Friday, May 29, 2009

Memorial Day

Last week was Memorial Day weekend, and some exciting things happened here. Sorry to be so late in writing about them. This is the American start of summer, some schools finished up this last week, and people hopefully can say goodbye to winter weather and look forward to a few months of nice. First up, the water temp in our pool reached 90f. I like to keep it around 92, so it is in swimmable conditions. Temps here are supposed to be a bit cooler this weekend, only 95 (35c) predicted for tomorrow, but still sufficiently warm for swimming, so you will find me in the pool. (Feel free to come out and join us)

In our garden the tomatoes are doing well, some of the cherry tomatoes have turned red

And some of the others are a bit away from green (we didn't plant big ones this year, just a few mid sized varieties)

A few days before that someone turned four, with her new short hair.

And is looking forward to eating the cake that Grammy made for her.

So, how did your week go?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fat rebates

Did you ever see an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine and think to yourself "self, how could they print that?". Well, I was going through the paper last Sunday pulling out the pieces we don't read, like the job section and the cars for sale section and noticed the full page advertisement on the front of the car section.

For some reason this just struck me as being pretty obnoxious. First off, what’s fat about that? You can’t see the rest of her, what you see doesn’t look like fat, or do they mean fat as the hip-hop definition or something? Well, the top line says REAL BIG: I guess they look real big. This being Vegas they aren't as big as a lot of the ones around town, and that might be considered dull with so much white cloth covering things up, but still I don’t really like it.

This advertisement would not make me go down to that dealership and purchase a car. It might make me write a nasty letter to the owner of the dealership. Who came up with this concept, was it somebody in an ad agency somewhere that said "Hey, let’s use a close-up of big breasts to advertise a big rebate campaign"? I wonder what the presentation was like to the guy in charge at the dealership. Did somebody at the dealership have a drinking lunch at one of our Gentlemen’s clubs and become enamored with one of the entertainers, or is this a national ad campaign that came down from the car manufacturer? Have any of you seen it in other cities? Am I just being too paranoid?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jewels coming

It was a quiet weekend here in Vegas. We are fixing up the front courtyard and I picked up the wood that we will be putting up on the overhead (the metal frame went up a while back). It now sits in a big pile in the back yard drying out, as our local home improvement stores only sell green wood in that size. The paint department suggested we let the lumber sit outside for a few weeks to dry out before painting, as our heat and low humidity work very well at sucking out the moisture left in the boards. The only problem there is that most of the boards will warp as they dry, leaving us with a fancy sculpture over our heads as things twist differently.

I spent most of the weekend out in the garage building things. B had some drawings of benches and big planters that she wanted for the revised courtyard, so part of the lumber pile was stuff for the pieces as well as the overhead. Since we dumped the old pickup truck I have a trailer now that I can pull with our car, and it took three trips to two different stores to get all the wood and stuff. I’ve been wanting a radial saw for a while, and on one of the trips while in the tool section I saw a floor demo unit on sale at half price, so that also came home along with a nice rolling stand for it. I put that unit to work this weekend, chopping up wood for the benches and frames, then glued and screwed things together. I’ve got most of it done, one planter to go, so it was several hours for me outside. Fortunately it’s cooled off a bit, didn’t get above 95 (35c) yesterday, so it wasn’t too bad with the garage door up and a little breeze blowing through. I’ll have to take some pictures of the stuff and get them up.

It is noisy at work; they are setting up for the big annual jewelry show, which is our largest show, not in number of attendees but in amount of work required. There are over 3,000 exhibitors with booths and showrooms and over 70,000 people are expected to attend. We’ve never been able to calculate the cost of the stuff out there, but even the smaller booths probably have over a million dollars in gems, with the bigger ones a lot more and really expensive stuff in the tower and even fancier stuff up in the hotel suites. There is already a line of limos parked in the holding area, lots of people with bucks come for private viewings in the suites, with stories of big Hollywood stars visiting just to pick up a little something.

The big floor doesn’t open until Saturday, but they have been setting up booths for the past week, and constructing some big vaults to hold everything at night. Exhibitors start moving in tomorrow, jewelry will probably start showing up then through Thursday, and it will be an obstacle course of police and private security from then on. There are usually a half dozen of Las Vegas’ finest out front every day (paid during their off duty hours of course) with lots more scattered around and more heavily armed swat groups at the vaults and out back. Some exhibitors carry their stuff with them, back to their hotel rooms, and with the economy I am sure that several will report robberies during travel. There were a few last year, all proven to be scams to get insurance. The cleaning crews are almost strip searched each time they come off the floor, and video cameras abound. Since my work area is down deep in back we will be surrounded by security, making each trip to the bathroom an adventure. Cameras are not allowed on the floor, but if I wander past a particularly large pile of bags I’ll try to sneak a shot. I got a fuzzy one last year, go on back to last June and look.

For some reason all of the booths have lots and lots of bright little spotlights on their wares, I guess things sparkle a lot more when correctly lit. All of these lights, plus the 80,000+ people in the building, along with predictions of 97f for the weekend result in a lot of heat inside the building. We have a huge cooling system, but I guess this heat load is beyond what the system is designed for, so additional air conditioning units have been brought in. These are a half dozen big boxes, about 2mx3mx4m, placed around the building outside. Assorted windows and doors have been removed and large pipes put in place from the air units to let them blow cooled air inside. I don’t see any additional power units around, so I guess our electrical feed is sufficient to supply power to all of these lights and air handler units.

Just to provide you with a few visuals - after all I do advertise this as a photo album, here are some of the things that will be here in even greater abundance:

Black limos are normal around Vegas, there are probably a half dozen upstairs in the limo holding area right now. Besides the stretch model the SUV, as seen in the background, also has become popular, and the parking garage usually has two or three of these in addition to the stretch jobs. The big RHC next door has a small fleet of their own, comprised of about a dozen stretch models but in a nice gold instead of black, several blue Maybachs and two Rolls.

Oh, just reading a review on the Maybach, I didn’t realize it was a $425,000 car, probably more than the Rolls costs now. Wow, sorry to be distracted, but the web permits that opportunity, just looking at the convertible version, pretty impressive; I like their description "True to the tradition of exclusive landaulets, the roof of this model can be opened fully at the rear, while the chauffeur’s compartment remains completely closed." Of course, need to keep the chauffer in his own little world, concentrating on driving.

Back to the limo, I caught this one out back in our auxiliary parking area; guess even some things are too big for a regular parking garage. Looks like it is on a truck chassis, with room for lots of people in a subtle don’t-look-at-me gold fleck color.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Warm weather

So, according to our mayor it’s officially summer, which the weatherman seems to agree with as it’s been over 100f for the past three days. A little cooling for the next few days, but we can see the sunshine ahead and it appears it will be another warm season, well, who would have thunk it? We saw it coming, went down to Town Square last weekend just to look around and we passed by the kid’s place. Town Square is our newest mall in town, and outdoor mall located at the southern end of the Strip next to Fry’s. E liked the kid’s area, there were little houses and stores to go play in, and now that it is warm they have turned on the fountains, and the kids seem to be enjoying chasing the water around.

I was almost ready to go join them, but then just got a big iced coffee from the Coffee Bean place and decided it was cool enough.

I was on my lunchtime walk last week and came across something I hadn’t seen before:

No, not the hotel or the pirate ships, those I see all the time. It’s down below, on the pirate ship over to the left. Can’t see it? I didn’t have my camera with the good telephoto lens, but there was a wedding going on. With guys in pirate hats and outfits and everything. I know, I see women in full brides regalia at least once a week, and weddings on the boats in our canal are normal, as are weddings taking place all over, but I didn’t know that you could get on the boats easily enough, or do something like that out there. But then again, this is Vegas, and if you have the money you can do just about anything.

Hope you are doing something to celebrate the arrival of nice warm weather.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Events this weekend

I thought that today I would give you a brief rundown of what is happening here in Vegas this weekend. First comes an event that occurred yesterday – our mayor declared the official start of summer here (even though the rest of you have to wait a month), predictions for this weekend are for over 100f (40c) and sunny (who would have thunk it?) Part of the festivities was a bikini parade, of swimsuits through the years. You can see the parade video, read the story or just hit any of the local hotel pools and probably see a lot more, especially at the ‘European’ style pools that favor topless suits. I missed it during my lunchtime walk, looks like they were right across the street: 281 young women showing lots more skin on the Strip than normal:

If you feel more like a concert, there is Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction, No Doubt, Jimmy Buffett, "The Lion King," Helmet, Ben Folds Five, BB King, Jeff Foxworthy (with a Danny Gans story), Shecky Greene. Jay Leno and our regulars. Seems like a typical weekend. Jimmy B will be hosting a party at Margaritaville prior to leading everyone down to the MGM for the ‘official’ concert. At least at his bar there will be sing-alongs and lots of beer. We went to Margaritaville once, there were big screens with his videos, and the waiters all stopped to sing along (lost shaker of salt . salt . salt) so this weekend you get to hear it live from the J man himself.

See, we have other things to do besides gambling.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Random blogs

A few months ago I put up that little Black Box thing on the right side there. It’s a random find another blog to read thingie that works quite well. When you sign up to be listed you enter two phrases for selection, which are used to prompt people. When you click on the box you get a series of selections, and at the end a random blog will pop up. Once in a while I sit and click through to several; some are interesting, some are gone, some are on topics that I really don’t care about (yes, there are some things I can just ignore and go on with my own life, sorry). It’s kind of like clicking on the Blogspot random blog thing, except I always get English blogs, while clicking on the Next Blog button up there on top I seem to get a random selection of languages, all of which I just do not understand. Sometimes there are nice pictures though.

For some reason Black Boxes seems to throw me quite frequently over to Fred’s place, he is a teacher in Tampa, Florida and discusses things going on with his family and school. Interesting, but I don’t know why BB sends me there about 10% of the time. Hi Fred!

One that I am going to add to my internationals list is Miranda. She lives in southern Africa, and has a lot of photos and stories about a place in the world that I will probably never visit. I am part of the American work style, where we get a whole two weeks of vacation a year, and usually use most of it to visit relatives, and if I do save up for a long trip we usually do big cities, and are overdue for a visit to our doctor in Sweden. Hopefully next year we can take some time to see him, and stop in Britain as part of the trip to visit some of the bloggers that I am reading regularly. They make it seem so nice and green, but then again, almost anyplace is greener than the Vegas desert.

But clicking on the Next Blog button also at times leads to interesting stuff. I don’t know what language this one is, perhaps Korean? But there are some nice designs, and a few pretty houses. Design. B was an art major in school, and I’ve always liked architecture and design. My favorite magazine was Abitare, and Italian magazine that was just filled with photos of all kinds of things, but we stopped our subscription when the price got fairly astronomical.

So, go off and click one of those things and try someplace random today, rather than just ending up with my random thoughts.

See, you come here for a potion of my wonderous wit, marvelous photographs and erudite writing and what do I do? Send you away. Sorry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's blooming now?

It’s getting into warmer weather here, up in the high 90’s every day this week, with our first triple digit prediction of 105f (41c) forecast for Sunday. With the higher temps many of the flowering plants around are either putting out their blooms before drying up or have just finished flowering. On my walk to work from where I park are some highly scented flowers that always remind me of Spring. Along the lot where our new convention center will eventually go is a strip between the fence and the sidewalk. This is filled with prostrate Rosemary and some white flowering plant that is very sweet in the mornings. Don’t know what it is called, but it is really nice walking in and having this scent come up on the breeze. Jammie thinks that flower is a sweet olive; looking at web sites it seems to match, I’ll have to check the next time we’re at the nursery. Thanks J! If you walk close to the plants then you can get a whiff of the rosemary.

The scent from those is most noticeable in the morning, when it is cooler and there is less of a breeze to disburse the fragrance, and brightens the start of my day. Instead of walking from my car just thinking about things I am struck by how sweet they are and look at the plants and the things going on around me. I was talking with B about how scents can trigger memories, often producing flashbacks that are more realistic than just trying to remember a past time. Our daughter was just back in San Francisco to relive a bit of her past and go to a Grateful Dead concert once again, and she said that what she noticed most about the bay area was the smell of the eucalyptus (which doesn’t grow up in Portland where she is now) along with car exhaust. B said her most vivid memory was when she visited her grandmother and heard some doves outside the bathroom window, and remembered all the times she brushed her hair there listening to the cooing. I guess there are memory triggers inside all of us, just waiting for the right thing to set them off.

Another non-native that does well here with sufficient watering is the white jasmine. It is a rambling vine, often used as a ground cover or trained up a fence. These flowers are also sweet smelling. Here they are along the wall of the big RHC next door; mixed with some tall flower and I think the only magnolia trees in Vegas (not doing well at all, probably too dry for them). These I notice most on my lunchtime walks, it seems that the heat of midday brings out the scents in these.

A few years ago we converted our front yard (and most of the back) from grass and high water requirement plants to desert landscape with low water trees and bushes. We planted about twenty trees, some of them flowering and all of them adapted to our hot weather. We have a corner lot, and out on the corner we put in a sweet acacia that becomes a big yellow ball. It’s five years old and about fifteen feet high.

And if the wind doesn’t blow all the dry blooms away we have a nice faded yellow carpet underneath.

There is a very light scent to the flowers, but it’s more the yellow that stands out.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Not much, Spring jazz

My computer at work has recently started coming up with warning messages on boot. These messages are from Microsoft requesting that I install a new program of theirs called Genuine Advantage. The info on this program makes it sound like I would be greatly helped by installing it: "Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications is a program that helps Microsoft fight software piracy and helps you validate that the copy of Microsoft Windows XP installed on your computer is genuine and properly licensed.
By confirming that your copy of Windows XP is genuine, you can take advantage of all the capabilities, support, and continuous improvements-as well as the peace of mind-that come with using genuine Windows. If your copy is not genuine, WGA Notifications will provide periodic reminders to help you take the appropriate action. It's part of Microsoft's commitment to fight software counterfeiting and help you avoid problems before they happen."

In other words, install this and if you aren’t running software you paid us for we will hound you to death with messages and prevent you from performing any work at all. But with peace of mind, and they want to help me avoid problems before they happen. I am impressed with the legal department there, as well as the PR department that somehow makes it sound like they are helping you, kind of like those police officers on TV interviewing somebody saying "come on, I can't help you unless you confess" (since we have no proof otherwise). Thank you Big M for being so nice. And displaying this message for me every morning when I boot up.

OK, on to some things that have been hanging around for a while. I don’t know where I came across this one, but for those of you perhaps a bit creative in the pizza topping department, there is McDonalds as pizza. Reminds me of all the fried things offered at the county fair. Mmmmmmmmm

Over a bit, Zoe is having some problems with her teen ager, and one suggestion was to ship him off to the French Foreign Legion. I’ve always heard that used as a joke, or a way to get away from things, but from the web site it looks like they are accepting recruits, so those of you really fed up with your life, perhaps a change might be in order.

Around here, it looks like Spring has finally arrived. Yesterday’s high was around 98 (38c) with similar weather predicted for the next week. This warmth is a little early, but from all the pink shoulders I’ve seen out on the street other people are unaccustomed to our sunshine as well. I enjoy the warmth, it was especially pleasant last evening, we went to a farmer’s market up in Summerlin at the suggestion of a co worker, picked up some barbeque sandwiches from a guy in a white truck with a big smoking griller on a trailer in back and sat on the grass eating. There was a warm breeze and the sounds of kids playing in the park mingling with periodic blasts of the aromatic smoker smoke wafting by and tangy ‘que sauce on the sandwiches going down. Nice. Saturday is the start of our local Jazz in the Park series, with Allen Toussaint performing. We get to sit on the grass with a picnic meal and listen to good music while the sun sets. (and free, did I say free music?) Best time of year.

For those of you not familiar with Allen, he wrote two songs that have been redone a lot of times, and tons others that have been recorded by other people. The ones I remember most are Working in a Coal Mine

(goin' down down down) and Southern Nights

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Monday videos - strange remix

Missed Music Monday again, sorry, so here are some assorted things to catch you up. Microsoft recently released a program called Songsmith, which was designed to provide automatic background music to any vocal track you sing into it. Sounds like it would be great for karaoke singers that have the words but not background music. Here is the original advertisement.

But some people have been feeding the vocals from old songs into it just to see what happens, and some of what happens is a little strange. It looks like you can select what background style you want, and play with the beat and basic instrument selection. You can go to the linked website to see a bunch of these, but my favorite is the old Beatles tune Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Yes, Paul does sound a little demented with that background.

Or Ozzy on a Crazy Train with banjo?

(wow, is that the same Ozzie on the tv show I catch once in a while?) Calypso Queen will Rock You?

Now that I've been listening to it for a day I've started to really like this No Doubt oldie. I like the description - "It sounds like the Lost Forest in Zelda: Ocarina of Time mixed with an auto repair shop... mixed with some gongs".

OK, enough of that stuff already. I guess you can sit with that program all day and just play with different background themes. Sounds like hours and hours of basic amusement. After much searching I found that you can download this directly from Microsoft for only $29. I think I'll get it, B and E should have fun singing into the computer and making their work into real songs.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Wheel of Fortune

Missinformation: Wheel of Fortune will be here tomorrow for initial testing, May 2, not last weekend as I thought. They are setting up now in the hall next door with the Wheelmobile. The Wheelmobile is a 39-foot Winnebago that tours nationwide in search of contestants for television's #1 game show. The Wheelmobile team is coming our way to find contestants for four weeks of shows taping at The Venetian & The Palazzo in July 2009! So, if you're a local or you will be in town this weekend and are willing to come back for the final auditions in a few months and then for show tapeing in July if selected for a live show, come on down! (wait a minute, sorry, wrong show)

There are three shows at a Wheelmobile event. Each show lasts approximately one hour. Shows will be held on Saturday, May 2nd & Sunday, May 3rd at 2:00pm, 3:30pm and 5:00pm

• Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.
• Applicants do not need to arrive hours in advance. WOF will distribute applications approximately one hour before each show begins.
• Everyone who comes to a Wheelmobile event will receive a color-coded application. The color of the application tells you what time the show you are eligible for will begin.
• Fill out your application and drop it in a nearby receptacle. Just before show time, WOF will put all the applications in a gold drum that sits on the stage.
• When the show begins, the Wheelmobile host will pick applications at random from the drum and call participants up to the stage (in groups of five) to play the game.
• On stage, WOF will do a brief interview with each contestant and play a version of the Wheel of Fortune Speed-Up Round.
• Each person who comes up to the stage will be evaluated as a potential contestant for the show. At the end of the puzzle, all contestants on stage will be awarded a prize (Wheel of Fortune hats, t-shirts and duffle bags are just some of the stuff you might win).
• Wheel of Fortune is looking for good game players who are energetic, enthusiastic and fun.
• After all the Wheelmobile events in the Las Vegas area have been conducted, WOF will choose the people believed to be the best candidates for the show (based on their overall performance on stage) to take part in a final round of auditions. The final auditions will take place in the Las Vegas area within a couple of months after the last Wheelmobile event.
• WOF plans to get as many people up to the stage as they can.
• If you are invited to the final auditions, you will receive a letter or e-mail within a few weeks after our last Wheelmobile event.

Monday update: Well, it looks like the event was poorly advertised; only a few hundred showed up. So you probably would have had a good chance at getting on for this one.

E assorted

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. I’ve missed a few weeks and am about to run out of prepared photos, but here are some that have been hanging around. And look, it's post 900!

On their trip down to Phoenix a few months ago E got to spend some time with some relatives she does not usually see. One of them has some pet birds, and E was fascinated with the little creatures.

But she did manage to sit outside and have some major discussions.

Back here we did attempt a rousing game of Cootie, but for E the dice are not really a requirement, building the things are more fun.

And when you have a hula hoop it sometimes is more interesting to use it as a bug cage.