Tuesday, November 29, 2005

House interiors

Ok, didn’t sit at the computer last night and work on the Photoshop stuff. Wanted to get some photos up anyway, thought I would put up some of the inside of my house. Clare just ran a photo contest, where people tried to guess what house pictures belonged to what person. I was the only American to be listed, and for some reason everyone guessed my house correctly. I don’t know, was it the ceiling fans that said Vegas or what?

I was hoping to see more of what houses looked like in the UK, but most people posted close-ups rather than full room shots. I don’t know if that is because they are more artistic, or the houses are really so small that you can’t get far enough back for a full shot. Our San Diego house was all small rooms, not very photogenic but cozy. One reason we like this house is the openness and space - you don't feel closed in. And lots of windows and sunshine.

I’ve posted photos of my yard work, and a few of the new floor we put in, but here are some overall shots.

This is the guest bedroom, one of the smaller ones in the house. My favorite room, has windows on three walls, tall thin ones to the left, our front courtyard with fountain through the facing window.

And here we have the guest bath – did stripes in the curtain at least to match Ana’s bathroom stripes. Oh, can't see the stripes very well, but they are there.

Our front room, showing the nice wooden floor we put down to replace the carpet. That is a mirror at the end – our laundry room and little bath (with the nice Ikea shelves) behind. (can you see me in the mirror taking the shot?) Kitchen through the door next to the mirror, TV lounge through the archway to the right of that.

Eating area is to the right of the cooking area. Plan on redoing this section soon, tearing out the wall to the left (where the cooktop is) and pushing it out about two feet, taking down the flourescent ceiling lights and raising the ceiling. And creating a nice built in seating section. That's our smallest bath with the nice tile mirror through the door.

And our TV lounge. Off to the left is the play area we set up for our visitors. We put a lot of work into the fireplace, covered up the white brick, B did a great job on the nice glass tile work. Still want to take out the cabinet to the left (our TV behind the doors) and put in a long mantle.

As you can see, lots of open space and old furniture, and ceiling fans in almost every room. Can't see them, but there is a fan in the guest bedroom, and to the right over the seating area off the kitchen.

Tip – go over to Deni’s and take a look at her Gnome in New York video. She did a really nice job, showing the little guy around town.

He’s due to come out to Vegas soon and I’ve been trying to figure out where to take him. So far I’ve come up with Red Rock, Hoover dam, to see the Blue Man Group and the Tropicana show (last one left with feathered showgirls), playing the slots in a casino and hopefully a meet with Elvis. What places do the rest of you think of when planning a trip to Vegas?

And for Clare:

1. Knowing people that have a good sense of humor. I usually have beautifully funny responses run through my head, but only after a conversation has moved on to a different direction, or when driving home, or just after pushing the POST button for a comment.
2. Knowing people willing to share their thoughts and ideas (and sometimes photos).
3. Having a nice turkey sandwich in my lunch bag (turkey, again!). One of the best things about the holidays is having a fridge full of leftovers, why I like doing the cooking instead of going to somebody else’s house.

Monday, November 28, 2005

After Thanksgiving weekend

Thanksgiving – looks like lots of people had lots of things going on over the holidays. Seems like we just had a quiet time. I had to work on Friday, boss let us leave at 3 so it wasn’t a ‘full’ day (I usually get off at 4). B has been trying to get a hold of her cousin that lives here in town, but moves and phone changes have taken her out of reach. So it looked like we would be eating alone (first time in years). But on Thursday morning Elva Ruth phoned, so B asked her to come over with her daughter. Fortunately I had gotten a turkey on Wednesday, and pulled together enough stuff to make quite a meal. Ended up being a nice afternoon with family. And I have turkey sandwiches to look forward to for the rest of the week.

We went shopping on Saturday and were surprised at how empty the stores were. We ended up hitting several stores and a big mall, getting some clothes and a bunch of little things. I used my debit card for everything instead of checks or cash – trying to get ‘with it’ in this electronic payment age. At least it was sucked from our checking account rather than build up credit charges. Ended up with a dozen checkout slips, so we did hit a number of cash registers, from Radio Shack to Toys R Us to Sears. The stores were all fairly empty, less people than on a normal Saturday. In all the trips to registers we never had to wait behind somebody in order to pay. To me it doesn’t look to good for the stores if on the biggest shopping weekend of the year the places were empty. Lots of employees – even Sears had every register open, with employees just standing around waiting.

Listening to the radio here, right now there is an advertisement looking for Hooter Girls at the new Hotel San Remo. The Hooters organization purchased the San Remo, a smaller hotel and casino just off the strip, on the side street leading to the Hard Rock. It’s being converted to the Hooters Casino, and they want to staff the whole place with women dressed as they normally do at the Hooters restaurants. The outfit is composed of white T-shirts, red shorts, and heavy panty hose. There are two Hooters already in Vegas, one close to our house. It’s pretty funny, how the Hooters girls in most cities would be looked upon as having the most provocative outfits, but here in Vegas they’ll be the most conservative.

The DJs just having an interview with Inxs. New CD coming out tomorrow, sounds like the big song for our stations will be ‘Pretty Vegas’. New tour coming, they’ll be at Mandalay Bay in January. Vegas is good for that – almost all the tours come through here.

Had a good breakfast yesterday – thanks to Clare I had some real British marmalade on my toast. We’re trading some US maple syrup for British marmalade. Thanks Clear. Ice in our fountain this morning. A cold front moved down from Alaska yesterday, and temps this weekend are twenty degrees lower than we had last weekend. Looks like our Swedes left just in time – had good weather here, but caught the cold up in Seattle for there last few days in the US. Last year we had ice a few times, not very often. I took some pics on the way out the door, hopefully I can get my act together and post more shots from around town soon.

For Clare:

1. Taking time with the Sunday paper, coffee and good breakfast to nibble on.
2. Going out for Christmas shopping and not having crowds to deal with. But somehow it feels more like Christmas if the stores are full of people.
3. Having a car with a good heater, so you can warm up quickly on cold days.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving thoughts

Well, dropped the crew off at the airport this morning. Sorry I didn’t take the camera – looked so cute, those three little blond heads in the stroller. And dad with a luggage cart piled higher than the kids. Three big suitcases and two kid’s car seats. They took back two car seats, as in Sweden they can only get rear facing wide seats – guess they are safer, but they can’t get three seats across, and the kids don’t like looking at the seat back, so they unbuckle themselves and stand up to look forward, kind of removing the safety factor.

Even at 7am the Las Vegas airport was crowded. Nobody coming in yet, but the outgoing group pretty big. An article in the paper said the airport expects 1.1 million travelers through it this week. A little over normal, but lots of these are residents instead of visitors. Hotels are looking at full bookings this weekend. Then it kind of tapers off until the New Year’s parties. The National Rodeo is in town for the first ten days in December, but that’s about it for conventions. Lots of boots and cowboy hats expected around town.

I hope to hit some shows this month. Several casinos offer two for one tickets if you have a local drivers license. A number of shows close down for the month, being so light they can take some time off. We’ve seen several big ones, but I would like to get to Rita Rudner at New York New York. Maybe we can hit the Blue Man Group – they’ve moved from the Luxor. Time to hit the strip, when the crowds are light and decorations are up. The Bellagio really fixes up their garden atrium each year. Last year they had a forest snow scene, with snow falling from the ceiling.

I came down with a very nice head cold yesterday. Went home and spent the day in bed, then couldn’t sleep all night being so stuffy. Took some head clearing stuff this morning, but it makes my thinking fuzzy, which is a challenge when you’ve got to write programs. The kids are off to San Diego for the long weekend, so I’ll pick up a turkey this afternoon and get it cut in half – well, for two a fifteen pound bird is a little much. At least this way we’ll get two big meals, and at that seven pounds is still rather large. But I love the leftovers, looking forward to hot and cold turkey sandwiches, and pie!

Two reminders this post. Jane pointed at Zoozan, who reminds about the Aids day.
Support World AIDS Day
And Virginia Gal reminds us about Skip a Meal day to remind us about hunger around the world. Makes me realize that half a turkey and a head cold don’t really compare to what is going on elsewhere.

For Clare:

1. Having my health, even with a cold that takes me down for a few days. It will go away for me, and I’ll feel better again.
2. Having a full pantry, and knowing where my next meal is.
3. Having a warm house and my own bed and our two dogs (even if they are noisy) and being all together in safety.
4. Having a quiet house again, even though it was fun with a crowd.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

On the rocks

I keep talking about the blue skies in Las Vegas. The color is probably due to the lack of moisture, the openness is due to the lack of hills and trees. During my lunchtime walk I go past a rental car lot – our airport does not have rental cars available right at the airport; you have to take a bus to one of these off site locations to get your car. I just liked the blue sky and rows of cars. This is about a quarter of the cars available here at the National/Economy lot.

Just sitting waiting for the Thanksgiving arrivals. There were fewer cars the day before, but the whole front row was filled with silver ones – nice and shiny and washed.

Saturday we took the group up to Red Rock, yesterday they went walking on the Strip – a pretty good contrast. Here are our Swedes on a rock.

They had fun in the sunshine. Four year old Alex really liked the climbing – it was so easy to go up

And of course being that high you couldn’t hear dad yelling for you to stop and come back down. It was mom that realized how steep it is after she caught up with him and looked down. A lot more intimidating looking at how far you have to fall.

And, for Clare:

1. Warm sunshine and a cool breeze as you walk in the quiet park.
2. Thinking of all of those people filling up those waiting cars, having fun on their vacations.
3. Anticipating a quiet house after dropping the group at the airport tomorrow. (it was nice having a full house, but nicer to go back to the way we are used to).

Monday, November 21, 2005

Visiting question

Question for those of you that bounce around - when I visit somebody's blog and really have no comment to make about what they wrote, what is a nice comment to leave to show people that I've been there? A few of you mention that you can look at the stats that show visits (I haven't figured out how to do that yet, not sure I want to) and yet you get no comments.

What should I say? Sometimes I try to leave a little note, sometimes I try a joke, but sometimes the posts are serious stuff, about problems or family or bad things that have happened. What do you say when there is nothing to say?

The easy way out is to say 'Michele sent me', but I read the list over to the right as often as I can (sorry, not daily, depends on work and home visitors). Sometimes I follow links based on the comments (hey, if you don't want someone to come, don't leave your blog link in your comment). Last week I ended up at the site of a young lady that evidently was having some severe emotional problems. I understood what she was saying, but could not fully relate to her problems, and just did not know what to say. She was writing and I assume waiting for comments (otherwise why post and enable comments?) but I just didn't know what to say.

Sometimes my regular reads discuss unusual interchanges with friends, or comment about the bad day they are having. Should I say anything? Should I say 'wow, your spouse really is an a**hole', or 'dump that so called friend' or 'go get another job/boyfriend/girlfriend/father/best friend/. . . or just 'Sorry'? Should I give advice, especially when advise is asked for?

Restaurant service (or lack of)

Prompted by DA, thought I would add to the complaints about service. She walked out of a Joe’s CrabShack because the waiter disappeared. I don’t remember ever doing that. I do remember leaving pretty poor tips at times, commensurate with service received.

We once had a group of exchange students over from Australia, and took them to Disneyland. Side storey – we were talking to the boy staying with us about how everybody came to Disneyland, and usually saw people from back home there. He thought it very amusing, and highly unlikely. A short while later we were getting on the submarine ride. We sat, he looked up, and there was his dentist from back home sitting across from him. Guess he changed his mind right about then.

Back to service – after the park we went across the street to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. It’s a place I hit once in a while, working not too far away at that time. There were six of us, and because of the number of smaller groups filling up most of the tables, we got a table upstairs. I did feel bad for our waiter, hoofing it up there just for us. But after really long waits, cold food, and mistaken orders, we asked for the bill. I left a pretty miserable tip. He came running out to the parking lot yelling at us, saying ‘fifteen percent – you owe me fifteen percent’. I mentioned his darn poor service as we kept getting in the car. He kept yelling, and asked if we wanted to complain to his boss. I said yes, I would be willing to discuss his service level with management, but he just kept yelling for his fifteen percent. We drove off, expecting to be jumped by a bunch of Chinese cooks armed with cleavers.

Last week we took the group to the Lone Star Steak House. I like going there, getting the tasty ribs fairly often. It was four adults and three kids. I called ahead for highchairs, and figured a Thursday night would be rather slow, which it was. Our waitress was friendly, but after taking drink orders she brought them out, including some Lone Star Texas beer for the Swedes. C asked for a glass, not wanting to follow the Texas tradition of drinking right from the bottle. We asked for some bread while waiting for the food. Bread came back much later, a serving about right for two. We asked for more.

I ended up going to the bar to get glasses, she evidently forgetting about us. I saw her standing back at the pickup window, dancing along to the music. Rest of the evening was about the same, her not showing up very often. On the way to wash my hands I saw the manager, her having come over earlier asking us to keep Alex at the table instead of wandering around. I complained about the service, and she said she would discuss it with staff. We paid and left.

My question: does management really pay attention to comments like that? There was a Seinfeld episode where George was responsible for a waiter getting fired. Does that really happen? Sometimes it is well deserved. Some people pick the wrong profession, or wait tables while between jobs. As a patron, why should I put up with incompetence? Anyway, the ribs were good, and the twins loved the fries (see photos posted last week below).

Saturday we took the group up to Red Rock. Alex loved climbing the rocks, his parents continually screaming for him to come down. I guess at four it is nice to be able to get away like that, not paying the consequences until they can catch you.

Looking forward to turkey day – I just love cooking. Nobody but B and I this year. Everybody else is headed to San Diego for some reason. I’ll do a small one, love the stuffing and cold sandwiches afterward too. But even half a fourteen pound bird is too much for two. When on sale I’ll ask the butcher to saw the bird down the middle and only cook half at a time. With everybody selling big birds for five bucks with other purchases why not? I do the turkey in an oven bag, started cooking like that a while ago – keeps the bird nice and moist. Stuffing has just about everything in it – onions, celery, cranberries, water chestnuts (for crunch), sausage, pan drippings, giblets, whatever else I can think of, starting with Mrs. Culberson’s Herb Cornbread for a base. (Joe’s cooking class 101).

And for Clare:

1. Nice slow meal at a restaurant, with great food and good company to talk to and great service. (we find it once in a while).
2. Friends over for a big holiday dinner, sitting talking for hours while the smells of supper cooking flow through the house.
3. Cold turkey sandwiches for the next week. Yum.
4. Baking the pies after the main meal (we eat around 1, so as to have a second meal later) and the smell of the pies, and realizing that even though you thought you were stuffed there is still room for pie and coffee.

Those of you non-Americans. Let me know when you are coming, and I’ll do a pretend Thanksgiving turkey dinner for you, so you can see the excess you are missing.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday walk again

Back from my lunchtime walk a little while ago. Still doing the new route because of construction across from the airport. It is a beautiful sunny day, a little cooler than originally predicted. It was around 68f, supposed to go down to 46f tonight. We were hoping for warmer days so that our Swedish group would see a big difference from back home, but even at this it is warmer. Their range at home yesterday was 42/27f. The group went swimming, even though the pool is down to 68f (it hit a high this summer of 93f water temp). But Carina said that this is about the temperature of their lake in the summer, so they are used to this. Oh well, can’t show off the really warm weather – should have sucked them out in September, but back then it was nice in Sweden too.

Anyway, the walk was great – the sky that perfect Vegas blue, no clouds at all. A few jet stripes way up high that didn’t run on too long. I’ve tried taking pictures of this before, but it’s more of an open sunny feeling that is really hard to photograph.

For Clare (I keep forgetting these, sorry):

1. Having a friend that can come up with three beautiful things EVERY DAY (how the heck do you keep doing that?).
2. Fast walks in the cool but bright sunshine, with your legs all woozy when you get back and sit down (think I said this one before?).
3. Having a task thrown at you that has to be done RIGHT NOW and at first just having a blank moment, then realizing it looks familiar, and pulling out old code, changing it a little, and getting it done RIGHT NOW and impressing everybody(including yourself).
4. Realizing it’s Friday at a half hour before going home time!!!!!

Still here

Well, everybody has been here for a week now. And I’m still feeling bad about how I am so happy about coming to work. (Does that make sense? Strange wording there.) The family room is still filled with toys. The house is still periodically filled with the sound of screams. But when they smile it all feels nice.

Alex, the four year old (well, will be four in January) is staying Swedish, but we are converting the twins to be American. Our sweet cereal, hot dogs and beans, French fries with ketchup, cheese doodles, almost anything we put in front of them is tried. They are turning their noses up at the brought-from-home hot cereal, and dad wonders what they will eat back home.

Cookie crisp cereal, alternating with cocoa puffs and Captain Crunch peanut butter. No milk, dry of course (plus it’s much less messy).

We went out with the group to the Lone Star Texas Barbeque last night for ribs. Alex tried the ribs, but the twins were really into the French fries and cheeseburgers.Adam liked his fries dipped into the barbeque sauce.

But Axel liked the ketchup.

He had this really serious look on his face while working on the dipping part. There was even a point where he was just licking the ketchup off the fries.

Back in the toy area they also seemed to like the cheese crackers.

At a little table we bought just for them. I hadn’t seen them sitting there, but B took this in the afternoon. Also got some crayons and coloring books which I hear they liked also. The twins worked on crayons and placemats while waiting for the food at the restaurant. Another American tradition.

Still hard to get shots of everybody together. My camera takes a few seconds after pushing the button before the picture is actually taken, which is a real bummer when taking shots of moving objects. You have to plan ahead for the movement, which is why so many nice shots are missed.

The twins really move fast. But they sometimes sit with mom to watch Spongebob on TV.

Dad sometimes sits with they guys and plays. Axel likes the Legos.

And mom is always around.

Whenever she leaves the room the boys all start looking for her. Guess that’s what happens when mom stays home to raise the kids. In Sweden the social system pays mom to stay home for a year after each kid is born. Don’t know if she gets more because of twins. The population of native Swedes is dropping due to a declining birth rate, while the number of emigrants from the middle east and former Russian states is increasing, so the government is trying to encourage births, as they are in Italy also.

Oh, can’t leave without a shot of granddaughter.

Alex seems to get along with her quite well. He doesn’t usually want his picture taken, but for some reason jumped out here.

So Dana and Jo, the toys will still be here after they are gone, and the guest room will be empty. Come on by.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Short one

Thanks to Beth, I know, it's designed for the girls, but the answer came out right.

I figured I belonged there:
You Belong in Paris

Stylish and a little sassy, you were meant for Paris.
The art, the fashion, the wine, the women!
Whether you're enjoying the cafe life or a beautiful park...
You'll love living in the most chic place on earth.

How do some people manage the time to do so many of these things?

And for Clare

1. Being with friends you haven't seen for a while, even if it's noisy and distracting.
2. Having a neighbor willing to loan you his big boat of a mini van so that everybody can fit in one vehicle. (even if it is a boat to drive)
3. Enjoying quiet moments between busy noisy ones.

(they leave on the 24th - still a ways to go)

Monday, November 14, 2005

They're here

I just want to express my admiration for Tess. Raising triplets and an older son. Wow.

Why do I say that? Well, the Swedes have been here for two days now, and I am very happy to have to come to work today. Never thought I would say that, but even with my boss holding meetings to see why things are not getting done it’s a lot quieter here than at home.

Just an example.

This is our family room just waiting for the arrival of guests.

And this

is the same room last night. See anything different? In the first one the Legos are in their boxes, the smaller toys are in the nice big toybox. But toys can’t be played with when they are in a box, and toys get in the way when somebody wants to climb into the toybox.

This is the group that arrived Friday night.

Sorry, not a very good shot, but it is hard to get a photograph of three things that are continually running in different directions. Any similarities evident?

Three boys, Alex, Adam and Axel Joe. Alex is extremely intelligent – he speaks Swedish! I don’t know any words in Swedish except for Nei! (that’s the equivalent of the American No!) But it only works if said in a stern voice. And then the results only last for about six seconds, or until you turn your back, whichever comes first. The twins know that a smile works, but still try the laying on your back rolling back and forth and screaming at the top of your lungs while kicking your feet on the floor thing.

After two days Alex is continually talking to me. It would just be nice if I understood anything he said. The twins aren’t talking yet, but know that if you point at something and say ‘Eh’ you sometimes get it.

I had to go out Saturday and get locks for all the doors. I thought things belonged in cabinets and drawers, and did not realize that stuff looked so much better when thrown on the floor. We’ll see how long it takes for little fingers to figure out how to push down on those plastic catches. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here then just ask Tess. I’m sure she knows.

Here’s the best shot I could get of the twins.

That’s the wagon we got to take them to the park. There’s a nice little park just two blocks from our house. They are quite good on working the slide. There is one play structure for little kids and a bigger one for older kids. Of course, at eighteen months they love the big kids slide a lot better than the little slide.

Looks like I picked the right DVDs. For the past year I’ve been buying Thomas the Tank Engine and Spongebob videos and sending them over to Sweden. I figured at least some of the English would rub off, but it doesn’t seem to have worked. I did keep some of them for myself, especially the Fraggle Rock ones, loved those doozers. Works here – when Spongebob comes on Alex just sits transfixed before the TV. The twins ignore the tv right now, maybe in a few years it’s magic will take hold.

Better pictures to come – I’ll try to at least get them all together.

For Clare:

1. Having a houseful of kids all happily playing.
2. Being able to come to work where it’s quiet.
3. As noisy as they are, kids are still fun (sometimes).

Friday, November 11, 2005

We're ready.

My drive home from work takes me along the south end of the airport runways, then I turn right heading north on Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip). I drive about a mile then turn west and head for home, about three miles further out. Driving along the end of the runways I go by the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. This is about my only interface with tourists on a regular basis.

Here’s a bunch of them now, bused down to have their photos taken in front of the sign. I snapped this driving by – traffic usually has to slow to look at what’s going on. Sometimes it’s a fashion shoot, sometimes just a couple, and sometimes a movie or TV star doing an advertisement or a movie scene. The center divider is big enough for them to park on, but sometimes people just block the fast lane and hop out for a pic. The street is three lanes in each direction here, with the sign in the center divider. Behind the sign are the golden Mandalay Bay towers, which is the most southern of the strip hotels. To the left the trees are around a big golf course.

Sitting at the next light, just up from the sign, I am entertained by several of the large billboards that fill up this area. Most are for the assorted shows around town, to get the tourists as they drive in. Unfortunately most people driving in come up I-15 which no longer goes by the sign, it’s on the ‘old road’ up from LA. If you fly in then you can go from the airport right up behind the strip hotels, and you don’t pass this way either.

As you can see, Vegas is gearing back from the 90's when everything seemed made for people to bring there kids here. We are going back to more topless shows, no full nudity in the casino shows yet - used to have for the big shows in the 60's and 70's, covered (well, not quite covered) in feathers and glitter.

Last night I hit the local Von’s supermarket to stock up for our guests. I tried to take photos of the store, but the aisles are too close together for much of a shot. This is the fruit and veggie aisle.

We’ve got fresh stuff all year round, either from California when in season or South America when the stuff is cheaper from down there. A pretty good selection. We are out from the summer season of peaches and plums to winter pears and apples. About eight different kids of apples, six kinds of pears. Always a variety of citrus.

We fixed up the two front bedrooms for our guests. In the middle room we pulled out the thirty year old carpet and put down a Pergo wood floor. Pulled off the wallpaper, put in a new ceiling fan/light and put a closet set in with a ceiling light in there.

This is what the closet looks like. The center section has shelves on top to pile stuff and drawers below, so that we don’t have to put a dresser or furniture in the room to hold clothes. There are rods on both sides to hang clothes, and we put new bi-fold louvered doors on as well.

We also purchased beds for the group.

Two cribs and a Spongebob toddler bed.

Here is part of the fleet that we got, just waiting for the three boys to come in.

They are scheduled to land here in Vegas in about six hours, and we are ready for them (we think).

For Clare:

1. A clean house, just waiting for guests.
2. Everything inside smelling fresh.
3. My neighbor loaning me his big mini van, which has three rows of seats so everybody can fit inside of one vehicle.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Interesting proposition

This came in my email yesterday (about six times):

Your specific case has been appraised to the required boards, and upon meticulous thought, we are able to suggest to you the ensuing prospect.

Based upon meticulous thought you qualify to get hold of a substantial rield on your primary property investment.

By completing the ensuing attached form in a timely manner we will be able to complete our review, and we feel sure you will get hold of not only a better rate of interest, but also a cash return that will fulfill all your holiday needs and more!

Please go here to complete this phase of the treaty.

With warmest regards,

Johnie Gilbert

Should you prefer not to enjoy participation of this holiday prospect you can go here.

(with some imbedded links).
So, what do you think, is it a loan offer, trying to sell me drugs, or ready to transfer fifteen million into my account?

Lunchtime walks

My job entails sitting on my butt most of the day in front of a computer (wow, what a strange thing for a computer programmer to do). I try to get up and walk around as often as I can, but that’s not much. So I started to go for walks at lunch time. I work in a business park between the south edge of the Las Vegas airport and I-215, and had a little route around two blocks that took me along Sunset Road and the airport runways. I enjoy looking at all the planes taking off and landing, imagining where people were going and if they liked their stay in Vegas.

Unfortunately a new building is going up on that block, and the sidewalk is torn up in two places for the installation of driveways. Sunset is too busy a road to step around the barricades and out in the street, so I started taking a different path. There are not many blocks you can walk around, because this section is long and narrow between the two big restrictions. Comments by Tess made me realize that I haven’t been putting up as many photos as I wanted to. I started here wanting to show people the Las Vegas that I lived in, and how nice it is here.

One of the things I like are the big vistas. Nevada has more mountains than most states, separated by flat plains. Vegas is surrounded by mountains, but far enough away that they provide more of a backdrop than a limitation.

This is a typical business park view. Looking north you can see a white horizontal line in the middle left above the trees, that's the top of the Mandalay Bay hotel at the south end of the strip across the airport runway, with a big empty lot in the foreground. Just above the tops of the palm trees are the tops of the mountains to the north, hard to distinguish from the clouds. I pass this lot every day, waiting for the time that construction will start here.

Further on my walk is a regional transportation hub. It’s a long building that a lot of buses stop at.

You can see the long overhangs on the building to the right. And off in the distance are the mountains out west. The empty lot is fairly standard around town. It's mostly white sand, with some native bushes scattered around. The empty lots in our neighborhood are about the same. We don't get trees growing up, or grass, just scrub brush, and yes, sometimes tumbling tumbleweeds.

Weather this week has been a bit unusual, cloudy with the hills behind a haze. Usually we have nice bright weather. I was looking at the upcoming weather report in the newspaper this morning, hoping for nice days for our visitors to enjoy. Some showers expected tonight, but then clearing with a week of sun with highs at 77, lows at 52. The upcoming five day forcast:
Saturday - Pleasant with plenty of sun
Sunday – Nice with plenty of sunshine
Monday – Plenty of sunshine
Tuesday – Sunny
Wednesday – Brilliant sunshine
Looks like we have to wait until Wednesday for Brilliant, the other days just plenty of sunshine. Oh well, at least it’s coming. Must be boring for a weatherman in Vegas, having to come up with different ways to say ‘sunny’.

Last week our transportation system added some new vehicles – imitating London we now have a small fleet of double deck buses. They only run up and down the strip, there are not enough for them to be used all over town, and adding a second floor instead of using those extra long flexible buses adding to the overflow traffic. I usually have two or three of them in front of me each morning, turning off of Vegas Boulevard on to Sunset going to the transportation center before heading back up the strip. Caught one at lunch yesterday

Not too close, but you can still see some hotels in the background. And our frequent roadside billboards. The double decked buses are painted a mellow gold color, but now some are starting to show up with the advertising wrap that has become popular for bus companies out west. We had quite a few wrapped buses in San Diego, advertising all kinds of things, usually TV shows. Here the adverts are usually for casino shows; Danny Ganns, Selene, Sir Elton.

When I took the bus picture I was standing next to a street light, and found this at the bottom.

Some poor person had a flat tire on their bike, and rather than walk it they chained it to the light, with the tube sticking out of the back tire. And then a cop came by and slapped a parking warning on the bike. I hope it’s not towed away before the owner comes back.

For Clare:

1. Lunchtime walks in the warm sun, seeing new things.
2. Getting back after a walk, legs all tired and sore from unusual use. But still feeling good.
3. Anticipating ‘Brilliant sunshine’ instead of this gloom. (Yes, back in Rochester we could go for months without seeing the sun, but here it’s expected).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Swedes are coming! (in three days)

The Swedes are coming! The Swedes are coming! In three days! I think we have everything done. I plan on going shopping on Thursday evening to fill up on things, then again on Saturday with Karina so that she can pick out things the kids really eat, rather than the things we think they do. I have no idea what little kids in Sweden go for. B says Captain Crunch Peanut Butter should do for a start (it’s what she has for breakfast, I go for Raisin Bran), if they don’t do milk at least they can pick up the little balls one at a time and crunch them.

We’ve got two cribs for the twins and a Spongebob Squarepants toddler bed for Alex. Along with three car seats and a bunch of toys. Bought most of the stuff used off of Craig's List – kind of newspaper want ads on the internet. We got several big Fisher Price things for the yard, a car and a big wagon and a small climbing thing with a slide for the grass and a rocking horse. The batch came with a battery powered Jeep, just the right size for Alex (four years old). Needed a new battery, which almost cost more than the whole pile of things including the Jeep. And I put up two swings on the peach tree – that’s Eli in one of them below.

We’re going to borrow the neighbor’s van for the airport trip. Our car is not big enough for three car seats across the back and three adults in the front and a trunk full of luggage. Most American cars have individual seats up front, with a console in between to prevent putting a third person in the middle. The van has three rows of seats, so we should be able to set it up and fit everything, if not then it’s two cars to the airport. 10:30 Friday evening. They should have a fun day – train from where they are to Stockholm, flight to Seattle, through customs and change planes, flight to Las Vegas, and drive to our house. With three kids and all of those time zones to cross. I think Alex at four is big enough for his own ticket and seat, but at 18 months the twins probably will be in mom and dad’s lap – all the way across the Atlantic and Canada. Well, they all went to visit China a few months ago, so they should know what to expect. I just know what it’s like to sit in a little airplane seat for that long, much less with a kid on my lap and another one next to me. And at eighteen months it’s just too small to understand “only another six hours until we land . . . only another five hours and fifty eight minutes until we land . . . only another . . .”

B even made me clean up my office. I also play with small toy trains for fun, and had boxes of things and trays with projects and a table in progress. Well, it’s all been put into nice plastic boxes in the closet, the table into the garage, and the floor vacuumed. I didn’t realize how big the room was now that it’s so empty.

We’ve confined the boys to the kitchen area, so they can’t mess everything up. It’s ok – we have little dog beds with hot pads for them, they can go through the laundry room and a little doggy door out to the garage and then another doggy door to get outside. Buster is just upset that he can’t lay on the bed all day; Max liked the couch in the front room where he could see out the window and guard the house from everybody walking down the street. I’m at work, and B goes over to our daughter’s to watch Eli, so the guys have the place to themselves all day.

For Clare:

1. Chocolate cake, especially when a piece is thrust upon one unexpectedly.
2. Wandering the aisles of Toys R Us and imaging playing with all the neat toys. For those of you that have not had the pleasure, imagine the biggest store you have ever been in. Then double the size and make it all toys. I don’t know the size of stores overseas, but when in France and Sweden we hit some big supermarkets; this place is bigger.
3. Having a clean house, realizing how much room we have.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sunday afternoon thoughts

For Clare:

1. Sitting outside in the warm afternoon sunshine with a tasty coffee.
2. Watching the noisy birds at the feeder, fluttering around and chasing each other off the perches.
3. Petting the fuzzy dog in your lap as you start to doze off.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More grandkid photos

Haven't put her up in a while, but Eli was over yesterday and just would not stop smiling.

We set up a swing for the Swede twins coming the end of THIS WEEK! and thought we would try it with some local talent. Looks like it works OK. And you can see we get some leaves on the ground in the fall here in Vegas - this is under our peach tree.

And she is now into some solid (well, more solid than milk) food:

Seems to like her squash. Hold up a spoon and her hands go out and her mouth opens, like a little bird. B said she had sweet potatos the other evening, and B found out about it during her afternoon walk - Phud's third law, what goes in must come out. All over, nice bright orange. Ewhhh.

For those of you that want sound and motion and have high speed access, here's a short clip (turn your head sideways)of Eli laughing taken at a restaurant a few weeks ago. Great laugh. Taken with my camera in video mode, if anyone knows how I can turn that whole thing from being on it's side (very disorienting) to upright please let me know what program will do that.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Questions from Hong Kong

Today some local stuff, just for Tess, but the rest of you can read too.

One of my favorite shows on TV is CSI. The original, sorry I can’t stand that ginger haired guy in Miami. He always has to be the one to do everything – first on scene with the gun, first with the sharp quip, first to . . . well, also in every scene. And the New York one is just too dark and cold. It also seems to be popular around the country. We are getting cable TV, with several hundred channels, and quite a few of them have CSI reruns on. Spike TV runs two shows every night, from 7pm until 9pm, which I usually put on if I can get the remote away from B and turn off that stupid news network. Too much bad news repeated over and over and over. Rather have investigations we’ve already seen over and over and over. I’ve got a bad memory, and usually forget most of what’s going on anyway. It’s nice to finally say ‘yes – that’s what it was’.

One of the fun things to do when watching TV is to find the flaws in a show. At least for B and I, we point things out all the time. There are a lot of TV shows filmed in southern California, so it was rather easy to watch those and see things. Several shows were filmed in San Diego, one just down the street from our house. There was a bar right next to where my wife worked which was a favorite location for the TV series Silk Stalkings, supposedly occurring in Miami. She would frequently have problems parking near work because of all the movie vans and trailers filling up the side streets.

My favorite ongoing thing was with Baywatch – supposedly lifeguards having a fun time in the warm sun and sand near LA. But if you live there you know how crowded things are in the summer at the beach. At least the filmed on the real location instead of an Australian beach or something. But the only time they could get permits to film was in the winter, when it was cold and the beach was empty. OK, cold is relative, this isn’t Fargo. But if you watch reruns and watch closely you’ll see that the crowd of beach goers are all together, if the scenes show the rest of the beach you will see empty sand except for right around the camera. Everybody is splashing in the water, but the water temp is probably around 50f, and the air temp is not much more, usually under 60f with a little breeze. Smile and pretend it’s warm, but notice the cold works.

Now we live here, and a number of new shows are supposedly based in Vegas. All of them are really filmed in the Los Angeles area, with infrequent trips to Vegas to just get some background shots – driving down the strip, in front of a recognizable casino, and so on. The show Vegas, the life at a big casino, even built a big three story casino set on a soundstage in LA. There was one show last week where one of the female leads was kidnapped, put in the trunk of a limo, and driven a little ways out of town to dig up a buried fortune. When released from the trunk they were in a valley with surrounding hills covered with oil pumps. Typical southern California scene, there are no hills like that here and definitely no oil wells in the Vegas area.

Most of the exterior CSI scenes are filmed in the LA area. I can recognize the hillsides and streets in the background. Usually the green gives it away – there are not many green areas around Vegas, might be a lot of trees around but too many houses now have low water desert landscaping, while the CSI places always have nice green lawns. There is a weekly column in the local paper that discusses what is being filmed around town and whenever a show comes to town we know about it. There are a lot of people who work as extras for TV shows and video shoots, so the publicity also is a call for employment.

As far as CSI crimes, the murder rate in Vegas is 4.5 times the national average. I couldn’t find recent numbers, but there are around 140 homicides in the Las Vegas area each year. The rate keeps going down, but as more and more people move here the actual number probably increases. Statistics from a few years ago show that only around 30% of crimes are solved, so I guess CSI is a little misleading in that almost every case there is solved. I do remember two crimes where the group could not figure out who did what, but I think one of those pointed to somebody, who in a later episode was caught doing similar crimes.

I have a friend on the police force; I’ll have to ask him if we have so many weird crimes. I think there are a lot of ‘standard’ murders, such as people shot on the street, or knifed in their apartments. Most deaths make it into the newspaper, and I can’t remember reading about any weird ones. I think the CSI writers read stories from around the world, and do a ‘well, what if’ kind of thing where the crime is brought here. I have never heard of a gorilla falling from the sky, or a scuba diver up a tree. Not that those things haven’t happened somewhere. So I think most of the CSI stuff is really pretend – as I think most stuff on TV is. Sorry if that ruins anything for anybody.

I know a lot of what they do is amplified for TV. For example, the ‘instant’ DNA testing. There has been a lot of publicity about DNA testing times recently, and usually stuff is sent to outside labs, and with the backlogs discussed it seems to take up to nine months to get back results. Even if the local lab had a DNA testing machine I think current technology takes several days to develop a specimen. So the concept of taking a bunch of swabs, having people wait in the lounge, and then coming back and saying who did it is a little far fetched. But it is just an hour show, and would be rather inconvenient to have big gaps between sequences. I rather like the fingerprint matching computer though, have to find out if there is one that really does that. If there is I am reasonably sure it doesn’t put up a picture of each print as it compares. Knowing computers it would take longer to build and display the screen than to do a comparison internally. Does look pretty though.

How much contact do I have with tourists? Actually, none at all. Or rather, very little. We live about two miles due west of the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard). We can see the big hotels and casinos from our front yard, down between the houses across the street. But we hit the local supermarket, local restaurants and stores and malls and probably never see a tourist. It is nice once in a while to drive down, park at the back of the pyramid and walk through the big casinos. The shows and fancy restaurants are always there if we want to go to them, but usually don’t. But that’s our choice.

I work just south of the airport. Driving home I go around the west end of the runways up the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard for about a mile and up to the road that crosses over the I-15 freeway and then down back roads to home. This takes me past the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Three or four times a week on my ride home there are cars stopped in the fast lane while people are out getting their photos taken in front of the sign. The standard pose is both arms over your head leaning a little pointing at the sign. The cab and limo drivers know they can pull onto the center divider, or at least stop in the left turn lane, but most tourists just get in the way. Some walk down, then cause accidents running across the road to get over to the side. I’ve almost hit a few myself. This is about my only interaction with tourists on a regular basis.

Oh, looking in Google for ‘welcome to Las Vegas sign’ came up with a ton of entries – two of the ones I liked were this sign in 360 and this one with the strip. Couldn’t find one with somebody in the ‘standard pose’. Guess if I looked enough it would be there.

I was driving home one day and Elvis in a pink Cadillac convertible drove past and waved at me.

What television show/book/movie best captures life in Las Vegas?

I can’t really say that anything really shows what Vegas is like. I have two views here – one is my living/working side. What comes to mind here is how open it is, the clear blue sky, with stripes from the airplanes high overhead, flat open spaces out to distant mountains all around, bright sunlight and dry dusty air and the wind and heat (can’t bypass the 117f). The other angle is the tourist Strip – all the neon lights at night, the sound of slot machines, crowds and noise, and how you can take several hours and walk through dozens of hotels and casinos until your feet and ears and eyes hurt and still not see it all. Two very different views, both of which are in my mind when I think of Las Vegas.

I have never seen a good representation of either side. Maybe some old cowboy movies might have the feel of the heat and wind and sun and open spaces. Most movies only show one casino, or the view down the strip, none really show how big it is or how many places there are or how different (or similar) each casino is. Probably like your view of Hong Kong – I’ve got images in my mind of the crowds and the bay, but you talk about walks to the playground and shopping and the bus and things you do that I’ve never thought about. Come on out and I can show you – wait, let’s see if I can handle three Swedish boys next week before I try four Canadian kids that speak Mandarin.

And for Clare:

1. A warm fresh bagel with cream cheese and Starbucks Mocha Valencia. (wait – didn’t I do this one before? But it’s still a good breakfast).
2. Sitting in a movie theatre by yourself so you can make comments out loud and talk to the characters. (Went to see Corpse Bride and Wallace & Grommet last night – we were the only ones in the room)
3. Salty popcorn with buttery flavored oil in the BIG tub while watching a good movie. And not having anybody sit in front of you so you have to look between the heads.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

AFter Halloween

Anger – horror – pain – I didn’t write anything a few days ago when the counter over to the right went up to 2000. Enough news stories about the ‘so called threshold’. But I wanted to update, and went to the counter site and found it’s up to 2032 – two thousand and thirty two dead American soldiers. Estimates up to a hundred thousand dead Iraqis. And W keeps saying that we ‘can’t dishonor the memory of those that died’ by leaving. Bull, I think we dishonor them more by throwing lives away for nothing. A civil war will ensue whenever we leave, no matter how many die or how long we stay. Sh . . .

Sorry about that, told myself I wouldn’t any more but there I go again.

Added some new links to the list – I like to read about other lifestyles, just loving France (guess I should add more blogs for that country) but read a lot about England, Hong Kong and Portugal. I started on India, and with our friends coming from Sweden thought that might be interesting.

I think I mentioned before, our ‘exchange student’ from Sweden is coming to visit next week. With his tall blond stewardess wife, eighteen month old twins and four year old. We’ve been busy setting up. Tore out the carpet in the middle bedroom and put down more wood flooring – B calls it her studio, plans on painting or whatever after they leave – peeling wallpaper, painting, new lights, closet, and making all pretty. Front bedroom (guest room) got new carpet, lights in the closet, and closet setup. We found two cribs, kid’s bed, car seats, toys (all from Craig’s List – good place) and now should be all set up. I just need to learn how to say NO in Swedish. It will be different with a house full of little boys (yes, all boys). Have to lock up our dogs – Max is too vicious even with big people, little ones drive him crazy.

Ok, I’ve been forgetting them, but for Clare here are my three things.

1. The smell of fresh paint and look of a newly redone room.
2. Expectations of an interesting visit by friends not seen for a long time.
3. Buying kid’s toys and imagining the laughter and enjoyment (from them, I’m already playing with the stuff).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Our company does a lot of things for the employees. Yesterday was Halloween here in the US, and the company sponsored several contests – costumes and cube decoration. It was interesting to walk around and see all the people dressed up, and the effort taken by each group to decorate their manager’s cubes.

My cube is in a smaller room, along with 30 others. This area has programmers form IT, the marketing group that works on new campaigns and ideas, and the Risk group that evaluates customer standards and interest rates. Usually the three groups all do their own individual activities. So in order to try and pull the groups together I proposed a pumpkin carving contest for everybody. We also had a breakfast potluck, and desserts of the season.

Some of the managers threw in some bucks, and I distributed about 45 pumpkins last week. Instructions were to take them home and return them decorated on Halloween. I was quite surprised that we ended up with seventeen decorated pumpkins in our contest. One of the managers rounded up some judges – the company President, Operations Officer and head of Human Resources. They selected three winners, who got big bags of candy and a certificate. I also made up participation certificates for everybody that entered. Here are some of the participants:

We ended up with two tables full. Some of the pumpkins had quite a lot of work put into them.

New to the US, this was the first Halloween celebration for one of the programmers. Sherzod is from Uzbekistan, he says there are no similar fun and games over there. He did a pretty good job.

I like the way he used seeds for the teeth, and it’s hard to see, but he cut out ears and turned them so they stuck out. Clever.

Part of the marketing group did a theme – Jack-in-the-box Jack and some MacDonald’s food. Along with somebody from the first Star Wars as a sand person.

And another marketer did a good job with his pumpkin, also winning an award.

We also had trick-or-treaters at our house! This is our third year here, and the last two years nobody came. We live in an area with no sidewalks or street lights, and the houses are fairly far apart – the lots are all one or a half acre, so it’s a lot of walking. A total of eleven kids! Now I only have three quarters of that big bag of candy left to eat myself.

An aside – for you Bon Jovi fans, he’ll be at the MGM Grand on March 11. Tickets went on sale on Saturday and sold out in ten minutes. That’s a problem with big Vegas shows, a lot of the tickets are purchased by casino hosts, to give to the big spenders. So things usually sell out quickly.