Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Another rant about my last job (skip if you want)

I’ve been at this job for six months now, and compared to the last place this is heaven. The work is consistent, things are well laid out, and management is pretty good. My project manager is the best PM I’ve ever worked for.

But some things came up this week that have made me think about my last place of employment. I don’t like to remember that place. But somebody found some notes on one of the last owners on a discussion site and emailed me with questions, which led me to think about those guys. He googled some key words and found an old posting here. Imagine that.

Let me first explain how that business worked. (Boy, you guys are spoiling me – I started this blog as a photo op to show my day, now I am not taking many pictures but really just putting down words.)

The basic customer is a person with very bad credit – they buy names of people that default on credit cards, have bankruptcies, and generally are not doing well. These people are then sent a letter telling them that they now have $8,500 credit, just phone this number to activate their account. Most people think this is pretty good – they phone in and are read a long legal script, and basically talked into signing up. All the phone reps have a complicated script to read, with options for just about any question or objection a caller might have. (I worked on programming the scripts, so I know how complicated they are inside). The Federal Trade Commission approves the scripts. Reps are monitored and regularly fired for not reading the script exactly. No warning, just get out. Really employee friendly place (see my old posts about that topic).

The basic offer is for a ‘merchant’ card, not a ‘credit’ card. The distinction is that the credit is only for our products, not for general use. Kind of like a store credit card, only good for stuff inside that store, or a gas credit card only good for gas from that company. This is a very common type of credit offer used by lots of companies. Customers can only use the credit to buy stuff from our catalog. It’s not a bad list of items, kind of like a small Sears catalog. There is a department that puts it together, reprinting every quarter with monthly special flyers. It’s about an inch thick, with several thousand items.

People are offered this card as a way to buy things on credit that they cannot afford, and as a way to improve their credit rating by showing they have an account that they can handle. All sounds good. Except.

People are offered this fantastic deal for the low price of a $199 membership activation fee and a $99 annual membership fee. They are also offered a theft protection option for $99 annually and a continuation option (payments delayed on job loss or injury) for an additional $99 annually. So they are talked into a $496 package. They can only sign up if they have a checking account and authorize us to make account withdrawals. They can send in a money order for the amount and get on that way, but none of our customers (or very few) have money sitting around, or else they would not be having such credit problems.

After phoning in people are sent an information packet, with lots of legal documents and a sample of the catalog (not the whole catalog, just a small assortment of pages). They have two weeks to phone back and cancel the deal if they change their mind. I worked on the script that the phone people use to talk them into keeping the membership, again, answers about every objection, approved by the FTC, and people are fired for not reading off of the screen. And people are fired for having too many cancellations, so they are motivated to talk people into keeping the deal.

The reason for Federal Trade Commission script approval – they have so many complaints about our company (sorry, floating in the past, THAT company) that they (the FTC) are continually investigating it. I think there are thirteen states they cannot do business in because of complaints and lawsuits from assorted state attorney generals. The QA department handles complaints, from legal agencies and the Better Business Bureau, which often number in the hundreds each month. It was one of my jobs to pull up the audio recordings (they recorded every phone conversation) clean them up and make CDs to mail out to state agencies or lawyers.

So people read the deal, talk to somebody about it to sign up, then have the chance to phone in and cancel (or send a fax or letter to cancel). So I can’t feel too sorry for the customer. But after listening to a lot of phone calls, I realize that the average customer is about as sharp as a bag of hammers. (Is that still a valid phrase?) It is hard to understand how most of those people function in the real world, holding a job, paying rent and electric bills, just surviving. I didn’t realize how many people are mentally not very adept. Which is one reason that they have such poor credit, and end up being our customer.

Most people realize what they signed up for when their checks start bouncing because we went and sucked $199 from their account. I’ve heard the phone calls – ‘I’m getting kicked out of my apartment ‘cause I don’t have the rent’, ‘I can’t feed the kids because I don’t have any money’, ‘I can’t buy my medicine’ . . . . And if our withdrawal attempt is refused because of insufficient funds we wait a while and hit their account again. Get this part – by law we can only try three times to collect the amount. Most people are hit with a $35 bank fee each time, same as a bounced check charge. But our contract says that if they don’t get the ‘premium’ membership we will automatically issue a ‘special’ membership, and if that fails a ‘regular’ membership. Each type of membership is considered a different sale, so we thus can hit their bank accounts nine times trying to collect. With them having their bank assess them the NSF fee each time. For most people that is $35, for a total of $315 in bank fees before we stop. I don’t know the exact figures, but one of our owners is a financial wizard and had detailed statistics on everything. I think once an attempt bounced (our first time good statistic was around 20%) the second time we got only 5% of those attempted, dropping off to under 1% for the ninth try. Not very good, but when you are hitting thousands of accounts a month it does add up to a lot of money. But it does amount to a lot of bank fees for those customers without much money to begin with. After we get the initial $199 we then start hitting them up for the $99 stuff every following month.

And of course if attempts are returned we report these as bad credit, along with the banks reporting the nsf, so most of the people end up getting additional derogatory items reported which continue to bring down their credit rating.

After people are members they can start buying stuff from the catalog. Policy required 30% deposit before the items were shipped, then a long payment time for the balance but at no interest. (At least we didn’t charge interest, nice part of the sales pitch.) We made sure the 30% cleared their bank before shipping. I don’t know about most items, but I did check on the computers we listed in the catalog. There was one Dell machine listed. I went on the Dell web site and was able to look up the exact model number, which we listed the same as Dell. But our sale price was over three times the Dell price. I don’t remember the exact model or price – it was something like $460 from Dell and $1599 from us. So our 30% deposit was exactly the same as the total Dell selling price, and we probably paid wholesale anyway. We covered our costs and made a profit from the deposit alone, the balance payout was really all profit. So if people went to Dell and sent them the money that we sucked away they could own the same thing free and clear instead of still owing us a bundle. I assume other items were similar.

Most of the income came from the fees. This is evident internally by looking at the number of employees. There were 120 handling the initial phone calls in, 150 handling the attempts to cancel during the ‘free trial period’, and 80 handing customer complaints from people we did get the membership fee from. There were only five people taking catalog orders. I did not handle the billing, and thus do not know those numbers, but looking at how many people take catalog orders I assume that the actual sale part of the deal was a lot smaller than the membership stuff.

Sounds like a scam? But it’s all legal. All explained to everybody numerous times. Just because people are too dumb to understand what they sign up for doesn’t mean we can’t sell it to them.

Was it profitable? I don’t know exactly. But there were two owners, and we had a number of ‘motivational’ speeches where one of them talked about his $80,000 gold watch, Rolls Royce and Lamborghini, and how he could fire us all and rent out the building and still do quite well. This was pointed out by that recent contact. One of the owners goes to a discussion board (the financial guy, not our motivational speaker), where people with money brag about their purchases. At least that’s what it seemed like when I looked. And he was discussing his new house purchase. Having a home in Vegas and one in LA, and lots of business property, he just bought a house formerly owned by Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei. Not Jefri’s big place in Vegas, but the smaller property. I looked up the good prince in Google, and read a lot of articles on his billions in expenses, almost bankrupting the country. I remember Prince Jefri, his daughter wanted to get $25 million out of the country and offered me 20% if I would only send her my bank account information, in several emails. I never replied.

The Clark County assessor has a web site where you can look up properties, get aerial maps and photos, and see what things are like (link to the right). You can look it up too - 7030 Tomiyasu - parcel 17701701015. Here’s the photo –

That’s 11 acres, not really visible in the shot. The main house (main house, not including the other houses on the lot) has over 60,000 square feet under roof (around 6500 sq. meters for you non Americans). THAT’S ALMOST AN ACRE AND A HALF INSIDE THE HOUSE! Sorry to shout, but who the heck needs that much? That’s over forty times the average Vegas new home. A lot bigger than my whole lot. Inside the house! Purchase price $14,000,000 US. And he talks about it still needing $5,000,000 to finish construction. Probably why the assessor site doesn’t list the number of bedrooms or baths, because it’s not done yet. Two pools, tennis courts, big garage (for all of those Bentleys and Lamborghinis) and assorted other houses. He was complaining about his $4,200 monthly water bills. $4,200 monthly just for water. That’s a lot more than I have ever paid for a mortgage payment, more than I’ve ever taken home in a month, just for water.

I just think about all of those people bouncing checks and having a hard time making payments all giving their funds so this guy could buy a house like this. I don’t know where the other owner lives, but I am sure it is similar.

Sorry to rant like this. I try to put that place out of my mind, but when I see things like this, and read his posts, it just makes me wonder why. I’m just like most of the US, just a few paychecks away from trouble. Yet some people do things like this. I don’t know if it’s because I am too ethical, or just not in the right place at the right time, or what. Not that I would buy a 60,000 square foot home, but I would like to be able to buy one just a tenth that size. OK, able to pay cash for one just 5% of that one. That would be OK. But I am sure he didn’t pay cash, probably got loans for 120% of the value and made a profit before he even started.

OK, enough for now.

Monday, June 27, 2005

End of Spring flowers

I've been talking about our desert landscaping. We pulled up most of the grass last year and put in low water landscaping. Low water does not mean dull - after a year our plants are doing pretty well. The trees are bigger - should have shade next year, then a good size forest. We hit the local community college - they have a low water nursery there and sell assorted things, some you can't find elsewhere. We succumb to temptation, and are filling the yard back in. But still using less than a quarter of the water we did with grass.
Here are some end of spring flowers scattered around that I haven't posted yet. Most are done blooming now that it's up to 100 daily. But the sage is turning purple - starting to look good out front (we have 15 sage plants along the street). They are about 3' high now. Should eventually get up to 6 feet.

Some blue irises the previous owner left behind, relocated to near the front door.

These are California poppies - we bought several seed packets last summer and scattered them around - the ones that get water from the tree and shrub systems got pretty big. To the right of these is a purple lantana, which is just starting to bloom here. Nice and big now. These are in front of a small rock waterfall and some grasses, next to the kitchen patio area out back.

These are oleander - we have some white and red. They were here, and are now over fifteen feet high, and full of flowers for most of the summer.

The purple lantana in front of our Desert Museum palo verde tree, the yellow blooms on that mostly fallen off.

Some little yellow something we got, and put a few around.

Our front courtyard - a few packets of Iceland poppy seeds last fall, and this spring the courtyard is full of pink and red and white. They've gone to seed now and been pulled, but we scattered millions of new seeds from the heads, so next spring should be even more.

Some little pink thing we brought from San Diego - seems to like the courtyard too.
So these are some of our colors - we've more scattered around, and are always getting even more different ones to put in. So low water doesn't mean dull desert.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Water from the sky again!

There is water falling from the sky again!! I think I remember this, and hope it's not that drunk up on the roof recycling his beer again.
Cooled off a lot - down to 94, but still only 14% humidity. And it's raining. Unlike the east coast 120% humidity and no rain, just sweat (sorry, perspiration). says the average rainfall for LV in June is 0.08 inches. Sounds like a heavy sweat (sorry again, perspiration). Our wettest month is February, with a whole 0.69 inches average FOR THE MONTH. But that's why I am here and not in Seattle.
Let me digress into my rain story (OK, one of my rain stories). We went on an Alaska cruise many years ago. One stop was in Ketchican. Supposedly the place with the most rain in North America - their big sign boasted 220 inches average a year. Compared to our 0.08 for this month, that does sound like more. No decimal points there. Anyway, we happened to stop the day of the annual blueberry festival. Usually held in the garage under town hall. Ketchican isn't very big, and everybody in town fits down there at the same time. I think the cruise ship more than doubled the number of bodies in town that day. But the sun was shining, so they moved everything outside. We were talking to the guy that worked at the cemetary. He said it was the second day in a row that the sun was visible. Nobody living there could remember two days in a row of sunshine. And this guy, as well as most of the locals, was bright red from the sunburn. And he was thrilled about it - never been sunburned before. And of course, because there is usually no sun, no lotion anywhere in town. Lots of fungus cream, but no sunburn lotion.
Lots of lotion here in Vegas.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Baby update

OK, cute?

Ok, warmer, first day of summer

Finally got up to 105 yesterday (but it only felt like 101). same today, but the pool's up to 92 and really really nice. Come on over for a swim. Oh - says it's 104 but feels like 98 - so nice it's cooler feeling today. But 5pm is usually the hot spot, so still have four more hours to warm up. Don't want to feel like I'm complaining - I really like it. Sit out in back in the shade, drink my niced iced coffee (learned to do the caramel machiado myself, save like $4.45 off the Starbucks $ 4.50). Watch the birds fight on the feeder, enjoy the warmth. A heck of a lot better than the 20f below (BELOW FREAKIN ZERO) I remember in Rochester, NY.

Update - 2pm and it's now 109 but only feels like 103. At 7% humidity, it's not that you don't sweat (sorry ladies, perspire) it's just that at this temp and humidity it dries so fast you are never wet. I remember summers in New Jersey, 88f and 103% humidity, something to die for. I hear Florida is even worse (with the bugs). How about New Orleans? But I don't care what I say, 109 is HOT!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tommorow is the first day of summer says its 102f, feels like 96f. What the heck does that mean? It’s just hot. But only 7% humidity. But it was real nice in the pool last night.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday drive (again)

In early, really nice drive in today. Wind was blowing, says it's 76f, feels like 76f, humidity 26%. Only scheduled for 97f today. Hazy because of the wind kicking up dust, but felt really nice. With the window down and the wind periodically gusting in, making my hair fly. Sun was moving up – it was around 6am (no night shift for me Anna). I really like it here – I talked about Las Vegas before. The ride is nice – about three miles driving east on Twain, the sun straight ahead. Trees all along, houses at first then switching to apartments closer to the Strip. Then past the back of the Rio – if the light is red I can watch the big advertising TV showing the people in the shows dancing, the cooks in the buffet piling on the shrimp, people in the Ultra Lounge dancing and enjoying their drinks. No sound, it’s a cheaper marquee so the videos are kind of jerky and grainy. But Ok to watch. Then under the train tracks, sometimes several big engines parked overhead. And stopping at the light (always red) and then under the freeway in that little tunnel type underpass. Turn right onto Frank Sinatra Drive, back behind all the strip hotels and parking garages. They are starting to prep for construction of a new resort thingy just south of the Bellagio – taking an employee parking lot and vacant lot to put in another billion dollar high rise hotel casino something. Small articles in the paper, but no drawings or pictures of the new place yet. About three miles driving south on Sinatra, sun to my left, flashing on my face from between the towers. Warm sun, nice with the breeze. Sorry, I’m at work and don’t have Photoshop and can’t post pictures from here. Too many posts with words only, need to fix that. Maybe tonight. Then the road drops from 35 down to 20 and turns all around – at night Sinatra is not used much, so it’s used for drag racing (still called that?) But down at the south end it goes underneath Russel Road, then makes a U turn to come back to a light at Russel. The turn is tight, why the speed limit is 20. but people racing obviously don’t remember it. There are always skid marks, black stripes on the curb, and frequently a car with the front wheels bent in over on the rocks where they didn’t make the curve and hit the curb and bent the wheels and slid across the rocks, and now the car doesn’t drive and the rocks are too rocky to drive on anyway. I guess the tow trucks come in the daytime and pull them out, haul them away, off to get fixed. A short right turn onto Russel, sun in the face again, and then a quick right onto the south end of the Strip (Las Vegas boulevard). About two miles there – speed limit is 45 which means everyone is driving 60. Past the old hotels (most gone now to empty lots, just a few signs overhead) past the famous ‘welcome to Las Vegas sign – well, the back of the sign that says ‘come back soon’. Past the end of the airport, off to my left. Here is the Executive Terminal, and all the small jets, and the fancy private jets, and the charters – not too many today, lots last week. Then the tour helicopters that take people to the Grand Canyon, about a dozen in gray and maroon. Then the end of the runway, taking off overhead today. Turn left onto Sunset, sun in the eyes again, a mile down along the runway watching planes come and go, and a right and quick into the parking lot, and here I am.

No new work orders, but today looks like meeting day. 5 meetings scheduled on my calendar. No, I don't schedule them, other people include me. I've got to do some research for a few of them, some are for me to learn what I've got to do for projects. I work at a bank now – fixing problems with computer programs. More formal than most places I worked at, I fix things based on customer complaints, they fill out work orders (WO) requesting fixes and changes, and a business analyst figures out what they really want not what they are asking for, then I figure out how to do it. If something is too complex, or a request for something new, then the users have to fill out a Business Request (BR). These are for longer things, and go through committees, and other departments have to allocate money to the technical group for the requests, while work orders are to fix things, so they are on our budget. I’m required to close a work order within 30 days, some are done as soon as they show up, some take longer because of complexity, user fuzziness, testing, etc. Business Requests usually take a lot longer to do, and usually sit for a year or so before we get to them. But this is a nice place to work, so even after a year the original requester is still working here, and still interested in the stuff getting done. I try to help, and tell them how to fill out a work order and then slide in things they want as part of it (don’t tell my boss or business analyst). Finally hired another FoxPro programmer a few weeks ago, I was swamped and now John is taking half the stuff. He’s doing the collections programs. I talked him into coming from my last place of employment (let’s not go into that one again)

I left home early to stop for bagels – Denise (one of the analysts) usually gets them on payday Fridays, but she had to come in early because of riding with somebody else, so I offered to stop. I hit the Einstein's down Rainbow at Flamingo. Been a while since I bought bagels - they have a new slicer (well, new to me) that angles down into a bin built into the countertop. The guy just slides a bagel in and it flies down - reminds me of those things that throw the clay targets used by trap shooters on TV – slide them in, the bagels just hit the blades and give a nice cutting sound, then are flung down into the bin - so hard some bounce out. I can see somebody asking for a sliced bagel, the counter guy says 'go long' - then points the slicer across the room, slides in a bagel, and it goes screech – then flying overhead. Too bad it doesn't spread the cream cheese at the same time. I also hit the Starbuck’s next to the Einstein’s. My old fav Mocha Valencia, but with all the fancy drinks a counter guy said nobody asks for a MV anymore, just the old customers. They don’t even stock the crunchy orange sprinkles any more, which gave you something to do, prying them out of your teeth with your tongue and biting on the little tart chunks. Denise wanted a big Chai tea. Come on, Starbucks is coffee. No, not coffee, fancy four dollar ‘half caf lo fat triple shot no foam’ flavored thingys.

Somehow I’ve gotten into using the word ‘thingys’ – thanks to Ana at Red Boat (no, you have to click on the link on the right, not putting it here again). Oh, Word says it should be ‘thingies’. I don’t know, which looks better, with a Y or an IE. Both are nice. Maybe the IE – thingies, thingies – yes, looks good.

I added some more links on the right – people I try to hit. Somehow I’m not doing it at home. Maybe once a week I take some time between WOs to bounce around the world. Looks like I’ve got some kid type listings – Tess and Lisbon Ana both are concentrating on children. Tess makes Hong Kong sound interesting. And I want to visit Portugal now, and Israel (even though I’m not sure about all the guns and rockets and bombs there).

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sitting not flying

Did you ever feel that you were meant to fly but somehow you gave up your wings? Doesn’t happen to me often, but just once in a while. Just came across me this morning.
I was looking up some information that I needed in order to make a program work. I am a computer programmer, have been for thirty years, and often have new areas that I must learn. I searched all of my books, and then jumped to the internet to find info. While bouncing around I ended up at W3c. This is the web site put up by the organization that really sets the standard for the World Wide Web. One of the pages is on Tim Berners-Lee, basically the founder of the WWW. Back in 1990 he came up with the first standards and a program to handle what became html pages. While reading I realized that I was working on the Arpanet back before he even became involved in computer communications. I saw the results of his stuff flow by, and they didn’t mean too much to me when they came up. Kind of like Gary Kildall at Digital Research, the company that told IBM they didn’t want to be bothered with the new PC, go talk to Bill Gates, but not as big a name or as good a story.
I read the article on how he thought of things, and designed things, and ended up doing something about it. I couldn’t help but compare this to what I do, sitting here trying to figure out if I need a comma or semicolon between phrases, put a 9 at the bottom of that letter instead of a 7, make that stuff upper case, left justify that, etc., etc., etc. I feel like I would like to jump out and do something, but am too tied down to the job, the paycheck, the things I’m asked to do every day. My mind doesn’t usually pick out the little pieces floating through, saying to myself “Joe, do something about that ...”. And then I don’t. Wonder where I would be if I did pick up on something and do it. But there are a lot of people that do try and don’t get anywhere, more so that those that try and make it. But if you don’t try you don’t usually make something of it.
So, here I sit, just thinking instead of doing. Ever feel like that?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Friday fuzzy wanderings

Sitting here at work just after lunch feeling a bit woozy. I’ve had a beautiful head cold all week, left early Tuesday, out Wednesday, left early again yesterday and feel like leaving now. Most of the stuffy coughing part is done, but still feeling really dizzy. Nothing great going on at home, but I just sit on a soft chair on the patio and enjoy the heat, dozing off.

Only supposed to hit 96 today, up to the 100’s by Monday. It feels like summer, even though my calendar says June 21 – Summer Begins. It comes from spending too much time back in Rochester, New York. The clouds parted around May, and mosquitoes soon followed. Getting really sticky the end of June. We hit 100 three weeks ago, then cooled off. I’ve got a stack of flower photos from my yard, hopefully I will feel in the Photoshop mood soon and post them.

Reading the paper just now, we have two papers in Vegas. The morning one is really Republican and the afternoon one just the opposite. We dropped the morning one along with the Wall Street Journal in November, when they were gloating too much over the ‘mandate’ (come on, 52% is a mandate?) pushing our glorious president back upon us for four more years. But my mother missed reading the paper too much, so I fell into it and subscribed again. I try to skip the first section and just hit the local news and the comics. But I just read the editorial section of our afternoon Sun – really several editorials bashing Bush. Strange how so many people say the same things but he still was reelected, along with stacking the congress and soon the courts.

Makes me want to leave the country again. I had dreams of moving to France – love the food – but it seems politics is just as bad over there. Maybe as a foreigner I would be able to skip politics, but the strikes would hit just as hard. Last time we visited there was a communications workers strike. Following Rick Steve’s advice we were living off of our bank’s teller cash card, with periodic cash withdrawals. But with a communications strike the automated bank machines were not working – so no cash! Hard to put a coin in the subway slot without coins. (OK, you buy tickets, but almost the same thing) We finally had to hit an office that would give us cash off one of our charge cards, but what a $$$$ fee hit!

I thought about New Zealand, subscribed to some NZ newspapers, got lots of info, but ended up feeling it was too small. (OK, if you are from NZ don’t throw bricks at me, it’s a pretty place). And their politics with the native New Zealanders and islanders seemed worse than our ‘native American’ battles. And it would be my language, well, almost, at least I could understand them easier than the French! So I would understand the politics. Then, bife brought up Portugal – never thought of there. Might be interesting. After all, Ana seems to like it there.

We took the easier course, and skipped California for Nevada. Not as far away, but a lot different. We still ended up being a ‘Red’ state, with no help from me. I’m ready to put one of those ‘thousands of soldiers dead in Iraq’ growing number signs on my front lawn, but my wife would not put up with it. Maybe I’ll figure out how to put it up here – at least you guys could ignore me and not be able to throw rocks through my windows.

So much for Friday ramblings.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Money money money

Driving in to work this morning I looked at a billboard advertising new condos – it seems that some people want to live right on the strip, have a view of the casino lights, and be able to walk right over to the activity. Sounds like fun to me, instead of having to drive in to it. But somehow the traffic getting home daily would be a little much. There are several condo projects open, some under construction, and quite a few planned. Donald Trumph is even in the approval process for two condo towers right across from the new Wynn resort at Las Vegas Boulevard and Desert Inn. Nice location – right next to the big Fashion Show Mall shopping center.

Anyway, the prices on this billboard said ‘starting in the high 200’s, up to the millions’. The prices are typical, but the starting price is a little lower than most of the other projects.
One of the fanciest, Turnberry Place (‘’), currently is building it’s third tower. Their condos are from 1,550 to 8,000 square feet, from $530,000 to more than $5.9 million. – the master bedroom closet on one of the penthouses is 22’ x 11’ – bigger than the bedrooms in my house. That’s four bedrooms, six and a half baths – with a ‘staff room’ and private elevators. And that’s not the top suite. (only 5,000 sq ft for a four bedroom unit).

The Hard Rock is building a new section, with several condo towers, private buildings and a shopping area. They announced that before they even had a permit there were already reservations (with money down) for 2,000 units priced from $2 to $7 MILLION. Go ahead, skip the whole hundreds of thousands range.

Most of the new housing developments advertise prices starting in the mid $400,000’s. There are a few that come down near $250,000, but not many. Many apartments are being turned into condos, and few new apartments are being built. It seems that Vegas is turning into a place of those with money. I don’t understand how all of those hotel workers making under $10/hour can afford to live here. Wynn just hired several thousand workers for his new place; the ‘maids’ that clean the 2,700 rooms were being paid $15/hour with pretty good benefits. But that still doesn’t make a $3,000+ monthly mortgage payment. Current rent for a two bedroom apartment is around $500 a month.

I won't even get into what the San Diego and other California prices are.

I thought I was making a reasonable salary. But when I drive past billboards advertising condos in the millions, signs for new homes in the same price range, dozens of private Lear Jets at the airport, the world’s largest Mercedes dealership a few blocks from my house, Wynn’s Ferrari and Maserati dealership selling like crazy, and all of those new Hummers and limos on the road, I wonder what profession I should have picked. Is it too late to change jobs? Would I really want the headaches and taxes that come with the income range that could afford that stuff? (I think I could probably suffer through it, or at least would like to try).