Thursday, September 28, 2006

A thank you to E and Caleb and all the kids

I wish to offer my sincere appreciation to E and Caleb and all of those kids under the age of ten that have so kindly made me safe from terrorism.

An article in today’s paper says that so far the war in Iraq has cost us $549,000,000,000, with another $ 110,000,000,000 (yes, lots of zeros) in the 2007 fiscal year. Since our president has stated that we will not be leaving Iraq on his watch I guess we can tack another $ 110,000,000,000 on to that for the following year, with the next president perhaps adding even more, unless we end up sending even more troops over there, in which case these numbers will be going up even more.

This does not include the funds to bring our military back to readiness, due to them leaving equipment overseas, or the huge increases requested in enhancing our military forces. After all, now that we no longer have a cold war with Russia, of course we need to keep increasing the size of our military complex. Especially if that is the arm of our government that will be used to spread Democracy (with a capital “D”) across the globe.

And it does not include the cost of the loss of so many of our troops, and their families that are doing without them (the count of which is now higher than those that died on 9/11). Or the thousands of wounded, or the thousands of dead in Iraq already and to come. Or the costs to a country that seems to be much worse off than before we invaded that is not being rebuilt or even reorganized, just patrolled. At least they have an elected Democracy now, something to be proud of.

At least our president is fulfilling his promise – I am fairly certain that no one in the future will ever crash a plane into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Never Again.

Since our budget was already running in a deficit mode, thanks to tax cuts and increased domestic spending, that means that all of this debt will be paid off by the future generation(s). Our last president, that lying womanizing Clinton, (curse his very name) had the audacity to leave with a budget that was balanced, and starting to pay down the deficit created before.

So thank you Caleb, and thank you E, and all of you out there with kids please thank them for me.

Look at her; doesn’t she seem happy to be protecting me?

I guess I better help find her a job; no reason to wait, with interest compounding and all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Three more

1. Having a little dog that follows you around looking for attention, stopping when you stop and using his nose to find that hand that might be hanging down.
2. The pretty twinkling red and blue and white lights off in the distance, that turn out to be a police car that has pulled somebody over. (Nevada police cars have about a dozen fast blinking strobe lights on top of their cars and in the tail lights that blink in different colors)
3. Finding the car that the policeman pulled over was that idiot that zipped by you on the shoulder and almost caused an accident going through a just turned red light. (you deserve it, you !@#$%!#@)

Thanks to Clare.

I had a moon picture over the house across the street a few days ago. I moved over a few feet and tried one with just the trees and bushes.

Latest update – I’m back to normal 8 to 5 schedule. No more driving in at 3am! (though I liked having the afternoons off to do things)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Two Surveys

Just read two stories about recent political surveys in the papers we get, the NY Times and the local LV Review-Journal. Both stories were in yesterday’s morning papers. (quotes taken directly from both papers, are extracts, and sentences are not taken from the stories in sequence)

From the RJ (from the Los Angeles Times):
Headline: “President’s approval rating rises, poll shows.” President Bush’s approval rating has reached its highest level since January, helping to boost the Republican Party’s image. While the survey spotlights a continuing array of Republican vulnerabilities, it also offers the first evidence in months that the GOP may be gaining momentum in November’s battle for control of Congress. The results suggest that a combination of improving attitudes about the economy and the president’s focus on national security issues has ended the nearly unbroken slide in the GOP’s public standing.

From the NY Times:
Headline: “Only 25% in poll voice approval of the congress.” With barely seven weeks until the midterm elections, Americans have an overwhelmingly negative view of the Republican-controlled Congress, with substantial majorities saying that they disapprove of the job it is doing and that its members do not deserve re-election. Just 25 percent said they approved of the way Congress was doing its job. The poll also found that President Bush had not improved his own or his party’s standing through his intense campaign of speeches and events surrounding the fifty anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Bush’s job approval rating was 37 percent in the poll, virtually unchanged from the last Times/CBS News poll, in August.

You’ve got to read both stories to get the full concept, but these brief extracts should sum up the feeling of each article. It seems the RJ’s poll says that the president and the Republicans are doing pretty well, doesn’t it? And the Times story says that people do not like the current congress, and are still not happy with the president.

The funny part about these stories? The NY Times was talking about it’s own poll, so they should know what they are talking about. The RJ story was reporting on the same NY Times poll (yes, the story was about the recent poll that the NY Times had taken). Seems like a Republican leaning newspaper can pull whatever statistics it wants to out of someone else’s numbers. The NY Times did have a fairly detailed side line discussing how the poll was taken and how to view the results; the RJ had no similar notes.

We moved here from San Diego, where that local paper was also Republican oriented. At least it appears to me that the RJ here also favors the Republicans (or am I reading too much out of the poll results?). Most of their editorials and letters to the editor favor the president. I rarely read a negative story, except when they discuss the way Democrats in congress are getting in the way of our great President trying to protect our national security.

Just to be fair, I will say that I am not in favor of Mr. Bush, his actions or his attitude, or the Republicans. If you’ve been reading my stuff in the past it should be fairly evident what my opinions are. For some strange reason I think that our constitution created three separate branches of government, to insure that we would not end up with a king or a parliament that did what it wanted to do. So far, two branches, the Supreme Court and Congress, do not agree that the office of the president can do any damn thing it wants to do in the name of a ‘war on terror’.

Unfortunately today’s news reports that Congress caved in and adopted most of the things W wanted. For some reason I think that if we signed the Geneva Convention we should abide by its rules. And if somebody is a bad enough person for us to arrest then that person should end up in one of our jails and courtrooms, not sent off to a foreign country that has a reputation for torturing people. I had to laugh at one of W’s speeches being rebroadcast yesterday. He was trying to pressure congress into passing his version of the interrogation rules. He said that he would not reveal the interrogation techniques that would be used because then the ‘enemy’ would learn what they were and would develop methods of standing up to those techniques, congress would have to trust him that the techniques were legal. I would ask ‘Legal in what country, and by who’s definition?’ I still remember this administration saying that their definition of torture was the one they would use, and prisoners were not being tortured by their definition. I don’t know, but for some reason I think that trying to drown somebody, putting them naked in a cold cell, depriving them of food and water and hitting them with different instruments would be defined as torture by my definition. And doing that to someone for FOUR FREEKIN’ YEARS and saying that you were still getting ‘valuable information’ is also something of a farce. To think that someone could give you anything useful three years after they were brought in is ludicrous. Then to transfer them from ‘secret prisons’ in foreign countries that you have been denying for years also makes it fairly evident that you don’t mind lying to everyone, so what makes this any different?

And in a sideline story: Prisoner released - gee, I feel so . . . threatened – that a guy like this is now free again to go about his terroristy ways.

OK, my political contribution for the week. Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves, or feel free to chew me out publicly.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Back to E Friday

My goodness, I have so many notes about things I want to talk about, but with work as busy as it has been they’ll have to sit for a while longer. Just a short – reading Anna’s comments I found out that I missed last week’s ‘talk like a pirate day’, oh my. At least they linked to the ‘official’ Talk Like A Pirate site.

For Virginia Gal let’s get back to E Friday.

We went out last night to Red Robin for burgers with the group, and I was impressed with all of the faces that E makes during the course of a conversation. (16 months old last week)

Checking out the waitress.

Looking cute. (OK, she always looks cute)

Thinking about it.

My favorite, with an attitude. And lots of teeth.

Not enough? OK, let’s do some stripes for Lisa. And just look at those blue eyes. (and that great sun hat)

Finally (for today) one reason why she is so much fun to be around. Very little displeasure, but lots of smiles and laughing.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Three more, and the moon

Driving to work at 3:30 am in the dark (still):

1. Crisp mornings, having to keep the car window rolled up driving to work, indicating a move into fall and cooler weather ahead. (yes, it was 67f here this morning, but that’s cold for us.)
2. Bright lights down in the construction pit that will be City Centre. The construction site is over forty acres, and the big dump trucks look like little toys down in the bottom, but become double trailer semis that dwarf my car when they come out and pull in front of me on the road.
3. Looking at all of the private and corporate jets parked at the executive air terminal (it’s at the end of the LV Airport at the end of the runways right along the Strip where I drive) and imagining the places you could go with your own. Then a little farther is the end of the runway, with the little red and blue lights receding into the distance.

Thanks to Clare.

Wow, listening to a radio story on the Trump Tower condo being built. Donald’s new tv series this season will focus on people coming up with marketing plans for the second tower. All of the 1200 units in the first tower are sold, construction is about halfway, and prices were from $600,000 to $2,800,000, which unfortunately are cheap by Strip condo prices. But I just looked at the NY Times Sunday magazine section, listing condos in New York, ‘classic park views’ starting at $8,000,000. I wonder where all the money for planes and multi million dollar condos comes from, and what all of those people do that can afford that stuff. But there are probably people who look at what I have and say the same thing.

Good quote from Miz BoheMia (by way of VG)

“I do not support this war though I wholeheartedly support the troops and the American people even though that motherfucking-asshole-of-a-shit-who-thinks-himself-a-man Bush has done a fine job at dragging any shred of dignity and honor associated with America through the mud and fuck him for that”

OK, let’s at least have one picture to break up all these words. Saw this across the street one evening a few weeks ago. We always used to come to Vegas from San Diego and comment on how big the moon looked here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Third day of three - sounds

1. The soft pst - pst - pst of the drip watering system coming on and the air squirting out of the long tube.
2. The ticky - tick - tick of dogs toenails as they dance on the tile begging for a morning treat.
3. BBC news on the early morning public radio, listening to accents I don't normally get to hear. (to save money most public radio stations either switch to big tapes of classical music or rebroadcast BBC news during the nighttime, fortunately the Vegas station does the BBC thing)

Thanks to Clare.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Morning lights

1. A half moon still high in the sky, peeping from behind little puffy clouds no bigger than the moon itself. Still bright enough to light everything up in the early dark morning.
2. The vertical lines of neon on the Rio tower, looking purple from far away but resolving into parallel lines of red and blue as you drive closer.
3. Driving under the Mandalay Bay marquee, rising fifty feet over your head, coming from the side with the big posters to the side with the giant TV screen and seeing all of the changing colors like a dim lightshow on the roadway and buildings.

Things look a lot different in the dark, especially in the early morning when everybody else is still asleep (or partying in those ultra-lounges with Paris and Hollywood names).

Thanks to Clare.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Back to three things

Back to something I started on a while back but for some reason didn’t continue. Too many negative things going around.

1. Driving to work and finding red lights turning to green ahead of you.
2. Driving with the window down and feeling the damp areas where people have grass or the construction water truck has just washed down the street (yes, Vegas is dry).
3. Walking out from work, in the dark windowless building, and having the warm sun splash on your face, making you squint until you can find the sunglasses.

Thanks to Clare for reminding me that there are nice things all around.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday (Monday?)

Oh, wow, Tuesday morning. Still not used to the alarm going off at 3am and getting in here by 4. Yea, guys do not need an hour to put on makeup, etc, etc, etc. Toothbrush, shave, shower, out the door.

No 9-11 comments here. I’ve been listening to B’s CNN and MSNBC, and the comments against the current administration somehow all sound pretty understandable. New York still has a hole in the ground; more a shrine to Al Kaida than the people that died there. Soldiers die in Iraq every day, how many Iraqi’s? Bin Laden is unknown, Pakistan is preventing soldiers from going into the mountains, Afghanistan is falling apart. My daughter went on a trip, had to take the freekin’ blue gel insoles out of her shoes and throw them away, had a hard time taking on baby food for a baby (my goodness!) on a long trip, had to stand in lines for hours (I feel so much safer). And New Orleans? Should we mention how many prisoners in ‘secret’ prisons overseas for how many years not being ‘tortured’ and finally getting to Guantanimo, “so come on Congress, you’ve got two weeks to pass legislation allowing my secret trials before legal execution”.

Enough negative. But I seem to get the most comments when I put in things like that.

Lisa, are the stripes OK?

Back with the same hat – ready for a ride to the park.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A visit to Dr. H's Museum of Nevada History

Several weeks ago I finally got to visit Dr. Hammergren’s house. Dr. Hammergren is a former Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, a neurosurgeon, and runs a ‘Museum of Nevada History’ at his home here in Las Vegas. When I say his home I do mean the place where he lives. It’s big – he originally purchased a home in a nice neighborhood, and over time purchased the houses on either side of him. He built rooms between the three houses making one large house and added additional floors on top, as well as a viewing deck up on the roof.

Driving up to the house you can tell it might be a little unusual.

And walking up to the front door also gives some indication that this is not a normal house.

I think the small space shuttle parked in the driveway kind of gives things away.

I must apologize for the limited number of inside photos. There were so many things so close together that I just couldn’t capture it without a major wide angle lens, so I have a lot of pictures of small areas. But walking through the front door, the entrance way has a small chapel complete with benches and stained glass windows. There is also a real gondola on the side, I think from the Venetian canals. Turning to the right through a real bar (don’t know where that came from) is the music room. With a big beautiful piano, some golden Egyptian thrones and lots of instruments. Up on the balcony is a singing group:

Dr. H opens his home once a year to the general public around Halloween. I never made it to that occasion, as the newspaper has stories in advance and 30,000 to 40,000 people usually attend. Too much of a crowd for me. But he also opens the place to other groups – his wife said they can comfortably host a party of 500 with food and drinks. Looking at the size of the place I can believe it. But I got in because of the Red Hats. One of the women I talk to here at work is a Lioness and a member of the Red Hat Society. The RHS is a social group that has no dues or meetings or formal stuff, it’s just a bunch of ladies that get together once in a while to have fun. Colleen, at work, talked my wife into joining a few months ago, and so B has attended several of the events.

Dr. H’s mother was really involved with one of the local Red Hat groups (there are several in the LV area) and so invites the ladies over periodically. Usually husbands are NOT allowed at these events, but this time guests could go along. So I was able to get in – here are the ladies posing for a photo

Dr. H is on the far left, the one in the black hat. My wife is in there somewhere.

Going up the big crystal staircase from the music room is the planetarium. Dr. H was able to get a real projector from somewhere, and he built a domed room to use it

The room is full of comfortable chairs, so that you can lean back and look at the star show.

Off the main bedroom – the bedroom is all blacks, and just did not photograph well. He has a circular bed surrounded by carrousel horses. Off the bedroom is one of Liberace’s dressing rooms recreated. Dr. H bought it from the Hilton.

Going through the big kitchen (each of the three houses still has a kitchen, but one was made large for the use of caterers) to the back yard is the main pool. This is a view from up on one of the balconies:

This pool is behind the house on the right. Going to the back yard of the middle house we find a large area with a karaoke stage:

You can see some of the signs Dr. H has purchased from casinos that have been rebuilt. He gets most of his stuff from casino sales, when places are torn down or remodeled. Behind the Showboat sign is one of the big paddle wheels that were part of the Showboat theme - it's fifteen feet high and motorized so it still spins.

Standing on the stage the view is to the east, with this on the left side

And this on the right

This is what the area looks like from up on the roof. You can see some of the chairs for the audience.

Looking in the opposite direction when up on the roof is a nice view westward towards the strip.

If you use one of the telescopes located up there you can see the casinos, not very visible between the trees off in the distance. This neighborhood is about six miles due east of the main casinos on the Strip.

From up there you can also look across some of the courtyards. This angle shows you the inside of a mockup of a Russian space shuttle and a silver US space capsule, part of the Roman Forum and some more casino and hotel signs.

This shot is the same courtyard from the other side. Off to the left are the yellow cars from the roller coaster that used to be up on top of the Stratosphere tower (sorry, that roller coaster is no more, other rides being built up there) which is on top of a small model of Freemont Street which used to be used in parades, which is on the roof of the bar behind the karaoke stage. It’s a huge bar, where probably 100 people could stand side by side getting drinks.

So that’s my small tour of the doctor’s place. We spent about two hours wandering around looking at things. At times I came across the doctor describing what was in the room he was in. There were also some small tours given by some of the people that help the doctor at these events. There is so much stuff inside and out that B wondered how it was all kept clean. This was a Sunday and I did run across a worker in the back upstairs with a bottle of cleaner and some rags wiping things down, so I would guess that it is a full time job for someone to wander around and do that. They also probably have a full cleaning crew come in before a party to get the place nice.

So, the Museum of Nevada History is an interesting place to go to. Not much that would indicate what items are, and not much of a learning experience, but definitely a place that can fill the hours. Thanks, Dr. H, for opening your house to us. Visitors to Vegas would probably never get there, but for those of us living in Las Vegas it is a place to put on our visit list, and wait for announcements about the next open house.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

E almost Friday

Sorry VG, I missed E Friday. Last weekend one of the computers here at the bank had problems (again). It took me about four hours to figure out what was going on and get it working – which meant that over a hundred phone reps were left sitting at their computers unable to make collections phone calls. Because of that, and other outages, the Collections department has requested better support from the IT department. Of course you know what that means, more meetings. Because I am down at the bottom I, of course, am never included in the decision making process. The end result was my manager coming over to me on Monday afternoon and asking if I would mind adjusting my hours just a little bit. From the ‘normal’ workweek of Monday through Friday 8 to 5 (plus nighttime and early morning support calls) to working Tuesday through Saturday 4am to ? (yesterday it was 3:30, but who’s clock watching). This way I could test the systems before the phone crew gets in at 5 and insure that everything is working and being on site to fix problems. It’s not just me; there is also a networking expert in those hours as well.

So it has been a full week, and here I sit Saturday morning, taking a break from trying to figure out a program, in a room full of cubicles by myself. I spent yesterday documenting how to do the testing, so that when I’m not here somebody else can do it. As I have known for quite a while, I am good at programming but not good at tech writing. I tend to be too tech and not enough writing. But Barb (today’s network expert) was able to read through my document and perform some of the tasks. And she also was able to rewrite portions to make them more understandable. So that kept me busy most of the day. Then I shifted to some other problems and was able to keep myself busy for the rest of the day.

Anyway, enough excuses.

Now for something completely different. I’m listening to Car Talk on PBS radio, and the guys are reading some Haiku that I found interesting:

First, one from Japan, a computer error message:

Your file was so big
It may have been very useful
But now it is gone

And then some from their staff on automotive problems. I wasn’t quick enough to take them all down, but caught one:

Mother driving boys
Don’t you make me come back there
Dreams of birth control

OK, back to E Fridays for VG.

Let’s start with our little helper. She tries to imitate B, and so is now trying to do some yard work. We’re looking for some gardening tools that are more her size, so will probably be off to Toys R Us this afternoon. But here she is trying to rake:

We have a back gate that looks out on the side street. Max likes to stand at the gate, looking through the gaps and barking at whoever walks by. E usually wonders what Max is looking at, and can frequently be seen standing back there also looking through the gaps.

As you can see, she also has a handful of those grapes that she so likes.

We’ve got two swings in the back under the peach tree. One is a kid’s swing, in which E can spend a long time rocking back and forth just watching the birds and the dogs and B working around the yard. We also put in a ‘regular’ swing for the Swedes when they came last year. E is finally big enough to try the big kid’s swing. She used to just lay on it, but did not like just watching the ground going back and forth. She has now learned to sit in it. This is about my favorite expression, and again with the hat hair: (are we having fun yet?)