Friday, November 30, 2007

How ya doin'?

Feel like trying out your reaction time, eyesight and short term memory? If so, or even if not, go try out the Quick test, passed on from that New Zealand radio station I'm litening to, Zed M.

J just came down to our basement office with his jacket wet. He reports that it supposedly is raining, something that usually does not happen here in Las Vegas. He's probably just makeing fun of me. After his report I walked out to the front lobby (about a 1K walk) to see, and yes, the ground is wet out there but I found no evidence that it came from the sky. A street sweeper has been coming by, to clean up the white snow from nextdoor where they are sanding some styrofoam applied to the outside of the new building, and the water might have leaked from that. After all, it's the last day in November and so far this year we have had 1.7 inches of rainfall, so it must not be from the sky, you think?

Toy books and singing

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

When E was out we started to receive the Chrismas toy wish books from some of the larger toy and department stores. I don’t think that E yet regards these as wish books or potential shopping lists, but she did enjoy looking through them.

The one from T@rget seemed to be the most enjoyable, probably because it had the most Thomas articles, and she currently loves Thomas and friends. Even though they are made in China and mom has a deep fear of lead even though the ones being sold now are supposed to be OK.

Now that she is talking pretty well she has also learned how to sing. Mom evidently does the nursery song thing while they are together, and Grammy got a bunch of CDs with kids songs (even though half of them are religious, why indoctrinate kids so early?) She knows some of them fairly well.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Movie review and around town events

We went to the movies last night – don’t do it very often, guess we are getting old and it’s just fine sitting at home. And the cost – movies in Vegas are now up to $10.00, 10.25 on Friday and Saturday. We just got one medium popcorn and coke and that was $10.50. Kids are less, but not much, so I can see how a night out at the movies has been decreasing. But a hint, at least here; Costco sells tickets for one of the bigger movie chains at $6.95 per ticket, good any time. They aren’t actually tickets, but coupons that you just exchange at the box office, no expiration date. I always keep a half dozen or so in my wallet just in case we do wander over.

Almost all of our theaters are located at casinos, we go to the ones at the Orleans or Texas Station, but recently have been hitting the Red Rock cinemas – sixteen screens, all stadium seating, and a nice food court off the casino for that ‘fine dining experience’, yea, we usually do Rubio’s fish tacos before the film and save some money on the popcorn. But you can’t see a movie without popcorn, with that nice buttery tasting oil and lots of salt.

We saw the new Disney film Enchanted. I really liked it and would recommend it. Any of you with princess aged girls, yes, take them, but also take along hubby as there were enough outside jokes for the adults. The story starts out with a typical Disney cartoon, with a young girl in a house in the woods with all of her animal helpers, looking for the Prince that will be her one true love. Of course, the prince hears her singing and finds her, but then the evil stepmother throws her down a wishing well and she pops out of a manhole cover in real life New York City, with the prince following some time later to rescue her. The prince and princess actors fit the roles very well – she looks and sounds like a Disney cartoon princess, and Susan Sarandon as the evil stepmother looks pretty good in that black witchy outfit. The stepmother’s henchman is the guy that played Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies; he does a great job with the poison apples (of course) and chipmunks.

Around town: the National Rodeo Finals are due next week. Most of the events are sold out far in advance, but the city will be filled with hats and boots. There is a big show; Cowboy Christmas Gift Show over at the convention center, and we hold the competing Country Christmas, with the lower hall filled with little booths selling all kinds of junk (sorry, of course I meant Fine Holiday Items). For music fans, there are a lot of country type acts in town, including the Charlie Daniels Band, Trace Adkins, Lee Greenwood, Big & Rich, Terri Clark, Ronnie Milsap, Brooks & Dun, Clay Walker and Bill Engval and Larry the Cable Guy. For the non-country crowd Bjork will be here at the Palms, and Van Halen (with David Lee Roth) at the MGM, Marie Osmond with her Holiday show and even Johnny Mathis. Those of you coming out next summer, Donnie and Marie just announced some show dates then, together again (still). The big Santa run is this Saturday, with over 4,000 Santa’s expected, followed by the Las Vegas Marathon on Sunday, with the running Elvi again, last year over 100 couples were married in the run-in chapel with similar numbers expected this year. Something for everyone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Daniel, the member of the housekeeping staff here at work that cleans our office, just came through on his morning rounds. He was all excited today – he had just come from cleaning the vault and the manager there let him hold $30,000 in cash. It was rather funny; he couldn’t stop grinning and laughing about it. I have never thought about money as bringing pleasure like that, just by being there in itself, I view it more as a vehicle to get other things. But then, I’ve never held a stack of cash like that either.

This led to a discussion about John Kenneth Galbraith, and his theories on money. Yes, the guy that empties our trash also reads Galbraith, and sticks his spare money into the stock market. But I guess his stock market picks aren’t that tremendous, as he is still here emptying our trash. Evidently JKG views money in a rather arbitrary fashion, while holding a stack of bills imparts more of a concrete feeling into the value of cash.

The woman that works with him could not stop laughing. All she talked about was the look on Daniel’s face as he held that money, and the way he was talking about it all morning. So here we had the two of them, Daniel talking and her laughing, providing us with our morning entertainment.

Working on computers, and not in the vault or teller cages, I have not had much of an opportunity to work with big stacks of cash. I see lots of money flowing by, but for some reason digits on a screen is not the same thing as a pile of greenbacks, at least until the US changes its currency and starts making some pretty colored money that is. Since Vegas has started going to paper chits in the slot machines, and the IRS requires withholding on big payouts, many of the big winners here are also not handling big piles of bills but just single form checks. It is nice to see that big pile of cash piled up in front of those poker winners, but in the end it all goes back to the vault, forms are filled out, and a check is cut for the correct amount. Perhaps there are some big time gamblers in Vegas that walk around with stacks of cash, but usually they are drug guys just trying to launder the small bills into something they can deposit or transfer to that account in the Cayman Islands.

So I don’t really know what I would feel if handed a thick wad of bills. I think I’d be more afraid of theft, and wondering how quickly I could get to the bank to change it back into little electronic symbols on the computer. Of course, if you work in one of the casino cages or counting rooms you're handling millions of dollars every day, and probably fairly used to dirty money.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Local signs

My morning drive to work takes about fifteen minutes. I drive due east on Desert Inn Road, go under the Strip, around the Wynn golf course and into the Team Member Parking Garage out back. Along the way I drive past one of the fancier Gentlemen’s Clubs in town, Vegas has quite a few. This one used to be something else but is now owned by Score’s, the NYC place that Howard Stern seems to love. I haven’t been inside (any of them) but the outside looks like a fantasy version of a Roman palace, with big columns and lots of marble. There is a big billboard out front that sometimes advertises their place but quite often has ads for the competition. Usually there are some semi-dressed young women pictured.

For the past week this sign has advertised something else. It offers secure confidential storage lockers. I am amused by the listings of why you might want to take advantage of it: Divorce, Lawsuits, Theft, and Seizure are listed across the bottom. Along with telling you that no id is required, you can pay in cash, and the rental of such a locker is untraceable. So, let’s see, that means they are looking for people getting a divorce that want to hide assets from their spouse, people that are being sued and again want to hide assets, for the theft part it might be people that don’t want their things stolen but more likely it’s for the thieves as a place to stash the stolen goods safely, or people that haven’t paid their bills or the IRS and want again to hide what they have. Sounds like a good business model to me, there must be quite a market for these services out there.

The next billboard down another block is for one of the aforementioned Gentlemen’s Clubs. This is near the off ramp from DI where the speed picks up, so I haven’t taken the time to read what club is for, plus I am a little distracted by the image. (sorry, traffic is a little much at this location for me to take photos of the signs) This portrays a young woman on her hands and knees crawling toward the viewer, wearing just a thin white low cut drape. I know in any other city the advertisers would be required to put more clothes on this poor girl, but here skin is just skin. From the low cut front of the outfit it appears that some plastic surgeon has made a great deal of money. Howard Stern has talked about how each extra inch equates to several thousand dollars a year more in tips for this type of entertainer, and if that’s the case this woman must be making millions. What goes through my mind as I drive past are visions of a cow, but they probably have smaller udders, and only one. The sign has been up for several months now, maybe if it stays up for a while longer I will eventually look up and finally see what her face is like.

Other local news – a large article in our local paper this morning talked about the death of Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot. Kevin is a local resident, and was found last night in his house. It seems like a lot of performers choose to live in Vegas. I guess it is close enough to LA, but yet provides a little quieter environment (at least off the Strip) with entertainment close at hand. I know I did videos yesterday (yes, Linda has a much nicer voice), but here’s looking back to 1982’s Cum On Feel the Noize.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Video Monday - old songs

Posting D’s Tennile song last week made me think of the ‘old’ songs that I remember. Back when I first hit college besides the psychedelic stuff this was one of my favorite big songs. I think Linda Ronstadt has one of the prettiest voices ever, but in this live clip the band sure seems to be playing a different song than the one she is singing.

A few years later she had another big hit with Blue Bayou. (fine by me, if it’s OK bayou)

But before Linda, the first concert I ever went to was back in high school (don’t say how old you are Joe) was the Beach Boys. Growing up in New Jersey, it was different to hear these songs about California (perhaps why I moved there). The one that had just come out was Good Vibrations.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Holiday shopping crowds

I was able to avoid going shopping on Friday, supposedly the busiest shopping day of the year, but was not able to avoid going out today. I don’t really like crowds, but put up with them during the holiday season just because it’s the holiday season. I remember going shopping with a friend many years ago; Christmas was on a Sunday, and we went out on Saturday, Christmas Eve. It was in New York City, and we hit all the big stores: Macy’s, Gimble’s, and several others. We ended up seeing what she wanted back at Macy’s, which was our first stop to start the day. We spent two and a half hours in the checkout line. Yes, quite a crowd.

This morning we got out of the house a little late. On Friday several stores opened at 4am to catch the early crowd. We got to the shopping center at 11am, and evidently missed the entire crowd. If this is any indication of how our economy is going then I predict a rather dismal holiday sales season for the retailers.

This was at Boca Park, a nice shopping center close to the high dollar Summerlin area on the west side. This lot was in front of Linens & Things and the Great Indoors. There is a big Target around the other side, and that lot had a lot of cars. Not much more than a typical Sunday though. We also hit Meadows Mall, one of our few indoor malls, and again the crowd was a typical Sunday crowd, nothing dramatic. Perhaps Friday was busy, but not Sunday.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

E almost Friday

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post three photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics. Well, I like to look at them also. Of course it’s E Almost Friday, I was remise in not pulling together some stuff yesterday, sorry.

E likes eating fruit, and one of her favorite items is blueberries. For some reason her mom got her hooked on blueberries in her morning breakfast, and each morning E looks forward to her cereal with them. We always keep a bag of frozen ones, and buy fresh ones in season. Last time they were out we just got used to starting with a base of blueberries in the bowl before adding anything.

One of the days she was here I decided to make blueberry pancakes, as she likes granddad’s pancakes as well. Not satisfied with just having blue berries inside of the pancakes, I figured we should have blue pancakes as well.

Since we usually read the paper while eating breakfast she also has taken to reading the comics while waiting for her breakfast.

But she did seem to enjoy eating the end result, and Grammy made a face out of bananas on top of the pancakes as well.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Vacation Friday

Friday after Thanksgiving – I hope all of you had a nice family day together yesterday. My employer gave us all a four day weekend, the past two made us work the Friday after, so it is nice to have a long weekend. I could get used to three day work weeks with four day weekends. And this is my favorite holiday - I am looking forward to many days of turkey sandwiches.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I’ve been thinking about the dress code around here lately. This job is my first conversion to the ‘dark side’ of Vegas; working for a casino related company. We aren’t a casino, but being next door to an unnamed big hotel/casino/resort (soon to be the largest in the world) and under the same parent company we kind of are related.

Casinos and hotels here in Las Vegas are really strict in their dress codes, and very class conscious. What job you have indicates what clothes you wear, and what you wear indicates how you are treated. I sit at my desk in ‘business casual’, no tie but looking fairly decent. I guess down at the bottom layer in this industry are the uniforms – the housekeeping crew in black pants, white shirt and blue vests, the penguins in their tuxedos with bow ties, and the maintenance crew in blue jumpers. Then come those of us office workers in business casual, with our managers wearing shirts and ties (no jacket). Above them are the people in full suits and ties. So you can walk down the hall and see who you are supposed to nod your head to and who you step aside for. Yes, it does sound rather old fashioned, in supposedly a classless society. I think if I started to wear a tie to work people here would look at me strangely, wondering why I am trying to dress above my station.

What brought this to mind now was our lunch yesterday. We went to the upstairs food court at the Big Hotel Next Door that shall remain unnamed (they also have a downstairs food court with softer chairs and more expensive places) for lunch. There used to be a pretzel place at the end of the food court, but it closed a few months ago and was replaced with a temporary wall hiding construction, with a sign announcing Johnny Rocket’s Hamburgers opening soon!!!. Well, they just opened, so we thought that we’d give them a try.

Several of the places in the food court offer half off for employees; we have a list posted so we know where to eat on what day. The BHND has a nice Team Member dining room where team members can eat for free, but we are not part of their team so we can’t go there. I work for the convention center and not the BHND. But, back to the food court; we sat at the counter at Johnny Rocket and ordered hamburgers. It’s billed as an old fashioned burger joint, with shakes and malts and counter service. (the Original Hamburger Restaurant). The sound system plays old rock and roll, and about every half hour the staff comes out from behind the counter and dances the twist in the food court.

That's the manager up front, the assistant shift manager behind him, and the counter workers behind.

We were talking to our waitress and asked why she didn’t have one of those cute white caps on. Turns out she was one of the shift managers, so she did not wear a hat, had on a beige shirt and long tie while the servers wore white shirts, bow ties and hats. There was another girl in a white shirt without a hat: well, she was the assistant shift manager; no hat, short sleeved white shirt and long tie. Also there was the general manager, long sleeved beige shirt, no tie and no apron. I asked about someone on the grill dressed in black; he was from corporate out to teach the cooking team, so he was dressed in black. That made five different outfits, each designating a different level.

Out on the casino floors it is about the same, dealers in ties and vests, depending on the casino, managers in suits and ties, floor managers in nicer suits. Guards in uniforms, cocktail waitresses in whatever cute thing the casino wants (usually low cut and long legged) and cashiers in the cages in white shirts and ties.

So, what kind of uniform do you wear?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Finally - Munchkins

An article in today's paper related how the Munchkins finally have a star on the walk of fame in Hollywood. Finally the recognition all of those actors deserve. After all, where would the movie have been without them?

For a longer version, with my favorites - you can keep your flying monkeys and purple horses and poppies (poppies my dear, poppies), give me the Lollipop Guild.

Sorry, it's not Video Monday, but I just love these guys. And I would probably forget about them over the long weekend. For those of you that haven't seen the movie, where the heck have you been? After watching that again, maybe I can figure out how to get flowers on the toes of my shoes. Hmmm, those flashy sparkly sneakers would look pretty neet with flowers on the toes, like the Mayor's, huh?

Oh, and D, I was dreaming about you last night. It involved sitting on a dock with dogs in the water below and splinters in unexpected places. But it was fun though. (don't tell T). No Munchkins.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dogs on Tuesday

I started this to compete with Deana’s Cats on Tuesday posts, but now I see that she is including dogs as well as squirrels so I really don’t have much to respond to. And now Brighton is starting to post about dogs as well.

Not many photos to post today. The guys have not been doing anything unusual – well, after a dozen or so years with us it all seems normal now. This is their standard location, holding down our couch. Max is very jealous, and they don’t usually touch, unless it’s Max biting Buster on the butt, so when I see them like this it is unusual

Yes, they sleep in our bed. Or rather, we get to share the big bed with them. They are used to my alarm going off at 5:30 each morning, and somehow have trained us to give them morning treats. I usually give them pieces of soft chewsticks, B gives them chicken tenders. We leave a feeder full of dry food out all the time, but I split packs of soft food on weekends. They have us so well trained in the morning routine that they push us along in the direction of the treat cabinet. If we try to stay in bed they whine or come over and push us with their noses.

And on the weekend if I’m reading the paper and having my coffee they take great pains to inform me that they haven’t yet received their silver dishes with the nice soft food.

Max usually is whining at this point, I found it funny how his tail was making a nice counterpoint beat. Buster just stares. You can here Elmo on tv in the background – no, E was not here at this point, it’s me that likes to watch Sesame Street, always have. Though E leans towards Elmo Grover is my fav, along with Cookie Monster. I can do pretty good imitations of both.

But all in all dogs are much less demanding than kids. I can ignore the cries and wagging tails, but kids screaming are just a little too much. (no direct experience there of course, just speaking hypothetically).

Monday, November 19, 2007

OK GO - Monday Videos

Tina referred me to this group (thanks for the reminder T), they seemed interesting. Named OK GO. Wikipedia has a nice writeup on the group. Guess I like them because they seem like geeks. They are listed as one of the most viewed groups on YouTube. Their first big video was made in a backyard in LA, and featured some of the group’s famous choreography.

I had a dream about it last night, picturing DM, Beth, Keem and I dancing in my back yard like this. I was the guy in the purple vest, DM was the lead singer; with her experience at Karaoke I figured she would be good. I didn't picture the treadmill dance, I would probably be flying all over the place.

How cool for a group – to just set a camera up on a tripod and dance around their backyard, none of the Michael Jackson $20,000,000 budget for a video, no fancy cuts or backup dancers. But their most viewed one is of them performing on treadmills. I showed this to B yesterday, and we both wondered how many bruises were obtained from sliding off while rehearsing. All in one take, that’s a lot of steps to remember.

I don’t know why, I just like the turning on of the music with the remote at the beginning, and the slide and walk away at the end.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gifts in the making

Oh my, sitting home most of the evening on the computer yesterday reading blogs and I forget to post? My goodness.
Here is my new toy and what I’ve been working on recently.

During their visit here my daughter went through the Consumer Reports book and web site and declared several of the Thomas trains we had just purchased for E were unsafe to use. Even though the ones we had were specifically NOT listed she still didn’t like the concept. So we had to withdraw some of the items, which of course a two year old would notice. So for several days we were subject to ‘where is the red caboose?’ questions, as she did play with it for a few days before the decision. I don’t argue any more, it’s not worth it, I just say OK and walk away.

In order to avoid such discussion over Christmas gifts B and I decided it might be best to make our own gifts, which hopefully will be deemed safe. (we’ll find out sometime in late December). I made some wooden toys for our youngest a long time ago, and thought that I could do that again. So I went online and searched for plans, and ended up spending $6 for some nice plans for an arc filled with animals. E likes playing with little things, especially a plastic briefcase filled with jungle animals we got a while back. I’ve posted pictures of her in the swing with her menagerie. Of course, not wanting to cut out all of those curvy animal shapes by hand this entailed a trip to the big hardware supermarket (guy’s Disneyland) and purchase of a new electric jig saw. Lowe’s had a nice one on sale, with a rebate on top of it! Home Depot has really cut back on the large tools that they carry, no more table saws and such at our local one any more.

The above photo demonstrates the results of the saw activity – a couple of dozen wooden animals, that B is now in the process of sanding and finishing. (the elephant is about three inches long) We’ll probably just use a clear spar varnish and avoid the color hassles. I still have to cut out the pieces for the arc and put that together, then ship it all. It will be about two feet long when done and should satisfy the small one’s play desire. Next year – Barbies!

Friday, November 16, 2007

E Friday - smiles

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

I’ve talked before about how her dad taught her to ‘smile for the camera’. Well, she still knows how to do that, pull off a big show of teeth when prompted. I like the candid ones better, but she still is cute doing it this way. Here are three days worth of ‘smile for the camera’ prompts.

I am impressed with the intensity of that last shot. She is really putting some effort into that smile.

I’m sure when she’s in high school and we pull out the photo album she will always scream about these.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Books for Rob

I’ve owed Rob a story about my books for quite a while now. It’s been so long I don’t even remember what I was supposed to talk about, but I do remember that it was books.

So, I have always been a book person. Way back in school I was proud to have a library card, and I would hit the library all the time. I was a big science fiction reader, and went through what was in the ‘juvenile’ section quickly. Back then kids were not allowed in the ‘adult’ section, and I had to get special approval to check books out of there. I also started buying my own books, and have always been buying them. I had to build two walls worth of bookshelves in our Temecula house, we purchased some nice units for San Diego, and this house has lots of fancy oak built in shelving. Unfortunately B doesn’t like oak, so she has plans for painting. This is what they look like now:

What you can’t see is that most of the shelves are deep, and we have placed rows of books behind the front row, so you are only looking at half of what we have. The left section above is mostly cookbooks, and if you look closely you can see my Encyclopedia Britannica volumes scattered around, with their purple bindings and gold print. Yes, I bought my own set of encyclopedias way back when, I really liked having them around to look things up, but now the internets has replaced it as a source of lookingupedness. We also subscribe to a bunch of magazines, my favorite being the New Yorker. I’ve had a subscription to that since I was in the Navy, probably the only guy on my ship to get it. We also subscribe to the local newspaper, and I used to get the Wall Street Journal, which has about the best writing but unfortunately loves GWBush, so I cancelled for political reasons. I like the New York Times, but that sucker costs a fortune to get every day.

I also like buying and giving away books and magazines. Our kids have always gotten books for Christmas and birthdays, and I keep getting ones for E all the time. A lot of these are from suggestions you guys post, so thanks for doing that. I’ve been getting almost every book I see written by those internet people I read all the time, right now I’m waiting on Zoe’s , which Amazon started listing but is not shipping yet. Come on Amazon, get that sucker out to us!

The above photo shows one segment of the bookcases, other similar ones are build into different sides of the tv and family rooms. There are about five other pieces similar to the one above, all filled with books. The whole wall of my office is also filled with bookcases.

Most of the ones in here deal with computers and programming. The bottom row is filled with binders, one for each customer – I print out parts of their code, but mostly database structures and the notes and requests that they send me. Whenever I get a new project I usually end up spending $150 or so on related books. Computer books now are usually around $50 to $70 each, so buying two or three can make project startup expensive. I usually also have to purchase some software program or compiler, all before I can start billing a customer. These books are used for reference, if finding an answer in one saves me three hours of wondering what’s going on it’s worth it.

This section has most of the older stuff.

Yes, I keep my old computer games. For those of you that are computer historians, you’ll see the first version of dBase for DOS in the upper left, and the IBM DOS 1.1 manuals to the right. Down below to the left is a silver dBase II binder for a really old version running on CP/M, and some of my games, including Zork – do any of you remember Zork? I originally played it on a DEC PDP machine, I think it was about the first computer game ever written. And then we flow over to my domino case and Cootie. That’s a game I really like, and am waiting for E to get older to learn, and on to Jenga and my box of Lord of the Rings audio cassettes.

The two office photos cover about 10% of the shelf space there, most are filled with language references and software boxes, but I do have a radio and some photos standing there too.

So those are my bookshelves. I don’t remember what else I’m supposed to write about. The last book I read was Angels and Demons, a paperback that I took on the plane for my trip and finished just as we pulled into Phoenix airport (flight back wasn’t non-stop) yesterday. I am awaiting Zoe’s book on the Twat, along with some others. I have on my nightstand one of Neil Gamon’s that I am about to start. The book I most remember is Sidhartha, which did calm me down a lot when I was in the Navy. I still re-read it periodically. I keep most of my books because of my poor memory, I can go back and read them again after a few years and it almost seems like a new book. When the last Harry Potter book came out I had to go back and read all of the first six before I got to it, in order to catch up on all of the characters again.

I can’t hit a bookstore without spending at least $100, but that is mostly because of the cost of computer related books. I have always bought kids books, even when there were no kids around. I see that gold Caldecott medal and figure if it’s good enough to get that it’s good enough for me to read.

The book I am in the middle of is a computer one, Creating Your World, about Second Life, the latest computer thing that Udge has me hooked on.

So, Rob, have I covered everything?

Let me end with something for Martin. For some reason he doesn’t like this song. Probably back from when they had their own TV show, The Captain and Tennille's Love.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back from my field trip

Back from Missouri after my three day experience. The weather wasn’t bad, it only rained for one of the days. I had not been in that part of the country before. It kind of looked like upstate New York, but a little flatter. There were lots of rolling low hills and trees and green and places for water to run, so I imagine that they get a lot of rain. Well, compared to Las Vegas everywhere gets a lot of rain. So far this year (since last January) we’ve had about 40mm of rain total here. But we have had a lot of sunny days.

We flew on Southwest Airlines both ways. Sitting in that cramped seat all I could think of was that we had moved up from the Greyhound bus era to less leg room and less services, but faster travel. Southwest still does not have assigned seating, but when you check in you get a number, and people are boarded in number order. I think that the best number segments are about in the middle, a little after all of the small kids are boarded, so that window seats are still available but you can pick not to sit right in front of a screaming kicking brat. Not that any of those little darlings on my flights were like that of course. But being confined, and suffering through the air pressure changes are two things that little kids are really unprepared for, so I can understand their discomfort.

Our flights were three hours long, which is less than the range that Southwest has chosen to serve food on. Instead of real food (which I haven’t seen on a plane in a long time) we were served ‘snack packs’

With 0.75 ounces of dried fruit and 0.81 ounces of thin crisps and a little cheese flavored snack, and an amount of peanuts too small to have a size printed on it. But for the peanuts, in order to protect people with peanut allergies, it does say ‘Produced in a facility that processes peanuts and other nuts’. Glad to know that. But as usual, we were for some reason all starved and just wolfed down the offerings.

This is what it looked like behind our hotel.

It was about 30 miles west of St. Louis, out in the country. They haven’t had freezing weather yet, so most of the trees still had leaves.

Next door to our hotel was a J. Bucks restaurant. On Sunday night we hit Ruby Tuesday and had burgers, but on Monday rather than drive to find a place we thought that we’d just walk next door, so J and I had ribs at JB. They were really good. I understand they have six or seven restaurants around the Midwest, and I would recommend them for a nice night out. Our meals were about $20 each, low for Vegas but I have no idea how it compares for out there.

J flew out on Tuesday afternoon, but I stayed to talk to the programmers about some problems we were having, and wandered over by myself that night. I had the cedar planked salmon.

Also a good choice. The desserts were mostly chocolate variations, I had one on Monday but passed the next night, too heavy after a big meal.

Back to the airport this morning, and the sun was shining once in a while between the high clouds. It all did seem rather flat, with none of the Vegas mountains off in the distance.

The local TV news did a short story on rocking chairs in the airport, and while walking around waiting for my flight I found some. No one was sitting in this area, and there were none of these over in the Southwest gates.

Oh, the security at StL: about the same as in Vegas. Shoes off, belt off, x-ray everything, and for what?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday in O'Farrell

Sorry, I missed videos yesterday, and can't find my doggie pics for dogs on Tuesday. But I just noticed that D didn't put up any cats, today she switched to squirrels, probably not much of a change, both are fuzzy and really don't care for people except for the food.

Having a great time in class, I wasl almost able to stay awake today, but I did learn some critical things right at the end of the day, so it looks like it was worth it coming here. I fly back home in the morning, we'll see what security at the St. Louis airport is like.

It is still difficult to get used to it getting dark so early, but perhaps that will give me some light for my early morning drive to the airport. Back in LV my morning drive has changed due to the daylight savings clock change, I now get to drive in after the sun is up. It's now over to the right, past the Venetian towers and not right in my eyes.

Took this one a few weeks ago from the front yard when picking up the morning paper.

Sunsets here are nice and orange, but didn't see one tonight due to the clouds. Oh well, that's it for here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wow! O'Farrell!

It's not St. Louis, and this keyboard on my company laptop is a piece of cr@p, but it's cloudy and raining and the mud is sticky. I hear it rained in Vegas too, so I'm not missing much.

My class is going OK, I am managing to stay awake (almost,usually) and listening to the instructor. Unfortunately, as we expected, this class is not very technical and it's going over things we have already done. But I got to see beautiful O'Farrell and find out again how bad it is to go through airport security.

Tell me, do you people really feel that all of those checkpoionts, taking off your shoes, not being able to take your shampoo, all really make you feel safer? You do realize that the 9/11 hijackers would have passed all of these security checks, don't you? Their weapons were put on the planes by cleaners (supposedly, depending on your source) and not carried on. So what the heck, if all of this cr@p would not have made a damn bit of difference, why are we doing it now? How many millions of dollars, and man hours, (sorry, person hours) are lost for this? Is it just psychological, and is it working? I have only done it once, but it's time for a letter to my congressman, as if that makes any difference in the world. But I do know that I have skipped flying, and bypassed several trips and vacations because of my dislike for the entire procedure.

What's the matter with you people? Is the world that bad that you have to feel more secure via this stuff?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday in St. Louis

Exciting day today, I got to stand in the Las Vegas airport security line for an hour, take off my shoes and belt and empty my pockets and have my laptop scanned four times (guess it was a new guy or something), get on a plane and fly three hours to St. Louis. I am in a hotel in the marvelous city of O’Farrell, Missouri typing on a computer in their ‘business center’ (two computers in a closet) at trying to fulfill my blog once a day commitment, so here I am!

We got in just before sunset (J, the programmer that sits behind me came too) picked up a rental car and proceeded to find out just how bad MapQuest directions are in a place neither of us had been before. But, we made it here. There are two restaurants in the area, a Ruby Tuesday and a Country Kitchen. We picked RT, the burger was OK but not as marvelous as the waiter intimated. But then he works for the place, so, … That amounts to the nightlife in O’Farrell. Oh, there is a Starbucks too, so I can at least get some caffeine before going to class tomorrow. We are here for two days to take a technical class on the new software product our convention center is moving to. Neither of us has a good opinion on it, but it was selected by Corporate so we weren’t even asked. We just have to make it work.

I’ll let you know tomorrow what Missouri looks like in the daylight. In the dark it looks like just about anyplace, except for Vegas which at times is flashier at night than in the daytime. Sorry, not pictures or video, for some reason my laptop will not let me in, so I can’t access my list of stuff. You’ll just get words for two days.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I purchased some shoes that I have been looking for for a long time. Several years ago I started seeing little kids with shoes that had lights in the bottom, and they blinked when they walked. I've been looking for big people shoes like that for a while, and have never found them. A few Chrismases ago my wife bought me some little people's shoes with the lights and I cut out the light control circuit and the lights, trying to find some sneakers with a thick enough sole to put them into. Well, as usual, procrastination got in the way.

Then someone mentioned shoes they saw at the dreaded W@lm@rt. This is a place I detest, due to their philosophies, and try not to go to. We sometimes get stuck doing it, as at times they are the only ones with a specific item. Well, a few weeks ago I went in and found these:

I tried to get a shot of the lights on, but you know how it is. Anyway, you get a small spot of red off the back one. They have a light at the back, lights on the sides of the heels, lights on the side up front and on the toe. Best thing - $12! Now I wear them to work, and walk across the dark G hall and twinkle in the dark. I love them.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Udge's three

I usually read most of the blogs listed to the right on a semi-daily basis, depending on what else is happening and how long some of the posts are. One of these is a gentleman from Germany named Udge. Udge has introduced me to a great time waster called Second Life (more on that one in the future) and has come up with an interesting meme. Instead of asking people to answer a list of questions, the first three commenters to sign up for the meme here and post the same promise on their blogs will receive a smallish present-thingy from me at some point during the next 366 (leap year!) days. Note that this will require informing me of your real-world identity and address, so those intent on secrecy and anonymity should probably refrain from joining in. I will probably get things out a little early, perhaps in time for this Christmas, unlike Udge who seems overwhelmed with projects the end of the year, and most likely the gifts will have a Vegas theme. If you wish to join in list yourself and email me your mailing address. DM - if you sign up again I guarantee you will get something clown related.

Sorry D, easier explination:
1. sign up here (in the comments)
2. On your site, offer this deal to the first three people to sign up with you
3. Email me your real name and mailing address
4. I will send you a little Chrismas gift
5. When people sign up on your site, they also have to offer, and you will send them a little Christmas gift.
6. I have no idea what 'little Christmas gift' means. You decide. You will find out when I figure it out and send something to you.

The idea is rather than spreading questions and information you will spread a little Christmas (or Hanuka or Quanza or . . ) seasonal cheer. Eventually the entire world will have signed up and mailed each other stuff, thus keeping the post office in every country happy and employed. Kind of an inverted Amway thingy but you are giving not selling.

E Friday - pink milk

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post three photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics. Well, I like to look at them also. Today it’s two pics and a video.

When E was out last we got her several books for Grammy to read to her. One featured a little girl drinking pink milk. As E is an avid milk drinker I guess this was of interest to her, and so after returning home her mom got some magic stuff that made her milk pink. She seems to like it like that.

I’m not sure why. Her favorite fruit is blueberries, but she also does strawberries. Guess the pink milk was a nice change from plain white.

At least I think she liked it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bellagio Conservatory Autumn setting

On Saturday we took E and mom to see the current display at the Bellagio conservatory. They change their display to match the seasons, and now they are into their autumn harvest mode. There are some standard items that they keep and re-use, but mix them up in different ways and add new ones. This year there is a walkway down the center, with arches overhead and those neat shooting fountains to walk under.

The fountains turn on and off, and I am always impressed how the water keeps to that nice sharp stream and doesn’t splash those underneath at all. (the silver arches overhead are the water fountains in the above photo.) I think our group is in most of these pictures, did you find E in that one? (hint – just the top of her hair there)

Further on in the larger back area they put up a two story wooden mill with a waterwheel.

As seen everywhere, the person on a cell phone, ignoring what is around her to talk with someone someplace else. Scattered around all over were pumpkins – large and small. E seemed fascinated with the ones that were bigger than her.

The above shot is looking back towards the entrance. Just to the right is a large tree stump carved to look like a woodland gnome or some other creature – look close and you can make out the face looking towards the big pumpkin.

Next to the mill was a little pond with metallic trees splashing water. Along side was a cornucopia spilling out different colors of apples.

Yes, the pumpkins and apples are real, the tree person is fiberglass, but there are lots of real trees and flowers and grasses scattered around.

Over all of this, up near the glass ceiling, were short arcs covered with red berries. They always try to put something overhead to make the displays more three dimensional

We probably will not make it back to the Bellagio until next month, when they should be in full Christmas mode. Yesterday I got tickets for us to see the Circ show Ka over at the MGM – there are some two for one ticket deals for locals during December, which used to be our slow month in Vegas, but now is not really. In talking to the ticket seller at MGM he said they were already close to 95% reservations for the whole month, sold out through the end of January already. Looks like even with the economy and housing not doing too well people still find some time and money to vacation. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Local Concerts

One more of the nice things about living in Las Vegas is that just about every touring band or group will usually make at least one stop here. This provides the opportunity to see lots of groups that you would not see elsewhere. There is also a downside to this, as most promoters figure that people are coming to Las Vegas for a vacation, and therefore are willing to pay more for their entertainment the one week a year that they come out. This means that a concert ticket that might cost $35 in San Diego will probably go for $120 here in Vegas. And most concerts end up selling out within hours of initial ticket sales, mostly to scalpers or to casinos to give out as rewards to their high rollers. Of course, scalpers will then double these prices, which means that most people that live in Las Vegas will drive to LA or Phoenix to hear their favorite group. But if you are willing to pay you can enjoy anything locally.

One specific example of this is someone my wife wanted to see. She likes smooth jazz, and Diana Krall is a singer that she enjoys. Looking at my ITunes I see that we have four of her albums (sorry, CDs). Diana passes through Vegas once or twice a year. She usually plays at the small Railhead Lounge at Boulder Station, which is not close to the strip and more of a locals hotel and casino. Despite being off strip tickets to see Diana averaged $70. One week after appearing here she was at Yoshi’s in Oakland. Our son lives in Oakland, and we have been to Yoshi’s a few times, if you listen to Jazz you will be familiar with the name, as many live albums are recorded there. Yoshi’s concert room holds about half the number of people that fit in the local Railhead. Tickets to see Diana at Yoshi’s were $15. Almost worth flying out there to see the kids.

Anyway, what brought this on was the monthly concert listing in our Las Vegas Life magazine. These are some of the concerts listed for November: ZZ Top, Hanson (are they still around?), Average White Band, James Taylor, Maroon 5, Billy Joel, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Patti Lupone. Those are the traveling groups, also appearing are our local Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Wayne Newton and Sir Elton John.

I’d love to see ZZ, they are at the Hilton and tickets are around $80, not too bad.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dogs on Tuesday - Buster

I started this to compete with Deana’s Cats on Tuesday posts, but now I see that she is including dogs so I really don’t have much to respond to. We don’t have any cats, so I cannot reciprocate and include both groups. Oh well, so I will continue with the dogs. Today we’ll concentrate on Buster.

He’s the softie of the group, always looking for a lap or a snuggle, even though at times he gets rather grumpy if you pet him. We figure he’s about 16 years old now, he looks about the same as when we got him, but he is starting to get a little hard of hearing. You can’t see the grey hairs he is getting like on Max, as his coat is basically tan and white anyway. Like most dogs he enjoys a good roll in something stinky out in the grass.

He likes laying outside in the sunshine, even in the summer when it’s over 100f we can find him out there, or just on the couch in the family room. He is not as inquisitive as Max, who just has to supervise whatever is going on. But he does wander through once in a while to see what’s happening.

(two for one, see how I cleverly snuck a video of my granddaughter E in there?)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Maybe I should join the Queen

I thought I was doing a good thing, writing every day, but maybe I should join the Queen.
Like you want to read my drivel every day?

Video Monday

Some old blues for you guys today, all due to a post by FirstNations. She remembers a life changing experience listening to John Lee Hooker singing ‘Bad Like Jesse James’. I have never heard the song before, but fortunately YT has it. And a nice writeup about him if you click and go there.

I remember him more from ‘One Bourbon, one scotch and one beer’. I went more for the fun songs.

While in college I was the student union social director. This meant that I got to spend a half a million dollars putting on the school concerts for the year. I had a great time, and got to meet one of my old favorites Dave Brubeck in his underwear (twice), but that’s a story for a different day. One of the things we did that year was to go off to a student union conference down in Texas. Some of the promoters had their groups there to show off, hoping for eventual bookings of course. The one I remember most was Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. I just loved Sonny’s harmonica. He wore a vest with lots of pockets, and must have had a couple of dozen different sized harmonicas in there, which he kept switching between. When I saw them they were old farts, not as young as in the video. Could barely make it up on stage.

Almost made me go out and buy one, but it was college and there were other things in the way. I don’t think harmonicas were a big way to impress the girls, they were into guitars then. Don’t play one of those either.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Quiet Sunday

My wife was reading me parts of a magazine article, and it was a rather depressing view of what the world has become, mostly due to things done during the past seven years of a paranoid dilusional presidency.

From The New Yorker magazine, August 27, 2007 – The Human Bomb by Adam Gopnik

Gopnik discusses how America is being viewed by France.

When Sarkozy was elected president of France, in his first meeting with Condoleezza Rice, she asked 'What can I do for you?' "And he said, bluntly, 'Improve your image in the world. It's difficult when the country that is the most powerful, the most successful – that is, of necessity, the leader of our side – is one of the most unpopular countries in the world. It presents overwhelming problems for you and overwhelming problems for your allies. So do everything you can to improve the way you’re perceived – that’s what you can do for me. 'I think it’s entirely possible; the reservoir of good will has been drained somewhat, but it is far from dry."

When people in Paris talk about ambitious kids going to study abroad, they talk about London. (Americans have little idea of the damage done by the ordeal that a routine run through immigration at JFK has become for Europeans, or by the suspicion and hostility that greet the most anodyne foreigners who come to study or teach at our scientific and educational institutions.) When people in Paris talk about manufacturing might, they talk about China; when they talk about tall buildings, they talkd about Dubai; when they talk about troubling foreign takeovers, they talk about Gazprom. To a new leadership class, it sometimes seems that America is no longer the human bomb you have to defuse but the nut you walk away from.

Its military weakness has been exposed in Iraq, its economic weakness by the rise of the euro, and its once great cultural magnetism has been diminished by post-9/11 paranoia and insularity.

Sad to see what our country looks like from the outside. And sadder still that most Americans are not aware of it, or even that they don’t care.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Potential balet dancer

Practicing her moves with a ball.

I know, not wearing a TKW made tutu, she left those at home.

Friday, November 02, 2007

E Friday - she's back!

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post three photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics. Well, I like to look at them also. Today it’s two pics and a video.

Well, E’s back! She and her mom flew down from Portland yesterday for a week’s visit. She has changed since I saw her in June – even faster with the running, her hair is longer, and she can talk! We’ve seen her periodically on video conferences, since grammy does this more often she is better adapted, but I only get involved if the call is still going on when I get home from work. I have had difficulty in understanding her, but with her constant talking I guess she keeps getting better, and I understood almost everything she said last night.

Her shirt says that she doesn’t do pink. Well, since mom buys all the clothes I guess this is true. Except she does like dancing in pink tutus grandad got from TKW.

Mom has taught her lots of nursery rhymes, and reads to her all the time. Our daughter was a third grade teacher, and I guess realized that she was missing something, with grammy getting to take care of E for her first two years and see how she was growing up. Now that they are in Portland mom is not working, and it is her turn to see the daily changes.

So E is always singing, as she plays she is humming a little tune or singing one of the songs that she knows. But she still loves Thomas, and granddad got some new ones for her to play with.

Hope you can hear her over the other two talking in the kitchen.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Show setup

Halloween last night was unusual – we had kids at the door! Let me explain, well, we live in an area with bigger lots, no sidewalks and no streetlights. The houses are farther apart than in most neighborhoods, and it is rather scary to walk down the dark streets with just dirt alongside. So most people tend to take their kids a few blocks away to one of the more dense developments, making it quicker for kids to hit multiple doors. We expected the trips plus one from across the street, and they did show up just before dark. We then had four other groups of kids that we didn’t recognize (well, the four across and two down on the corner are the only kids that live around here) for a total of almost twenty costumed trick or treaters. Wow! That’s more than we have had the last three years combined.

It’s all excitement at our house – E and her mom are due out today! Airport pickup at 9:43am, so they should all be there when I get home tonight!

But today is the first day of November. This is NaBloPoMo, which means a post a day for the month of November. I have been doing pretty well during my weekdays: well, it is slow at work when I come in at 7, so I do take some time. Weekends will be a challenge, especially this one with E down. And then I have an exciting field trip in the middle – a two day class in St. Louis, Mo. We’ll see if that laptop they got for me to take along works on the supposed hotel high speed internet access. It’s not really St. Louis, it’s O’Farrel. Any of you guys out in that area? Only there for a few days, but from what I hear that’s enough time to see everything that is worth seeing (like the Arch and the arch and oh yea, there’s the arch).

So to start off the month, since I talk about working at a convention center, let’s go through some of the things that I see when a show is set up. Things get started a few days ahead of opening when the decorating company marks the floors (indicating where the booths, walkways and other items are located) and the carpet starts coming in. You can see the lines of tape used to mark the layout.

Then the trucks start showing up, filled with all the items that vendors will put in their booths. A big show can take several hundred truckloads.

Every booth needs chairs.

And tables

After the carpet is down other crews put up piping and drape curtains around the booths. Every show is a different color scheme, the design companies must really have huge warehouses to hold all of this stuff.

Then pallets are unloaded from the trucks and scattered around to the booths where they will be used.

After the design company is finished with their setup and pallet distribution, which usually takes three to four days, the exhibitors are allowed in to set up their booths. Some of the booths are simple, nothing more than a few tables, others can be as elaborate as desired, or money permits. During some of the big shows, like the flooring one, big companies even build small houses in the upstairs hall.

Out front in the lobby they set up places where exhibitors and attendees go to pick up their entrance badges.

And down in the back all of the food carts and service trolleys await.

As far as what the show looked like, I think I have some pictures of that somewhere. Up to this point they all look about the same though. It’s what goes into the booths that differ from show to show.