Friday, December 31, 2004

End of the year views

Wow, last day of the year - changes for me coming up.
Ever since my boss gave me that Monday morning pep talk - the half hour yell fest terminating in "did you see yesterday's want ads - it wouldn't surprise me if on Wednesday or Thursday and fired everyone in IT but me" that motivated me to get my resume rewritten - I have been getting my resume in order. It ended this morning in my getting a written job offer, and thus my handing my boss later this morning a "hereby submit my resignation" letter. He just put his head on the desk and then said "well, you have to do what's best" and made no counter offer or questions on where I was going or nice to have you here - he didn't even talk to me for the rest of the day. So I am now officially unemployed. Starting the new job Monday (next year) at 8.
I spent the day installing some software that I have been working on for weeks (I'm a programmer). I tried yesterday, but kept getting errors, again this morning more errors, finally late morning it went in OK. This is an internal web program that gets hit by about 200 computers, it tests OK on my machine and ran fine for ten minutes, but then fell apart - probably when enough people hit one bad spot I couldn't figure out how they were getting to. But I changed it and it worked, then after running about three hours I installed a script part that depended on the first changes. This is the script that our phone operators read when people call in to cancel their new accounts. Kind of an official way to talk them into staying. This round is prompted by a lawsuit and a Federal Trade Commission investigation, had to be done by today and our CEO had to send off a certified affidavit to the FTC that the new words and options were in place.
I spend three hours with two of the new guys explaining what I was doing so they could take it over. And our CEO has lots more script changes coming down on Monday, so somebody will be busy learning the stuff I've taken six months to learn and rushing to get it done while being yelled at because it really had to be done by the 31st (today) and they were late. Glad I am no longer getting yelled at there.
So, hopefully a lot less stress and more time for fun stuff. At least no more 50 hour weeks plus "oh yeah, we're all coming in Saturday too to catch up". Off to a bank, with two week vacation a year (instead of 5 days), regular holidays (instead of 4pm Christmas eve and take Christmas day off) and regular 9 to 5 hours. I hope it is as good as it sounds.
On to what's happening in Vegas this week -
Started out last week with a cold spot -

our courtyard fountain demonstrating an early morning freeze up. Down to 27 one night. Back to mid 50's in the daytime.
This week was lots of rain - it was cloudy and small rain almost every day, but on Wednesday it really poured.

as our back yard shows. Vegas gets about four inches a year, so this does not happen too often. At least it was warmer at night - 41 when we got up this morning. But it is cold in the surrounding mountains. Driving home yesterday this is what it looked like around sunset to the west

as I drove past the loverly Wynn that was recently discussed. Further along, on the bridge over 15 it looked like this

about a 45 minute drive up to the ski resorts in Mt. Charleston, but as you can see snow down pretty low - probably the 2000 ft level. Vegas is around 1,100 ft above sea level. Last year we had the snow on New Year's Eve - sorry, I don't know how to link back to my post and photos then. So here is what the trees across the street from our house looked like a year ago

supposedly the first snow here in ten years - four inches - and one of our little dogs loved it. But of course, gone by sunset at the end of the day.
The strip is supposed to be the biggest party of the eve tonight, next to Times Square. But here you can get beer - one place in the middle of the strip has five cent beers, lots of drunks and lots of fights. So stay to the ends if you go. And supposedly the biggest fireworks display in the world - both for the new year and the start of the LV 100th birthday. I'll be staying home, probably asleep by then.
I am on to new adventures for the new year - new job, upcoming new grandkid, hopefully other things too. Best wishes to all, and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Day before Christmas (almost)

On the day before Christmas (well, day before the day before) I wanted to get in some of my Christmas sites for you to enjoy before they are gone, or you are sick of the holidays.
One of my daily stops is Anna's Little Red Boat, a delightfully written log of goings on around England. While the Boat is not a holiday related site, Anna's recent story about her mouse adventures are written while she and her sister put up their annual holiday advent calendar, Meg & Anna's 'Tis the Season. Please go there, and take the time to answer any questions that might pop up - you will be rewarded. Be sure to start on day one and proceed forward. On day 7 is a delightful song of the season by the two sisters, and is becoming my favorite thing to listen to when my day needs brightening. Since I am concerned that the site will disappear with the season, I hope Anna isn't too annoyed with my grabbing the song and posting it here for all to listen to forever (at least until this blog goes). Meg & Anna's Do They Know It's Christmas? I just love it. For those of you in a Christmas mood, here are some more Christmas Favorite Songs. I had to download them for additions to my seasonal Ipod stuff. I've been listening to #7 for a few repeats now, another uplifting tune. If anyone knows where to get 'Wearing Women's Underwear' please let me know.
For those of you in a sick of holiday mood, and still not satisfied with the overwhelming mandate received by our fine president, here is another individual displaying his attitude toward Homeland Security. Lots of work here.
Met my daughter for lunch at the Fashion Show Mall a few days ago. She bought an Ipod for her husband - hope he doesn't read this before Saturday and find out. Went there with my wife on Sunday for some of our own shopping. While there we got to see some of the fashion shows that the mall is named for. I am fascinated with gadgets, and the runway that is used by the models is just dramatic. Music rises, and up from the flat mall floor rises this little room, with a long runway in front. The runway is similar to what you see in real fashion shows, about three feet high, eight wide and a hundred or so feet long. At the end of the runway is a little room (well, not so little) from which the models emerge and disappear into. Inside are changing rooms, and stairs down for new ones to come up from. Here is a shot of the thing starting to descend after the show.

With a guard at every corner, so no one walks by and gets caught. A tree of the season on top, after sliding down it's just a flat floor again. And this year Cadilac rented prime space inside to show off their new cars.
One of the shows was comprised of local firemen, advertising a calendar with profits going to charities. Boy, I am impressed with the muscles on these dudes. The second show, one every half hour on weekends, was the standard skinny models and slinky clothes stuff. I don't know where they learn that 'fashion walk' - looks like they are stepping on snails or something. Does somebody really think that's sexy or something? But on this show they had fog - up from the floor came drifts of fog across the stage. Really nice affect. Wish I could have one at home.
I bought one thing for myself - something that is unnecessary across most of the country but unusual here in LV or down in San Diego -

yep, fake snow. Really looks like the real stuff, but warm and plastic - how perfect for LA. Don't know what I'll do with it, but I just had to have a box of snow, even faux stuff.
For all, a merry season.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More Wynn

Sorry about not posting recently. I've been inundated at work and working at home, and this site has not gotten any attention. But I did take some more photos of my drive to work and home again.
In a recent post I put up a shot of Wynn's new hotel/casino, and have received some comments on the building and the name. Wynn's has not opened for business yet, but the building the way it is has been built in about a year - that doesn't count all the planning and development and up front time. But it does show what money can build in a short time. Our new city justice center is less that a tenth this size, and took over two years to build. It was 'finished' two years ago, and the city has been suing the contractor ever since. People are just now starting to move in, and it is already looking like it will be overcrowded before they even officially open. That's a government job.
But this is private, and a casino. Original plans called for it to be named La Reve. For some reason the financial backers thought that having Steve Wynn's name would attract more people, and so it was changed. Rumor has it that the showroom inside, built to hold another Circ du Soleil show, will be named Reve. We'll see.
But, this is what I see going in to work in the morning.

This is looking east right at sunrise on a cloudy Monday (day before yesterday). It's on Desert Inn just before going over the I15 freeway. From the left is the Wynn, the TI (formerly known as Treasure Island), the Venetian and far right is the Mirage. (I think that's right, or else close). These buildings represent less than 20% of the rooms on the strip. As you can see, Wynn's looks to be the tallest and widest. The others are build as triangles or squares, Wynn's is one big flat plane, which dominates the skyline here. The low spot to the left of Wynn's is the Frontier, one of the older places on the strip.
Driving home at night westward on Desert Inn, just past the trolley station where I took the photo last week, is the Wynn from the east.

Also showing what I consider to be another symbol of Las Vegas, the ever present tall construction cranes.
Getting right up near it just before going underneath the Strip,

It really looks big, and this isn't even very close. Because of the design from the front it looks like the tallest, widest building on the strip.
Right across the strip is the Fashion Show Mall, and next to that is the smaller, older Frontier. Right behind the Frontier is where Donald Trump will be putting up his tower. So you can walk down the strip and have Wynn on one side and Trump on the other. Should be interesting. For now Trump's is only talk, in the planning stages. We'll see what he puts up.
Just to provide something different, here is the trolley station built right over Desert Inn, looking east, just past the Wynn and the Desert Inn golf course behind it.

As you can see, Nextel is the big sponsor. The dark rectangle to the left, just behind the red light, is one of those big TV display screens. It usually shows Nextel commercials, but for this shot ended up being dark. Right behind the station is the LV Convention Center, which also is built over Desert Inn. You can see part of it just under the trolley building in red brick. The stations look nice, even if the trolleys are not running yet.
My drive to work each day is about five miles. Takes between 10 and 25 minutes, depending on the lights. I usually leave home around 6:30 or so. Just passed the winter solstice, so I guess it will be staying light longer from here on in.
Due to be cold tonight, down around 31f, high around 52f. Not very warm, but nothing near Rochester NY where I went to school. Looks like the east is getting a nice white Christmas this year. Good for them.
That's it for today - no great news, no great shots, just raising Wynn's name, as he has done. Oh - at night, since the hotel is not open yet and the rooms are dark, the name Wynn is lit up in white - so you can see his name floating in the dark over the strip. Very dramatic. But my camera doesn't wok too well at night, so just imagine it.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Rodeo in town again, more monorail status

The rodeo's back in town - cowboys in the streets and the convention center parking lot full of horse trailers. Haven't seen anything from the hard Rock - last year they got in trouble for their 'Buck all night' billboard and advertising campaign.

My wife's been invited to a holiday get together at Gilley's Vegas next weekend. But by then the real cowboys should be all gone. She has been volunteering time at Habitat for Humanity, building houses, and they are having a little party. Gilley's is part of the chain that offers 'real Texas' atmosphere, sawdust on the floor and a mechanical bull in the center of the room. I think it's the place that John Travolta supposedly went to back in his movie on cowboys, after Saturday Night Fever dancing died away he caused bull riding to come into style with that movie. Just checked the Internet Movie Database - John Travolta was at the Houston Gilley's in Urban Cowboy, not the Gilley's Dallas. Looks like there isn't a Houston Gilley's any more - just Dallas (and Vegas). On TV shows the only ones that ride that thing are well endowed young women wearing small halter tops that seem to pop off while bouncing. Maybe I should look forward to going.

The monorail is still not running.

A news article this morning discussed how the downtown area really wants the proposed extension from the strip up to downtown, but it can't be built without federal money. Estimated cost of three miles of monorail line, and associated stations, is 485 million $$ (US). Lots of bucks for a strip of concrete in the sky. But that's two strips side by side, and the trains to go on it, land acquisition, station sites, etc. The city is looking for $442 million in funds from elsewhere, and $43 million raised from local taxes. Problem with federal grants is that in order to get bucks for an expansion they want to see that the existing stuff is working OK, and ridership averages 50,000 per day. But our monorail has been down since September. Heavy ridership numbers expected for New Years Eve and the Consumer Electronics show in January.

But, the speaker today discussed how bad the monorail is doing, and how it might not be a good idea to open early just to catch the New Years Eve crowd. Open early? Come on, a wheel fell off, along with some other stuff back in the summer. If they can't fix the trains in three months so that the don't fall apart - and they are new trains, only ran for a few months after a year of testing - somebody else should be running the place. Right now the monorail is owned by a private company, funded partially by the strip casinos that wanted easy transportation, and denigrated by the cab drivers that lost ridership. Bus service is so bad there is no competition there.

I Don't know why anyone would use the monorail now - it just runs for three miles down behind the hotels east of the strip. I guess you would get on if you didn't want to walk and look at the lights, and had a specific casino you wanted to jump to. Or people staying at the hotels and just going to the convention center. The big ridership I think would come when they do the airport connection. Then those millions of people that fly in and out would be able to get to their hotels directly without hassling with the taxi stuff. Paris and New York and London and other big cities have trains that go from the airport to downtown. Our monorail would go from the airport directly to the big casino stations leading right down into the hotels directly. And if you could also go downtown, to see the fancy stuff there, then it would help that area greatly.

All it takes is bucks. And competent people that can fix problems and keep it running. But, I'm not an employee of the transportation company and don't really know what's going on. We just see news stories of 60 pound tires landing in parking lots.

Sitting at my computer listening to NRJ Radio - the French pop radio I like. I also listen to French Lazy Radio - had it on, but they have a lot of gaps in the music, sounds like they don't have enough of a budget to handle the site hits for too many listeners. Thought I would look at the site, and I came across a picture of their studios -

Looks like a setup in somebody's garage or spare room.
Contrast this to NRJ (from their almost live webcam)

Looks more like a real radio station. The number of commercials sound like it too.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Well, it's been a while since I've been out with my camera during daylight hours. This afternoon I went for a short walk around the neighborhood where I work and took a few shots of the houses and streets. I've been asked (you know who you are) for more photos of houses and different neighborhoods around town.
This area is between Sahara and Charleston, near Maryland Parkway. It's about 2 miles east of the Strip, and the homes were probably built in the 60's. Most of the houses are well cared for, but there are a few with cars in pieces in the front yard, and stuff scattered around. I guess it's on it's way down rather than up. I don't know the home prices, but I guess that it's around $120,000 for a small three bedroom one bath.

Not much to say about these. This is looking east, you can see sunrise mountain in the distance. Mountains all around. The ones to the west are all covered in snow. Christmas skiing at Mt. Charleston.

You can tell from the size of the trees that they've been around a while. This one has had a second story added on back, and a nice little house or something, in addition to the circular driveway around the palms.

But these are probably typical for the older areas of Las Vegas. Concrete block, originally one story unless added to. No garage or carport originally.
And a few blocks away, on the corner of Sahara and Maryland, is a small strip mall. I think it's interesting because of it's name - not something fancy or with the corporate name, but

just A Mall. Looks like any other corner in the country, gas stations and power lines.
Driving home I head west on Desert Inn, the only east - west cross street that has a tunnel under the strip rather than having to wait at those long traffic lights. One major street just east of the strip is Paradise Road. The intersection of Paradise and Desert Inn is where the Vegas Convention Center sits, and the biggest monorail station. DI goes under part of the convention center and under the monorail station - it's all elevated to avoid traffic. I usually sit at this intersection for several light changes before I get through. Today I ended up near the front during one cycle, and shot these through the windshield.

Overhead is the monorail, in front is a new condo tower being built. The city symbol should probably be the tall cranes, which can be seen all over putting up new buildings.
To the left of DI is the old Desert Inn resort and golf course. Steve Wynn bought it and is constructing his Wynn resort. The big cranes are down now, and it should be open soon.

It's a nice golden shape in the sky.
And someone asked for another picture of me. I know I've had a shot of me in my pool last summer, but here is one at work.

Like that messy desk? After all, it's Friday afternoon, and for some reason we don't have to work tomorrow. We were in last Saturday, and are supposed to be in next Saturday, but tomorrow is fun time (well, work around the house time).
Can't see my tie, but we all wear them - corporate image or something.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Personal responsibilities

I've been looking around and wondering why so many people complain that what happens to the isn't their fault. I think I've written about this before, but it's come up again and again. I feel that people should accept the fact that they can control themselves, and really nothing else.
This evening I was driving home from work and was repeatedly passed by cars going faster than me. I was in the center lane of a street with three lanes in each direction. I stay out of the fast lane, because in LV that means REALLY FAST LANE. I stay out of the right hand lane to avoid those idiots that turn right without signaling, and the equally #$%* people that pull out of driveways and side streets ignoring cars coming at them. This leaves a lane on each side for people to fly past.
I was doing a little over the speed limit, which is 45 on most LV larger surface streets, and I would guess that I was being passed on the right by cars doing at least 25 faster than me, and on the left by people doing even more. (yes, really zipping by). As we crossed the freeway and came down to a light all three lanes were slowing because of a backup. It usually takes three turns of the traffic signal for me to get across this intersection from the point I was stopped at. So we have three lanes stopped, and there were still cars doing about 50 flying by on the right shoulder - not very wide, and with a concrete barrier next to them. Past a side street that merges in.
And cars on the left, not wanting to wait for the light cycles, were going up the curb onto the center divider and driving down that to get to the left turn lanes. Not just big cars, but smaller ones, up the big curb and down the strip.
I sit there, and wonder where these people get their brains. WalMart? It takes a while, but I try to stay calm, and say to myself, 'self, drive the way you want to. As long as you are comfortable with the speed you are going, ignore what those Bozos are doing'. (Yea, I talk like that to myself, don't you?)
I'm a programmer, and where I work I support a floor full of telephone people that are just abused all day. People phone up to cancel their membership with us, or complain that we took their money and now they can't make their rent payment, and who are we to do this to them? My response, since I don't have to talk on the phones, is to say 'Stupid - you are the one that called three weeks ago and asked us to take the money!' These people are fully informed about what will happen and when, but then they abuse the poor operators as if it was their fault. Come on! Take responsibility for what you did. I just hope the operators realize they have no control over what the customers say, but I see the dejected faces and short employment spans, and realize that what others say can hurt.
I like my job - I enjoy the work I am doing, my new boss has some great ideas for improving the networks and software process, and I am good at what I do. I just wish the company attitude for motivation wasn't negative - the 'do it right, do it now, or I'll fire the whole lot of you and hire a new staff'. Again, I tell myself, 'self, (yea, just like that) as long as you are doing your job, and are satisfied that you do it well and quickly, you have no control over their attitude'. Easy to say (see, I just said it) but hard to keep the stomach from turning over with all the yelling and #$%*& going around.
Those customers in a recent post, drunk on their butts, blaming the cops for stopping them. People that look at those with more than them, asking for handouts because they didn't have the 'advantages' and thus deserve to be given things. Sorry, when I'm driving home I can think of all kinds of things, but sitting here at the keyboard they all drift away. I'm just trying to say that we should just control the things we can, and realize that what others may do is not something that we can affect.
Well, I feel guilty about not posting photos of LV. I get to work around sunup, driving due east with the sun in my face so I can't take photos of things I'm looking at. At night I leave at sundown, driving west with the sun again in my face, or else it's too dark for shots. On weekends I've been working around the house, so no shots there either. Maybe someday I'll get back to the camera. But I like to read people's thoughts, and it lightens my evening when I see that someone's posted something new. So I figured I'd better put something up here too.
And Phoebs - what's your web site address? You can email me with it if you want me there, else ignore my request.
We went to a friend's wedding in SD back in the summer, John is into piercing and tattoos, and owns a parlor in Ocean Beach. I suggested we do a web site for him, and recently came across some interesting tattoo styles.

This one is kind of interesting - a little different than the barb wire or tribal band usually seen around an arm.
And one site shows a new style of 'oriental' tattoos. I thought the colors and styles were really neat.

These are nice pastels, I wonder how they would hold up over the years - and notice the fairy on her hip. (Jo??)
And a more overall style?

I wonder how many hours it takes.
Flip to the other side -

For full sleeves, knees (that must hurt on the bones), Looks like the right leg is still being worked on, and down the center not a tattoo but some method of putting something under the skin to produce raised areas, kind of like buttons. You can see it better in other photos, but it seems there was too much traffic on the site and it's closed now.
That's it for now - some pics, but not of Vegas. Sorry for all the nasty words.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Lawyers and lawyers

I drive in to work every day down the same street (Desert Inn) and pass a series of billboards. Las Vegas is big on signs and billboards - the current fad for signs is to have a giant TV screen as part of the sign. When I say giant, I mean big - the one in front of the MGM Grand is probably 20 feet high and 50 feet wide. With blinking pictures and promos for the upcoming concerts and ads for the night clubs flashing away. Really gives you something to look at when sitting at that *** slow traffic light on the corner of Tropicana and the Strip. But back to my original premise -
One of the billboards I pass is for a law firm that will go to court for you if you get a traffic ticket. Sounds nice - even help the little guy. Reminds me every morning of one of my customers in San Diego. It was the law firm of Mr. Ticket and Mr. DUI. If you can't tell from the name, they represent people who are stopped for traffic infractions and drunk driving.
Mr. Ticket handles traffic tickets - I think his base fee was around $150, and he would go to court for you and 95% of the time get your ticket dismissed. In California $150 is probably the average price of a fine for conviction on a ticket, so this way you paid about the same, didn't have to take a day off work to go to court, and didn't get that infamous hit to your car insurance when the company finds out how bad you really drive.
Mr. DUI handles drunk driving offenses. I think his up front fee was around $2,500. If you had enough money he could get you off from just about anything. There are legal experts that can argue about how bad a blood test is, how waiting 20 minutes to take a urinalysis could not possibly represent your blood alcohol level at the time you were stopped, how the last meal you ate affected the breath test - you get my drift. There are paid professionals on every side with every opinion. If you could afford the best for your side then you win. Probably like just about every court situation around. Ask OJ. (sorry, didn't really mean to bring that back. Yea, I know he wasn't convicted, that's my point)
At times I appreciate the services that attorneys present. If I ever got a ticket I probably would use these guys. But there are times when, as an outside observer, it seems things may be excessive.
One night I was leaving their office after putting in some program changes - they were open nights and weekends so as to be available for their clients. As I was about to leave one of Mr. DUI's clients was just leaving. This was his third time being represented by this law firm. Both previous representations were successful - he avoided conviction on his DUI arrests. I opened the front door for him, and he had problems in just walking out. He appeared to be totally drunk on his ass. (I must say, I am NOT an expert in this matter. But I have observed the strong smell of alcohol, the bloodshot eyes, the slurred speech, the inability to walk straight, and usually these indicate the presence of alcohol in the blood. Again, I AM NOT AN EXPERT - DO NOT TAKE MY OBSERVATIONS AS EVIDENCE) He proceeded to walk, or rather stagger, out to his car parked out front, get in the drivers seat, and after a few minutes of trying to get his key in the ignition, he quickly pulled out and sped off. After visiting his lawyer on his third DUI offense (at this law firm, I don't know his prior history). I was very tempted to get on my cell phone and call the cops about an apparent drunk driver, but I don't think my client (the lawyers) would appreciate me turning in one of their clients. But thinking about it, maybe it would have been OK because then they would have the opportunity to represent him in another case. $$$$ fees.
My point is, that everyone deserves representation and an active defense. But I have to drive on the same roads as guys like this. My wife crosses the street with drivers like this roaring down at her. My son may date OJ's next ex wife (OK, sorry to pick on OJ). I know that sometimes the government does not do things correctly (ask at your next IRS audit) and people need lawyers to represent their interests. But at what point should the lawyer start representing the good of the people instead of the money of their client? Shouldn't Mr. DUI have noticed the restricted abilities of this individual, and done something about it?
OK, I know that at times I am unrealistic in my expectations. For some reason I think that everyone should do sensible things, but my definition of sensible evidently is not the same as everyone else's. I try to be a nice guy, not cut too many people off in traffic, try not to hit too many kids in the cross walk, try not to squeeze too many loaves of bread in the supermarket before finding the softest one. Shouldn't everyone just be nice? Why can't we all just get along?
Legal disclaimer - these are my personal opinions. If you are a lawyer, please do not sue me over this. If you are Mr. DUI, I respect your work. If you are the client I mentioned, STOP DRINKING AND DRIVING. Personal opinion again.
Sorry, no pictures again. Guess I better change the subtitle on my blog.