Thursday, January 29, 2009

our yard

I had mentioned working on my front patio last week and somebody asked about photos, so here are some views of what I was working on.

This is the front of our house. The attached garage is to the immediate left, and over on the right side is one of the bedrooms, creating a small courtyard in between. Our front door is right in the center of the picture, reached via a gate that is behind the wall on the right. Our front room (parlour?) is located there, with a big picture window looking out onto the courtyard, which is about twenty by twenty feet square. This side of the house faces east, so we get the morning sun but being enclosed really cuts down any breeze making it a hot area in the summer afternoons. I just put up those big steel beams overhead and the vertical posts holding them up, placing the covering about nine feet high. We will put some kind of lattice on top, we didn’t want a full solid covering. We are still debating on what to put up, but will probably end up with 2x4 inch boards standing on edge set about 2 inches apart. Our house is a single story ranch style, so that would seem to fit in. We put in the tree just to the right which is starting to get fairly good size, and the branches of a wisteria planted several years ago can be seen, which we will train up over the top. It bloomed a lot last year, and should be nice there, providing more shade with the flowers hanging down all over. It’s similar to what we did at our house in San Diego.

Out back there is a similar frame structure but here we put up solid metal roofing. Below is the concrete we put down when we pulled out all the grass back here. It’s the full length of the house, about fifty feet long and eighteen feet wide. I put the top up high, to keep the heat way up and let the breezes blow in over the roof, and put in a few fans just to move the air when the wind dies down.

I put up all of this using metal instead of wood, which would be more typical as wood is easier to work with, because of the strong sunlight. Wood tends to deteriorate rather quickly here, requiring frequent painting and upkeep. The steel structure should last a long time with minimal work, and also let me use fewer vertical posts and less framing to keep it all together. Our pool is back around the side of the house.

Stepping back a bit here is a further shot. We put in a similar covering a little lower to the right covering an area just outside our kitchen. This is where we put a dining table, and eat out here a lot. There is another fan located right over the table, just behind the green bush to the right, and a pile of stones in the middle set up as a small fountain, which the birds really like coming to. This was all grass when we moved in, and after a few big water bills was pulled out and converted to desert landscaping, with a hard groundcover and bushes and trees that fit the environment. We’ve got a few dozen sage bushes, a few yellow acacias and about a dozen trees. To the left is our row of rosemary with a grassy area we left in. Out of the picture to the left is the peach tree, with E’s favorite swing hanging from it.

We are pleased with the way things have turned out. We took out about 15,000 square feet of grass and cut down our water consumption tremendously, along with having to mow such a huge lawn. The bushes provide lots of color and different shades of green and we can still stick assorted plants wherever we want to. It took me a while to get used to having bare instead of green but now I am used to the desert theme. So that's a Vegas yard in the wintertime. The grass is brown, most of the trees and bushes have lost their leaves, but the palm trees are green as are enough other trees and plants to still make it nice.

We are in an older section, (by 'old' I mean the houses were put in over thirty years ago, which is old in Vegas) so the newer developments do not look like this. Our lot is 150 by 150 feet square, which would probably hold four or five houses in the newer developments. A recent trend is to make the lot even smaller with a tall skinny three story house on it, a back yard fifteen feet deep and houses six feet apart. I know that you don't really get a yard in older or big cities, but geez, there is so much land out here why cram everybody together like that?

We do have ‘regular’ flowers too. While taking the first photo I noticed our paperwhites right in front of the wall were blooming. The warm two weeks are over, yesterday it was 29f when I got up, with a high yesterday of around 50, but this morning it was 42 with 62 predicted, going up to the high sixties for the rest of the week. I would much rather have desert landscaping then those white lawns I see on television.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


A little while ago the Sherman brothers, Richard and Robert, received a Congressional Medal of the Arts for their work. On PBS they played a few sequences from their work; they were the composers of quite a few songs used in movies, so in their honor I thought that I would share some of them.

One of the best known songs is used at Disneyland, where it has been the background song for one of the rides that has been there for years (I think I posted this before)

They also wrote the songs for Chitty chitty bang bang (don’t remember that one?)

Oh - this one too (mainly for Dana)

OK, who can spell this one?

Friday, January 23, 2009

E and the boys

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.

Except today, let’s put up pics of all three of our little ones. Yes, there are alternatives to E: not quite as cute, but they don’t have fits though they do complain at times. First comes Max, who likes it up on my pillow, but is starting to get a little old and has problems jumping up on the bed anymore. But we still put the white 'dog sheet' on top of everything anyway.

Buster, well he is the one that is always hanging around, watching everything. Here he is with some instruments that E has laid out in preparation for an upcoming concert.

And the tongue. I don’t know what got her started on that, I have some photos from a while back at her favorite restaurant, Red Robin, where she and granddad were showing their tongues for some reason. Might have been drinking grape cool aid or something and were showing off. From the color on the cheeks this might be something similar.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


It’s been really nice weather here the past few weeks. The upcoming forecast shows temps up in the sixties for the next four days or so then back to our mid fifties highs, which is normal for January. Yesterday it was 70 out, and we enjoyed our walk outside. When I got up to come to work it was 48, which is also unusually high. Normally we are down around freezing at sunrise, but there was some cloud cover, which traps in our desert heat and can cause the nighttime higher temps. We usually don’t have many clouds, which means that we don’t get those overly red sunsets that I was used to seeing in California. But yesterday morning driving in to work there was the most marvelous red sky greeting me. Coming over 15 I face Wynn and Encore right ahead of me, this time of year the sunrise is right between the two big buildings.

The picture does not truly reflect how nice and red the clouds were, and five minutes later when I parked and started to walk away from my car the red was all gone.

Walking through our lower hall the other day I came across this view. When there is no activity the lights are set for ‘safety’, which means that only 5% of the lights are on. This leaves it rather dark. Our building maintenance department has their office out in the middle of the hall, in the lower level of one of the blockhouses. The lower hall is almost 400,000 square feet in size, with two blockhouses near the middle. These contain stairs up to large restrooms and emergency exits and then on up into the upper halls. When there is something to work on that is too large for their workroom they guys roll their tools out into the hall, set up some lights and go to work. At home all I can do is pull the car out of the garage and work there, it must really be nice to have this much space and be able to lay out anything you want to work on.

A big chip manufacturer had a show upstairs this week. Most of their meetings were in the fancy ballrooms and meeting rooms of the big hotel resort casino next door, but they used two of the big halls. One for sit down food service, and the other was set up with stadium seating facing a stage with two large screens, where they gave large presentations. It was set up rather nicely, with curtains subdividing the space. I was walking through there on Tuesday morning and found about a dozen people sitting and watching the inauguration on the big screens. It must be nice to have a private showroom like that.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I just read that it was six degrees with ponds frozen over in places that don’t usually expect that. I am not laughing at the minus four in Rochester, I used to live there and that is warm compared to the -20 it sometimes gets. Over here it’s been a little different, so of course I want to point that out. You were all laughing at our snow last month, well, back at ya.

We take a lunchtime walk here, and either go around the property outside if it is nice or just wander the canals and casino floor in the big hotel casino resort next door if it’s too cold or wet. Which means that yes, we are usually outside. I noticed last month the one outdoor restaurant that we have was closed, probably due to the weather. Well, it looks like with the warm spell the request to dine outside was enough for them to put out the heaters and open a few tables.

Nice sitting in the sunshine, but in the shade even with the 65f I guess the overhead space heaters make sitting on the Strip quite pleasurable. I spent the weekend working on our front patio cover. We put a big concrete patio out back shortly after we moved in, and my son helped me cover it all with a big solid steel overhang. I put in lights and some outdoor fans, which make it very nice to sit outside there. We have a front courtyard that is a good size, but just gets too hot in the summer being surrounded on three sides with the house blocking any breeze. Since we have the solid covering out back B wanted semi-shade out front just to be a little different. When we pulled out the concrete and put in some nice pavers last year I did dig down and put in footings for the covering supports, and finally started on the overhead. Ordered the steel a few weeks ago and B painted it, so this weekend was spent bolting in the verticals to hold up the top and constructing the steel frame up there. We haven’t decided on what covering we will use yet, B is leaning towards some 2x4 boards stood on the 2 side, so with the steel frame up I guess I’ll just buy a half dozen boards and lay them up there and move them around until B is happy with the spacing. So I was out in the sunshine in my t-shirt getting a little vitamin D directly thinking about you cold people. (can I laugh out loud now?) We live here for the sunshine, and I just love the hot summers.

Walking around inside last week we came across another wedding taking place. They pull out the white boat only for the weddings, and the minister hits the final I Do part right at the big turnaround at the end. The gondolier kneels down and says congratulations, then breaks into song. Not much of a crowd around, it’s been kind of empty last week, but we still applauded.

Getting ready for Chinese New Year, the year of the Ox. So a golden one is set up in the fountains between the two casinos, and lanterns are hung behind by the waterfall. There are red banners all over the place, and the number of Chinese guests really jumps up the week before.

We didn’t have any shows in the big halls last week, it was breakdown from the ones the week before and setup for the shows this week. A big computer chip company is upstairs right now, and a sporting goods show will take up the rest of the room tomorrow. So the crowds should be bigger this week.

I usually post videos on Monday, but just wanted to share what was going on here because Deana was kind enough to share her story about a frozen pond. No pictures from her though. So if you came here for a video (Dana) I will give you one. It’s the Count’s first appearance on Sesame Street, back in 1972. Appearing with Cookie Monster, one of my favorite characters from the show. I think I like Grover best, probably because he is usually the underdog, compared to Super Grover, but Cookie is definitely up there for me. No singing, sorry.

OK, I’ll break down and put up some music you can sing along to. C is for Cookie.

Friday, January 16, 2009

E with comics

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.

Just some random ones today. They don’t get the paper up at their house, so when she visits E reads the comics every morning while eating breakfast. We are trying to train her right.

Sometimes she does well on her own, sometimes Grammy is needed to explain things. The pictures are understandable, but the reading of the balloons has not started yet.

Something else she does down here that is not available up in Portland is the backyard swing.

It seems to be the first thing she wants to do when she shows up. Shoes come off and she runs out the back door to hit the swing. I understand that they still hit the kid’s play time up at the community center, but she no longer fits in the little cars and motorcycles that she loved pushing around in. A well, I guess they all grow up.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Secret Agent Man

Listening to our local PBS radio station on the way in this morning (yes, it's what I listen to in the car all the time) and they discussed the death of Patrick McGoohan. Betty mentions it as well. He was the lead in a short TV series way back when called The Prisoner (you can see a clip at Rob's place). Prior to that show he played Secret Agent on a series called Dangerman. I don't know if the song or the show came first, but I do remember hearing this one a lot way back then, and after KNPR played it this morning it's still circling inside my head.

Of course, the seats in his car were probably not made of fine Corrinthian leather, but Ricardo also will not be telling us about that either. Bye guys.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Three interesting things

In following the tradition of Clare we again try to come up with three interesting things. She finds three beautiful things every freekin' day and I have a hard time recognizing a few once in a while. Oh well, I guess it depends on your attitude.

1. Walking down the hall at work on Monday I found three women from food services standing around a cart talking and laughing. One of them appeared to be very embarrassed and the other two were doing most of the laughing. Getting closer I saw that they were leafing through a pamphlet pointing at pictures inside. That was when I realized that the adult expo show had closed the day before and they were looking at a product brochure from one of the vendors. I don’t know which one it was, and really didn’t want to ask them, but it was evident that at least two of them found some things in there very amusing.

2. In the southwest US we usually get a week or two of wonderful weather in the middle of January. When we lived in San Diego this gave B a chance to prune all of our roses when they were fairly dormant. Here in Vegas she is out trimming the wisteria out front and cutting the sage bushes that we have all over. Christmas week we had snow (snow! In Vegas!) and just last week the nighttime temps were down around 26f at our house. Next week it will be cold again, but this morning it was 32f, and will be warming up to 69f this afternoon, and it is scheduled to be in the mid sixties for the high all week.

3. Yesterday we walked around the canals of Venice at lunch, listening to the singing gondoliers. After work B and I went down to New York and wandered the back streets of Soho, then crossed the street to the MGM, watched one of the lions playing and had a bite to eat at a jungle café with singing birds and roaring elephants looking down at us. Where else can you visit so many different places in one day but Vegas?

4. OK, an email just came in while writing this and it just seemed to fit. From our head of housekeeping: "Front Lobby Entrance: The Custodial dept. will be buffing and waxing the sidewalk today. Starting from East to West, a walkway area will be available throughout the process." Do they wax and buff sidewalks anywhere else?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Music remakes

For some reason I started to post some favorite videos on Mondays, I guess just as another reason to share some things. But, as with my local photos of Vegas I’ve been a bit remiss in pulling stuff together to post. So, back to some amusing things today. I have always found it interesting to see how different people can take the same basic product and end up with totally different variations. Usually the remake of a movie or song is not as good as the original, but once in a while the latest version is better. Here are some videos with remakes, nothing dramatic but a bit different. (and Dana, good news, no clown videos today).

I have seen Alianis’ version of My Humps for a while now, but last week someone posted a reference to it, and I went to find the original.

Alanis purposely made an amusing version of this song, but looking at it, Fergie’s version seems equally amusing. Anyway, with a little different beat here is Alanis.

Beyonce showed off her legs in Single Ladies

And I think she did it again on Saturday Night Live but with Justin Timberlake joining the background dancers. He does pretty well in those heels. So, it’s not really a remake of the song but of the dancing

But my favorite person for remakes is Weird Al Yankovic. I first heard him on an LA station a long time ago (I think it was on Doctor Demento), before his first album. He showed up in the studio with his accordion and played a few old favorites. Since then he has come out with dozens of songs, but I like his versions of Michael Jackson songs. Unfortunately most of them have embedding disabled, so you have to click on the links, but tow of the best were Beat it by Mike, and Al’s version Eat it. On a related note, I guess if you eat it, first there is I'm bad followed by Al’s I'm fat.

I could go on and post lots of Weird Al’s videos, but please bounce around and see them for yourself, like his remake of Madonna’s done as Like A Surgeon, or Living in Amish Paradise, or Smells Like Nirvana. OK, here’s one that I think of a lot, the local station plays Another one Bites the Dust by Queen

And whenever I hear I just sing along using Al’s version (along with the accordion), Anther one Rides the Bus.

That was Al in his first TV appearance, back in 1981. Good comparison of the drum set with the one Queen uses.

Friday, January 09, 2009

E with cookies

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.

When down for Thanksgiving we baked up some early Christmas cookies. These were made from some interesting dough that looked like colorful Play-doh, but created some pretty tasty cookies when baked. E helped put them together, with Grammie doing much of the work. Here she is in her cupcake PJ bottoms and tumbling top dancing around with what looks like the blue dog cookie I put together.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Show time!

January and February are two of our best months for shows. We are pretty well filled up this whole period, with either two overlapping shows (like this week) or a big one filling up all halls and most of the ballrooms and meeting spaces in the Big Hotel Casino Resort Next Door (BHCRND). That amounts to over 1,800,000 square feet, which is quite a lot. I like it quiet here when no one is in the building, like it has been the past few weeks, but it is interesting when the halls fill up and we have 100,000 people wandering around. It does mean changes and busy times, but that is what results in a paycheck.

We like it because it means free food. Whenever there is a show where we serve food the employees get vouchers to use at any of our food outlets. For setup days like today that just means salads and sandwiches, but when the shows open tomorrow it usually expands to things like a full soup and salad bar, taco bar, pasta bar, or our fav the carvery with hot roast beef and turkey meals. Employees at the BHCRND have their own Team Member dining room where they get to eat free every day, but over here in the convention center we don’t have all of those fancy things. It’s good food, employees that worked here when the BHCRND first opened got to eat there for the first year or so, and all said they gained much weight.

I’m listening to my New Zealand radio station Zed FM and they were running an ad about themselves, trying to get companies to buy ad time. They said that they reach over 150,000 people a week, and in a radio ad you can say just about anything to get people’s attentions. Then in the background a voice yells ‘George Bush sucks!’, and the announcer responds, ‘yes, I guess that works’. Don’t know if you would hear ads like that over here. And I love the accents. (oh, sorry for the diversion)

Back to our shows, looking through a list of photos I have uploaded and not linked to I came across a set from a show last January, so it looks like it is almost time for it to roll around again. This one was for the construction industry, and dealt with things that go on flat areas like floors and walls and countertops. (not putting up the name so it will not be Google linked, figure it out yourself). There was a million square feet of all kinds of coverings, from wood to carpets to granite and tile. This is the one that they usually build a few houses inside of the upstairs hall in order to show off things in actual use. Yes, a full 1,500 square foot two story house goes up in four days and comes down in one. Well, there is no electrical or heating or plumbing, but it still looks like a house. With very nice floors and curtains and kitchens. Most of the items are packed back up for the next show, but anything cut to shape like carpets or wood floors are just thrown away. I tried to get some of the discards last year, as we want to put hardwood down in our family room, but the do it yourself click together hardwood that they lay down is also glued, so that it will not come loose during the five day shows, so it can’t be taken apart and used again. I hit up the guys in this booth, which had about 20,000 square feet of very expensive and pretty wood put down:

But they are the ones that said it was glued, and a fork lift just comes along at the end, tears it up and puts it into a dumpster. But I was free to come saw it into panels and take whatever I wanted. Yes, I was tempted as it was just so pretty.

Here is what show setup looked like

This is what that fancy booth looked like as it was being put together. They put up those stylized trees overhead.

There was a lot of carpet around, most on the panels they display in flooring stores

But mostly last year was wood

But there was some tile

And also equipment to keep it all clean

And floors like this. I thought this style went out back in the 60’s, but I guess psychedelic drugs might be back in style making this look good.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Monday videos - Mike J

First Monday of the year - hope exciting things are ahead for all of you. Here at work they are setting up for the freaks and geeks groups - the adult expo and the electronics show, two groups that don’t really seem to go together, but we are half rented out to each. Maybe more for the electronics, as they also have most of the ballrooms and meeting rooms in the tower next door. I was busy at home this weekend with around the house work. Our swimming pool pump died a few weeks ago and I ordered a new one, spend this weekend cutting out the old and installing the new, in our cold January weather. But I would much rather put up with a few months of cold weather in exchange for the rest of the year’s warm. It comes with such beautiful sunshine and blue skies and far vistas and dry.

I was reading Loraloo this morning, in which she was pointing to a Michael Jackson video. I remember Mike fondly, he made such marvelous videos, but unfortunately YouTube does not permit embedding for most of them, so I’ll just give you a few links and let you click on those. But first, here is his long one, Thriller:

One of my favorites is Billy Jean. And another good one is Beat It. Keeping with the B’s, full of M dancing was Black and White, with McKauly Culkin, I really like the way it switches faces at the end, with the redhead’s hair popping out . All three having Michael dancing around, and pretty good visuals. Besides, he lives here in Vegas now, so we always see little tidbits about his appearances around town.

That last one reminds me of the opening to Twisted Sister (what do you want to do with your life?)

And because I never got back to it on Friday, here’s an E shot, just because:

Friday, January 02, 2009

Almost E

I'll be back in a bit with E, but I just came across this at Lizzi's and am so ready to get one of these. I'm ready.