Friday, October 26, 2007

Lunch date with the health inspector

Everyone who knows me knows that I enjoy the occasional meal alone. It has nothing to do with misanthropy or depression, but doing Indian buffet solo is doubly efficient; no waiting, unnecessary chit-chat, etc.

The other day, I was craving Indian buffet. My 2nd favorite Indian restaurant, which is closest to my office, was closed, maybe for good? Instead, I headed over to Mughal Garden. After having filled my plate, I noticed a man with a clipboard walking up and down the buffet, as if he might start scooping food onto the clipboard. It became clear right away that the gentleman was a city health inspector. Among his complaints, I heard him mention that the rice was not hot enough. Following the inspector closely were two of the restaurant's staff, one likely the manager. They looked about as nervous as I was at that moment. That was certainly a new experience for me. For whatever reason, I kept eating. I even got seconds before paying the bill and heading back to work.

Lately though, I've been feeling resigned to eat whatever poison comes from a commercial kitchen because of this book. It's a great read, but be warned; you're thoughts of dining out will be forever changed.

What I take from this experience is that the food at Mughal Garden is tasty, and probably not bad for me, as the health inspector didn't immediately close the place while I was there. What I also take away is that Baltimore City is taking food safety seriously. A restaurant near my office wasn't so lucky and had to shut down for a few days. Ick. Lots of the staff left and now the place has new management. Save for an occasional latte, I don't think I'll darken their doors again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's the economy stupid, part deux

I received a response a previous post:

CC said...

"I agree w/you, except the more taxes bit. I wouldn't volunteer to throw more money into a mismanaged mutual fund, ya know?"

I thought a new post as response would be a better idea than another comment under the original comment.

I agree with CC. I don't like the idea of higher taxes any more than the next person. Americans, and by extension, Marylanders need to decide what we really want our taxes to be used for. Most people feel that government services are lacking, but those same people hate the idea of tax increases. I don't know of a nation that pays more taxes than the Danish, but if you consider their great health care, the cleanliness of their cities, and the amount of services available to all, it seems to be worth it.

You may be scared off by their quasi-socialist social services, but they're doing something that's working. Of course, comparing Denmark to the US is a bit of a stretch, but comparing Denmark to Maryland isn't. The problem is that both Liberals/Progressives and Conservatives want it both ways. Liberals want to spend more and more on social services, but don't have the guts to fend off cries of "unfettered socialism" and to spend what it truly takes to develop social programs for the good of all. Conservatives would rather leave your money in your bank account and shrink the government, but don't have the guts to fend off cries of "heartless robber-barons" and admit that they believe that you cannot depend on the government for anything. This is certainly an oversimplification of the two groups, but isn't that how they play to the voting public when we vote? I can almost hear the ad now, "It's a simple choice of A or B. There's no middle ground!".

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's the economy, stupid

Soon, our governor plans to propose the legalization of slot machine gambling to the General Assembly in a late-October special session. The idea of gambling isn't new in Maryland, with Lotto (is this still around?), the multi-state Big Game, Pick 3/4, and of course Keno. What is also not new is the idea of attempting to fix budget shenanigans at the expense of the least of us. I don't know about where you shop, but at the majority of places where I might see people buying lottery tickets, I see people who might be best served by saving their money. As for slots, there have been initiatives to legalize them for nearly 12 years, but only now does it seem likely to happen. How will it happen? Slots will be legalized either by General Assembly vote or referendum. I would prefer a voter referendum despite the 2004 Gonzales survey stating that the majority of Marylanders want slots.

The argument for expanded gambling is that the revenues could be used to help relieve Maryland's $1.7 billion budget deficit and to pay for essential services. One look at the Baltimore City School system, once a supposed beneficiary of gambling revenues, and you can clearly see that approach doesn't work. What's more, the lottery was state-run at the time. Now, you can expect an out-of-state entity to reap the majority of gambling revenue. The other problem is where do you put the machines? I don't know anyone who'd want gambling sites in their neighborhoods. Placing the machines at horse racing tracks isn't a good idea either. That will ensure larger purses for horse owners, and less revenue for the state. Ironically, slots get more people to go to race tracks, but not to see the running of the horses.

I am not against preserving the horse racing industry or gambling in general, but I believe there has to be a better way to fix our budget short-fall (higher taxes, better efficiency, and less spending). Horse racing is a rich part of Maryland's heritage, but it isn't a right. If track owners cannot increase attendance at their tracks, it shouldn't be the government's problem to fix. As well, relying on gambling revenue as a stable source of income is stupid and immoral.

Only time will tell what happens with expanded gambling in Maryland, but I'm hoping that there are a majority of legislators in the House and Senate that agree with me.