar, you will inspire others to reach it. It seems that President Obama is an optimist, too, someone who believes in this country and its people.

Did you notice in his speech that he didn't mention how his administration or our government is going to solve our problems? WE are going to solve our problems together. He called on us to work hard, to work together, to work as a country to fix our problems, to right our wrongs, and to do things smarter and better. I remember the video that circulated about an Obama supporter who allegedly said that she's voting for him because he'll pay her mortgage and pay for her gas. That's not what she said. She said that she "won't have to worry" about putting gas in her car and won't have to worry about paying her mortgage, that if she helps him, he'll help her. I understand what she was saying. She's not expecting a handout--she's hopeful that he will improve the economic situation for the entire country, to the point where she doesn't lose sleep at night because she's lost her job, or can't buy food, or can't keep her house. She wants a life without fear. For anyone who still thinks that all of us who voted for Obama are expecting something for nothing, I hope that one day you'll understand.

We have faced times of crisis in the past. We will again in the future. But we have never given up, and I will never accept a defeatist attitude or the sentiment that our republic won't survive. It will, and I firmly believe that.

Today I hope.

Monday, January 19, 2009

More Vegas signage

I've got another slideshow for you, with a few of the old motel signs I snapped on our bus ride downtown. Please pardon the presence of streetlights, etc., but it was a little tricky to try to get shots as we were moving! They have a mini version of the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign on the way downtown, and it substitutes "downtown" for "fabulous." Super cool!

Some of the signs are in pretty good shape, which is more than I can say for some of the motels! Most of them looked like places you really wouldn't want to stay in, not if you wanted to walk out alive, uninfested, or both. There are a lot of sex shops and seedy-looking strip joints in this area, but also a lot of wedding chapels...which I found odd and interesting at the same time. A couple of my favorite motels we passed were the High Hat Motel (a great name, and the sign includes a boomerang) and the Tod Motor Motel. That was a pretty large sign, and I just liked the name. A motel named Tod. Of course, Tod (pronounced tote) is the German word for death, so I doubt if they get a lot of German visitors staying at the Tod Motor Motel!

I suppose there will come a day when Vegas tries to clean up the approach to the old downtown, but I hope it takes them a while. I thought it was kind of neat to see these signs and motels...although I don't think I'd want to walk around in the area. They're doing a lot of work on the area adjacent to the Fremont Street Experience, including expanding the sidewalks and adding some brand new neon signs, a couple of which I included in the slideshow. The martini glass is fabulous, with concentric circles lighting in sequence, then the olive! They've done a good job with these signs. But Las Vegas Boulevard, just north of the Strip, is probably what most people hate if they hate Vegas. It's seedy, dirty, and a little bit sleazy. I kinda like it, but then I have a fascination with the way buildings age, especially when contrasted with the glitter of the Strip. I still maintain that such buildings and signs will be the archaeological sites of the future.

I also included a couple more Boneyard signs in the slideshow, because I just knew I was missing a couple! I checked my camera, and there were about 10 that didn't download. One of the cutest signs was from a dry cleaners, and our guide Justin said it was his favorite growing up in Vegas. It's called Happy Shirt, and he would wave his arms and smile. There's a picture of a later incarnation of the Stardust sign (it went through several makeovers), which should give you an idea of how massive the Stardust sign always was. Justin said that the sign is in 9 pieces, and all of them are huge. He said they did a great job in dismantling the sign, as well, cutting along all the original welding lines. Yay!

By the way, although the movie "Casino" was mostly filmed at the Riviera, it's based on Franky "Lefty" Rosenthal and his management of the Stardust for a while, and his associate Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, played by Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci respectively. Ken and I watched "Casino" again not too long ago, and it's a great movie.

I still have lots of pictures of the Fremont Street casinos, and I'll save those for another day. Here's the slideshow, and again, you can click at any time to get the big picture.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A new sheriff in town

I haven't written much about the upcoming inauguration, and to be honest, I haven't really been thinking about it that much. I'm feeling a little reflective today, though.

It's not like before the election, when there were many doubts about whether or not Obama could win. Those doubts have been laid to rest (although it might be more apt to say that they were beaten into submission), and it's just been a matter of waiting until he is sworn in. That day is almost here, and I think it's very appropriate that it takes place after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

I came across a rather disturbing column online, in which Obama is referred to as the "offspring of the sexual congress between an African black and an American white of European descent." I was even more disturbed when I saw that the author is black. He goes on to state that "Working whites don’t mind the relatively small portion of their own race on the dole so much, but they see the black race as (innately) parasitical and perhaps intellectually challenged. And this goes for those whites who voted along party lines for the black messiah. Whether they think this calls for coddling, deportation or extermination is an individual matter, but the perception is probably fairly uniform."

Wow. Dude. No, the perception is not uniform, and I find this really offensive. I also find it another example of someone with issues about themselves and an inferiority complex that they project onto others. I can assure you that I have never thought of blacks as either innately parasitical or intellectually challenged, and I've certainly never thought that coddling, deportation, or extermination was some sort of option. It's not even SANE.

By the way, I'm not even going to link to his bullshit or mention the guy's name, because I won't promote him or his nasty rhetoric. Get some therapy, buddy. Seriously.

I've made no bones about my support for Obama, but contrary to what some might believe, I don't think and have never thought that he was some kind of "messiah." He's quite human, and I'm sure he will make mistakes. But it also bothers me to hear the easy dismissal of him as all talk with nothing to back it up. One of my own relatives said that Obama is "stupid." You can call him a lot of things, but to call him stupid is...well, kind of stupid, and a gross underestimate of his intellect and talent. Do I expect miracles? No. I don't believe in miracles when it comes to the course of our nation and an attempt to turn around the sad state of our economy. I believe in hard work and research and good advisers, and I believe that there will be sacrifice involved on all of our parts. It could be a rough year, and Obama has said that over and over again.

But there's no need to rehash all of that, or debate it. On Tuesday, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, and I'll be watching. Despite the disgust I feel at reading things like the column I referenced above, I remain hopeful that this will mark a change in the way we deal with each other at home, and in how we're perceived around the world. I really don't understand anyone who wants Obama to fail in his endeavors as President. It's our country, and we should all believe and yes, HOPE, that good things can happen, that we can turn things around.

Now let's get this party started. There's a new sheriff in town. (If you want a chuckle, do a YouTube search for "blazing saddles new sheriff in town." It's a little rough, so I didn't put the video up here.)