Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Views of the Strip

Working at my house, and working on the yard makes me forget where I live. I'm so busy concentrating on what I'm doing that I forget that we live in one of the hotest tourist destinations in the world. But, then things happen to remind me. We had some visitors out last week. My uncle from San Diego, and my son's girlfriend from San Francisco. And they both wanted to hit the casinos and gamble. My uncle hasn't been to the strip in twenty years, so he wanted to see the new things. I don't think there is anything on the strip that is the same as it was twenty years ago.
But, when driving around different parts of the Las Vegas valley the strip is always evident. Interstate 15 runs north/south right down the center of the valley, and the strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) is parallel to 15 just east of it. There are mountains on both the east and west sides of the valley, with Red Rock to the west. Our house is about three miles due west of the center of the strip. Most major streets run east/west, and looking down to the valley center when driving presents different hotels directly ahead of you, depending on the street that you are on.
This view from a few blocks away from our house shows the Stratosphere.

Over 1,000 feet tall, it's visible from almost anywhere in the Las Vegas area. Up on top is an observation deck, and a restaurant that rotates. Not very fast - about like the ones in Toronto and Seattle, it turns once and hour. That is enough to get some people dizzy. My wife became ill from the motion the last time we ate up there last year, before we moved here when visiting our daughter. Besides the restaurant there are also some rides - a roller coaster (yes, on top over 1100 feet high), a vertical drop ride and a new one that hangs you over the edge and drops a bit. Here's Stratosphere - tourism version.
Driving to Henderson to see a friend last weekend brought up this view coming away from his house. Henderson is a small city southeast of LV, on the way to the Boulder Dam about fifteen miles due east of the strip. Driving back brings up this view.

At this resolution you probably can't make out the Stratosphere, just under the hanging traffic light on the right. The strip is right ahead, with the pyramid to the left. At night the lights really stand out.
Visiting someone else that lives near Summerlin, to the east brings up the next picture.

Summerlin is about fifteen miles west of 15. You can't make out much in this photo, but all of the casinos stand out at night. I'm usually driving around in the daytime so those are the pictures you get. My camera doesn't work very well on these long range shots at night.
For those of you looking for something more familiar, we have the strip itself. We took my uncle down one afternoon, which stretched into the evening. Making a small circuit, (he doesn't walk too fast) we started at the Luxor pyramid, over to the Excalibur, across the street to New York, to the MGM on the other corner, and the Tropicana on the fourth corner.

This was taken from the pedestrian bridge over Las Vegas Boulevard, between the Tropicana and the Excalibur, looking north. You can't see the stratosphere from here, I think it's behind the MGM sign. According to Las Vegas magazine this is the busiest intersection in the US, with over 28 million cars a year driving through it. The MGM Grand is the largest hotel in the US - over five thousand rooms at this one location. It's the second largest hotel in the world, according to Google the First World Hotel in Malaysia is the largest with 6,300 rooms. Lots of fancy restaurants in the MGM Grand - it is always on the list of best places to eat, and now I hear that Alan Ducase, rated as the best French chef in the world, is supposed to open a small place at the MGM next year. I guess if you have $200 a head to lay out for food (not counting wine) Las Vegas is a great place to be. The Bellagio also has a half dozen great places to dine as well. Las Vegas has 12 of the 13 largest hotels in the world.
We usually hit off strip restaurants, but I do want to go to Picasso at the Bellagio. It was built by Steve Wynn, but is now owned by the same group that also owns the MGM, Mirage and TI (formerly known as Treasure Island). Look at the list of places there - besides Picasso, they have Le Cirque, Aqua, Olives (we've been there before) and others. Most cities don't have that many great places to eat, let alone one building.
So much for now - and yes, both people ended up leaving LV with more money than they came. My uncle did well on the crap tables, Juanita hit it big on the slots. Not big enough to take us out to these types of restaurants, but OK for them.

Monday, March 29, 2004

More big houses

Driving around town this weekend. I didn't turn on my computer for three days - something unusual for me.
We recently converted our back yard from grass to low water landscape, and part of that entails installing a large patio out back. The front of our house faces east, with the kitchen on the south side and the family room and my office in back facing west. During the early summer and early fall the sun really comes in all of these windows and warms up the place - during the middle of summer it's right overhead and the large eaves shade the windows. We are putting in a concrete walkway around the house, from the back garage door down the south side of the house and two large covered concrete patios out back. One off the kitchen/breakfast room, and one across the whole back of the house. Part of the patio will be a full covering to give us lots of shade.
We had several bids for the concrete work, all ended up being within $50 of each other. The one we chose said they couldn't start for a few weeks - seems like lots of people do work this time of year in anticipation of the hot summer. But, a crew showed up last Thursday afternoon with a Bobcat and lots of shovels and started digging. At least we don't have any rain so they are not working in mud. But that tied up a few days, then the weekend was busy in prep. The back yard is in two levels, with the far back about 16 inches higher than right by the house. My wife planned on some steps to get up over the low wall, which we have just been stepping up to. My oldest son is a journeyman carpenter, and he specializes in concrete forms. So, after working for 50 hours building forms for a large business he got to build forms for our steps on the weekend. That was last weekend.
This week we discussed how nice it would be to have lights in the steps, so that we could see where to step at night. (When I say 'we' of course I mean my wife.) My part of the discussion was in finding out how many lights, and where they were wanted. We settled on three lights for each step area - it's a wide yard so we are making two sets of steps. Three steps, in a pyramid shape rather than just a dull flat sided run. I spent the week figuring out how to imbed lights into the concrete before it's poured. We could buy lights designed for that, but they cost $180 each and take a month to order. Cheap as I am, I came up with something, bought the parts, and spent the weekend fixing the boxes to the forms and running conduit between the boxes which will be inside the concrete steps.
But, we did have to drive around a bit to buy parts. We went past one of my favorite areas of town, close to a section called the 'Scotch 80's'. This is an area which was built up in the 50's and 60's, mainly with large homes where the new casino managers lived. It is in an area that was near the original springs, and has lots of large trees. We thought of buying there when we move to Vegas, but it ended up that the 15 freeway goes right next to the neighborhood, and one of the reasons we left San Diego was our close proximity to that freeway (and all of the associated noise and dust).
Nearby is a section with large lots and some equally large houses. I drive by this one

which always has looked like a school from the side. The front doesn't look much more friendly.

Looking it up on the Clark County info site shows it to be around 10,000 sq. ft. (click on areal map). (I hope the link works, the site is very sensitive to your browser security settings).
Just around the corner from that one is an even larger one, that looks like an old Spanish hacienda/church/whatever.

This one is around 13,000 sq. ft. And no, these are by far not the largest houses around town. One near these is over 20,000 sq. ft. It's always in the news as the owner frequently has large parties and fund raisers, and has photos of guests in the 'society' section of the paper. Can't get a picture of that, as it's in a gated section.
That's it for big houses for today - I'll try and put some time into Photoshop and clean up others I have.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

General complaints

Not writing about LV today, but about problems, and some people in general.
As mentioned before, I've converted most of the yard from grass to low water desert landscaping. That doesn't mean no water, just a lot less than grass takes. As part of the conversion I've pulled out all of the lawn sprinklers, and am installing drip irrigation. Drip irrigation provides a slow flow of water directly to the plant roots.
I've got several types, one is a long brown pvc hose, half inch in diameter, with drip outlets every twelve inches. Each outlet puts out a half gallon of water an hour. This pipe wraps around our big trees in circles. So far we've got to large olive trees that were here when we moved in, and just put in about sixteen new trees.
You can almost see the water dripping off to the right.
Another type is a similar black plastic hose, but solid and I have to put in drip emitters whereve I want to, rather than having them continuously along the pipe. This plastic hose runs all over the yard, and I put emitters wherever I put in plants. This is more for the shrubs and flowers. We've got a lot of purple sage and the yellow broom and an assortment of grasses.
Anyway, I've got quite a few water zones so that I can put down the water each type of plant requires. I was installing a new valve in order to water the almond tree - it's off by itself surrounded by concrete. In addition to an electronic sprinkler valve, there is also a filter so the drip emitters don't plug up, and a pressure regulator. After cutting pipe, gluing it all together and waiting for it to dry I turned it on to test it, and was greeted by a shower of water coming from the valve.
I found that the valve wasn't put together properly. Tightenin it up I tried again. Another shower, but from the backflow preventer.

In my hand is a little flapper valve that moves to close off the backflow exit, then when water is turned off moves to permit water to drain. The black ring is a rubber gasket that seals the opening. When I took apart this valve I found that the rubber gasket was missing. Apparently someone had opened the box in the store and taken the gasket, then screwed it back together incorrectly. This was the reason that I was showered two times! And I then had to drive back to Home Depot to get another gasket. And Home Depot does not just sell gaskets, I had to buy a whole new valve, take it apart, and fix the one I had installed. Home Depot said to return the bad one for a refund, but I would rather just get a new two cent gasket (which they don't sell). So not only did I waste time figuring out what was wrong and getting wet, but I had to make another trip back to the store and then had to fix my 'new' valve unit.
I'm not mad at Home Depot - I'm mad at the idiot that had to open the box in the store and steal the gasket - THANKS BUDDY!!!!! If HD did sell replacement gaskets I'm sure this guy would still steal one anyway.
What a way to kill an afternoon.
Back to the drips - I installed this type of valve because it's what I was used to installing in California. I find that in Las Vegas people use a flat style valve that is usually mounted in a box underground.

Here's a picture of my valve on the left, with the valve, filter, and pressure regulator all mounted together - it makes a stack about a foot high. Next to it, covered with dirt, is the 'Vegas' type flat valve. I mount mine vertical to take up less room - if I put the filter and regulator on the flat valve then the assembly would be a foot long laying down, and I could never find a nice box to cover it up. However, the flat one is used here because it gets cold, and outdoor pipes do freeze some winters. This year was warm (no real cold for a long time) but I've been told that most years it does get cold enough to freeze the pipes for several nights. So I guess I have to build some type of box to cover the pipes and keep them from freezing.
The vertical valves are also nice in that they come apart in the middle, as in the top photo, and can be easily replaced without cutting any pipes. When the flat valves go bad, and none of them last forever, you have to dig up quite a lot of pipe in order to cut the fittings, take out the old one, and squeeze a new one with fittings back in. This is almost impossible if plant roots have grown around the valves, and usually you have four or six valves together, which means there is a lot of pipe right there getting in the way.
No, it doesn't get cold enough to freeze the ground, which is why the flat ones are used and either buried or covered with a landscaping box. Even if it does get cold at night, it still gets up over 50 during the day, so the pipes would then defrost and produce fountains in the yard.
So, glad I didn't write this last night after putting in all of those hours working on something that should have gone in OK the first time.
Sorry for the complaints here, after all this talk I think I should at least give you a Vegas photo -

This is a street near our house. Some developer put in a batch of houses a few years ago, and lined the street for four blocks with these trees that bloom white. In full bloom now, soon to be green, they are pretty.
Oh, I drove by the water catch basin and the burlap is off of the cactus.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Warm weather thoughts

Going through my recent pictures, and there are a few I thought I should put up before they get too outdated. We have a water authority 'basin' near our house - these are empty fields that the water authority digs really low and usually surrounds with concrete. They are to hold water when we have our big thunderstorms, to prevent flash flooding downstream - (see Fire crew rescue for a shot of flooding last summer). Some of the basins are very large, and one nearby was left green with soccer fields down in the bottom - it's across from my Von's, so I'll take a picture soon to show how big.
Anyway, they usually put low water landscaping around the outside of the basin. This one has some saguaro cactus scattered around. Well, even though LV is in a desert it is not the same as the south of Arizona, where saguero cactus normally grow. It's too cold here and they freeze to death in the winter. If you see any old cowboy movies you can always tell the ones shot in old Tucson as there are saguaros all over the place. The ones here look a little different in winter:

They are wrapped in burlap to protect them from the cold. Since it's been so warm, they should be unwrapped soon.
Some other signs of spring around our yard - the apple tree is turning green.

And the peach tree didn't turn all nice and pink like it did last year, the green leaves came out first.

It was very nice sitting out today under the shade of the peach eating hamburgers we grilled (yes, our grill is active).
And finally our almond tree has passed beyond the flower stage:

Some little baby almonds are here.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Thoughts about links

I was having an email conversation today with someone, and started thinking about web and blog links. I have a list of 'standard' sites that I go to on a daily or every other day basis. Sometimes if I have time I then start clicking on the link lists that I find on these pages, which lead to more link lists and eventually I end up on some pretty strange pages that I never would have looked for or even imagined. Some days this consumes a great amount of time, and I end up wondering why it's starting to get dark in my office when I just had lunch. Yea, five hours ago and you've been bouncing around doing nothing useful. Most of the sites don't end up on my 'I've got to go there again' list, but some do go into the 'strange places' list that I visit once in a while.
Then again, what is considered a good way to spend your time? If the bills are being paid, we've got food and feel like we are living OK, then why not take some time to have fun? I don't sit in front of the TV all day, don't spend hours staring at internet porn (though it feels like it some day with some of the link paths), and don't spend lots of money racing dune buggies or motorcycles or whatever my neighbors do with their time.

This isn't really about Las Vegas, after spending more time looking at blogs I guess I felt like just talking tonight.

So, here are some of those 'strange places' sites that I've come across. Some of the ones listed here will make it over to the right side of this screen, to sit as places to go for readers that chance upon this site and are looking for somewhere else to go.
Let's start out with a lifestyle that I would never go for - Lizardman who has gone way past 'just one tattoo'.
For those of you with a high bandwidth (it does take long to load) here's a video trailer for the movie Jesus Christ, vampire hunter. Another strange music video that came up is Sumo florist, which is again a little strange, especially the guitar players and the singers at the end.
After a trip to London, I have a place on my pages for sites that offer a glimpse of what the big city is like. One of my favorites is London Underground which covers the tube. Another, though in a slightly different vein, is belle de jour, the thoughts of a woman in a different profession.
Passed on by one of the London sites, it didn't look like too much at first but this person really can write well, Little red boat. Another good writer on an American city is Rob Walker's letters from New Orleans.
And finally two visual sites, one by a photographer with a really nicely laid out site (be sure to click around and see all of the pictures) is Eccentris - photographs, it does load a little slow due to the Flash stuff. And finally a strange attitude but really good with Flash cartoons is Joe Cartoon, home of the famous gerbil in a blender (and microwave, and light socket).

Not wanting to leave without at least one picture, here's yesterday's sunset.

Warm weather

Another gorgeous day here in sunshine. I know I keep talking about it, but after coming from hazy San Diego and before that cold Rochester, New York I really appreciate it being warm. Rochester yesterday had a date range of 28/22 but today it is supposed to go up to 30. And about a foot of snow on the ground. Well, here we are: says it's 83 here, but feels like 80. Rochester is 30 but feels like 22. For those of you in California and the southeast, maybe you can't appreciate it, but I do. As you can see, it's due to start cooling off, the last day above says 83 for the high.
We moved here last April, and wore our coats for a few weeks before it warmed up. So I know that we probably will be doing it again, and our 'normal' high for right now is supposed to be only 73, but still that's better than 30. And yes, it will be over 110 for several days this summer, but I would much rather sit out in the warm than have to hop into a freezing car and wait an hour for the heater to make it warm enough inside.
Went back to Plant World Nursery yesterday for more flowers.

As you can see, it's all colorfull under the shade, but with stripes of sunshine in this area of the nursery. The birds were all squawking and dancing around, the turtles in their pond were sunning themselves and we filled our trunk with yellow. An assortment of yellow flowers were scattered around, OK, we did get two six packs of red petunias, but all the rest were yellow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Cookie sale

Driving around yesterday I came across this sign.

It was in front of the supermarket I was going into anyway. Of course I had to follow it up. Also note the gas sign in the background - (I guess at this resolution you can't read it) - but it says $2.07 a gallon for regular. Yes, LV does have close to the highest price in the country. But, it will probably be over $2.50 before the end of summer all over anyway.
Back to the sale - of course it led to this.

As you can see, this year I only had a few dollars cash. Yes, I could have written a check, but I did that last year and got over twenty boxes. No thin mints this year - one year when three girls came to our door in San Diego I stocked up, and as they say, thin mints freeze fine, so we had a freezer full and ate for several months. As it was, these were all gone before the end of the day anyway. I feel that we should support the brave girls of scouting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

More front yards

Here are some more houses in my area. Most of the homes here were custom built in the late 70's. People would buy a lot and then find a builder to put up a house. This means that no two houses are alike, and there are some very strange homes. Usually their yards also reflect this attitude. Some people seem to have a taste in style that doesn't quite match mine, which is evident from these pictures.
I had talked previously about the water department trying to get people to switch over from grass lawns to yards with plants that do not take as much water. This house seems to have taken this seriously. They have a yard that uses very little water.

This is not what the water department is asking for. Their guidelines require a 50% shade coverage. There is a plant list that contains most low water plants that grow well in our area, along with how large they get when fully grown.
Looking at the yard below it seems that they went for 150% shade coverage.

At least I think that there is a yard in there somewhere. And a house behind the front yard. From the size of the plants they evidently moved away from the grass to
And here is a yard that is in progress.

Looks like they just put in their palms and are working on plant selection for the surrounding area.
And one house just down the street is full of kids, and they evidently are not planning on converting their grass just yet.

They just planted that big blue thing in the front yard - I think it was a Christmas present, as it went up on Dec. 26. It is usually full of bouncing kids.
Las Vegas has lots of areas where new homes are being built. Most of these sections are several thousand acres in size, with a master agency and several builders putting up homes. One of the larger areas is Summerlin, which is kind of the opposite of my neighborhood. Summerlin is an area where there are hundreds of homes that all look exactly the same. I lived in a similar area in California once. The joke is that you have to look at the street signs and house numbers to pick out which one is yours. The lots are really small - usually just ten feet from the front door to the street, side yards three feet wide, and a back yard that varies from five to ten feet behind the house. You pay more for a bigger lot, which gives you a back yard that might be fifteen or twenty feet deep.
But enough people want to live there that there is a waiting list for new home purchases.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Favorite Houses

Walking around the neighborhood today I went past several of the houses that I always look at. The first is a house that I mistook for an office building the first few times I drove past. It's right down from a busy street, with offices just next to it.

The left side has doors for four cars and a double height garage for a motor home.

The next one I always look at as the stereotypical Las Vegas house. Here you can really do things that the rest of the world would consider odd, or excessive.

The front yard (and I think the back, but you can't see it too well) is almost totally filled with statues. Not little things, but concrete statues over fifteen feet high. The assessor web site shows it as 3 bedroom, 6 bath, 6800 sq ft, five fireplaces, assessed last year at over $2,000,000. The current owner has been in it since 1986, and has really put an effort into making it their ideal. It's a nice looking place, brick with purple roof and shiny copper surround. I always drive slowly past it, admiring the effort that went into selecting several dozen hugh statues and fountains.
The opposite end of the front yard spectrum is just two blocks away.

This house has a front yard which is nothing but pile of dirt with a dead cactus on it. Towards the back of the left side there is also a small dead palm tree. Don't say it just happened, we moved here a year ago and it's looked exactly like this all of that time.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Around the neighborhood

Another sunny day, got up to 82F - I see that Rochester had more snow, sorry you guys. Guess I should stop picking on New York.
Here are some more flowers -

Here are a bunch of dafodils in front of a house a few blocks away, looks like the flowers don't have to poke up through the snow here.

One of the reasons we moved from San Diego was because of the weather (as if you couldn't tell). San Diego was nice (and up to 80F there a few days ago) because of the ocean there were not many extreme temperature changes. We lived near the stadium and Balboa Park, far enough inland that we didn't have the severe fog and haze that the Pacific causes, and not too far inland to get the full heat. The temperatures were rarely cold, in twenty years we probably only had frost a half dozen times. And not too hot - probably hit 80 only a dozen days or so at our house. Because of the influence of the ocean it was always average - in the summer there were months when the weatherman would say 'morning low clouds, high around 69 low around 50'.
The sky was always partially hazy due to the humidity. Here it is really dry, and the sky is usually a real nice blue.

There are clouds around every few days, and then it seems that the jets flying overhead leave long stripes in the sky. Las Vegas is right under the main east-west air corridor, and anyone flying between California and almost anywhere east goes right overhead. This picture is looking south at about mid day. There are about eight or nine stripes from planes flying to LA from the rest of the country. First thing in the morning the planes are moving from west to east, from LA towards the southwest and from San Francisco towards the northwest. As the day progresses it changes to planes going to LA and SFO, then back again.

Sometimes the stripes are short and dissapear quickly, sometimes they are long and last a while. These two are headed from LA east, looked like a big one and a smaller LearJet following a little higher.
I just like to look at the patterns in the sky.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Pool work

My daughter also lives in Las Vegas. She has a small house near us with a pool taking up most of the back yard. Many houses in Las Vegas have pools - don't know why there are so many here and so few in Rochester, NY.
Anyway, her pool is rather old and looking worn, with tiles falling off and the color fading. She decided to have it worked on, and the first step is sand blasting the old finish off the pool and surrounding deck.

I thought the image of a guy (I think it's a guy) in a space suit with clouds of dust was interesting. At times he dissapeared in the cloud, and then the wind would blow and he would reappear.

We'll keep you posted on the progress.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Neighborhood flowers

Keeping with yesterday's spring theme, I walked around the area today and took some pictures of things in bloom.

There are lots of street trees that are now in bloom, no leaves yet but covered in flowers. There are white ones, and pink ones like this tree.
There are several plants blooming in the low water gardens.

The yucca tree and Joshua trees are starting with large blooms at the branch tips. This flower is about eight inches across.

And a very popular native, the Yellow Broom is starting to fill out with flowers. These stay green all year but bloom for most of the summer. The bushes get quite big. This one is about four feet high and wide.
And for those of you familiar with these,

They aren't flowers, but seed heads. The yellow flowers are evident in everyone's lawn. Our area of grass is still a dormant brown. It will green up as it gets warmer, but there are green spots within that are the weeds. This is in a yard a few blocks away. The seed heads just looked so puffy in the sunlight I thought it was a nice picture.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Spring flowers

Yesterday it was 76F, according to the weatherman it's the first day over 75 since late October. Wow, four and a half months during which it didn't get over 75. After living in Rochester, NY - which had a high of 43 yesterday - where it probably will not hit 75 for another two months - I'll take four months of 'cool'.
Thinking of Rochester, and walking around my back yard, I thought that I would show the people in cold country what's happening here, and what they have to look forward to.

We put in a few dozen prostrate rosemary plants last fall, as part of the low water rework. They are still small, but all of the rosemary around town now has a beautiful pale blue flower. The picture doesn't show the colors very well.

The last owner had paperwhites planted all over. They are coming up randomly and blooming now, with more just starting to push up leaves. With the rain last week the soil is still damp, and with the heat all kinds of things are poping up.

We've got a big peach tree, which is starting to have pale pink flowers. We saw it last year when we were thinking of buying this house, and it was one huge globe of pink. This year the blooms are starting out slow, and with the heat leaves are coming out too, so it might gradually turn pink slowly.

There is a small almond against the back wall. It's coming out with white flowers.
So much for our flower report for today. It got up around 80F today, so it looks like the cold is gone. I'll walk around the neighborhood tomorrow and see what's blooming at the neighbor's.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Tomato talk

Another sunny day. Guess that I can stop saying that, as that's what it will be for quite a while now. Yesterday's high was 76F, today was a little warmer. We went out to Plant World Nursery today, to hear the Tomato lady talk about planting tomatoes. You can tell that everyone is ready for Spring by the number of people buying flowers and plants today.

My pictures of the overall crowds didn't come out too well - I am still getting used to the new camera. As you can see, there were about 40 people listening to the talk.
Plant World Nursery is rather large, and has a great selection of plants. They also have a lot of parrots.

Which are quite noisy, the green one in particular wanted to join in leading our speaker. Some are friendly, and let you pet them and will sit on your arm, but there are signs all over warning that 'Our Birds Bite'.
We listened, and spent a bunch of money on an assortment of plants. Pentunias seemed to do quite well, so we bought a dozen in three colors to brighten up our front courtyard. Some larger desert plants for our dry area.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Starting a garden

It was warm today, up around 76F here. Back in San Diego we had a large garden that changed periodically. One year we were up to over three hundred rose bushes. After working through that, we moved to a more tropical courtyard and were down to twenty roses. I went crazy over a seed catalog, can put in twenty different types of tomatoes one year - yellow ones, green ones, white ones (yes, white tomatoes), striped ones, purple ones, and even a few red ones.
Moving to Las Vegas, with the heat and colder winter nights and strange soil is leading us into different plants here. We pulled up most of the grass and put in a low water landscape, but with over twenty new trees (more on that in the future). I still want a vegetable garden, and have been researching how best to do it. One of the growers in the area is a Master Gardener called the Tomato lady. She has lots of tips on hot weather tomato growing.

I started by putting in three raised beds each 4x8 feet. These were filled with a mixture of planting soil (mostly sand) and bunches of bags of ammendments - peat moss, manure, compost, etc. Topped with a soaker hose to supply the water.
Tomorrow the Tomato Lady is giving a talk at a local nursery. I already have her book and have started some seeds inside, but am looking forward to hearing what she has to say.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Wide streets

Asunny warmer day today. I went out for a bit to get some stuff.
The streets around Las Vegas are quite wide - usually six lanes with a center turn lane. Some of the bigger streets have a center island.

This is Rainbow Boulevard looking North. In keeping with the snow theme, you can see the white mountain in the distance. - Las Vegas has about the highest rate of pedestrian vs auto accidents in the country. We have over 70 people a year die from being hit by cars. Several reasons - one is the really rotten drivers. I have never seen drivers this bad anywhere else - speeding, passing on the right, running lights, just about everything you can think of. The other reason are the streets - you can see how wide this one is, and it's typical, but at least there is an island to stand on in the center. The lights are on major corners, either a mile or a half mile apart. The long way to a light makes people run across without walking down to a traffic signal, and thus subject themselves to the cars. Surface streets like this have a speed limit of 45, which means most drivers do 55-60. Try running across six lanes with cars coming from both directions.
On the way I stopped at America's favorite expensive coffee place -

There is one in every state now, and they just opened one in Paris a few weeks ago. The French don't have enough with multiple coffee shops on every corner, now they can get good American expresso.
Ended up at my favorite grocery store in the area, a new Vons about two miles west. The main reason is the size of their fruit and veggie section.

A pretty good selection. A Whole Foods opened a few months ago, and they have a great cheese area, lots of unusual fruits, but for size of the department the Vons is still the biggest. Of course, most of the stuff comes from Chile this time of year (and most of the time), but there are six different types of pears, eight varieties of apples, and lots of other stuff.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Wynn construction

Driving around yesterday. I had an appointment on Highland Ave, down near the strip right off of 15. The area along 15 is an industrial area, with no houses, lots of older businesses, the railroad tracks, and the only area in town where 'adult' businesses are permitted.
Las Vegas used to have nude entertainment in the casinos but then in the 80's Circus Circus came to town and the focus changed from catering to adults (meaning old men with money) to families. The nude shows disappeared and the family themed resorts came to town. Las Vegas passed some new zoning ordinances restricting adult oriented places. The restrictions included being a certain distance from homes, churches, etc. and keeping businesses separated from each other. This resulted in restricting these adult businesses to the industrial areas of town. The main area is just along 15, close to the strip but not on it.
Driving east down Desert Inn Road just before 15 there is the most advertised place called ‘Jaguars’. Fairly new, it currently is in the news because the owner is under indictment in San Diego and Las Vegas for bribing elected officials. The LV city council just fined the owner of Jaguars and another club called Cheetah's over one million dollars, without even having a conviction or anything.

The building supposedly looks like a Roman structure, with big pillars out front. There is also a billboard with about the largest breasts you will see in town. In the distance you can see a building under construction.

This is Steve Wynn’s new Wynn Resort, formerly called Le Reve, on the corner of Desert Inn and the strip (Las Vegas Boulevard). Wynn is about the best known name in town, having built the Mirage, Treasure Island, the Bellagio, the Venetian, Mandalay Bay and the Aladdin. He sold everything a few years ago and is putting his money into the new place, due to open next year. The 45-story tower with construction cranes overhead can be seen from all over the valley.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

At the Green Valley Ranch casino

Last night we went to the Green Valley Ranch casino in Henderson to have dinner at the buffet.
Most 'locals' don't go down to the strip casinos very often, as they are usually quite crowded and expensive. When we do we usually go mid week, as there are fewer visitors around. Most visitors to Las Vegas come from Los Angeles and just drive up for the weekend. Statistics for last year show over a 98% hotel occupancy rate for the weekends. I haven't seen figures for mid week. With more hotel rooms here than anywhere else in the world that provides a lot of people.
We started going to the Green Valley Ranch buffet last fall. They ran a cheap deal during the month of November and December (the slowest months) of $6 for lunch - quite a deal with all of the food they have. It's a pretty good buffet, not as large as the MGM buffet, but then it's only $12.99 instead of the MGM's $21.99. The Ranch Feast has the desired crab legs, rack of lamb, prime rib, turkey, and bunches of other things.

This buffet follows the current new standards of having different specialty areas. It's called the Feast around the world and there are different sections for Mexican, Italian, Chinese, southwest, and American food, as well as desserts and salads. My son filled up on crab legs.

Going back several times to refill his plate.

with crab legs and mussels.

On the way out we stopped at the slots - hard not to do when they make you walk throught the whole casino floor to get to the food. But that's what most of the casinos do, as they are there to entice your money from your pocket into the machines.

There used to be prohibitions about taking photos on the casino floors, so I just held my camera low and did not use the flash just in case. We spent a grand total of $18.55 playing a variety of slot machines.

Most of the machines are video poker. There are none of the old mechanical slots around, everything is computer controlled. Most machies do not even have mechanical reels that spin, but a video monitor that shows pictures of spinnig wheels. The change to slots that I find most disturbing is the trend toward 'coinless' slots, that pay out in paper chits.

Funny enough, when you push the 'payout' button the sounds of coins falling into the metal tray comes from the stereo speakers all of the machines have, then your chit comes out of a slot. You can use it in another machine, or go over to an automated teller type machine and get cash.
The Green Valley Ranch food court also has a feature that is popular,

a painted blue sky with clouds. The big casinos on the strip, such as Paris, the Venetian and Caesar's all have large malls with painted sky. Caeser's cycles through an entire day every hour, moving from sunrise through daylight, sunset and night. The Aladin mall is all painted as if outdoors, there is even an area where it rains every half hour, with water falling from the sky accompanied by lightning and thunder.