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Sunday, May 2, 2010

*ALBANIA, ROSEWOOD, MAYWEATHER AND CHARLIE PALMER'S



There are 195 countries, although only 192 have membership in the United Nations, plus Vatican City (chosen not to), Kosovo (just established in 2008 and hasn't quite become internationally recognized) and Taiwan (because China has a lot of influence). I have reached a major milestone: my 150th country just visited this blog site:

ALBANIA POPULATION: 3,639,453
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Background
Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, but was conquered by Italy in 1939. Communist partisans took over the country in 1944. Albania allied itself first with the USSR (until 1960), and then with China (to 1978). In the early 1990s, Albania ended 46 years of xenophobic Communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven challenging as successive governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, widespread corruption, a dilapidated physical infrastructure, powerful organized crime networks, and combative political opponents. Albania has made progress in its democratic development since first holding multiparty elections in 1991, but deficiencies remain. International observers judged elections to be largely free and fair since the restoration of political stability following the collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997; however, there have been claims of electoral fraud in every one of Albania's post-communist elections. In the 2005 general elections, the Democratic Party and its allies won a decisive victory on pledges to reduce crime and corruption, promote economic growth, and decrease the size of government. The election, and particularly the orderly transition of power, was considered an important step forward. Albania joined NATO in April 2009 and is a potential candidate for EU accession. Although Albania's economy continues to grow, the country is still one of the poorest in Europe, hampered by a large informal economy and an inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure.

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The Green Safari continued today at the Rosewood Lakes Golf Course:

While I came in last, there are strategic advantages to this clever move, as I had two strokes added to my handicap and won $3. We are now just outside Napa Valley and the weather shifted from freezing into the 80's. Anyone interested in tire chains? Cheap!

Dinner was at the Quality Inn in Vacaville, where the restaurant is owned by someone from Hawaii. The saimin was, well, not quite the same as previously remembered.

I should have mentioned that my dinner last night was at Charlie Palmer's in Reno, where I had a Caesar salad accompanying a New York strip steak topped with a frizzled foie gras. The romaine was purposefully wilted (I hope) and had just too much dressing, while the steak was overpoweringly coated with too much wine sauce. Okay, but expensive. Service was also trying. The dress requirement was casual elegant, which means, in Reno, you can wear shorts and slippers. No wine because David Block and I had just finished a bottle of cabernet while viewing the free Mayweather-Mosley fight on twenty screens in the sports book room before the meal. Pacquiao next? Anyway, I was the only one in the group to experience Palmer's trifecta at the Grand Sierra: steakhouse, Fin Fish and Biscola (Italian).


Yes, this is a casino. The first night, Kenji and I played the poker machine, and I donated $20 into the device. An hour later, I still had around $10+, so saved the ticket. Leaving dinner last night, and totally exhausted, I thought I would quickly lose this sum, and looked for the $2 million slots (why not win a lot of money), but they were occupied (a big night because the most elaborate Cinco de Mayo celebration in the region was ongoing here, there was also that boxing match and this being Saturday), so settled for an Elvis creation. Penny, with 50 or so options. Down to 46 cents when I pressed my last attempt, the machine went crazy, with noise and lights and Elvis singing Jail House Rock: I won $129.86. I cashed this in, so I will be ahead $109.86 on this trip, unless we go to an Indian casino in California. Actually, make that $112.66 because I bet $10 for Mayweather to win, and made $2.80. Maybe some wine tasting tomorrow.

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Number of countries:150

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