Friday, April 27, 2007

E in the sunshine

OK, since we are getting into warm weather (supposed to be 96f tomorrow) I might as well put up some Spring photos. These were taken in early March, which is nice weather here. In the 90’s is Vegas Spring weather.

At her favorite park, near our house. And for Lisa, even some stripes:

And when she gets thirsty, not always a sippy cup anymore.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Vegas news

Just a few notes on what’s going on in Vegas.

MGM purchased the big empty lot across from the Sahara, up at the intersection of Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard. That is the last lot on the Strip going north that is in Clark County and not the city of Las Vegas. The Stratosphere across the street is in the city limits.

From Circus Circus north that gives them over a hundred contiguous acres. MGM is currently spending over $7,500,000,000 on the City Centre site down by Mirage, and that is only on 66 acres. There are discussions about designing and starting a similar project, but larger, on this new north site. I don’t even want to think about how much they could spend there. As part of their announcement was a discussion on updating Circus Circus. I think they only intend on spending a few hundred million to fix that place up.

Speaking of the Stratosphere, it also has been sold. Carl Icahn purchased it in the mid 90’s out of foreclosure for around $82,000,000. He has since acquired the two Arizona Charlie’s casinos. All three were just sold as a package for over $1,300,000,000. So that’s a profit of around a billion dollars. Not a bad profit.

Yesterday’s paper displayed the latest thing to do in Vegas - Zero gravity. For a mere $3,500 you get a few hours in a plane doing loops over the Pacific Ocean that result in your flying around the cabin in apparent zero gravity, so you can feel like an astronaut. The owners of the company feel that most places will be taken by high rollers given the flight as comps by casinos, but they are willing to take up anyone with money. Teller of yesterday's Penn and Teller was on the publicity flight, no word on whether he spoke about the flight. Fridays paper discussed Steven Hawking taking a ride on the plane in Florida as well.

And for tomorrow’s American Idol: Celine Dion has recorded "If I Can Dream" with Elvis. Not an impersonator, but a version of the real Elvis. Kind of like Natalie did with her dad Nat King Cole a few years ago. I don’t watch Idol, but those of you that do might find it interesting. After all, Celine has had her show here in Vegas for almost five years and is as much an icon as Elvis was. Well, maybe not, but she sings anyway. She has not renewed her contract, so if you don’t see her this year you probably never will. I hope she has made enough to retire. No announcement yet on her replacement at Caesar’s – rumors about Cher or Bette Midler, but nothing concrete.

The new owners of the Sahara have also announced a billion dollar makeover of that place. They have a lot of Hollywood connections, so the Palms might have competition in star sightings.

Over at the new Planet Hollywood (formerly the Aladin) an announcement that Carmen Electra will not appear in the new magic show scheduled to open next month. Instead Pamela Denise Anderson Lee Rock (OK, Pammy Anderson) will be in the show: being paid a reported $4,000,000 for a three month run. For that amount of money I'd install a few pounds of silicone myself.

The weather is warming up – it’s 86 today, and supposed to be up in the high 90’s on Saturday, and stay up there. Guess it’s time to turn off my heater and uncover the swamp coolers up on the roof.

In relation to my recent posting on the bridal show, I was bouncing around today and came up with some more things about women that I wasn’t sure of. Jill’s definitions of what a woman means are rather interesting.

So much for now, I’ll have to work on some of those photos on my computer and upload them. Sorry, no pictures today.

Oh - forgot to mention - six of the nine American Cardinals are in town for a conference.

I doubt if they'll be seen around the craps tables, much less taking a limo to Pharump. See - all kinds of people visit Vegas.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Teller can talk!

Did I ever tell you about B’s experience talking to Teller?

For those of you that haven’t seen them on TV or here at the Rio, Penn and Teller are a magic duo that are very entertaining. As part of the act Penn Gillette does all of the talking and Teller is never heard. I’ve been searching for something that shows Teller talking and could not find it. I like their act, and we’ve gone to see them a few times. We’ve paid, and also gotten free tickets. I donate blood at the local bank and P&T, as part of their support effort, give free tickets to every donor as part of a promotion around Christmas time each year. I mean, how can you not find amusing a guy that names his daughter Moxie Crime Fighter Gillette. You can see part of their act on the View here:

Or you can go there via this link: Penn & Teller at Youtube.
(don’t get lost watching too many of their videos, please come back)

Boy, I myself could watch these for quite a while myself. Look at the videos for ‘Penn and Teller Explain Slight of Hand.

Or Teller’s Shadows. – there is an interesting photo of Teller back when he was a Teen Ager.

Oh, sorry, this story isn’t about Penn and Teller. Wait a minute – part of it is. OK, back from that misdirection to my story about B and Teller.

Last year we went to see P&T again. They don’t do many changes to their act – it’s about the same every year, with just a few different parts modified. One of my favorite bits that Teller does is one with a big bowl, coins and goldfish. Anyway – as the show went on Penn came to a part where he describes how magic is nothing more than misdirection. Well, he does this a lot. One of the main features of their shows is in telling the audience how their tricks are performed. But he was describing how psychics also are not real, and people should not be fooled by minor fakery.

As part of the performance Penn threw four or five books out into the audience, and asked people to pass them around. One of the primary things that magicians do when interacting with the audience is to have cast members planted out there, and be the ones that are used for the acts. Passing the books around should cause them to be randomly distributed, hopefully avoiding any cast members. After a few seconds of book passing Penn then asked whoever was holding a book to stand up. One of the books ended up with a gentleman seated directly in front of us. Evidently he did not want to be involved, and instead of standing up he handed the book to my wife. B was rather surprised, took the book and stood. (I can tell you at this point that she was not part of the show, had not been previously coached, and did not know what was going on in advance). It was a book of jokes; she was asked to randomly page through and pick one. Penn then asked her three questions that seemed to have nothing to do with the book, and then told her the punch line of the joke that she had selected, as if he could read her mind. He later explained how he had memorized every joke in each of the four books and had questions that would point out which joke had been picked.

But, as Penn was leading up to asking B the questions Teller walked over and handed her a microphone. He then proceeded to tell her what to do, very quietly of course. But, now I can say that B heard Teller talk. I don’t think very many people can say that.

Oh, excuse me; I got lost there myself looking at all the Muppet clips on YouTube. I love the Muppets, along with the off-shoot Fraggle Rock.

But back (again) to this story. Yesterday I encountered something that very few people have seen before. There is a big show going on upstairs: the most expensive one that I’ve seen so far. There are over seven thousand attendees being treated very well. They are probably paying very well also. As I was walking through the hall I heard some loud noises coming from the adjoining hall and decided that I should walk over and see what was going on in there. This space was set up with about three thousand chairs, a big stage and a dozen large screens hanging from the ceiling. The room was dark, and I was privileged to find – I’ll call them the ‘Pink Man Group’ – rehearsing. A very similar group performs every evening next door at that big hotel that shall not be named here.

Sorry for such a short clip, but you get the idea. I’ve never seen these guys looking like this. Normally there are three guys playing that big instrument on the left, and the others are in the background. They probably performed later that evening for the show attendees dressed a little differently, and in a color other than pink (or flesh toned). It would probably be a color that is similar to a bright green minus the yellow. But I was able to watch for a while in the otherwise empty room and enjoy the rather loud performance. It did sound pretty good – guess the acoustics of the hall are just right for a nice big bass sound.

OK, if you don’t know what I mean, don’t feel alone. B had no idea what I was talking about either. I just enjoy coming across random things that people normally don’t see (or hear). In Southern California it was movie stars and well publicized ladies at the beach. In Vegas it’s hearing people that don’t normally talk, or perhaps having dinner next to somebody that’s usually hidden. This time for me it was a performance by a group dressed in a way that you don’t normally see.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Five Questions

I was bouncing around yesterday and stopped at Fantastagirl. She had a little ‘interview’ segment that was interesting, and form some unknown reason I responded. She sent me five questions:

1) Have you always lived in Vegas? If not where did you grow up and what made you decide to make Vegas your home?

I grew up in New Jersey, went to college in upstate New York (Rochester), then joined the Navy. After boot camp and initial training the Navy sent me off to NAS Lemoore California. I flew out of NJ one Thanksgiving weekend, leaving in the middle of an early snow storm, which almost closed the airport. Arriving at the Fresno California airport I was picked up by somebody from the base and driven down to Lemoore. On the way the driver pulled on the shoulder of the road and ran off into some trees alongside. He returned with an armful of oranges. The temp outside was in the high 70’s, and at that point I said to myself “self, why the heck were you putting up with snow?”. After leaving the service I soon moved back to Southern California. Bouncing around a little eventually led me to San Diego, where I lived for seventeen years in a nice old part of town.

Eventually B and I realized that it was kind of cold in SD. Yes, laugh at that those of you in the north. But we had built a really nice patio out back and even in the summer in SD the temp at night is usually in the mid 60’s. Everyone says that San Diego is a gorgeous place to live, and it is. But nice means ‘average’. The normal daily weather report in SD for the summer months (June – September) would be “night and morning low clouds, highs in the low 70’s, lows in the mid 60’s.” Winter was about the same, with things shifted down 15 degrees. The big ocean becomes a very stabilizing influence. It’s nice in the sunshine, but after the sun goes down the fog comes up and a little breeze comes along, and you end up sitting in the back yard in sweaters. So we figured we would try something different.

We looked at quite a few places. We had both lived in Phoenix, but did not like the way it has changed. We also looked at Tucson, Fresno, San Francisco and Portland. We ended up looking around Vegas because we were coming here to visit our daughter and liked the bright sunshine. In SD we lived fairly close to downtown, on a half acre lot with a big garden alongside an open space canyon. We wanted an older home and a big lot, because we both liked doing things outside. B also wanted a big airport, to make it easy to go places. I wanted a city with lots of things to do.

We found an area about three miles west of the strip, about a mile from our daughter’s place. Yes, old is relative, and old in SD meant a house built in 1929. Old in Vegas means a house built in 1979. Because of rising land prices new homes in the Vegas area are usually two or three stories and are on little tiny lots – houses are only six feet apart, and most back yards are only twenty or so feet deep. Just big enough for a patio table and a few chairs. We wanted more land, and are happy with our current location – we’ve got over a half acre and a large flat house (better than stairs for our old knees) that cost less than a brand new smaller one smashed in among others. And we have over 250 days a year of full bright sunshine – no ‘night and morning low clouds’, no snow and no -20 freezes. And I doubt if you could find a city with more things to do, 24 hours a day. And no bugs - no mosquitos - no screens on the back doors, and all we get is a few flies from the horses over in the next block.

I mean, look at what our back yard looks like in mid March.

Green grass? Sunshine? Bare feet? Long enough response to question 1?

2) Would you raise a family in today's Vegas (I have a 4 & 6 year old)?

Vegas isn’t any different than other large cities. We’ve got lots of friends with kids who enjoy living here. My daughter did not want to raise her child in Vegas but problems exist anywhere for kids. With the weather we have kids can be outside almost every day of the year, without snowsuits or rain gear. I remember long dreary days back in NJ, looking out the window at the cold rain.

The schools are about the same as anywhere - our daughter was a teacher, and kept expressing her dissapointment. But she will find things the same up there. I feel that motivation and direction comes from the parents, you've got to move the kids along wherever you live.

3) Is the Aladdin Planet Hollywood yet?

Yup, big ceremony last week changed the name. Our local paper had a photo of the sign change at the top, when it just showed ‘Planet Ho’. The Desert Passage shopping center surrounding the Planet Ho is now named the Miracle Mile Shops. But if you go in the back door the signs there haven’t been changed yet.

4) You are granted three wishes - (and no, you can not wish for more wishes) what do you wish for?

I would be naturally greedy and just be concerned with my life. I’d start out with a pile of money: supposedly money can’t buy happiness, but it can bring a close approximation. I’m ready for no work, and lots of play and travel, especially to see E up in Portland. Next would be health for my family and myself. Third would be a healthy long life, to give me time for all of those things I just think about.

Sorry, no world peace or harmony or any of that stuff. I think the world is too complex, and people would end up screwing it all up rather quickly anyway.

5) You just won the big at the blackjack table - what do you do with your winnings?

Depends on how big. First would probably be a nice long vacation. Portland for a short stop, then another long stay driving around France. If it was enough money it would be a permanent vacation. I’d keep my house in Vegas – I really like it here. But frequent flights to lots of places would also be on the bill.

If anyone else wants to play along:
• Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
• I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
• You will update your weblog with the answers to the questions.
• You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
• When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
Thanks for playing along, have fun!

Friday, April 20, 2007

E Friday (partial Portland)

Oh no! Another week’s gone by. B’s back from her trip to the wilds of Oregon, and evidently it rained every day for the two weeks she was there. The sun did break through for a few hours on several of the days, but basically everything was wet. Well, that’s the reason that everything there is so green also. Without the water you end up with Vegas.

Before they left E was being prepared for the move:

Mom got her a nice pink puffy jacket that she wore around the house for a while. Guess she felt pretty stylish. Once arriving up there she found that it was required:

Somehow I like the stance barefoot best. (and not just because it’s in my house and not a thousand miles away).

Down here there was a big park just a block from our house.

Up there she also has a big park a block from her new house Photos on that park to come later, but for now let me use my Vegas shots.

She likes eating in our back yard. We got a little picnic table that just fits her, and she can look at the birds and the airplanes going by, in addition to teasing the dogs. Buster and Max hang around looking for dropped tidbits. That's Buster to her left, Max is on the far right hand side of the picture. Peanut butter and jelly is a favorite, as is spaghetti. M&B will eat just about anything.

But B returned to a cold and rainy weekend here. High of only 64 predicted today, not back into the 80’s until mid week. For me, it’s not Portland, which is why I am here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fashion Show Mall

I work near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Spring Mountain. This is a fairly interesting intersection, with TI, Wynn, the Venetian and the Fashion Show Mall on each corner. There is a fair amount of construction nearby – the Venetian is constructing a new tower right on the corner, Wynn is building a new tower to the north, and Trump is building two towers right behind the mall.

The Fashion Show Mall is the largest shopping center in Las Vegas. It has over 250 stores, in comparison to the big Mall of America which has 500 stores. Though located right on the Strip, the Fashion Show (OK, let’s just say FS to save my typing from here in) is not really a destination, being surrounded by the fancy Vegas resorts. Most of the people inside are local residents, but some tourists that get bored with all the flashing lights and noise wander through.

The mall received a make over a few years ago, about doubling in size and putting a fancy front on to the Strip. I remember driving past it years ago, and wondering why such a dull building was facing all the glittering lights. Now it can hold it’s own compared to other attractions. Part of the makeover was the installation of their ‘cloud’ out front:

We watched as it was being constructed, and it is a fairly impressive structure. At night they project advertisements on the underside, to give you something additional to look at. The above shot is from the Wynn across the Strip. Walking up to it from TI it looks a little smaller:

From the Wynn front door:

In this shot you can better see the big video screens that line the front – Apple usually has ads running on this for their Ipod – the Apple store in town is located inside the mall, so the site of dancing silhouettes is fairly standard.

You can get to the main entrance from below, or go up the escalator to enter on the second level.

You can better see the video screens here – unfortunately I didn’t catch any of the dancers in action, here you just get some pink shapes.

Recently opened on the front of the mall is a place where you can get half price same day show tickets, kind of like the half price ticket place in New York. I don’t know how many shows they get tickets for, but there is usually quite a crowd in line waiting to buy them. I can understand this – the average show price now is near $100 per ticket.

Inside it’s a rather pleasant mall. It is composed of a main corridor running west off of the Strip frontage. Because of the slight slope there are several levels, leading you to some interesting staircases:

There is parking down below as well as in two large structures behind. Up on the top level at the front is a food court, where you can find the standard mall places to eat. There are also a few good restaurants, where you can sit on the balcony and look down at the strip and over at the trees in front of Wynn. I've got two places there I like to eat at: the California Pizza Kitchen located next to the runway for pizza (what else?) and the coffee shop located on the top level of Nordstroms, which is a nice quiet place with good soup and sandwhiches.

At the first big open area inside are some of the new mall ‘standards’.

There is a Starbucks for coffee, an oxygen bar for breathing, and some massage chairs to tone up that sore back.

Farther back is the runway, where models wander back and forth at various times.

The runway (that silver strip in the middle) rises up from the floor about two feet, and a room located at the far end also rises up, so that the models have a place to change before they come out on display. There are several restaurants scattered around here, and you can sit at one of the tables and watch or join the crowd leaning over the upper level railing.

Behind and off to the north side of the mall is the Frontier hotel.

The Frontier has rooms at a much lower cost than most of the hotels in the area, so a lot of people coming for conventions stay there. It has a western theme, and also hosts Gilley’s Bar where you can hear live music and ride the bull, or on regular nights watch Bikini Bull Riding or Bikini Mud Wrestling. I understand that Anna might be participating in some of these activities if she returns for CES next January.

Behind the Frontier is a large lot where Trump is in the process of constructing a condo tower.

Not finished yet, all of the units have been sold. Because of this they recently announced the construction of a second tower to start soon, right next to this one.

Monday, April 16, 2007

It's raining

Monday – it’s raining today in Vegas, and was only 46f when I got up. It’s supposed to go to the high 70’s, and be up around 80 for a high all week. Since we normally get a 30-35f spread between coldest at night and warmest in the afternoon I guess it still can get fairly nice today. With all of the sun we’ve been having (ha) the temp of my pool is up to 78 – I usually don’t jump in unless the water is over 90, so I still have a month or so to go before it’s nice and warm. But for cold weather friends I guess this is swimming temp. It’ll be up over 90 by Memorial Day weekend.

Here is something I usually see every afternoon as I go out to my car – this is the big hotel day care playground. At lunchtime I usually see the bigger kids, but in the afternoon it’s the younger ones – most seem to be about E’s size.

Traffic jam at day care. I can see the kids responding to mom’s anguish at getting stuck in traffic, now they can respond about their hard time getting stuck behind that rotten driver.

I had a good sized crowd over on Saturday. About fifteen guys all playing with toy trains. Well, not all, there was a bunch just sitting around the table eating and BSing. We have several guys that are very good at that, but we enjoy their company anyway. All without B – she is due back on Thursday afternoon (so you still have time to fly out and spend a few days before she gets here D). I made my usual ‘brats in beer’ for the group – they seem to like it, even though it seems like I just made them. But then I realized that I did do brats for the guys the last time they were here, last April. So even if that’s what I serve every time, I guess once a year is OK. Nobody complained – they just suggested that last time I make more. This from the guy that ate three. But when I said there was cake and ice cream he seemed OK with the transition, and proceeded to create a layer of brownies with a pile of ice cream on top, and covered it all with chocolate syrup. I had to apologize for not having whipped cream and a cherry to top it. I was debating about cleaning up afterwards, so that B would realize she is appreciated and that things don’t get done when she isn’t around, but decided against leaving a pile of pots in the sink.

I’m listening to Diana Krall on my Ipod. She is one of B’s favorite singers, and I just noticed that there are five of her albums loaded on here. I put all the CDs we have into Itunes and just load them all, might as well have them on hand. Diana will be in Vegas at the Hilton in early June. I had to apologize to B for not buying tickets – for some reason I didn’t quite feel like laying out $300 for two tics. That would pay for a lot of CDs. Those prices put Diana as being more expensive than going to see Aerosmith next month or ZZ Top last month. Looking at her web site she will be out at Yoshi’s in Oakland the weekend after coming here. We could drive out there to see the boys and then pay $25 each to see her there, at a club with only a hundred other people instead of a hall with several thousand at the Hilton.

I spent the past few weeks getting ready to play trains, fixing up my modules and all. So Sunday I started on a garage reorganization. I hit both Lowe’s and Home Depot to get some cabinets to replace the workbench. There were nice ones on display at Lowe’s, but none in stock. I looked a month ago and there weren’t any then either. So it was HD to pick them up.

I used to love HD over Lowe’s, but there seems to have been a recent attempt to save money by cutting back on employee salaries over there. They now have a bunch of those ‘self serve’ checkout stands, and usually only one live checker in the tool crib. I refuse to use those self serve checkstands and thus stand in the long line for the one real person. It’s not out of a dislike for automation, just a desire to talk to a real person. In keeping with the cutback theme it is now almost impossible to find a worker in the aisles of HD to get help. At least at Lowe’s there are little buttons in each section which if pressed will shortly result in a person showing up. No such buttons at HD. But they had cabinets in stock, so I purchased there.

After the driving around I was able to pull apart that one side of the garage and scatter everything around the floor. It took a while to pull out the workbench – it was twelve feet long and very soundly constructed. But it was mostly a repository for stuff, and thus not used for work. With cabinets below hopefully I will put things away and leave space for working. I did put together two of the cabinets (of course they come in flat kits) together before stopping at 9 to watch Dresden on TV. I hoped to get everything done and the garage looking neat before B returns on Thursday – this only gives me three nights, and tonight will be consumed with going over to daughter’s place and cleaning up the junk she left behind.

Back to the rain – trying to lay things out I put some of the lumber and big items outside in the yard. Figuring this was Vegas, and we have not had precipitation since December or so, it would be fine until I had room for it. So I was surprised to wake up this morning to the sound of raindrops on the skylight. Oh well, there wasn’t much but all the stuff was wet. So before work I pulled it all under the overhead, hopefully it will not be too bad. We probably only had a quarter inch or so of water come down.

Phone call last night requested me to put all of her leftovers out to the curb. It took them three days to load up the rental truck for the Portland trip – three days! Of course, to save money they rented the smallest truck. Then found out that only half their stuff fit in it, and the place they rented from would not let them tow a trailer. So they had to unpack and repack for THREE FREEKIN’ DAYS in order to fit things in. We learned after our first move to get the biggest truck possible, but do they listen? Of course not, why listen to suggestions from the old folks. So I spent Sunday morning filling up the pickup truck and bringing stuff they wanted to keep but had no room in the truck for over to our house to probably store forever because we know they will not come for it. And then to be told to bring the trash out, so that kills tonight cleaning up. And all this on top of losing E to the wet wilds of Oregon. B might fly up there a few times, but I probably will not get to see her again until Thanksgiving or Christmas. (new job, no vacation time until I’ve been here a year)

Well, I was so successful on Friday, let’s try it again. This is E playing her flute. I’ve got some video of here with the flute and B with the kazoo marching around the room. But out of deference to B I will not post that one. So here is E by herself playing a lively tune:

She's got the bobbing dance down fairly well. But I bought the musical instruments for use at her house, so her parent's could enjoy the entertainment. Maybe we can send her off across the ocean to join Rob's group.

Friday, April 13, 2007

E Friday (with Video!)

Friday the thirteenth! – I’m ready for the weekend. It’s been quiet at home with B gone and E no longer showing up. Max and Buster have not been much help – having to stay at home alone during the day, they seem attached to me at the hips when I am home. And tomorrow I’ve got a dozen guys coming over to play with trains. I know that is the real reason that B took off for two weeks.

In going through the photos I have uploaded several are interesting. Well, ok, all shots of E are interesting, even when blurry and unfocused, but that’s what grandparents are supposed to say, isn’t it? But today let’s concentrate on E’s hats.

Since we live in a city that is blessed with sunshine for 340 days a year, and the newspapers always print the UV index, which is high no matter what season it is, when E goes out into the yard B always tries to get a hat on her head, to provide at least some protection. Her favorite seems to be the cat hat, which pulls down easily and stays on.

As usually, E has her animals along. We were watching Baby Einstein on TV before she left, and in one of the episodes Rocket was stuck on some rocks in a creek in Africa (OK, if you don’t have little kids just put up with this; if you do then you probably have seen this episode, along with all the rest). The kids went off to find animals to help, and as they talked to the African animals E pulled her corresponding ones out of the little orange suitcase they came in. She pulled out the elephant and giraffe, but didn’t have a hippo, and kept wondering why the kids didn’t ask a gorilla or tiger, as those are E’s two favorites. She knew the rubber duckies were not African, and so those stayed behind.

I also have tried to get her interested in trains, and pulled out the Lego Thomas set I got when the Swedish twins came out last year.

I also got a box of those big Lego blocks, figuring the then two year old twins would be used to those at home. E now builds things with those blocks, and enjoys leaving them scattered all over. This is her pink hat, which tends to blow off when it’s windy outside, but she likes to wear it inside anyway.

And then there are days when she can’t decide which hat is best.

Here she is with the cat hat underneath and the pink hat on top. She ran around with both hats on for most of the morning and seemed to like the fashion statement it made. Now, doesn't she look like a little Munchkin, with those rolled up pants?

And following Deana’s lead I thought I would try to post some of those videos that I take. I tried to get her in action, but it always seemed that when she did something interesting by the time I got the camera she had moved on to something else. I’ve discussed her following the boys around outside, and when Max takes off to bark at something through the gate Buster follows. If they keep it up long enough E also starts barking and runs after them. Unfortunately I’ve never had the camera when she does this, and so have no proof. But one afternoon when she was getting ready to eat I asked her what the dogs sounded like, and she was happy to show us.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday - fashion alert!

I usually listen to music while at work. Sometimes I do the Ipod, if in the mood for things familiar, and sometimes the radio. I don’t usually like the radio because of all of the commercials, which are more distracting than not having the music and listening to the conversations going on around me here. I’m too cheap to go for one of the satellite radio thingies that don’t have commercials – though I am about ready to.

One of the ways I avoid the distraction of commercials is to listen to foreign stations over the internet. My last job took a dim view of using up their bandwidth for stuff like that, and put in software to prevent it. This place has not yet done that, but I imagine it might some day, but until then I have the earphones plugged in. I usually listen to French radio stations, because I really enjoyed my trip to France (seems like years ago – wait – it was) and listening to those French announcers brings me back there. And the fact that I don’t know French, so the announcers sound like part of the music. One of the other programmers at the last job did something similar, but he liked Russian stations. Too guttural for me.

Right now I am listening to my favorite station, Radio Flemme. I don’t remember how I came across them, but there is a web site - comfm - that lets you search for stations on line all over the world. One of the reasons I like this station is the really varied (may I say strange?) combinations of songs that they play. About half are French, a few Spanish, and the rest sung in English. They don’t go for the latest pop stuff, but pull from a varied pallet. They play Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Tom Jones, right now it’s Neil Young singing ‘A Horse with No Name’, as well as new stuff. What brings me to write this is that I just brought up the station and the song that they were in the middle of was Christina Aguilera singing ‘Oh Holy Night’. I am assuming that somebody there knows some English, and can distinguish Christmas songs from generic music, but maybe not. They play Christmas music quite often, so I am assuming that the person who creates the play list likes the feeling of extending the season, kind of the same way that stores now start putting up holiday displays in August. But right now, with the news accounts this morning of snow in the Midwest, soon to be in my old town of Rochester, all I can do is laugh. Nothing better than Jingle Bells when it’s 110f outside (not right now, but I did hear that last summer).

Ok – on to the fashion scoop. Right now there is a big bridal show going on above my head. I walked around a little yesterday, and was not impressed. It’s a small show, only comprising one of the halls – about 150,000 square feet, with only 80 booths. But these are large, and filled with mannequins dressed in yards of cloth. About half the booths have live models showing off the dresses, which provides work for several dozen Las Vegas skinny girls that don’t have the talent (read that as b**bs) for the ongoing shows, or would just rather work part time. But for those of you that have the need to know – the upcoming style is NOT white! It’s a color that I would call ivory, but next to the few white dresses it looks kind of like that old lace dress your grandmother might have in the attic, almost yellowing. One of the bigger booths has about forty dresses on display, thirty nine of which are in this ivory color (I’ll go up later when they are open and ask for the ‘official’ name of the color) and only one is bright white. All are strapless, and many have applied crystals. No more pearl appliqués, but shiny bits. I’m guessing that this is because the crystal patterns are glue backed and thus can just be ironed on while the old fashioned pearls needed to be manually sewed on.

An interesting thing to me is the prices. The attendees of this show are all buyers for stores; it is not open to the public. There are very few people attending – yesterday it almost looked like there were more people manning the booths than looking. When I was walking around about a dozen of the booths had girls walking on small runways or stages displaying the dresses, and quite a few had nobody sitting there looking. Most of the booths were large, each with a dozen or so chairs surrounding a small stage or runway. The girls would change in a small curtained off area and walk out. Some of the smaller booths just had the girls walking around out front. The amount you pay to have a booth at one of these trade shows is based on the square footage of the booth and the location – up front is more $$$. So the smaller companies have smaller booths, and not all can afford the space a stage and seating would take.

About 50 of the booths concentrate on brides dresses, but there are some with tuxedos, a few for bridesmaid dresses, some for veils, several with tiaras and jewels, one displaying steam cleaning and pressing equipment and even one that will do teeth whitening right up there in the hall.

But back to the prices – a dress that might be $3,000 at Nordstroms, or $900 at Penney’s, can be had wholesale for $279. In the big booth with the forty on display all had price tags, most were $259 or $279, with only one over $300 and that one was only $309. I saw some prices at other booths, and that was about average. So these yards and yards of fabric – yes, though the color is not white the style is still full, many with trains and lace – are wholesaling for under $300, and probably cost these guys $100 from China, or wherever they are put together. Most of the dresses are very well made, lined and hemmed and sturdy.

Being a guy, I don’t understand how those things stay up without straps. Most of the models displaying them don’t have enough on top to keep the cloth from sliding down. I heard one announcer talking about the ‘boning’ in the top. Are these dresses kept from dropping to the floor by the thin waist with the hips keeping them from sliding down, and a stiffness in the top basically keeping it pushed up from below? What are the poor girls without a defined waist doing? Is there some magic here that I don’t know about?

Anyway, I am glad that I am passed needing to care about this stuff. My coworker has two daughters that will someday be in desire of these items, and I hope that he has stared putting away a good portion of his paycheck savings toward those days. It seems strange to me that somebody would put so much money towards one day of celebration. I wonder if this is partially fueled by people’s desire to be famous, so fully expressed by American Idol and other similar shows. This provides at least one day for a woman to show off and be the center of attention, so why not outdo everyone else?

Several of the booths have signs proclaiming ‘Quinceañera’ dresses. If you aren’t familiar with this southwest event, I think it started in Mexico, it’s the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, I guess coming of age, or like a sweet 16 party or whatever. But from the ones we saw in San Diego it seemed more like a wedding without a groom. The birthday girl usually wore a dress that looked like a wedding dress, and extended family members came from near and far to celebrate. Flipping through cable tv in the middle channels they sometimes show girls spending a fortune of daddies’ money on similar parties. Most of the dresses displayed there are not white, but a whole rainbow of brightly colored dresses are on display.

I just had to walk upstairs to see how to spell Quinceañera, and found a tag on one of those off white dresses, and yes the color is officially ‘ivory’. The models were starting to get ready for the 9:30 shows, and it was very pleasant to stand there and look at those pretty young girls lined up in long fancy dresses. One of the smaller booths had seven girls on the runway, just standing there with no buyers looking. A small booth without a runway only had one girl, and she was clutching a cup of coffee looking like either she didn’t want to be there or she went to some awesome party last night and 9am was a little to early for satin and lace.

See, don’t I have a nice job? I enjoy my work, and look at all of the different things I get to see. A month ago it was hardwood floors, two weeks ago cameras and security gates, and now it’s lace and pretty girls. If I would have started work a week sooner (well, the shows will roll around next January) I would have had a combination of the consumer electronics show and the ‘adult entertainment’ expo filled with whips and leather and lots of skin, and girls that don’t have to worry if the strapless top will slide down (if they are even wearing a top).

I went back up after lunch and wandered around again. The color some places call ivory is very similar to what a different manufacturer calls 'light gold' and a different one calls 'dark champaigne'. White is now 'bright white'.

I did see one model that made it obvious that the dresses at this show were not fitted to these girls. She was rather thin (make that VERY thin), when standing with hands on hips and showing the low back on some dresses she reminded me of the ads for Bodies, the exposition at the Tropicana (don't click if you are squeemish). Meaning that she was more bone than anything. When she turned to show the trains and the back of the dresses as she twisted she pulled the front of her chest back away from the front of the dress, leaving about six inches of air between. Making it very obvious that the top of the dress - at least the front - was very stiff. (of the girl too)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Palazzo construction

Last week we went for a lunchtime walk over to the Fashion Show Mall. Those photos will come later, after I take some time to work on the photos. I usually don’t have to do much with the pics I put here; just bring them into Photoshop, adjust contrast and lightness, crop and resize. The difficult part is picking out the ones to use – usually the shots that I really like end up not being in the camera. Today I thought I’d bring you back to the Strip and show some things that you will not see if you don’t come to Vegas this summer.

There are lots of construction projects currently going on here in town. I like to watch the work progressing – from an empty lot or old building to a big hole in the ground to steel to a finished project to an open casino. Most projects here go up FAST. It usually takes under a year from start of construction to completion of project – after all, once a decision is made money is being lost by not having that new place open. So managers do not mind spending for shift differential by having construction proceeding 24 hours a day.

My favorite story is how Steve Wynn paid to have an entire new golf course (back when it was the ‘in’ thing for each Strip hotel to have a golf course behind it) covered in sod rather than wait for grass to grow from seed. Do you know how big an 18 hole golf course is? Anyway, supposedly the cost of the sod was totally recovered within the first six months because of the increase in business and use of the course. Now the only golfing on the strip left is behind Wynn’s place, the old Desert Inn course, and even that one is slowly being eaten away by new construction projects. Land along here has become too valuable to waste on grass.

So here is the current closest project that I see every day. It’s the new Palazzo Tower complex alongside the Venetian Hotel. It will add 3000 rooms to the Venetian’s current 4,000, bringing the Venetian up from sixth place to being the world’s largest hotel. The new area will also double the length of the inside second floor canal, and also double the shopping space alongside. There will be seven new swimming pools up on the third floor roof, along with more restaurants and entertainment space. And of course the casino floor will be doubled as well. In anticipation of a good summer, and also following the trend of other hotels, one of the current pools upstairs has gone topless and upscale. The female guests, not the pool: the pool already is outside and topless. It’s more of the move away from kids (who don’t gamble much) and back to the old adult oriented days.

You can go see the current Venetian site, and look at how fancy everything is now. There is also a page for the new Palazzo. This is what it will look like when completed:

Construction started about a year ago, so I guess it is proceeding slowly by Vegas standards. When walking through the basement last week I found a countdown clock, indicating opening day was projected at September 21. Looking at how much there is left to do does amaze me at what they will be accomplishing so quickly.

This is the view from the pedestrian bridge between the Wynn and Fashion Show, looking south.

The new Palazzo is off to the left, with one of the current Venetian towers behind it. The point in the center is the clock tower out in front. You can see the affect that the construction has on the Strip itself – because it is getting closer to completion the walkway and barrier has moved from the property line out into the right lane of Las Vegas Boulevard, dropping traffic down from three lanes to two and really slowing car travel. Desert Inn, crossing the above picture, was already cut down a lane, but there too the walkway was moved closer to the road. Last month there was an announcement of the decision to move up construction of an additional tower as part of this project, to house 800 condo suites. That will go in the gap behind the lower steelwork in the above picture and the current tower.

This is what it looks like from near the TI driveway across the Strip, coming down the escalator on that walkway.

The Wynn is off to the left. The new condo tower will be put on the right side of this picture, in front of the grey buildings. All of the lower buildings will house the shopping areas, with the pools and outdoor lounge areas up on the roof. The central core of the tower still has not reached it’s full height, you can see framework up there that will support more concrete. I think they are going up to fifty stories, so it’s close. The lower portion of the new tower already has glass and the facing stone installed. The middle grey section is just the steel beams covered with a concrete coating. This adds strength and insulates the steel from fire damage.

There will be 4,000 parking spaces underneath the new area, the first major casino to have underground parking. Again, with land prices getting so high they don't want to waste space on a big parking garage. The vehicle entrance will probably be the large dark covered area just to the left of the new sign framework. There is another parking entrance around the corner on DI, the construction workers are already using the garage for their private vehicles.

Walking down to the corner and crossing to the Fashion Show side you get this view.

This is the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Desert Inn. This is probably the corner view that will be used in advertising, and be the main entrance to the new section. The walkway across DI to the Wynn is at the far left, behind the traffic signal arm. It will run from the short round tower.

Looking at the above photographs I find it difficult to believe that all of this construction will be completed in just five more months. Not just completed, but the rooms set up and ready for customers, the shops finished and open for shopping, and the canal filled with water and gondolas. They don’t even have all the steel in place yet.

Here is a close-up taken of the end of what will be the shopping area. This

It was taken from the sidewalk on the DI side, near that small crane in the extreme left of the last photo. On the bottom is a pile of steel beams awaiting lifts up. The blue 43 on one of them probably indicates the floor level it will go on. This is basic steelwork construction: a big framework, with horizontal beams. The silver corrugated steel is laid across, and several inches of concrete is poured on top to create each floor.

The wall to the left is the end of the current five story conference center. I haven’t heard anything about a conference center expansion, so this will probably be an alternate stairway providing access from the meeting rooms over to the casino and canal shops. There are stairs – and if you have been to Vegas you know that nobody likes to use stairs; there are escalators everywhere. So this will be an ‘emergency’ accessway located at the very end of the shopping area. The canal will probably end up somewhere just beyond the top of the yellow ladder. I have not seen any plans, just guessing at everything here.

So if you were in Vegas last summer you would have seen the hole in the ground for this. This summer you will see the end of the steelwork. And next summer you will never know construction work happened so recently. There are other things to watch in Vegas besides the tourists and showgirls and slot machines, and that is the town growing even more quickly than in the past.

You can tell I'm really 'in' to work this morning

OK, Rob and Lisa, I'll join in:

You Belong in 1963

If you scored...

1950 - 1959: You're fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!

1960 - 1969: You are a free spirit with a huge heart. Love, peace, and happiness rule - oh, and drugs too.

1970 - 1979: Bold and brash, you take life by the horns. Whether you're partying or protesting, you give it your all!

1980 - 1989: Wild, over the top, and just a little bit cheesy. You're colorful at night - and successful during the day.

1990 - 1999: With you anything goes! You're grunge one day, ghetto fabulous the next. It's all good!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Batching it.

Monday – and I’ve got two weeks by myself. Well, with the boys. So three guys at home alone without a woman to keep them in check. What shall we do? Well, if yesterday is an example, guess it will be spent in front of the TV.

OK, I am doing some stuff. I pulled down one of the kitchen cabinets – we do have plans to redo the kitchen, but it’s mostly been talk. So I figured that I might as well start in that direction, at least slowly, so I pulled down one of the upper cabinets. This is one to the right of the window over the sink, near the side where the table is. There used to be other cabinets cutting off the room, but they came down last year, making the kitchen more open. So this one now just has glasses and stuff we don’t use very often. The only time it’s opened is when I grab a juice glass.

So I emptied it and started to put the stuff inside into boxes, then figured that if we haven’t used all that stuff then why should it sit in the garage, or end up back in the cabinet. So I boxed up all the glasses and coffee cups and plates and put them in the car and they will be dropped off at GoodWill tonight on the way home. I did keep the matching glasses we sometimes use, and the nice soup tourine and matching soup bowls, which we use about every other Christmas when we have lots of guests and I make fancy soup. Those did go in a box and I even put it up in the attic over the garage. Then the cabinet came down.

All of our cabinets were custom made for the house (most kitchens used to have custom cabinets before Home Depot started stocking boxed stuff.) It was rather heavy, but I could kneel on the counter and didn’t have to hold it over my head while I pulled out the screws. After the screws and bolts were out it still didn’t come down, so I searched for hidden nails or something else. I finally decided that it was just layers of paint gluing it to the wall, and used a flat crowbar to pry it off. After a slight effort it just fell away, and now sits out at the curb awaiting pickup. Oh – didn’t look this morning. I usually put stuff out and it magically disappears before the trash guys come.

After that I patched the holes, primed then painted the wall to match the rest of the kitchen. B is good at keeping all of the old paint cans out in the garage, labeled as to what room they go to. Now I’m looking for a picture that might match to hang up in the empty space, but I’ll probably leave it like that and see how long it takes her to notice. Sitting here thinking about it, I think I’ll also take down the upper cabinet to the left of the window – the only things in there are coffee cups and more stuff we don’t use. Perhaps if I take all the cabinets down and donate the things that are just hanging around it might end up that I will not have to put as many back up. How many of you have a stack of plates or something in a back cabinet that were nice when you got them, but now get pulled out every third Christmas dinner, or perhaps never used again?

So some things are being done around the house. I also took all of the leftover E stuff and put it in her bedroom closet. And consolidated all the outdoor toys (car, picnic table, slide, wagon) in the corner by the parked cars then mowed the lawn back there. The kids were trying to be cheap and so rented the smallest truck they could for the Portland move. This meant three days of figuring out how to pack a three bedroom house and full garage into it, rather than a quick fill up and drive away. Now I have to go over there and fill the pickup with stuff they couldn’t fit in. And we have four boxes of E toys and the outdoor stuff that the truck didn’t have room for. I guess it takes experience to find out that it’s best to rent the biggest truck and have room left over (or still have it packed full) than get a small truck and leave stuff behind. So they all drove off Saturday evening around 5. With a two year old with short nap and already for dinner. I’m missing the crowd already. B will probably have a real hard time when she returns in two weeks.

OK, thinking about it, here’s a shot from last week. Mom got some flowers from the kids on her last day of teaching, and E got to carry some home.

This morning I came across some interesting mommy postings. Over at the Joys she discusses spring break, and how it is with a house full of kids again. Sounds like a lot of work. But she did point to a mother that really seems to have too much time on her hands. Take a look at the birthday cake that Michelle created. Oh my, where do people come up with these ideas? And then the time to actually shop for the stuff, and do the work? Impressive.

But before she left E had some time to sit out in the warm sunshine with her friends.

They all went in the little suitcase they came in, and were put in the back seat so that she would have somebody to talk to during the twenty hour drive up to Portland. Yup, can you see three days of sitting next to an almost two year old that loves running around strapped into a car seat? I offered to pay plane fare for Grammy and E and avoid the trip, but dad was adamant. I guess if he had to suffer with driving the truck everybody had to suffer sitting back in the car. Oh well.

Oh yea, the swing came down too. It's in the wagon. I can just attach it to the straps I left in the tree if they visit while she is still small enough to fit it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Spring pizza on E Friday

Its Spring here, and the crowd packs up and drives off tomorrow morning. Last week our daughter taught her last fifth grade class in Las Vegas (if the house sale does go through) and B took E in to join the class for lunch. They had pizza on the grass and then played ball.
First, E apparently had some problems in getting her own plate and was a bit concerned.

But it finally showed up, and evidently everyone consumed great quantities.

I love this smile, evidently the pizza was good.

And the class seemed to enjoy the short one in their midst, who also enjoyed the attention.

But then came the game of kickball. Everyone knows that when playing kickball the object is to kick the ball back and forth. But the ball finally ended up with somebody shorter than the rest that did not know the rules. She just thought the ball was now hers. See if you can guess who has the ball in this picture.

I hope you guessed correctly.

The dilemma for the class was ‘OK, teacher’s kid has the ball, how do we get it back without getting teacher mad?

I guess the ball was eventually returned to the group, and E wandered off looking for others. But a pleasant afternoon was had by all.

This school is one of the ‘year round’ schools. They scatter the breaks around the year instead of everyone having the summer off. Last Friday was the last day of school for this class before going on their spring break, which will last for five weeks. Looks like they will return to find a new teacher in front of them (Yes, they know, DD told them before she left).

Internet stalking

My goodness, some people display their mental illnesses so readily. Jane has a pointer to poor Rachel. Rachel has been targeted and harassed by an internet stalker for over a year. Now I see why some people would moderate comments. Not to avoid spam but to avoid people like her harasser.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wandering around

OMG (why do I keep saying that? I’ll have to come up with another expression – suggestions welcome) I just returned from a forty five + minute walk and I am really surprised. Not that I came back, but about the walk.

I went looking for the next door big hotel that shall not be named HR department in order to make enquiries for a friend (you better appreciate this: well, you don’t have to, I just want to give you a hard time). Anyway, I have walked around the ‘back of house’ halls before, and marveled at the amount of space consumed behind the scenes. But today was the first time I ventured down to the ‘heart of house’ (that’s what the signs say) down in the basement over there. All I can say is WOW! And I didn’t get lost, even without a crumb trail to follow back. Well, crumbs would probably have been vacuumed up before I returned anyway.

A few weeks ago I followed the bhtsnbn computer help desk manager up to their realm, to see how their place compares to mine. All I can say (OK, you’re right, I can say a lot more) is that there is a little difference. Our help desk is three guys down in the basement sharing space with two programmers and the head of the network group. Their help desk is thirty people in a state of the art command center up on the second floor. Sharing space with two dozen programmers each with a ‘cubicle’ (I would not call it that compared to the Dilbert type cubicles at other companies I’ve worked at) almost as large as our space for five, a nice desk space that wraps around three sides and half of them have windows that overlook the lake and the Strip. Admittedly, our help desk just supports a hundred or so computers, they support thousands as well as providing aid for hotel guests up in their rooms. It was a walk and a maze going through the back hallways, upstairs and through some more back halls to the computer area last time.

But this morning I hit the basement. I thought the upstairs back area was large, but that area backs onto the casino floor, the restaurants, meeting rooms and other spaces. The basement does not back onto anything, it just goes underneath EVERYTHING. I think I walked about two miles just in the basement getting to the HR office. I passed hundreds of employees going about their business, nobody looking at you because they figure if you made it down that far you belonged there. That’s the secret of going places – always act as if you belong there, do not look surprised, do not gawk, and keep walking purposefully. With the right attitude you can go almost anywhere. But back to the basement.

I was fortunate that there were signs periodically pointing to Human Resources. These signs were at most hallway intersections; I only had to backtrack twice. I passed numerous kitchens, housekeeping offices, the paint shop, the lock shop, some food storage freezers, quite a few storage rooms, through a hallway lined with summer outdoor lounge chairs, dodged several small electric powered carts pulling trains of serving carts, more elevators than I thought this place had, and lots of signs pointing to things.

Downstairs not everybody is in uniform; employees that do not have customer contact are not required to wear uniforms, and there are people going in to work or going home that use locker rooms to change. The people painted white that act like statues, the street singers dressed in old Venetian costumes (oh, I used that word, sorry) and the cocktail waitresses that wear a lot less at work all wear street clothes outside. I imagine that places with shows, like Bally’s with the feathered showgirls or TI with pirate Sirens, also have people that you would not recognize out of costume wandering around.

Back to the purpose of this little essay, which really doesn’t have a purpose. I just wanted to express my amazement at the size of the basement, and say that yes, I found my way back. And realize that whenever you are walking around in Vegas there is probably somebody (or lots of somebodies) wandering around underneath you all busy doing things. Probably not underneath the Strip itself, though there are tunnels for the county maintenance workers down there too, but under every hotel and casino. Our tunnels even go under the lakes and canals and driveways and sidewalks, so probably every one else’s do too. Oh, makes me wonder if the Bellagio has walkways under their lake. I don’t know: probably. I have gone past the new City Centre construction site, and did notice that the entire parcel was dug up, or dug down, several stories so that entire area is honeycombed with rooms and passageways.

Makes me even more impressed with the architects that design these places, who have to think about and accommodate all of the non-public spaces that are used to keep the public areas working. I would guess that the behind and under the scene areas about equal the up front public areas.


Yesterday I took my usual lunchtime walk and had some observations.

Though I work in a big building that accommodates lots of people there actually is only a rather small full time staff. There are about 160 full time employees here. The hotel we are attached to employs thousands, but not us. We are owned by the same major corporation, but when the individual pieces were purchased for some reason it was decided to keep all of them as separate companies each with their own HR department and different rules, insurance, and health plans. We do the DoorMart thing and bring in tons of ‘temp’ workers for shows, but they are hourly and thus do not get benefits.

So, with a small staff, we just have a small employee dining area. There are three vending machines and about eight round tables, a TV and three microwave ovens. I usually bring in leftovers from home, heat them up and eat at my desk. We get free lunches when there is a show, which is about a third of the time. The hotel does have two food courts, and employees get half price at different places on different days, so sometimes for variety we go up there to eat, but mostly its leftovers. I guess it’s a guy thing, but I don’t mind eating the same stuff for several meals in a row. B wants variety, but I make a big batch of spaghetti periodically (I do almost all the cooking at home) and do not mind bringing it in for lunch over several days, and having it for supper when I get home too. Monday I hit the organic store and bought bags of good veggies and steamed them, and had nice veggies for several days. So when I cook I usually make a lot so as to have more meals on later days.

After eating I try to get up and go walk. The other programmer here also has gotten into the habit and we wander off together. Yesterday we went up along the canal upstairs and then out the front door upstairs and headed off to the left. Usually we head right, over the bridge and down to TI to wander, but for some reason picked the other direction today. I don’t remember ever walking that way before, across some bridges over the driveways and outdoor canals and down to a narrow sidewalk along the Strip.

Oh, that last paragraph seemed rather strange – how many people could say ‘went up to the canal upstairs’ as if it were perfectly normal? I do it just about every day, and so it does not sound strange to me unless I type it and then say to myself ‘how long has this seemed normal to me?’.

Anyway, while rounding the end of the canal we had to thread our way through a big crowd of people. A gondolier was making the end turn and as they always do had stopped to sing. We stopped to listen also before continuing. Some of them sing quite well, some are just so-so, this particular guy was great. Loud, a nice voice, and he really seemed to enjoy singing. I hope his tips reflect that.

But as we tried to walk away I had a hard time getting around all of those people. Then out on the sidewalk there were even more – it was about 80f, sunny, (do I need to say sunny all the time? Come on, it’s always sunny) clear blue sky (OK, that’s a default here too) and really nice. There were a LOT of people wandering around. Since it wasn’t really hot, and it is getting into Spring, more people coming figured out it would be warm here and brought along t-shirts and appropriate clothing. Not as nice as a few weeks ago when so many women were wearing bikini tops, but that will probably start up again when it starts getting hot. (yes DM, 80 is not hot: over 110f is hot)

As I tried to push myself through the crowd, all of whom seemed to be going north while I was heading south, I marveled at the number of them that stopped to gawk and take pictures, further blocking the crowd. Come on people, it’s only a volcano and waterfall, it’s only the Eifel Tower, it’s only a pirate ship. What are you stopping to look at? What are you, tourists or something? I’m trying to walk here! (sound like a New Yorker?)

I then had to admit to myself; yes, they are tourists. And they are taking pictures. And I live in the middle of this and it’s all normal to me. I wonder if the guides at the Grand Canyon think the same thing; ‘oh G, another day at work, is it Friday yet?’ and just look at the surroundings as normal, or the bartenders at the strip clubs faced every day with naked women, or the staff on cruise ships faced with another day on the ocean. The way I walk by the canal and the big room painted with clouds in the ‘sky’ and singers and people painted up as white statues and consider it normal and boring.

So in saying that, yes, I appreciate the tourists. If you want to stop in the middle of the damn sidewalk and take a picture then go ahead and do it. It’s because of you that I can live here in the middle of this full time. Without you Vegas would be a hick gas stop in the middle of the stinking desert. Well, sorry, the desert doesn’t stink, it’s just the attitude that does. But you know what I mean. Please, come and take pictures and spend your money so that I can keep my job and enjoy the sunshine and good restaurants and half naked Pirate girls and singing gondoliers and fountains that dance to music and all of the other things that you don’t see anywhere else. Thank you (but please don’t stop right in front of me when I’m trying to walk).

OK, enough. It’s not Friday, but I was moving photos from the camera to the computer last night and came across some that B took yesterday. It seems that E has taken on the posture of a teenager while watching television. I don’t know what was on, probably Elmo, but maybe Spongebob.

All I could think of was ‘oh, my back’ but she was probably comfortable.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Empty halls

I was driving in to work this morning and thinking – then wondered if other people think like that too? There is always a conversation going on in my head, and usually I am part of it. No, I am not hearing voices and talking to somebody else, I am just having an internal conversation with myself. Maybe seeing somebody driving in the next lane suddenly cutting me off (TWIT!!) (oh my, am I becoming British, or do I read too many Brit blogs? I blame it on striped Lisa) Anyway, I then proceed to have this little internal conversation about whether or not the idiot driving gets into more accidents than I do; does he ever get any traffic tickets; does he really get to work earlier; does he have ulcers from all that tension; is he happier because he got ahead of me; . . . ? Of course I respond to these questions, with answers something like Of course he never gets a ticket, this is Vegas where there apparently are no traffic cops; yes he did arrive at his parking garage fifteen seconds earlier than yesterday and is very happy about that; yes he has ulcers and really really suffers and doesn’t know why; of course he is happy, he’s singing and didn’t even notice me slamming on the brakes to miss him; . . . I then go on to wonder about whether or not I am strange to be thinking of things like this, and do other people have conversations going on internally, and am I repeating myself, and how long can I make a paragraph without pressing the enter key?

So, do any of you have random conversations with yourself? (see, I can press enter)

It’s not just when I’m driving. Random things roll around in my head all the time: while sitting here typing I’ve gone on a trip to the south of France, visited the green fields of the Cotswolds and gone back home to play with E. And remembered enough of each to type them down. Sometimes I’m amazed that I get any useful work done. Well, I hope this stuff I do here is useful, I’m getting paid for it and evidently my boss is very happy with my work. But that’s a different thought.

So much for random thoughts. Back to our program which is already in progress: (see, even Firesign Theatre still keeps intruding)

I work in a basement room of a large convention facility. I’ve been here two months (and still like it) and have seen a variety of events take place in our building. I like to walk around the shows and look at all of the different things that I would never have contact with if I were not here. How may people have been to a security show, and seen themselves on thousands of video monitors being viewed by thousands of security cameras? (photos to come someday). But I also like it when there are no shows. Then I get to walk around the half dark halls on my own. Sometimes there is somebody walking on the other side that I can almost see, sometimes a truck drives by (yes, inside), but most of the time it is quiet.

The above pic is of the lower hall, right around the corner from our office. When there is no activity most of the lights are out, but they leave on about 5% of them for safety. The blue bands on the columns are about six feet high (2 meters), the columns are about twenty feet apart. The ceiling is only fifteen feet high. It feels like I’m walking through a forest of trees in the evening. There is a low whoosh from the air conditioning system, and a background continuous hum from the lights that are still on. I don’t have a wide angle lens, so these pics show less than a quarter of the halls. The lower hall is about five hundred feet long and four hundred feet across.

The upper hall is about 30% larger and the ceiling is higher –a bout 45 feet. This shot doesn’t show it all – they are setting up for a small seminar at one end, and the ‘air walls’ are cutting the room in half. These are big panels that can be slid across to cut the one big space into four smaller spaces, so that smaller shows can be accommodated, or multiple events can go on at the same time. Over to the right is one of the two ‘block houses’ that are about centered in the halls. They have stairs to go between the levels, rest rooms down halfway, and up here food stands on each side. There are a lot fewer columns in the above hall, mainly because they just hold up the roof while the ones in the lower hall have to hold up the two foot thick floor of the upper hall as well as the roof.

The upper hall is a fun place to be during show setup. There are big doors that open along one side and usually twenty or so big semi trucks at a time pull in. There are up to fifty or so little forklifts zipping around driving up into the trailers and pulling out pallets of stuff, then distributing it around the hall. A small army of workers are setting up frames and curtains, others are running electrical lines and network cables while others trying to lay carpets. Different groups are unpacking the pallets, setting up custom booths and displays. There is quite a lot of activity during show setup, which usually takes place over three or four days.

Show breakdown is even faster paced. At show closing time the lights are cut from full to half and usually a page is made informing everyone that the show is closed. All of the participants just want to get home, so everyone is furiously packing up their displays and taking down whatever products were shown. At the same time the carpet crew is pulling up the carpets, the electric crew is pulling their wires, the trucks are back in and the forklifts are delivering empty crates and pallets to be loaded, and pulling filled pallets out of the way. The hall is usually emptied within four hours or so. After taking four days to set up it only takes four hours to clear out. With everything buzzing around it’s difficult to find a place out of the way to watch everything.

Because of the lower ceilings in areas of the lower hall trucks can only drive down the middle, from the back door out to a front door. But here they are parked side by side, probably a line of eight trucks long with space between them for the loading ramps and forklifts. So the lower hall takes longer to setup, because of the limited number of trucks that can get in.

So that’s what my empty halls look like. I realize that there is no income when the room is empty – like airline seats or hotel rooms, once the clock goes by that’s inventory that can never be sold. But I like the quiet. I try to do a walk around the hall a few times a day; sitting at that desk all day is making my butt too big and I need the exercise.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Wiki birthday

This has been floating around for a while, and I finally figured out how to get to Wikipedia (well, you just type it in, duh) This one immediately prompted by TNChick, though I should credit others.

Put in your birthdate and look at what has happened on that day in history. Since I’m more into music and art than computers, here is a more musical sampling:

Three events
• 1877 - Thomas Edison makes the first-ever recording - "Mary Had a Little Lamb".
• 1965 - The Beatles play to nearly 60,000 fans at Shea Stadium in New York City, marking the birth of stadium rock.
• 1969 - The Woodstock Music and Art Festival opens.

Two birthdays:
• 1879 - Ethel Barrymore, American actress (d. 1959)
• 1912 - Julia Child, American cook (d. 2004) (A cook? All she gets is American COOK?)
OK, make it three simply because I like this name:
• 1945 - Mahamandaleshwar Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Indian guru

One death:
• 1959 - Blind Willie McTell, American singer (b. 1901) (who doesn’t like a guy named Blind Willie?)

One observance:
Egypt – Flooding of the Nile Day. (got to love a country that honors water like that, to have a whole day when the local river can just flood)

As an alternative

Liechtenstein – Liechtenstein Day. (well, where else would you observe Liechtenstein Day?)

E-less Monday

OMG (sorry about that, I don’t really have a G but it is a good sounding phrase anyway). I was just reading Lisa’s blog and realized that I have turned into my kids. Oh, not a very pleasant thought.

A while back (Christmas before last) when daughter had E I related how on Christmas morning we sat through a two hour video of our granddaughter, as she sat in front of the tree at their house, doing nothing but sitting as seven month old kids are wont to do. And they went ‘Ooooh’ and ‘Aaaah’ as she rolled over and just sat there. All the time the kid was on the floor in front of them, they just watched the video. Then we watched a two hour video of E sitting on the floor in front of our tree taken a scant four hours previous (time to film the two hours, then watch their two hours). Somewhere around hour .2 (that’s about eight minutes for the decimally impaired) I walked out and proceeded to do other things, only to be defamed later for not caring enough about the granddaughter to sit and watch four hours of video while the kid was SITTING RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM. But I guess video shows things differently.

Anyway, back to here: I thought this was a Vegas blog, and here I am making you all suffer through seemingly endless granddaughter pictures. Sorry.

I just looked at my list of photos ready to post, and found that I have about two dozen staring with ‘E’ and only one not. Guess I better haul out the camera and wander around the city for a while.

So, here is the only non E pic I have uploaded (I’m at work, and have all the pics at home where I FTP them up and can only refer to them from here).

Yes, and exciting post of things we in the southwest get to look forward to in the Spring. The blooming of the popular Mexican Gardner Palm Tree Trimmer. Up until now I have been propping up the ladder and taking care of these myself. We only have four palms in our yard, along the pool. We used to have two really tall ones out front, but cut them down not long after moving in. Since we have a one story house, and those trees were thirty years old and about fifty feet tall, it made more of an impression of telephone poles than of attractive trees. So my neighbor helped and down those two came. Leaving us with these.

These trees probably went in around 1990. We’ve only been in the house four years, but from looking at some paperwork left behind we are guessing that there was some construction work done on the house around 90, with the pool going in at the same time. So the palms probably went in with the landscaping. They are still a reasonable size, but B is about ready to have them pulled. I think they look nice framing the side of the yard.

This MGPTT came to the front door offering his services the week prior, and we made an appointment for his return. In addition to trimming he also peeled the trunks, cleaning up the bottom eight to ten feet on each tree. B has been wanting this done, and I 1) don’t know how to do it, and 2) didn’t really want to. So this personably man negotiated to do the job.

For those of you not in warm clime, the cost to trim a palm tree is usually around $35 per tree. The cost to strip the tree is usually around $ per foot. This gentleman did the whole job, four trees, trimming and cleaning, for $200. I thought that was pretty good, seeing as how it made B very happy. Her major complaint was that the trees were really rough to work around, walking behind them to paint the wall or plant new bushes was rather painful.

If you haven’t been around palm trees like this, dead fronds are cut off close to the trunk. This leaves the part that attaches to the trunk to dry out, becoming very sharp and irritating if you brush against it. It also attracts spiders and other creatures who like the roughness, and very dirty, holding dust and stuff. I figured B wanted them stripped all the way up to the new fronds at the top, but she just wanted it beyond where she would brush against them. Now that it’s done like this I kind of do like the look.

In the left of the photo is our little pool house. It’s really just a roof, but does provide a nice shady spot on sunny days (which is about every day here in Vegas). I was sitting in the pool house shade when I took the photo of my feet and the pool over in the sidebar. I added a fan to move air around on hot days, and some lights to make it more useful on late nights. We keep the barbeque grill out there, and use it quite a lot. B wanted to make it cozier and so added the canvas side curtains. I do like the effect, sitting there with them rustling in the wind. The pointed canvas next to it is a folded table umbrella, on a table over to the side.

We do have a big pool and a large paved area around it, which provides a great expanse for large wild parties, of which we have had none since we have moved in. We are not wild party people. Most of our neighbors are retired, and have pools of their own, so they just stay at home to get wet. I think the largest group we had was about a dozen. Though, this being Vegas, I do have fantasies about filling the pool with naked show girls, or at least topless ones like they have at the Strip hotel pools. Don’t think B would go for that though, and it would probably cost too much anyway (they charge by the hour here).

So, see, you come to hear about Vegas and get stories about palm tree trimming. The E pics will return, but bad news for those of you that do come here for those. The move is official, and this coming Saturday B and E and daughter will be driving away for the wilds of Portland. Well, B will be flying back two weeks later, but I will have the house to myself (along with the two boys, Max and Buster) for two weeks. Time to line up the showgirls.

I still don’t know why Portland. We did look there when we left San Diego four years ago. It was a beautiful city, green, with lots of things to do and a real walking city. But there is a cause behind the green-ness. Weather report for Vegas today is low of 58, high of 84, and SUN. For Portland it’s high of 50 (yes, the HIGH) and low of 32 and rain. That’s why it’s so green – it’s also so wet. B and I would much rather have the 340 days of sunshine offered by Vegas. And the big airport (for when we have time and money to fly places), the restaurants, the things to do, and the Strip full of entertainment.

So, I shall bring the camera in to work tomorrow and wander over to the mall and around, resulting in some Vegas photos to post soon. The move northward will result in a diminution of E photos, as not having her around to photograph will result in less photos of E.