Back By Popular Demand (of the State of Minnesota)

My original plan was to leave for LA from Vegas. However, I have to return to Minnesota for a day or two to straighten out my drivers license situation. I received a speeding ticket in Roseau, MN a while back and the check I sent to pay for the ticket never got cashed. The story I’m told from the Roseau County Court is that the check probably didn’t get there in time, the price went up, and they didn’t cash it because it wasn’t enough. I never paid attention to it after I sent the check and it just sat there. I was able to get my car insurance and tabs renewed, so I had no idea it was still outstanding.

Turns out that my license was suspended because the fine wasn’t paid. The problem now lies in trying to undo the suspension. The fine has been paid. I know this because I sent a money order to Roseau County via priority mail. I called them and they gave me an account number saying the fine was paid. I went to the DMV before I left for Vegas and they showed the fine as being paid. I also paid $30 for a reinstatement fee. So far, so good.

For whatever reason, they still haven’t removed the “suspended” status of my license and I have no clue what I need to do anymore to change. it. I also have this twist which makes it more interesting: I’m technically not a resident of Minnesota anymore. I’m getting all my mail sent to Wisconsin. If I got a Minnesota license, I’d have to wait four weeks for the physical license. If I get it in Wisconsin, I can get it immediately. I’ll be in Minnesota however, not Wisconsin, and Wisconsin wont give me a license until the ‘suspend’ is removed from my Minnesota record. The only thing I’ve been told by MNDOT is what to do to get a new MN license, but I really don’t want one, I just want to be able to get my Wisconsin license. Minnesota is also asking me to show proof of insurance too, which is great, because I don’t own a car anymore and hence, don’t have any need for insurance.

….so, I’m hoping I can straighten this all out in one or two days. The only reason I need a license is so I can rent a car in Hawaii and I can get an international drivers permit before I leave. You need your local license to get the international permit.

I’d like to also point out that as frustrating as my experiences with my mortgage company have been in the last few weeks (and its been frustrating), its nothing compared to working with the State. No one in State of Minnesota has any real incentive to get this solved. I’ve been willing to pay whatever restitution I need to get back in good graces, but at this point I have no clue what I need to do anymore. No one else can give me a straight story either.

Security Theater

The security measures at American airports are a total joke. A total absolute joke….and everyone knows it.

I’m writing this at McCaren airport in Las Vegas, the only major airport in the US that offers free wireless internet to everyone in the airport. (This sort of shoots all the arguments about how airports have to charge ridiculous prices to cover costs in the ass)

The line at the security check point was the longest security line I’ve ever had to go through. There is no way you can effectively check that many people in that short of a period of time. I had a bag full of electronicns. Laptop, GPS, iPod, DSLR, digital video camera, tons of cables, etc. I took none of them out of my bag while going through security. It would have taken too long and I figured that if they did want to inspect me more, given the odds of it happening with that many people, the expected time spent in line would be less by doing nothing. I was right. They let it zip right through, while they did harass people for small water bottles.

The security system as airports are designed to give the illusion of security and to cover the ass of those in charge in case something happened. Shoes and water were fine until someone tried to use them in a terrorist attack. Making you take off your shoes and banning water after the fact doesn’t help security. Knowing how the system works, all terrorists would have to do are plan attacks involving laptop computers and other things people travel with and leak the plans so everyone is more annoyed.

Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole

Last night, I had the pleasure of having what can only be described as the best meal of my life. Period. Hands down. No debate. No discussion.

It also happened to be the most expensive meal I’ve ever had, so its a damn good thing it was the best.

We had reservations at 6pm for Picasso at the Bellagio. AAA rates restaurants on a five diamond scale and there are only a handful of restaurants in the world which merit a five diamond rating. There are none in Minnesota or Wisconsin. New York City has three. Vegas has four. Picasso has been awarded five diamond for six years running. This is the first and only time I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant of this quality level. It is also ranked as the 10th best hotel restaurant in the US by Zagut’s.

The ‘gimick’ at Picasso is that the walls of the restaurant have actual paintings by Picasso hanging on them. That’s pretty impressive. We didn’t sit near any Picasso’s however. Given our early reservation (6pm) we got a seat out on the patio and were able to get a front and center view of the Bellagio water fountains all evening. (The shows are every half hour).

The first thing that struck me was that they had a sommelier and a 90 page wine list. Picking a wine was like reading the phone book. I’ve never had a master sommelier at a table before and it was a real education. His name was Desi Echavarrie. He had a really in-depth knowledge of everything on the wine list. Who grew it, where it grew, the vine types, the soil, everything. Picking a wine from a list that large is really a crap shoot. On his recommendation, I went with a 50-50 Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Argentina. It was very good and the price was reasonable given where we were dining. (I saw one bottle on the menu for over $8,0000. For that much, a bottle of wine better take me out for breakfast in the morning)

The menu consisted of two tasting menus. That’s it. You could pick the right or left hand side of the menu. There were some options for entrees, but that’s it. One of the courses consisted of foie gras. I had never had foie gras before and had always wanted to try it. It was amazing. I anxiously await the foie gras flavored Doritos.

You can’t eat at a place like Picasso every month or even every year, but it is worth doing at some point in your life, just to say you did it.

Vegas Part Deux

Just a quick update. Took tons of photo/video yesterday, but haven’t been able to move it to my laptop. Saw a great Blue Man Group show at the Venetian and had a probably one of the best seafood meals of my life too. Today I’ll be seeing Penn & Teller and having dinner at Picasso in the Bellagio. I’m really looking forward to that.

Viva Las Vegas!!!!

I’m writing this from the lounge at the Luxor in Las Vegas.

This is my 4th time to Vegas in the last seven years. If you haven’t been to Vegas, you owe it to yourself to go. Its like Disney World for adults. You don’t have to gamble to enjoy Las Vegas. I have yet to place a bet, and I’m having a good time. Last night I saw the new Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage: Love. Its a Beatles tribute show and very different from previous Cirque shows I’ve seen before. Much less emphasis on acrobatics and more on visual presentation and dance. Different, but still pretty good. Tonight Blue Man Group is on the schedule. This will be my 3rd time seeing BMG.

Vegas might seem like an odd way to kick off a world tour, but I think its really a great idea. Vegas is the world. Vegas is a microcosm of the Earth in casino form. We can walk up the strip and go from ancient Egypt to the Middle Age Europe, to the French Mediterranean to Italy, to Ancient Rome, to the Amazon, to the Caribbean…..well, you get the idea.

Vegas is the island of sanity is a world that is constantly trying to regulate and control every aspect of your life to try and usher in utopia. Here you can stay up late, drink all you want and piss away your life savings because your are a grown up.

Anyway, I’ll be taking video and photos for much of today. I hope to have some stuff up for viewing tonight.

Last Piece of the Puzzle

I finally got my video camera. Based on the minimal playing with it I’ve done so far, its a pretty nice camera. I’ll be able to shoot in 1080i high definition. The camera is very compact (smaller than my DSLR by quite a bit) as are the tapes and batteries. There filters and other lenses I can get, but I don’t think I’d bother with anything other than maybe the polarized filter.

I still need to get a wireless lavalier mic, but there is no rush for that.

Gear, stuf, and junk


The above is a photo of most of my gear laid out. I’m missing a pair of shoes and the camera (duh). I have a buy a few more things, but I’m pretty much done. Make sure to click on the photo to get a more detailed list of gear.

Yes, it does all fit in the bag. The bag is in the background so it looks small, and the gear spread out makes everything looks bigger.

I’m in Good Hands

I got my insurance taken care of.

I purchased a health/evacuation policy with World Nomads and a policy to cover my gear with Safeware. The cost really wasn’t too bad for either policy.

I got the receipts for my laptop and camera scanned so I can access them on the road if needed should I have to file a claim.

I think I’ve almost got all my loose ends tied up. Few more days and I’m on the road.