August 2012 Archives

Dining fit for a Mogul at the Shahi Tandoor
August 24, 2012 9:27 PM | Posted in:

We accidentally tried a new restaurant tonight, and it was a pleasant experience. OK, perhaps "accidentally" isn't precisely correct. We decided to eat Thai food and when we got to the restaurant we found it was closed (for a "family emergency"). So we decided to drive a few miles down the road to try out the new Indian restaurant, Shahi Tandoor, located in the sumptuous (*ahem*) Grand Texan Hotel, which used to be called something else, something less grandiose but just as forgettable. 

The restaurant is essentially a hotel eatery, and it has the distinction of sharing its space with a pizzeria and the hotel bar. But we had read a couple of reviews and were prepared for the unfortunate ambiance. Very few dining places in Midland have really appealing atmosphere - although there is something invigorating about the white noise produced by sizzling fajita serving dishes - so that's not a test of fellowship for us.

It's all about the food, and in this case, the food was really good. However, I have no idea what we ate, other than in a generic "it was fish-, lamb-, shrimp-, and chicken-ish" (I'm always looking for an excuse to use "fish-ish" in a sentence). So, as a public service, here's a snapshot of the dish we shared. Feel free to google this stuff if you're really curious.

Photo of menu item

It may looks like a lot of food, and in fact it probably was enough to feed a lower-caste Indian family for a week, but for us big-eatin' Ahmuricans, it was about right for two people. We did load up a medium sized carry-out box, so we weren't total pigs.

This was a good combo for a first visit, and for someone who doesn't know much about Indian cuisine; our last authentic Indian meal was only about 30 years ago, in Dallas...but we still have found memories of it. And, yes, it's pricey, at least for Midland, but it IS a hotel restaurant, and it DID (or WILL) feed two people for one and another fraction of a meal. There are, of course, lower-priced menu items for those without cruise ship appetites.

Our favorites were the lamb and shrimp dishes, the naan bread, and the curry rice (rice pullao) with the lentil sauce (dal makhani). The meal was accompanied by a yogurt based dipping sauce which I don't think is shown on the menu, and it was an excellent counterpoint to the spiciness of the other dishes. We didn't particularly care for the fish, however; fortunately, it was the smallest portion on the platter. 

The restaurant was quite busy, and with only two servers, meals were slow in coming out. We arrived before the rush so that wasn't an issue for us. But what struck us is that at least half the patrons were Indian families. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but Midland's Indian population strikes me as being, overall, affluent and well-educated, and I suspect that if they like a restaurant well enough to patronize it, it's probably authentic and high quality. I don't know about the former, but the latter is certainly true. We'll go back.

You've Been Warned
August 23, 2012 6:06 AM | Posted in: ,

We're totally gonna put one of these in the company reception area:

Warning: Pirates and Ninjas and Lasers and S***

OK, maybe not, but it's hilarious to contemplate. This is an edited version (hey, this is a fambly blog, sort of) of a sign that's posted on the door of a certain local oilfield service's company tool repair lab. They do some seriously important work there...but obviously don't take themselves too seriously in the process.
An Elliptigo requires a rather significant investment, and the next best thing to actually trying one out is to read some unbiased reviews by owners of the machines. I think I posted a pretty objective and semi-detailed report here, but I barely scratched the surface compared to what this guy is doing.

When I first visited ElliptiGo Galveston, it took me a while to figure out that the writer wasn't really a dealer. It's one of the most thorough product review websites I've ever seen. I can also relate to his experiences regarding the [literal] pains of traditional bicycling for men of - how shall we put it? - a certain age.

So, if you're undecided, or just seeking some additional input or resources about the bikes, I highly recommend spending some time on the site.

Somebody's got some 'splainin' to do...
August 20, 2012 9:47 PM | Posted in:

I'm taking a directional drilling class at the PPDC this week, and it's pretty darned interesting. It's very basic - precisely what an accountant-turned-drilling analyst needs - but also quite relevant. We're drilling almost nothing but horizontal wells, as are many other operators in the Permian Basin, and while I'm not remotely involved in the planning or actual drilling of any of those wells, I still need to understand the processes, terminology, and challenges.

Not all of my six or so regular readers probably know a lot about directional drilling, so here's a quick primer. Advances in technology have allowed us to drill oil and gas wells straight down a couple of miles, at which point we can turn and aim the wellbore in any direction we wish, and drill out another mile (at least). Drillers can hit a target the size of a basketball by aiming three miles of wiggly steel pipe pushing a diamond-encrusted bit through rock in incredible temperatures and pressures. And hardly anything ever goes wrong, as this video demonstrates:



That, by the way, isn't one of our rigs.

Eh...it's a letdown to realize that what's portrayed in this rather exciting video (if you're in the bidness, anyway) is not actually a mistake. It seems a little too coincidental that someone would have a film crew in place at the exact spot and time the bit broke the surface of the earth like a graboid*, spewing drilling fluid (aka, mud) into the air. Now, given that it's Russians doing the drilling, we might assume that they well could have just been under the influence of a bit too much vodka, but in fact this was likely a pilot hole for a pipeline, drilled under an obstacle or surface feature that they didn't want to cross on the surface. Still, it's pretty cool to see a drill bit at work, and if you look closely, you can see the drilling rig in the distance where the operation presumably originated.

Details in the video are fuzzy, but that drill bit looks suspiciously like a big two-cone bit, which is historically significant, but never used** in modern oil and gas drilling operations. This would seem to reinforce the theory that the operation in the video was an intentional and relatively shallow operation. (Update: Eagle-eyed Gazette reader Jim Eakin emailed to suggest that I seriously need to check into getting a seeing-eye dog because that bit is obviously a common tri-cone. OK, he was actually more diplomatic than that, but also correct; once I viewed some of the earlier footage in stop motion, it is pretty obvious that the Russkies aren't still stuck in the early 20th century...at least not when it comes to out-of-control drill bits.)

*Don't tell me you don't know about graboids. Sheesh. Do I have to explain everything?

**OK, feel free to tell me about the 8,000 examples where double-cones are, in fact, still in use today.

Music Review: "Old Angel" by The Lost Dogs
August 19, 2012 5:56 PM | Posted in:

If you're seeking music that's a bit out of the mainstream, something that defies easy characterization, perhaps an album of story-songs, let me direct you to The Lost Dogs' 2010 album Old Angel, a musical tribute to "America's Main Street," Route 66.

Cover of 'Old Angel'The proprietors of the iTunes Store haven't figured out how to categorize The Lost Dogs, but that's understandable. (By the way, if you search for the group's complete catalog in the iTunes Store, be sure to search on both "Lost Dogs" and "The Lost Dogs," as neither search term by itself yields complete results.) Their albums are evenly split between the genres of "rock" and "Christian and Gospel," and, in my opinion, neither does the music justice. Something like "alt-country Christian Americana rock" might be more accurate.

The songs in Old Angel tell stories about the people and places along the historical Route 66, and those stories span the decades from the days of the Dust Bowl to the present. You'll recognize landmarks, natural and manmade, in the lyrics (Missouri's Devil's Elbow and the Cadillac Ranch in the Texas Panhandle are two examples), and hear accounts of hope and desperation and restlessness, of peace and joy and redemption.

This is not an overtly Christian album - this may be the only "gospel" album out there where "damn" is used a couple of times as an adjective (and, again in my opinion, is completely justified, especially when describing the heat in Bakersfield, California) - but the spirituality of the musicians is evident throughout. Also evident is the outstanding musicianship and creativity. In fact, I recommend listening via a good set of headphones at least once to catch all the nuances of the performances.

Some of the past releases by The Lost Dogs are filled with irony and satire; Old Angel is not, notwithstanding song titles like Israelites and Okies. It's unabashedly sentimental about a piece of Americana and the people who traveled and continue to travel its length in search of a better life.

Here's a sample from the album, an amateur video filmed on a California beach, so it doesn't do complete justice to the music. But you'll get a sense of the musical gifts of the members of The Lost Dogs.


Garth in Vegas
August 4, 2012 7:17 AM | Posted in:

I can't remember if I mentioned this, but we spent a couple of nights in Las Vegas on our way back from our recent San Diego vacation. The main reason we did this was to attend the Garth Brooks show at the Wynn Hotel. We've never been huge Garth fans - his confessed infidelity and subsequent divorce didn't exactly endear him to us - although we appreciated his skill as an entertainer. But we'd heard rave reviews from people whose opinions we trusted, and it just happened that he was going to be performing at the same time we would be coming through Vegas.

It's worth noting that Brooks usually appears just once a month in Las Vegas, and nowhere else. The story goes that while he was happily retired, Steve Wynn made him an offer he couldn't refuse - not a horse head in bed, but a barn full of money. Each month, Wynn sends his private jet to Claremore, OK (or as close as it can get) to pick up Garth and, usually, Garth's newish wife, Trisha Yearwood. Brooks does four shows in this small venue during the weekend and Steve flies them home in time to feed the livestock on Monday, or whatever they do that makes them want to get back to Oklahoma.

I'm going to provide a more complete review below, but if you're impatient, here's what you need to know: if you have the chance to see Garth Brooks at the Wynn in Las Vegas, do it. I don't care if you love or hate country music, you'll be glad you did. It was one of the most enjoyable shows we've ever attended, in an venue, in any genre.

Here's the deal - it won't be what you expect (unless you read on, and then it will be, unless Garth reads this and decides to change things up to keep me off balance. I wouldn't put it past him). We expected a concert where he performed his hits, but he sang perhaps only about five of his own songs. Instead, the theme of the show was his account of the musical influences, dating back to his childhood, that provided the inspiration for his sound. 

He started with the 60s and worked his way, a decade at a time, to the present. Along the way, he performed snippets of music by entertainers as diverse as Merle Haggard and George Jones (his dad's Holy Musical Duo), Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor (whom Garth idolizes to the point of embarrassment), Don McLean (of American Pie - the song, not the gross movies - fame), George Strait, and even Bob Dylan (in a hilarious parody in which he skewers Dylan's tendency for unintelligible lyrics).

Garth's skill with a guitar is impressive, which is a good thing since he's the only musician on the stage, and the guitar is the only instrument (besides his equally impressive voice). I keep having to expand my list of Top Guitar Performances Of All Time.

What really made his performance special is the way he seamlessly wove stories from his childhood and later life in and out of the musical influences. The surprising thing is that Brooks is a truly funny, engaging guy, and I seriously doubt that an audience attending a show at a comedy club would laugh more than we did at this concert. It helps if you grew up in rural America, but most of his humor is universal...or at least universally American.

I mentioned Trisha Yearwood. I understand that she doesn't always appear; I don't know if that's true, but she did make an appearance while we were there, and she was Garth's musical match. She sang one solo song, and they did a duet (one of the highlights of the show, really), and we felt privileged to get to hear her in person.

You might expect that after such an amazing performance, we'd have come home and downloaded everything Garth Brooks has recorded, but that's not the case. We're still not big fans of his music (in general; there are a few exceptions). But we are now and always will be huge fans of his performances.

If you're wondering why I'm not posting any photos from the performance, it's because we're apparently the only people in the universe who actually believed the stern "NO CELL PHONES" warning on our tickets and left them in the safe in our hotel room. Of course, when we got to the venue, every single person had their phones out and were fooling with them. (I didn't, however, see anyone taking photos during the performance; I'm quite sure that would have resulted in a quick ejection.) Never fear, though; I've employed my finely-honed skills as a sketcher of historical events to provide you with a hyper-realistic picture of the performance. Why, it's almost as if you're right there in the Wynn with your good pal Garth. (Pay special attention to the carefully selected Western font designed to evoke the feeling of Americana that is perfectly epitomized by Friends in Low Places.)

Sketch of Garth Brooks

One of the fun things about blogging is that you never know who's going to show up. This email appeared in my inbox earlier this week:

Hi Eric...

Let me start by congratulating you the 'Fire Ant Gazette'...I've been enjoying not only the pics, but your descriptions are quite comical...I really enjoy your writing style. 

As a quick introduction, my name is Naomi and I'm a casting director in Los Angeles.  I came across your site while I was researching for a new show I'm casting for CMT called, 'Redneck Lawn Wars.'  

Basically we are looking for creative/unique handmade landscapes along with owners that are a little rowdy, over the top, proud and want to brag about their creativity skills.  I noticed on one of your recent posts (June 26th), you included a lawn with a Dragon in the yard...very cool. 

So, basically I'm inquiring to see if somehow you could help direct me on how to get in touch with the owner of that yard, as well as to pick your brain a little on any one else you think would be good for our show. 

I'd love to chat with you directly about more specifics of the show and what we are looking for.  I'm attaching a flyer with more info...but please reach out any time 310.555.1234.

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts...thanks in advance for any & all help.

Naomi 

Naomi Pacheco
Dam Legacy Entertainment
Casting Director

(Notice how I got into the whole Hollywood thing by using the ubiquitous fake "555" phone number prefix that every movie in history employs?)

Here's the flyer Ms. Pacheco attached to her email.

CMT Flyer for Lawn Wars

You may remember the "yard dragon" post referred to in the email, but if not, here's the link.

I've forwarded the email to the owner of that amazing sculpture and will let him decide how he wants to proceed. In the meantime, if any of you have a classy "redneck yard" or know of one that should be included in this new TV program, drop me an email and I'll provide you with Ms. Pacheco's contact info (or you can use the email in the flyer, but who knows what kind of starlet/intern is checking that inbox). This could be your [weed-overrun, beer-can-littered, gopher-hole-plagued] path to hick immortality!

In all seriousness - or as much seriousness as I can muster given the subject matter - this does sound like an interesting concept for a television series.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2012 is the previous archive.

September 2012 is the next archive.

Archives Index