Monday, July 31, 2006

Bellagio trains

My goodness, going off on rants again. I didn’t mean to make this a political blog, my original intent was to show off Las Vegas. But it seems I get so many more comments when I bring up a controversial topic than when I just post pictures of casinos. Kind of the same way I leave comments elsewhere, if things are pretty there isn’t much to say, but if I have an opinion then I’ll probably jump in. I try to leave at least a hello comment when I visit places, but end up doing it every second or third visit.

The home tour seems to have been a good distraction, but let me put up some Vegas shots to get your mind off of politics. I don’t really want to – I am incensed at the current political climate, and mad that I can’t do anything about what is going on in our country or the world today. The least I can do is get other people mad as well, either at the situation or at me for having ‘stupid’ opinions.

Thought we would get out of the house the other evening and do something. I wanted to see the current Bellagio conservatory show, as it is due to change again next week. The current show is themed a train tour around the country. There were landscapes of different areas of the US, with large garden sized trains going in loops around. Playing with trains I wanted to see how others did it. It was not a train show, more of a gardener’s fantasy world with trains rolling by. But it was pretty, and B really liked the use of bark to make mountains and buildings.

We started by parking over in the Desert Passage parking lot and wandered up to Margaritaville for a burger. I’ve got three ‘standard’ places to park when we go down to the strip. If we’re hitting places to the north I park in the Fashion Show mall lot. We drive right down Desert Inn which is a quick cross street, down an off ramp and right around into the back of the garage. It’s about 10-15 minutes from our driveway there, depending on the lights. If we head to the south end then I use the Luxor or Mandalay Bay lot. That too is easy to get, going down Frank Sinatra drive along the freeway behind the casinos.

For the center strip it’s the Desert Passage lot – for us again down Desert Inn, right on Paradise and right on Harmon into the garage. So we end up walking through three shopping malls – Fashion Sow, Desert Passage or the Mandalay bridge mini-mall. All have stores we end up walking through and places to eat. So we do leave money either on the way in or the way out.

But the Desert Passage is right across from the Bellagio. There is a traffic light and a pedestrian crosswalk there, one of the last few places you can cross the strip. Every big corner has a set of pedestrian bridges to keep you away from those horrible drivers and drunk walkers. This is the one on Flamingo.

That's Ceasar's Palace in the background, the little dome on the left at the end of the bridge is the entrance to the Bellagio shopping arcade.

Standing on the bridge I was able to hold the camera steady and try some night shots. Finally, a night fountain picture that almost came out OK.

The Bellagio has a very nice casino. We tried their buffet when we went to O last year. I was very disappointed – they had some strange meats (venison, buffalo, pheasant) but charged a lot and did not really have a large selection. I’d still recommend the Rio for their buffet. Somebody here at work loves the MGM, have to try that one soon. The Bellagio has two small cocktail lounges located at different places in the casino. Both are small nice places to sit and watch all the people walking by. One has a piano and live music at times, but we haven’t hit it when the player is there.

The conservatory show was interesting. They always do a nice job with the plants and flowers. At the front was a miniature version of the Bellagio, complete with working fountains.

There were about a half dozen trains wandering around different areas. Some overhead, others down below. There were interesting little houses and miniature landscapes, most made out of bark and twigs.

In the back was their big Banyon tree. It was cut down somewhere in Florida to make room for a road project, and there were some tv screens showing the process of cutting it up, driving it out to Nevada and storing it. This is the third show they have put the tree up for, and it still looks impressive, walking underneath and through the roots. Again there were water fountains, squirting overhead in big arcs.

That's B looking at the flowers, and the smooth arc of one of the water squirters in the lower left corner going over the walkway. There were some trains overhead in the tree also.

Around the corner from the conservatory, on the way to their newest tower and convention center area, is a chocolate and treats shop. Overhead is a chocolate waterfall.

Three colors, white, milk and dark chocolate. It’s behind glass, and always flowing. The cakes and treats at the shop always look good, and there is usually a long line. They’ve got gelato, and really pretty little cakes. We do get some at times.

I put together a little fountain out in our back yard. E plays in it most mornings, but after her morning nap and lunch it’s been to hot for her to go back outside. We’ve got a cool week predicted; I would say a cold trend, for us at least, but for the rest of the world still a little much. This morning it was only 79f when I left, and it’s not scheduled to go over 100f for the next few days,only 98 or 99 predicted.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


OK, thanks to Deana for some reason I've gotten fished into joining up on the Tour of Homes.

So, not too many words today, just thought I'd share my place. Instructions said to put up five pictures, so first here's the front door.

I've shown it before - when we moved in it used to be plain with framed sections. We took them off, I cut in the holes and installed the window glass, which really brightens up the entry right there, and B went through four cans of paint before finding just the right red.

The next picture is where I blog from. Well, I don't usually do it at home, I do it at work, so here is my computer there.

OK, kind of cheating, but you asked for where I worked on the blog and this is it. Yes, two monitors, a big screen which the company put in and a flat screen to the right of it which I went out and bought. I've got two flat panels on my computer at home - as a programmer I've come to love all the screen space to display different windows at the same time.

Next is the main living room.

This faces the front, taken from just inside the front door. You can see the dining room table, and into the kitchen, off to the right is the tv/family room. I took some shots of that room, 'cause we spend a lot of time in front of the tv, but they didn't come out too well, so here is this one.

Next is the kitchen.

Well, not the counters and appliences, but our table and E's chair, the back door we cut into the wall and installed, and a painting by a friend of France.

Last shot is supposed to by my favorite place. Well, again, this isn't inside, but where I sit and have my coffee every morning and read the paper, eat breakfast, then sit again and have coffee in mid afternoon.

Part of the back patio, right outside the back door from the kitchen seen above. This is my favorite view, and favorite place to sit. Listening to the fountain and watching the birds.

OK, off you go, visit Deana and see who else signed up for this thing.

Politics, blah

Wow, several intelligent posts and comment responses over at Malinda’s place. I am impressed that at least a few people are taking the time to think about and discuss things rather than just throw snippets and sound bites around. I usually have complex thoughts in my head but have a difficulty in putting them down (almost said on paper, but I guess it would be on disk?). Even normally apolitical Deana felt it necessary to put up some comments. Wow.

Sorry to disagree with you, Malinda, but right now I think our government is doing rather poorly, and have to agree with most of Steve’s arguments. I don’t know what Bush was like in the past, but his current incarnation makes me sorry to be an American with a leader like that. I see films of his interaction with other world leaders and am embarrassed. His language, attitude and abilities are not what I would like to have as our representative and leader.

The general government attitude currently is that the US is number one, and everybody else is irrelevant and should do what we say. I think that this is not the way to interact with the rest of the world. Most schoolyard bullies feel that they have a right to tell everybody else what to do. This might work for a while, but eventually somebody will get fed up with it and bring along some friends with baseball bats to change his attitude.

Bush’s attitude at the summit in Russia (“just tell Anin to call the Syrians and tell them to stop it”), Bolton’s attitude in the UN (alienating almost every other country) and Rice’s attitude almost everywhere she goes indicate that these world view is generic thinking coming from people at the top. The results of this bully attitude end up being countries that feel they can ignore us, and have to do whatever it takes not only to protect themselves but to fight against us. North Korea, Pakistan and Iran all feel they need more nuclear weapons, and heck with what we say. How many Middle Eastern organizations and governments now feel that we must actively be pursued? How has the invasion of Iraq made us safer here?

Bush also exhibits the same attitude at home. His signing of over 800 ‘letters’ stating that he feels he can ignore laws that congress passes, the authorization of domestic wiretaps because he feels that it is his right to protect the country, the authorization of phone call analysis of millions of domestic calls, the authorization of ‘special interrogation techniques’ (it is NOT torture if you can define torture any way you want to) in Iraq, the disregard for the Constitution and Geneva Conventions for prisoners in Guantanamo, the disregard for Constitutional protections for US citizens if they are ‘enemy agents’ here in the US, the arrest of protesters at appearances of Bush and Chaney, all indicate that this government feels it has ultimate power, answers to no one, and can do anything it wants to do.

Should we go into how we went from a federal budget that was fairly balanced back to one where we end up with spending what, $400,000,000,000 more than we take in every year? What kind of huge debt will our kids end up having to pay off? Don’t tell me who created this situation, we have Republicans in control of everything, and not one freekin’ money spending bill vetoed, or even paired down. Now we are spending a billion dollars a week in Iraq, and not one penny of it is going into making life there better for the people. No reconstruction effort, no new power plants, no new water plants, nothing but fighting and defense and death. Find anybody in that country, outside of the politicians we put in place, that is glad that we are there. Even the politicians have their families living out of the country. I haven’t found one blog reportedly coming from Iraq that has any praise for our occupation. It was an invasion and occupation, we are still there. We did not go in and save a country from it’s evil dictator, we went in for W’s own reasons, and it sure stinks.

We were reading an interview with some millionaire that put over $25,000,000 into campaigns against Bush at the last election. He said that he felt the first election of Bush could be attributed to an incorrect Supreme Court decision, and that he did not want the world to feel that this individual represented all of our country. By making GW a one-term president the rest of the world would see that it was a brief interlude that hopefully could be left behind. But with the reelection unfortunately he was proven wrong, it seems that the majority of the population that voted did want GW as it’s elected representative.

Now, I also accept the idea that we should kick butt in defending ourselves, and the invasion of Afghanistan was a move in the right direction, but the move to Iraq? Nothing presented, back then or now, indicates that this was a good move. Staying there? No, Rumsfeld is the boss, he directs the military in what they should do, and if the generals testify against him in Congress, they still run his war in Iraq his way. Doesn’t look like his way is the right one. Either force those guys into submission or get out of there. I said it before, we are causing more problems, more hatred and more deaths by staying there than if we leave.

As far as Ossama, yes, it would not surprise me in the least if we ‘discovered’ his location the week before the next elections. Ask Jimmie Carter about the hostages in Iran back when he was pres.

Sorry I can’t be more articulate. But it makes me mad too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lebanon Evacuation

Boy, am I behind the times. Looks like we need to subscribe to a better paper than the one in our home town.

Yesterday I found a link that discussed the US policy on charging evacuees from Lebanon for their transport. I talked to my wife about it this morning and she said there was so much negative publicity about the concept that Ms. Rice reversed the policy decision. Here's a CNN story
from last Wednesday that discusses this. The policy change was due to all of the complaints and comments, probably a lot from people like Miranda and other bloggers that filled the wires with raised voices. Good work.

I complain about my wife watching too much news on TV, but I guess I'm watching too little. Sorry to misinform without fully researching things.

A local teenager was over there visiting family, so our local paper was filled with stories about her trying to return. She arrived back home here on Sunday, and in a story yesterday described how the US paid for her transport all the way back to the US (she came in via Baltimore) and her family just had to buy her a ticket from Baltimore to Vegas.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Warm weekend and racing

Monday morning, nothing exciting happened this weekend. Had a group over yesterday evening for some time in the pool. We gathered together around 5, air temp had dropped down to 108f, and the water was at our favorite temp of 92f. E was part of the group, and really seems to like swimming – or at least having somebody hold her while she plays with the toy fish and splashes around.

Our son-in-law was raised in Canada, and does not like the desert very much – not enough trees or rain. It looks like they are going to get more active in finding a place in Portland to move to. He is off on a job hunt, and they will be making a house hunting trip up there in August. So it looks like the E pics will not be as frequent, grandma is used to watching E and was looking forward to seeing her grow up. Oh well, people move on and things change. Daughter figures we will be making frequent trips up there, eventually selling out here and perhaps buying a condo up in the Portland Pearl District. No thanks – I’ve given up on rain and really like having sunshine 320+ days a year.

I mean, come on, how can you pass this up?

Some local news – our Las Vegas city council has signed a contract with somebody to permit a Formula One race to take place on the downtown streets. Being from Southern California we used to watch similar races on the streets of Long Beach, and there are several other cities doing this as well. Our first race will be Easter weekend of 2007. From the map printed in the local paper the course will be on a big circle surrounding the Fremont Street Experience, then head west to go around the new Furniture Mart and County Center. Supposedly people will be able to just walk over and watch, but pay to sit in the bleachers. At least that is what the council expects; we’ll see what actually happens. Promoters are hoping for 150,000 people to come view the races.

On other sides, Miranda pointed to an interesting post by the US Embassy in Lebanon, informing US citizens that they will be charged for their evacuation from the war zone over to Cypress. We’ve been seeing images on TV every night of our ‘brave Marines’ helping old people and kids board the large Marine transports to get away from Lebanon. No mention has ever been made of the fact that people will have to pay the government for this transport. And then when getting to Cypress these evacuees will have to pay for their own hotel rooms and transportation back to the US. Seems like we can give how many millions in aid to the Lebanese, but our own citizens are stuck with the bill? And how many billions a month are we spending in Iraq? Oh, yes, get me started on that one.

Other news articles have been highlighting our President’s method of writing his magical letters (signing statements) when he signs in new laws. There have been a few items on national news over the past few days, and a big thing in the local newspaper both yesterday and today.

The PBS Newshour had two people on opposing sides discussing the situation. One lawyer, a former Reagan cabinet member, on a bar association committee was discussing their finding that the signing statements were probably unconstitutional. Another individual that was a teacher of law took the position that the president could refuse to enforce laws he felt were ambiguous and open to interpretation or he found to be unconstitutional.

I don’t know, but I always thought (as evidently the bar association also does) that it was up to the courts to decide constitutionality. It was up to the president to enforce all laws passed by congress that he signed. If he felt something was wrong he could veto a bill and then congress would have to review and override the veto. If the president still felt it was wrong he could then ask the Supreme Court to review the law.

It seems that our current president feels that he is the ultimate arbitrator. If he doesn’t like something then he alone can say whether it should be enforced or not. If he wants to permit torture of evildoers then it shall be done. If he feels people should be imprisoned in Guantanamo they will be, and if that prison is outside of normal US laws then by heck he will ignore the constitution and do whatever he wants to those darn people. They are terrorists, and by heck they don’t deserve the protection our constitution gives to citizens. So what if some of them are US citizens, if they are terrorist then they give up their constitutional rights as well.

Ok, enough of that. Shows you how busy I am at work, didn’t even get my Monday post up until Tuesday night.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Lines you don't hear too often

We got back from some morning shopping, and my wife was trying to figure out what work to do. She said that there were lots of inside things to do, but thought she should do some gardening outside before it started to warm up, after all it was ONLY 100f outside.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Going Political Again

Another thanks (?) to Rob again. He always seems to point to interesting posts. (OK Lisa, you do too but I'm picking on Rob today).

Thanks to him I've got to add another blog to my listings over to the right, and have another place to visit frequently. It's unfortunately a rather depressing place, Baghdad Burning. It's not near the top, have to look for it. She doesn't post very often, but whenever new posts show up they are not very enjoyable, unless you look at them in the "I told you so" frame of mind. Like dealing with a little kid, "Did dropping that rock on your foot hurt? I told you so." only in this frame it's a little more serious than a sore toe.

Yes, back to the US involvement in Iraq. Our glorious president's attitude that we can't just get up and "cut and run", leaving those poor people to fend for themselves. I have always said (as does the ONE senator that voted against the invasion) that we should not be there. Our troops being in Iraq are causing more problems because of our presence than would be caused by our immediate withdrawl.

But I'm not the president, I am no one in power. Nobody important listens to me. Oh well, sorry, you guys get to put up with me (or stop reading my posts). You get all of these enjoyable (?) political ramblings meshed in with shots of neon and little kids and the open desert. But that's the way my life is, kind of all mushed together.

Thanks for coming by.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More ramblings

OK, here are a few random thoughts from assorted places.

Been seeing the news about Israel/Lebannon. For some reason the US news has been more interested in president W vetoing a bill to permit stem cell research. Almost no news at all about Iraq. Seems to me that we have slipped our moral cog a little in what we consider important. It might more rightly reflect our ability to become involved and do something than our interest. I see very little that I can do to affect our troops in Iraq, or to aid in bringing peace to the middle east, or even what I could do about using cells to fight disease.

Udge provided links to some good articles, one that seemed most interesting to me was by Tom Engelhardt on our involvement. The main thrust of the article is that the US now feels it is the biggest, best, baddest country on earth and everybody should listen to us and do what we say. Unfortunately our leadership has taken that position inside the country as well, feeling that they know best and the general population and congress and the constitution and our laws be damned, they will do what they know is right. I’m sure I can get into a lot of trouble for putting down what I would like to do in response, but simply said I sure can’t wait for the next elections. Throw all the bums out.

It all makes me feel so powerless, which I guess I am. I am unable to affect any of these things, and just don’t know what to do. I have written letters to my representatives, but they don’t even bother to acknowledge receipt. That’s probably what most people feel, which is why the general public is ignoring most of what is going on. Frustration.

For my little world, I’m ready for a career change. Unfortunately, I’ve been doing computers for so long that I now get a relatively good paycheck, and my expenses have gotten used to the deposits into my bank account. So I just play games on my off hours, and try to get by at work doing a good job and trying to be ignored. I used to like being out front, the leader, but now I’m happy to just sit at my machine and write my code and make it through another week.

On the drive front, the big parking garage construction that I’ve been driving past is almost over.

The garage was opened Monday, with lots of balloons and greeters. Unfortunately we had some big thunderstorms Monday night, and it seems all the balloons were blown away, so by the time I got back with camera it just looked like dull concrete. But without those construction fences around it, and Bellagio employees driving in. I am always impressed with the speed of construction on casino jobs. For some reason it seems that if you are willing to pay for good, fast work then you will get it. Unfortunately, our government projects are not run like that, and highway and public buildings take forever to be constructed. This is a 9,000 car multi story parking garage, done in just a few months. I can't wait to see what the other $7,000,000,000 (yes, seven BILLION dollars) in construction costs will bring to this city center project

In my own back yard we are enjoying the warm weather and the pool. We were gone last weekend to Fresno, so did not open the pool cover for a week. Came back to find that the water temperature was 102f. A little hot for my taste. The cover is now open, and I put the little fountain in to encourage evaporation. Temp should be back down to our favorite 92f by tomorrow. This is what the little cabana by the pool looks like.

Not as fancy as the big casinos, but we like it. B kept seeing curtains defining outdoor rooms in the home decorating magazines and on TV, so she thought she would try it here.

POP in Sweden posted the results of his taking an English test. He didn’t seem too satisfied. It seems that I can’t do much better.

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 80%

Punctuation: 80%

Vocabulary: 60%

Spelling: 40%

I’m just glad that I write these posts in Word before copying them to blogger. At least the red underlines help my spelling, as long as I don’t change things on the fly.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Back from the Fresno wedding

Back from a quick weekend in Fresno. Drove out Friday, back yesterday. We went to a wedding – daughter-in-law’s niece.

Sitting in church I wondered where brides get these ideas. Is there a book of things to do at a wedding that might sound like great ideas but in reality people just wonder why? It all seemed to flow together, but started over an hour late because the best man’s tuxedo was wrong and he waited until an hour before the service to go pick it up, so had to wait for another one. He was a rather large guy, and so I am sure they needed to sew two jackets together to fit his broad shoulders. And an old church in downtown Fresno with lots of other people and 108f outside and only a struggling swamp cooler inside is not the most comfortable places to wait. But outside was not any better. And it was sunny outside, without even the breeze the cooler tried to produce.

Our son, the uncle, sat in the pew in front of us, wearing his sunglasses and sitting quietly waiting. They were wrap-around glasses but did not wrap enough, I could tell he had his eyes closed and was sleeping. At least he didn’t snore. I thought it to be a great idea, but my wife wouldn’t let me put on my sunglasses. I guess that’s because I would snore.

When the ceremony started there were lots of preliminaries – people marching up the sides and bridesmaids up the aisle and two little girls pulling a paper runner followed by even smaller girls dropping flowers followed finally by the bride with her father. Later when the priest asked ‘who gives this woman’ he fairly jumped up and yelled “I DO” as if surprised and happy to do it but not really wanting to give up his little girl.

Reception afterward. Lots of loud music and dancing and people that evidently hadn’t seen each other in a while and lots of people that see each other a lot. And a dance song that seems to be a follow on to the ‘do what we say’ style, reminiscent of the Macarena thing from a while back. ‘Stomp your left foot, two jumps, turn right . . .” but there was quite a crowd out there enjoying themselves. I had fun watching.

Fresno was rather nice. We drove around a bit to look at neighborhoods, something we like to do when we have time. Downtown Fresno is rather falling apart, at least the southeast section we were in. The church was built around 1920, and since then the 99 and 41 freeways have passed within a few blocks, cutting off areas and helping isolate areas of downtown. Going to the church from our hotel we passed quite a few boarded up or burned houses, found a few streets full of homeless people living in tents, and were really not very impressed. But the outskirts of town were very nice. The population of Fresno is about 460,000. There is a lot of farming around, it’s the raisin capital of the world, and due to water being delivered by canals from the mountain lakes and the Sacramento delta the whole central valley is green. Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks are very close, and there are several rivers flowing down from the mountains. Neighborhoods are a lot greener than Vegas, and there are a lot more trees. The weather is a little milder; it does not usually get so hot, and in the winter it does not drop down near freezing.

Housing costs less than Vegas, unusual for California. I guess the high prices are only along the coast – what would be a $500,000 house in Fresno would probably be $2,000,000 in San Diego and double that in the San Francisco area. And probably $200,000 in Arkansas (or less). And my line, yes, but when you wake up in the morning you would still be in Arkansas. (drum beat). Sorry Arkansas, I know you helped product Bill Clinton, but even he didn’t return and moved to New York.

On the way over we stopped for lunch in the big town of Keene, California. It’s at the freeway off ramp to the Tehachapi Loop, which I wanted to see because I see lots of attempts at reproducing it in my model train magazines.

The Loop is a big spiral, where long trains end up passing over themselves as they go around. I think it's the only place in the US where trains do this.

Total drive time, Freson to Vegas, including stops to eat, hit Starbucks, gas up and watch trains was about eight hours in each direction.

Most of the US is having a heat wave right now. California is no exception, Fresno sure didn’t expect 108. Driving back through Baker yesterday, home of the famous Bun Boy and the world’s tallest thermometer, we looked over to see that it was 128f (53c). The thermometer goes up to 140, so I am sure that wasn’t the highest they have recorded. I wanted to stop, but B was quite happy to keep driving, and keep the air conditioner going. It worked well, but had to be turned off on the northbound hill. There were lots of cars over on the side of the road with hoods up and radiators steaming. They should have read the signs that tell you to turn off the air conditioner because the steep hill causes cars to overheat. Especially when it’s 128 and sunny, but people see it’s 128 and want that air on. I don’t blame them.

We returned to find our pool water rather warm – haven’t opened the pool cover in a week of sun and hot weather, the water is now up to 102f (39c) which is rather warm even for me. Guess I’ll be putting the pump and fountain in there tonight, which should drop it down to 90f or so by tomorrow.

There are some big range fires in southern California. These are east of San Bernardino, and are about 250 miles south of Las Vegas. All last week, and now, we are having unhealthy air alerts, because the prevailing winds are blowing all that smoke up here. The air is hazy, and you can smell the burning. Driving back down the central valley we could not see the mountains around us because the smoke was making everything hazy. It’s fire season out west. All the grass and plants that were growing over the winter during the winter rains are now dried out and ready to burn. That’s the natural cycle, things grown and burn, and the cinders fertilize the earth for next year’s growth. Many plants have evolved for this cycle, and their seeds cannot sprout without the heat from a fire cracking them. Unfortunately with all of the houses people have built out in the formerly open spaces firefighters are now obligated to putting out these fires, at great cost. I think we should just tell those folks, “you can build there, but we are not going to put out any fires burning your way. It’s your choice”.

A few years ago the National Parks Service changed their stance, and decided that since the fire cycle is a natural thing they were not going to put out fires in national parks unless lives were at risk. That stopped a couple of years ago after a big fire in Yellowstone National Park. Visitors the next year were appalled at the black, burned trees and there was such a complaint to congress that the burn decision was changed, and now all fires are extinguished. It costs millions of dollars a year to fight these fires that are out in the middle of nowhere, in mountainous areas with no roads, threatening no one. And quite a few fire fighters die every year out there, when the wind shifts and they are caught in the middle.

Last year was bad, and this year will probably be worse. We are in a multi year drought. And a few years ago the pine bark beetle started hitting trees in California and other western states, killing trees weakened by the low water levels. So with the high temperatures and dead trees there should be quite a few fires this year.

OK, can’t be without at least one picture.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

More spam

I don't know why, for some reason I like some of these. I don't usually read them, but this was at the top as I grouped for deletion. Kind of sounds something like Alan Ginsberg would have written in the 60's. Maybe in Howl.

trees plants: Chelsea
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Still around town

Thursday, and we’re back on the road tomorrow to Fresno for a wedding. I kind of like Fresno, when in the Navy I was stationed at Lemoore Naval Air Station in the central valley, and Fresno was the nearest ‘big’ town. I always said that it was a nice central location; halfway between LA and San Francisco, halfway between the ocean and the mountains. In other words, nothing there and in the middle of nowhere. Kind of how I picture Kansas (sorry Kansas), halfway between Mexico and Canada, halfway between the Atlantic and the Pacific, a good central location.

Back to Vegas – we are not really in the middle of anything here, other than nowhere. But there are things to do in Vegas, and other places are within a reasonable drive. For people living out on the west coast of the US, and I still consider Vegas to be the west coast even if it isn’t California, a reasonable drive probably is a lot different than what other parts of the country consider reasonable. Reasonable to us means we can get there if we leave in the morning when the sun is shining and get to our destination before the sun sets. This is why LA and San Diego and Fresno are reasonable drives. It might involve four or five or six hours in the car, but we drive while the sun is shining. The air conditioner is on, the radio blaring, and fast food and rest stops are conveniently spaced. Most people driving from/to LA hit Barstow for a gas/rest stop. The roads are fairly straight, no cross traffic or lights, and everyone else is moving along fairly well. If you pick the right day there is very little traffic or slowdowns.

Some shots from my drive home from work today. For people that drove to Vegas from LA before I-15 was built the road into town was the Strip. Past the end of the airport, right past the Welcome to Vegas sign, the first hotel/casino you saw was the Klondike. Other hotels along the same area include the famous Glass Pool In and Casa Malaga. The Klondike is rather old now, all the other places have already been torn down. Being at the far south end of the strip it is kind of alone. It is also at the end of the airport runways, where there are height limitations on buildings. On the east side of the property they are limited to just two stories.

The property has sold, and will shortly become another empty lot. It’s fenced off and just waiting. The new owner has not announced plans, but the same company owns the empty lots just to the north of this one. The local paper had stories about the Klondike, which was built and run by one man. Back in the 60’s there was a little battle between the city and the county about the Welcome to Vegas sign and power was turned off to the sign. Since the Klondike is right across from the sign the owner ran a power cord from his place to the sign and kept it lit until the discussions over who would pay the electric bill were settled.

Heading down the Strip just past the Klondike is the Little Church of the West wedding chapel, and the empty lots where those other motels used to be.

The Glass Pool Inn was famous in itself. An LA Times story from 2002 talked about it, a local web site with lots of pictures of old Vegas motels has a page on the Glass Pool story. And you can also still see it at 360 Glass Pool.

In the distance on the above shot is a billboard that usually has ads for the Bally show. It alternates between this one, the front view of a topless showgirl with one arm held over an appropriate place, and the current one (it was changed yesterday) of a rear view, the same shot as on the big Ballys sign displayed before.

Almost across from this section is a billboard for a local Spanish radio station. I am assuming that the listeners of this station are mostly older, as I don’t really see the kids anxiously awaiting music from the people portrayed on this sign.

The lady in the upper left corner does not seem to fit my image of a pop star. And that big hat at the bottom?

Driving home over 15 and then down Arville I drive through an industrial area. One of the lots there is used to store parts from those big cranes used all over town.

Put together, a crane tall enough to build a fifty story building can be made. There are lots of projects around town going this high right now. The frame sections can be quite colorful, with large pieces in red, orange, blue and yellow.

OK, for Virginia Gal let’s also include and E pic. Here she is enjoying her mac and cheese. She is a real cheese fan.

You can also see Max in the lower corner, waiting for something good to drop. E hasn’t yet learned to drop things for the dogs on purpose, but she does have a tendency to miss her mouth at times, so at lunch time the guys do hang around down below. B doesn't bother with a bowl, E takes stuff from the tray just fine. And she is learning to use the fork and spoon instead of just fingers.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Some more spam

I love some of these messages. Can't figure out what they are pushing, but there is always a web site link and some words, designed to get through my filters:

"I'm naked."
touch perfect speed. And that isn't flying a thousand miles an hour, or a to understand?
So this is heaven, he thought, and he had to smile at himself. It was


bow of horn and shot an arrow at the speaker. It smote into his shield
and stuck there quivering.
Since such is your answer, he called in return, I declare the
Mountain besieged. You shall not depart from it, until you call on your
side for a truce and a parley. We will bear no weapons against you, but
we leave you to your gold. You may eat that, if you will!

On the road again (still)

Well, back to the Fresno trip. Eventually help arrived and we got the truck running. It’s a 1965 Dodge, and the gas tank seems to have quite a lot of junk at the bottom. I had been filling up at every big gas station (6 mpg towing that trailer, and two bottles of oil each time) but going through Bakersfield I thought I would try for a small town on the other side. Guess I waited too long. It was down to a quarter tank and must have sucked up some crud, the fuel filter became clogged up resulting in no gas to the engine. My son drove down from Fresno and changed it, we dumped in more gas to get above the crud level and drove a few miles to the next town and gas station. Then on to DIL’s mom’s in Fresno. I detached the Uhaul and attached a little white box trailer they were giving me, then a meal and off again south.

A lot easier hauling back, and it was up to a whole 15mpg or so. Heading back past Tehachapi is the high desert. A little different than the Vegas area, but not much. There are a lot more bushes.

On the hills in the distance are some mines, and a railroad track parallels the road a few miles to the south. You can see a train in the distance. If you are a train buff you should have heard about the famous Tehachipi Loop, which all trains from the east must take to work their way down to LA.

At about the halfway point is a little rest stop in the middle of nowhere. You can find these all over the California and Nevada area off the freeways. A little patch of green, some trees, rest rooms in the middle, and parking for trucks and cars. You’ll usually find the truck spots all filled with drivers taking naps, especially at night.

I pulled in for a short snooze myself, at least until it got too cold to sleep. So back on the road again, north on I-15 headed toward Vegas.

Look at all the trees and green! Coming down that last big hill from the mountain pass towards Primm (formerly Stateline).

You can see the big white spot that is the dry lake bed, filled to the brim with about a foot of water after heavy rains.
This is what Primm looks like

Just a casino on each side, the big roller coaster and a monorail that crosses the freeway between the two places, and an ‘outlet mall’. I stopped for gas and hit Starbucks for a medium caramel macchiato with an extra shot – my normal Star drink. Only another 50 miles to go!

Halfway to Vegas from Primm is the offramp labeled Jean.

Again, a casino on either side, but no outlet mall here. The casino on the west side is built to look like two Mississippi riverboats tied up at a dock – only a little larger than life. Over on the hillside to the east is the state prison. This is the one that Grissom sometimes goes to on CSI. It’s a little over to the right from the sign.

And on to home – just a 600 mile round trip, about $340 in gas and oil for the truck, and too many hours on the road. We’re due to go back to Fresno on Friday, for a wedding. Only we’ll take the Echo with the good air conditioner that gets 42mpg and doesn’t leak oil and has a radio that works and windows that close and is a LOT quieter.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

When I should be working on customer programs

Thanks Teri

You Are 5: The Investigator

You're independent - and a logical analytical thinker.

You love learning and ideas... and know things no one else does.

Bored by small talk, you refuse to participate in boring conversations.

You are open minded. A visionary. You understand the world and may change it.

Same as you, see?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday gripes and field trip

I was just walking over to our other building and thinking about people’s attitudes. The sidewalk out front is wide, but there was a group of people walking towards me, side by side filling the sidewalk. No one approaching seemed to notice me, and nobody made a move to make room for me to get by. I ended up just stopping and standing at the edge of the sidewalk, forcing the person at one end to crowd the others to get by, and they then all looked at me as if I was doing something wrong.

Was I incorrect in my actions? Is it my responsibility to walk out into the street and let this group by? For some reason I feel the sidewalk is the place I should be, not out in the street with cars zipping by, and common areas are meant to be shared.

I guess this is all part of the “it’s all me” attitude that I have been seeing getting worse. More and more people are ignoring the feelings of others because they want things their way. I thought this was confined to those under the age of five, but it seems that teenagers usually have this attitude, and for some reason people are keeping this attitude into old age. Well, really old farts have felt this way for a long time, as the membership of the AARP would indicate. (“Give me that senior discount sonny”)

Driving around town I find people just throwing their fast-food trash out the windows, and smokers – let’s not forget those that have no problem blowing smoke in your direction and tossing the butts about. Guess it also applies to those in too big a hurry to follow the speed limit signs, and run through red lights because obviously they are too important to be held up.

Boy, you can tell I had a good week by the lack of postings and the measly wanderings here.

OK, here’s a link courtesy of the vdoprincess I found rather amusing: a take on the poor subjects of Flash Animators. Harkens back to those old ‘out of the inkwell’ cartoons when the poor artist was put upon by his creations.

OK, need some pictures. Let’s to part one of my recent field trip.

When my son planned on moving here a few years ago he came with a trailer full of stuff that he put into a storage locker while living with us. He figured that he would buy a house and have a place to put it. Well, he ended up moving back to Oakland and buying a house there. Never coming back to get his storage locker full of things, he kept paying the $100 a month or so rental. Feeling nice I offered to fill up a U-Haul trailer and drive it out to California, meeting him about half-way in Fresno. Last month I did just that.

So, here’s my truck in our driveway, all ready to leave.

I didn’t think that this trailer full of furniture and stuff would weigh too much, and that the old 1965 Dodge would be able to handle it. But it does almost burn more oil than gas, so I took along half a case of oil (and I still had to buy more). So, off down I-15 southbound I go.

You can see the long trip ahead. This is the old down the hill a dozen miles to Baker view. I found out that I was pulling more that the truck really wanted to just past the California border. Las Vegas is at about 1,100 ft elevation, and the first high pass is 4,700 ft, with one long hill leading up from the dry lake bed at the border. There is an extra truck lane for the slow 18 wheelers that I always passed before, but now found that I was over there, only doing 30mph instead of the posted 65.

Turning right at Barstow I headed towards Tehachipi, surrounded by hills and a farm full of wind powered electric generators – alternative energy sources, in official speak.

Some of them are pretty big – with blades over a hundred feet long.

And down into Bakersfield and the big central valley of California.

This is what the rolling foothills look like. Quickly dropping to the valley floor.

You can’t see all the detail, but there are squares of fields, orchards and vineyards as far as you can see. The central valley extends like this from just south of Bakersfield all the way three hundred miles or so up past Sacramento, probably about eighty miles wide. Most of the fruit and produce for the US is grown here. All of the pistachios, most of the almonds, all the raisins and most of the eating grapes. Along with lots of other stuff.

Bakersfield also is surrounded by these things.

The old walking-beam oil pumps. Lots of oil production here, with pumps scattered among the crops.

Turning north at Bakersfield onto old highway 99 headed for Fresno. And here are the grapes –

Fresno is the raisin capitol of the US, I think they have a big raisin festival and stuff each year.

And what happened just north of Bakersfield?

Monday, July 03, 2006

80's flashback

Thanks to Tess, she pointed to 80's music videos. I am embarrased to admit how many of these I remember. And sorry to see so many coming back.

Right now I'm listening to Bananarama (remember them? no? kids) singing Venus. Didn't they do Walk Like an Egyptian? Oh - that was the Bangles, big difference, sorry (yes, look down three listings, that's there too, but live not the video). The unfortunate side - they're coming back. Yes, those three 'girls' back together again, coming to Vegas. Funny to see how many of those old groups are together again coming back to Vegas. Couldn't they get their lives together after the music?

Oh, and the hair. I really like Twisted Sister/s curls.

Coffe view

When I'm home I usually make some coffee in the early afternoon. I purchased a fancy espresso maker from Starbucks a few years ago (yes, I will confess, I am a Starbucks addict) and keep a bag of their espresso roast in the freezer. I make a double shot, and in the cool season I drink it hot, in the hot season I put it over ice with some creamer stuff. Then I sit outside and just watch the birds and clouds go by and enjoy some quiet time.

I've show parts of my back yard view, but this is what I look out at when sitting out back.

The fountain is at lower left, our tomatoes and glads left center, grapes against the wall in the middle and over to the peach tree and E's swing on the right. It was a bit cloudy yesterday, chance of thunderstorms that never came, more clouds today and more chance of rain. When drinking coffee (iced) yesterday it was 111f. Does it look that hot? Still felt good.

More of the glads are in bloom. Makes a tall pretty image out there under the apple tree.

And a while back something Rob said reminded me of an old Gary Larson image on a calender from way back. I used to have this on my wall, to remind me that all compliments might not be.