Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cold NYE party

OH – it’s going to be a cold New Year’s Eve party here in Vegas. The hotels are not complaining as it seems almost every place is 100% booked for the weekend. That’s 149,000 + rooms occupied, so even with the poor economy at least some people plan on having a nice time moving into a new year.

The big storms back East don’t bother the hotels, since just as many people have to stay longer when flights are cancelled as those that can’t get here, it’s almost a wash. The majority of NYE partygoers in Vegas are from California anyway, and a heck of a lot of them drive. The I-15 between Vegas and LA becomes a big parking lot most Sunday afternoons as everyone takes off after checkout time. Even the Christmas weekend, usually a slow time, was pretty good for the casinos. Two years ago we spend Christmas Eve in a nice room at the Venetian. I don’t know what the occupancy was then, probably just under 50%, which means the place was fairly empty. The room was cheap (well, for the Venetian) and nice, we had a fancy dinner and breakfast and enjoyed ourselves without having to drive far.

But this year it’s cold: tomorrow the high is only going to be around 4c (40f) with a nighttime low of -3c (27f) and it’s really windy. But the sky is a bright blue and the sun is shining on my shoulders through the window behind me and it looks really pretty outside from the warm inside. We will not be down on the Strip, that is just too big a party for us old folks. It’s nothing like Times Square, but still there will be 350,000+ wandering the Strip and looking at the midnight fireworks, the biggest display west of the Mississippi (as our Visitor’s Bureau advertises). Us old folks will probably be in bed asleep as usual.

Blue sky, travelers from LA headed east

Hit the City Center, next door to Bellagio, the place where the biggest crowd on the Strip gathers

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Old Vegas sighting

Well, finally, an ‘old Vegas’ sighting. Last Sunday we took our daughter and husband to the Golden Steer restaurant to celebrate their anniversary (yes, we took E along). We first visited the Golden Steer a few months ago, and I thought it looked like an old Las Vegas style restaurant. It is filled with red leather booths and some tables, and staffed by waiters that have worked there for twenty or thirty years. The MaĆ®tre de was proud to point out the booths that Elvis and the Rat Pack liked, along with describing a number of celebrities that kept coming back.

My wife had the filet again, and I tried the prime rib – both were very good. Our daughter had some baked salmon, which E shared, which was reported as being quite fine as well. There was an assortment of desserts, with E going for the chocolate cake (with icing), all of which disappeared quite quickly.

The restaurant was almost empty- there was only one other table occupied, so we were wondering about the health of the restaurant, but hoped the small crowd was due to the holiday crowds staying home. As we were about to leave our waiter asked if we wanted to meet someone that had just came in – Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. The waiter said they had been regulars for quite a while. I recognized the names but it took me a second to think of who they were. Steve and Eydie were regulars on a variety of entertainment programs back in the early ‘60s, and had a Vegas lounge act back then as well. (look, I said old Vegas, who did you expect at a place like this, Justin Beiber?)

The waiter pulled us over to meet them as we were leaving, so I said hello and talked for a while. They were with another woman that was very friendly, and as we left the waiter said she was Lorraine Hunt, Nevada’s lieutenant governor who is also the owner of the Bootlegger Bistro, another old Vegas hangout (also on my list to go to). I had to look them up on Wiki when I came home, yes, Steve and Eydie married in Las Vegas in 1957 – over fifty years together, which in itself is pretty good. No major records together, but back in 1963 Eydie had a hit with this one

About the same time Steve had

So –probably not even familiar names to most of you, but hey, at least now I can say I did meet somebody famous on my Vegas travels.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

We had a crowd over this Christmas. All of the kids have moved away and it is difficult to get them together from scattered locations, but fortunately our daughter from Portland (1800km) came down with the family as well as our youngest son from San Francisco (1000km). They all drove over through California during those big rainstorms but left here in sunshine.

E came down along with mom and dad. On Christmas Eve she left milk and cookies for Santa and wrote him a welcome note.

It looks like the cookies worked, as there were a lot more presents under the tree the next morning.

Mom made E a new tutu.

She also received lots of toys and things she liked. She danced with a new wand.

And played with some new dolls and doll chairs that Granddad made

She really seemed to like some hats that she got

And she performed a nice dance number several times

All in all, it was a pleasant holiday week.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday videos - quiet ones

Monday videos – no holiday themed songs, but some that are mellower. I like the old musicals from the 50’s and 60’s, and fortunately there are clips on line. Most of them are from Broadway plays and seem rather calm compared to all of the activities presented now. Well, at least here in Vegas with all the Cirque du Soleil stuff. We can start with a young Julie Andrews in the Rogers & Hammerstein version of Cinderella from 1965:

Bill referred to a nice guitar piece, Rodrigo y Gabriela – ‘Tamacun’

And one of my favorite quiet songs, Judy Collins singing Send In The Clowns

Friday, December 17, 2010

Busy pre holiday week

It’s been a busy week here. We have had a three day conference at work – after a year searching I finally found a job with a firm that processes credit cards. It’s not very big, just five programmers here and another three scattered across the country. My boss had all the technical and program managers come here for a few days just to get everyone together and review plans from a higher level. Mainly it was sitting in the conference room with fifteen people trying to stay awake during the presentations, but it did take up a lot of time, along with the after work social activities that were scheduled. Two of the kids, along with granddaughter E, are coming out on Sunday to stay for the holidays, so that has involved house cleaning and preparation. Tomorrow will be cookie baking day, with quite a few dozen being produced.
Around town the Cosmopolitan resort opened a few days ago. It looks rather impressive, squeezed between the Bellagio and the new City Center. The price of City Center was around $8,000,000,000 covering an area five times the size of Cosmo, but Cosmo cost is about $3,900,000,000 so for the price per foot it should be fancy. We’ll probably go down next week with the group to see what it looks like, catch the Bellagio Christmas display in their conservatory, and hit City Center again (they are all side by side). To get in the mood, here’s one of the floors in Aria

It’s a modern structure, no carpets, lots of slots, and really fancy floors.
And since I haven’t posted videos in a while, let’s see if this one stays up (they keep getting taken away). From Rocky Horror: oh, Tim Curry.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Morning drive

I leave my house to drive in to work each morning around 6:30; it takes about a half hour. The drive in to work is almost due East, so I get to watch the sunrise, then if I’m a few minutes late have it directly in my eyes for a while. Surprising how reflective the concrete roads are; I can drop the visor down and look under it at the roadway, but now the road is almost as bright as the direct sun.

1. One day last week there was a sheet of high clouds over half the eastern sky. It was interesting to watch them move from black to brilliant red to a beautiful buttery golden then to bright white as the sun came up.

2. Las Vegas is surrounded by mountains, so it is very bright in the morning before the sun peeks over the eastern mountain tops. Interesting to watch the western mountains in my rear view mirror as the sun lights them up, showing off the dark valleys and rock formations surrounded by the bright red hills.

3. If I drive in a little early it’s still dark. The freeway I drive on crosses the south end of the Strip, and all of the big hotels and casinos are glowing with bright neon colors. It’s interesting to think of the thousands of people over there in the casinos still gambling, as there are no clocks or windows inside and you can play all night then stumble outside into the bright sun of the new day. Most of the big ultra-lounges don’t open until midnight, so crowds are still dancing away and drinking until mid morning.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

How to heat hot dogs

Several months ago Anna bought an Amtrak pass and made a long trip around the country. As part of that trip she mailed postcards to friends describing what was happening on her journey. The postcard I received talked about some problems on the train as it was going towards New Orleans.

On the card she describes how the train had some problems continuing onto New Orleans. Amtrak provided buses to move passengers into town, but unfortunately not enough buses to permit all of the passengers to move forward. Anna and her beloved were two of the many that had to remain on the train.

Unfortunately there was no kitchen staff, or nearby town in which to obtain food. The remaining staff found some hot dogs in the kitchen, but could not figure out how to use the microwave in order to heat up the hot dogs, so Anna ended up with cold soggy hot dogs. I thought that I would provide a photograph that she might keep with her if she ever again runs into a similar situation. It shows how to heat up a hot dog in a microwave.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on her attitude) Anna had to leave San Francisco and return to her home country, England. I’m not sure if the trains over there serve hot dogs or use microwaves, but now she will be prepared.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

City Center coffee and cards

The City Center architects spent some time incorporating a lot of details into all aspects of the complex. Even the small shops have unique decorations to make them a little different than what you find in other casinos. Every casino now has a walk up coffee shop, either Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or an in house brand. This one is filled with lighted coffee beans on the walls and ceiling.

And the nearby poker area, instead of having a plain divider, is itself a bit more decorated

Monday, December 06, 2010

Getting cooler

Last week was pretty cold here in Vegas, low temps were down around -3c (26f) causing our tomato plants to finally freeze and curl up. I used the last red tomatoes in my salad last Friday, but have three bags of green tomatoes waiting to redden up for use again. Most are cherry tomatoes, and not applicable to creating fried green tomatoes.

Our peach tree started turning yellow, the ash trees out back usually go bronze after the first freeze, so hopefully that will happen this week. This produces a lawn full of yellow leaves, not really a big bright yellow tree.

The Shoestring Acacias alongside the kitchen and are in bloom, covered with little yellow puffballs that release a ton of pollen, really aggravating B’s nose. We have had a few brief showers at night, which come with some minor clouds, producing nice sunsets.

The sky is still nice and clear during the day, with daytime temps up around 19c (66f)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Santa Run

This morning I finally got to participate in the annual Great Santa Run, put on by Opportunity Village. I’ve missed the past years due to conflicts, when it was run downtown on Fremont Street. That would have really been neat, but this year it was moved down to the south end of the Strip at Towne Center shopping center.
We all got Santa suits to wear.

There were a number of kids participating

And dogs

Of course our mayor, Oscar Goodman, appeared along with his standard two showgirls. Well, not really 'our' mayor, as we live in the township of Spring Valley and the Strip is not in the Vegas city limits but in the township of Paradise. So the Santa Run was held in Paradise.

For the girl Santa’s there were pink portapotties

And eventually we were off – around 13,000 or so, with counters from the Guiness Book of Records. I’m sure their counts were low, as we saw a lot of people that didn’t register with them.

Finally made it, it was interesting to be with such a big red group.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Outdoor weekend

Outdoors weekend! Even though the temperature will not be over 19c (66f) this weekend has several outdoor activities.

1. The annual Santa Run has moved from Freemont Street downtown to the south end of the Strip, at Town Square. I’ve been wanting to go but always seemed to have things lined up, but this Saturday we’ll (yes, I talked B into going) be down among 9,000 other people all dressed up as Santa Claus. I’m signing up and getting our outfits tonight! (pictures to come)
2. The annual Zappos Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is this Sunday, with runners again starting at Mandalay Bay and running up the Strip. The route is a little different; in past years they came up close to our house, this year it’s up and down the Strip then a jog west along Hacienda to get in the full 26 miles. This one I will not be participating in, but at least our house will not be within the no drive zone again. 30,000 participants expected for the full and half marathons, with bands along the route and the get-married-on-the-run wedding chapel somewhere in there.
3. We made the big time: the Brookings Institute rated the Las Vegas economy among the five worst for big cities in the world! Only Dublin, Dubai, Barcelona and Thessaloniki were worse, but not by much. Next year we hope to move up! (at least I have a job (for now)).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

After Thanksgiving

After Thanksgiving
1. Still have enough turkey for one more sandwich!! (not sure if that’s good or not)
2. We went through the apple pie rather quickly, but the store had a “buy one get one free” thing and there is a cherry pie soon to go into the oven.
3. Unfortunately we got our poor dog Buster hooked on real turkey and he refuses to eat anything canned now, so it looks like I’ll have to keep roasting turkeys for him. (well, I do have to do quality checks)

Here he is suffering with a stuffed tummy.