Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi gra

Happy Fat Tuesday! I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans or Brazil and see the Mardi Gra celebrations. Never wanted to put up with all the drunks though, but the carnivals and parades all seem very celebratory. Especially the films I’ve seen in Brazil – those huge krewes and costumes and music!

Came across some interesting new sites yesterday. Thanks to striped Lisa for a link to Quick Movies in Bun-O-Vision. I would say that Lisa spends too much time on the internet, then look at the fact that I go to most of the sites she points at, plus my own list, and better not even mention computer time. But thanks for the links Lisa!

Oh, better do some pictures – some granddad, been too long without showing her off.

We took our son in law (still feels strange to put that down, I don’t feel old enough) out for his birthday this past weekend. We went to a nice Mexican place in Summerlin (the fancy new area in northwest Vegas) called Agave. It’s a very interesting building, in pinks and purples and oranges, shaped kind of like a big Mexican hat. The food is pretty good, and on the medium priced range. Total cost for four of us, with deserts but no fancy drinks was $75 (plus tip).

The interior is mostly a big round room, with a bar in the center and high ceiling with stars – the camera didn’t focus on the stars, guess it was too dark or something for the autofocus feature. Recipes had a little modern take on Mexican recipes, not the traditional food.

But Eli had a good time. She's ten months old now.

She always seems to be laughing and enjoying herself. Up to stage 3 foods now (bottled stuff with a little texture). And she really likes cheerios. She is in a high chair now, sitting up very nicely.

Grandma plays with her every day, but with my hours I don’t get home in time to see here at all.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Red door and spring

I see it’s snowing back in Rochester again. Don’t know why I keep talking about Rochester, guess it’s because I lived there during my ‘formative’ years in colleges. No, no wild parties, I’m not the wild party kind of guy. I was the quiet shy kind of guy back then, changed that over the years, not the quiet type but changed the shy type. Guess I wasn’t to quiet, for one year I was selected as the College Union Social Chairman. I was the guy that put on all of the concerts and lots of the parties. That’s how I got to meet Dave Brubeck in his underwear (the first time I saw him in his underwear) (no, not that exciting a story) (OK, boxers). We also had Ritchie Havens, Harry Chapin, Peter _ and Mary (after they split up), Weather Report, and Genesis (hey, we’re still listed on their site). You remember Genesis? Back before Kiss they painted their faces white and black, the band Phil Collins used to be in.

But on to the weather here. Trees are starting to bloom. Our peach tree has a few blossoms starting, and some green leaves showing.

Last year it was just a mound of pink, but this year the leaves are coming first, and the blooms slowly, so we will get a longer less brilliant show. You can see the trees behind are still bare. Some of the flowering trees around town are in full bloom, lots of pinks and bright whites.

And for Brighton, we have a red front door too.

When we moved in it was plain and dull green, but we pulled off the trim that made it look like a paneled door, I cut the slots and put in the glass, and B tried a dozen different shades before ending up with this one. Took a while to settle on the ripply glass. I think it looks pretty good. And our little dogs can stand up and look out the windows when people ring the bell.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Oh, Dana

How can you do things like this to me?

I am going to die at 74. When are you? Click here to find out!

Sure, I'm going to be a year older that you will be when you die, but it doesn't leave us much time together - you better start planning something here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

My favorite movie

I listed some of my favorite movies a while ago. Most of them are the Busby Berkely musicals from the early thirty’s. Most of the rest are Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers flicks. Guess I have a thing for all the choreography and swirling around. A while back I found a CD of Fred Astair singing the songs from his movies and it’s on my top play list – he’s pretty good at those types of songs.

For something completely different – I was just on the MGM Grand web site, and they are having Tom Jones back in the small showroom. With Englebert Humperdink and Barry Manilow having shows in town it’s like old singer month, t to mention the Rolling Stones show in March (oops, just mentioned it, didn’t I?)

Back to the movies.

One of the other movies on my list is one that I think very few people have seen. It’s Jean Cocteau’s La belle et la bete (Beauty and the Beast). It’s black and white, made in 1946 in France. I had a video disk of it years ago, which unfortunately I loaned to somebody that never gave it back. Thinking about it when I made up the last list prompted me to go searching, and I found that Barnes & Noble carries the Criterion Collection of DVDs. I ordered two and over the past two weeks I have watched it four times. Last night, instead of getting to bed early in preparation for my 3am wake up call, I watched it again on my PC and captured some screen images to show you.

I majored in photographic illustration back in college (no, not computers, that’s an earlier posted story), and my heart still is with well made imagery. Still photos and well made movies are a joy. (look at Deana's b&w shots of the snow for some good images). I cannot really show how very nicely this movie comes across. The scenes are all kind of misty and faded, things are just a little strange, but it all works very well.

It’s from an old French fairy tale, the love story of a beautiful woman and a beast. I think the Disney version was created after Walt saw this movie, but cartoons have no where near the style of this. So, here are lots of shots – it was hard paring down to just these, there are so many interesting scenes.

Let’s open with Belle and the man chasing after her in the ‘real’ world.

(love his hair)

The story movies to Belle’s father traveling through the scary woods at night, and coming across a castle where he spends the night.

It’s hard to see, but there are faces in the fireplace that talk to each other, and arms holding candles that point the way.

Father finds a meal at the table and falls asleep in his chair.

There is another arm holding the candles on the table, which pours his wine for him.

After taking a rose for his daughter, the beast appears.

Remember, it’s 1946 makeup and special effects, the actor spent five hours having all the hair applied (no, they didn’t get a wookie to play the part, sorry Chewie).

Eventually Belle travels to the castle and wanders around by herself quite a lot. But eventually she spends some time with the beast.

The bedroom she gets is really interesting - full of plants and billowy window coverings.

She does end up with some pretty fancy gowns.

After a while she gets to go home and spend some quality time with her family.

This version seems to mix a little with Cinderella - Belle also has two wicked sisters, and she does all the cleaning and cooking and dirty work while they dress in fancy pretend clothes and go to the fancy ball without her.

But back at the castle the beast also gets to wear some fancy togs.

I just love the little crown she wears.

That’s my taste of the film – no, I am not going to tell you how it ends. Track down the film for yourself to find out. I have no idea if it’s like the cartoon, that one I haven’t seen. The B&B on Ice show was here last week, I wasn’t tempted to go to that one either. Dancing teapots, oh my. There are no teapots in this version.

Sorry, but this has absolutely nothing to do with Vegas, but it's my blog and I can put up what I want.

Tooooo early

It's 5:30 am - yes, there are two times a day when the clock rolls through the five o'clock hour.

There was a big software release last night. The installation crew was here from 9pm until 1 or so - some emails to me were timed at 12:42. Though none of my programs went out I was still asked to be part of the come-in-early crew in case something doesn't work. So the 3:15 alarm clock, shower then donuts on the way brings me in at 4:45. Evidently they had problems last night so I had to test my stuff, all worked OK on my side.

Our call center opens at 5am - it's collections, to phone late accounts. They start on the east coast, calling states where the law permits 8am collections phone calls. The dialer - part of my programs go through accounts that are late and creates lists of phone numbers to call. These lists are passed on to a computer that dials the phones, then when one answers transfers the call to one of the waiting operators. So the dialer is programmed with state rules, and only calls areas when permitted. Our collection center is open from 5am to 9pm to place calls. Customer service, those that answer incoming calls, is staffed from 7am to 7pm. (all local times)

Our software is also at four agencies that we contract with to also call late accounts. There is one in Texas, Canada (I think Toronto), Virginia and Oregon. So I get calls for software problems from those locations as well. I have a program that lets me use a computer at those sites as if I was sitting there, so that I can test things and fix problems.

The programs that were changed deal with our Oracle database, the 'middle tier' programs that look at that database, and the web services that my programs talk to, which call middle tier programs and return data. That's the way our (and Microsoft's) computer direction is headed - lots of machines, each doing a little bit. I kind of liked programming, when I could create a program that ran on one PC, with one person in control. If fifty people were running my program and one computer broke the other 49 could still do things. Now we are back to the old mainframe days, where every machine is dependent on the one computer in the center. If that one breaks then everyone just sits. Sorry Microsoft, I think going backwards is not the way to move ahead. (those of you without computer backgrounds feel free to ignore the above). Back when I worked on mainframe computers I usually worked the midnight to eight shift, in order to get time on the computer when I could test without disturbing users.

So we are back to the old days, with programmers having to come in at night in order to put new stuff on the main machines. And because most programmers test their software in a special test environment, there are usually problems when the changes are moved to the main system. Resulting in a dozen people being here last night until 1am, and five of us coming in at five still fixing things. Oh well, I'm not the boss, just cash your paycheck and shut up Joe.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

OK, enough cold already

I'm ready for summer.

Picture by my pool last July, it was around 110f and NICE!!!!

Tuesday ramblings

Wow, that could be a regular topic - ramblings.

I was reading lorum ipsum this morning, and her discussion on what heaven might be like. I haven’t thought much of it. I was raised a Catholic, with pictures of Jesus sitting on a cloud, and told it would be pure pleasure just to be in His (with a capital H) presence. Hell would be knowing that he was there but not being able to get to him. Never had a good impression of purgatory. Sorry, I don’t believe it now. I just figure when I die I’m gone, turned off, nothing hanging around. But Lorum figures there is a place for people like me too. So thanks for the inclusion. It’s nice to be presented with philosophical questions periodically.

Aerosmith was in town, concert last Saturday. Steve Tyler sightings are up all over town. He was seen at the Harley dealership last week (no report on what he purchased) and assorted restaurants and nightclubs. Bon Jovi is due out in March, and a local radio station is running a contest to select their opening act. Sounds like a big break for a local band, to open for Bon Jovi in Vegas. We’ve been having discussions on how good a place Vegas is for celebrity sightings. They might live in Los Angeles, but LA is so big it’s hard to find anybody. Vegas is much smaller, and since visitors are concentrated down on the strip it’s fairly easy to be at one of Ceasar’s restaurants or shops and see somebody well known pass by. B and I are not ones to go looking for celebrities, but it’s fun to read about them and laugh.

I’ve talked before about my job. I’m a programmer for the credit card section of a bank. I work in a computer language that has been around for a while, and is very appropriate for small to mid size companies. But the corporate attitude here falls into the Microsoft line. Which is to continually buy in to the language of the moment. The only way Microsoft makes money is to keep producing new products and getting people to buy the new stuff, buy the training required to learn the new stuff, and convert up. Then in a few years even newer stuff comes out.

Microsoft’s latest push is for something they call ‘.NET’. When the Internet started getting big a few years ago (wow, I’ve sure used that word a lot, let’s stop helping Google and shift to M) M tried to ignore it, but suddenly there was an attitude shift, and now everything they sell is aligned toward supporting Internet activities. Our upper management has fallen for this, so the stuff I am supporting that has worked for years is now being replaced. It’s going to cost our group almost $30,000 to upgrade to M’s latest products. Plus the training. Plus we are using Oracle for back end data storage. That requires the employ of expensive Oracle experts – not an easy thing to learn. But it means I have to learn something new.

This also means that our manager has promised short deliveries for the new programs. I was supposed to be in the group that did a replacement over the summer – they worked 80 to 100 hour weeks July August and September. Of course our boss got a big bonus for delivering, but the guys that were working all that time got nothing. Well, the satisfaction of producing a good product. Really helps when your planned vacation is cancelled (as our analyst’s was) and you don’t see your family. Anna at Red Boat pointed to her sister’s which pointed to a different Rob discussing software. But watching other people deal with management in other jobs shows that it’s not only software people that are given tight deadlines. Every company tries to suck the most out of every employee, then wonders why people leave. The problem with changing jobs is that the new company is probably very similar to the old, and you’ll still get stuck with unrealistic expectations.

I received my annual review a few weeks ago. All I can relate to is Alice in the Dilbert comics. At her last review she obtained a very small raise from the pointy haired boss. She discussed how she worked tons of hours, and even donated a kidney to one of the top VPs. Management’s response was “well, we expected you to do that so you only ‘met expectations’ you didn’t exceed them, so no big raise”. Most of my review points were ‘met expectations’. I can’t disagree, I’ve had a lot of experience, and would be very disappointed if my boss didn’t expect a lot out of me. Which makes it harder and harder to ‘exceed expectations’. Of course the HR department has a grading scale, with points given for grades which directly relates to salary increases. Only ‘met expectations’? Well, not much money for you. Which is another reason that programmers bounce between jobs so much – the only way to get a good raise is to go to a different company. And firms wonder why it’s so hard to keep good employees? If I keep getting this level of increase, and new hires keep coming in at the competitive increases required, in five years I’ll be making the same as somebody with just a few years experience. Oh well, at least they are keeping me trained, so I’ll be ready for that next place.

More bouncing, average Tommy had a good post:

“Americans have forgotten what it takes to remain free. Instead, every ideology, every group is determined to use government to advance its agenda. As the government’s power grows, the people are eclipsed.”
I agree with one exception. One really big exception.
“Americans have forgotten what it takes to remain free.”
I suspect most never knew. Freedom doesn’t just happen. You get it the old fashioned way, you earn it.
Have you earned it?
Protesting doesn’t count. Much like you can’t get rich simply pointing out where to invest, you can’t be free by wearing a funny hat and carrying a sign. Freedom requires a commitment. A commitment much larger than the one required by marriage. Have you looked at the state of that lately?"

And somebody had a Google ad on the top of their page. This one was interesting, it looked like a purple – um, well, a purple article that might be used for a personal purpose. The Tesla Shield makes use of ‘tachyons’ to create a unique product (sounds like something out of Startrek). “The Tesla Purple Energy Shield™ is available at the special introductory price of $89.95 which represents a 50% discount from the regular price of $179.95.” Wow, I haven’t read an advertising blurb like that in years, wonder if they sell many at that price. Well, it probably costs them $1.29 to make in China. I thought all of the ‘new age’ stuff hand gone away. Guess not, if you have enough money. Maybe they sell energy crystals too.

Oh, sorry if I offended anyone that does believe. That’s another nice thing, that people can believe in whatever they want to; and others can make fun of their choices.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Monday afternoon

Just back from visiting the bloodmobile out front. I don’t know why I keep going, just seems like it’s something I can do so I continue. I stopped going to the blood bank a few months ago after my third bad ‘stick’. I guess unfortunately there are incompetent people in every profession. I just don’t like running into them.

We had a friend from out of town drive through this weekend. We spent Saturday walking the middle of the strip. Halfway down we realized that all of our cameras were left at home, so no pics. Sorry. The conservatory show at the Bellagio has been changed – Chinese New Year’s theme. With a big banyan tree, moved from Palm Beach. Have to go back to get pictures of that.

We walked past the new CityCenter that is being built – the number of rooms was just bumped, so it is now a seven billion dollar project – that’s $7,000,000,000. Wynn is starting on his next tower, but that’s only 1.5 billion, George Clooney’s place is two billion, and the Stardust replacement is another four billion dollars. Four projects, sounds like a fortune, but it’s what, one week of spending on Iraq violence?

Announcements a few weeks ago that the US would no longer be spending money on building anything over there, all funds will just be going to the military, and Bush asked for another 100 billion last week, on top of all the other requests. That’s pretty bad, all that money and really nothing positive being done with it – just violence (or response to violence). No that is much more disgusting. Iraq has asked the British troops to leave, Japan is pulling out, looks like W’s big coalition will shortly be down to just us.

On other fronts, we are getting the same cold front that’s hitting the rest of the country. We had a light misting of rain on Saturday when the front moved through. Frost on my car windows this morning – no front fountain to look at to see frozen water. But it’s not the 8 in Chicago or Minnesota. Yes, I would much rather have 110f.

Granddaughter is crawling now – not up on hands and knees but ‘commando’ style using her elbows, and rolling to get sideways. Trying to pull herself up – dad keeps showing her how. Wait until she’s running and climbing and he is babysitting – then he’ll wish she couldn’t get there. I’m on a team creating a new software product, out ‘official’ work hours are 8 to 6, so I’m not home in time to see her for pictures.

Sounds like Rob has about the same software job as I do. He’s a computer guy in Edinburgh, Scotland. I guess it’s the same type of stuff, no matter where you go. Idiots all over the place, and people that have to interface with them. Some days I’m on one side, other days I take the first role. Some days I feel like I have both jobs at the same time. Today I'm not sure.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Quick links

First, passing through one of Michele's 'say hello' posts, I want to thank Lisa for having the pretty roll over sparkles that I snitched. Thanks Lisa. I like sparkely things, now I have to try to bring over that mouse pointer with the trailing stars that I put on some web sites - don't know if it will work with Blogger, but I'll try.

And Lisa (different Lisa than the above Lisa, oooh, too many Lisas here, my head is starting to hurt) pointed someplace that pointed to someplace that pointed to
Chewey's blog, which had an interesting take on the Cheney shooting (scroll down a ways).

No, nothing really in this post except for a lot of links which lets me show off Lisa's fancy sparkling rollovers. Did I say I like sparkles?

Valentine deliveries

Too many words and no pictures. So here’s a short one with at least some color.

Not many deliveries here for Valentine’s Day. But two of the women in our area got deliveries. The biggest and most impressive award goes to two dozen roses for Mai:

But the most in quantity, and for making our area smell most like a florist shop goes to Romena:

Her husband sends flowers almost every week. But four deliveries on one day really takes the prize. Nice combinations of orchids and lilies and lots of very fragrant things.

In honor of the rioting in Pakistan, keeping the topic in the news, I present my favorite from the links posted a few days ago:

I would say the atheists are here in Vegas, but in the casinos it seems there are no atheists; everybody is praying for their card or number or roll to come up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Santa Karaoke

Additional stuff form DM, here is more info on ourSanta Karaoke:

Santa Karaoke photo 1,

Santa Karaoke photo2

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Progression of movement

I grew up in northern New Jersey, about twenty miles across the GW bridge from NYC. After a little college I dropped out and wondered what to do. That being the time of the Viet Nam war my most likely prospect was to be drafted, where those without deferment ended up. Not liking mud and wet and being shot at all that well, John Wayne movies notwithstanding, I enlisted in the Navy.

My enlistment started in January, and I was sent up to the Great Lakes recruitment depot outside of Chicago. Those of you from that area know that it is rather cold in January. After boot camp I was sent for training down to Memphis, Tennessee, which lasted for seven months. These two locations were the farthest I had been from home at that time. My first working assignment was to be at the Lemoore Naval Air Station in California. Leaving New Jersey in early December in a snowstorm, our plane spent the night on the ground in the Midwest someplace because of the storm. On to San Francisco, then a short hop down to Fresno. A base driver picked me up at the airport, and on the way out to Lemoore he pulled over to the side of the road and snitched some oranges off of a tree, in a big grove of other orange trees. Just having come from a snowy night the concept of a person actually picking oranges off of a tree in the sunshine in the wintertime was very strange. I had always associated oranges and tangerines with Christmas, finding one in a stocking was always a treat (this was a long time ago my children, back when such things were expensive). I decided right then that there was no real need to return to New Jersey.

After four years in the Navy, mostly there at Lemoore and on two cruises, I stupidly returned to college back in Rochester, New York. I was a photographic illustration major, but worked on electronics while in the service. I took a summer job teaching computer repair, and wondered what the programmers were doing. A few classes later I found that I was one of them. RIT produced dozens of photographers each year, and National Geographic, Life and Playboy only employed a few, so the normal place of employment upon graduation was behind the photo counter at K Mart. I found programming to be more profitable, and here I am many years later still doing it. Hired in Rochester for Xerox Corporation, my manager shipped me out to Phoenix for a six month assignment setting up a new computer system, where I met my future wife as discussed yesterday. Returning to Rochester just before Christmas, again to an airport closed because of snow, I informed my boss that I didn’t think I would be staying for very long. Good news – our division was opening an office at the Xerox plant in the Los Angeles area, and being single and not minding a move across country (not minding a move from twenty below Rochester to sunny oranges growing alongside the road California?) I was quickly dispatched.

I bought a house near the Xerox plant in Manhattan Beach. Well, a GI loan got the house, with Xerox paying all purchase costs. Pretty good deal. When Xerox left the computer business a short while later we looked for a bigger house, and ended up with a new one down in Temecula, halfway between LA and San Diego. Ten years later we completed the southward journey, selling out and moving to San Diego itself.

After seventeen years the state decided to build a freeway in the canyon behind our house. Not liking the noise, we decided to move again. We searched the west, from Tucson to Fresno to Portland, for a nice quiet place. My wife, having lived in Phoenix, wanted sunshine, which crossed Portland and Seattle from the list. She also wanted a big airport, which nixed Tucson. So the sunshine and house prices had us select Las Vegas. April will make it three years here, and we’ve loved every minute of it. I find 115f by the pool so much nicer than the 20f below zero of Rochester, and the sunshine much brighter than along the misty California coast. But we do have our high winter moisture – I think it’s up to 8% humidity right now.

So, Deana, we are very happy here. After coming up weekends searching for a house, we looked at around sixty different ones. We selected an area we wanted, with big lots (well, big for out West) and older (well again, built in the 60’s, old for out West). Most people coming to Vegas want brand new homes. We found a house on half an acre that was bigger and cost less than a new one in Summerlin (one of the ‘hot’ areas) built eight per acre. We are slowly making it into what we want, pulling down all the 60’s wallpaper, tearing down some walls, and making interior changes. Put down hardwood floor in the front room, converting most of the grass to low water desert landscape, and putting in a nice big patio cover out back. Now working on the front courtyard, then onto a kitchen redo. Hey, Dana, want to come over and help mix and pour concrete some weekend?

The only drawback here is that there is almost no work for a FoxPro programmer. The place I am now and the place I was at before are the only two companies in town using FoxPro. I’ve tried to build up my consulting business, to no avail. I’m now in the process of learning C#.net, which is Microsoft’s latest effort, and the bank is converting everything to it. When I know that then there will be lots of employment opportunities, mostly with companies that build slot machines or create casino management programs.

The next move will probably be farther. We seem stuck here as long as granddaughter is nearby. B is babysitting while our daughter is back to work teaching. They are talking of a move, to Portland or someplace greener. Guess he misses his Canada somewhat. If they go then we have no tie to keep us here, beyond just loving the place. But if Bush’s group stay in power for much longer we probably would consider a move, perhaps to Canada (but too cold) or maybe New Zealand. I would love France, but probably can’t afford that, and their politics don’t seem much better. I like big cities rather than out in the country. Hey Rob, what’s it like for programmers around your place?

Reading an article in Sunday’s paper I thought of Dana, it was about the Naturally Santa convention, singing karaoke Thursday at Tequila Joe's Karaoke Bar at the Imperial Palace. With a photo showing dozens of guys in red suits and big white beards all standing on stage singing. I’ll try and find the shot and post it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Questions from Tess

Oh no, now I’m getting questions (from Tess). Guess I have to provide answers. At least it will fill up some space.

(local) 1) If you were a gambling man, which Vegas casino would you go to with 200,000 burning a hole in your pocket and what would you play?

Since we moved here almost three years ago I have so far spent twenty-five cents in a casino. That was one slot machine play. I don’t know why, but for some reason the Palms has always seemed like a place I would like to play at. The older casinos downtown are really small and crowded, while the big ones on the Strip seem too empty and cold. I think the Palms would be friendly. Though poker is the latest in thing, I have a hard time keeping track of what’s going on, and could not keep the classic ‘poker face’. I would probably play blackjack. It’s more a quiet contemplative thing, and playing $5 hands would let me sit there forever.

(curious) 2) are you superstitious?

Nope. Walk under ladders? Friday the 13th? No problems with any of them, never had. Though I have my little rituals, it’s mostly habit.

(nosy) 3) where did you meet your wife and what was the first thing you liked about her?

It was a blind date. I was working for Xerox in Rochester, New York, and they sent me to Phoenix, Arizona for six months to set up a new computer system. It was my first ‘real’ job out of college. I had been there for several months, and become friendly with one older guy that I had a lot of contact with. We were talking about the girls that I was meeting around Scottsdale , and he suggested someone his wife worked with; I think the wife was the type of person that looked out for people, and wanted to do something for B. I think it was my first blind date ever as well. My friend arranged for us to meet at his house, as he was having some type of get together on a Friday. We met in the crowd, and kept getting introduced as the couple on a blind date that the two of them had set up. What I first liked about her was her saying “let’s get the heck out of here”. I liked her smile and her attitude.

(educational) 4) if you weren't in your current position, what field do you think you would be in?

I’ve been in computers and electronics forever. Don’t tell my boss, but I am ready for something completely different. I like design and manual labor stuff (which I do on weekends). If I could pick something I think I would like it would be landscape design and installation. I have designed several remakes for friends and some others, as well as all of the stuff I do around my place. B and I are both certified UC Master Gardeners, I specialized in water – irrigation systems, watering plans, and water features and ponds. Setting up a pond with fish and moving water was easier in San Diego than here in Vegas. When the temperature sits at over a hundred for a month then fish tend to get cooked. San Diego was nice, with reasonably consistent temperatures, no worrying over freezing or boiling, the only thing we had problems with were raccoons slipping in at night to steal the fish. I think I’d be good at laying out, designing, and installing gardens that incorporate a water feature. Too bad you are in an apartment; I could come out and do one for you.

(oh, no pictures or links this morning, how dull)

Friday, February 10, 2006

How I spend my day

Another exciting day at work, running in circles trying to figure out problems. And now running around trying to figure out what problems there are. Our company uses a program to keep track of problems that people come across. I am responsible for working on problems reported on systems that I am assigned to. There is a nice little form to fill out, with drop down lists of employees that are authorized to report (our call center people have to get a supervisor to agree there is a problem, then the sup fills out the report). There is another list to pick the system causing the problem, and a comment area for explanations.

Two problems that I am trying to figure out:

The first system with a problem is DC Track, used by the collections department to report on direct check payments taken. The comments section says ‘Tracker real time’. A description of the problem that really pins down what is happening (very detailed, isn’t it?). Investigation starts: I have to walk over to the collections department (in the other building) and try to find the person that filled it out. No one there has heard of the problem, the one manager that always uses this reporting system says it works fine, and nobody there has ever heard of the person that filled out the report. Back here to this building, asking around for somebody that might use the report system: finding no one. Asking around for the person that filled it out: no one knows her. Back to finding the reporter, find the person who’s name is on the report has not worked here for quite a while, but was never removed from the drop down list, as historical reports require her name to still be there. So, that’s close to an hour taken talking to lots of people asking about an individual and a problem that I cannot figure out. I move the work order to ‘cannot verify’ status, and hope that whoever filled it out will see and add more comments or at least pick the right ‘from’ name.

The second system is part of our phone system, which creates lists of phone numbers for our dialer to call. The complaint is that ‘dialer detail did not run’. The person that filled it out is already gone for the day. Others in his group say that he gets daily Excel spreadsheets for some reports he does, but nobody knows what reports, or where the files are that he uses. The operations group, after quite a discussion about me not knowing what I’m asking about, does some research and says that all nightly processing steps ran with no errors, and all manual steps are checked off as being run. Past experience that I have had indicates that 98% of the time someone on the night or early morning operations shift forgot to run a program that is supposed to run every day. So, I don’t know what system, what file, or where it is supposed to be. Since our regular operations guy works from Sunday through Thursday someone else is filling in on Fridays, so there is a high probability that a step was skipped somewhere. Another hour lost, and I’ll have to wait for Monday to find out exactly what is missing, which means all the data files will have changed by then, and it will probably take me ten or twelve hours to create a program that can recreate his file instead of just running the correct program now.

So there are two totally unproductive hours, with anticipation of lots more on Monday or Tuesday to recover from a skipped step. The whole morning was spent like that. And my manager asks why I am behind in the new work I am supposed to do. I’m ready for it to be Friday. (Oh, wait, it is, yea!)

A few minutes to calm down, and I find Rob points to a very nicely written Waiter's story. Makes me wish that I could write interesting stories that are so concise.

Song bite (bytes?)

Bits from songs that I like to back up and listen to over and over:

Kathy Mattea, her little ‘hah’ in the middle of Walking Away a Winner
Steve Tyler (Aerosmith), his chuckle and ‘oooooh’ at the intro to Love In An Elevator
Janis Joplin, the laugh and ‘that’s it’ at the end of Mercedes Benz
Shel Silverstein, his laugh on just about all the songs on Freakin’ At The Freaker’s Ball, picking one would be his inhale after the long phrase in Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out

Longer bits:
Stevie Wonder’s harmonica at the end of the Eurythmics There Must Be An Angel, along with Annie’s rhyming phrases

Yes, they’re all on my Ipod and on my ‘favorites’ playlist.

So, what are your favorite little bits? Don’t have to be so short, might be a whole line that you really like. You know those lines, the ones, if you are talking and the song is playing in the background you’ll stop and pause just to hear it? And Rob – I’m expecting you to come up with one of those bits where a soprano has her toe stepped on in Gotterdammerung or something equally fancy.

And for those of you that want some visuals, you can go see Stormtrooper on the subway in Japan. As the author mentions; storm troopers were very evident in the first set of Star Wars movies, but just created at the end of Part 3 (the clones, from the Clone Wars?), so many kids are unfamiliar with them. Another item of ‘Joe, you are getting old’ as I remember when the first Star Wars movie came out, driving up to Fresno to see it, and how different it was. Now it’s so old that kids have never seen it. Oy.

(take a look at the site's fancy flying title bar - neat. I'll have to dust off my Flash book)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thursday early cartoon response

I came in to work this morning at 4:30am – a little bit earlier than usual, ok, a heck of a lot earlier than usual. I’m a computer programmer, and support several systems here at the bank. One I am most recently involved in is the system that supports our collections floor. Part of the system goes through our list of overdue accounts and creates phone dialing lists. We have several hundred people on the floor in the collections area, they bring up the program and sign into a dialing list. The program interfaces with a special dialer system which actually places the calls, then routes them to available operators, who try to talk the customer into making some form of payment. There is another interface to a different computer system that records portions of the phone calls, both to be sure our operators are talking correctly and to record commitments by customers if they later complain.

The first shift of collections callers starts work at 5am. Some states on the east coast let us start calling people at 8am, so with Vegas in the Pacific time zone that means three hours earlier here. Yesterday morning things were not starting up correctly things were starting slowly, and people were getting assorted error messages; so I end up getting a call from the help desk at 5:10. By the time I can start up my computer and phone in (OK, internet in) to look everything is going fine. After taking all morning yesterday to try and figure out what was going on and finding nobody could remember quite what the error messages said, I decided to come in early and see for myself what was happening.

Of course, with my standing behind the group that had the most problems, everything worked fine today. The programs started slowly, but that might have something to do with several hundred computers being clicked on at the same time and everyone trying to hit the timekeeping and phone start systems at the same time. But that’s a network bottleneck, not program errors. (bored yet?)

Here’s what our building looks like as the sun is coming up

A typical concrete tilt up. We are in and industrial park just south of the airport, so there are dozens of buildings like this all around us. We have two big buildings, with the programmers (small group), transaction and customer services in this one and the collections group across the street in a similar one. The programmers are all in one room with Dilbert type cubicles

This is where I sit all day. Exciting place. On the wall behind the monitor I’ve got some photos of our trip to France a few years ago – so I can kind of drift off and daydream about being back there again.

This is on the deck of the Hotel Beynack in the Dorgogne Valley. Doesn’t it look like a nice quiet, calm place to sit? We were there one May, we were the only people in the hotel, the weather was warm, and it was my favorite place I’ve ever been. Well, Paris was great too. Not to mention (OK, I am mentioning it) the great food.

Back to this morning. I stood behind one of the collections groups for a half hour and everything worked fine. Back to my cube I read a few blogs before drifting back to creating a new testing program. I don’t know the path that I followed, but found some interesting responses to the European cartoons. Ended up at Michelle’s place, where she points to the Detroit Free Press with a good cartoon, and to Cagle where there is a bunch of them.

Sorry, I used to be offended by things, but as I get older my attitude has changed. Now it almost all looks funny. Come on, it started with editorial cartoons, and with the response you can’t say that the originals weren’t inaccurate.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tuesday sunshine

Wow, lots of words yesterday. I’ve got other topics to cover, but I better put some pictures in between.

Today was another beautiful day in Vegas. Bright sun (well, that’s a default) and no clouds at all. Looking at the weather site, it’s 70f, but feels like it’s 70f right now. I guess the ‘feels like’ one is affected by wind chill in the colder places and humidity in the warmer places. In Vegas it’s usually the same as the temp all year long.

I go for lunchtime walks, to get some exercise. Sitting on your butt all day in front of a computer is more inducive to additions to the waistline (well, as we get older) than to staying fit. I’ve got a standard route I do, down Pilot Road to the Italian restaurant, turn left to the freeway, turn left to the rental car lot, turn left and then around the block and back to work. I put on my Ipod and dance to the music, and the circuit takes about 50 minutes, depending on how fast the songs are that come up.

The building right behind ours has several companies renting space. There is Trade Show and Technical, which always has trucks and strange boxes moving around the parking lot. Another one is a foam company, that often has strange shapes or columns or other items, I assume for shows or perhaps to fancy up people’s houses. They have a big pile of discards along one side, kind of looks like a pile of big boulders.

Yesterday there were a few wispy clouds, along with a nice pattern of stripes from the planes flying overhead out of LAX.

I like the assorted patterns we get from the high flying planes, and often (when I have the camera along) take shots of them. Morning is the best viewing time, just before sunrise when the sun hasn’t made it over the mountains to light things up, but the vapor trails up high are lit brightly.

There is still snow and skiing up on Mt. Charleston. We can see the peak to the northwest, it's only an hour drive up to the ski resort. Not for me - I'm waiting for the warm weather - swimming pool season - margarittas on the pool deck!

Oh, anniversary coming up. Looks like I did my first post on Feb 27 two years ago. Party time! My wife still doesn’t know I do this, so don’t yell too loudly.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Religious Rant (another one)

OK, guess it’s my turn to put down words instead of just posting pictures. I’ve been reading a lot about the recent flap over cartoons being derogatory to a particular religion. Of that particular situation, all I can say is that I am really disgusted with religions in general.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic. Taken by my parents to church every Sunday, going to Sunday School after mass. I was even an alter boy for a while (no, no perverted priests at my church, unless I’m suppressing more memories). I stopped going to church when I was in the Navy, after looking at the world and wondering. No, not wondering at the intelligent design. Wondering how there could be a god (No, not God) that could permit such suffering in the world.

Talk all you want about free will and how god put us on this world to do as we want, only to be judged later when we die. What kind of free will does a baby in Africa have when he starves to death? What kind of free will does a three year old have when their parents beat them to death? What kind of free will does a farmer have when planes fly overhead and drop bombs on his house? Or men standing in line to get a job when some suicide bomber decides the crowd is big enough? Or people shopping or just having coffee when another comes by and does the same thing? Or a family living on a coastline that is wiped out by a tidal wave? Too many examples are available to list here, but I will not worship a god that permits things to happen to those that have no say in their lives.

I have come to the belief that religion was created to keep the masses quiet and controlled. To get people to be happy with whatever poor life they are permitted to have, to keep them quiet and subservient, and wait for their reward after they die. Kneel and pray to god, if you are good enough and have faith in your heart he will reward you in heaven (or whatever it is called in each religion).

Religions are also kept going by the leaders. Some of them might really believe in what they are doing, and that their god has chosen them to be a voice on earth. But others are in it for the power, or the escape, or the ability to control others, or the money. Some people have the need to have followers hanging on their every word, doing everything they desire by saying god told me to. We have enough evangelists here wearing gold Rolex watches riding in big cars living in big houses going on TV telling people that god wants them to mail in their money. We have enough priests that control alter boys, or women in their parishes. We have a president convinced that god is telling him what to do, and to go invade those countries full of non-believers (or those that believe in a different god). Sorry, but I am more acquainted with these people in the US than in other countries, but I am sure the US is not unique in this. I doubt if there is any country without religious leaders that live like their flocks. They may not be in mansions, but there is usually a nice house, and food every day, and other niceties around that the normal person down the street does not have.

Oh, you also have to fight for your god; he expects it of you. Your religious leaders will tell you how. Here, strap on this belt of explosives and show your faith in god by standing in the middle of those non-believers and blowing yourself up. So what if there are women and children there, they do not believe in your god, so they do not count. It’s almost every religion, not to pick on any one in particular. The Nazis thought the Jews should be exterminated. The Hutus and Tutsis are still happy to wipe out the others. The great Catholic crusades were to drive infidels from the holy lands. I still don’t know enough history to know what the Spanish Inquisition was all about, except for Monty Python bits.

I can’t forget all of our beautiful religions here in America. Right now our firm President wants to impose his brand of religious beliefs on the rest of us. There are small cults that figured if you killed yourself your soul would go with the nearby comet or spaceship or whatever. And Jim Jones took his group to South America to die rather than be forced into something else. I’ve been to tent revival meetings in Arkansas that preached faith, as well as hatred for non believers. I had some friends that were ‘born again’, who had no problem with lying and trying to cheat those not born again in their particular group because they were non-believers and their god did not care about those people. An article in today’s paper discusses a church in the Midwest that pickets the funerals of military personnel, saying that god killed those soldiers because they defended a country that harbors homosexuals.

I don’t care if you believe in whatever you want to believe in; just do not affect me. Don’t force me to believe as you do. Don’t feel free to kill me because I don’t worship your god. Don’t burn down my embassy because I felt like drawing cartoons. Here in Las Vegas you can gamble and get as drunk as you want on Sunday but you can’t buy a car because god doesn’t like that. We can go over the ‘blue laws’ in Texas, but I can’t understand how god says it’s OK to buy socks on Sunday but not shoes (depending on what county you are in). Don’t tell me what kind of medicine I can take, or what things I cannot do to my body because your god says that it is wrong. Don’t come knocking on my door with your ‘book’ in hand trying to tell me that my life is not worth living, and I am doomed to end up in hell for eternity because I don’t believe the same as you. If god is so picky then I would rather be in hell than worship something like that. Just don’t feel that you have to help me along.

Sorry, didn’t mean to leave out the Eastern religions, it’s just that I am not very knowledgeable about them. I think there have been some problems in the India area – Pakistan and Bangladesh and internal untouchable stuff. What about China? And Japan? I hear the Buddhists are relatively calm and peaceful. And the concept of coming back to life as something different, so you better be as good as you can be in order to overcome the bad in past lives. That’s still bothersome to me, but a lot better than forcing your will upon others.

I am sitting here at work (thanks, boss for not looking too closely) listening to the radio right now. Our mayor, Oscar Goodman, had a bet on Sunday’s football game with some radio DJs. The looser of the bet, which this year are the DJs, are now at a big intersection dressed as Kevin Federline (the woman DJ) and Brittany Spears (the man) performing before a big crowd. The mayor keeps saying that he thanks god for letting him win, and appreciates all of the people that said they prayed for him to win so that he would not have to dress up and perform. I think this is a tremendous use of their god, to pray to him to help one team win a sporting event so that the mayor would win his bet. Yes, thanks god for listening to the prayers of these poor people and granting their wish. No, don’t pray for food for the hungry, or peace for the wicked; pray that one team beats the other in football.

Back to the cartoons. Yes, they might be offensive to a particular religion. Virginia Gal points to a few good sites that are quite articulate in their comments (look in her earlier postings for others). Rob also goes into some background that I had not heard before. And I agree that if the cartoons were about a different minority then a different group would be rioting. But that’s my point. Why riot? As long as you believe in your heart why must you force others to believe as you do?

I wish that I could be as articulate and thought provoking as some writers. Sorry that you have to stumble through my words to get to my ideas. Penn Jillette - oh, I just searched Google for ‘pbs radio las vegas’ in order to find the quote, and this blog came up as listing number four; how sad that Google lists me over authors and stories and other events that the radio station itself supports. Anyway, ‘as half of the magic act Penn and Teller, Penn Jillette enjoys challenging his audiences with the unconventional. In stating his personal credo, Jillette finds liberation in believing there is no God’. So go read Penn's reasons why he believes there is no god. Lots of good quotes in there, but one stands out: “Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.”

Another person that does not believe in god, Madalyn Murray O'Hare, had a very good interview several years ago, I’ll have to find it as it’s not coming up in Google (at least I’m not under that listing, yet). But there is an interesting article in a religious publication, the Examiner, in which she discusses some points about organized churches.

Enough for now. Your thoughts? (boy, hard to ask that question, then potentially end up with no comments.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

The patio is clear and ready for design!

How slow am I with pictures. For the past two weekends I’ve been working at deconstructing our front patio. The first weekend was using a jackhammer to break up the big slab into little pieces. The second weekend was spent picking up those little pieces and putting them in a wheelbarrow, then rolling that to a big metal dumpster out in the street and putting them into the dumpster. This last weekend was spent just trying to get my back from hurting so much.

For those of you that don’t remember, this is what the patio looked like after the first weekend.

For the second weekend I was able to talk my son-in-law into coming over to help. This is the patio in progress on Saturday.

And after all of the wheeling, this is what the dumpster looked like.

And so we now have a nice empty canvas, ready for the planning, preparation and execution of a new plan.

I didn’t really sit around all this past weekend. We planted a new tree – bought a bare root weeping Santa Rosa plum. Planting involved digging a nice hole for it – not an easy job in Nevada one-step-away-from-solid-rock soil. And also running a line and installing a watering system. When we pulled up the grass and put in desert landscaping I removed all of the overhead watering sprinklers and put in some new valves that ran water to a new set of pipes. One circuit is for the shrubs and another for the trees – trees taking longer deep watering and shrubs usually taking shorter more often watering. So I am in the process of digging a trench to the nearest tree water line and attaching a new extension and length of drip hose around the tree. Again, digging a trench involves the extensive use of a big pick, being careful that other water lines are not in close proximity to the desired trench otherwise some more careful digging and pipe repair comes into play. Speaking hypothetically of course, not really from experience.

And for Clare (who happens to be enjoying a TEN WEEK vacation off to the wilds of Africa):

1. Having helpful relatives that don’t mind using their back to help with physical labor.
2. Bright warm sunny weekends so that you can do things outside, even in February (it was 72f and full sun all weekend).
3. Anticipating sitting out in the new patio area and enjoying it when all the work is done.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Good Friday

Wow, it was just an absolutely gorgeous sunrise this morning. Driving in to work (wish I didn’t have to say that part of it) I was looking up at the sky a lot – the east was full of feathery wispy clouds, there were lots of stripes in all directions from airplanes, and it all looked so clear and bright. Sorry I didn’t drag along the camera today, but here is what the stripes look like from a previous blue sky time:

The weather reports says it’s supposed to be up to 70f today, even warmer tomorrow, so it should be a very pleasant weekend. We moved all the broken up concrete from my front patio into a dumpster last weekend, pictures are in one of the cameras someplace. I really messed up my back working the jackhammer, and further helped it along with lifting the concrete. Two Aleve each morning helps very much, so it should be OK by the next project. Of course, that will be putting something back into the courtyard to replace the concrete just pulled up.

Listening to the radio, right now they are playing an ad by our local water district. Being out in the desert we do have a problem with water. As the city grows we need more and more. Most of our water comes from Lake Mead and the Colorado River, but this source also supplies Arizona, Southern California and Mexico, all of which are also growing and looking for more. Our water company is trying to build big pipelines to northern Nevada and install big wells up there, to suck out all of their groundwater and send it here to us. The radio ads tell us how this is a renewable resource that we should be taking advantage of.

‘Renewable resource’? Yea, it’s taken thousands of years to fill up that aquifer, and it should take Vegas about ten years to suck it dry. Then another few thousands of years of limited rain and snow from the mountains will fill it up again. LA did the same thing with the Owens Valley, pulling water out so the local wells all went dry, the lake is now a dry bed, and all the natural vegetation died because their roots don’t go down 1,000 feet. The deep wells in the Phoenix area have pulled out so much water that the entire area has dropped three feet in elevation because of it.

I know we need water, but please don’t put out this pr crap trying to convince the world that it’s OK to rape the rest of the state for us. Kind of like saying Iraq is better off under us than Sadam, when they still have no power, water or sewage treatment, people are afraid to leave their houses, and the US soldiers are more feared than Sadam’s police were. (OK, sorry to circle back to this theme, I was talking water and bad PR).

This week our bank is celebrating the signup of our one millionth (1,000,000) active credit card customer. We got free cake on Monday, and balloons were put up all over the place. This company is really big on helium balloons; I’ve put up photos before of them. These are white, and put up on every cube. So looking out over the call floor you can see hundreds of white balloons floating about six feet over everyone’s head. Well, they have been up for five days now. And if you have ever had a helium filled balloon you know that after a few days the helium leaks out or something and the balloons do not fly anymore. Well, after five days our balloons are now walking across the floor instead of flying overhead. The weight of the ribbons is too much for the lift of the helium, so we now have balloons in our cubes hanging just three feet or so off the floor. I’ll try to corral a bunch and pull them together.

For another shot of Vegas, it seems that every cab is covered with advertisements. I pulled up behind this one a few days ago, and it all seemed to fit.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

More Vegas shots

Sharzod came up with some good shots of the Strip. I think he took these himself when flying off someplace.

What the airport and the casinos look like from the air. Makes the city look rather small. Downtown is in the upper right corner on this image, but does not show the scattered housing around. I think our population is up to about 1,400,000, with an increase of 4,000 every month.

** Sorry - my eyes are too poor to ready the copyright notice on the last shot - at least this one is one I took **

From Mandalay Bay on the left, you can only make out the white light on top of the black Luxor next to it, to the Excalibur and the green MGM in the middle to the Bellagio on the right.

Just so you don’t think that all the action is on the strip – stopped at a local drug store yesterday, and as you will find at most businesses around town, there is a slot area.

So if you are stopping by to pick up some makeup or shampoo or a prescription and feel the need you can stop and drop a few coins.

And somebody came up with the full quote from Franklin (did I get that right?):
Those who would sacrifice *essential* liberties for a *little temporary* safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

There were more letters to the editor in our local paper about “the President doing the right thing, so what if he records citizens”. Maybe we should all carry our passports around and show them to a cop on every street corner, in every store and leave them when we check into hotels. The hotels are submitting guests lists to the CIA anyway (or at least they were). Oh, don’t need to use passports as congress has shifted that burden to the states with new driver license requirements.

Hopefully this will slide the fat guy down far enough so Deana will not have to keep looking at him.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Burgers and iced tea

Thanks to Rob pointing at the new chapter in Blogstory recently. He felt I would be offended by the description of Vegas. One line I liked is “Isn’t it wonderful? It’s like a sauna all day long. And the Americans here, aren’t they a treat?! They drive around all the time and eat hamburgers and … “ . . . “it’s so strange that we drink so much tea and of course the tea here is iced because, well it’s hot here innit, yeah yeah it is sort of like being in a sauna all day long except this sauna has a view of sorts … well, not much of a view I suppose, mostly just dust and garbage and of course the sun … “ I don’t know where the author, Jim, lives, but to me this is a fairly accurate description of this place.

So in honor of Jim’s attitude we went out and had burgers and iced tea. Well, I usually drink iced tea most of the time, and burgers are on our regular food schedule, so it wasn’t much of a leap. Just a selection I gave Jim credit for.

Some of the best burgers in town are at the Burger Bar, a small restaurant at Mandalay Place, the small shopping mall on a bridge in between Mandalay Bay and the Luxor.

Went for lunch with Denise from work – we work on the south side of the airport, not too far from the Mandalay. Though she grew up in Vegas, Denise has never been to the Luxor, so we started there.

I like starting Strip tours with the Luxor. They have a big parking garage (well, all the casinos do) that is easy to get to with multiple entrances. The entrances are right off of Frank Sinatra Drive, so you don’t have to drive on Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip). Plus, when you walk from the parking garage to the main pyramid you pass on a bridge over the pool area, and the pool is very ‘well stocked’ in the summertime. The entrance from the parking lot is not very impressive – you are thrown right into the back of the casino.

But this is the location of the nickel slots – sorry you can’t read the lighted signs over the machines. As an alternative you can go up some stairs to the entertainment area, where the food court and Imax movie theatre and other attractions are located. This does provide a nice view inside the pyramid –

All the rooms are on the outside walls, leaving the entire central space open. You can see all the way up to the tip thirty or so floors up. With balconies to the rooms making stripes all around. I was impressed with one of the attractions – they have a carpet in front of a green screen. You can sit on the carpet and have a short video made – a computer replaces the green screen with a tour of the strip, so it looks like you are flying between the casinos. Part of the video has Elvis and other celebrities waving at the carpet as it goes by, so it looks like you really are flying along the strip. It looked really cool. I’ll have to go back with B and have a shot made.

So up on the entertainment level and onto the bridge over to the Mandalay. Some fancy stores – but it is not a full shopping mall, like at the Aladin or Caesar’s – and an assortment of places to eat. The Burger Bar

is about in the middle. Not very big or fancy, there is still usually a line outside most times. There are a lot of fancy Mandalay Bay restaurants. The Burger Bar was opened by one of the main chefs in charge of several other restaurants. You don’t just go up to a window and order a burger. You pick your meat; beef, sirloin, Kobe, turkey; then bun, then what goes on, which includes such typical items as onions and pickles all the way up to foi gras and shaved truffles. There are a list of standards, all the way up to a $60 burger (yes, sixty dollars!) which is Kobe beef, foi gras, truffles and a Madera wine based sauce. Someday I’ll have to try one, just to say I did, before inflation brings up the price of a Big Mac to that level.

I had the sirloin, onion roll, fried onions and fat fries. Of course, along with iced tea. It was pretty good. The atmosphere was nice,

Not a fancy place, but not a typical MacDonald’s. Kind of more like a British pub. They’ve got a good beer selection, including several locally brewed beers. But that’s for at night, not when I’ve got to get back to work. Burger and a brew go pretty well, and then we’d walk the strip while the alcohol worked off before driving home.

You can get by with a simple burger for $7. An extra dollar for the sirloin upgrade, fifteen dollars for the American version of Kobe beef. Extras (grilled onions, cheese (seven selections), etc.) are about $1.50 each. Fries are an extra three dollars or so. Turkey burger is $8. Denise and I ended up with a total bill of around $32, drinks included. They also have some all American desserts - typical is the 'dessert burger' - a donut split in half with a chocolate ganache filling, covered with melted chocolate and whipped cream. I've never had room for dessert there.

So, yes Jim (and Rob), burgers and iced tea and sun. OK alternative for our fancy restaurants. Starting to warm up – cold cold winter is past. Supposed to be up to 69f tomorrow. Had a low of 54f the other night, so hopefully no more snow.