Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last day

Just a little post to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Tonight the Strip closes for our party, expecting about 280,000 people down there. Two events are planned in addition to the midnight fireworks, one is a motorcycle jump over the volcano in front of the Mirage, the other a motorcycle jump landing on top of the Arc de Triumph in front of Paris. This is what Las Vegas Boulevard was like this afternoon around 12:30 - sunny, with a temperature of about 59f. Across just to the left of the Mirage they are starting to build a blue ramp which will be used for the jump there. This section of the street will be closed off to walkers between 6:30 and 9:30 as they set up for and do the stunt. The whole Strip will be closed off to car traffic between 6pm and 1am so people can walk around.

People were riding the gondolas out in front of the big Hotel Casino Resort next door to where I work, enjoying the sunshine and songs.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Last Monday of the year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. Things are busy, and I haven't even pulled up the photos from cowboy Christmas, much less real Christmas. The kids all were out of town at home this year, so B wanted to get out and go somewhere. I had to work Friday, so we just took advantage of the cheap rates (hah, cheap compared to other days) at the big Resort Hotel Casino next door for Christmas Eve and spent a night away from the house. It was very pleasant - fancy food at a great steakhouse, drinks and a good band down next to the casino, a great breakfast at Boudon's, where I have wanted to go for ages, and some time at a different place. The room was very nice - pictures to come. Not bad for the biggest hotel in the world. Last year occupancy was 40% for the eve, this year with lower rates it was up to 85% and the casino was fairly crowded. Wynn is having some specials next month, so we might do the one night thing again. As for New Year’s Eve, well, it’s just probably getting to sleep early as we have been doing.

Not much under our tree this year; since it’s just the two of us we don’t really wait until the end of the year to get things, if we want something we just get it without fanfare. It makes it difficult that way to get anything for the other guy, but I did get B some books and CDs she wasn’t expecting. I got her some nice necklaces last year, but she is not really into wearing jewelry so there was nothing like that this year. She got me some tools that I didn’t have - something unusual in itself, as I tend to buy a new toy whenever I have a new project. We did a video conference with Portland, and got to watch E dancing around. It was mid afternoon, and they were still opening presents. It’s not that she got a lot, it’s just that she had to play with each item as it was opened without regard to the concept of opening everything at once. If she opened a book (of which she got quite a few) she had to sit down and read it, ignoring the calls to open the next thing. If she got a toy she took time to play with it, disregarding the others still wrapped. I hope that it stays like that, but I am sure that next year it will be ‘is that all?’ We’ll see.

Our day of snow has come and gone, and we are into the cold month. Temperatures at our house differ from the ‘official’ weather station down at the airport. Last night it was 35f there, but 27f at our house when we got up. Today it should get up to the mid 50’s then warming up the rest of the week, with our twenty degree swing between night and day that means 39f at night and 60f during the day, not too bad for New Year’s celebrations. This year they are still expecting 250,000 out on the Strip, not much compared to Times Square but still a crowd. The fireworks will be a little tamer, no shooting them off of rooftops due to new fire regulations but just out of parking lots down on the ground. We did get up last year to watch the fireworks from our front yard, we get glimpses of the Strip down the hill between the houses across the street. Hope you all have fun (but please do not drink and drive).

I didn’t get to say goodby to Ertha Kitt last week, she died on Christmas day. But her rendition of this is one of my favorite holiday songs. Here live in combination with Old Fashioned Girl:

I don’t remember much of her singing, she seemed to be over in Europe a lot due to her outspoken political stands, but do remember her from the old Batman TV show, where she was one of the many that played Cat Woman. Here with both the Joker and that Batman theme, the one with the lyrics that were so difficult to remember:

And for no reason other than I like it let’s throw in a little Billy Holiday. Along with one of the best lineups of classic Jazz musicians.

Oh, sorry I missed E Friday last week. We left early and I just ran into too many things to do at home. Here, have one to hold you over.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Ok, sorry yesterday's videos weren't music, but I need a laugh once in a while. Here's a few cute ones: (sorry they load so slowly, I guess MTV buffers a lot of stuff - and commercials, ug)

And for DM, I know she will love this one:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Video Monday - Red Dwarf

OK, too many people are getting serious about Christmas, with all the shopping and relatives and screaming demanding kids so I thought we’d do a few non-serious videos today. Don’t know why because I’m still singing about the dead skunk in the middle of the road (thanks FN)

Not a music video, but a clip from the Young Ones, an old British tv show that we really liked when it was on.

Keeping in the non-music video mode, one of my favorite tv shows ever is another British one, the Red Dwarf from twenty years ago. When a accident kills all but one crew member on the mining ship Red Drawf, Lister(kept in statis for 3 million years), along with Rimmer(a hologram of his dead roommate), Cat(a human/cat that evolved from Lister's pet cat on the ship) and Holly(the ship's computer) must find a way back to earth. In a later season they were joined by a robot, and at times other holograms wander through. Here is the opening episode.

But Cat is my favorite character. Here he gets some fish out of the food dispenser.

And here he marks everything as his.

OK, have to have some music we can do Elmo and Martina McBride

And we can end up with one referred to by my New Zealand radio station, evidently the #1 downloaded song from Itunes last week. It’s the Lonely Island (with PG lyrics, so not with the kids around unless you want to explain)

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Just thought I'd share some of our lovely weather with you. Yesterday we had six inches of snow down on the Strip. This was the most snow down there in over thirty years. It forced our airport to close - well, we don't have snow removal equipment and the runways were slippery for incoming planes and outgoing planes could not get the snow off of them. The schools declared a snow day, the first in thirty years, so kids got to stay home and play in it. Most of the snow did not stay on the ground, it was still too warm and just melted. It did stay white in the trees and bushes, and on some grassy areas. (below two pictures taken from our local Review Journal)

The mountains west of us are much higher, and usually have snow on them during the winter. Mount Charleston is over 14,000 feet with a skiing area on it, that starts getting snow around Thanksgiving and with snow making machines is usually open for ski season then.

But on Christmas day it looks to be a little warmer.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow and Crissy

Yesterday was a snow filled day for the western part of Las Vegas. None down here on the Strip, but big flakes at my house which is three miles west, and four inches on the ground out another two miles. Not much for you country folk, but more than we have had in almost forever. Since I didn’t see it I have no pictures, but you can go look at the ones our newspaper posted in a story about the snow. And also notice the palm trees and green trees and green grass under the snow.

Last week the Mirage had a grand reopening of its volcano. For those of you that haven’t been to Vegas, the Mirage was the first big fancy hotel on the Strip, built by Steve Wynn as he worked his way down doing ever bigger and fancier places. Out in front is a small lake and a volcano that used to erupt periodically. It has been redesigned by the company that made the Bellagio fountains, but instead of water shooting up the Mirage has flames, coordinated to music. The music was written by Mickey Hart, the drummer from the Grateful Dead, so of course there is a lot of drumming involved. Again, our paper did a short video story of the Mirage Volcano. Take a look.

On other fronts, I finally figured out how to hack into the video network of the big Hotel Resort Casino next door. This was done as a promotion for Crissy, the Queen of F**king Everything. A short while back she was voted to be the sexiest mommy blogger, so I thought she should be honored here in Vegas which is the home of many things sexy. In pimping for votes Crissy promised to post a photo of herself naked, and since she did win the election she did follow through on her promise. Unfortunately it was a rather sedate naked, but heck we’ll take what we can get. I thought that this picture would look good as a billboard here, but though we now have several dozen of those huge video billboards I couldn’t figure out how to get into them, but since the big HRCnd has two large video screens out front I wondered if I could manage something there. Being a programmer I figured it wouldn’t be too hard, but it did take a while. So, in honor of her elected office, here now is Crissy being exposed to the Strip

Oh, did find a cab that I could put the same picture on, all the cabs here have advertising signs on top and on the back and sometimes wrapped in.

So, if any of you other ladies would like to be up in lights, now that I know how to do it, please feel free to send me photos of yourself naked. (please) I can’t guarantee they will make it up into the sky, but I will appreciate them.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No shows and skunks

This was a busy weekend. We spent Saturday finishing up E’s presents and baking cookies, and Sunday I went off to Boulder City and played with trains all day. There is a state park there that has a real train that you can ride on and in December Santa is on the train on weekends and hundreds of kids and parents come out to ride. I didn’t ride the big train, our group set up our model trains (don’t call then toys!) along with other groups and we showed off our marvelous scenery creation skills and kept yelling at little kids to keep their fingers off the trains!!!! The good news is that gifts are done and wrapped and B will be off to the packing and shipping place to get them on their way this morning, and I finished up with piles and piles of cookies. Well, B made her Pecan Sandies and I did a half dozen other types along with some fudge. Pics to follow, whenever I get computer time to format them.

At work things are quiet. There are no more shows this year, for some reason people would rather stay home for Christmas than come to Vegas for work. The first week of the year will be used for setup for two of our largest shows, which then open. The first shows here are the electronics show and the adult expo, collectively called the week of freaks and geeks. The electronics show will have some of the latest inventions and upcoming items, but people tend to dress up in fancy costume for the adult show; most of the costumes are rather skimpy in nature and not too unusual for Las Vegas, but would probably get the wearers (or non-wearing depending on what is being emphasized) arrested in almost every other city in the country. There is no parking garage for our facility, show attendees must park in either the tower or the underground area in the big hotel casino resort next door. This requires them to then walk through the casino floor or the shopping area and the restaurant corridor before getting down to our space. The ‘professionals’ that are staffing the show usually are dressed more conservatively than some of the fans, but conservative is a relative observation, with some of the men favoring chaps (just the front chap part, no pants underneath) which produces interesting views, like these but without the jeans or shirt:

The women tend toward emphasizing the much enhanced chestal regions, with small strips of cloth offering no support but very immodest coverage, or just a few appropriately placed band aids, coupled to miniskirts that have a better relationship to belts than to skirts, with a few strings as undergarments optional. That’s the clothing for people working the show, people attending the show tend to wear less, or different. Sorry, no pictures here but you should be able to easily find some on the internets someplace if you really are interested. It is amusing to walk here from the main casino areas following attendees and looking at the faces of people just here to gamble. We all are looking forward to a few quiet weeks followed by these interesting shows.

Off reading First Nations and something she said brought this to mind.

This brings back my skunks story: have I told you this one before? Probably, but my mind is not that good at partial remembrances so if you heard this one before feel free to just skip onto your next blog. For those of you not in the states let me first describe a skunk. It is a rather midsized wild animal, usually a little larger than a house cat, with a very bushy tail and distinctive coloring, usually all black with a white strip running down the top from head to tip of tail. They are very easy to recognize.

When threatened they stamp their feet and hiss at you, followed by their raising tail and fluffing it out. If that is not enough to scare you away then they turn and face away from you and again shake their tail, followed by squirting you with the most foul liquid you will ever smell. Wikipedia describes it as a mix of rotten eggs, ammonia and burning rubber, but there are really no words that describe how bad it is. They dig and eat grubs and other small things, so their sense of smell is quite good, but their eyesight is very bad. Consequently the major cause of death is vehicular. Usually sleeping all day and coming out at night, if you wander the wilds of North America you will probably come across one.

We had them living in the canyon behind our house in San Diego, frequently wandered up into our back yard. Our dog Max met a baby, and from then on was able to recognize the scent. Unfortunately he met it one night in our back yard on a weekend that B was away. So I was awoken at two in the morning by a crying, stinking dog which had to be washed off repeatedly. Max hates baths, which made it even more difficult. There are formulas for cleaning, with tomato juice being an old remedy, but nothing will take all of the scent off, so having a wet skunky dog in bed under my nose was not pleasant.

Back when we lived in Temecula (halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles) we often had foreign exchange students stay with us. This is how we met the Swedish doctor that we see and correspond with. One summer we had an Australian student, and on a nice summer day (well, in southern California every summer day is nice) we took him and two other Australian girls staying at another house off to Disneyland. After a pleasant day we drove home after the park closed. It was about an hour drive, through some pretty empty countryside at the time. The road was three lanes in each direction, with not very many cars out. I don’t remember what brought it up, it might have been that song playing, but we were discussing skunks. Australia doesn’t have any, so our verbal descriptions were just starting when one wandered across the road in front of us. As he asked ‘what does one look like’ I just had a second to point and say ‘like that (thump) and that’s what they smell like’. Just like in the song, we were in our little station wagon, which smelled like skunk for many weeks afterward.

Oh - FN - partially cloudy this morning, 34f when we got up. It was raining here on the Strip at lunchtime, but my wife says it was snowing at our house. We're about three miles west and up a hundred feet in elevation. Our place is usually 8f lower than the official low (at the airport) in winter and 5f higher in summer. I'll take pictures if it's still there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Random E Friday

Looking at the weather page in our paper this morning, and I notice some changes for the coming week’s predictions. B said it snowed in New Orleans, so I shouldn’t feel so bad, but next week almost every day it’s supposed to be down around 32f, (0c) with a chance of snow. Wait a minute - this is Las Vegas - snow? It’s been a dry year, only 1.49 inches of rain so far (that’s since January 1 - an inch and a half all year), with this week’s cold temps it’s the first time in 297 days the low temperature was below 40f - that was back in February. So I guess I can put up with a few months of cold.

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.

Just a few random ones from back when B was up in Portland in September. First, working the chalkboard down at the bread company kid's room.

Yes, it looks like they sometimes get sunshine up there.

And flowers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Busy week, Christmas prep

Oh, the end of year is coming and we are busy here at work. We have been using part of a new accounting package for several months now, and the accounting department is not at all pleased with it. Everything takes just too much time to do, and the way it was designed does not match the way we do business. The software being replaced was written in house and designed to exactly meet our business format, and we were hoping to rewrite it all, but somebody in the corporate offices in the big tower next door decided to buy something that would be used on all properties worldwide. For some reason our organization was tasked with trying it first, even though we didn’t want it. And now it ends up that the big corporation decided they don’t want it anywhere else, but because it cost so much we have to keep using it. Thanks go out to the analyst that picked it out, who transferred to a different group the week before it went live.

Anyway, the company we bought this thing from says it does not work right because we are not using all five of the pieces we paid for. So corporate again decided our accounting department should use it all. This decision was made a few weeks ago and also that it should all be in place by January 1. Well, if any of you have done accounting work for companies that bills over a hundred million dollars a year and deal with thousands of customers you know that it is a big task to change accounting packages. Months of planning, laying out how the magic account numbers are used and what accounts inventory will go into, not to mention the keyboard time required to enter everything into the new system. No, corporate did not authorize additional funds to have existing data converted, after all, that’s what all these employees sitting around doing nothing are for, to enter all of this data manually. So I have been busy installing and testing modules. Yesterday was spent finding MICR fonts and formatting the new accounts payable checks to meet our bank’s requirements.

At home I’ve been working on E’s Christmas presents: making use of that new jigsaw again to create some marvels out of wood. Last time it was a puzzle and an arc full of animals, this time it’s some boats (finished last month) and a fire station with car and fire truck and firemen. With the group out over Thanksgiving we lost the two weekends I could have been cutting wood (but I wouldn’t trade E being here for working with wood) so it’s been a frantic rush to get the wood cut, assembled and painted and shipped so it will get up to Portland before Christmas. I finished up assembly Sunday and B has been painting away since, hopefully it will all be done this coming Sunday for Monday mailing. Painting takes a while because of all the details: put on one color, wait for it to dry, do a different one, and so on. She is taking some time with the people, making them really pretty as well. Only problem is the size again; the fire station building is two feet high, plus a garage and all the extras. B plans on hitting one of the shipping stores and letting them do the packing as well as shipment, so it will all get there safely.

Saturday is set aside for me to bake cookies. I usually do a pile and we give them out to the neighbors – that is, the ones I don’t eat while baking. Besides watching all the home improvement shows on TV I also watch the Food Network, and subscribed to their Twelve days of cookies, one recipe a day. There are several of them I plan on trying this year besides the old standards. B does pecan sandies, I always like tollhouse chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies plus whatever else feels good. If you want to trade cookies drop me an email with your address and I’ll figure out how to pack them. My mother used to do these little cups of ground walnuts she called Tassie cookies that I loved, have to see if I can find the recipe she used. They are a lot of work but really nice. With all the ones I want to try it probably means about a dozen different recipes. Ah well, it’s only once a year and the house will smell good all day.

Sitting here listening to that New Zealand radio station Zed FM and they just played this one, I like the simple style: Because I Do, by Pearl and the Puppets:

Here are a few random pictures taken while on our lunchtime walks around the building. It’s getting a little too cool to walk outside (OK, it’s Vegas, cool to us is the 61f it was today) so we have moved inside. It takes a little over a half hour to walk quickly on our inside route. Sometimes a little longer, if we stop to watch the singers or interesting people. Here is my favorite gondolier just making the turn at the end and reaching the climax of her song:

Down the side alley from the water are some shops we wander past. At least weekly we come across people dressed strangely. Well, since we see them so often I guess we can’t call it strange, just a little different than the rest of the passer bys

And then back to our part of the building, and out front for J to have his cigarette. Last election we passed one of those no smoking inside laws. I think it’s all of those greenie Californians that moved here and now want to remake Las Vegas into the California mold. There are a lot of places in town that are bars with full kitchens and a few slot machines or video poker machines built into the bar. The law outlawed smoking where food is served, so these places had the choice of giving up food or banning smokers or building a wall to separate the food from the smoking bar area, and not serving food to people in the bar. Different places took different approaches, but generally all businesses had a decline in income because of the law. Now with the economic downturn even more places are in trouble. I understand not wanting smokers nearby when you eat, but don’t force it on places, just go where smoking is not allowed. I really dislike people that have to force their opinion on how things should be onto others, whether it be smoking or religion or color or taste or sexual orientation; can’t we just all get along?

Anyway, back at our place we stop out front so J can get a smoke in. When there are shows the driveway is usually filled up, with two rows for cabs, a place for limos, and the outside lane for trucks and through traffic, with dozens or hundreds of people moving around, getting out, in, or just standing around talking and smoking. This basically is the only smoking area for our facility, so if we have a big show with forty or fifty thousand people inside we will end up with quite a group of smokers out here as well as the arriving and departing traffic.

Friday, December 05, 2008

E with dirt

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics. So here we are back in Portland, and actually there is a little back yard with some dirt. No grass, but a little dirt.

It is fun to dig some up, then dump it on a table and look for worms.

I don’t think she found any.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quick week

It’s been a quick week so far. Several new projects from the boss to work on, and the cowboys are back! Every December Vegas hosts the rodeo finals, and the town fills up with cowboys. The big convention center has a show, we host the country Christmas show, and several of the other hotels with convention and meeting space host events associated with the rodeo. Our lower hall is filling up (the show opens tomorrow, for the next 12 days) with trailers (they let them park down here) and booths full of stuff like steer horns and ropes and saddles and hats and stuff. It smells like leather out there. Just back from walking through the hall; one of the booths selling trailers has a cd player on, with ‘Tumbling Tumble Weeds’ playing, and I can hear off key voices from three guys in different trailers (setting them up) singing along. I guess cowboys do like that music.

Coming in to work last month I caught the full moon going down over our roof, next to the construction cranes for the new condo tower next door. I’ve carefully Photoshopped this picture so you can’t tell where I work, don’t need the corporate attorneys next door searching and finding unapproved things being posted about the place. But it looked pretty.

It’s Wednesday, and I have a turkey sandwich for lunch again! Yea, I love turkey. My wife is over with it, the rest is for me. She can do leftovers for a max of three days, while I just keep going on. It looks like there is only enough for some final hot sandwiches tonight, so that’s the end. Ah well, I can look forward to the next one.

B wanted to do something different for Christmas, as none of the kids are coming out. Unfortunately it’s on Thursday this year, and I have to work the day after. A computer guy is always needed here, and we take turns as to who gets off when, my turn to stay. But I made Christmas Eve reservations at the big Hotel Casino Resort next door. Its ‘all suites’ and I wondered how nice the place was to stay at – it is really nice to walk through. That night is the lightest night of the year for hotel guests, so most places in town have special rates. Next door the rate for that night is one fifth of what it will be the week after, so for one night I can afford it. Not much, but we will see what the place is like fairly empty, hope some of the restaurants are open, and even for one night we can pretend. No, no employee discounts, but we’ll see if I can talk the desk clerk into a free room upgrade when I check in.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving weather

Wow, long weekend, I could sure get used to not coming in to work. Especially with E at our place, she is just a joy. Anyway, thought I would not post any pictures of turkey, since most of you have probably seen enough of it. My last post discussed rain - something that usually is not seen around here. Well, we ended up with a whole .29 inches of rainfall on Wednesday, then it rained again on Thanksgiving day, bringing down a whole more .14 inches. (for those of you metrically declined that would be about 12mm of water) Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is for us. And here E was down from Portland to enjoy the sunshine and we ended up having rain. Oh well. So I thought I’d share the rain with you.

On Thursday it looked like one of those Hollywood movie rains - where the sun is shining yet water is falling (probably from some big hoses, but here it was real). Sorry you can’t see the raindrops too well in the picture, but they are there.

And see here, on our acacia out front, real water that fell from the sky!

I also talked about the yellow leaves from our peach tree. Well, the whole tree didn’t turn yellow, just a few random leaves before they drop. Here is what it looks like now:

The ash in front of the peach is a little bronzy, that’s the color it turns, but usually a nice deep shade. Again, I blame the warmer fall weather. Up against the wall - that’s our grapes still keeping the leaves on as well. In front is our line of rosemary up against the low wall. We put in thirty or so little bushes along the hundred foot stretch when we pulled out the grass and did the desert landscaping. It’s all full of little blue flowers and lots of bees. The other flowers in the garden are still doing well. That flow of white is alyssum, and the grass there is doing its winter part and turning brown.

Some of the trees are blooming as well. The most intrusive are our two shoestring acacia trees, again only four years old and already about thirty feet tall. Right now full of little yellow flower puff balls just throwing off pollen, filling the air and noses of people with allergies.

The Chinese evergreen has funny little flat pink flowers, not very noticeable but does offer a change.

And those leaves under the peach tree? Well, when the sun came out on Friday some of them were pulled together and put to good use.

Yup, on Friday it got back over 71f and was sunny and warm all weekend. It’s heck living out here.

For Real?

I didn't realize the two of you were like that, but for Rollie: