Thursday, January 26, 2006

Thursday thoughts

In assorted notes conversations with Rob he ended up posting a photo of Pandora Peaks. I did not recognize the young woman, but realized that I had posted a shot of her before, back when I mentioned the death of Russ Meyer in September of 2004.

I had posted an observation of ‘typical’ women before. I noticed when living in California that southern California was the home to a large number of extremely attractive women. I usually do the grocery shopping, and whenever I went shopping in San Diego I almost always came across a shopper that would just make me stop and stare. Must be why so many Playboy girls are from California. New York was filled with extremely pale women with lots of makeup – probably due to lack of sun and need to be noticed. Las Vegas is home to very enhanced women. Almost every shopping trip here I come across somebody not quite like Pandora, but close. One of the local newspaper stories about ‘exotic dancers’ said that for every extra inch an entertainer could bring in an extra $10,000 a year. Haven’t been to any of those places here in Vegas, perhaps I should do some field research. (Rob – want to come along on a fact finding study?) I would think that there is a limit to enhancement, but I have seen photos of some women that seem more distorted than attractive. But I guess some guys have a deep-rooted nurturing complex or something that makes them attracted to very large chests.

I can’t comment on other locations, never having been to Minnesota or Virginia or lots of areas in the US. As for Europeans, I am too distracted by the attractive accents.

For some reason this brings to mind a news story on TV yesterday. Evidently a number of men use the Internet to find young women. The news article concentrated on men that are predators on young teenagers (or younger) who end up trying to get together with them for sex. One TV station had people on line in chat rooms pretending to be young girls, and ended up setting up dates with some of the men. They set up meetings at the supposed young girls homes when parents were not there. The men ended up being greeted by camera crews. Some of them were told to enter via the garage, and take their clothes off before coming in. One segment showed naked men entering the kitchen, being confronted by a camera crew asking if they were sexual predators, and filming their excuses. Most had no explanation for why they were naked, and just ran off pulling up their pants. My wife wondered why police weren’t present to also greet these men. But other articles discuss some police precincts having officers do the same thing, and arresting the guys when they do show up. In a later segment of the show we were watching there were some police present that did arrest a few of the guys.

I don't know, but if they were confronting a naked guy in the kitchen of the house where he thought he was meeting a thirteen year old, I would suggest a nice sharp (or rusty and dull) carving knife be used. Cut off those external appendages that motivate him to do such things. Make sure if he wants to visit a kid again he will not be able to do much about it.

I have never been to a chat room, enjoying more the slow pace of typing things in Word and posting after a spell check. Sometimes inappropriately, sometimes just deleting the document without posting. I am usually rushed when leaving comments, and have to apologize for sometimes leaving comments that might seem strange. My mind does not seem to work as fast as my fingers. Quite frequently I have conversations with people, and as I walk away mentally hit myself and say ‘I should have said that’. Can’t think fast enough on my feet (or butt in front of the computer.)

But remember, if you are in a chat room having a conversation with a supposedly attractive young woman (or man) you might really be having an on line discussion with someone like this:

Or maybe even reading a blog. No, not me, just somebody I came across when reading a similar topical warning. (but then again, one never knows, does one?)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Another political rant, wiretaps

I realized that I have been putting up a lot of pictures, and really need to intersperse these with some thoughtful posts. Well, at least posts with words and not pictures. Don’t know why I feel like I need to do this, but for some reason I do.

The latest round of letters to the editor in our local paper deal with the NSA wiretaps. I am surprised at the number of people that don’t mind giving up part of our constitutional protections in order to protect us from ‘terrorists’. Sorry, but I feel the worst form of repression is caused by leaders that think they know how to ‘make things better’ and feel they have to ‘protect’ us by taking things away.

Why does every new law passed seem to take away some of our liberties instead of expand them? Why do politicians feel they have to make things more restrictive? It’s not just on the federal level; our state, county and city politicians and bureaucrats all make more laws every session and never seem to repeal old ones. It’s always “well, you can’t do this now because it’s best for you”.

It’s our President saying “the Constitution puts me above the law, so I can do anything I want to”, with the result being an intrusion onto our personal activities.

News articles in today’s paper show him at NSA defending the taps. If everything were legal why didn’t these go before the judges after the fact? If anybody should show respect for the law it should be those in charge.

Yesterday on TV was a general also defending the wiretaps. He kept quoting the fourth amendment to the constitution. He kept arguing that there was nothing in there about ‘probable cause’, so he could listen in on phone conversations if he felt it important to the national security. The person asking questions evidently had a copy of the Constitution and tried to read from it, but the general kept saying ‘no, you are wrong, I know it and that is not what it says’. Well, from the national archives web site, article 4: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the discussion, evidently our ‘National Security Agency” (NSA) began wiretapping telephone calls within the US without warrants, even though they are not supposed to. Any wiretaps in the US are supposed to be approved by a judge, who would issue a warrant to do so, so as to have an independent person or body evaluate the need. Congress set up a special judicial panel to approve secret wiretaps, which could be applied for up to fifteen days after the tap in cases of emergency. The NSA recorded thousands of phone calls in the US, and never went for approval by this panel. One of the judges on the panel recently resigned because of the government attitude. Our president said approval and warrants were not required because of two things: as president he did not have to abide by the law that congress passed because this was an emergency, and when congress authorized him to attack Iraq it also permitted him latitude to do whatever it takes (or he wants to do) without regard to any previous laws. Most of congress disagrees with these reasons, and two lawsuits were recently filed to contest this attitude.

Not only is it time for a new President, but it’s time that people of importance in our government actually read the Constitution to understand what they are supposed to defend, not read it to find the loopholes.

And now for something completely different.

Explanation for Rob: There are a lot of advertisements here in Las Vegas for events put on by the big casinos. Right now the Wynn has two regular shows: “La Reve” and “Avenue Q”. Avenue Q was brought from a Broadway play showing in New York. It involves puppets that are involved in rather ‘adult’ situations. Wynn is running many radio advertisements for this show, many times a day. Segments of the show are part of the advertisement. One of the segments that are played is a song ‘The Internet is for Porn’. I’ve been listening to this little song snippet several times a day for several weeks now, and for some reason it is stuck in my head, so it seemed very appropriate when I started seeing references to ‘cute’ web sites. Didn’t mean to pick on you, but thank you very much for your response. It was very uplifting. (are those things real?)

From Deana, her eight year old nephew studying Martin Luther King had to write about their own dream. He wrote “I have a dream that the war will end. That peice will come to the world. I have a dream that enemies will become friends. I have a dream that fighting will become playing. I have a dream that doing bad will become doing good. I have a dream that friendship will rule the world.”
Don’t think many people could do better.

And for Clare:

1 Getting a TEN WEEK vacation to roam wherever one wants.
2 Being able to just take off (OK, there was a lot of planning involved) and go places with no thought of people that read your blog every day.
3 Knowing somebody that is about to go on a long vacation, and anticipating the stories they will have on their return.

(Spoken by an American who gets two weeks of vacation a year and works for companies that get offended if you really want to take that time away from work)

Note: for those of you that don't want to get political on your own blog, feel free to email me your editorials. I’ll be happy to put them here without listing your name.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Kokomo update

It’s spelled Kokomo, and Google says there is such a place.

Kokomo Island is part of the privately owned Sandals Royal Caribbean vacation resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It became famous after as the inspiration for the song Kokomo, written by Mike Love and performed by The Beach Boys.
It is a very small island, and according to the Sandals Royal Caribbean website, the only amenities on the island are an Indonesian restaurant, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, and a bar. The island caters to couples on tropical getaways.
As mentioned in Wikipedia

Kokomo Island has it’s own web site. I’d still rather be in St. Martin.

How I spent my weekend

How I kept myself busy this past weekend:

After redoing the back patio we felt it time to move out to the front. We have a big front yard leading up to a gate. The front patio is surrounded by a block wall, with the entrance gate on one side leading to the front door. So when you come up to the house you enter through the courtyard. The walled area had a large concrete pad surrounded by about three feet of dirt on each side. There were a few cracks in the concrete, so we thought we should take it out and put down some pavers or something. The concrete is about 20 x 20 feet( 6x6 meters).

I rented a big electric jackhammer from Home Depot on Saturday morning. This sucker (sorry, Wacker) weighs about a hundred pounds, and is noisy as heck. After starting on the concrete I found that instead of the ‘normal’ three and a half inches of concrete this pad was about six inches thick (15cm). That doubling in thickness really makes a difference – I ended up working the jackhammer for over eight hours in order to break up the concrete. This involved setting the chisel point down about two inches from the edge, pressing the handle to turn it on, standing holding the bouncing device for about two minutes. Then lifting up the jackhammer, setting it down about two inches to the side and doing it again. After hitting two or three points a chunk would break off. Then repeat again. So not only was I lifting this hundred pound machine repeatedly I was holding the device as it tried to jump around, and was listening to the hammering. The results?

Here are the guys examining my work. Now I have about twenty tons of broken concrete to get rid of. I’ve got to call and get a dumpster put out in front of our house next weekend. Then it’s lifting all these blocks into a wheelbarrow, rolling it a hundred feet or so to the dumpster, and putting it in. I’m still sore from all the pounding, now I can look forward to the beginning of next week being sore from lifting and moving all that weight.

I’m still trying to walk every day at lunch. It’s been sunny and getting warmer again – usually around 60f or so in the afternoons. I took some more pictures when walking.

This is about a block away, looking towards the west mountains. You can see the natural desert plants on the vacant lot, and all of the clouds that we get during our damp winters.

This shot is from our parking lot looking north. You can see the typical tilt up industrial park buildings across the street, along with a plane taking off from the airport beyond.

Somebody had a discussion about not liking Gwen Steffani. In support of Gwen, yes she is quite thin but at least she tries to sing. I offer a different person, though physically similar she appears to have no talent. This is a person that spends a great deal of time in Vegas, appearing at the openings of new ‘ultra lounges’ and attending other casino based events, therefore appearing in our newspaper almost continuously. This person is Paris Hilton. Someone else noticed that Paris seemed to always strike the same pose for photos, and put together this delightful montage. The music is rather obnoxious, so be sure to turn down your speakers before clicking on the link. (rather large, don't try it on dial up - sorry Deana)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lunch in the bahamas

I usually have lunch here in the company cafeteria, but we went out for lunch last week to a place that I like, Bahama Breeze. Looking at the web site I see it’s a chain, so you might be able to find one someplace closer than Las Vegas. I tried out my new camera, but didn’t get far enough away for overall shots.

Here it’s located east of the strip on Paradise Boulevard, from work we’ve got to get around the airport and up there. It’s different than other places around here, you can get jerk chicken, but I like the assorted fish dishes. They come out looking really pretty, with sauces made from tropical fruits. Different than other places.

It's got tin ceilings, high fans, waiters dressed in colorful shirts, lots of plants.

On the way back we turned past one of the old style MacDonalds restaurants.

There are a few scattered around Las Vegas. I think they are original rather than new ones built in the old style. There was one on Sahara near my old job, this one is further east on the corner of Flamingo and Eastern. It is not in a tourist area, but surrounded by older homes. Well, for Vegas older homes were built in the 50’s and 60’s.

With all of the nice restaurants here in Las Vegas I like to try going out at least one night a week. Usually we end up at one of the places we’ve been to before, but periodically we do end up at a new one. Usually it all depends on money, as the ones I read about are usually places at the big casinos, which are usually rated as $$$$ on the scale of $ to $$$$.

Last night we hit Sweet Tomatoes, which is another chain, a big soup and salad bar. Filling up on the greens and veggies. I see that most of them are out west, but two are in North Carolina. When my cousin came out from New Jersey to San Diego a few years ago we took her to our favorite soup and salad bar. She was very impressed and had not seen a place like that in the northeast – where you make your own salad, having dozens of things to pile on top. I usually start with a base of plain lettuce, then add cucumbers, kidney beans, blue cheese, tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions, and whatever else looks pretty while walking by. Try as I might I always end up with a pile on my plate so high things roll off.

Other places we end up at include the Red Robin for hamburgers, Twin Creek Steakhouse at Silverton Casino for steak, Texas Steak House or Memphis BBQ for ribs and my favorite Rosemary's. There are also a few Mexican restaurants, and seafood places as well.

Our local Las Vegas Magazine has a section in back where they review restaurants and have a listing of all the bigger ones around town. Sometimes I read the listings and pick one to try. We usually go out on Tuesday or Wednesday night, to avoid the weekend tourist crowds. Most of the regular places are nowhere near the tourist areas, but Friday and Saturday night are still the busy times.

Oh, I see the Silverton is having The Village People, Herman’s Hermits, the Little River Band and Sheena Easton. Some big names there. Silverton is south of the main area, on I-15. It’s the first big casino/hotel you pass coming up from LA, besides the really big places at Stateline and Jean. Still a little ‘off strip’ for most tourists. The have just added a big hotel section, the Bass Pro Shops and redid the casino. It’s mostly filled with locals, tight with lots of slots. Once a week they have free plate give-aways, which really pulls in the older crowd. They then fill up the slots and line up for the buffet. But we go for the steak place, which does not attract the same crowd.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Political game

Thanks to Anna comes a reminder of things past. Before Video Games I used to play word adventures on the computer. The first one I remember was the Collosal Cave on a DEC machine. When I moved to the PC it was also there, along with quite a few others.
For the young, this is before pictures on the computer, you were told a scenario, and typed in instructions. The game responded with words about what happened.

So Anna points us to Defective Yeti for a modern day version. Thanks Anna.

Movie time (Harry and Narnia)

We went and saw two movies last week – the first ones for quite a while. On Tuesday it was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and on Thursday we saw Narnia.

Here in Las Vegas going to the movies is a little different than the rest of the world. Here most of the movie theaters are part of big casinos rather than being stand alone businesses.

Looking at the preview, boy these pictures look dark. In Photoshop they were pretty good, guess I'll have to edit again and bring up the light level. The above shot is of the ticket windows, to the left. Straight ahead is the food court, slot machines to the left. Most casinos now have put in a food court, similar to what you find in shopping centers. Texas Station has a Fat Burger (hamburgers), pizza, Panda Express (Chinese), Japanese, sandwiches, and some others. Usually the bigger the casino the more food places.

Standing at the same place I took the above shot of the ticket booths I turned left a little,

And here are all the slot machines. The local based casinos tend to have more slot machines and fewer table games. I guess people that come often tend to sit and play slots more than stand and do craps or blackjack. Most local businesses have slot machines, I am still not used to going into Vons for my groceries and seeing a half dozen people sitting at the slot machines, no matter what time of day I go in. The Vons near my house is open 24 hours a day, so sometimes I end up shopping rather late, depending on other activities. It’s kind of nice to have a fairly empty store to walk around in.

There is only one multiplex theatre that we’ve been to that is in a shopping center. As with everything else associated with casinos, you have to walk through the gambling floor in order to get to your destination. We went last week to Texas Station. It’s one of the Stations chains, which cater mostly to locals. We also go to the Orleans and the Palms, but since Costco sells cheap tickets (well, if you call $7.50 instead of $9.50 cheap) that are good at Regal cinemas, and Texas is part of the Regal chain, we have been going there. There are about twenty screens at Texas Station, most of them have ‘stadium seating’, with nice big high backed chairs set on steps, so the guy in front of you does not block the screen.

Reviews? Well, I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books, and like them – I can still imagine myself in his place (but please, not high school again). I liked all of the previous movies. But each subsequent book is getting thicker, and I think they are about at the limit of what can fit into a single movie. I am not sure if I liked this one. The first half seemed to just fly by. There was too much going on, and if I hadn’t read the book I would have been totally confused. But since I did read the book I also kept saying ‘why wasn’t that in there?’ I did like the story line, and the way things were portrayed. The special effects are really good – hard to think those dragons were not really there.

Narnia was about the opposite. Again, I’ve got the boxed set of the Narnia books, and like reading them. But these are really thin – the set of six (I think it’s six) together are smaller than the Goblet of Fire book. The graphics were great, but I almost fell asleep several times. Things seemed to be just tooo slowwwwww.

A recent New Yorker magazine had an article on the author of the Narnia books. He was a professor at Oxford along with Tolkein (of the Hobbit series). But C.S. Lewis was really religious, and the Narnia series is pushed as a Christian novel. I didn’t see it, but B was interested enough because of the NY article to go on line to Amazon and order another series that he wrote.

B wants to hit King Kong this week. I am not sure that I am up to three hours of a big monkey, but as this one is her choice it looks like I’m going. Hope I don’t snore too loudly.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lazy Radio

I've mentioned that I listen to different radio stations on the internet. Just got a headphone extension so that I can listen at work (no speakers on the computers here) and I started listening to one of my favorites, French Lazy Radio.

Right now they are playing Kermit the Frog and the Muppets singing "Kokimo" - the Jimmy Buffett song, "way down in Kokimo" (or was it the Beach Boys?) to a calypso beat. When was the last time you heard that song? I know none of the Vegas stations have it on their playlists.

Snow 2006

Did I mention that it snowed on Sunday? This is my third winter here, and for the third year in a row we had some snowfall.

The first year we had about an inch just after Christmas. This was in the daytime, and our yard, olive trees and palm trees were nice and white. It all melted within an hour.

Last year we had almost four inches on New Year’s Eve. But this came down around 3am. For some reason we looked out the window and it was snowing! It lasted until about 10am, so I was able to get some nice photos. These are some big olive trees in my neighbor's yard.

I’ll have to dig out some of the shots. I think I tried to post last year but found that the pics I took were all fuzzy (no, not because of the snow, because of the operator)

Yes, this may not be exciting to most of you, but after seventeen years in San Diego where we did not get any form of frozen precipitation it was amazing to me. I try not to remember Rochester, land of the freeze (probably not as bad as Sweden or Minnesota, though). My time in New Jersey was as a kid, and then snow meant days off from school (snow day! Yea!) and playing, not getting into a cold car waiting for the heater and sliding on the packed roads.

So it looks like there was no snow in 2005. This came down in the middle of the afternoon on Jan 15, 2006.

It sounded like hail out on our steel patio roof. I walked out and enjoyed the sound – it’s nice out there when it rains, listening to rain on the metal roof. Can’t hear it inside, our house is too well insulated. The stuff was about bb size – maybe a quarter of an inch in diameter (6 mm). When I picked it up the pellets were more like little snowballs than icy hail. I don’t know how the weather service classified this stuff. It wasn’t snowflakes, yet it wasn’t hail really. But it came down pretty hard for about ten minutes, leaving the yard about a half-inch deep. And it was all melted within the hour. Our first precipitation for the year.

Cute overload?

I'm starting to see a different side of Rob other than his music. A recent post was a cat, taken from cats, and a previous reference was to cute.

Come on Rob, the internet is for porn, not looking at cute stuff.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Seven things (again I think)

Thanks to Miranda (I’ll figure out a way):
Since several of hers looked pretty good I snitched them directly. (well, you didn't say I couldn't)

Seven things to do before I die:
1. Learn how to put up with idiots.
2. Make it back to Baynac, France. About my favorite place ever.
3. Learn to speak French so that when I go back I can hold a somewhat inteligent conversation with the locals.
4. Get back to the weight I was three years ago.
5. Get all my bills paid off.
6. Keep better notes, so when asked to do things like this and I think I did it before I can find it again.
7. Oganize! (please, don't look at my desk or workbench)

Seven things I cannot do:
1. Keep silent when somebody acts like an idiot when driving. Fortunately I keep my fingers below window level and hope they can't read lips.
2. Keep silent at a meeting when other people are saying/doing really stupid, innane drivel.
3. Not volunteer. Somehow I got talked into something again, after promising to keep quiet. (no, not at work, at a club I'm part of)
4. Better handle multiple things - like the seventeen work orders and three business requests I am in the midst of.
5. Not laugh at others (as long as it doesn't affect me) (Read Dana's post for today)
6. Not pull out that credit card when I want something.
7. Tell my boss he's given me too much and I need help. Without fearing for my job, and the 'well, if you can't handle that maybe we better find somebody that can'.

Seven things that attract me to blogging
1. Ability to share with people that don't say NO! (without even knowing they say no)
2. Post pictures and think that people like looking at what I like.
3. Learn about people I would never come in contact with otherwise.
4. The idea that I might someday meet some of these people I read every day.
5. Learn about places I probably will never get to (Sorry, Minnesota in January is not my idea of fun. But then neither was Rochester and I was there for three winters)
6. Find out some places I would like to visit. (small towns in England and Scotland are now on my list)
7. Ability to say whatever I want without somebody interrupting.

Seven things I say most often
1. Really?
2. You want it WHEN?
3. And now for something completely different. (you should know where this comes from)
4. How does he make his voice do that? (a little harder - Firesign Theatre's Adventures if Nick Danger, Third Eye)
5. Yes, dear (with that little nasal whine)
6. Sure, I'd be happy to!
7. Let me get back to you on that. (in other words, piss off, I am not interested and don't care)

Seven books I love
1. Harry Potter (yes, all of them, so that should count for six)
2. Dune
3. The Door Into Summer (Heinlein)
4. Siddhartha
5. Webster's Dictionary (of course I can't spell)
6. The Yellow Pages (to find that place I almost remember)
7. Lord of the Rings

Seven TV series I would watch compulsively if I only had the time
1. Coupling UK (what guy doesn't love that little blond?)
2. Trading Spaces (UK - with Linda & Carol)
3. Dr. Who
4. Monty Python
5. CSI (the original, heck with the rest of the cities)
6. The Red Dwarf (British thing going on here?)
7. Austin City Limits (OK, varied music but it's on every week)

Seven Movies I could watch over and over if I only had the time
1. Golddiggers of 1933 (ereway inay the oneymay!!)
2. 42nd Street (you're going out there in the corus but coming back a star!)
3. Godldiggers of 1935
4. Footlight Parade (Busby Berkely theme going on here?)
5. Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau version)
6. Orpheus (again, Cocteau)
7. Top Hat (yea Fred & Ginger!)

Did I really do that? Must really not want to get back to that (those) problem here at work.

And from Lisa, some thoughtful questions:

If Milli Vanilli fell in the woods would someone else make the sound? (or are you all too young to remember MV?)

If a mute child swears, does his mother make him wash his hands with soap?

What color would a smurf turn if you choked him?

Can you throw a pyschic a surprise birthday party?

If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy?

Happy Martin Luther King day.

Because of some over commitments made by the boss (OK, because the programmers cannot meet the schedule the boss promised upper management – it’s our fault) we have been asked to put in extra hours. I was working 7am – 4pm, and rather than join the group in staying late (I like getting home early enough to see the sunset) I decided to come in early. So my hours are now 6am – 4:15 or so, depending on those @#$%%^ late afternoon long running meetings.

Coming in this morning, in the dark, I was surprised to see a group standing out by the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign getting their photo taken. I am assuming that they were out all night, and before retiring they stopped for a photo. Well, shouldn’t say stopped as that sign is rather far away from most of the strip. I usually see people there when I drive home, two or three times a week. Last week was another movie shot – at least there were lots of lights and cameras and quite a crowd standing around.

It is nice and quiet here at work that time of morning. The collections group starts up at 5am. With the time difference they start bugging people on the east coast, 8am their time. But collections is in the other building, there are about a dozen customer service people in the cubes over in this building.

And I finally hit Radio Shack this weekend and bought that earphone extension cord I wanted. So now I am plugged into the computer, and can listen to those verbal posts and my French radio stations. I particularly like French Lazy Radio, they have a lot of ‘old standards’ and slower jazz type songs. I’ve tried some French jazz stations but can’t get one that broadcasts consistently. I like listening to music for background as I work, it hides the conversations around me, so I am not too distracted. Since I don’t understand French even the DJs are unintelligible, so it all comes across as background sound to me. But I do want to take some French classes, so that when we go back I can be better at communicating. Guess I’ll have to switch to Russian radio or something then. I tried Japanese, but that really was a bit too much.

Got a new camera when we were in Prescott last week. I’ve been looking for a Fuji Z-1, but it seems to have been a popular model, and everyone local was sold out after the Christmas rush. We were in the indoor mall in Prescott and Sears had one in stock, on sale, so I picked one up. Our last camera, a Gateway I got two years ago, is just too slow. You push the button to take a shot, then count to five, and the camera clicks. Challenging to anticipate what Eli will be doing in five seconds. The Fuji is almost immediate, and at five megapixels it’s the same quality as the GW. A lot smaller, too. I really like it. The eagle shot down below, and the dam pics are off of the new camera as we returned. Now I have to go through all of the shots I took last week and upload some.

Without my own shots here are two I grabbed off of somebody else’s posts a while ago. Kind of like the mad dog. Looked nice.

About what I feel like right now.

And for those old people hanging around, go ahead.

For Clare:
1. Slivers of morning light, about to become sunrises.
2. White stuff falling from the sky. We had some yesterday, wow.
3. That white stuff melting within ten minutes, so I don’t have to walk in it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Sorry I called you blond. Looks like I spent more time on it than you did. Please don't be too mad.

No great ideas

Reading the paper last week I came across one that I found particularly appropriate.

I work in the credit card department of a bank, supporting computer programs for our customer service reps and collections reps. The customer service reps take incoming phone calls, and a different group processes applications. The collections reps place outgoing calls to people with overdue payments. I’m sorry to say that some of our reps might just fit with this cartoon. It is frustrating to get a complaint about a program not working right, investigate it, then show the rep that clicking on the SAVE button instead of the CANCEL button would record information on his phone call. You look here to find regular Dilbert cartoons. A nice alternative is the Dilbert Blog where you can find SCOTT Adams’ (thanks Rob, looks like I can't even read the name on the strip) words. He’s fairly amusing on most of his posts. Guess that’s why he makes so much money – interesting attitude.

I think I posted this one before, but after the recent Christmas holiday season, and all of the interesting religious arguments going around, it seemed appropriate.

And for Clare:

1. Bright orange red sunrises.
2. Getting into a cold car in the morning and having the heater finally warm you up.
3. Having your friendly little dog sit with you and breakfast and showing you out no matter how early you leave.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Thanks Rob, very funny

OK, I have to join in. Rob posted a link to a blond joke. Now, I have known some blonds that really fit the stereotype, and this one probably is pretty accurate. (I didn't think I was blond, but it did take quite a while for me to get this one)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vegas events and cell phones

Just heard on the radio that Ricki Martin is coming back to Vegas to perform. I wouldn’t go to the concert, but I like his songs. The Stones are coming back in March (sold out a long time ago) and Elton John is due in February to take his turn at Caesar’s when Dion takes her break. Almost anybody that tours hits Vegas for at least one show.

The Castaways casino hotel was just imploded this morning (Wednesday). That's a little off-strip, but it was just a block from my daughter's old house. The property is owned by the MGM Grand Corporation, and evidently they don't have plans yet for the property. Must be nice to have so much you can afford to just create an empty lot and sit on it.

The Boardwalk on the Strip closed yesterday. It’s to be knocked down for the MGM CityScape expansion. Just announced that the Stardust will also come down. That property will become another small city project, over four billion dollars ($4,000,000,000) to be spent, with four hotels totaling 5,300 rooms, condos, shopping, convention space, several casinos and pools and dozens of restaurants and shows. Since the rooms will not all be in one hotel the Stardust replacement will not make it to the ‘most number of rooms’ list.

Jane is talking about her cell service just granting her 23 minutes a month extra access. What kind of cell services are ‘standard’ in your area? We use the Verizon Family Share plan. We’ve got three cell phones, myself, B and daughter. We get 500 minutes a month to share between the three phones, plus unlimited calls between the three of us, no matter where we are in the country (if there is Verizon service in each area). So when we drive down to Prescott, which has service, we can call our daughter if she is in Vegas up in Seattle as much as we like with no extra charges. This costs us about $90 per month, with taxes and fees. We can add extra minutes, but since we’ve never used over 300 that isn’t an issue. Extra phones on the same plan are $9.90 each per month, sharing our minutes but free calls within the group.

My daughter thought it was funny when we gave her a phone, she could see no reason to have one. When we came up from San Diego looking for a house we got a Vegas cell phone, so our real estate agent could call us on a local number. It still worked in San Diego, but with long distance charges. (we already had two phones in SD). When we moved up here we changed the Vegas account to a family share, and moved our two phones here, giving the new one to our daughter. She never thought she would have a reason for a cell phone, but we liked the idea of her having one, if she worked late at school or something. So now, almost three years later, when we get the monthly bill it lists all calls per phone. I usually am down for twelve or thirteen minutes, B is down for about the same, and our daughter is usually around 250 or 300 minutes. This from somebody that didn’t see any reason to get a cell phone.

Our sons in San Francisco each have their own cell phones. Neither of them have a phone in the house, they only use the cell phones. We have two phone lines in the house, one for calls and one for a fax machine I use with customers. We also have high speed internet access on our TV cable system. Boy, talking about it, I’ve never felt so connected.

Note: San Diego is about three hundred miles away, a five hour drive. San Francisco is about 580 miles, ten hours drive time. We’ve been back to SD a few times, but nobody there we really want to see. Our sons have driven here from SF, but we haven’t driven out there yet from here.

Swede prep

I’ve still got some pictures floating around from November, so I thought that they might as well get posted here. Besides, DM gets kind of disturbed if I don’t post things frequently so she has something to read. (Hi Dana!)

Those of you that know what these are for, well, sorry that you do. But this was part of our preparation for the Swedes, and we found that some of these items were very useful.

We’ve got lots of bookshelves and built in cabinets around the place. The last owner seemed to have a thing for oak, and had a lot of built-ins put up when they added on to the house. We aren’t an ‘oak’ style family, and will probably start taking some of them out. But the above item was very useful, and we found the one cabinet that we did not treat was quickly found. It’s not fancy, but it worked.

These things, however, were thankfully never really noticed.

I guess some kids love to find places to stick things, but the boys didn’t seem to care.

We put some foam around our front room coffee table, and these things on the corner of the fireplace.

With eighteen month olds not walking very well we thought the stone corners would be encountered, but they seemed to walk well enough that it didn’t matter. Adam quickly peeled off the foam and these things too. We did have to run out and get some latches for the kitchen cabinets and drawers, Axel liked to pull open drawers and throw stuff on the floor. I guess there is some kind of fascination with items being put away neatly.

I did take off the latches, but we soon will be needing them again. Our daughter is on break, so we haven’t seen Eli for a few weeks. Daughter teaches third grade at a year-round school, and gets three to five weeks off every quarter. She took Eli up to Canada for two weeks, so the other grandparents can enjoy her. We are expecting crawling to commence fairly quickly, dad is trying to teach here to walk (a little early for seven months) and mom is teaching crawling. I think they should appreciate the fact that she just lays there, as soon as she can get around they will find out how non-kidproof their house is.

Right now we’ve got her confined to a jumper, which she seems to enjoy.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Drive to Prescott

We drove over to Prescott, Arizona for the weekend. Went to see one of B’s old friends, and just do a long weekend away. This is a 250 mile drive, about four and a half hours. Down 84 and across Hoover Dam, my first time over the dam, east on 40 then south a ways.

Driving from the west we first came upon one of the many power distribution stations – the power units at Hoover supply most of Las Vegas’ electricity.

Just before the dam we came upon a strange image, looks like the power poles are about to fall over.

Since the generators are at the bottom of the dam the power lines come up the cliff face and over the road, so the towers are built at this strange angle. The gold building is a new visitor center, still under construction.

This is what the back side of the dam looks like from the east side. After four dry years the water level in Lake Mead is down quite a bit. Water is usually up near the top. You can see the white rocks to the left, usually covered.
As is happening so much around the US, Homeland Security was at work, looking into every car driving over the dam. Trucks are not permitted (I guess they are afraid of a bomb, though it would take quite a lot to hurt this much concrete.) Because of the 'threat' a bridge is being built a few thousand yards downstream, to move all traffic off of the dam.

A little further east we can see down the canyon to the Colorado River flowing south.

If the mountains look kind of bare that's because they are - just dirt and rock with no trees or plants.

In Prescott we stayed at the Hassayampa Inn, one of the older hotels.

It was built in 1902. We usually like to stay at the old places, they seem to have a lot more character than a modern Holiday Inn. An old brick building, with creaking wooden floors.

Downtown is rather small, the population of Prescott is not very large, but new houses are going up all around, with people coming up from LA and Phoenix. It’s 95 miles from downtown Phoenix, so some people move here and commute to the northwestern areas of Phoenix. Prescott is at about 6200 feet above sea level - like Denver they call themselves the 'mile high city'.

The center of town is the courthouse. They still have their Christmas lights up.

Prescott was the government center of the Arizona territory from 1860 until 1898. Gold was discovered in the area, which attracted the first population boom. Following the miners were of course bars and saloons. The west side of the square is called ‘Whisky Row’, which was filled with small bars. There was a big fire in 1901 that burned down most of downtown, so almost all of the buildings around the square were built right after that. Whisky Row was also rebuilt, so there are still a lot of watering holes there.

A few blocks away are some really nice old Victorian houses, that were outside of the fire area.

We took an afternoon ride over the mountains to a small area called Skull Valley. There is one small store and a gas station.

The Southern Pacific railroad line runs through town right across from the gas station. There are probably about a dozen houses scattered around. But land even here is starting to sell – probably developers gathering the acreage for future developments.

The area symbol is a skull with a bullet hole in the forehead - very 'old west'.

We spent two nights in Prescott, mostly with B’s friend. Driving back today we drove through the Kaibob National Forest – similar to most southwest forests in that there are not very many trees. But B’s good eyes caught a big white headed bird sitting in a treetop.

We stopped for some pictures – don’t know if you can see it, but it’s some type of really big eagle. The tree it's sitting on is about twenty feet high. All the trees in this area are almost exactly the same height. This area is around 7,000 ft in elevation.

Driving back, just before the Colorado River again, the road was cut down into these rolling hills.

You can see the typical western scrub brush, but I just thought the nice pattern looked pretty.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Le Reve at the Wynn

Our kids gave us tickets for the new show at the Wynn, Le Reve. It’s a Franco Dragone production, similar to all of the Circ du Soleil shows on the strip.

We went to see “O” at the Bellagio a few months ago and were really impressed. (pictures someplace in History). Le Reve is similar in that it all takes place over a pool of water. But while the stage for “O” did come out into the theatre there was still a curtain that closed, and a backstage area where performers and things came from. Le Reve takes place in a theatre in the round, where the stage is surrounded on all sides by seats. There are three entrances where performers wander in from, but most of the action takes place right in the middle of the audience.

The stage is composed of a lot of round areas and sections, is on hydraulics, and raises and lowers as the show progresses. At some point the whole stage is just a the surface of the water, so performers can walk around, and at other steps areas drop down so people can swim and dive. A lot of the action takes place in the air, with people and objects dropping down from the high ceiling, and others being lifted from below the water to disappear up in the sky. I don’t know how deep the pool is, but as in “O” there were some divers dropping into the water from above the ceiling, over sixty feet high. There are lots of fountains, falling water, and at times rain falling from the sky.

(Sorry, my camera does not do too well in low light situations).

The show starts out with the stage being a circular ring around the pool. A group comes out, and starts interacting with the audience. As at the other Dragone shows there are performers that wander through the audience periodically, picking on some people. At this show it was bald guys that were singled out for attention. There were about sixty performers; almost all the swimmers and male acrobats had shaved heads. The women wore an assortment of bathing caps with different plastic hairstyles, from short red hair to curly blond.

Things get confusing very quickly. More and more people swim and fly in. There is no story line to this show, it is all supposed to be short dream sequences. The show starts with somebody coming out and climbing into the bed floating center stage (you can see it in the above picture). The bed sinks underwater, and the ‘sleeper’ then wanders through periodically, interacting with the rest of the group. At the end he again climbs in bed, but this time is lifted up to disappear into the sky rather than sink down below the water.

I tried to get some shots of the performers flying up and down,

Most of the shots show something hanging in the air.

It really was rather impressive. These guys are real acrobats, with muscles to show for it. The climb on a big metal tree that rises up, they hang from swings that come down, the lift each other up and throw people around. It was all really confusing. There was usually too much going on to take it all in.

But all in all it was rather impressive, and worth going to. If you have not been to Vegas in a while, or seen any of these shows, I would recommend starting them in sequence. Start with Mystere at the TI, then perhaps hit “O”. I liked those better. I think the cost reflects the shows, Mystere is the least expensive, with seats starting at $60 – with two for one deals for locals during December. “O” tickets start at $99, and Le Reve tickets are all $110, except for the front row, where you WILL GET WET (called the “splash zone”). You have to add some fees to these base prices. I would most recommend the very top row for “O”, it’s up high, but you get to look down under the water and see what’s going on.

If you want to come out in December, we can get the locals deal and save you some money. Rooms are usually cheaper then too (except for the New Years Eve period).

So, we loved our Christmas present. Hope you all enjoyed whatever you received.

Monday, January 02, 2006

How I spent New Year's Eve

Just a quiet Saturday. I was sleeping part time (still trying to overcome this cold) and alternating with working on a customer’s program changes. The kids came over for our evening festivities.

I busied myself in the kitchen baking another batch of chocolate chip Tollhouse cookies (with cranberries and raisins – yum) while the group sat nearby watching the tellie. Son in law (oh, hurts to say that) had set up the video camera on Christmas day to first film Eli at home (for the full hour and a half tape length) then sitting at our house (another hour and a half tape). So there was a three hour video session watching Eli sitting on Christmas morning.

I’m sorry, she is cute, but when gatherings turn to watching Eli sit and burp it becomes a little much. But then our New Year’s Eve celebration becomes three hours of watching video of Eli sit and burp it really is too too too much. Sorry, but I don’t remember ever being this bad when the kids were little.

After I delayed by cooking for long enough, then washing up, I just went into my office and worked on the computer. I just will not sit and watch hours of Eli in person, much less hours on tape. Guess I am viewed as a non-loving grandparent, but please, get a life besides the kid.

Last week we watched DGD (Darling Grand Daughter) on a Friday evening while kids went to a company Christmas party. Daughter phoned every half hour to check in, was told Eli’s sleeping. When they get here at eleven they find Grandma sitting holding Eli on the couch. She was starting on a sore throat, we could just hear a little rasp when talking (OK, making noise). Daughter immediately having a fit – ‘why did you say she was sleeping when she wasn’t – we would have left the party and came over’. OMG, come on, so she wasn’t sleeping. Out comes the ever on hand thermometer and Eli has a 99.2 F temp. OK, 98.6 is an AVERAGE normal. She is .6 f over. This lead to a trip to urgent care to see a doctor. (no, not us, they went after leaving, not telling us until the next day). Sitting for four hours in the waiting room to see a doctor, wondering why these people were keeping her desperately ill child from the care she deserved. Doc said ‘virus – take her home to sleep, nothing we can do’. And we wonder why health insurance costs are so high, why there is such a wait in urgent care?

Back to NY Eve. After the tapes ran out we shifted to a movie – B wanted to see the Dark Crystal. Always time for a muppet movie (OK, not the Muppets, but a Jim Henson movie). Most of the movie was spent playing with Eli (not me) and as soon as it was over (at 8) off the crew went, home to take care of her. Some diaper filling problems (oh the things discussed with a new first kid) and discussions of another trip to Urgent Care. Come on, kids poop.

We flipped channels, and were slipping away, so off to bed at 10:30. New Years still came without us. Yes, the exciting life of an old married couple. No house full of people, no night out on the strip, no high priced Ultra Lounge, to watch Paris Hilton cavort. Somehow I would rather spend the evening the way we did.

Reading other posts, it sounds like parties were attended, friends were visiting, and good times were had by many. I hope you all have a nice coming year. I say nice, but hope for tremendous for you all.