Friday, December 30, 2005

End of the year

Granddaughter had a pretty good time at Christmas. Seven months old and we are starting her right.

She enjoyed tearing the paper off of things. After it was all done she did as expected, and liked playing with the tissue paper and boxes more than the toys and books.

Perhaps next year we can save some money by just wrapping tissue paper (sure we will).

I am enjoying a few days around the house, not doing much. Just took pictures of a few items and posted them on Craig's List. It’s just an online want add place, but no charge, so nothing lost if something doesn’t sell. Never tried selling anything there, but it’s where we went to get all the stuff in preparation for the Swedish invasion, now it’s time to sell it back. Not much, just a table and crib, but it will make room.

Wandering around the back yard – it’s a little cool, only around 60f for today’s high. We do get the desert temperature swing that was not available in San Diego – in SD the daytime high was usually only 3 or 4 degrees (F) above the nighttime low. Here in Vegas the normal swing is 25F from high to low. So if it’s 41f at night we can expect 65f or so the next afternoon. Same thing in the summer – 115f high leads to a 90f low the following night. We do have nice bright sunshine.

It might be a little cool for our ten pound Max, but he still comes out to sit in the sunshine and doze. He would rather be inside on the bed (as shown below) but he follows us around.

Here is one of my favorite winter plants –

A small grass, it’s only a foot or so high, but the seed heads sway nicely in the sunshine. I know that it is no comparison to what some areas get to enjoy for the winter.

I don’t remember anything like that – but back in Rochester we might get three feet of snow, with drifts perhaps up against the house. How about Minnesota?

I can’t let the year end without a political statement.

And ending up with our ongoing stripes series:

Feel free to print these out and put them on your favorite paper doll.

And for Clare:

1. Warm sunshine on your face.
2. A yard free of that white stuff we see on TV.
3. Anticipation of a new year with all kinds of new things available.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Almost New Year's

I’m ready for the year to change. One week and I still have this marvelous cold – last week with the head, now it’s moved down into a nice rough cough. It would be nice to be whole again.

We’re off to see La Reve at the Wynn tomorrow night – our kids got us tickets for Christmas. So we are off to see another Dragonne show. Loved Mystere and O, this one has been open long enough to have the ‘kinks’ worked out of it, so I’ve got high expectations. B doesn’t want to eat there first – she says a full stomach will make it too hard to stay awake. But we’ll get there early – Friday night on the Strip is usually pretty busy – and have a drink or something first.

It’s New Year’s weekend. A story in yesterday’s paper says that there are still some good rooms available for the weekend if you still want to come to ‘America’s Party’. Looks like our convention and visitors bureau is pushing Vegas as an alternative to Times Square. The Strip closes to vehicles for the night, so you really get a chance to walk down and see all the casinos. And then they all shoot off fireworks from the rooftops at midnight. Unfortunately, predictions are for rain on Saturday, so the fireworks might be cancelled – first time for rain on New Years Eve in Vegas for over forty years.

If you want a room at the Wynn be prepared – rates are $399 for Thursday night, and $699 each for Friday and Saturday (cheapest rooms). The current largest hotel, the MGM Grand, with 5,034 rooms, was still accepting checkins for Friday/Saturday stays. It’s only $90 for Thursday, but $599 each for Friday and Saturday. The Venetian also goes up over the weekend, from $259 on Thursday to $699 Friday/Saturday. The 3,933 room Bellagio is already booked for Saturday. You can get a cheap night at Bally’s or off strip at the Hard Rock for only $399 per night.

Most of the city’s 134,000 rooms are already booked and paid for. If you wait any longer you might end up staying out at Pahrump.

Though I keep forgetting, for Clare:

1. Having a warm bed in one of the biggest party towns around.
2. Being old enough to spend New Year’s Eve without getting too drunk and not really remembering to enjoy it.
3. Having an enjoyable New Year’s day because we’re not overenjoying the Eve.

Hope you all have a nice quiet celebration with friends. We’ll be watching old movies. (no, no clowns here, Fred & Ginger came dancing in for the holidays.)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Day after Christmas at work

We had a nice Christmas. Youngest son drove out in his pretty new yellow car from San Francisco. I got a new version of the flu and spent the last four days in bed, sitting here at work because I just HAD to come and fix something, wondering why I’m still not back there sleeping. Seems like 96% of the company employees took off this week, so it is nice and quiet.

It seems like the preferred method of entertainment at my house has shifted over to the ‘let’s watch the seven month old and get excited whenever she blinks’ mode. We usually have a big Christmas Eve meal, then just do leftovers on Christmas day. When small the kids would be filled with stocking treats and not want to eat anyway. This year we did a Honey Baked Ham – those are about the best thing around, if you like ham. Just nice (and NO COOKING) and lots of leftovers for sandwiches. So I had an easy cooking day. When in late afternoon we found ourselves all waiting for Eli’s next burp (OK, she is cute, but come on, there is still a world out there) I was rather happy to say ‘I’m still feeling sick, off to bed for me’ and getting to leave. Quick Joe, change the topic.

OK, on to the two kids left at home. I put a shot of Buster in a short while ago. Also a lot of house interior shots. I did not post any pics of our bedroom. It is one of the rooms that we haven’t gotten to for remodeling yet. We’re still trying to figure out the closet and bathroom stuff, and just what to do. Besides, all the extra furniture shifted to our room when setting up for the guests, so it’s just a ight crowded. But here’s a pic of our bed.

You can see the nice headboard we made – B covered it with a nice cloth that matches the pretty bedspread and the pile of pillows that we sometimes put on when making it nice. But if you look closely in the middle you can almost see why it does not always look so nice. And why we have such a plain sheet thrown on top of everything. It’s that black spot in the middle.

Why, it’s Mr. Maxie. You can make out his ears, even if his nose is burried under his paws. He likes laying on my pillow. Max knows that he is number one when I’m not around, and if I wasn’t bigger than him he probably would assume that all the time. One more reason to get small dogs – a lot easier to kick across the room if they try to make trouble.

But Max and Buster have been spending more time locked in the bedroom. Our daughter just knows that Max would bite her precious Eli if allowed near her, so they get exiled whenever the group comes over. I’ve been joining them these past few days, and looks like I better take off early today and do some more time there before I pass out here at work.

So not pretty shots of the Christmas group here today, sorry. I’ll leave you one of a recent sunset, while sitting at the light a few evenings ago waiting to turn past the end of the airport.

Along with a nice blob on the windshield. But I come in to nice golden sunrises each morning, and loverly pink sunsets on the way home each night. All daylight hours being spent here at work. With the jet stream curving south during the winter we have a lot of high clouds, but usually bright afternoon sun and no precipitation. Christmas eve it was up to 72f in our back yard. A little cooler right now, but still not those white lawns that seem so popular in the north around now.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Almost Christmas Eve

We've got the tree done, and everything wrapped.

Went with tissue paper wrapping theme this year.

And today the temp was up to 68f, (30C) and Eli was out in the swing, among some more fallen leaves.

She loves the swing, moving back and forth, with everything to look at.

Oh, passing along some portions of a recently viewed photo - happy stripes!

And for Clare:

1. Family coming over for Christmas dinner.
2. Everybody still talking to each other (sorry Jane).
3. Looking forward to a nice HoneyBaked ham for the meal.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bellagio Christmas 2005

Last Saturday we thought that we would get into the ‘Christmas Spirit’ and go wander around a mall, and go see the Bellagio Christmas display.

The week before we hit the Meadow's Mall, which seems to be the standard type indoor shopping center as seen around the west coast. It’s rather good size, with two levels, one hundred and fifty or so small stores and six or seven big ‘anchor’ tenants. At the ends are Sears and Penny’s, with Dillard’s and Macy’s and a big food court in the middle. In the center courtyard is a play area for the kids.

Which was filled, probably watched by one parent while the other was doing Christmas shopping and filling up the trunk.

They had a nice area in front of Sears for Santa, where you could talk to him and of course buy a photo with him.

We did most of our shopping there. I got some neet new red sneakers (I’ll have to get a shot of those).

This past Saturday we decided to go to the Fashion Show Mall. This is right on the Strip, across from Wynn’s. It used to be a small place, but two years ago they doubled in size and added the fancy ‘cloud’ overhang out on the Strip side. This is a big silver flying saucer, visible for miles, on which they project images. There are a bunch of big stores and several hundred smaller ones. It caters more to the ‘high end’ shopper, with lots of jewelry stores, and Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom’s among the bigger places. They have some fancy decorations hanging around, big ornaments with feathered showgirls sitting or standing on them.

This one is down one of the smaller wings, it's not on the main mall. It is a convenient place for us to get to, right down Desert Inn, under the freeway and into the back entrance to the parking garage. It’s about three miles due east from our house. It is a good place to park when going to casinos on the Strip. We hit the Starbuck’s on the way through and wandered South on Las Vegas Boulevard. This takes us past the TI (Formerly known as Treasure Island), Mirage and Caesar’s Palace before the Bellagio, all on the west side of the street.

The TI used to be more of a kid’s oriented pirate themed place. There were skulls and pirate chests full of gold coins all over the place, with a big kid’s play area. Out front is a small lake with two big sailing ships, that nightly played out a battle between pirates and a British warship. I thing the British ship is the one that always sank in the end. Lots of ‘yo-ho-ho’s’ and waving of swords. Last year they, along with most of the other kid oriented places, switched back from kids to adults. The pirate battle became the ‘Sirens of TI’, with one ship filled with scantily clad (well, scantily clad for the rest of the country, almost covered for Vegas values) pirate maidens fighting a ship full of men. They run the show a half dozen times a night, but I haven’t been down to see it. When we are on the Strip at night it’s usually down the south end at the Luxor and MGM. So I don’t know which ship sinks at the end of the battle.

But here is a shot of the ships that you will not see if you come to Vegas to view the show:

The show is closed for December (opening back up on Christmas day) for work. All the water has been drained, and the ships are being painted. Interesting to see how a concrete ship is made to look like wood. This ship does not move, and you can see a deeper area out front, where the pirates ‘fall’ off the top rigging into the water. Usually there is only three feet of water around, but the deeper spot lets the pirates fall safely. The other ship comes from around the corner to battle this one:

You can see the rails it moves on, and the small stacks scattered around produce the explosions of cannon balls. It comes around above the water, and then ‘sinks’, and drops about six feet down to the level it is now. Since this one is black with the big bull head and horns, and the other white with pearls I am assuming the guys are on this one and the Sirens on the Pearl ship. So I am assuming the girls win all the battles, with the guys sinking.

Past the Mirage, with it’s big volcano out front (sorry, it only erupts at night – lots of flames) and into Caesar's Palace. This is the entrance to the shopping area:

Just opened after a major rebuild, they also added a lot of stores. No big anchor tenants, but lots of little places. Because it is off of the casino there are some expensive places, full of jewelry and stuff. No match to Wynn’s Ferrari dealership, but lots of things. There is also a Playboy store, full of feathery things and little articles.

This entrance is lower than the main casino floor, so there are circular escalators that take you up two levels. The only circular escalators that I have ever seen.

Next was the Bellagio. They too have big ornaments with showgirls on top.

These are also in their shopping area, which like Caesar’s is only one level. But it is much smaller, and only with fancy stores – Jimmy Chu shoes, Dior, Gucci, Prado and others.

Down past the main lobby with it’s ceiling of glass flowers to the conservatory. This is a big glass room that is filled with a seasonal display, changed four times a year. This year’s Christmas (sorry, Holiday) display is full of penguins and polar bears.

The polar bears are covered with white mums. The penguins are just covered in feathers. There are some big trees and the squirting fountains that I like.

Full of pointsettias and a big cranberry bog. I think the one two years ago was the best we’ve seen. That one was more of a winter scene, with snow falling from the ceiling and a frozen pond and stream.

Walking back we stopped on the bridge over Flamingo. This corner has Bally’s, the Flamingo, Bellagio and Caesar’s.

In the Vegas show they had on PBS recently this corner was discussed, at this one intersection are more hotel rooms than in all of San Francisco. You can't make it out too well, but just to the left of the 'Ballys' sign is a hugh poster of one of the showgirls from their event Jubilee taken from the rear. I wonder what that woman thinks, every time she looks up and sees her 'rear' view, in a thong and fishnets, up above? I'm not sure I would like my butt enlarged to twenty feet high out where millions of people see it every month. But then I'm not a showgirl. She's probably quite proud to be chosen for that poster. The front view is the basis for a big billboard that is all over town:

The Ballys sign underneath is actually one of those hugh TV screens, with images of the shows and events going on there. Oh, I see I also got one of our many many stretch limos down under the sign. I'll have to do a photo thing on the limos of Vegas.

We walked past one of the new double decker busses that now travel from downtown on the Strip:

Advertised as a ride that you can see everything from. Looks like there are nice views from the upper level.

Across from TI is the Venetian, on the corner across from Wynn’s and the Fashion Show. Right now this is listed in the top ten largest hotels in the world, I think around six or seven. They are in the process of building a new tower, with more shops below.

After construction it will move up to be the largest hotel in the world, rated by number of rooms. It will have over seven thousand hotel rooms. This will push the MGM Grand down to number two, but not change the number of hotels in Vegas in the top ten as it just slides up.

You can really see from this shot that it was cloudy in Vegas Sunday. The storm system that brought two and a half inches of rain to San Francisco in twenty four hours, and lots of snow in Tahoe and Denver, was far enough North to keep rain away, but the clouds were still here.

Back in the Fashion Show we did some shopping and had a late lunch at Nordstrom’s coffee shop. Good food, not very expensive. The main central feature in this mall is a runway that comes up in the center of the mall, upon which they have fashion shows every few hours. This week they are doing a Santa’s Walk as part of the show, with dancers and Santa.

Sorry Santa didn’t come out too well, the bright lights down there kind of overpowered everything else. I didn’t get a shot of the place Santa sits, but it is a lot smaller than the one at Meadow’s, just a big chair and some ornaments, with a camera. Not as many kids at this mall.

That was our short trip down the strip. We walked through TI, Caesar’s and Bellagio – three casinos are enough for one day. After all, we live here and can see the others at any time. We usually only hit three or four per trip, unless showing out of town guests around, then we just walk their feet off, which is usually only four or five places.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

December flowers in the yard

Yesterday, being the last weekend before Christmas, we got together to do this:

We usually bake up several types, then put together plates and give them out to the neighbors. My favorites are the tollhouse – chocolate chips, with walnuts, and I put in dried cranberries for a little softer chew.

While waiting for the oven to cycle I noticed that the front fountain was still frozen –

It was down to 26f Friday night, and by 11, when I took these shots, most of the ice had melted. Seeing the ice, and thinking of the snow reported across most of the northern states, I thought that it would be nice to show you what my yard looks like the week before Christmas. So I wandered around looking for what was in bloom.

We put two shoestring acacia trees right outside the kitchen window. These trees stay rather slender but get tall – around 60 ft. Right now after a year and a half in the ground these two are up to fifteen feet. When they bloom they have these nice little puff balls. The puffs are only about a half inch in diameter (12mm)

Unfortunately they also put out tons of pollen, so if you have any allergies you will notice these trees. Most desert plants put out a lot of pollen, because they are so far apart and usually depend on wind rather than insects for pollination.

Always in bloom are our rosemary plants.

We put about fifty along the low wall separating the desert back and the grass area. They smell nice, especially when you brush against them, and the little blue flowers are always there, and it’s good for cooking additions.

Also out back is the alyssum. This plant always has white flowers, but usually dies back with the cold, so it was surprising to see some still around.

We have quite a few different types of sage brush around the yard. We put a row of twenty out front behind the front wall – those produce a beautiful purple row when they all bloom – you almost can’t see any green for all the flowers. But we have a half dozen along the side, under the shoestrings, and there are still a few flowers hanging around.

Out front we put a lot of little plants around. Whenever we are at a nursery and see something that catches our eye we usually buy one or two and put it out. That’s what’s nice about having desert landscaping instead of grass, you can put plants anywhere (well, anywhere in reach of the drip hose for water) and they fit. We put in two little yellow flowering bushes, they are less than a foot high each.

But we still have some flowers left.

We put some acacia bushes out front – these are now about eight feet high, and are covered in yellow several times a year. This one still has a lot of flowers, and some of the long seed pods from the last bloom.

Under the yellow bush we have some purple lantana – we have assorted colors of lantana scattered around.

The lantana usually dies back from the cold, so we cut it to the ground, and it grows back larger every spring.

Across the front, planted down among the lantana and other things along the front courtyard wall, we put in some assorted bulbs. I was surprised to see the paperwhites in bloom.

They usually come up and bloom in the spring.

So that’s it for flowers in December. We walked around the strip today, to see the Bellagio Christmas display and hit the mall. Those shots to come.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas decorations

No generic holiday season around here.
We put up our tree, actually Bobbie put it up and filled it with many little lights. In San Diego we had so many lights on the tree that our December electric bill went up $120. But we had a big tree, and many lights. Most of the houses on our street really went out and filled the front of their houses with lights and decorations. We just had a really big arched window with the tree behind, so we lit it every evening. And it did light up the street way out in front of the house.

The tree here was smaller, and we just expanded and purchased a five footer. And lots of additional lights. B likes the little round ball lights, so we hit Target and purchased another five 100 light strings to fill in the lower six inches.

We filled up one of those power strips, what's plugged in are extension cords that run up to the middle of the tree. So each of these have three strings plugged in, plus strings plugged end to end. I don't want to estimate how many little lights are on this thing.

But it does sparkle prettily.

At work they are having a cube decoration contest again. With each group trying to outdo the next.

I am particularly impressed with our help desk techs.

They filled their tree with CDs, memory cards, mice and other sundry electronic components. And topped with the box from a 160gb hard drive and a CD triangle. Of particular note is the fireplace screensaver playing below.

Another offer!

Your present homeloan makes the grade for you to receive generous revenues.

Our service will reconcile you with the most adept broker, so that you will have more dollars in your statement at the end of each month.

Its really that simple..

Myriads of Americans are Re-Fi-Nancing their dwellings every day.

Now its your time.

This short 1 minute form will be your next action towards categorical financial security.

With warmest regards,

Rachel Guthrie

And for Clare
1. Getting marvelous unexpected offers that will take me towards categorical financial security.
2. Thinking about all the options I have.
3. Realizing just how easy it is to send out millions of solicitations, and if only one tenth of one percent answer you could still get rich (robbing that little percentage blind).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hats for Jane

Eli came over today with a new outfit from Canada. B loved the hat with little tassles on top. I too got a new hat.

Buster came over to say hi. Both guys are fairly jealous of Eli, another small thing that takes attention away from them.

Notice anything special about this picture Jane?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Can't thing of anything to say (again)

Thinking of something to say, but nothing exciting comes to mind (better get that camera out again).
Stop me if you’ve heard these before.

A priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar. A duck, sitting at the bar, hops off his stool and walks out saying ‘looks like I’m in the wrong joke’. (ba-da-bum)

And one prompted by somebody’s recent post, who I will not mention.

A little old lady goes to her doctor for a checkup. As he is finishing up the doctor asks her if she has any other problems. She replies, “yes, I have a problem with gas. I’m always passing gas, but it does not bother me because it is quiet and does not smell, so nobody notices. As a matter of fact, I’ve been doing it the whole time I’ve been in here. But it would be nice if it didn’t happen.” The doctor thinks for a while, then writes her a prescription, telling her to take two pills a day and come back in two weeks.
Two weeks go by, and she is again at the doctor’s office. He asks how things are, and she replies “still have the gas, still quiet, but now it smells really bad.” The doctor thinks for a while, then says “OK, now that we have your sinuses cleared up let’s work on your hearing.” (ba-da-bum)

And for Clare:

1. Having friends around that make you think, and sometimes laugh, even if it’s at yourself.
2. Twinkling Christmas lights on the cubicles around work. It’s not quite as much as the casinos on the strip, but still blinky.
3. Thinking of a flaming rum punch (OK, watching Wonderful Life again) and Christmas Pudding (yes, Scrooge). I’ve never tried either, but both conjure up thoughts of interesting tastes.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

John, thanks for the memory

Thanks for the reminder (boy, lots of people coming up with things that I forgot, thanks to you all) to lorum ipsum. Today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I don’t remember the Beatles first coming here, but I do remember their songs while in high school, and watching the Yellow Submarine when it first came on while I was in college. Sorry, John. Lorum says it very well.

PBS radio was doing a segment on John this morning, listening while driving in. They were playing an interview he did on the Dick Cavett show, just after John’s thirtieth birthday. He was remembering back when he was 25, and at that point thinking that he didn’t want to be playing ‘Sunshine’ when he was 30. At that point he wanted to move on. This resulted in a big discussion of the Beatles being an old group full of old me, still on stage playing all the oldies. What flashed through my mind was the poster for the Rolling Stones, coming back in March for another concert. In San Diego several years ago they came to the stadium with their ‘Steel Wheels’ tour, and the DJs there were calling it the ‘Steel Wheelchairs’ tour. Guess they pull in enough that the money is worth it, nobody ready for Branson (or a Vegas Casino spot) yet. (Not to put down Elton John, with his regular Caesar’s Palace spot, or the performers in Branson).

Scroll down to her Dec 6 posting with it’s Chanukah tribute.

Time for some fall Vegas shots. The freeze last weekend (frozen fountain shots somewhere below) also hit our tomatoes.

We still had quite a few green ones ripening on the vine – we get tomatoes here until they freeze. Down in San Diego we didn’t get so cold, and so had tomatoes all winter, usually pulling out the vines when we put new ones in around April.

Also in our backyard, the peach tree is losing it’s leaves, and the ash trees are turning a nice deep purple. (not as pretty as Lorum’s suit, but nice).

And these leaves are falling also – so I get to walk through crunchy fall leaves in our backyard too. At least I can still walk through them, without brushing aside the white stuff most of the north has now.

And for Clare:

1. Having friends that appreciate things.
2. Being able to remember things from long ago, and enjoy them all over again. (sing along – ‘We all live in a yellow submarine . . “
3. Bright red and pink and orange sunrises (but not having to be up that early to see them).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pearl Harbor Day

Well, thanks for the reminder from Virginia Gal. Today is December 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I wasn’t around, but having a father in the Navy during WW2 and a father-in-law with Pearl Harbor stories I do have other’s memories. But what are we supposed to remember, the unpreparedness of our military, the shortsightedness (lots of ness’s) of our government, or beware of the ‘evil enemy’? I hope it’s to remember the lives lost. At least back then we went to war with the country that actually attacked us.

On the same post she also listed – ten unusual things about myself, things you might not know or think about me. That’s a hard one, I’ve been writing here for a while. But then, it would take a lot more posts to list all the things I’ve done. So I’ll base a lot of these on hers:

1. I don’t swear like a sailor, even though I have been one. In conversation I rarely ever say a naughty word.
2. I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every time it comes on, though I don’t own the video.
(well, that’s as far as comparisons go, no New Kids on the Block posters)
3. I would love to sell everything and move to France (sorry Johnny, not Portugal). Only went there on one trip, but I loved it all. (well, maybe if I ever visit Portugal I’d change my mind)
4. I always watch “Pulp Fiction” when it comes on, but really only to see John Travolta do the Twist. I love his moves.
5. I rather liked being in the Navy, and would have reenlisted and become a ‘lifer'if I hadn’t been accepted to college. (cue “In the Navy” as background music) (I almost always have background music playing in my head - oh, that could be another one).
6. My favorite movies to watch are the old Busby Berkeley musicals – “Golddiggers of ’33 (Ere whay in hay the oney may!)”, “Forty second Street” “Footlight Parade” – just waiting for them to come out on DVD. Oh, throw in the Fred and Ginger dances too.
7. I used to spend hours on the computer at home, but since we moved and my office is in the house I can go days without turning on the machine.
8. I spend WAY too much time on this type of stuff at work. Surprised my boss hasn’t screamed yet. Must mean the rest of what I do overcomes it.
9. I throw in quotes from old movies and skits during conversations, and almost no one notices (or they are too kind to say anything) and fewer recognize them. Firesign Theatre is a favorite (how does he make his voice do that?)
10. Next week is my thirtieth wedding anniversary. (Wow, how can anyone stand me for that long?) (yes DM, to the same person. Not three years each in ten marriages.)

Blue what?

I work in the IT department of a bank. We use a program that was purchased to keep track of problems and software requests. I was just looking in the work order system to see if anything new was posted for me to work on, and came across this one:

"Blue Pumpkin has not been registering adherence data since 10/24. Jeremy reviewed the process and found the files are moving as expected.

Open a workorder with Witness Systems to have this fixed."

?? I don't even want to ask what a Blue Pumpkin is, for fear of having support of it assigned to me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No pictures, back to complaints

OK, enough pictures, back to political rants and ravings. Those of you that are Republicans or are not from the US can just move on by and ignore this.

The husband of a friend has just returned from his year in Iraq. Yes, National Guard out ‘guarding our nation’. Huh. OK, we can for now skip why we are there, but you #$%^ Republican politicians should know that just saying ‘look forward not back’ does not make us forget, and we hopefully will all remember come the next few elections.

Last week there were some news stories about reporters interviewing servicemen stationed in Iraq and every single one they spoke with was happy to be there, and felt that it was the right thing to do, we were defending our country, and doing a lot of good to a place that an evil dictator had destroyed. My daughter innocently enough believed all of this crap, ever the one to argue, and as most commentators were saying, repeated the idea that if the warriors felt we should be there then why leave before the job was done? My response: how can you really think those guys would be honest when talking on camera? When their bosses would see them?

How many of you talk loudly about problems where you work when your boss is around, or how incompetent management was? I was in the service, I know what would happen. Sure, soldiers are free to speak their mind. But I guarantee that anybody that spoke negatively would soon find things a little different. If Fred spoke out against the war then the future would be full of:

OK, we are out of brushes and need somebody to lick the toilets clean; thanks for volunteering Fred
We think there is a bomb behind that door, and need somebody to push it open; thanks for volunteering Fred
The married guys are going to get two weeks leave to go see their families, but we really need somebody to stay behind and watch things; thanks for volunteering Fred
Our group’s year is up, and we will soon be flying back to the states on rotation, but need somebody to stay behind for another year and train the new guys; thanks for volunteering Fred
Our troop was issued new bomb resistant body armor, but the shipment was one set short for the group, so we need somebody to keep wearing the old stuff that doesn’t really resist the new bullets; thanks for volunteering Fred. Oh, please walk out there onto that field and we’ll see if our assumptions were correct.

Get the picture? Anybody that speaks up will soon be the person that ‘volunteers’ for every miserable job. It’s the same everywhere, what’s the expression, the tall blade gets cut back to match all the rest? Yea, I’ll believe those guys really love it there after they speak out when they return.

Well, our friend has returned, and somehow my position has been supported. Too bad the reporters don’t talk to the people coming back and getting out. He talked about the low moral, having to eat cold MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) constantly because the military doesn’t want a crowd to gather in a mess hall. That Thanksgiving shot last year (didn’t see it this year) of Chaney having turkey with the troops, in a tent, at a table with lots of food? Yea, for the hundred guys that got picked for the photo op (no, not Fred of course) for just the one meal. Do you really think they eat like that all the time?

Ever read about the suicide rate among the troops? Our friend knows of 45 suicides over there, just among the larger group he was with for the one year. Spread that out over the full supporting group.

The reenlistment rate is up – soldiers are volunteering to stay for another year. Right. Who’s staying? The younger guys, with no family and no life back home. Most of them joined because of the lack of future in their home town. The older guys want out. Our friend was initially offered $10,000 to re-up, raised to 15 then $20,000. He still declined.

All those TV commercials about enlisting to get training, maybe be a nurse or technician. Right. Learn how to shoot a rifle and avoid being blown up. Enough nursing to learn how to tie off that foot that was just blown off until you can get airlifted to the hospital.

Life is better there now without Sadam. Right. How long have we been there, how many billions on reconstruction? And even the capital doesn’t have power and water every day?

We treat prisoners better. Yea. Listen to excerpts from the Sadam trial – questioning prisoners of that time. Were dogs used? Photos taken of naked prisoners? Piles of nude prisoners? Electricity applied to get you to talk? Hung from the ceiling for days? Wrapped in tarps and beaten? Yes for some of these, but Abu Grabe sounds as if the old guards are still there today, maybe even worse, as now the CIA can fly you off to Bulgaria and you disappear forever.

We are training the local troops to replace us. Sure. Our friend’s job was to train the Iraqis. A little challenging as there were no interpreters and none of them spoke English. Of those that showed up. On one day he might have ten show up out of the three hundred assigned, and he was surprised if the same ones came back. One of his best students ended up being the guy that planted the mess hall bomb. Some student. Even our generals are finally testifying about how few troops are available. A news story on PBS radio a few days ago discussed policemen in some middle size town. Out of five hundred trained and recruited less than a hundred would show up for work, and not all of those were willing to go out and do anything. What do our troops get, two months of basic training – how many years have we had over there, and how many divisions of Iraqi troops are in the field (and showing up for work consistently?)

The Iraqis want us there. Right. Troops only go off base in armor, in groups, usually in armored vehicles. As if they could walk off base for a cup of coffee or something. Sure. If the ‘terrorist’ were such a small minority among the population that wanted us then that small group would have been turned in or shot long ago.

The government always tells the truth. Now that is a real good one. At Condi’s news conference yesterday she responded to questions about CIA transporting prisoners to other countries. Her line was (sorry, just heard it, haven’t seen it in print so don’t have the direct quote) ‘We have never transported anybody for the purpose of torture’. Right, that is not the purpose of the confinement; it’s to get answers. And besides, we do not torture prisoners. The CIA does not define drowning or electric shock or beatings as torture, just normal methods of interrogation. When you are the one making up the definition of what torture is then you can define it any way you want to. ‘Torture is pulling out the fingernail on the left thumb of a prisoner standing on his head on the second Tuesday of the month when a bucket is over his head and a dog is chewing on his leg.’ Well, we use all of the buckets on the first Tuesday of every month to wash the general’s cars, so there, proof that we don’t torture anybody.

It’s nothing like Viet Nam, how could it be compared to that? Right, at least there we had a definite goal, a plan and a result we could point to. (didn’t we?) Besides, there were a lot more trees in Viet Nam. And we didn’t give up when 2,000 troops died, we waited until over 50,000 were killed.

We got rid of Sadam and his troops, the only stabilizing force there. We are now in the middle of a civil war, with a lot of anger being thrown at us as well. No matter how long we stay, no matter how may replacements we train, the civil war will spring out when we leave.

Talk to somebody that has been there. Take him/her out for a cup of coffee and some quiet time. See what they talk about. Find out why they are back here and not over there again.

OK, enough of my political ravings. Every once in a while I need somebody to complain to, and for some reason my wife agrees with me, so I can’t argue at home. And you guys don’t argue back. If you do I can just delete your comments anyway. (if I ever learn how to do the deletions, that is).

Wow, I just read that and it sure sounds as if I'm rambling. Guess I was, so many pictures flying through my head. I'm mad and don't see anything that I can do about it.

Those of you in the UK, anybody there have a returning military person to talk to? The rest of the world, you were smart to stay away.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Marathon update

Listening to my morning radio talk hosts discussing the marathon. One Vegas tradition that was implemented - there was a 'run through' wedding chapel set up on the marathon route. Two dozen couples paused to be married as they ran. How absolutely Vegas. Something I am sure no other marathon offered.

I wonder if the minister was an Elvis?

Monday marathon

The Rodeo’s in town. Every December the National Finals Rodeo comes to Vegas. It’s boots and buckles and big hats everywhere. The month of December is usually light for tourists and conventions, so ten days filled with cowboys helps book the rooms. I thought it amusing that the Mandalay acknowledged the rodeo via their big marque -

Mamma Mia is an ongoing musical playing at the Mandalay nightly. The big poster is almost the same, but if you look closely you can see the bride is wearing a sparkly pink cowboy hat. That just popped on last week.

The other big event that occurred yesterday was the first Las Vegas Marathon. No, I didn’t run – probably would have a hard time just walking twenty six miles. On Saturday downtown there was a 5k Santa run – hoping to get the biggest grouping of Santas in one place, but sorry to say that goal was not met. But the photo in the paper shows thousands of red costumes in the street – That one I would go for, not the 5k run but the 1k walk. Need to get a Santa suit for next year – hopefully we’ll find some sales after Christmas.

The marathon went past our house, just a block down the street. It was at mile 19 and we just had to walk down and watch all those energetic people stream past. The race started at 6am at Mandalay Bay, the last big casino at the south end of the Strip. Runners proceeded north up the strip – that’s why it started at 6 on a Sunday, the only time the county would permit the Strip to be closed. Then through downtown under the Fremont Street light cover, a little more north and west, then turned south down Torry Pines, past our neighborhood, and east on Twain back to the Mandalay – the same route I take coming to work. Winner was Gilber Koech of New Mexico – no, not a Kenyan, doing the run in 2:13 – wow, twenty six miles in just over two hours. I am impressed.

We walked down at 7:30, just in time to see the leaders go by. Along with just about every motorcycle cop in Vegas. I didn’t pull out my camera quick enough for the starters, but here are some of the first wheelchair participants -

Twenty six miles running is really hard on the legs, but imagine all those miles using just your arms? Wow.

That’s the main pack in front of our local school. That’s where there was a water stop – well, most didn’t stop but just grabbed and ran. Looks like they were planning on a lot of drinkers.

There were over twelve thousand participants. It was 35f at the start, warmed up to 45f by 7:30, but everyone seemed to be sweating. A lot of people were lined up here handing out drinks and bananas and energy bars.

For some reason the runners just tossed everything aside instead of stopping to hit a trash can. Go figure. Here’s Bobbie watching the crowd go by.

As you can see, 45f for a standing around local is cold. The runners kept going south here

what they look like going away. There were 45 Elvi (Elvises?) running – I just saw one go by, sorry, again not quick with the camera. He was a younger Vegas Elvis, white jump suit, rhinestones and big hair. As you can see, there might have been a few clouds at the start, but the rest of the day was blue sky and sunshine. I imagine it's a lot better running at 45f than if they held this in July when it would have been 90f by this time of the morning.

And for Clare:

1. Sunday morning with warm coffee and cold air and bright sunshine watching people do what they enjoy doing. (26 miles, wow)
2. Thinking about riding on the back of a bucking bronco, and not having to do it.
3. Bright sunshine and living in a city with lots of things to see and enjoy.