Thursday, July 31, 2008

More random stuff around town

This has been a busy month out here. I’ve been working on a web site for the big boss’ birthday party, just 500 of his closest friends off to Macau. One of the managers of the big hotel next door supposedly failed to mail out information packets to the guests, so I had to make up a web site that they could use to see what was going on, and to sign up for optional activities. It’s taken the past three weeks, including weekends, to get it the way they want it – obviously if it’s for the big guy it has to be perfect, and we did end up getting daily emails from his wife about things to change. The biggest one wasn’t my doing – it was the logo designed for the event. There were signs and shirts and bags and handouts and basketballs (one of the events is one of the US basketball team’s Olympic finals), but when she finally saw the logo she didn’t like it at all, so everything had to be thrown out and started over, including my basic designs. The events start today, so I hope the requests for changes are done, even though I was still hopping on it yesterday. I kept a sequence of emails from my boss that took place one Friday evening, starting at 7pm after I got home running until midnight, 28 emails with changes – as I fixed one and emailed him back it was done there was another request. Ah well, it’s what I get paid for.

For the past week E and mom have been down from Portland on a visit. I was given two comp days to stay home, but ended up in front of the computer more on those days then when I’m here at work, but we did get a little time in. Last post were some pool pics – we went swimming almost every evening, that’s the reason they came down, because she wanted to swim in the warm water. It looks like she enjoyed herself; she was laughing and smiling the whole time that she was in the pool. Those little floatie things for her arms kept her up, and she really had a good time paddling around.

It has been a strange July around town as well. A few weeks ago we had some lovely sunsets, thanks to all of the fires out in California blowing smoke this way. It also provided a few strange orange days and some air quality alerts, but I’m sure it was a lot better here than further west. Sounds like the coastal fires are under control, now it’s moved in by Yosemite. Oh well, that seems to be the cycle, Smokey the Bear says put out all fires, which then leads to a buildup of brush and dead trees which then take off and really burn on those dry years. This has also been the first July since we’ve moved here that the temperature hasn’t gone over 110f. (43c)

Going through my list of unused photos, here are a few from around town that I thought at one time were interesting,

Some familiar things here in Las Vegas, tall construction cranes. These were up alongside the Palazzo, now completed and open for quite a while. I’m sure these cranes are now raised up over another project, as there are several dozen visible when standing in the same spot.

They might even be one of these, which I drive past every day on my way in to work.

It’s the site of the old Stardust, I think it’s the new Echelon, $4,800,000,000 construction project with several hotel and condo towers, casino and convention center. This view is off to my left each morning, as I zip over 15 on Desert Inn. No place to stop and take pictures, so you get a blurry one taken out of the car window. A big parking structure is going up right along DI, attached to what looks like a power plant and cooling facility, currently being filled with big pipes and lots of equipment. Across the strip from this is the Fontainebleau, another $2,900,000,000 project.

Last week we had some humidity and thunderstorms across the valley. We didn’t get much rain at all at our house, but the water was deep in some areas. The increase in humidity caused our sage brush to flush out with purple blooms (supposedly the increase in humidity prompts the blooming). We have a row of them right outside the kitchen window, with most being seven feet high, so we can see the little purple blossoms from just a few feet away while standing at the sink. The hummingbirds try to hit every flower, and there are some little finches that flash in and eat the aphids and small buts, filing the bushes with movement. The hummers are slow and graceful in comparison to this group, hopping and flitting around and chirping away, making a big production as a group of them move from branch to branch down the row of plants. Back a few months ago the wisteria we brought up from San Diego was in bloom,

It’s all green and leafed out now, with a random flower head put out once in a while after the first big bloom.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

E swimming

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics. Well, I like to look at them also. But, sorry it’s not Friday, and I haven’t had any E photos up in a few weeks. I’ve been working on a web site for the big boss’ birthday party, which just sucked the last few weeks (and weekends) away. People start flying in tomorrow, but I’m still stuck seven days a week making changes. Come on already. But back to E: This is what I’ve found inhabiting my pool this past week.

Looks like 92f water temp is a rather big hit. Don’t know what her pool is up in Portland, but down here it’s open all year (rather cold in the winter time though)

OK, might as well use up all of the pool pics.

There you go, enough water for now? If you're in town, come on by and jump in.

Monday, July 21, 2008

E Monday

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics. Well, I like to look at them also. But, sorry it’s not Friday, and I haven’t had any E photos up in a few weeks. I’ve been working on a web site for the big boss’ birthday party, which just sucked the last few weeks (and weekends) away. But back to E:

When we went up to visit in Portland it was to see E of course, but the selection of the time we went was based on her birthday. Yes, while there E turned three.

She had balloons, and mom baked her a dinosaur cake. With pink icing, because pink is her favorite color (this week)

And I dropped our camera so that the pictures aren’t in focus. Oh well, just squint and pretend you can tell what’s going on.

Wait a minute – how old did you say she was?

Is someone happy about that? I think so.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Statistics lesson for the day

It’s been a quiet week in Spring Valley, my home town. Yes, I know the title says Vegas, but when I drive home the sign up on Desert Inn I drive past says ‘Welcome to the township of Spring Valley’, and when I drive in to work in the morning the sign I go past on Spring Mountain Boulevard says ‘Welcome to Paradise’. So there, I work in Paradise, a sign says so, and if you can’t believe in a sign put up by the government, what can you believe in?

The city limits of Last Vegas end up at Sahara Boulevard, if you’ve been out here then the tower of the Stratosphere is the last casino in city limits, the Sahara Casino is across the street, and not in the city but in Clark County. Most of the Strip casinos are in the township of Paradise, including the airport, so if you’ve been here and thought you’ve been to Vegas you’ve actually been to Paradise. Unless you went downtown to see the old casinos, then you have been to Vegas.

Anyway, back to it being a quiet week, well, it has been. We are into our July temperatures, a little warm for the beginning of the month, but it’s due to hit 113f (45c) this afternoon, so a lot of people are just saying home in the air conditioner. There are no big conventions scheduled for this month, with none at all last week, so at work it has been very quiet, though I have been hit with this emergency call to get up a site for the big boss very quickly (OK, then why am I taking the time to write this? Get back to work Joe).

There is a conflict in tourism here, in that the summer is about the worst time to come, as our temperatures are rather unbearable and usually the weather back at home is pretty good, but it is when kids are out of school and traditionally people take vacations. My suggestion, best time to come is any time. It is cool in the winter, but the sun is still just as bright and you can lay in a quiet area by a cold pool and still get a nice tan, walk the streets without dying and not have huge crowds. But come. So people are here, walking the streets and getting sunburns (previous post on that topic); bring and use sunscreen.

Tourism is down, what with gas in California over five bucks a gallon, and fewer people are driving up; we usually get 35,000 or so driving here from LA each weekend for a quick trip. Casino revenues are down as a result, and there are some layoffs, with the unemployment rate getting up there. Station Casinos is opening a new resort in North Las Vegas soon, with 1,000 job openings they are expecting 100,000 applicants. The Wynn next door is opening a new tower, and behind our facility and their Team Member parking garage they constructed a whole facility just as an employment office.

It’s composed of about thirty single wide trailers all put together, with a second building made of a half dozen more marked for Uniforms. All of the trees are in pots, and there are a lot more now, so it looks like a small forest out there in a sea of flat asphalt. In the background are the two Wynn towers, from right to left in the picture it’s the newer one to the right (called Encore), then the old one (well, what, two years old?) then the Trump tower in the distance and on the left it’s the new Palazzo tower at the Venetian. This site of the employment center used to be blocks and blocks of apartments. Wynn now owns five of the sections and the Sands owns one, in the middle surrounded by a U of Wynn property. The Sands property is right behind the trailers and palm trees, construction is supposed to start soon on a new two million square foot Sands convention center here, three levels of underground parking and three levels up of convention space, so there will be a new block in this picture next year, but not as pretty or as tall as the hotel towers.

Some information in a recent local newspaper article about the new Station Casino facility discussed slot revenues. It seems that there has been an increase in penny slot machines on the strip. In 2000 there were only 710, but now there are 32,234 of them. Yes, you can do a penny a pull, but all of these are following a trend of the electronic slot machines. The electronic machines have a screen with what used to be images of the rollers found on old mechanical machines. What you see are three horizontal rows of small pictures, with from three to seven vertical rows, with most machines now having five vertical rows.

What gets most people is that you can also bet on multiple ‘lines’ for multiple coins. On mechanical slot machines there used to be three rollers with pictures on them, and when the same three pictures lined up across the front you won something. Now with the glory of computerized electronic machines you are not limited to the mechanics of calculating a win, you are given a variety of ways to line up the little pictures. This machine is typical of the multiple ways to bet.

Each colored line indicates the combination of five pictures that can create a winning sequence. There are nine ‘lines’ that you can bet on. And most machines allow you to bet multiple coins per line. All machines offer a ‘grand’ mega- prize for getting a rare combination of pictures. But if you read the fine print you can only get the big prize if you bet the maximum number of coins on the maximum number of lines. So on a penny machine like this one that would be ten pennies on each of nine lines for a bet of $ .90, so if you just push the Max Bet button you are spending what you would spend on 90 pushes of the minimum bet button.

There is a group of big Wheel of Fortune machines next door that take nickel bets. I say bets because most electronic machines do not take coins in, but either paper money or printed slips, and they don’t pay out in coins but in the same printed slips, which you then carry over to a ready teller machine, feed in, and are returned cash out. Unless you win big, then you have to go over to the cage and trade it in for and IRS income tax form and a check, with 35% tax withheld. (yes, the government has their hands in it). I think the withholding comes in play when you win more than $1500. It’s up to you to tell the IRS how much you spent to get that when you fill out your tax return for next year. Anyway, the WOF machines are hooked together in a network with other machines all over the world, leading to a really big grand prize. This one is up to over $ 5,400,000. We walk past it on our lunchtime rambles, and it seems to go up by about $20,000 per day. It started at $1,000,000 months ago, so you can see how often there is a winner. To get that prize again it takes max bet on max lines, which means each time you push the button (no more arms to pull on slot machines any more, all buttons) it will cost you $ 4.50.

So penny and nickel machines don’t usually take singe coin betters. When we used to visit Vegas my wife would make $20 last in a penny machine for hours, getting free drinks and most of her money back when we left. But that was downtown, and she was only betting a penny on each pull. The odds always seemed to be a little better downtown than out here on the Strip.

The newspaper article also discussed the pay back percentages. Those are the overall percentages of money that you would get back over a huge average number of bets. Most people (except you D) just leave their money in the machine and keep going until it’s all gone. Back in 1997 the average slot payoff was 95% (excluding video poker, in which a little skill is involved). In 2007 that fell to 93.9%. That’s for machines over all, for penny machines alone the odds were a little lower, with the average 89.9% payback, while dollar machines paid back an average of 94.5%. So if you are going to only bet a penny, then go ahead and amuse yourself. But if you are going for the max bets, then instead of staying on that penny machine you would be better off moving over to a dollar machine and betting the minimum. Fortunately for the house that is where psychology comes in. People think ‘well, I am only playing a penny machine, not betting on the dollar machine’, while most of them do max bets and still blow a buck on each push of the button anyway.

OK, here is the official word on the payback percentages: "the payback percentage is a theoretical calculation that indicates, on average, how much a slot machine will give back to players over millions of spins and generally won’t affect a player’s probability of winning on any given spin or in any given playing session."

So, there is your lesson in slot pay today. And thank you all for coming to Vegas and using those machines. My paycheck appreciates it. And Mr. Wynn, Trump and Adelson aren’t building those golden towers just to give people a nice view. And Ann, sometimes it does take me a while to write these things. My mind goes in a million directions and it takes quite an effort to get the words down coherently (at least I hope they make sense most of the time).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

OH, Michael

A little kid asks his father, "Daddy, is God a man or a woman?"
"Both son. God is both."
After awhile the kid comes again and asks, "Daddy, is God black or white?"
"Both son, both."
"Daddy, does God love children?"
"Yes son, he loves all children."
The child returns a few minutes later and says, "Daddy, is Michael Jackson God?"

I think 1971, in a smokin' hat, and fast feet.

In 2001 – I think he’s the one with dark hair. The blond looked pretty good back then(nice legs).

Yes, he is now living in Vegas and is reported attending different events around town, supposedly working on a deal for a regular show somewhere (probably the Hilton) like Cher has.

Monday, July 07, 2008


From Zed-FM, that New Zealand radio station I listen to while sitting at my computer at work. (work! ,sorry Dob (OK, how many of you get that reference?)) (sorry guys, been overloaded here, they finally actually expect me to do something! It's a special web site for an event the big boss (sorry, BIG BOSS) is putting on over in Macau for 500 of his close personal friends, flown in on his fleet of little (he only has one 747) private jets)

Brain Reading Trick
Can you read the text below? Only 55 out of 100 people can.. see if you're one of them!

This is weird, but interesting!

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!